Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Lunenberg: A Mystery and a Lobster Roll

Halifax is English and it is all about shipbuilding and seafaring.  The city is built upon a hill that rises from the harbor, which is the second largest harbor in the world.  (Sydney Harbor is the largest)  There are dozens and dozens of pubs, which is pretty much what you'd expect in a seafaring town.
Early in the morning, we wander down to the waterfront past closed pubs that reek of beer.  We've got another tour in a few hours, to Lunenberg but I'm still reeling from all those hours on the train and I consider giving it a miss. What do you think? I ask Xingxing.  He wags, happily.  Whatever I decide is fine with him. This is one of the joys of traveling with a dog.
My itinerary said the tour featured a guide clad in an authentic kilt,  and that sounded like fun.  I was thinking it would make a cute photo for this blog -- Xingxing with a guy wearing a kilt.  So we decide to go. However, our guides's name was Barbara and she was wearing a tartan skirt. Really nice, but not the same as a kilt. Even so, Lunenberg turned out to be well worth the trip.
All this part of Canada was claimed by England, but when the Brits couldn't persuade  their fellow citizens to colonize this isolated bit of the Empire, they advertised for settlers in Germany and Switzerland, promising free land to anyone hardy enough to farm it.  Lunenberg was founded in 1753, although the farmers soon became fishermen and boat builders. Of course, the first public building they built was a church -- St. Johns,  in 1754.  Amazingly, nothing much has changed since then, as we saw during a walking tour that took us from the top of Lunenberg to the waterfront.  The original wood houses still stand, and one of them has remained in the same family for seven generations. Some of them are quite spectacular, which is why Lunenberg -- like Old Quebec -- is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
St. John's was a fine example of the architecture that put Lunenberg on the UNESCO map.  So it was an utter disaster when it burned to the ground in November, 2001.  Fortunately -- and thanks to the submissions that had to be made to UNESCO -- there was no shortage of photographs of the interior and exterior of the church, which was totally rebuilt by 2005, and is an exact replica of the original.  That in itself is a sort of miracle.
But the real miracle is the pattern of stars in the nave.  The original nave had also been painted to represent a star-studded, night sky, but nobody knew when it was painted, whether it actually meant anything or even who the artist had been.  And there was only an incomplete set photographs.  The artist who was given the task of recreating the original ceiling decided to consult an astronomer, who -- working with the information available and assisted by computer programs -- concluded that the original stars represented the way the sky would have looked over Lunenberg on the night Christ was born!  But how would anyone have known that, 250 years ago?
The Lunenberg waterfront is lined with restaurants, and we sort of tagged along with Barbara and a few other members of our group to The Old Fish Factory, where Barbara managed to get us seated at the last empty table -- there were several other tour busses in town, and the restaurants were packed out.  I ordered a lobster roll.  It was amazing.  I would not have thought you could fit  so much lobster into a bread roll.  There was as much lobster in that roll as in an entire lobster dinner.  And not little shreds of lobster, but great, big chunks.  It was delicious, better than any lobster I've had in years. It reminded me of the Maine lobster we used to have as a special treat during the summer, on the Jersey Shore.
I offered some to Xingxing, who didn't care for it.  I ended up bringing half of it back to the hotel, and having it for dinner.  That worked out well, because by the time we got back to Halifax we were both so tired that we were in bed and asleep before the sun had set.

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