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Reports

Wednesday, 28 May 2003
Glen Margaret --> Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

Bob woke me up around 9.30 am and Lorna had made a bowl of cereal for my breakfast. Bob was already walking the dog this morning; Lorna watched some television, while I tried to figure out my plans for the coming days.


There were some things going on backstage (sorry, can't mention them) and they could mess up my schedule, so I had to work on a double agenda for the coming week. It wasn't really at an appropriate moment, because I also had to book my (VIA Rail sponsored) train from Halifax to the west for the coming weekend. Nothing can eventually interfere with that!

But first I had one more place to visit on Nova Scotia. Today I was going to Lunenburg and Bob was happy to take the scenic ocean route and drop me off there.

Lunenburg rests on a narrow bumpy peninsula and has old streets sloping steeply down to the southward-facing harbour front. It is a town decorated by brightly painted wooden houses, not one of them are the same.

Dating from the late nineteenth century, the most flamboyant of these mansions display an arresting variety of architectural features. Varying from Gothic towers and classic pillars to elegant verandas, high gables and peaked windows. It all gave this town a vaguely European appearance appropriate to its original settlement.

It was in 1753 when the German and Swiss Protestants founded Lunenburg, who had to learn to live with a mix of farming, fishing and shipbuilding. They had created a prosperous community with its own fleet of trawlers and scallop-draggers, although nowadays the town earns as much from the tourist industry as from fishing.

I expect that is pretty obvious for a lovely and colourful old town as Lunenburg.

Bob dropped me off at the designated address on Pelham Street and when I looked up the building I saw the sign of 'The Artisans, Bed & Breakfast'. Nice! I guess I am staying at a B&B tonight!

I thanked Bob for the ride and for letting me stay a few days (and advised him to quit smoking now he still can and to write that family in the Netherlands a letter to express his concerns – I had heard that same story a few times by now).

Inside the B&B I met up with Ingrid Ostrom, a young lady around my age and her husband Ezra. They run this place, which amazed me, because I think they are the youngest B&B owners I have ever met.

"We both graduated at NSCAD, which is the College of Art and Design in Halifax. Ezra is a potter and a carpenter from Cape Breton and I make jewellery."

Now how did they end up with a B&B?
"We bought this place last year in March and then it were two separate apartments. We decided to rebuilt the place with four bedrooms on the top floor, living rooms on the second floor and our working place and craft shops on the first floor."

"We had the B&B open for a few months last year and then went finishing up the rest of the house when the tourist season finished. And we are not even open yet. Probably we are opening up in the next few weeks again. It's too quiet now."

I am shown around the house and it must be terrible for Ingrid and Ezra to hear everybody say how beautiful this place is. Even their guestbook is already full of pages where people had the hardest time to be original and come up with a synonym for lovely.

I was staying in the mint green room on the top floor, with a huge bed, a television and a bathroom. Through the windows I could look down the streets of Lunenburg. Ingrid had put Dutch tulips in the room to make me feel at home, isn't that nice?

The things I like when I stay at B&B's (yes, I have been invited at these places before) is to see the back stage area. The place that normal guests will never see that easily. But I find it always fascinating how the people live that during the day have to satisfy their guests.

The small back room is their kitchen and their living room. Well, actually they don't really have a living room, it's more a table with two chairs. And they had an uncountable amount of pets walking around. Cats of all colours (and attitudes!) and three dogs.

How did I end up at this place?
"I heard you being interviewed on the CBC Radio from Halifax and I thought: what a great idea to travel like this!" And then Ingrid invited me over.

She had made some lentil soup for lunch and I joined them outside on the veranda. The weather wasn't cold, but it did start to rain softly after a few bowls of this good soup.

We had some fun chats together. Not only about me or my travels, but also about running this B&B, its guest (lost of Americans and you know about who Canadians like to gossip about most, hehe).

In the kitchen the couple was preparing granola with their own (secret) recipe. I had never seen it being made by hand with the oats and the maple syrup and on. I thought it was fabricated stuff from the factory, where they crush all kinds of ingredients together, press them in a bar and call it a granola bar.

Ezra proudly showed me the first floor. It was still under heavy construction, but one of the main priorities at this moment was the outside paint job. And then the little cornershop will be constructed where both of them can sell their crafts. In the back of the shop Ezra has his pottery production going. And I knew you make pots with a piece of clay on this turning-around table and if you are no good the clay will either hit the walls and yourself than turn into a cup or anything.

But Ezra is the professional and he showed me it's not about the pot-making, it's about the designs and finishing touch. He showed me the different designs he had created to either carve or paint on cups, mugs, pots, bowls, and etcetera. Most of the designs come of the street and are already used in wood carvings on some old Lunenburg houses. "It's a way to give it a real Lunenburg style," he explained.

When I asked him if he would like to make a Letmestayforaday.com style, he laughed. Who wouldn't laugh at that one?

And on the other side of the house is the corner where Ingrid produces her jewellery. Jewels are small, so it's quite a job to make all these little elements in earrings or chains and stuff. Ingrid makes everything herself and she proudly shows me some of her latest creations in earrings.

When the store is finished, all their products will be sold there. "We don't have many expectations," Ingrid told me. "Not even with the B&B. But we thought that running a store and the B&B would give us some more financial space. On their own they won't easily survive."

But still then! They did it because they love doing it and that's what I find the most fascinating aspect of their life: being still this young and deciding to do what you want.

I joined the happy couple on a trip to the grocery store and Ezra gave me a quick tour around town, showing me the marvellous (envious-making) Lunenburg Academy on top of the hill the town is built on. It's like this giant castle, where you would love to play hide and seek as a child, and it is actually a children school! At the top floor I could see the ropes of the gym hanging on the ceiling.

Together with me, two other people were staying at the B&B today and we are all not paying for our stay. The other two people are a couple from New York City, that sailed up to Lunenburg with their boat a few times now and finally decided to move up here take over the Mariner King Inn in town.

Their reason to move to Canada was mostly to "escape terrorism" they said.

It was interesting to meet them, Ted and Joan, and listen to their stories. "Everybody says 'hello' and 'how are you' to each other on the streets in Canada. If that happened in The City anybody would be offended! You don't do that there!"

Tomorrow Ted and Joan get the keys for the Mariner King Inn and therefore they are staying at The Artisans tonight. Ingrid and Ezra had welcomed them as new colleagues in town and they also know the current owners of the Mariner King Inn very well.

My hosts decided to have dinner at The Knot Pub, a introverted little pub down the streets where surprisingly most of the locals like to hang out. Ted and Joan had joined us and I enjoyed our talks about anything and everything while munching on my caesar salad with fries.

Tomorrow I had to make a decision in my double agenda dilemma. Would I stay or would I go? And where…

Good night Lunenburg!

Ramon