Should you be a periodic visitor to this site, you would know that I try to submit two posts (on average) per month. I admit to falling short this month… but what follows may compensate for the delay.
In addition to things musical, I’ve allowed myself some latitude when “life intervenes”. And I have some some precedent for this… I have posted when Jane and I have visited Newfoundland, Ireland, England and France and Florence, Italy. This time ’round, however, we keep it domestic with a trip to Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia Bound
It’s not that we haven’t previously visited Nova Scotia. In fact, quite to the contrary. Other than our own province, we’ve probably travelled to NS more than any other part of Canada. That is, in part, because Jane had relatives (aunt and uncle) with whom she was close and they anticipated that any journey to the Maritimes should include a few days at their home. It meant, however, that our exposure to Nova Scotia was largely limited to a corridor between Halifax and Bridgewater. It’s been several years since their passing and, while we were eager to revisit the province, we did not feel the same obligation to travel the familiar route. What follows (chronologically, for convenience) is our 8-day trip, from Halifax to Yarmouth.
First, a map for reference…
October 9th, 2015
After depositing our grrls at the kennel, we drive to Ajax and pay a lunchtime visit to our son and his family. Leaving our car in their driveway, we board the GO train and travel to Toronto’s Union Station, which will be our starting point in the next day’s journey. Overnight in a downtown hotel and we’re back to Union Station the next morning.
We’ve never taken Porter Airlines before (they fly out of the Toronto Islands [Billy Bishop] Airport) so we have only a very short shuttle ride to the airport from Union Station (already like it better than Pearson Airport!)
The whole procedure (check in, baggage, security and the waiting) is quite civilized and we leave shortly after 12:00 p.m. A brief stop in Montreal and we arrive at Halifax around 4:30 (their time). At this point, I should mention our car rental. We had booked a subcompact but, when we step out into the lot, we are met with…
It wasn’t so much the size (we’re still driving a 2005 Toyota Matrix) but all the “newfangled gadgets” common in today’s automobiles that took a while to appreciate. Like… how do you get the heat on? How do you turn it off? How do you turn on the radio/change stations? How do you adjust the side mirrors? Look what happens when we back up! (rearview camera) Needless to say, we have some fun “learning on the fly” as we head down the highway toward Lunenburg, our first destination.
Along the way, we make a pit stop at Mahone Bay and see our first “ocean sunset” of the trip.
As we watch the setting sun, we notice two crows (an auspicious sign…”joy”) on the hydro line above us. It is a hopeful signal that our rental vehicle would be kind to us.
About 7:00 we arrive at our home for the next two days, The Lunenburg Inn and check in.
Supper and a little walk around the harbour and “old town”… by which time we’re ready to “pack it in” for the day.
After a sturdy breakfast, we venture out again (on foot) to take in the sights. It should be noted the Lunenburg is more than a quaint Maritime community. Established in 1753, the historic town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. This designation ensures protection for much of Lunenburg’s unique architecture and civic design, being the best example of planned British colonial settlement in Canada. The historic core of the town is also a National Historic Site of Canada. It’s Thanksgiving Sunday… and there’s lots to be thankful for on this day as we stroll about.
And the most famous vessel of all in Lunenburg…
We even discover a pleasant local hiking trail (former rail bed) running along the top of the hill above the town…
All in all a very good morning… but we really want to “feel the ocean” and so we drive over to nearby Hirtle’s Beach…
So… it’s mid-afternoon and we’ve done a lot of walkin’… it’s time for a little sustenance!
Confession… we have, for most of our adult lives, had a fascination with real estate and imagining the prospect of living in the houses we’ve viewed. In this case, add to that our vision of living near the ocean. In the past year or two each of us has, periodically searched online for houses which might meet our criteria (vintage, location, price). Having noted several of these (which have been listed for some time)… we arrange to pay a visit (with the assistance of a realtor) to a couple of Lunenburg properties on the Monday (12th) morning before departing the town. Of those we’ve selected this one (built 1918) proves most interesting… and it’s only about a block from the harbour.
Potential? Yes… beautiful woodwork… but a lot of renovation needed!
It’s a beautiful Thanksgiving Monday so we decide to stop en route at sandy Summerville Beach. The weather being warmer we doff our shoes and socks and wade in the crisp Atlantic waters.
Because we’re making good time on our journey to Pubnico, we decide to make a brief stop at Shelburne (which is a subsequent destination on our itinerary) to check out the town. Now the fall colours have been amazing throughout the province, but we are gobsmacked by the scene awaiting us from a bridge entering the town.
Not enough? We travel along the historic waterfront and view the buildings, many of which date from the late 1700’s. Still not enough? We have another listing in our pocket for when we return later in the week… this one a designated provincial historical property built in 1784 and with a view of Shelburne harbour.
We’ll blame the poorly maintained signage found at the intersection as we leave (instead of our gobsmackedness) but, after travelling for about a half hour on “what we think is” Highway 103, we are finding increasing undulations in the pavement and a distinct lack of reassuring signage. A fortunate encounter with a local resident provides us with information that we are indeed on a “road less travelled”… the Ohio Road which is leading us into the remote interior of the province. And, although we are told that we are closer to Yarmouth by going straight ahead, we are warned that the road “gets worse from here”. We immediately turn around and retrace our steps… get on the “real” 103 and arrive at the Red Cap Restaurant and Motel in West Pubnico just in time for supper. This region is distinguished by its proud Acadian heritage, reflected in the repeated appearance of the Acadian flag and the fluently bilingual populace.
…dawns with the prospect of all-day showers, so we decide to make the additional 30-minute drive to Yarmouth to see several of the delights suggested by tourist publications. Our first stop is the Visitor Information Centre located by the waterfront. We learn that the “heritage district” lies just across from the centre and so we brave the ongoing drizzle and conduct our own heritage walk with the assistance of a descriptive brochure. Among the most impressive sights…
Although nearby Cape Forchu perhaps lacks the cachet of Peggy’s Cove, it has its own distinctive charm and, on this rainy fall day, we enjoy the solitude associated with being the only visitors to the lighthouse.
Back to the Red Cap for supper and a quiet evening in anticipation of our return to Shelburne…
En route to Shelburne, we decide to make a side trip to Cape Sable Island (not to be confused with Sable Island). Its major claim to fame is as the southernmost point of Nova Scotia. The largest settlement on the island is Clark’s Harbour although the mainland (Barrington Passage) near the causeway which links the island to the rest of the province has seen considerable commercial development.
And then… on to Shelburne!
Once in town we head for Dock Street, the historic centre of town and home to our accommodation for the next two nights… The Cooper’s Inn. The inn was built in 1785 and is one of a number of structures from this period.
Shelburne… a short selective history
and, indeed, lots of history to be found in this place… including these tidbits
- Shelburne’s large and well sheltered harbour was known to the Mi’kmaq as Logumkeegan or Sogumkeagum
- the first Europeans to make a settlement on these shores were the French Acadians. They set up a small fishing settlement known as Port Razoir in the late 17th century, named after the harbour’s resemblance to an open razor
- the Acadian fishing settlement was abandoned after repeated New England raids during Queen Anne’s War in 1705
- New England fishermen knew Shelburne as Port Roseway and frequently used the outer harbour for seasonal shelter and repairs
- Pirate Ned Low raided the New England fishing fleet at Shelburne Harbour in 1723, capturing 13 ships and taking (amongst others) Philip Ashton* captive
*Ashton escaped his captors in Honduras and survived alone on an island over 16 months before being rescued (his true story has a definite Robinson Crusoe vibe)
- after the Acadian Expulsion in 1755, there were no settlers for several decades despite an abortive settlement attempt by Alexander McNutt in 1765
- in the spring of 1783, more than 5,000 settlers arrived on the shores of Shelburne Harbour from New York and the Middle Colonies of the Thirteen Colonies. These settlers were Loyalists (United Empire Loyalists). The Crown offered them free land, tools, and provisions as compensation to lure them to settle in this relatively undeveloped area. Four hundred families associated to form a town at Port Roseway, which Governor Parr renamed Shelburne later that year. This group was led by the Port Roseway Associates, who had formed while still in New York and petitioned Governor Parr for the land
- Black Loyalists, a large group of Africans who had escaped American slavery to British lines were transported by British forces to Shelburne Harbour at the same time
- they founded Birchtown next to Shelburne and it developed as North America’s largest free Black settlement. However the Black Loyalists received less land and faced racist attacks such as the Shelburne Riots in July 1784
- in the fall of 1783, a second wave of settlers arrived in Shelburne. By 1784, the population of this new community is estimated to have been 17,000, making it the fourth-largest city in North America
That distinction was short-lived and most of the settlers left around 1790. The relative obscurity of the town in subsequent years meant, however, that many of its oldest buildings were preserved. That fact has benefited present-day Shelburne both as a tourist destination and also as a backdrop for recent films…
- The Scarlet Letter (1994)
- Virginia’s Run (2002)
- Wilby Wonderful (2003)
- Moby Dick (2009)
- The Book of Negroes (2014)
One of our favourite pastimes during our stay is strolling along Dock Street past these buildings…
and mostly enjoying the harbour itself, especially at sunrise and sunset…
Do we view that 1784 house? Yes… although every time we go by the property we have the distinct impression we are being watched…
Do we visit another beach while we are in the area?
Do we enjoy our visit to Shelburne?
On our way back to Halifax for a flight home… but not before we drop by yet another beach…
and make our pilgrimage to that quintessential Nova Scotia land mark… Peggy’s Cove. Now you might think that visiting Peggy’s Cove in the “off season” on a blustery and somewhat threatening day (weatherwise) might reduce the number of tourists. Think again!
But still worth the joining the throng!
We are returning home to Ontario and our grrls. The flight makes its scheduled stop in Ottawa en route to Toronto. Jane scribbles a note on a paper bag asking if I know that Evan Solomon (former host of CBC’s Power and Politics) has just boarded the plane and is seated behind us. I (in my own subtle fashion) ascertain that it is true… confirmed when we hear him talking politics. After disembarking we follow similar paths from the arrival gate. While ascending the escalator, I decide to pose the question… You are Evan Solomon, right? What follows is a brief, pleasant conversation in which he relates that he is in Toronto (with three other journalists) for the taping of a Global (TV) program in anticipation of the upcoming federal election on Monday (October 19th). They are of a collective mind that we may be getting a minority Liberal government under Justin Trudeau… perhaps even a majority!
We part company and Jane and I continue our journey home with lots of moments and memories worthy of reflection in the coming days (as well as this very long post).
So… if you feel that you’ve been “post” shortchanged this month… here’s remediation!