Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nova Scotia

We went to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with Amherst friends, David & Betsy Mullins, who went rafting with us and then to Lake Tahoe last summer. (Thanks to Marla Michel and Marg Burggren who gave us ideas on hiking and sightseeing!)

Friday, Aug. 22. We drove up to Ogunquit, Maine where Sandy's mother has a house. We had a beautiful day to enjoy the beach and play bocce ball. We knew we were headed towards temps in the 60's in Canada so we really enjoyed this last day of sun and warmth.

Sunday, Aug. 24. Our first day was really fun even though it was a long drive. It really didn't seem so long since we took breaks and switched drivers every two hours. We also listened to music CDs and Twilight Zone CDs. Our XM Radio brought us a Red Sox win over Toronto. And it was sunny! We opted for a drive through Maine and New Brunswick instead of the ferry since with the four of us sharing costs it was much less expensive and not much longer. The scenery was much the same in New Brunswick as in Maine - lots of pine trees! We had a picnic lunch but stopped for dinner in Amherst, Nova Scotia, just over the border from New Brunswick. (They even had a building made from the same stones as our Amherst Town Hall.) Our first night was spent in a cottage in Troy, Nova Scotia, just over the border into Cape Breton (part of Nova Scotia). Paul Bunyan's Cottage #3 looked out on water and was small but clean and very adequate for our one night stay. Too bad it wasn't sunny here.

Monday, Aug. 25. The weather was pretty bad today: fog and rain on and off. We had an hour and a half drive to Louisbourg to visit the impressive Louisbourg Fortress reconstructed to show how it looked in 1744. It was built by the French and was occupied by both the French and the English over a number of years. In addition to the more inexpensive buildings with wooden shingles it had some beautiful wood framed homes with slate roofs for the high ranking military and also stone buildings. There were all the buildings typical in a small town as well as inns for visitors since there were many people who came here to trade goods.

We had a fun lunch in one of the taverns, complete with costumed waitresses and food/drink served in pewter. The menu consisted of food typically served then: beans and macaroni, vegetable rice soup, bread, and little french desserts. (The huge napkins were used by the army men to keep their uniforms clean.)

We had a 3 hour drive north to our cottage where we'd stay until Saturday. The closest route was using the Ingonish Ferry (costing $5) and taking 5 minutes. All it did was go back and forth a very small stretch of water. You just got in line and would never need to wait more than 10 minutes.

We followed the Cabot Trail through lots of evergreen trees and hilly terrain until we reached the Beach View Cottage, a small house built on South Harbour (picture). It was a beautiful setting (even at 10PM). The house was quite new. There were even bird feeders and a screened-in porch. Too bad we never got to enjoy the porch.

Tuesday, Aug. 26. Beautiful Scenery & Coves.
The day started out bright but it gradually became very cloudy and cool. We explored the beach at South Harbour then went to White Point where there were piles of lobster traps (oblong) and crab traps (round). Everyone thought the clam chowder at the Chowder House in Neil's Harbour was the best they'd ever tasted! We wanted to hike up to Meat Cove for the view but we took the wrong path and then ran out of time. (Sandy stayed in the car because he was having allergy problems and needed to sleep.) On the way back we stopped at this convenience store/Post Office. This is a very rural area so these little stores are common. One day we actually were told to go to a gas station to buy maple syrup.

Wednesday, Aug. 27. Moose and Sunset. We were out to find moose today and moose we found! We were headed west on the Cape Breton Trail to Skyline Trail when we saw our first one in French Lake. We first stopped for a short hike to Lone Shieling, a shepherd's hut. Our next hike was to MacIntosh Brook and its beautiful waterfall (in the rain). Bunch berry was everywhere we looked.

Skyline Trail, one of the most popular hikes in Cape Breton, was fairly level and on a boardwalk. The views were awesome! At the end where the cliffs are there are stairs on different levels with benches to look at the view of the Bay of St. Lawrence. The sun came out so it was even more beautiful. Some people have seen whales from here but not us. We decided to take an alternate route back, just a trail, no boardwalk. We're so glad we did because we saw 3 moose in separate areas!! A mother and calf as well as a young bull just growing his first set of horns. These moose obviously were used to people being nearby since we were able to get quite close to the young moose. We had never seen a moose kneeling to eat.

We continued on our drive toward Cheticamp where we went to the Trois Pignons, a museum about the Acadian (French Canadian) culture and rug hooking. It was really interesting and the hooked rugs were amazing, especially the ones that were portraits. The sunset was incredible.

At the museum the worker said they don't recommend people drive the Cabot Trail because of moose crossing the road so we drove extra carefully. Shortly after the sun set we were driving up a hill with the sunset still visible at the top of the road. We saw a moose silhouetted against the sunset. What an amazing site!! Unfortunately David couldn't get his camera out in time to get a picture. But you can imagine. The second moose crossed the road closely in front of us followed by a young moose we got blinded by our bright lights and started going away from his mother. Finally the mother must have made a noise and the young one followed. What a great site!

Thursday, Aug. 28. Puffin Trip and Ceilidh.
We woke up to a very windy day. When we got to the Puffin Boat dock in Englishtown we were told that the Puffin boat tour we had signed up for was canceled because of 4 foot swells. Fortunately, Sandy and David didn't get seasick that day since they had just taken seasick pills. We took a hike to beautiful Uisge Falls when it started to rain lightly. We found this really cool tree that looked like a person's right leg over a rock with his left hand holding something.

Next stop was Baddeck (Bah-deck') and the Interpretive Lakes Center. We learned about past, present and future of the Bras d'Or (brah-door) Lakes. Next was lunch and the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. It was super! What an amazing man Mr. Bell was. We learned he was more interested in possibilities instead of actualities. He and his wife built a home across the lake from the museum. It was still in the low 60's today but at least it wasn't raining most of the day. We walked downtown and found a cafe for delicious tea and coffee and muffins. We usually shopped for food at the Coop Grocery Store, found all over the island.

We had a great dinner at Yellow Cello and then headed down to St. Michael's Parish Hall for a traditonal Ceilidh (kay-lee). It's a combination of Acadian fiddle playing, dancing, and singing. It was really fun! There were 2 main singers with a guitar and fiddle, husband and wife, Derrick and Melody Cameron. We were part of a square dancing group. Melody, introduced as being the best step dancer on the island, did her amazing dancing. The Cameron's were from Badou and explained a little about the families there. So many generations of families live there that people were called by their father's and grandfather's names. For example, Joe whose father was Harry and grandfather was Tom was referred to as Joe-Harry-Tom.

Friday, Aug. 29. Rain Again - what else!! Actually, it was only cloudy in the morning and we headed out to the nearby North Highlands Community Museum in Cape North. It gave a great history of the area. (The other people in the museum were from Acton, MA!) We started talking to one of the volunteers who was a retired professor from CT. They owned part of a house on Cape Cod and last year unexpectedly bought a house in Cape Breton (inexpensive real estate here!). We enjoyed our conversation with him. We headed past a number of coves toward Neil's Harbour and the Chowder House again for lunch. We then drove down to Ingonish. It was still pretty cloudy but not raining yet so we went for what was supposed to be a really beautiful hike. We started behind the Keltic Lodge to Middle Head. And it was beautiful scenery except it was foggy and then it started to pour. We ended up sopping wet and had to change our pants at the Keltic Lodge when we got back.

Here are some more random landscape pictures.

We had fun playing Zomba (aka Crazy Rummy) one night and another night we listened to the Democratic Convention. Cape Breton proved to be much more mountainous than we thought and the scenery was great. A trip during sunshine would be even better.

Saturday, Aug. 30. Relocate to PEI. It was a 7 hour drive to our cottage in New London, PEI. It was a really, really long drive through Nova Scotia. First we had to drive southwest from Cape Breton. We crossed the Confederation Bridge, an 8 mile long bridge. Coming to the end of the bridge we saw beautiful rolling hills with fields and pastures and red dirt! The first stop on PEI was Gateway Village. It was a cute turn-of-the-century village with a huge visitor center and displays. We picked up some info and headed north to New London. We were enthralled with the landscape from the bridge north: rolling hills, farm fields, and lobster/mussel boats in the harbor. It was an absolutely lovely landscape. And the house we rented for the week (at half price because it's now the off season) is beautiful. And we have a great view of the New London Bay.

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