We arrived in lovely little Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, during a light September rain after driving from the province’s north coast. Even in the mist, this UNESCO World Heritage Site looked charming and inviting, but we decided to head indoors to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic on the waterfront. The museum offers a history of and tribute to the fishing heritage of Canada’s Atlantic Coast.
Our admission included a guided tour, and our docent held the group in rapt attention as she led us through this impressive landmark.
Our appreciation for fish ‘n’ chips grew considerably as we learned about the lives of the men who brave the ocean’s unpredictable tirades. We heard some stories firsthand from former boat captains who were stationed in the museum’s two dockside fishing boats, the Cape Sable and the Theresa E. Connor. Both had begun their days at sea while in their teens and had spent several decades fishing off the Grand Banks, the rich fishing grounds southeast of Newfoundland. Poking around in the boats’ hulls provided a glimpse of the primitive conditions that fishermen had to endure. The living quarters are close, the diet is no frills, the showers are non-existent, but the danger is plenty.
The skies finally cleared, so we took off on foot through picture-postcard Lunenburg, population 2,300-plus.
Established in 1753 on a narrow peninsula nestled between two bays, the town was first settled by German, Swiss and French immigrants brought to Nova Scotia under a British colonization plan. In 1995, it was designated a World Heritage Site because its residents have worked hard to maintain its original appearance, identity and layout.
It’s that last factor that makes for steep streets that rival any in San Francisco. The town’s first settlers were determined to strictly follow the British colonial settlement plan, which called for rigid grids. That means they built the streets straight up the hills instead of around them, so it wasn’t difficult to work off some of the delicious seafood we enjoyed at the waterfront restaurants.
Not-to-be-missed are the lobster risotto cakes served a sambuca aioli and salad ($14) at the Fishcake Cafe. You can enjoy them, weather permitting, on the open back porch perched high above the harbor. The cakes are the most delicate, rich and flavorful I’ve ever tasted. The owner-chef’s son served us, and told us that because making the cakes is so labor intensive, there are never more than two types offered daily.
Photographers love Lunenburg because of its picturesque setting and because some of the homes and public buildings are painted eye-popping shades of mint green, peach, eggplant and fuchsia. Visitors also are discovering Canada’s only apple vodka distillery, housed in a former blacksmith shop. The enterprise is owned and operated by urban refugees Lynne Mackay and Pierre Guevremont. They gave up city jobs for distilling after reading about it in an airline magazine, said Guevremont, who ran a stock photography business. He and Mackay, a 30-year veteran of the film industry, discovered the old blacksmith building at the east end of town and knew it was to be the home of the Ironworks distillery.
“Ours is not a flavored vodka,” Mackay emphasized. “It’s made from the fruit.”
That can mean adding cranberries to the apples, both of which grow abundantly in Nova Scotia. They most recently began transforming other local fruits into deliciously sweet and smooth brandies.
“Larger distilleries stick with a product, Guevremont said, “but we like to experiment.”
Great gifts for gadabouts
With the new TSA regulations, you can’t lock your bags — or can you? The answer is yes, if you have a WordLock. You can secure your luggage without having to remember numbers (you choose a four-letter word; a sample list is provided), and the only people who can open the lock other than you is a TSA agent. No worry about losing the key; you don’t need one. The lock is small, comes in five colors, and has easy-to-read letters. A great stocking stuffer for your person-on-the-go. About $9 at Sears, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target and Kmart, or visit www.WordLock.com.
Solo travelers might sleep just a bit easier with the ila Wedge Door Alarm tucked under their door. Shaped like a typical rubber doorstop but oh-so-more fashionable, this alarm is pressure sensitive. Should someone try to open your door, they’ll be blasted with 130-decibel siren that only you know how to silence. It’s small, thin and lightweight — perfect for travel, but can be used anywhere. About $20. Visit www.ilasecurity.com
E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.