The tide is in – about twenty feet from our back window – and across the bay I can see a handful of orange lights twinkling against an inky sky. Breakers are breaking and the wind is whipping around us and all is very snug inside. We have just got back from an afternoon in Lunenburg which is a world heritage site, but more importantly it passed the Richard and Philippa “livability test” – ie if we had to live there, we wouldn’t complain too much.
Our day began here at the Ovens though. Gold was discovered on the beach in 1861 and spawned a town of about a thousand miners, complete with a bank, saloons, stores, a multi-screen cineplex and roller disco. Some of that though, I made up. The town lasted just six years and nothing is left of it now, but some say on moonlit nights you can still hear the eerie pulsating echo of “Staying Alive” by the Beegees drifting through the trees… There is a nice clifftop walk to three of the caves, which we did, and we may pan for gold on the beach tomorrow which will almost certainly make us exceptionally rich.
And so to Lunenburg which is set out on a grid system as per an eighteenth century British survey. The surveyor though was clearly oblivious to the fact that he was surveying a steep hillside, so the town feels a bit like San Fransisco with steep streets levelling off sharply at intersections before plunging downwards again. Its a little time-warp of a place where ninety percent of the buildings are wood and most are at least a hundred and fifty years old. They have ornate carvings in the eaves and around the windows and the details are picked out in different colours. It was settled by protestant colonists from Germany, Switzerland and France in the 1750s and has a bit of a Bavarian feel to it – particularly with the white clapboard churches which seemed to be on just about every block. Its not completely twee though. Plastic lawn chairs, barbeques and kid’s bikes scattered in back gardens remind you that these are real homes too. But those kids go to the most amazing looking school. It was built in the mid 19th century by far-sighted planners who thought that children should have plenty of fresh air and sunlight, so they built the school on top of a hill and gave it big windows and its still in use today.
The town also has a really good fisheries museum, which may sound like a contradiction in terms but it was busy and informative and fun. I liked the detail that the town had a sudden influx of Norwegian fishermen when the second world war broke out, because they were at sea when Norway was occupied and they didn’t want to go home. There was lots about lobsters and several looking a bit gloomy in tanks including one with claws as big as a man’s foot. It must have been at least thirty pounds. There was also a whaling exhibition with photos of whales being hacked up on the Nova Scotia shore as recently as 1972. The equipment on display had been bought for the 1973 season which never happened because of the whaling ban.
My favourite exhibit was a nineteenth century fishing boat, with all the original narrow bunks and other fittings – and menus. It seemed that the fishermen got all the stuff that they would otherwise throw away: fish head soup. fish cheek stew and so on. They had a ten year old cabin boy to help cook for a crew of 14. We relied on a rather good restaurant instead (Grand Bankers Seafood), with a view of the harbour. When we got back up the hill to the carpark there was a little business card tucked into Harvey’s door with a picture of a stretch GMC on one side and a note from Nancy and her friends the Holloways from Georgia on the other. They were in town too – sorry to miss you folks!
Harv carried us back to the campsite as the light drained from the sky and we backed into our place on the edge of the shore. It should be great to wake up to tomorrow.