Hello again dear readers and welcome once again to this edition in my series of the story of a journey around the Maritime Provinces of Canada in a very old campervan / RV with my dear friend Lynne. As always, my advice is that if you wish to learn the whole story you should start here.
If you have read through, you will know that we had landed up in Yarmouth, Yarmouth Town as I rather tunelessly sung along to when I had touched down in Halifax and was finally on the road with Lynne, my travel buddy for this trip. It is a lovely rendition of an old song, somewhat ruined by my accompaniment but performed excellently by my late and dear friend Nick Clyne and his band.
If you want to know how we fared then please read on.
25th June, 2014.
Yarmouth is beautiful, there is no other word for it. We had been lucky enough to have visited Annapolis Royal before and I mused that it should perhaps be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After all these years I still think so.
I wouldn’t put Yarmouth in quite the same category, due to lack of comparable historical significance, but that in no way detracts from it’s obvious delights which I hope my images do justice to. It is yet another pristine Nova Scotian town in which the residents obviously take great pride, and rightly so. Here is what I wrote about it at the time with obvious reference to the website it was originally written for.
“I visited Yarmouth in Nova Scotia in June 2014 in company with VT member RavensWing (Lynne) on a trip round the Maritime Provinces of Canada in a 33-year-old campervan (RV) that was frankly held together by rust, gaffer tape and sheer willpower and great fun it was.
We spent two nights in a lovely little campsite a few miles out of town and had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
Yarmouth is a fairly sleepy little place like so many other communities in this part of Nova Scotia and is none the worse for that. We were greeted warmly in the style I have come to associate with Nova Scotians and made to feel right at home.
In truth, there is not really a lot to do here but what historical sites they do have they strive to show off to the best effect and there is a palpable sense of civic pride about the place. A couple of days was more than enough to do all that we wanted but I could happily have stayed a bit longer were there not so many other interesting places I wanted to visit.
Yarmouth is the county town of the county that bears it’s name and has a long history. Originally a Mi’kmaq (native aboriginal people) hunting area it was settled by de Champlain, a French explorer who has a large part in early Nova Scotian history as early as 1604 but it is possible that Europeans may have been here many centuries before that. There is strong archaeological evidence that Vikings, specifically Lief Ericson visited the area long before and there is a runic stone in the local museum which is attributed by some to those first Europeans.
The French were succeeded here by the British in 1759 and it is likely that the town gets it’s name from the town of Great Yarmouth in Suffolk, England. Acadians returning from their exile and further pro-British settlers from the USA increased the population of the town and it continued to grow, largely due to it’s situation in the middle of the largst lobster fishing area in the world.
The 19th century saw the town become a major shipbuilding centre and subsequently a railhead although both are now long gone. The Second World War pressed Yarmouth into service as a base within the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan whereby British and Commonwealth airmen could train in the relative safety of Canada.
Today the visitor will find a delightful tidy settlement boasting some excellent examples of Victorian architecture and it certainly is a delight just to wander around the place. I really do recommend that if you are in the area that you spend a little time here”.
We drove into town and indulged in one of my favourite activities which is nothing more that wandering aimlsessly and we were certainly not disappointed. Yarmouth is just a treasure trove of wonderful old buildings, not museums or tourist attractions but functioning homes / offices and perhaps the more attractive for it.
Whilst Yarmouth welcomes tourists very warmly (as I found out), it is not specifically or primarily a tourist town, it is a busy thriving community. We rolled into town in Betsy and just went for it without benefit of a map, any of these fancy GPS thingies or anything else. As I have mentioned before, Lynne and I were both in the Forces of our respective countries and so have a sort of inbuilt radar of how to RTB (return to base), in this case the parked up Betsy. In a town the size of Yarmouth it really was never going to be an issue.
We wandered aroud, marvelling at the mostly Victorian architecture and generally just appreciating the lovely setting that Betsy had delivered us to. At this point I’dl ike to mention Anna, a very loyal reader of this nonsense, a Croatian living in Perth, Australia and herself no mean travel writer (check out her blog).
She sent me a message on an earlier post in this series saying how enthusiastic I sounded about everything on this trip, particularly Betsy. I am pleased by this as I was indeed hugely enthusiastic about the whole undertaking, it was as if all my birthdays had come at once and I really was living my long held dream. It was something out the far side of perfect. Imagine now, dear reader, your best wonderful dream holiday then double it and you might be getting close to how I was feeling.
Consider my position. I was well into middle age, retired and with little to look forward to except travel (a pleasure now removed from me in 2021). I had long wished to live in a campervan / RV and here it was, dropped in my lap with the addition of a most wonderful travel buddy. I woke every morning in Betsy and pinched myself to make sure I was not dreaming. I wasn’t, this was for real, the images prove it.
We unhooked and drove into town for a look round. There was no rush as we had already decided to spend another night in our very decent campground. Yarmouth was just so inviting and Lynne probably needed a break from heaving Betsy around. Much as I loved our makeshift wagon, she was probably not the easiest vehicle to drive although Lynne was making a brilliant job of it.
As was becoming our way, we popped into the local Visitor Information Centre and were rewarded with an informative pamphlet about what to see and do although it turned out to be a bit extraneous as just aimlessly wandering or flaneuring, seemed very appropriate in what was once a Francophone part of the world and is was a joy in itself. I hope the images give you an idea.
There is not much on offer in Yarmouth outside the beautiful buildings, reminiscent of a bygone age but one place we did find from the pamphlet was Murray Manor, a lovely period home which was open to the public and housed a decent collection of artworks.
Sadly, as I research this piece, I see that it is permanently closed and up for sale, presumably another victim of the Chinese virus. How can any such place, working on very small margins, survive in circumstances where they have no footfall due to the current unnecessary pandemic?
Here is what I wrote about walking Yarmouth contemporaneously.
Take a hike!
“When I say take a hike I don’t really mean a hike in the accepted sense of the word but rather a fairly gentle walk through the streets of Yarmouth to drink in the atmosphere of the generally beautifully preserved 19th and early 20th century buildings that seem to compose most of the town.
Nova Scotia is very well geared up for visitors and many places will provide free literature to allow you to have a self-guided tour of what the particular town has to offer. Yarmouth is no exception and offers what is styled as the “Sea Captains Walking Tour” as most of the fine wooden houses on the route were built for successful mariners during the “Age of Sail”.
There are varying architectural styles on display and the leaflet is very good at explaining these. The website suggests between one and three hours to complete the walk which sounds about right but if you stop off at the Museum (see above) and perhaps have something to eat in one of the many dining establishments or a drink to quench your walking thirst then you could easily make a day of it.
I have always thought that walking is the best way to explore anywhere and Yarmouth certainly is an interesting and very attractive place to do it”.
We did stumble upon a rather interesting exhibit, this davit and bollards from the “City of New York” which went down in 1952 on the treacherous shores near here. She was obviously a fairly old vessel by then as, forty years previously and when named the Samson, she is believed to be the mystery ship that sailed past the foundering Titanic in 1912.
The ill-fated Titanic, the supposedly “unsinkable ship” had been built in the Harland and Wolff shipyard about three miles from where I was brought up in Belfast, another case of everything on my travels going round in circles. I wonder if any vessel sailed past the New York as she went under. If so, poetic justice I feel.
Another short was brought us to an absolute beauty of not only a building but a Museum and here is what I wrote about it.
2 – A wonderful local Museum.
Yarmouth has an interesting history and all of it is recorded in the wonderful Yarmouth County Museum situated in what is itself a rather fine building which was formerly the Tabernacle Church. It is on the walking tour mentioned above and really is worth stopping off to visit.
When we entered the Museum we were greeted by a typically friendly gentleman, a lifelong resident of the town, who was extremely knowledgeable about both the Museum and the history of the local area. This added much to the visit.
Despite being well into the tourist season we had the place to ourselves which I thought was a bit of a shame as it deserves to be patronised more.
Given the maritime nature of Yarmouth it is hardly surprising that a good proportion of the artefacts on display are of a shibuilding or seagoing nature and among my favourite items of that nature was a huge Fresnel lighthouse lens which serves as something of a logo for the Museum, appearing on some of the T-shirts in the well-stocked giftshop.
There is much more to the Museum than that though and there is a fairly eclectic range of exhibits. One of my favourites was the dolls house (pictured) which was whittled from cigar boxes.
Perhaps the star exhibit is the so-called Runic Stone which has caused debate amongst experts since it’s “discovery” in 1812. It is a large lump of rock with what appear to be ancient runes inscribed on it. Some claim it is merely natural markings, others that it is proof positive that Lief Ericson and his Vikings visited here long before Cabot, Cartier et al and still other experts hold that it is nothing more than an elaborate hoax. I shall leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.
The Museum is run by the local Historical Society which has been going since 1935 and is obviously a work of love albeit that it lacks the fine exhibits of large metropolitan Museums. What it does is provide a glimpse into the life of a very local area and it does it very well. I do recommend that you visit”.
The County Museum was fine and would easily have satisfied the requirements of the most avid history buff, people like me really, but it is only half the story as we had bought a combination ticket for it and the adjacent and equally fascinating Pelton – Fuller House .
A proper time capsule.
“I have written a separate tip about the excellent Yarmouth County Museum and adjacent to it is the equally fascinating, if somewhat smaller, Pelton – Fuller House which as the title of this piece suggests is a proper time capsule of a bygone age.
The house was initially built in 1892 for a prominent local merchant named Edward Cann who subsequently sold it to a couple called Bown in 1910 and it subsequently passed to their daughter Susan who was married to a Judge Pelton. The Peltons daughter, Mary Primrose, married a man called Alfred C. Fuller and the house eventually came into their possession although Mrs. Pelton lived there until her death in 1965 when it became a summer residence for the younger couple.
If you are from North America and think you have heard of Alfred C. Fuller you would probably be right. As a millionaire businessman he was known as the “Fuller Brush Man” as he had made his fortune from household cleaning equipment and his story is a classic rags to riches tale.
Born in nearby Welsford into a large farming family, young Fuller decided he wanted more out of life and moved to Boston in the USA aged just 18 in search of a better life. After a series of menial jobs, he found himself selling brushes door to door for a man called Staples.
Whilst a reasonable salesman, he thought that the products themselves could be much improved as could the selling techniques and that is what he set about doing. With his boss unimpressed by his ideas, Fuller borrowed $375 and began his own brush making company in 1906. Always an industrious man, he worked long hours and in the first year of business the company turned a profit of $8500.
Realising he needed to expand he began franchising his businesses and soon had 270 salesmen working for him on a commission only basis. The “Fuller Brush Men” as they were soon known were a common sight and Walt Disney even cast Donald Duck as one! The Fuller Brush company went from strength to strength to the point that it had a $109 million profit in 1960. Not bad and it was once claimed that every household in North America had at least one Fuller product although that may just be a myth.
Alfred Fuller died in 1973 but his widow continued to use the house until 1994 when she gifted the house and most of it’s contents to the very active local Historical Society and it is this virtually untouched private residence that the visitor sees today. It really is quite fascinating.
If you visit the house, you will be shown round by a knowledgeable young guide, the price of the tour being part of a combined ticket you buy at the Museum”.
The tour was brilliant and we were not hurried at all so I had time to take another shedload of images, some of which you can see here. All this and we still hadn’t even finished our walking tour which took us past even more beautiful buildings but it really was getting on for beer o’clock so we headed back towards the centre to find Fergy a beer but even then we still weren’t done.
We happened to walk past the inevitable War Memorial and, to avoid repetition I shall only include a small portion of my notes relevant to this example.
“This particular memorial was brought abut by pressure from the women of the County who started lobbying for it in 1920 and by 1923 when it was unveiled they had raised over $10,000 by public subscription.
Initially there were 173 names inscribed, the fallen of the First World War and subsequently those who perished in the Second World War and the Korean War were added. There is one fairly recent looking plaque with two names which I presume must be from some other theatre of operations perhaps Afghanistan.
Apologies for there being rather too much of my reflection in some of the images, it was just the position of the sun when I was there and unavoidable”.
With our respects duly paid, it was time for that beer and the first lileky looking place we found was Dooly’s pool hall.
Fancy a game of pool?
“I don’t know what it is like where you live but certainly in the UK pool halls have something of a seedy reputation and are generally not places I hang about in. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a rough pub but I am not that good at pool anyway. Being a bit thirsty, which is my default position, I was a little surprised when my (female) friend suggested popping in there for a drink but I am never one to turn down a beer and so in we went.
It was very clean and tidy with a good number of pool tables and probably an even greater number of the ubiquitous gaming machines which seemed to be getting more patronage than the green baize.
We were greeted by the very friendly barmaid and almost immediately engaged in conversation by the equally friendly customers sitting at the bar. I know I have mentioned it many times here but the Nova Scotians really are a sociable bunch. As it so happened the football (soccer) World Cup was on the TV so that at least gave me a topic of conversation. Had it been baseball or hockey I would have struggled!
I have subsequently found out that Dooly’s is a franchise chain comprising 61 outlets over seven Provinces and you do tend to see them in most major towns in the Maritimes. They began relatively recently (1993) in New Brunswick and seem to have grown fairly fast.
There was a snack and full menu available although we did not eat there. The washrooms were clean and there was a small display cabinet with a few trophies. If you are in Yarmouth then this is not a bad place for a drink”.
Dooly’s was fine but we decided that as we were there we may as well see what other hostelries were on offer but before we could do that there was a bit more sight-seeing to do, again of rather a sombre nature and was appropriately in Water Street, down by the sea.
Lost to the Sea.
“It is said that the sea is a cruel mistress and nowhere is this more true than in the often treacherous waters off Canada’s Eastern seaboard where, over centuries, many ships have foundered and many people perished. It
comes as little surprise then when you see the Lost to the Sea Memorial facing out over the Bay of Fundy in Yarmouth. It is a relatively new memorial having only been unveiled in 2013 although planning had been underway for some years before that.
The extremely active Yarmouth Historical Society had a large part to play in getting the project off the ground under the supervision of a separate memorial committee and it is very sobering to stand at the memorial and read the hundreds of names inscribed on it.
There are fairly strict criteria as to whose names are on the memorial which are as follows :-
Be born in Yarmouth County or a resident of Yarmouth County.
Drowned in salt water.
Ship is missing – entire crew lost.
Fell overboard and drowned.
Killed by an accident while on board a ship at sea.
Killed in a mutiny.
Died of disease while on a ship.
Died at sea or in a foreign port (having arrived there on a ship).
Died of wounds while serving on a ship, or with a connection to the ocean.
When I read this I could not help but wonder how many residents had been lost to mutiny, I didn’t think it was that common.
I found the memorial itself aesthetically pleasing with the ships wheel water feature and so on but I do think the siting of it leaves a little to be desired in front of that rather ugly concrete wall. Still, I suppose it is the sentiment of the thing that is important here. Well worth a quick stop if you are passing”.
Now where was that next pub? Thankfully it was about a minute’s walk from the maritime memorial in the form of Rudders Brewpub.
Food miles? More like food yards.
OK, I know technically beer isn’t a food but everyone talks about food miles these days (i.e. the distance from point of production to point of sale) and by that reckoning if beer was regarded as a food then Rudder’s restaurant and brewpub scores very highly as they produce much of the beer onsite.
Additionally they score very highly on the real food as well as the menu is predominantly fish and seafood which is all very locally sourced, indeed the premises is right by the water and a stone’s throw from the harbour.
We did not eat there but a quick pint of the Rudder’s Red was so pleasant that I felt compelled to have a go at the Raspberry Blonde (a beer, you smutty minded people)! I have drunk fruit flavoured beers before, particularly in Belgium where they are popular, but this was the first time I had sampled a Canadian framboise and very good it was too.
The other brews available are a blonde, a brown ale, a seasonal heavy and Pompey Dick, a rather potent (7%) brew produced to honour the ship of that name which brought the first settlers to the town.
The staff here were extremely friendly, which I have found to be a feature just about everywhere in the Maritime provinces. We visited in the early evening and the place was fairly well full with most people obviously having booked dining in advance which I would suggest you do. However, simply to sit at the pleasant bar for a drink is a delightful experience in itself.
As you might imagine, the decor is nautically themed and the bar has a a very cosy atmosphere. They have retained many of the original features from the warehouse premises that it used to be and which dates from the mid 19th century. Weather permitting, you may prefer to sit on the deck with wonderful views over the harbour and watch the fishing boats come and go. If you happen to have your own boat then the pub even has it’s own marina onsite!
They have regular live entertainment in Rudders and although we did not stay to see them, I did have a bit of a chat with the band who were setting up and they were every bit as friendly as the staff”.
We had enjoyed a great day in Yarmouth with a brace each of museums, good pubs and memorials so time to get Betsy fired up and back to the Camper’s Haven campsite for Fergy to put his chef hat on and knock up a bite to eat but Yarmouth hadn’t quite finished with us yet as the images show.
We saw the Yarmouth Pub on the way out of town so it seemed rude not to. Despite it being a Wednesday evening the place was lively to say the least and patronised predominantly by women who seemed t have been there for a while.
How can I best describe it? Slightly raucous I think would be the best way with the more or less unsupervised karaoke machine being well used and all the customers apparently knowing how to use it. If Nova Scotians are friendly in normal circumstances you wouldn’t believe them with a few drinks on board and within about ten minutes we had been introduced to just about everybody.
Lynne (who had been brought up predominantly in NS) was deep in conversation and a couple of the ladies were trying to persuade me to sing karaoke. I am not a huge fan of “empty orchestra”, as karaoke translates from the Japanese, much preferring the safety blanket of a guitar in my hands and preferably the help of a band but there was no escaping it.
To this day I can even remember one of the numbers I did, Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” which I would never sing in a band and had never sung live in my life. I was accompanied by a lady who, without being unkind, possessed much more in the way of enthusiasm that vocal virtuosity but it was the best laugh. I had a ball even if I still blush at the thought of it.
It was quite a job to extract ourselves but we eventually managed it and made it back to the campground without further diversion. Sadly, it appears from a bit of internet research that this fine establishment has either changed hands or gone out of business as I can find no reference to it at all.
Yarmouth had been brilliant and we had both thoroughly enjoyed it but there was still much more road to travel so if you want to see where it leads us next then stay tuned and spread the word.