Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Honeymoon Help

Feb 5th, 2004, 06:50 AM
  #1  
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Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Honeymoon Help

Hi there! This is my first post, although I'm an active lurker! Hoping you can help me and my fiance plan our August 04 honeymoon to NS/CB. We'll be driving up from CT (is that crazy?) and plan to stop in Bar Harbor, ME, for a few days to recoup from the drive. We tentatively plan then to take the Cat to Nova Scotia and head up the Lighthouse Route, stopping in Lunenburg for a night (yay or nay? good places to stay?). We thought then of staying in Hali for two or three nights and possibly doing some day trips before heading up to CB and the Cabot Trail. But I've also been admonished not to miss the Bay of Fundy! Yikes--how do we fit it all in?!? We will leave CT on Aug. 23, and will need to be back on Sept. 5. Do we have enough time? Any recommendations on places to stay? We're not trying to break the bank, but this is our honeymoon! Don't have to go as dirt cheap as usual! Places to eat? Things to do? (BTW, I've ordered the Dreamers and Doers guide--hoping that will provide some valuable intel too!) Would absolutely love any info you have for us!

Many thanks,
Robyn
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Feb 5th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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Hi, Robyn! Welcome to Fodors! Try doing a quick "forum search" here & you will get lots & lots of info on Cape Breton. Simply type in "Cape Breton". You can probably do the same for Halifax/Lunenburg/The Cat.
I have never done the drive fm CT so can't help you there. Generally, I find that Mapquest.com is a pretty good starting point for estimated driving times.
Just a reminder that Labour Day Weekend, which is a major holiday here, is Sept 3, 4, 5 & 6. But you may already be on your way back by then!
You will probably post back after you have had a chance to review your Doers' & Dreamers' Guide.
Congrats on your upcoming wedding! You have chosen a wonderful & memorable place for your honeymoon!
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Feb 5th, 2004, 09:29 AM
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Thanks for the reply, Wow! I have indeed scoured this site for CB and NS info and have found some great stuff. This site has long been a favorite of mine!

Can't wait to hear everyone's input! My thanks,
Robyn
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Feb 5th, 2004, 10:38 AM
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You may have done this already, but if not, click on 'Destinations' on the Fodors tool bar. It will lead you to many, many valuable links to assist you in planning your trip. But, oddly, Cape Breton is not listed! Nevertheless, by following the links you can get there. Wonder why CB is not in the index?? Anybody know?
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Feb 6th, 2004, 01:35 AM
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Wow, two weeks isn't a lot of time. You could spend all of that in Nova Scotia!

Bar Harbour is a wonderful spot if you have never been. A couple of days is essential. Once you depart and head to Nova Scotia via the CAT you will want at least one day to explore the back roads on your way up the coast. You may want to spend your first night in Liverpool at the White Point Beach Resort or it is only a short drive to Lunenburg where there are many old Inns and B&B's to enjoy. Just a short drive is Mahone Bay and Chester which you must visit. Beyond Chester towards Halifax is Peggy's Cove which you can reach by driving the shoreline route. It really is very scenic - you may or may not enjoy - if foggy don't bother. Halifax - you could spend at least 2 days exploring the city and the sites.

Now for Cape Breton. The trail isn't to be missed - most breathtaking. There is also Louisbourg - a very majestic site. You can spend at least 3 days in Cape Breton alone if not longer. Baddeck is a good central point if you want to do the trail in one day and return. The drive from Halifax to Cape Breton will take you about 4 hours direct. Back to Yarmouth if you are taking the CAT back to the US, figure on at least 8 hours.

You could always opt to just go as far as Halifax this trip and then go back to Yarmouth via the Annapolis Valley which is a must as well.

I know this isn't very helpful, but I think you are being very optimistic on trying to do all of what you propose in two weeks including driving times.

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Feb 7th, 2004, 07:34 AM
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Good suggestions, all, though there is something to be said for driving the Cabot Trail yourself, stopping whenever you wish for a photo-op or hike, rather than going with a tour group. There are many pull-offs. If you enjoy hiking, the Skyline Trail offers amazing views. You may see whales and moose. Start early if you want to avoid lots of company - this is a popular trail.

In Baddeck, consider a sunset sail on the Aemeba {sp}. You will see the Bell estate, some lovely scenery, and perhaps an eagle.

Lunenburg is {was} a rather economically repressed {IMHO}, but highly scenic little town. We enjoyed a night here, but would not have wanted to stay longer. We were not too impressed with the nearby Ovens Park. We stayed at Barretts band b, but wouldn't recommend it. Everyone in town was very friendly.

Wolfville is a perfect honeymoon stop. There are some lovely victorian romantic inns, and you can take a drive to see the tides turn and eat at a lobster pound,and see top-notch theater in the evening. There are also gourmet restaurants. Along the route from Yarmouth you can tour beautiful gardens and see an historic fort. This is one of my favorite areas in NS.

You'll love this province!
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Feb 7th, 2004, 06:08 PM
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capebreton01: Isn't Tartan Tours your company?
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Feb 8th, 2004, 08:42 AM
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Hi Robyn-

This is a "report" that I posted last year. Hope it helps (and isn't overwhelming in detail).


My son and I spent 8 days in Nova Scotia and 2 days on Prince Edward Island last summer. In Halifax we spent two nights at the Cambridge Suites, having obtained a half-price rate (about $130US) using our Entertainment card. Our sixth floor room had a pleasant if distant view of the harbor, which was particularly nice at night when the lights came on across the harbor in Dartmouth. The suites include a microwave and minifridge, and the facility has a nice roof top area with picnic tables and a gas grill for guest use. An unremarkable continental breakfast is included with the room. The location was right across from the Citadel and very convenient to Spring Garden Road and the public gardens and a 3 block walk (uphill) from the waterfront.

We loved the Citadel, spending an hour before closing on our first day there and returning the next day to complete our tour. We took a guided tour of the fortress, watched the noon gun being fired, saw the multimedia presentation talked with the ?teacher? who showed us magic lantern slides, and saw a rifle demonstration. There?s a great view from the citadel looking down over Halifax and the harbor.

We both enjoyed Pier 21, particularly the 4D presentation. There are real objects on the stage (e.g. packing crates, train car, benches) while people are portrayed through 3D holograms. We?d never seen anything like this before. The story is narrated by a man who supposedly worked at Pier 21 during its 50 years of operations. Interspersed in the narration are scenes of folks who came through Pier 21 (Russian immigrants, returning soldiers, war brides, etc.). We also thought the World War II display was the most interesting with little kiosks where you could see brief video narrations related to Pier 21.

We also visited the Maritime Museum and enjoyed the below decks guided tour of one of the boats, the exhibit about the Halifax explosion, and the small exhibit on the Titanic. Strolling on the waterfront was fun, although there was only one busker performing while we were there.

While we were in Halifax we drove down to Peggy?s Cove in the evening. By seven the light was gorgeous and the tourists had diminished. The lighthouse is surrounded by huge, round rocks and crashing surf.While the ride between Halifax and Peggy?s Cove was not particularly scenic, the outskirts of the area was really interesting and rugged.

Upon returning to Halifax, we drove to Point Pleasant Park. What a neat area! I?m sorry we didn?t have more daylight to explore the park. The parking lot was being used as a cruise night but as we walked along the shoreline, we moved beyond views of the industrial area across the harbor to great views of less congested shoreline across the harbor.


While we had originally booked three nights in Halifax, we decided to reroute our trip slightly. We left Halifax around 8:30am, taking the highway down to Lunnenburg.
We drove around town and visited the Museum of the Fisheries. The most fascinating part of the Museum was walking around on the boats and talking to the various docents. We learned about the seasonal nature of lobstering and the various techniques/regulations from a man who had helped his uncle, a lobsterman. Another docent talked about rum running which supplemented Nova Scotia fisherman?s income and the fact that it still isn?t talked about, 50 years after the last province ended prohibition. Near Lunnenburg we also visited the Ovens Natural Park taking a short walk to visit the sea caves and Blue Rocks, a cute fishing town nearby. Both were pleasant, but I wish we had skipped the Ovens and substituted a guided walking tour of Lunnenburg.

From Lunnenburg we took the Lighthouse Trail north to Mahone Bay and Chester. Mahone Bay is a cute town with a main street which is fun to stroll. Friends recommended a restaurant, Mimi?s Ocean Grill, which had been recommended to them by a B&B owner on the other side of the island. The ambiance and menu looked great, but unfortunately we arrived 15 minutes after the lunch hour ended. We ate at one of several little cafes with decks over the water.

From Chester we took the highway back towards Halifax. I was amazed that there was no highway bypass and we ended up driving through Halifax/Dartmouth during rush hour, before being able to pick up the highway again on the other side of Dartmouth. We picked up the Marine Drive, detouring to visit the Musquodoboit Harbour a pretty 9 mile ride to a 3 mile beach, one of the longest sand beaches in Nova Scotia.

The Lighthouse route seems to be particularly popular, but we actually spent more time near the water (lots of pretty coves and inlets) on the Marine Drive. Fairly isolated, lovely scenery. The only reason we ventured this way was to get to Sherbrook Village which Noah wanted to visit and which is not close to the highway. The highlight of Sherbrook Village was the blacksmith, who spent quite a bit of time talking with us and demonstrating his craft as well as how to ride an old fashioned bicycle, and the Ambrotype photography shop. The photography shop is over the general store and is one of three places in North America that continues to make ambrotypes-a photographic image on glass. My son agreed to pose for a photograph (very unusual!) and had a choice of dressing as a farmer or middle class person. He had to hold still for about 10 secs. while the image was being captured. We got to look through the camera and watch the glass plate being prepared with chemicals. The photograph is a wonderful souvenier and very reasonably priced at $30CAD. It also enabled us to see a demonstration of the ambrotype process.

While we enjoyed Sherbrook Village and the Marine Drive, it took a lot longer to get around, and in retrospect I wish I?d gone directly from Halifax to Cape Breton Island and skipped the Lunnenburg area and Sherbrook Village.

***********************
While I liked the other areas we visited on this trip, Cape Breton Island (and possibly Prince Edward Island) was the only area to which I would consider returning. Destinations worthy of a return visit generally have to include spectacular scenery, which Cape Breton certainly has-particularly along the Cabot Trail area.

We arrived on Cape Breton in mid afternoon and followed the Ceildgh Trail (and off road detours) described in the Doers and Dreamers Guide to the point where it meets the Cabot Trail. We spent our first night on Cape Breton at the Normaway Inn. The Normaway Inn consists of a small lodge with a few guestrooms, a dining room and a large, living room where is music is normally played in the evening. Most guests stay in cabins. Ours was built in the 1940s, but had been modernized to include newer wooden floors and a wood stove. A large screened in porch had a two person swing, a wooden box seat and a table attached to the wall which could be pulled down or left up. Dinner was good but not remarkable-well prepared but without gourmet flourishes. Noah tried the french toast at breakfast and pronounced it the best he?d ever had. We?d selected the Normaway Inn because they host celidgh music each evening, but unfortunately, the scheduled musicians did not show up. While this was very disappointing, we had an enjoyable time chatting with a woman from Ottawa about the differences in the Canadian and American school systems, etc.

We left the Margaree Valley, entering the national park at Chetticamp. We stopped several times along the Cabot Trail to take recommended walks and detours. While multiple people recommended the Skyline Trail, a 5mi walk, we were disappointed. The first .5k of the walk is actually a dirt road which is no longer used. The rest of the trail to the boardwalk is a well maintained gravel path that is pleasant, but not especially interesting. The ?destination? is a series of boardwalk steps and viewing platforms at a headland several hundred feet above the ocean, which allows for broad sweeping views. Nice, but no more scenic than other viewpoints from the road. Most people return the same way they come, probably because the rest of the round trip is not well marked. In fact, after walking 5-10 minutes, we retraced our steps to the boardwalk to doublecheck if we were on the right path, because there were no markings. We concluded that we had been and continued on, but the return route was no more scenic than the original. I had envisioned that we would have opportunities for water views along this trail, but that wasn?t the case.

The bog trail was short .5 mile, but provided a nice orientation to a bog, and had a number of interesting plants. Benjie?s Lake Trail was also short 2.3 miles and led to a pond where the trail stopped and a bench was provided. This is one of the trails where moose are sometimes spotted, but we hiked it in midday which is not a great time for wildlife viewing and it was warm and not particularly scenic. Ironically, about a mile later as we ascended a hill and came over the crest, I was startled to see a moose drinking in a stream (or drainage ditch?) about 3 feet off the road. I was able to park and get several nice shots since there wasn?t much traffic and the moose did not seem preturbed by our presence. We watched until he ambled off across the road.

We followed all of the alternative routes recommended in the Doers and Dreamers guide, driving out to Bay St. Lawrence and Meat Cove, Neil?s Harbour etc. These offshoots provided some of the prettiest scenery along the Cabot Trail and I would highly recommend them all. While people drive the entire Cabot trail (not just the national park section) in one day, it doesn?t allow sufficient time for hiking and detours. As it was, it took us from 8:30am to 6:30pm to get to Ingonish, and that was without sampling any of the many walks available near Ingonish.

We spent the night at the Keltic Lodge, of which I had read mixed reviews. We loved it! The lodge sits on a promontory about 200 feet over the water and has gorgeous views from the dining room of the open water on one side and a cove on the other. Our room had the cove view, which I think is supposed to be less desireable, but I liked it better, because there were interesting views of the cove and beaches. Rooms seem to be individually decorated. Ours was adorned with wonderful copper color accents and antiques/traditional furniture. I glimpsed a few other rooms and they seemed to be much plainer. It?s probably worth inquiring about the view/decoration of the room when you book. The Inn at Keltic is a separate set of buildings which are often recommended for families because the rooms are larger. The location is also lovely and guest can still eat meals in the main dining hall (or in a less formal dining room across the street which is cliffside with wonderful water views). The rooms at the Inn at Keltic are more motel-like so it lacks the charm of the older building. The Keltic Inn has a lovely pool and evening entertainment. Food was truly gourmet and included a four course dinner. The Lodge extended directly to us the Expedia rate I found on the internet. This had the advantage that I could cancel with 72 hours notice. Better yet, since Noah is 16, we were only charged a child?s rate for food, making the Keltic Lodge the best value of our trip.

The Middle Head Trail, which leaves from the parking lot at the Keltic Inn was the most scenic of the five we sampled in the national park. There are frequent views of cliffs, water and lupin. At the end there is a rocky point, where the water sprays against the rock. Nearby, was a huge rock where baby gulls had recently hatched. We also took the short walks for Freshwater Lake and the Freshwater Lake Lookout, which provides a view over the lake and beach back toward the cliff where the Keltic Lodge is located.

I really liked the Ingonish area and the Keltic Lodge and wished that I had arranged for more than one night there. The drive between Ingonish and Baddeck was pleasant and took less than 2 hours. We arrived at the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck about an hour before closing. It?s an odd museum and could do a better job of summarizing the work Bell did in various areas (in fact, there are signs up indicating that the museum considers the displays outdated and intends to improve them). However, we knew nothing of Bell?s work or life, outside of his invention of the telephone so it was interesting to see what else he had done. Better yet, we caught a 6:30pm boat tour of the lake and were shown the cove where Bell and his colleagues launched the first manned Canadian flight, Bell?s boat house, his mansion, etc. This reinforced what we had learned in the museum and made it ?real?. The captain told interesting anecdotes about people who lived in the area, and showed us a boat which had been sunk by its crew due to the captain?s failure to pay wages.

We spent the night in Baddeck and enjoyed dinner at the Yello Cello, recommended by other internet posters. They have funky pizzas and salads which can be eaten on an open air porch which is on the main street but provides some views of the dock area.

The next morning we went to Fortress Lunnenburg, which was the highlight of Noah?s trip. The Fortress was occupied by the French in the mid 1700s. It includes military buildings and lodging , a fisherman?s cottage, houses, and a wonderful blacksmith shop. The visit to the bread bakery was probably my favorite. The master baker was a great performer, and apparently follows the 1750?s method for baking hundreds of loaves in three giant brick ovens. Not as simple as it sounds-he showed us his hairless arms and told us that the way to determine if the oven is the right temperature is to see if you can hold your arm in it for exactly 10 seconds. We took a 1 ? hour tour of the fortress which provided an excellent overview. Without it, we wouldn?t have really appreciated the buildings that we then toured on our own. There are also various military demonstrations throughout the day. One hint-definitely bring layers of clothing. Within three miles of Fortress Louisburg, we entered fog, a stiff breeze and the temperature dropped at least ten degrees. Since you are bussed from the visitor center to the fortress, it?s very time consuming to try to go back to the car for additional clothes. We ended up buying Noah a pullover since he had insisted that he wouldn?t need his sweatshirt.



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Feb 8th, 2004, 11:05 AM
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To Stillhouse: I missed your trip report first time around so I am happy to see it here today. It is, by far, the best written & most informative post that I have ever seen here @ Fodors. So, thanks! My son & I are planning our return visit to Keltic & reading your report has re-kindled everything that we love about Cape Breton! So...what's in the works for you this summer??
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Feb 8th, 2004, 02:11 PM
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Gosh--thanks to everyone for the fabulous info thus far! It is terribly helpful! My only concern is not having enough time! I suppose we could fly into Hali, but would still have to rent a car...so best to save time or money? I'll have to think on that one...

Thanks to all of you for your help and I look forward to more great info!

Robyn
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Feb 8th, 2004, 02:35 PM
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Wow-

Hope you enjoy Keltic again as much as we did last year. I'm still amazed at what a great value it is for kids (defined as 17 and under). Gourmet experience and pool is lovely!

As to this summer, my son and I are off to the Canadian Rockies and Drumheller/Dinosaur National Park.
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Feb 9th, 2004, 06:24 PM
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I covered many of the sites mentioned in connection with a two week home exchange in Bedford, NS (outside Halifax).

The Keltic Lodge would be perfect for honeymooners. I do not know about the food there (we did not stay there, but in my next life. . . .), but the location is spectacular.

If you like whitewater rafting, be sure to raft the tidal bore on the Schubenacadie when it comes in. Check for the time of the tides and be on time! You will get absolutely filthy but have a great time! If I had to pick an unexpected highlight from that trip, the Schubenacadie tidal bore rafting would be it.
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Feb 11th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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We did a NY/Maine/New Brunswick/PEI/Cape Breton/Nova Scotia car trip for 17 days last summer. It is a lot of driving but definitely worth it. We stayed at a B&B in Lunenburg called The Senator which I highly recommend. That part of the coast (Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Chester and Peggy's Cove) is quite lovely. On Cape Breton, we stayed 3 nights at the Keltic Lodge which really is THE place to stay. Just a breathtaking spot. By the time we left Lunenburg, we were in a hurry to get home, so we travelled straight through (Lunenburg to Yarmouth, the Cat to Bar Harbor, and Bar Harbor to Westchester County, NY). 16 hours! Whew. Anyway, it was one of our favorite vacations ever. Really beautiful, and the people are incredibly friendly.
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Feb 16th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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Hello,
We were in NS this past Sept and it was the most beautiful place I've ever been.

Here are some of the places we enjoyed:

Mahone Bay--Beautiful small town. We stayed at The Manse and it was excellent--room, innkeepers and great cooked to order breakfast.

We ate at Mimi's Ocean Grill and it was great. Food, service and decor was first rate.

We stayed one night in Baddeck also and had a good time there. It's nice to walk along the water, but I wouldn't stay more than an afternoon there unless you are using it for your base.

We stayed in Ingonish on the beach at Lantern Hill and Hollow and it was exquisite. You have your own cottage with fireplace and whirlpool and you're on the beach. It's very secluded and romantic. Foodwise, there aren't many places to eat there, but they do have kitchens in the cottages.

We then stayed in Cheticamp at the Baywind Suites. They were new in 2003 and are right on the water. Very quiet and beautfiful decor. The restaurant is above the rooms and looked great but we didn't eat there--we had pizza just to give ourselves a break from all the huge meals we'd been eating.

As far as Halifax, we had planned on doing two nightst there, but took it down to one. Halifax was a nice "town" but there isn't enough to do there to warrant a three night stay unless you're using it as your post to go to other daily destinations. We did the Alexander Keith's brewery tour, which was fun.

We also stayed at Victoria's Historic Inn in Wolfville. Wolfville is a college town with many restaurants and shops.

Our last night was in East Kemptville at Trout Point Lodge. We stayed in the Granite Suite and it was heavenly. It's a log lodge along the river. The grounds were beautiful and peaceful and the food was to die for.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at [email protected]
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Feb 16th, 2004, 09:08 AM
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Stillhouse, that was a fascinating trip report. One minor quibble - it's Fortress Louisbourg, not Lunnenburg. And yes, I don't know anyone who's gone who wasn't impressed. Bring a sweater though, it can be cold out there even in summer.

Second Lauren's suggestion about the tidal bore rafting. Wear your swimsuit under some older clothes and have a change of clothes ready (changing rooms supplied.)
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Feb 16th, 2004, 10:11 AM
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Sue, Stillhouse refers to Louisbourg later on in the post so it's simply a typo.
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Feb 16th, 2004, 12:59 PM
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wow

Without going into deep analysis about why poor stillhouse typed/spelt it "Lunnenburg" in the first instance and "Louisburg" in the second, the point is that if one wishes to google for the official web site, one must spell it "Louisbourg", for Google is not yet intelligent enough to understand what we mean, as opposed to what we type. Louisbourg (in honour of the Bourbon dynasty) is originally a French settlement, Lunenburg (literally, 'moon town') was originally settled by German immigrants, hence this confusing mishmash of variously spelled names.

Here endeth the sermon....
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Feb 16th, 2004, 01:12 PM
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Just for the heck of it( slow day around here, I guess, & I am curious by nature!) I went to Google & typed in "Louisburg". And, guess what? Google had a reference under the incorrect spelling! Of course, if you type in the correct spelling "Louisbourg" you will get many more entries!
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Feb 16th, 2004, 01:37 PM
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Sue: I don't know how you get "moon town" for Lunenburg. The German word for moon is "Mönd". Lunenburg takes its name from Lüneburg in Germany, in honour of George II, the king at the time of its founding. He was also Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, and as you mentioned, many of the original settlers were from that part of Germany.
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Feb 17th, 2004, 11:06 AM
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Many thanks to one and all! This trip is shaping up quite nicely and I'm SO excited for it! I am in the process of booking now and will update with an itinerary soon!

Love this site!
Robyn
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