Another long and exciting day was coming to an end: from my early morning interview with Patrick Redgrave, the owner of the Garrison House B&B in Annapolis Royal to my learning experiences at the Bear River First National Cultural and Heritage Center to my drive along the Evangeline Trail with a quick stopover in Digby, a drive through the Acadian communities in Clare County and a quick peak at the unusual Yarmouth Lighthouse, I had finally made it to my destination for the evening: Yarmouth, a town of about 8,000 souls on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia.
The weather had taken a turn for the worse, fog had rolled in off the Atlantic Coast and rain was surely going to fall tonight. From the Yarmouth Lighthouse I drove along coastal roads and causeways into town and was able to locate the tourist information office on Main Street. Although it was closed the map on the outside gave me an opportunity to locate my abode for the night: the MacKinnon-Cann Inn, a historic bed and breakfast.
I located Willow Street and parked my vehicle in the gravel-covered courtyard behind the large mansion where I was going to stay tonight. Two friendly gentlemen welcomed me right away and helped me carry my luggage inside:Neil Hisgen and Michael Tavares, both co-owners of the MacKinnon-Cann Inn.
Neil graciously helped me carry my suitcase upstairs to my room. All seven guestrooms at the McKinnon-Cann Inn are named after a 20th century decade and decorated accordingly: there is the 1900s Room, the 1910s Room, the 1920s Room, and the decades of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s are represented as well. I parked my luggage in a superbly appointed and beautifully decorated guestroom and headed downstairs to chat a bit more with the owners.
Michael, wearing simple jeans, a sweatshirt and a backward-facing baseball cap, looked like he had just finished painting something as evidenced by the paint splatters all over his clothing. He was just taking a break from working on a renovation project next door: a Victorian house he had just recently bought which he was in the process of restoring. I found out that both Michael and Neil are originally from the United States, and they also own another large Victorian brick mansion, the Charles C. Richards House literally up the street. Michael and Neil just purchased another recently restored blue-coloured Victorian mansion that is still empty and will be turned into a private home in the near future.
Now, not only am I a travel writer, but I also have a strong interest in real estate, heritage buildings and architectural preservation. I was excited when Michael told me he would have some time tomorrow to sit down with me to tell me more about the four properties that he and Neil had purchased and restored right here in Yarmouth. He went on to say that he does most of the work himself and loves getting right in there and getting his hands dirty.
I wanted to get a lay of the land of the Town of Yarmouth and Michael was so kind to draw me a map for a wonderful local walking tour which would allow me to capture some of the beautiful well-preserved and recently restored Victorian architecture of Yarmouth. So off I went with my hand-drawn map and indeed the Collins Heritage District features an extensive concentration of beautifully restored Victorian properties.
Along streets with names such as Collins, Clements, Park, Forest, Willow and William Streets I was admiring beautiful properties featuring unique Victorian architecture. Some of the distinguishing elements include widow’s walks: lookout rooms at the highest point of the house which would allow wives of sailors to look out for the husbands’ ships in the age of sail. Ornately carved and painted verandas are another typical decorating feature of the late 19th century. Windows with intricate wood work and ornamentation are also a characteristic feature of this era.
After my brief architectural tour I walked down on Main Street which features many business offices, retail stores and a few dining establishments. Most of the restaurants and bars are located along Water Street. Yarmouth was a major ship building centre in the past during the Golden Age of Sail. Today it is still a local hub of the fishing industry, but tourism is playing an increasingly important role.
Yarmouth serves a community of about 70,000 people located in the three counties of Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne. One of Yarmouth’s major attractions is the ferry service to Bar Harbor and Portland, Maine. “The Cat” is North America’s largest catamaran and a high speed connection between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor, Maine – a three hour journey, while the route between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, takes six hours.
Outdoor adventurers will also find lots to do in the Yarmouth area: from hiking to fishing to various seafaring adventures there are abundant recreational activities in the area. Culture lovers will find a variety of music, theatre and crafts events, interspersed with a few museums including the Yarmouth County Historical Museum and the Yarmouth Firefighters Museum, enhanced by a smattering of galleries and historic architecture.
After a long, exciting and action-packed day I was rather exhausted and just picked up a little snack before I headed back to my welcoming home at the MacKinnon-Cann Inn for the night where I relaxed in my beautifully appointed guestroom, watched some TV and took advantage of the in-room high-speed Internet connection. I would need a good rest for tomorrow for the biggest day of five-day Nova Scotia whirlwind tour: a trip along the Lighthouse Trail to the historic town and UNESO World Heritage Site of Lunenburg.
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