Lunenburg, Nova Scotia – a UNESCO Heritage Site
I don’t know how odd this is, but I have this quirky thing I do when I’m travelling – I look at each new place I visit and try to decide if I would live there. Sometimes I just think about the town or city as a whole and decide on the basis of access to good food, what the people seem like and how hot it will get in the summer (I hate the heat) but occasionally I’ll look at individual neighbourhoods to see where I’d like to live. I’ve got to be honest and say there are a lot of spots in Canada that I’d happily reside in, but while I was visiting Lunenburg I actually picked out a rather nice house, too. I looked it up on the real estate site on the internet and sent the link to The Bloke, who was quite pleased with the price, but firm in his resolve to live where he actually works. Sigh.
You can safely assume I am smitten with this charming, quaint and uniquely historic little fishing village. Lunenburg is classed by UNESCO as the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. It is extraordinarily well preserved and the locals have managed to conserve it’s identity as a model British colonial settlement, without compromising it’s ability to function as a community in the modern world. The layout of the town is almost entirely that of the original 18th century design and over 95% of the buildings are timber, with two thirds of them dating from the 19th century. And it is utterly and irresistibly appealing.
The old school building is simply breathtaking. It looks like something from a Gothic horror film set which would have an axe-carrying Jack Nicholson striding through the rooms. All signs of the devastating fire that tore through St John’s Anglican Church in 2001, the second oldest protestant church building in Canada, are gone now and the historic restoration has reinstated what is considered by many experts to be a classic example of “Carpenter Gothic”. I was particularly taken with all of the colours in this town. Many of the houses are brightly painted and most sport delightful and completely individual trims around the windows and porches – perfect fodder for a snapping rubber-neck (i.e. me).
The town has a rich fishing history, the cost of which is chillingly brought home by the sombre but touching memorial which lists the names of those lost at sea and it’s shipyards and foundry played important roles in the repair of damaged vessels in WW1 and WW2. It continued as a major fishing centre after WW2, and it is home to the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, but tourism is what really brings home the bacon to Lunenburg these days.
As is only fitting, Lunenburg has plenty of great places for a seafood meal and we were treated to a fine example of that at The Salt Shaker Deli – noted for it’s award-winning smoked seafood chowder. There are not many frills in this modest little diner, but they seem to save all the effort for the food – which was fabulous. I couldn’t resist the chowder and was glad I didn’t. It was rich and creamy, bulging with fresh mussels, scallops and shrimp and imbued with a deep smoky flavour. I also managed to find room for their lobster roll – generously full of delicious fresh lobster, tarragon mayo and greens. A truly indulgent lunch, but then I am a greedy girl.
Lunenburg is a relatively small place and easily investigated by foot on a fine day. We got to know quite a lot about it thanks to the encyclopaedic knowledge of Lunenburg Town Walking Tours owner/operator, and local girl, Shelah Allen who led us around this delightful corner of Nova Scotia. Again, this is a spot I knew nothing of and am so very glad that has now been rectified. I can’t wait to get back there again one day.
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Nova Scotia Tourism.