Sunday, August 31, 2014

Lunenburg/Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia

Left Port Lorne on Monday for the south shore of Nova Scotia, to Lunenburg and Mahone Bay.  Steve and Milly had highly recommended this area to see and we were certainly not disappointed.  It was just beautiful there!  We stayed in an RV campground within walking distance of downtown Lunenburg, sitting high on a hill, overlooking what's known as the Back Bay.  As we learned during our stay, the main harbor in downtown was for years strictly a working wharf and harbor when the fishing industry was thriving with fishing boats and processing plants bustling all along the wharf.  The main harbor is now more of a tourist area, with yachts offering harbor tours, sailing trips, whale and seal watching trips, and trips to see the puffins.  We learned from a local that this is the result primarily of unfortunate over-fishing of the area--the decline in the fishing industry started in the late '60's, and lots of jobs have been lost since then, as the fishing industry has steadily shrunk.  That's sad, as it's resulted in lots of people in this area of Nova Scotia leaving home to find jobs in provinces farther west, or the US.

Anyway, the first afternoon we just walked a bit in downtown Lunenburg and then enjoyed a relaxing evening back at the RV.  Tuesday we drove to Halifax, about an hour away, to deal with a camera issue, as Halifax is the only real city in Nova Scotia, and thus the only place where you can find a lot of retailers, other than smaller craft oriented places, galleries, etc. that constitute most of the businesses in Lunenburg and Mahone Bay.  On the way to Halifax we drove through Mahone Bay, the next town up from Lunenburg, and it's just gorgeous!!  Right on the water, where there are lots of boats anchored, and the scene is just picture postcard beautiful--you can see these churches with a unique architecture around the bay, along with large, Victorian-style houses, brightly painted with lots of detailed filigree work--just spectacular!  We stopped at Have A Yarn, a yarn shop we'd learned about, where Trisha found some fantastic yarn.  Then on to Halifax, got the camera issue resolved and  then  to Peggy's Cove, a quaint little fishing village that's a favored destination for most folks visiting Nova Scotia.  Like most of the fishing villages and towns of this part of Nova Scotia, Peggy's Cove has lots of brightly painted boats and buildings plus a big lighthouse.  It was a beautiful day, lots of sunshine and lots of folks out to see the little town, especially walking out on the rocks to see the lighthouse.  There was a bagpiper playing nearby and it was really fun.  They even had a place in the gift shop above a restaurant where you could get your passport stamped with a Peggy's Cove stamp--cool!  We also stopped in at an Amos Pewter shop, where a woman was demonstrating the way they cast pewter to make ornaments--very interesting.

From Peggy's Cove we stopped at Hubbards to visit the Museum of Hooked Rug Art.  Nova Scotia is known for its long history of the art of rug hooking--a craft that was begun in the mid-1800's in the Canadian maritime provinces and New England.  Its early origins were born of poverty--as it became fashionable for wealthy families to use finely manufactured rugs on their hardwood floors, poor women began to cast about for anything they could scavenge to make floor coverings.  Old burlap seed and feed bags were readily available, so these women began pulling bits of fabric through the burlap to make colorful designs, and use them for rugs.  Eventually this grew into an artistic craft, as much or more than a utilitarian one, and Nova Scotia has a rich history of artisans and artists who have created some amazing works.  Trisha's grandmother from Connecticut had done latch hooking, but the style we saw here was somewhat different.  Anyway, the museum was very interesting, with some incredibly complex designs, not only just of rugs and huge wall hangings, but garments like capes and shawls, and one remarkable creation of Noah's Ark.  We met the founder of the museum as well; a very interesting exhibit, and we were so glad to get to see it.  Trisha was just sorry that there were no rug hookers working there so she could see them do their craft.

That evening we were hoping to see a locally produced show of music and skits, called Glimpses, that tells the history of Lunenburg, as the clerk at the post office where we stopped earlier in the day had told us about it.  He had said that we needed to be there by 7 to get a seat, as it's first come first served; alas, even though we got there a little before 7, all the seats were taken.  They only do it Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we were planning to leave Lunenburg Thursday morning, so we missed it--but, hey, remember this is the No Hurries No Worries Tour, Vol. II, so we just did a little more strolling through town and saw some shops we wanted to visit the next day.

Wednesday we drove to another little fishing village, called Blue Rocks, not too far from Lunenburg, sometimes billed as "Lunenburg's Peggy's Cove," as it is not really commercialized at all; much less developed than Peggy's Cove, much more rustic, but quite charming.  We loved driving along to see the boats in the little harbor--they build up these wharves to make a barrier to protect moored boats from high seas when the storms hit, and it's so pretty to see these boats tied up in these little harbors, next to weathered, cedar-shaked little buildings.  From there we drove back to Mahone Bay, as we wanted to eat lunch at a restaurant Steve and Milly had recommended.  It's called the Happy Cooker, and is owned by the sister of the woman who used to be the pastor at the little church in Port Lorne where they go when they are at their summer home.  Unfortunately, like so many churches today, especially tiny churches like theirs, membership has declined to the point where they could no longer support paid clergy, so Janis had to move back to Mahone Bay, and look for another call.  We had looked up her sister's restaurant on Trip Advisor--it's called the Happy Cooker (since so many rug hooking places use some variation of the Happy Hooker in their names); very out of the way, basically inside a gas station, but it got rave reviews.  So we had a delicious lunch there, and met Cathy's little one year old granddaughter, who was toddling around, immediately greeting us with a smile and a cute little baby wave!

Since we had seen a rug hooking studio in town as we drove through the day before, we went back, in search of finding someone who was actually hooking so we could see how they did it.  Well, the place where we stopped is called Encompassing Designs, owned and run by Christine Little, and this was another one of those remarkable, amazing, soul connection experiences we've had so often in our RV travels.  Trisha has long believed that encounters like this aren't merely coincidence, but rather the sort of thing that happens purely because it was supposed to happen, for a reason, and we were just thrilled that this day happened.  We walked into the shop, hoping to see a rug hooker at work, and were initially disappointed when the main shop was empty, save for a man who was working in what looked to be a small kitchen, with two stoves--but he was dying yarn, with huge pots boiling on the stoves.  We asked him about it and then said we were hoping to see some rug hooking going on, and he said to just go into the back studio and there were women hooking away.  We walked in and several women were sitting around a table, all working on rugs that were remarkable, and they were all so happy and having such fun.  Turns out that Christine, the owner, was having one of her many hooking groups, and she looked up at us when we walked in and got all excited to see Santa and Mrs. Claus in her shop!  We hit it off immediately and she said how much she loves Christmas and how this triggered so many memories of Christmas in her childhood.  She told us how she had recently lost her mother and how this touched so many memories of their loving time together--well, those of you who know Trisha know what happened next:  the two of them had the best time connecting, Trisha animatedly asking questions about how to do rug hooking, and talking longingly about how she wanted to learn the craft,  Christine was so eager to encourage her to start, showing her kits that would get her started, and she and the other women were so happy to show us how they used different techniques and materials to achieve different effects on the pictures.  But, more importantly than the rug hooking discussion, Trisha's way of establishing a heart connection with people just unfolded naturally, as it so often does, and soon they were becoming soul mates.  About this time I got a phone call so I stepped out so I wouldn't bother them, and by the time I got back, Trisha and Christine had connected in such a wonderful way--though Trisha had already picked out a kit to make a Santa, Christine just gave her one of her cone Santas she had made!  Unbelievable!  She wanted pictures of us to put on her blog, which I will use here since the one picture I took of her and Trisha didn't turn out so well--thanks Christine for your pictures!  Our travels have yielded a number of similar experiences, and it's times like these that you just sit back and marvel at it all--sure what makes life worth living.  If you're ever in Mahone Bay, you should definitely stop in and meet Christine, whether you're into rug hooking or not.  She has such a wonderful smile and sweet spirit, and is so willing to share her creative genius.  You won't be sorry.

That evening we had a wonderful surprise to end our stay in Lunenburg--Steve and Milly had come to Mahone Bay to help Janis, their former minister, with some yard work, so we all got together for dinner, along with Margie, Janis' friend, who's a retired school teacher.  It was just a delightful evening, getting to spend one more evening with Milly and Steve, and to get to meet these two new friends.  Margie is about to embark on a journey similar to our son Jeremy's--teaching overseas, as she's just been offered a job in Quatar.  So we had a good time talking about all the exciting adventures our son has had and that await her in this new venture.  Janis grew up in Lunenburg, and had worked in one of the fish processing plants and had lots to teach us about the history of the area, how the fishing industry had once so thrived--she remembered seeing "steak cod," over 6 ft. long, that are simply gone now, due to the over-fishing.  After dinner we walked down by the wharf, and saw the memorial to those lost at sea in the fishing industry.  In the early 20's and '30's it was the custom in Blue Rocks for several generations of fishermen to go out together, grandfathers, fathers and sons.  There was a huge storm and most of the men in that village were lost, so from that time forward they wouldn't ever let multiple generations of men go out on the same boat.  It was a reminder of the dangers that are just part of the daily lives of fishermen and women everywhere; very moving.

All in all, a very wonderful time in this part of beautiful Nova Scotia!

Driving to Peggy's Cove

 Just love these little churches that are so much a part of each fishing village
 Typical of some of the newer houses along the coast, here at Peggy's Cove

 The legend of "Peggy of the Cove"
 Lobster traps stacked up outside a weathered, cedar-shaked building on the wharf
 Looking down to the water from the visitor center
 A stone carved mural, depicting the early life of the people at Peggy's Cove
 These panels are really in reverse order, but this one is entitled "Grace," signifying the guardian angel, watching over the people
 This one is "Bounty," showing the fruits of the catch--the woman in the center panel is said to be Peggy
 "Work," showing the hard working fishermen
 Little whirligig on the deck of a cafe in the foreground, the harbor in the background
 So typical of fishing village wharf/harbor scenes in Nova Scotia

 English-styled phone booth outside the restaurant

 Noah's Ark in the Hooked Rug Museum

 Coming into Mahone Bay
 One of the beautiful homes along the Bay
 This is a huge sailing vessel, moored in the Bay

 Oops, sorry for the out of order here, but this is back in Lunenburg

 Just spectacular hanging baskets all through the downtown area
Looking out over Lunenburg harbor area, this is the Bluenose II, a racing vessel that's been restored

 Just love all these brightly painted buildings!

 Mural in Lunenburg

 Views of the Back Harbor from our campground

 There's the carhouse!  Just on the other side of the campground is an assisted living facility, which is a marvelous setting for these folks!
 On our way to Blue Rocks

 Coming into Blue Rocks

 Again, the church

 Little houses along the water--little being the operative word!

 A cute little shop, where a local artisan has crafted figures out of buoys
 This tree across the little harbor is decorated like a Christmas tree with brightly painted lobster trap buoys
 A more modern boat tied to a dock on the other side of the small harbor
 These little buildings, housing the commercial/industrial business below and living space above, just fascinate us!

 Couple of larger houses in Blue Rocks

 Love this signpost!!
 Guess which sign appealed to Trisha the most??!!
 This is a scene is so typical--bright yellow house with clothes drying on the line--often the subject of paintings and hooked rugs.  Trisha took a really great picture here!!
 Some of the brightly painted shop buildings in Lunenburg
 Beautiful stone building--Bank of Montreal

 Somehow the flowers here just seem to be more vibrant in color
 Love the history!
 See how they paint the filigree trim in contrasting colors--just really highlights these features

 Just after we turned onto this road, had to stop the car for a quick kiss!!
 Now some more Mahone Bay pics--the big yacht again

 This is the church that fascinated us--this style is fairly typical:  a steeple with a sort of A-frame designed sanctuary attached
 Outside Encompassing Designs
 Cute little sheep outside Christine's shop
 Here we are with the Happy Hookers!  You wouldn't believe the intricacies of their work, especially Kay, on the right, who was working on a beach scene--just looking at a painting, but with no design actually transferred to her burlap backing, just did it by eye.  There's no way to adequately depict or describe how incredible this, but the way she used subtly different shades of yarn to get depth effects was just unbelievable
 Here we are with Christine, such a lovely spirit and remarkably generous person, sharing her talent and enthusiasm with anyone willing to receive!
 And she just up and gave us this beautiful cone Santa she had hooked!!  We were just floored, and this will certainly be on display in our home in Cherry Log!!
 Trisha trying unsuccessfully to pull the sword from the stone!!
 Few scenes from a long bike ride I did along the Bay to Bay trail from Lunenburg to Mahone Bay

 Dinner on our last night in Lunenburg, Milly and Steve

 Janis and Margie
 All of us!!
 The memorial to the lost fishermen and women

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