LUNENBURG HIS­TORIC AND AP­PEAL­ING

Nova Sco­tia’s pic­turesque past lives on in this colo­nial coastal town.

Seabourn Club Herald - - FEATURES - BY JOHN AND SAN­DRA NOWLAN

Fodor’s, the pop­u­lar travel guide, claims that wan­der­ing the streets of Lunenburg, “can feel like the next best thing to time travel.” It’s an ideal metaphor. The his­toric Nova Sco­tia town, lo­cated on the At­lantic coast just an hour’s drive south of Hal­i­fax, was de­clared a UNESCO World Her­itage site in 1975 to pro­tect hun­dreds of color­ful 18th- and 19th-cen­tury build­ings along the wa­ter­front and in the down­town core.

Lunenburg, with its cur­rent pop­u­la­tion of 2300, is also a Na­tional His­toric Site of Canada. It was founded by the Bri­tish in 1753, just four years af­ter Hal­i­fax, and at­tracted many Protes­tant im­mi­grants, es­pe­cially from Ger­many and Switzer­land. A unique di­alect re­mains with many of its cur­rent res­i­dents. Lunenburg is the best ex­am­ple of a planned Bri­tish colo­nial set­tle­ment in Canada. It has kept the orig­i­nal lay­out based on a rec­tan­gu­lar grid pat­tern drawn up in Bri­tain, much like Bri­tish plans for Philadel­phia and Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia. Seventy per­cent of those orig­i­nal build­ings, many in bright col­ors to

THE SHIP­BUILDERS OF LUNENBURG WERE SO SKILLED THAT MGM CALLED ON THE TOWN TO BUILD A REPLICA OF HMS BOUNTY FOR ITS CLAS­SIC 1962 MARLON BRANDO FILM, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY.

be eas­ily seen by re­turn­ing sea­far­ers, re­main in­tact as res­i­dents proudly safe­guard the town’s unique iden­tity.

EX­PE­RI­ENC­ING THE PAST

Af­ter its found­ing, Lunenburg quickly be­came a ma­jor ship­build­ing cen­ter with lo­cal mills pro­vid­ing wood to build a fleet of the most im­pres­sive sail­ing ships in the world. The ship­builders of Lunenburg were so skilled that MGM called on the town to build a replica of HMS Bounty for its clas­sic 1962 Marlon Brando film, Mutiny on the Bounty. Among the ves­sels built by the in­dus­try in its prime was the fish­ing schooner Bluenose, built in 1921 and un­de­feated in 18 years of in­ter­na­tional rac­ing (Amer­i­can

chal­lengers were very un­happy). It was said that “The Queen of the At­lantic” could dance on top of the ocean and cut through the waves like no other ship.

Now a na­tional icon, Bluenose lives on as the re­verse face of each Cana­dian dime. A replica has been built called Bluenose II, which, when not vis­it­ing other ports as a Nova Sco­tia am­bas­sador, is docked in Lunenburg, where guests can walk along the deck, chat with the crew and imag­ine what it was like to race the open At­lantic un­der full sail.

Just a short walk from the Bluenose II berth is the dis­tinc­tive red build­ing hous­ing the Fish­eries Mu­seum of the At­lantic, hon­or­ing Canada’s mar­itime her­itage and Lunenburg’s key con­tri­bu­tions. The Bluenose story is on dis­play, of course, and is told with what one vis­i­tor de­scribed as “Spiel­berg drama.” Other sec­tions of the mu­seum

are ded­i­cated to the lob­ster, scal­lop, ground fish and whale fish­eries. There’s a fas­ci­nat­ing dis­play about U.S. pro­hi­bi­tion in the 1920s and the sub­se­quent growth of the rum-run­ning in­dus­try in Canada where many Nova Sco­tia boats were in­volved in trans­port­ing il­licit rum, gin, whisky and Cham­pagne to Amer­i­can ports. Dock­side, guests can step aboard a wooden Grand Banks schooner as well as a steel-hulled long liner to learn about mod­ern fish­ing tech­niques. This is also the spot where whale-watch­ing tours head for the open At­lantic to search for the fin, pi­lot, minke and hump­back whales that fre­quent these wa­ters. There are many dol­phins, seals, tur­tles and thou­sands of sea birds.

Although it has some steep hills, Lunenburg is de­signed for walk­ing with ev­ery­thing cen­trally lo­cated. Stroll the streets and take in the history and at­trac­tions of the town, or even tour the com­mu­nity in a color­ful horse-drawn car­riage.

SEE­ING THE SIGHTS

Among its well-pre­served, un­usual ar­chi­tec­ture, in­flu­enced by Ger­man, Swiss, Bri­tish and Cape Cod de­signs, two his­tor­i­cal gems stand out. St. John’s Angli­can Church, nes­tled in the cen­ter of town, is the sec­ond-old­est Protes­tant church in Canada, af­ter St. Paul’s in Hal­i­fax. It was started in 1754 in the

New Eng­land Meet­ing House style (the orig­i­nal oak beams were im­ported from Bos­ton) with ad­di­tions in­clud­ing a Gothic tower added in 1840. Sadly, a fire de­stroyed much of the church in 2001 – but the com­mu­nity launched a ma­jor fund­ing and re­build­ing ef­fort. Now, re­con­struc­tion is done, the build­ing has been re­turned to its for­mer glory and it’s open to vis­i­tors once again.

The other key ar­chi­tec­tural land­mark is Lunenburg Academy, a mas­sive, three-story, white, black and red Vic­to­rian for­mer school­house built at the top of Gal­lows Hill and vis­i­ble from all parts of the com­mu­nity. Now 120 years old and a Na­tional His­toric Site, it serves as the head­quar­ters for the Lunenburg Academy of Mu­sic Per­for­mance, at­tract­ing mu­si­cians from around the globe for teach­ing, per­for­mances and out­reach pro­grams.

The ar­chi­tec­ture of the older homes in Lunenburg is fas­ci­nat­ing, too. Many in­clude or­na­men­tal brack­ets and a unique “Lunenburg Bump,” a two- or

MANY IN­CLUDE OR­NA­MEN­TAL BRACK­ETS AND A UNIQUE “LUNENBURG BUMP,” A TWO- OR THREE-STORY DORMER/BAY WIN­DOW, EI­THER FIVE-SIDED OR REC­TAN­GU­LAR, OVER­HANG­ING THE FRONT EN­TRANCE.

three-story dormer/bay win­dow, ei­ther five-sided or rec­tan­gu­lar, over­hang­ing the front en­trance. One the­ory is that early tax­a­tion au­thor­i­ties based their prop­erty rates on the size of the base of the house, so res­i­dents built ex­ten­sions that jut­ted out from the sec­ond or third floors. Many of them also have a widow’s watch, a small room fac­ing the har­bor on top of the house where wives kept a sharp look­out over the end­less grey sea, watch­ing and hop­ing for fish­ing ves­sels to re­turn with their hus­bands aboard.

DE­LI­CIOUS HER­ITAGE

Drawn by the pic­turesque build­ings, Lunenburg has be­come a haven for artists with many gift shops and stu­dios lin­ing the tidy streets. Art and folk mu­sic fes­ti­vals are com­mon dur­ing the sum­mer and fall. Walk­ing the his­toric streets of Lunenburg and breath­ing the fresh sea air can make one hun­gry. In ad­di­tion to artists and writ­ers, the unique char­ac­ter of the town has also at­tracted some world-class chefs.

Fresh-caught seafood is, of course, the spe­cialty and no restau­rant in town does it bet­ter than Fleur de Sel. The chef/owner is tak­ing a year’s sab­bat­i­cal in 2016 (re­open­ing in 2017), but he also owns two other great places to eat that are stay­ing open: Salt Shaker Deli (the scal­lops lin­guini and smoked had­dock seafood chow­der are es­pe­cially rec­om­mended) and the in­for­mal South Shore Fish Shack (ex­cel­lent lob­ster rolls and fish & chips). For seafood, lo­cals also rec­om­mend the Rum Run­ner Restau­rant, the Savvy Sailor, the Grand Banker and the Rime Restau­rant and Wine Bar.

Nova Sco­tia winer­ies are now pro­duc­ing world-class vin­tages, es­pe­cially white wines — look for the Tidal Bay ap­pel­la­tion — that are widely avail­able in restau­rants across Canada. But a new in­dus­try for Lunenburg is fas­ci­nat­ing be­cause of its con­nec­tion to the color­ful, dan­ger­ous days of rum run­ning and il­le­gal stills. Iron­works Dis­tillery, lo­cated in the heart of Old Lunenburg in a for­mer black­smith shop that once made iron­works for the ma­rine trade, is pro­duc­ing a rum that’s been de­clared the world’s best. At the World Rum Awards in Lon­don in 2014, Iron­works Bluenose Dark Rum won a Gold Medal. The Caribbean mo­lasses is dis­tilled and aged in bour­bon bar­rels made from Ken­tucky oak. At the Bri­tish awards, Iron­works also won awards for its pear and ap­ple brandies. A tour of the mi­cro-dis­tillery — with sam­ples, of course — is highly rec­om­mended.

From world-class food to quaint, bou­tique-lined boule­vards, this sea­side town is more than hos­pitable — it’s prac­ti­cally af­fec­tion­ate. From­mer’s guide­book calls Lunenburg, “just plain love­able.” It’s a love af­fair you’re sure to share.

HMS Bounty

Bluenose II

St. John's Angli­can Church

Lunenburg Bump

Lob­ster roll Iron­works rum

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