Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
BY DONNA LEON
Donna Leon and Robert Riskin love to tell the story of how they found Lunenburg County.
Donna left Cape Breton after high school to study journalism at university in Ottawa. Robert lived in Vancouver since he was a young adult. Both former college professors and television
directors, they knew one another for 20 years before getting together as a couple.
Donna moved west, but after four months in Vancouver, she grew tired of the rain and heavy traffic. They bought a home near the lake in the sunny Okanagan, but the lifestyle didn’t suit
them. So three and a half years after that move, they sold their home and its contents, and drove across Canada. The couple temporarily settled near Donna’s mother in Waterloo, Ontario.
“Our goal was to find a place to truly call home”, says Robert. “We searched properties in the GTA and eastern Ontario. But we didn’t find the right fit”. Midway through the year, they were offered an opportunity to housesit a villa in Spain. It came with a cat named Bootsie.
They jumped at the chance. The two thought living in a foreign country for three months should be enough time to figure out their next move back in Canada. “Few people spoke English where we were housesitting, so we were literally on our own. We had very weak internet in the village, so I bought a roaming package on my phone and began
to search real estate sites. I stumbled upon a listing that was comparable to our Kelowna home, only on the east coast, and far less expensive. We looked at one another and said, “Let’s go for it!”, Donna recalls. What the couple found online was a listing for the QEII hospital Lottery’s 2017 Dream Cottage, which the winners had decided to sell. It had been on the market for only a few weeks. Donna quickly enlisted a cousin and her husband to travel from Dartmouth to Chester Basin to inspect the house. They Facetimed with Donna and Robert during a walkthrough while the couple watched on their iPad via WiFi at a pub 5,000 kms away.
Two weeks later, and a month before their return to Canada, the deal was done. “I still can’t believe we bought our home without seeing it in person, in an area neither of us knew”, says Robert. “We had to GPS our address the day we moved in”. They knew the transition from urban to rural would be a paradigm shift, but after living in the Spanish countryside all
summer, they were ready for the change.
Robert says Spain conditioned them to the rural lifestyle.
“In the countryside where we stayed, we got to know the local community, we explored the culture, visited the markets, met the locals and found absolute authenticity and charm. The South Shore is appealing in the same way”. The real estate deal included the contents of the ‘cottage’, much of which are handcrafted and custom items selected by the
home’s architectural designer.
“We arrived with only our luggage and my spices. I love to cook”, says Donna. “Our home at Skipper Hill is gorgeous. We take our coffee to the community dock and just watch the world go by. It’s so calming. And the sunsets are stunning. Robert says they’ve become stargazers too. “You don’t see as many stars anywhere near a large city because of light pollution.
We walk onto the deck and are in awe of the constellations. It’s mesmerizing”.
Nine months after moving in, the couple keeps in shape by swimming laps at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre and bicycling on the many trails nearby. They travel to Halifax often
to visit family and friends, and love hosting dinners with new and old friends.
“We really feel as if we have won the lottery,” says Rob. Donna echoes that sentiment. “This is a dream come true”.