Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia: September 14 - 19, 2014

"Wherever you go, there you are" -- t-shirt sold on the streets of Bangkok, 1988. 

And while that's still true, it's also true that most journeys have an intended destination. The destination of our Fall Canadian Adventure was Nova Scotia. And happily, we found it all that we had thought it would be. But too much for one blog post. This post describes our time on Cape Breton Island, the island which is the north-eastern fifth(ish) of the province of Nova Scotia.

Cape Breton is famous for its highlands, a huge national park and the beautiful Bras d'Or Lake.  We chose to stay on the shores of Baddeck Bay in the middle-ish of the island, thinking it would be a good staging area for day trips.


And it was. But the village of Baddeck is also worth a visit in its own right. We stayed at the Inverary Resort and though our room was just a standard motel room, the resort has very nice grounds, a good breakfast restaurant and a nice little pub. And from the resort we could walk to the village and along the lake shore:

And What Did We Find There But Another CS36!

And Another Lighthouse . . . 

Baddek is home to The Baddeck Gathering at St. Michael's Parish Hall -- a Celtic music
ceilidh. We went twice to hear some very good fiddle music and an excellent pianist (Mac Morin - pianist for Natalie MacMaster). 

Tap Your Feet

This ceilidh was less "produced" than the one we saw on PEI, and included audience participation dancing (which did not include us) and talent sharing by the audience. We'll admit we cringed the first time an audience member came forward to share his talent - but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise! America's got talent and some happened to take it to Cape Breton on vacation.

The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site 

The Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is located on the edge of the village of Baddeck. Here Parks Canada does a good job of introducing visitors to Mr. Bell's post-telephone contributions, the contributions his wife Mabel made to his inventions and those of others, and the Bell family's connection to Cape Breton (Alexander and Mabel are buried there and the family still owns a home across the bay from Baddeck). 

Mabel and Alexander Bell Enjoying The Waterfront

Alexander and Mabel took their telephone wealth (he had given her the majority of his stock interest in The Bell Telephone Company as a wedding present) and used it to finance Mr. Bell's post-telephone inventions including an early form of wireless telephone, a metal detector, a desalination process and hydrofoil watercraft. 

They also financed the first aircraft flight in Canada, which took place at Baddeck.  

A Replica of the Silver Dart

Bell also did some experiments with sheep breeding and some research about congenital deafness which connected him to the eugenics movement that was sadly popular during the first-half of the 20th Century. The museum describes his sheep breeding experiments - which didn't prove his theory about sheep twins - but doesn't spend time on the eugenics connection -- and really, what museum honoring someone's accomplishments would? That limitation is a minor one and even without that discussion it's a very interesting museum and an insight into a very clever mind.

Louisbourg Fortress 

The fortress is located on the island's Atlantic coast, where it was originally constructed by the French around an existing fishing village beginning in 1713. The British captured the fortress in 1745, gave it back to the French in 1748 as part of the negotiations to end the War of Austrian Succession (remember that one?) and then captured it again in 1758. Having worked so hard to get it the British abandoned the fortress in 1760. 

The fortress's economic power was at its height in 1744 thanks to cod (out) and French controlled goods including Caribbean rum (in). So 1744 is the year Parks Canada has chosen for its reconstruction and re-enactment. The reconstruction represents only about one-quarter of the original site. The rest of the site has been left in its original, abandoned state at the insistence of government archaeologists. 

The bad news about being there off-season was that some of the buildings were not open, and the touring hours were shorter. The good news is that we were able to take two tours, one of which was conducted by one of the historical curators for the park service.

Our Very Own Curator

Somewhere Along This Street Lurks the Park's IT Center
Masquerading as an 18th Century Building

Our favorite off-season plus was when we turned the corner to find casks being unloaded from some very large, very un-18th century trucks. We were told that Parks Canada was working with a local distiller to store Caribbean rum in the reconstructed Magasin du Roi (King's Storehouse) - just as it was in the 18th century. 

Rum Running, 21st Century Style

The news stories about this delivery use a great quote: "Authentic Seacoast Distilling Company Ltd., Parks Canada and Fortress Louisbourg Association are collaborating on a multi-year project to enhance the visitor experience at the Fortress through an authentic interpretation of the historical rum trade of 18th century New France." 

If you visit next year you will be able to enhance your visitor experience by drinking rum!  

Lace Making

How The 1% Lived in New France
(Next Year, Rum)

If a tot of rum isn't enough to interest you to visit the fortress take it from us -- if you have even a smattering of an interest in New France or the 18th Century, you will enjoy a visit to Fortress Louisbourg. It's very interesting and - perhaps because we were there in the off-season - it's much less Disneyland-esq than Colonial Williamsburg. Or maybe it's because its Canadian. 

The Cabot Trail  

The Cabot Trail is a drive rather than a hiking "trail"; a drive that leads to many, many hiking trails. It circles the northern end of the island and wraps above the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The views along this drive are often spectacular - though anyone that has driven US 1 up the Northern California coast will be amused by the tourists that exclaim about how "scary" it is . . . 

The Atlantic!

The Trail travels past some very tiny communities with names that kept us entertained: Margaree, Margaree Forks, Margaree Harbor, Northeast Margaree, Upper Margaree, Southwest Margaree . . . collectively referred to as "the Margarees" and all related to the Margaree River. Not to disparage the good folk that settled this area years ago but these names seem to suggest a singular lack of imagination. 

A Fishing Fleet in Cheticamp, Northern Cape Breton Island
This area is also an Acadia area, where many of the residents are descendants of 17th century settlers to the French colony of Acadia. This colony came under British rule in 1710 and during the French and Indian War (the European Seven Years' War) in the mid-1700's the English started to question the loyalty of their francophone subjects (whether with reason or not, it's unclear) and deported thousands of them. Many ended up in Louisiana as today's Cajuns which got the best of the culinary end of things. After the British gained full control over Quebec they became less concerned about francophone settlers and many of the diaspora returned to the Maritimes to resettle whatever hadn't been taken by anglophone settlers. 

The Acadian flag, a French Tricolor with a gold star in the blue field, is flown in this area with pride:

The Canadian, Provincial and Acadian Flags

French First in Acadia

A Canadian Moment: Listening to three older (even than us!) guys in a Tim Horton's in Acadia complain about computers - switching seamlessly from Acadian French to English and back again. 

Skyline Trail  

We only had time to hike one of the many trails within the Cape Breton Highlands National Park so we chose the one that offered a groomed path (remember - Bryce had hip surgery only a month later) and the most spectacular view - the Skyline Trail. We were not disappointed. 

The views were spectacular.

A Christmas Letter Worthy Picture

And we had our most memorable wildlife moment of the trip. 

As we were ambling along some return hikers told us that just ahead we might see a moose. Excited at that possibility we slowed, quieted and un-holstered the camera. With her camera at the ready Molly walked ahead of Bryce . . . listening . . . watching. She heard something coming from the bush that sounded like a goofy male hiker making "hey, dude, I'm a moose" noises. Totally annoying. And then she turned to find Bryce doing an urgent, silent "come check this out" wave. 

And there she saw a female moose making urgent-sounding "hey, dude, I'm a moose" noises! 

She's Leading Him On

We watched in awe as she came out of the bush, towering above us on her spindly legs. Then she stopped, made a few urgent-sounding "hey, dude, I'm a moose" noises and let loose with a truly impressive stream of moose urine. 

We then realized that this display had something (or everything) to do with the even more gigantic, spindly-legged male moose that was lumbering up behind her. Perhaps you know enough about the mating habits of moose to know what her urinary activities indicated -- an invitation or a dismissal? We could not tell, though it was clear that the male moose was interested in her. 

An Impressive Rack On That Guy

And then it (finally) dawned on us that we were very, very close to two really, really, big animals that might want to have their way with one another. Hmmm. Perhaps it was time to give them their privacy. We backed up onto the boardwalk and cowered behind a flimsy 2x4 railing, realizing how ridiculous it was to think that we were safe . . . and as we quaked in their presence the two moose lumbered off making "hey, dude, I'm a moose" noises at each other. 

And Off They Went . . .

Not knowing what the gestation period is for moose, we're not sure when we should return to see if we can identify their progeny - and really, though it may not be appropriate to say it, we're not sure we could tell one moose-lette from another.

After surviving our moose experience, we drove down the Atlantic side of the trail, and had dinner in the pub of the The Keltic Lodge, in Ingonish, a resort perched out on a point of land overlooking the ocean. 

Cape Breton Redux  

Of all the things we enjoyed about our trip to Canada this year, Cape Breton's Cabot Trail area is number one on our "we really must return to this place" list. Someday soon we hope to return to the Cabot Trail, stay at The Keltic Lodge and take a different hike in the Highlands National Park every day.  

Number two on the must-return-to list includes a plan to spend a summer sailing season cruising around the Bras d'Or lake, stopping at the various small harbors for fresh lobster, fish and beer.  

But really we see no reason that we cannot accomplish both . . . sometime soon. 

No comments:

Post a Comment