We do not usually plan a mini-vacation at the height of the tourist season, preferring the shoulders of the year when accommodations are easy to find and book with an eye to the weather. Typically August sees moderating air temperatures by mid month, however the summer of 201 saw temperatures in our region about half a degree above normal. Doesn't seem like much, but the heat tended to be concentrated in a half dozen hot and humid days. Our first plan was to visit Nova Scotia's Fundy coast until we learned that forecast temperatures there were to be in the low thirties. Since 2008 we have always visited Shelburne once a year usually at the time of a scheduled festivity.
Even at a meandering pace with side-trips, Shelburne is less than two hours away from home. The Fishermen's (#103) Highway connects all of the communities along the south western shore. This topographic map show how the hill country gives way to flat lowlands west of Shelburne. Flood prone areas are coloured in shades of grey and light blue.
Our coastal part of Lunenburg County has been promised thunderstorms, but none have materialized this summer. Largely warm sunny days and rain in late evening and overnight.We did experience a couple of uncomfortably warm and humid nights usually heralded by a daytime air temperature a little above the standard 27.7ºC high. With August 17 approaching we were promised a high of 29ºC, while Shelburne was slated with 24ºC. Cooper's Inn, where we usually stay was fully booked, but there was a last minute cancellation.
In early morning the temperature at Upper South Cove starts at about 20ºC in August. Since check in time at the inn was 3 pm,we made a leisurely start at about 11 am, but having travelled as far as Bridgewater had to return home since Ruth had left her purse and travel essentials at home.
Still ahead of schedule we reached Liverpool shortly after noon and decided to air-condition our car by taking the Whites Cove/ Hunts Point/ Summerville shore route instead of following the inland #103. Nova Scotian highways need to make better provision for increasing bicycle traffic. Until that happens bicycles should probably be restricted from using secondaries.
Mile after mile of no passing lanes. We have heard of reprehensible behaviour on the part of motorists, but also seen some very dangerous behaviour on the part of bicycling groups, whose members do not seem well experienced in piloting a bike. This is Hunts Point where we sometimes rent a beach-side cottage in the off season. The area at right accommodates recreation vehicles, whose occupants apparently prefer the woods to the water.
This is the Summerville beach area further west. These two room "villas" are sited on the beach are equipped for light housekeeping. Every Villa also has 2 bathrooms including a Jacuzzi in the upstairs bath. The Quarterdeck Grill is located on site. If you need to ask the price for sleeping here, forget it!
Quarterdeck Grill Summer Hours are11:30 am - 9pm. Those Lobster Tails stuffed with scallops and shrimp will set you back $40. Beer, an additional $7- $8. Two pounds of mussels which would cost $10- $12 in Lunenburg is $16. Fish N' Chips, $17; a burger $14. Their "Sea & Shore" menu will cost more but is the best value. Great view of the ocean.
This place was crawling with beach bunnies and visitors.
Just on last turn in the road and we were back on #103.
They are twinning the Fishermen's Highway, which will make Shelburne and Yarmouth an easier run.
By 2 pm we reached and inadvertently passed the Shelburne exit. The next exit was Birchtown a few kilometres further west. Founded in 1783, it is famous as the largest settlement of Black Loyalists and was the largest free settlement of Africans in North America in the eighteenth century. The community was named after British Brigadier General Samuel Birch, an official who assisted in the evacuation of Black Loyalists from New York. The museum opened this summer.
On a Saturday afternoon, the museum and this mall rural park were not attracting visitors. Poor land, inadequate supplies and broken promises of assistance led many Birchtown residents to petition the British Government for a remedy, led by Thomas Peters. These grievances led to many Birchtown residents joining a 1792 migration to found a free African settlement in Sierra Leone. We enjoyed a packed picnic lunch in this location. Seaward photos were over exposed but this is very nice place for rest and reflection.
This tablet reminds visitors that although the population of Birchtown was greatly reduced by that migration to Sierra Leone, many settlers remained and formed the basis of the Black Nova Scotian population of Shelburne County today. Employment in the nearby town of Shelburne led many families to move to there . Birchtown stayed as a small rural community of a few hundred based on farming, fishing and forestry.
This home dating from the middle of the nineteenth century seems to be the oldest in the community. A two-room schoolhouse was built in 1829 and new building erected in 1959. Birchtown was declared a National Historic Site in 1997. A seasonal museum complex commemorating the Black Loyalists opened in that year by the Black Loyalist Heritage Society. It included the historic Birchtown school and church. The offices and archives of the museum were almost entirely destroyed by an arson attack in 2006 and the remaining archives were moved to temporary quarters until the present museum was opened. Aminata Diallo, the fictional narrator of Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes supposedly resided in Birchtown and describes its founding. The building of the museum prevented the recreation of the book as a motion picture from shooting in that community.
Long time Lunenburg resident Norma Worden and her late husband lived here at the point where King Street merges into Dock Street. Have always like this little place in spite of its eclectic combination of elements from various periods of time.
Backtracking to Shelburne was a matter of a fifteen minute drive and we were still to early for check-in at 3 pm, so we decided to visit the information bureau on Dock Street in retreat from increasing air temperature.
I hung about outside and was reminder that Sheburne hosts a whirligig and weather vane festival in September. see http://www.whirligigfestival.com/.
Immediately across from the information bureau is this Georgian house once the residence of the Rev. Matthew Dripps, the first Presbyterian minister in town (1803-1828). He married Margaret, a woman from Sable River. Two of his parishioners were Hugh McKay and his wife Ann. One of their seven sons was Donald McKay born at Jordan River, the renowned designer of the first clipper ship.
Next, a vacant lot, once a beautiful formal garden. Beyond that on the left, the place where we were booked. That strange free-standing wall at right is jarring.
I suppose these two Loyalist cut-outs exist as someone's wall decoration.
In usual circumstances we would look for a room with a southern exposure, since summer winds issue out of that quarter. In this case everything else was taken. The main building was owned by George Gracie, a blind Loyalist, who founded the first local whaling business and served as a Provincial legislator.
Across the street from The Cooper's Inn there once stood a barrel factory, established in 1917. The building was demolished and replaced by this 17th century replica in 1994. It served for the filming of a movie based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's "A: The Scarlet Letter." Efforts to find a current use for it, and keep it in good repair, have been abortive.
Still early, so I went back to this building to escape the heat. At a loss for something better to fill time we went to the local liquor outlet and bought a 6-pack of Propellor IPA.
Nice to note that this enactment group is still in business.
Finally 3 pm! Here is how The Cooper's Inn garden relates to the cooperage. Ruth managed the check-in, via that gate on Dock Street.
Flowers in this location, which is subject to more cloud cover and fog, were about a week behind Lunenburg.
Actually, a tour of the local food store made us fashionably late. Note the truncated hip-roof which has a well allowing natural light to reach the third floor. The dormers and "widow's walk" area are modern recent Victorian additions to this Georgian house. The front door is used for check-in. Guests access the main house and the four rooms in an auxiliary building via this garden area. We have rented all but one room in the main house in times past. This time we were upstairs in the annex.
That arrow points out an entryway near the north face of this building. We have seen the interior of the room on the lower floor facing the garden, since Ruth's mum stayed there in 2013. That one would have been our preference in this new addition.
The third floor makes good sense as a rental where two bedroom and housekeeping facilities are required. It has a small kitchen but a large living room. We were in residence there once in the past.
These pictures were taken while Ruth was making arrangements.
The proprietresses had recently remarried and we were invited here for wine, nibbles and bit at 5 pm. A great informal gathering place. Their tomatoes (pot in foreground) were as stunted as ours.
More about the trials of this poor building appear as a "diversion."
For some reason we expected that Shelburne would be as lively as Lunenburg and Mahone Bay, which were definitely boom towns this year.
The southern view down Dock Street from this place.
Restiosto time until 5 pm, when we emerged for wine and nibbles. This view looks northward, but there is a similar staircase exiting from here into the garden.
Needing more than nibbles we departed for the saloon. That is the "Scarlet Letter" place on the water in the distance. The featured building on the corner of John and Dock Streets is a somewhat altered Greek Revival building, once the office of Joseph McGill Shipbuilding and Transportation Company Limited. The dormers were emplaced in 2003.The building painted red and green, to the right, was the residence and tavern of Patrick McDonough in the 1780s.
Looking in the opposite direction on this marvellous day: There were once docks on the right side of this street. Today this provincially owned building is the only building standing, once the John C. Williams Dory Shop.
Looks like another Georgian with dormers added.
Google Photo: The Loyalist settlers included George and Robert Ross, sons of a Scottish merchant, who opened a store on Charlotte Lane, adjoining their house. They traded Shelburne's pine boards, codfish and pickled herring in foreign ports for salt, tobacco, molasses and dry goods which they then sold to the new settlers. The store eventually closed in the 1880s. Today Ross-Thomson House, the only original store building remaining in Shelburne, is restored as it was in the 1820s. It is operated by the Shelburne Historical Society for the Nova Scotia Museum.
Next, left: Nairn House (1787), home of the Shelburne County Museum. Beyond it the George Cox building built in 1902 by a merchant who constructed his own vessels and carried on an extensive shipping trade. The steeple was added for that motion picture.
A peek up Maden Lane at a 17th century movie set-piece constructed in 1994 and upgraded to meet current building standards.
You will not find that orange-coloured building included as part of the official walking tour.
This Second Empire home standing away from Dock Street is obviously Victorian.
This residence of a former merchant has had some unfortunate upgrades which helps explain the low selling price. It may have been the town jail and a tavern in days long past.
This complex of buildings is not of historic interest, but not out of keeping with other structures nearby.
Too late for live music. Been there, done that! That is the Muir-Cox Shipyard building at the end of Dock Street.
Here, an example of what people have to live with today! Warm and comfy, I'm sure!
Enter The Sea Dog Saloon and food outlet. Should have reserved a table at Charlotte's Web. The B&B served a good ample breakfast but no ther meals and there are not a lot of choices for an evening repast in Shelburne. I have seen a Trip Advisor comment stating that Luong's Chinese on Water Street is "better than the Sea Dog." But then it was added, "but that doesn't say much." That Charlotte Lane restaurant is picey but the best in town, but ambience in their outdoor court is best experienced closer noon hour, since it is shaded by high trees. No seagulls back there! My diet is restricted so I usually go for a non-creamed salad or a portion of a vegetable stir fry. There is not much else for me to consider. In the past Ruth has sometimes gone with the house specialty and we mix and match. recognizing that this is not the healthiest possibilty, and Lunenburg restaurants all turn out better chowder and fishcakes.
This food reviewer also found the chowder mix "satisfactory but not very memorable." When his companion ordered two fishcakes, the pair agreed they were "huge," and were forced to "take one back to the hotel and have it for breakfast." This writer thought that it might have helped add a fish-taste to the patties if they had been "crisper."
Not a fast food joint, but it does purvey a lot of salt and fat. Over the long run this pub has received a 3.5 rating out of five by Trip Advisor, but the current year has seen more mixed reviews. July 2015 seems to have been a particularly bad month for patrons and the boss-man, who felt compelled to refute complaints rather than promise that some change would be institued.
Unfortunately, after a long wait and our first beers, we encountered a problem. In times past, umbrellas kept off the sun and other things. By numbers: #1. This year the beer ad umbrellas closest the building were gone. Late in the day, not too much UV exposure, so, OK? Not quite: #2. An untrained juvenile seagull was stationed above our table just below the peak in the roof. They do gather there as you can see from discolouring on the roof.
Timing in comedy routines is everything? Ruth did not judge this experience as the best example of a dining or comedy routine and neither did I. We won't be returning to this watering-hole until there is a remedy. Ruth posted "Bird Poop Saloon" with Trip Advisor and true to the form the owner of the Dead Dog came through with a rebbutal rather than an abject "customer is always right" apology after we were bombarded thrice and I received a direct head hit from seagull poop. Mr. Reid said that there had been on other similar "acts of nature" in his twelve years of ownership, but waitresses had said otherwise when we went to pay the bill.
Day 2: The incident of the previous evening cost us $23 for two-and-a-half beers. There were at least two spatteringly bad guano moments. The first really annoying bomb hit the vacant bench next to Ruth; the second made a dead-centre hit on my pith helmet, which is pierced by holes to catch the breeze and whatever else falls from the sky. This outburst added an unintended "salad dressing" to two meals and most of those two glasses of beer. We later wondered if the restaurant had some logical protocol for cleaning up white stuff after an incident like this.
The former town hall (green copper tower) dominates water street but remains empty. The Sea Dog Cafe is likely to become a dead dog cafe unless changes in attitude and policy occur. The worst of this is the fact that bad karma spreads and influences the ability of other local businesses to appeal to visitors and tourists. We would have brought my two daughter from Ontario to town had this incident been defused through a personal apology without name-calling or attempting to attach blame to those of us who were harmed by the experience. Have a look at the comments on Trip Advisor and be advised...
This new "Pub & Eatery" does not look like a possible alternative in terms of either food or drink. Ordinarily, we would have spent the second day and some money in Shelburne. Had thought to come back for that Whirligig event, but we encircled the town by car and headed home, and won't be returning anytime soon.
Old Town Lunenburg has several legs up on Shelburne in spite of the very rich history of the latter. We do wish that place the best of luck but what they really need is some political insiders. In some measure it really is who you know, and how well? Next, the more enjoyable road home.
A "DIVERSION" is a loop away from the main information highway, in this case featuring more than anyone really needs to know about sea bird poop and the sad state of a "town" in decline.