Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
October 8-17, 2004
Ah, another journey, another series of adventures, some pleasant, some less so! We headed to the airport early on the 8th, got the car parked, shuttled to the airport, and on the flight to Boston by 8:35 A.M.
Why Boston? Well, we could use "Frequent Flyer" miles, so that the trip was essentially free for both of us. We also figured that the drive up the Atlantic coast from Boston through New Hampshire, Maine and New Brunswick on our way to Nova Scotia should be beautiful this time of year. Hard as it is to believe, though, it is close to 800 miles in distance, and unless you take freeway a good share of the way, you make very poor time on the crooked roads and small towns.
The weather was beautiful, in the low 70's, and sunny, so the first part of our journey did not disappoint. We headed north out of Boston. We found a beach to walk on a bit, had a delicious meal of fresh shrimp at a local restaurant, and found a motel later in the afternoon in a city called Wells, which was on the Atlantic Ocean.
The next morning was again beautiful, and the fall colors were magnificent. We stopped periodically to see some of the New England sites and of course to sample the local cuisine. Did I ever mention that I have a kind of rule for the road that we never stop at a chain restaurant when we’re traveling? It works pretty well. We’ve found some absolutely marvelous places just off the beaten path.
We traveled a good distance on the 9th, and toward late afternoon came to a place that had "Flower Pot Rocks" in the Hopewell Rocks area. The tide changes in height by 36 feet, so these islands at high tide are totally revealed as tall columns at low tide. We were there at low tide, so could walk among them. The drastic change in tides is really interesting, and we could see vast mud flats at low tide.
On Sunday, October 10, we headed toward Cape Breton by way of New Brunswick, and had rain and mist a part of the morning, but then it cleared as we got further north. We took the northern coastal route and saw lots of small towns and farms and some absolutely breathtaking fall colors. Or colours, as the Canadians write.
We stopped at Pictou and toured a museum devoted to the people that came over in 1773 on a tiny sailing ship.
We arrived in Cape Breton in the mid afternoon. To enter the island, you have to go across a causeway, which is really just a road that has been built to connect the island to the rest of Nova Scotia. We checked in to the "Chisholms of Troy" Cabin we had reserved. It was very nice, with all the comforts of home, including a full kitchen, and nice dining area. We had stayed there five years earlier, so we knew it would be nice.
We walked down the high hill to the strait and out on a temporary sandbar, since it was at low tide. We had a light evening meal, and I called both Minnie MacMaster and Carole MacInnis, and told them we had arrived.
The concert that night was called, "Celtic Women", and it lasted three hours. It was wonderful! Fiddlers, harpists, soloists, guitarists, groups that had women bagpipers, and more. Some of the folks were from Scotland, others local talent, and they were all wonderful. I got my only performance picture during the finale when all the performers get together and do a number together.
We stopped briefly at Carole’s house after and visited, and then headed back to the cottage.
The next morning it was Thanksgiving! The second Monday in October is the holiday in Canada, though many folks celebrate it on Sunday, and recuperate on the Monday. A maritime storm was scheduled to arrive, and the winds were picking up. Alex and Minnie MacMaster invited us to lunch, so we visited with them for a couple hours. It was fun to hear about Natalie, her marriage, some of her Halloween antics when she was young. We had a delicious turkey soup, homemade biscuits, and some wonderful blueberry muffins with wild blueberries that Alex had picked.
We headed to the ocean later that afternoon to see some rather spectacular waves. It was raining intermittently, but it had stopped, so we took a stroll down a spit that headed away from us. When we had been walking about five minutes, the clouds opened up and the cold rains came full throttle. With the wind, we were absolutely soaked in no time, and headed toward the car at a rapid pace. We were both absolutely soaked when we got to the car, as were our non-waterproof coats. All part of the adventure, I say!
We cleaned up, dried off, and headed to Judique for another wonderful concert called, "Passing the Bow". There was young and old talent, father and mother and daughter, Buddy MacMaster, and a plethora of talent that is hard to describe. It was another great concert, with music that is so much a part of their lives. As Alex said earlier in the day, "I don’t know what we’d do if we didn’t have the music!".
Tuesday, October 12th turned out to be a rather nasty day. The winds with the rain and the drizzle and fog were not great for doing much outside. We decided to go for a drive north up the coast and on to the Cabot Trail and into the National Park. The weather did cooperate some, so that we saw peeks of the sun, and the rain let up intermittently so that we could get out and admire the scenery. We went as far as Chetticamp, which is the French speaking part of the island.
After our meal, we headed north close to a city called Baddeck, pronounced, "bah-DECK". This concert was called, "Bards and Ballads", and it was singers, songwriters and musicians, all rolled up into one performance. There were five performers, all on stage, and they just rotated through them, each of them singing songs they had written. One was from Scotland, Dougie (Doogie) McClean, and the rest were from Cape Breton.
The ride home was a driving challenge. In the dark, and the fog and the rain and mist and the wind, it was difficult to see very far ahead, and the fog kind of rolled up on the road. Again, all part of the adventure!
Wednesday, October 13th started with more clouds, rain and wind, so we decided to head up the other coast on the east side of the island. As we got further north, luckily the rain and wind lessened, and we saw the sun again. We went as far north as Ingonish, and did some hiking and sightseeing along the way. We ate at a really neat restaurant overlooking the coast and the autumn colors, and I decided to order something I’d never had before called "Dingwall Mussel Stew". I had envisioned a tomato based stew with cut up mussel in it. What I got was a pyramid of stacked mussel still in their shell, looking like a miniature version of the Devil’s Tower from Close Encounters of the Third Kind! There were at least two dozen mussel in the formation, all drizzled with a delicious tomato sauce. It was quite delicious, and quite memorable!
Carole invited us for a dinner meal that evening, so we headed over to her house, and had a nice visit with both Benny and Carole. She had an absolutely scrumptious meal of baked haddock, brussel sprouts, cooked carrots, and a fancy rice. We had to leave early to get to our last concert in Glendale that was titled, "Gaelic Songs of Glendale". There was Gaelic title also, but I won’t attempt that! Again, it was marvelous. There was not only singing but some amazing fiddling. The talent on that island is unbelievable. We stopped briefly at Carole’s after and said our goodbyes, since we needed to start heading back toward Boston the following morning.
It is always sad to leave Cape Breton. The people are so friendly, the music so great, the scenery so spectacular.
We headed out the next morning for Maine, and though the weather was nasty in the morning, it cleared a bit as we headed south. We stayed in a pretty little New England town called Eastport for the night, and had another excellent meal. I again ordered something which I hadn’t had before in the form of scallops, and they were also just marvelous.
We went for a walk by the bay and saw where a number of Civil Wars ships had been hauled, burned, and sunk, and then we went back and just relaxed for the night after a long day of about 600 or so miles.
On Friday, the 15th we had hoped to spend the majority of the day in Acadia National Park. The weather decided for us that we should change our plans. Rain, wind, thick fog, drizzle, thwarted most of our efforts to see anything at a distance. We did walk some carriage roads and I did get some interesting pictures with the drizzle and fog, so all was not lost.
We did drive up a mountain in hope of getting above the fog, but the entire drive was enveloped in the fog and mist. I took a picture at the top that has a display showing the panorama and all one can see is fog. We stayed in a place called Ellsworth, Maine, and had a delicious buffet at a Chinese restaurant. They had three lines of different foods, many quite exotic.
The next morning, Saturday, we headed toward Boston. The weather finally decided to clear, and we enjoyed dry roads and intermittent sunshine. We did stop at one antique mall and I found a few books. Joan said they were going in my luggage.
We got in to Boston in the late afternoon only to discover that every motel in the city was booked due to the World Series game. Since I hate driving in Boston so much anyway, we got a bit more than our share in trying to head outside the city proper. After several stops, and going much further north than we wanted, we found in room in Salem, Massachusetts! Actually, it was new section of the city so no witches were to be found.
We had an early flight, so we arose early, returned the rental car, and had a very quiet flight back to Minneapolis and considerably cooler temperatures. We got home in the early afternoon, and as I always feel after that long an absence, there really is no place like home.
You probably remember we've been to Cape Breton before a couple times. If you want to read about those trips, go to these links:
(Background is sand from a beach in Massachusetts.)