Welcome once again to the latest instalment in the story of my trip round the Maritime Provinces of Canada in summer 2014 in an ancient campervan called Betsy with my dear friend Lynne. If you wish to read it from the start, here is a link for you.
If you have read my previous ramblings you will know that we had spent the 26th June driving in fairly torrential rain and retreating earlier than was our habit to the Lockeport Cottages and Campground in Nova Scotia, then spending the night listening to the afore-mention rain beating on the roof of the van.
A look out the window next morning made me regret not packing Wellington boots as the site resembled a small lake. If you want to find out what happened next, please read on.
27th June, 2014.
First, I should tell you about the campground as I did not do so in the last entry due to the fact that I had seen nothing of it. Here is what I wrote at the time.
Decent but damp!
“We had decided to stay at the Lockeport Cottages and Campground site for a night as it had been well-rated in both the publications we were using to choose our sites. My friend ‘phoned ahead that morning and we were assured there would be no problem getting a pitch for our 23 foot RV even though it was a Friday night in late June.
We arrived in the late evening to register and although the office was officially closed we were greeted by the owners extremely friendly daughter who told us to make ourselves comfortable as her Mother was out somewhere. Whilst looking round I noticed a guitar sitting up against the wall and it appears the man of the place is keen musician, indeed there is even a “music barn” where I believe they have various musical entertainments, some organised and some impromptu.
The lady apologised in advance that the whole site was so wet (it had been appalling weather recently) but she can hardly be blamed for that.
On-site there were all the usual facilities, the washrooms were clean, there were covered communal areas if the weather did get worse and there was even a swimming pool although it was still a bit early in the season for me to attempt that! It even boasts it’s own lake complete with canoes and paddleboats”.
I suppose the best thing you could say about the weather is that it was not actually raining although it looked as if it might (it did later) so we got ready, unhooked Betsy and got back on the road shortly after midday which was about standard for us.
We had not gone very far when we spotted the White Gull bar / restaurant and this is what happened.
Great bar, stunning view, idiotic laws!
I knew that some of the licensing laws in Nova Scotia were a little odd to a Western European eye but this particular episode really put it all in context for me. For example, in the three Provinces I visited (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and, very briefly, New Brunswick) I had worked out that what we in UK call off-licence sales (i.e. buy alcohol to take home with you) were all controlled by the relevant Provinces.
OK, I always make a point of not casting aspersions on other nations practices but I did think that licensed premises in Nova Scotia were allowed to serve you a beer. Apparently this not quite so, please allow me to explain.
One lunchtime in Lockeport myself and my travelling companion wandered into what appeared to be just about the only licensed premises in town (certainly the only one open during the day) and I ordered a beer for myself and a soft drink for Lynne as she was driving and we really do not approve of drink-driving.
No problem, and the perfectly charming lady serving us asked if we wanted to eat and if we wanted to sit outside on the decking or inside. Well, we did not want to eat but the decking sounded good, as indeed it turned out to be, with a delightful view of the back harbour and so I set down to enjoy my beer, which I must say was well poured and fresh whilst I watched a couple of boatie types doing things to their vessels a few feet away.
It was an idyllic scene as I hope one of the images conveys. The next thing I know is that the lady server is back at the table, terribly apologetic, looking rather sheepish and telling us that if we wanted (i.e. one of us) to drink alcohol then we had to order food. What is all that about and why had she not told us initially? I can only assume she was new and a supervisor had told her after she had served us.
I have run into this practice in other places round the world and so we ordered a plate of onion rings between two. I am not sure if we even finished them although they were tasty and thankfully dry rather than soaked in underheated oil.
I really do not want the reader to get this wrong. The White Gull is a spotlessly clean place with bathrooms to match, utterly friendly staff, a superb harbour view and it is a complete delight. Shame the Provincial Government had to mess it up. Is the head of Government also the CEO of the onion ring franchise?”
As we had only popped in for a quick one we jumped back in Betsy and went in search of the Visitor’s Information Centre we had seen advertised which was as helpful as every other such establishment I encountered in the Maritimes. It boasts an excellent quilt as a wall hanging and there is even free wi-fi should you require it. The quilt commemorates the loss of three fishing boats from the town with all hands, amounting to dozens of men, in a violent storm in March 1961.
We were given a leaflet describing a self-guided walking tour round the local area so that sounded like a plan. There wasn’t very much to see and sadly the Little School Museum has very limited hours and this wasn’t one of them which was a shame.
The Fisherman’s Memorial is worth a look and the area is generally very pleasant so it was not at all wasted time but we did not spend too much of it before getting back onto Trunk 3 aka the Lighthouse Route. We didn’t have too far to go before we made out next “discovery”. By now we had a bit of a routine in place. If we saw a sign indicating just about anything of interest, we would go and have a look at it.
I know that Lynne was partially raised in Nova Scotia (she is from a Forces family and moved around a lot) but I don’t know how many of the backwaters of the Province she had visited and of course it was all brand new and exciting to me so a sign for the Sable River Trail was all the invitation we needed.
Walk on the wobbly bridge.
The small but charming community of Sable River in Nova Scotia is one of those sort of “blink and you miss it” sort of places but it does boast one “attraction” in addition to some wonderful scenery and that is the swinging bridge. The bridge is the only one of it’s type in the Province and, as the sign in the car park proudly proclaims, it has been keeping each side of the village connected since 1885. The was really all I saw in Sable River and that only took a short time even allowing for some photos and a savouring of the delights of rural Nova Scotia.
Sable River (village) it is a tiny place and none the worse for that. Nestled in some delightful countryside on the banks of the Sable River (imaginative settlement naming I thought!), it is a genuinely lovely small Nova Scotian community that I suspect has changed little for decades but it has only one slight problem, or should I say had. Separated by the eponymous river, the community grew up on both sides of it.
Now whilst this situation may have provided gainful employment for a boatman once upon a time, a simpler solution was thought up and a swinging bridge was constructed in 1885. It is called a swinging bridge but for those of you worried about such things (and I count myself as one) it is neither high nor particularly unstable.
The bridge is reached by walking a very short (half a mile) trail from the carpark which is very attractive but, when we visited in late June, was infested by some of the most aggressive mosquitoes it has ever been my misfortune to meet – I was eaten alive. This trail is part of a slightly larger (2 km.) one called the Tom Tigney Trail.
If you happen to be travelling Highway 3 on one of the numerous “trails” promoted by the authorities, it is definitely worth half an hour or so to see this, even if only for the scenery”.
After the tiny Sable River we decided to put a few miles behind us and didn’t stop until Liverpool, which is a little bigger.
Just another flying visit.
“In Northwestern England there is a place called Liverpool which sits on the River Mersey and is home to the Beatles and a couple of Premiership football (soccer) teams. Travel a few thousand miles vaguely Southwest across the Atlantic and there is a place called Liverpool which also sits on the River Mersey and isn’t home to any such thing.
It is situated in the South Shore region of Nova Scotia on Highway 3 about midway between Shelburne and Lunenburg and is nowhere near as big as the city for which it was named. I formed the impression that it was a thriving town, clean and tidy with friendly people and apparently good shopping and refreshment facilities.
I also found out that it has an interesting history and fashions itself as “the Port of the privateers”. If you are not aware of what a privateer is, well it all really depends on your point of view. A privateer is either a swashbuckling sea-going hero doing his best for his country or he is a licensed pirate out to make a killing figuratively and often literally.
Under maritime convention of years long gone, you could attack and capture ships of an enemy or even neutral country as long as you had a letter from your monarch or government saying you could.
I didn’t see any privateers running around town but I did visit a couple of interesting museums, climbed a very attractive old lighthouse, saw a couple of interesting memorials and bought a new netbook before getting back on the Highway. I wouldn’t suggest that many travellers will actually base themselves there but if you are passing then it is well worth spending a few hours here.
Just watch out for the pirates!”
Almost inevitably in Canada one of the first things we saw was the War Memorial in pride of place in the centre of town and as always we stopped to pay our respects. With that done we set off for a look round.
The first place we visited was the Queen’s County Museum, which was excellent.
An excellent museum.
I noticed on my travels round the Maritime Provinces of Canada just how many small museums there were. Every town and even village seems to have it’s own and they are generally speaking very interesting, well-maintained and staffed by obviously enthusiastic people. The Queens County Museum in Liverpool is completely representative of the type and is well worth a visit.
The Museum is housed in a lovely wooden construction building which is completely typical of the region and, although not large, still manages to contain an interesting collection of which the jewel in the crown has to be the Simeon Perkins diaries.
Perkins, a keen diarist, maintained his journal form 1766 to 1812 and chronicle the early life of Liverpool and the surrounding county and it makes for fascinating reading. His house is adjacent to the Museum and I shall deal with it in a moment.
Whilst there are many genuine historical artefacts here, including an excellent selection of items from the indigenous Mi’qmak people, my favourite items were the somewhat quirky lifesize wood carvings of people, often stylised. I have included the RCMP “mountie” in the images here by way of example.
There is also a good section on privateers (see above) which is hardly surprising as Liverpool and there are occasional talks by members of staff in a prop privateer vessel (shown).
Entry to both attractions is free to holders of the Nova Scotia Museum Pass which I recommend if you are going to be visiting a few sites as you will save a few $$$.
Is this place haunted?
On now to the preserved home of one Simeon Perkins, judge, Assembly member and keen diarist which is adjacent to the Museum. The building was completed in 1766 and is in a remarkable state of repair considering it is of wooden construction. It is pleasant to look at, as I hope the images show, but it is inside that the real magic lies.
The house is exactly as it would have been in the late 18th century although with the caveat that not all of the exhibits are from the house itself but are merely representative of the period as most of the originals have been lost over the years. This is understandable and doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment of the place.
So who was this Simeon Perkins then? I must confess that prior to visiting I had never heard of the man.
Well, Colonel Perkins, to give him his correct title, was born in 1735 in Connecticut (now USA) but migrated North in 1762 during the “plantation” of what is now the Maritime Provinces. Settling in Liverpool, which was then the second largest settlement in Nova Scotia after Halifax, he engaged very successfully in commerce and soon made himself what we might call “a well-respected man”.
So well respected was he that he was Lieutenant-colonel of the county militia from 1772 to 1793 and subsequently colonel commandant until 1807 despite apparently having no military training. This, of course was in the days when such ranks were effectively titular rather than requiring knowledge of martial matters.
Despite his apparent lack of training, he seemed to do rather well as a commander and repulsed five separate raids by American privateers during hi command. He also funded his own privateers who, apart from harrying the opposing forces, managed to turn a tidy profit which he shared handsomely in.
As if all this was not enough to keep the good Colonel occupied, he pursued a political career and in two separate periods he represented Queens County in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for a total of 32 years. He was also a judge, justice of the peace and in all held 27 various official positions in his lifetime.
What Perkins is perhaps best remembered for is his diary, kept from 1766 until his death which is an absolute treasure trove for historians detailing, as it does, daily life in the newly emerging colonies.
I mentioned haunting in the title above and I have no idea if the place is genuinely haunted but it is technologically haunted now by a series of holograms which appear on white screens in period costume and tell you their stories. I rather liked Mary Fowler, the maid in the kitchen, who seemed a bit earthy to say the least.”
After the two Museums we took a wander along the Main Street and I was delighted to see a small computer shop which I was in need of as my netbook had given up the ghost in line with tecnology’s habit of letting me down at the most inopportune times. We went in more in hope than expectation as it really was a tiny establishment but the owner was able to supply me exactly what I needed which was a complete bonus.
As we were walking round I noticed a slightly odd phenomenon, an example of which you can see above. Preumably in an attempt to brighten up what is already a pretty place the good people of Liverpool have decided to paint all the fire hydrants as various figures, predominantly British redcoat soldiers although I did see a couple of other styles which I stupidly did not take images of. Hopefully this will give you an idea.
Time to head on again and by this time the weather was even brightening which was a bonus. As usual we did not get far, not even out of town before we were waylaid by another sign, this time for the Fort Point Lighthouse although thankfully it was only about a half mile diversion for us.
A beautiful old lighthouse.
“Lighthouses seem to dominate Nova Scotia and, indeed, the other Maritime Provinces of Canada. Given the climatic conditions (in some places fog over 150 days per year), the treacherous currents and shoals etc., I suppose it is hardly surprising as these are very dangerous waters for shipping.
The lighthouse, specifically of the old wooden and often octagonal variety are a de facto logo for the region and a very pretty one at that. People have lighthouse shaped mailboxes, mini lighthouses in the front garden where perhaps the British would have a garden gnome (I know which I would rather look at) and so on.
This particular lighthouse lies a short drive out of Liverpool (you could easily walk it if you liked and stands where the Mersey River empties into Liverpool Bay. Any naming similarities to the city in Northwestern England are entirely intended I am sure.
We drove and found parking easy enough in the reasonably sized carpark where a very short walk took us to the building. Built in 1855, is is slightly odd insofar as it is a square building with a pyramidal roof which is not overly common, the octagonal style being more predominant here. The state of preservation of a wooden building over 150 year old amazed me, it is in pristine condition.
Even in summer, the place was just about deserted and we were greeted in typically Nova Scotian friendly fashion by a young lady who, quite honestly, looked like she was glad of the company. She very professionally told us about the place and invited us to wander about at will, cautioning me to mind my head as I am rather a tall man and I do not think these places were built for people of my stature.
Leaving the gift shop that constitutes the ground floor, we started to ascend to the upper floors which are set out really nicely. My favourite part of the whole thing was a looped video of the son of a previous keeper (the place has long been de-commissioned) telling of his early remembrances of living here. Onward and upward as always, we finally achieved the top floor where the old lens was displayed.
You are also quite at liberty to crank up the manual foghorn and can even buy a T-shirt proclaiming that you have tooted it! I didn’t bother and I did rather wonder what passing shipping must have made of a foghorn on a totally clear day.
Realistically, it is a half hour tour here with a little extra time if you want to explore the very pleasant grounds and, no, it is not the prettiest lighthouse I saw in the area but it is certainly well worth a visit.
Close by the lighthouse I spotted a cairn style monument and, being the inquisitive (for which read nosy) type that I am I went to investigate and when I looked closer I was surprised to see that the monument commemorated not one but two historical events.
The first event was the arrival in Liverpool Harbour in 1604 of Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts and Samuel de Champlain, along with their crew. This was effectively the first serious attempt at colonisation of what is now Canada and was the beginning of the French / Acadian influence that exists to this day. They
did not stay long in modern day Nova Scotia and soon went inland to found what is now Quebec by 1608.
The second event commenorated here is a short-lived (1775 – 1783) military unit called the Kings Orange Raiders, a Loyalist Company deployed here in 1778 to guard against American privateers who were wreaking havoc at the time. As the plaque informs us, Fort Point was captured in 1780 due to treachery by two KOR soldiers but was quickly recaptured under the command of our friend from earlier, Colonel Perkins.
It is interesting to stand here in the well-maintained park with the delightful view and think how much history has been played out here in what is not exactly a very old country. If you are historically minded and are visiting the lighthouse, it is worth a look.”
OK, I think that is Liverpool about covered so let’s head on and our final stop for the day was the wonderful town of Lunenburg and the Municipal campground but this post is getting long now so I shall tell you all about them in the next one.
What I will tell you about here is dinner that evening, which was eventually taken in the Knot pub / restaurant after a bit of a false start!.
Very possibly the best we visited.
In a wonderful six week trip round the Maritime Provinces in summer 2014 I was lucky enough to have eaten some superb meals in some wonderful places, mostly pubs and bars as it seems you do not have to splash out to on a fine dining restaurant to get excellent quality food in these parts. Anyway, I do like a pub atmosphere and again Canada seems to be able to deliver that.
To choose a favourite venue seems almost wrong but if someone had a gun to my head, I should probably choose the Knot Pub in Lunenburg. Despite there being plenty of eating and drinkingchoice in this historic place, we kept returning here as it was just so good.
We found the Knot a little bit by accident as it is not quite on the main tourist beat of town. We had originally gone into another place and the lady most apologetically informed us that the kitchen was not open as the chef had left and a new one had not been recruited. I enquired where was a good place to go and she immediately suggested the Knot, saying that was where all the locals go. Good enough for us.
A short walk and we came upon the place which looks slightly German in appearance and this is deliberate as the town has a long German association. The pub also gives the appearance of being a lot older than it’s 1988 provenance. I am not normally in favour of faux “olde worlde” places as I find them a bit Disneyland, but here it seems to work.
We managed to find a table even though the place was quite full and I wandered up to the bar where I greeted by an extremely friendly young lady who took my order when I eventually managed to choose from the extensive beer / drinks menu. I was happy Lynne was able to have a drink s we were on foot and I knew what she wanted so she stayed at the table.
In the time it took the beer to arrive, I had already been engaged in conversation by one of the very sociable locals. I did find this all over the Maritimes, people really are so pleasant.
Menus were duly obtained and that was where the problem started as there was just so much delicious looking food offered, mostly local favourites like scallops, fish, burgers etc. Also, there were a couple of things that were new to me including deep fried pepperoni and what they call Mozza Fries, effectively a poutine, which I had heard of but never eaten and made with shredded mozzarella instead of the traditional curds.
We ordered portions of each to share which proved to be gorgeous and then I plumped for the mussels as I do rather love them with Lynne going for a very tasty looking sandwich. As you might imagine, being situated about half a mile from a fishing port, the fish and seafood here were of the highest quality. On another occasion I had the mussel soup which proved equally delicious.
On every occasion we went back to the Knot we received the same efficient and very pleasant service, top-class food and well-kept drinks. If there is one small fault about the Knot it is that there are some changes of level on the floor which may make it difficult for wheelchair accessibility. Perhaps they may have arrangements in place, I forgot to ask. Other than the potential accessibility issue, I really cannot recommend this place highly enough.
Another brilliant day on the road and we had not even started on Lunenburg yet! If you want to discover what happens when we do then stay tuned and spread the word.