We stay in a lot of B&Bs and are welcomed by a lot of innkeepers, but there was something different when Ed Parker welcomed us to Compass Rose, an old-fashioned seaside cottage overlooking the harbor on Grand Manan Island. And this obviously genuine warmth never flagged throughout our stay. Both Ed and Nora always seemed to have time to chat, to tell us about the island, to anticipate our needs, but without ever hovering. There was a warmth that was better felt than described, laced with good humor, one that somehow defines the essence of hospitality.
The entire place radiates this easy welcome. It looks like home (well, a lot neater than mine, actually) without the “decorator look” of so many B&Bs, but filled with treasures such as the handmade quilts folded over the upstairs banister. Downstairs, a book case filled with good reading and comfy chairs invite guests into the parlor. It has that indefinable quality that says “welcome” from the heart of hosts who love where they are and what they’re doing.
Someone clearly likes to cook, too, because breakfast was delicious. We sat at a vintage pine table and watched boats come and go from the little harbor below, as Nora brought us bowls of fresh-cut fruits with yogurt, followed by a choice of pancakes, eggs, French toast with bacon, ham or sausage. When we learned that the white and whole wheat breads used for the French toast were baked right there, we both opted for that. My pot of tea was properly brewed.
Our room was the smallest in the inn, but roomy enough for a queen-sized spool bed and cottage antiques. Extra comforts included modern accordion blinds and individual reading lights over the bed.
From the Compass Rose we toured the island from tip to tip, stopping to admire light houses, to walk along the trails atop soaring cliffs and to strange rock formations and to taste the local snack of seaweed, called dulse.
Breakfast was so bounteous that we didn’t begin to get peckish until mid-afternoon, when a home-made sign appeared miraculously on the side of the road. “Afternoon Tea” it said, bringing our car to a nose-down halt in front of a cottage with a long front porch where other people were already seated at tea tables. Luckily, there was one for us, and we were soon savoring tender buttery scones with homemade jams (I’d never tasted gooseberry jam before) and individual pots of brewed tea. The menu included several varieties, and I chose a Lapsang Souchong.
We discovered a lot of interesting places on Gran Manan, but two days were not enough. As Ed put it, “Some people come for a day and think they’ve seen the island; others come for two or three days and realize they’ve barely seen a thing.”
Grand Manan lies off the coast of Maine just east of Acadia national Park (you can see it from West Quoddy Head in Lubec), but is part of New Brunswick, Canada. The ferry leaves from Blacks Harbour, not far from the Maine border crossing at Calais.
Contact the Compass Rose Inn at www.compassroseinn.com . To learn more about visiting New Brunswick and Grand Manan, visit Tourism New Brunswick at www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca