A Tour of the Maritime Provinces
Prince Edward Island (PEI) & Nova Scotia
(July 21 to August 5)
You can click on "photos" to get directly to the first photo page, which has a connector to the second page, or you can click on specific links in the text to get to the photos associated with that part of the travelogue.
Prince Edward Island was settled by the French who named it Ile Saint-Jean. In 1758, the British occupied the island and translated the name to St. John's Island. They later changed the name to Prince Edward Island in 1799 in honor of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the fourth son of King George III.
The island is known as the birthplace of Canada. Over 100 years ago, a small group of elected officials gathered in Charlottetown to discuss the possibility of uniting three Maritime jurisdictions. There were other representatives who raised some issues that sowed the seed for a concept to establish a larger union and create a country. This event in 1864, known as the Charlottetown Conference, led to events that would lead to a Confederation and, eventually, a country. PEI has been called the Cradle of Confederation, even though PEI didn't join the Canadian Union until 1873, nine years after the Charlottetown Conference.
Approximately 138,500 people live on PEI, and this population is evenly divided between urban (44%) and rural (56%) dwellers with about 7% of the rural folks living on farms. There are only two cities in the province: Charlottetown and Summerside. The majority of the people are of British ancestry, with the majority of those being of Scottish descent. About 11% of the population speaks French.
Monday, July 21 - Today was a travel day as we made our way to Prince Edward Island and Cabot Beach Provincial Park in Malpeque for the Family Motorcoach Association (FMCA) Northeastern Rally. The rally actually starts on Thursday, but we were able to go in a few days early for just $10 per day. It was a bright, sunny day and great for travel. The drive was about two hours and took us across the nine mile Confederation Bridge. The bridge is the longest bridge over ice-covered waters in the world. Construction began in October 1993 and opened to traffic on May 31, 1997. It is shaped like the letter "S" and averages approximately 120 feet above the water with the highest span rising approximately 180 feet above the water.
We stopped at the Gateway Village to get some information about the island and make reservations for the play "Anne of Green Gables - The Musical" that everyone tells us is a must while on PEI. We got tickets for the matinee on Wednesday. This is the story of a little red-haired orphan written by Lucy Maud (L.M.) Montgomery and set in the late 1800s. The musical has played at the Charlottetown Festival for 39 years.
We passed lots of farmland as we made our way to the park. The land was flat in some places and rolling hills in other places. We stopped just short of Kensington to fuel up both rigs and then finished the journey to the park. Diane and I have been to a couple of FMCA rallies and the parking was always great. Unfortunately, this time we are kind of packed in like a sardine with absolutely no view of Malpeque Bay off in the distance. We could tell that they would be parking motorhomes down near the water and asked why we couldn't park down there, especially since there were already two motorhomes parked there. The answer was that we came in early and we couldn't park there. Sigh. Not really a good answer and, more importantly, they didn't really seem to care. If they cared, someone would have asked if we would like to move when they started parking rigs in sites that had a great view. So I guess we're stuck where we're at for the week. We'll just have to take our chairs to the where we can sit and look down on the bay. Other than that, it looks like the rally will be a good one. The groups scheduled for the five nights of entertainment seem to be top notch groups. A couple of them play Celtic music, which will make Diane happy.
We are surrounded by four bus conversions. These are very old buses that are restored to running condition. We met two of the couples, Linda and Mark Willette and Bill and Sandy Orcutt who gave us a tour of the inside of their buses. The outside of the Willette's bus was not yet finished and still needed to be painted. One might think it's just a very old bus, but nothing could be further from the truth. The inside, all of which was done by Mark and Linda was great. Fine woodwork, corian countertops, a big shower, nice moulding and trim. We have seen shows on TV that highlight these bus conversions, but this is the first one we've seen in person. People that own these buses love their hobby. They gut the inside of the bus and start from scratch. We hope to see the other three buses while we're here this week.
Bill and Sandy's bus was a bit larger and also had some gorgeous woodwork inside, as well as corian for the sinks and shower. I loved that he had a meter to indicate the amps being drawn from the batteries. The pantry was all wood with large pullout drawers. The bus was formerly a Trailways bus. From the outside you get the impression that it is very high inside because the roof rises up just past the driver's compartment. However, there were steps going up to that level, so it wasn't as high as it appeared from the outside, but was still plenty of height for anyone other than very tall people. Diane and I were very impressed with the work done by these folks on their buses.
Tuesday, July 22 - Well, just as we were leaving the park for a day of touring, the parking crew brought in the first rig to park down near the bay. :-( I'm sure we'll end up having a great time this week, but it was unfortunate that it started out on a bad note. It was even a bit worse for Norm and Linda given the horrible experience at the Great North American Rally in Louisville last month. You can visit their website, "See Ya Down The Road" if you are interested in that story.
PEI is broken up into six areas to help tourists know what to expect in each area. They are:
Cabot Beach Provincial Park is in the very northwest tip of Anne's Land. We will probably tour a lot of Sunsets & Seascapes and Ship to Shore; a lot of Anne's Land; some of Charlotte's Shore, mostly Charlottetown; some of Hills & Harbors; and maybe some of Bays & Dunes. Today we wanted to tour Anne's Land, especially the drive to Cavendish and to seek out a couple of lobster supper places that were recommended to us. We also have some friends, Earline and Ray Greer, who are on a 47-day caravan in the Maritimes and were in Cavendish for four days. We had no idea which campground they were staying in or how to recognize their motorhome other than it was a new 2003 Dutch Star. But we figured we'd stop at the campgrounds along our route to see if we could find them. After fueling up the car in Kensington, we headed to Cavendish. We did find an Adventure Caravan tour in the KOA in Cavendish, but they were all out on a tour. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find the Greer's motorhome. It would have been nice to hook up for a visit. But all is not lost. They will be in Baddeck in Nova Scotia next week at the same time we'll be there.
The landscape as we rode along Hwy 6 to Cavendish was quite beautiful as it changed from farmland to pasture to flat land to rolling hills. We rode along the shore and then inland and back to the shore as we made our way to, and past, Cavendish. Our first stop was the Fisherman's Wharf in North Rustico. We thought we'd check out the deal for their lobster supper for dinner somewhere around 5 p.m. and then drive to New Glasgow to check out the other place, New Glasgow Lobster Supper. Well, we didn't make it to New Glasgow. Not only that, but we decided that maybe we should just go ahead and eat a big lunch. The place held 500 people and we knew later in the day it would be mobbed with tour buses. Our server confirmed that would be the case. "Regular" folks, like us, would have to wait for a table because the tours reserve the space they need for their customers. It turned out to be a great decision to do lunch. We spent two hours having a nice, quiet, leisurely lunch. Diane and I both opted for the 1 1/2 pounds lobsters. The cost was $34 Canadian. It included unlimited soft drinks, unlimited dessert, unlimited access to their 60 foot salad bar, which included unlimited access to the mussels. Now ask me if I died and went to heaven. :-) I love mussels. I'm sure I had more than my fair share, and then ate the 1 1/2 pound lobster. And for dessert? We all had the strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream.
Our little day trip then continued along Hwy 6 until it came into Hwy 2. We headed south and into Charlottetown to find the Charlottetown Mall and the Wal-Mart, which ended up being across the road from each other. One of the reasons to go to the mall was, of course, to check out the movie theater for this week's two new movies on our list: "Seabiscuit" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider". Along the way to the movie theater, Diane found a shop with a great sale on some shorts and bought a couple of items. Norm was able to find some stuff in a pharmacy that was over the counter in Canada and cheaper than the prescription price in the States. Then it was on to Wal-Mart to pick up a few other items.
We left this morning around 10:30 and got home around 6:30. A great day.
Wednesday, July 23 - Today was a rainy day almost all day. The motorhomes started rolling in early this morning lead by a caravan of about 40 motorhomes. We headed out around noon for Charlottetown to see the play "Anne of Green Gables - The Musical". First, the theater was marvelous. I love small to medium sized theaters (1,000 to 4,000 seats). They are more intimate than the larger theaters. This theater was about a thousand seats. The acoustics were great. The play was excellent and very entertaining. It was good enough to have us experience a range of emotions during the play. Everyone we have spoken to about what to do while visiting the Maritimes told us this play was a "must" when on PEI. They were absolutely correct. It would be a shame to visit PEI and not take in "Anne of Green Gables - The Musical".
After the play we went to Pat and Willy's for Mexican food. It was OK, but we all agreed it wasn't as good as we would have liked. The rain started again as we left Charlottetown, so Norm ended up having to drive back in heavy rain for most of the 35 miles to the park.
Thursday, July 24 - It rained most of the day, sometimes hard, but we decided to take a drive up to North Cape anyway. Norm and Linda were going to tour on their scooter, so Diane and I started by driving through Summerside to visit the College of Piping. It's the only school in North America to offer classes in the four main disciplines: Highland Piping; Highland Dancing; Drumming; Step Dancing. We arrived just in time to join a small tour of the campus. It was interesting to see how the pipers learn to play the instrument. They start out by just playing an instrument that looks like the part of the bagpipe that is blown into, except there is no bag attached. After they master that, then they start learning to play the bagpipe. After the tour, we stayed for the mini concert. It consisted of seven numbers performed by a student from each of the disciplines. It was very good and we enjoyed it.
We then drove along Hwy 2 until we hit Hwy 12 which went north along the coast to North Cape. Although it was raining, we enjoyed the scenery along the way. Hwy 12 ended at North Cape where there was a restaurant and an interpretive center. We went in and had a great lunch at a table near one of the windows. A couple of entrees on the menu caught our eye. Diane ordered the Shrimp Umberto and I ordered the Seafood Omelette, which we then split. Both were delicious. After lunch, we walked outside for a short time before the rain started again, and then we continued on our drive. As we were exiting the parking lot, we bumped into Norm and Linda arriving in their car. They got about 20 miles from the park and the rain was too much, so they turned back and got their car. We agreed to meet later for the concert and then we drove on.
Our plan was to return via Hwy 14 on the other side of the island. Again, the scenery was very nice, even though we weren't able to see much of the water. We passed through towns like Brooklyn and Kildare Capes with houses scattered along the countryside. It must be brutal cold in the winter months given the sometimes strong winds. On the way south, we decided we'd seen enough of rainy scenery and turned off Hwy 14 and headed to O'Leary to visit the Potato Museum. I was a bit skeptical about what I'd find interesting in a museum dedicated to the potato, but it was actually pretty interesting. Who knew that we owe the potato to South America. I always thought we owed it to the Irish. ;-)
Today was the official arrival day for the FMCA Rally. When we got back to Cabot Beach, several hundred motorhomes had arrived. The predicted number of motorhomes was somewhere around 800 rigs. Rally sites become like small towns with people arriving from all over. There were motorhomes at this rally from 43 states and 5 provinces. We were part of a town for about a week with about 1,600 people.
Five nights of entertainment were planned for the rally. Tonight was our first concert. In Shediac, the music was primarily French. We crossed the bridge onto PEI and the music is primarily Irish. The group that played was Boys in the Kitchen, who also play in Charlottetown at the Olde Dublin Pub. They were terrific. The lead singer was great and the harmony was also great. The keyboard player as magnificent. His name was John Ross. He played with Boys in the Kitchen, but he also played with The Ross Family. We were all in for a treat because the rest of the family were there to entertain for a set. John, who was 23, introduced his siblings: Danielle (18), Alex (15), Stephanie (11). Danielle played the fiddle, which was passed down to her from her grandfather, and the other two step danced. All were terrific. I love to watch a good fiddle player, and Danielle was a very talented fiddler. John introduced the numbers. For one of the numbers, he said that Alex and Stephanie would step dance while he and Danielle played. Then he told us to watch for a surprise from Danielle. Well, let me tell you, it was incredible. She was playing her fiddle and then joined in with her brother and sister and started step dancing. Think dancing a la Riverdance while also playing the fiddle. Adults, especially an audience full of grandparents, love to see talented kids. Needless to say, when the song ended, the audience erupted into a roaring, standing ovation for The Ross Family. Can the entertainment be as good, or get any better, on the next few evenings?
Friday, July 25 - We had all signed up for a boat ride, which actually turned out to be a fishing trip, so we were hoping the weather would clear. Luckily, we opted for the 1 p.m. boat ride rather than the 8 a.m. ride. Good idea. It was very windy overnight, although it was a warm wind. It did calm down a bit and the water wasn't as choppy as we thought it might be. No one got sick. We rode along the shore for a while and then out into the sea for a few miles. We did get to do some fishing and we caught lots of mackerel. I caught more than 30 of them. For some reason, they just weren't biting for Diane, which became a joke as the day wore on. I told her maybe it was the position, so we switched. No luck. Then I said maybe it was the rod, so we switched. So now she was in my previous position using my rod and still no luck. I was in her previous position with her rod and caught a fish immediately after dropping the line, and continued to catch fish after fish. It was funny. Diane did, however, catch a few fish, but definitely wouldn't handle them. They were kind of slimy and sometimes bloody depending on where they were hooked. It was a really fun afternoon. The boat owner, Ewen Clark, explained all of his GPS and sonar equipment to us. It was some very sophisticated equipment.
Tonight's entertainment was Fiddlers Sons. It consisted of three guys and a young 18-year old gal, Maria McDougall. The name of the group came from the fact that there were four guys who were all sons of fiddlers. Then one guy left and Maria joined the group. She was the only one that played the fiddle, and she was terrific. Again, the predominantly older audience loved seeing such young talent. She not only played the fiddle, but also the tin whistle and flute. And she sang, too. We found out that she was majoring in the flute at UPEI. On top of the marvelous talent, Maria also had a great stage presence and a beautiful, charismatic smile. A guy sitting in front of us that I was chatting with. At the end of the concert, I told him that Maria needed to get an agent to move her forward in the business. He told us that there was talent like that all over the island. It was quite an incredible two evenings of entertainment. Diane and I both love the sound of Irish music. It's very upbeat and almost impossible to not stomp your feet and clap your hands.
Saturday, July 26 - Our time at Cabot Beach was drawing to a close and there was still much more to see, and we knew we could spend lots more time here. Diane wanted to go back to Summerside to the walk through some of the shops, so we drove over there first. As we were leaving Summerside, we noticed Sharkey's Seafood Restaurant, and swung in there for lunch. It was a good choice as we split a lobster roll and a fish and chips lunch. After lunch we continued on our drive and headed to Alaska. Yup, we made it to Alaska. PEI, that is. Like most of the towns we've driven through on PEI, there wasn't much in them. As we've been touring the island, we see that we are driving through a town, but we rarely see anything that resembles a town. Sometimes there would be a few houses; occasionally there would be a small church along with the houses; rarely would there be a business in the town. As for Alaska, other than the sign off of Hwy 2 that pointed us towards the town, including a dirt road, we never saw another sign that told us we'd reached Alaska.
As we were continuing our drive, we saw a large church coming up in the distance. It dominated the landscape. As we got closer, we saw that we were in the town of Mont Carmel. The church was Our Lady of Mont-Carmel, built in 1898. It was on a piece of property right on the shore of Northumberland Straits, which was called "La mer Rouge" (the Red Sea) by early Acadians. This was the third church built on the site. The first one was built in 1820 and was only twenty square feet in size. A total of 450,000 bricks were needed to build the current church. It certainly was a site to see as we approached the town.
On the way home, we passed Ewen's Searun Fish Market and stopped to pick up a couple of salmon steaks for a future meal.
Sunday, July 27 - Today was pretty much a do nothing day. Diane and I attended mass at the Historic Saint Mary's Church. I asked one of the ushers where we could find a good breakfast place and he pointed us to the Bakin Donut in Kensington. He said we could probably get breakfast there for around five dollars. We both had a two-egg breakfast with sausage, home fries and beverage for ten dollars, so he was right on.
I spent some time in the building at the park with the phone jack trying to get the previoius travelog and photos uploaded to the website. There was only one line, so every time someone came in with a laptop, I stopped uploading so they could do their email. It ended up taking about three hours to get everything uploaded. Quite a difference from the several minutes it takes when we are at Jill's house in Atlanta and using her DSL line.
We had planned to buy some lobster for dinner. The fish market at the park was selling lobster tails already cooked and out of the shells for about $26 American per pound. That would yield about four to five tails. We told the guy to put four tails in each bag for us and the Paynes. He also had some good looking scallops, so we bought some of those to stick in the freezer for future great meals. We invited Norm and Linda to come over and have dinner at our place. We steamed the eight lobster tails, melted some butter, and we each brought some other stuff and had a delicious meal. Then we played Phase 10. I finally won a game.
Monday, July 28 - It had been very windy most of the time we were in Cabot Beach and today was no different. We were leaving the park and heading to the eastern part of the island, to Seal Cove Campground in Murray Harbor North. As we were getting ready, Norm said to me that he hoped the wind wouldn't affect the awnings as we traveled. That turned out to be prophetic. As we were leaving the park and heading towards Kensington we noticed what seemed to be movement in the awning on the Payne's motorhome in front of us. On the other side of Kensington, Norm pulled off the road to check it out. Everything seemed to be OK and tight. But it wasn't. Shortly after getting back on the road, the main 21-foot patio awning started to unfurl. I quickly got on the CB and told Norm what was happening. The awning unfurled twice, one time flipping up and on top of the roof before snapping back into place. Luckily, there was a small church with a parking lot big enough to pull the two rigs into. The wind wasn't as strong as some other winds we've encountered, but the gusts were pretty strong and coming across the road from the right, just the right angle to get up and under the awning tube. We carefully pulled the awning down and then let it retract to tighten the fabric on the tube, and then Norm tied both arms down, as well as the middle of the awning. While he was doing that, I got my ladder out and put a couple of bungie cords around the arms near the top of both ends of the tube. We haven't had a problem with our awning in the wind, but I'm sure our time will come. I plan to look into some of the after market items designed to secure the awning tube to prevent it from unfurling.
Once the awning problem was resolved, we were on our way on an otherwise very nice day to drive to Murray Harbor North. We arrived at Seal Cove and got settled into two side-by-side sites that were very level. Great price, too, at about $16 American for full hookup. We weren't able to get sites overlooking the cove, but we could see the water from where we were parked. The campground had a nine-hole executive golf course, so we all decided to play 18 holes. It was still quite windy, so it was a challenge to keep the ball in play. After golf, we grilled out at the Payne's site and had another great dinner.
Tuesday, July 29 - Norm and Linda were going off on their scooter, so it was a good day for Diane and I to drive into Charlottetown to see the two movies that came out this week that we were interested in, "Seabiscuit" and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider". Both were very good. The roads around the area were pretty good, albeit a little bumpy in spots where they were patched up. Hwy 24 and 324 were straight as an arrow. This area is known as "Hills and Harbors" and the roads were very hilly.
When we got back to the campground we took a walk around. We had seen a Dutch Star arrive this morning just as we were leaving. As we were talking to a couple with a very pretty little Sheltie, Diane saw the guy from the Dutch Star next door come outside. It was Barry Klein who we had met at the Newmar factory in May. He and Terry had just arrived for a few days before moving on to Baddeck in Nova Scotia. We exchanged hugs and chatted for a while until the mosquitoes won the battle. We headed home and said we'd see them again tomorrow. It truly is a small world out here on the road. We thought we'd bump into them when we got to Newfoundland given that our schedules would overlap there, but we didn't expect to see them prior to that time.
Wednesday, July 30 - We needed to catch up on our email, so we took a ride towards Murray River thinking we could find a library with some computer terminals. As we got into town, we stopped to ask someone about the library and she told us the library in town was only open in the evenings. However, the library in Murray Harbor would open at 1 p.m. and had computer terminals. It was only 12:30 so we drove to Cape Bear to see the lighthouse and Marconi Museum. The view was beautiful looking up the coast and out to the sea. The lighthouse was put into service in 1905. On the night of April 14, 1912, the radio operator at the lighthouse received the first S.O.S. distress call from the Titanic as she sank 400 miles off the southeast coast of Newfoundland.
The library in Murray Harbor was open when we got back there, so we went in to see about using a computer terminal. They had several of them and the very helpful librarian set us up on two terminals until 2 p.m. when we had to give one up to someone who had it reserved. We were able to get all of our email done, as well as check on credit cards and credit union accounts. Diane also got to view the 47 photos that Theresa sent to her of some of the grandkids.
Just as we got back home, Norm and Linda got back from their scooter ride. We chatted about our day and then decided that we'd grill out for dinner. I wanted to play another round of golf on the short course and asked Norm if he was interested. So we played nine holes in about an hour and then got stuff ready to grill out. We cooked the salmon steaks we bought at the fish market in Cabot Beach Provincial Park and the scallops that the Paynes bought there, and then split it all up for the meal along with some side dishes. Naturally, we prefaced the meal with an aperitif of kir.
Yesterday, Norm and Linda realized that they knew some folks, Bob and Nancy Colbert who arrived in their motorhome. They had met them two winters ago in Zolfo Springs, Florida. They had just arrived after spending a month in Newfoundland. After dinner, we went over to their site to get some tips about about things to do, and places to stay, during our upcoming three-week trip to Newfoundland. We had a nice visit and got some good tips.
Thursday, July 31 - We had a great time on PEI and would definitely plan to visit again to see more of the island. We had decided to take the 10 a.m. ferry from PEI to Nova Scotia, so we headed out around 8:30 in order to allow an hour before boarding. There weren't many vehicles there when we arrived and ended up being second and third in line to board. The ferry wasn't anything like what we expect we will be on for the trip to Newfoundland, but it was big enough. Boarding was a snap with cars on the upper loading deck and RVs and trucks on the lower level. After locking up the vehicles, we went upstairs and settled in for the short 75 minute ride across the Northumberland Strait.
It was about a two-hour ride to Silver Spruce Vacation Park, a Coast to Coast campground, in Baddeck. We checked in and then got set up before taking a ride to North Sydney to find the Newfoundland ferry location and to see if we could find a place to boondock the night before. We did find the ferry, but didn't find a place to boondock on Monday night. One thing we did notice was that the Seal Island bridge was under construction with only one VERY narrow lane open for traffic. It will be interesting taking the motorhome across with only about eight inches clearance on both sides.
It was getting late, so we all agreed to drive into Baddeck to find a place to eat. After driving through Baddeck to check out the restaurant options, we chose the Bell Buoy Restaurant. Well, I guess if you eat out a lot you are bound to eventually have a disappointing dining experience, and this was our time for such an experience. Our evening started out fine with the very nice hostess allowing us to wait a few minutes for a table near the window to clear. Our waitress was pleasant and took drink orders, brought a basket of bread, and took our dinner orders. Then things started to head south. We didn't have any contact with the waitress for more than a half hour. It wasn't like there wasn't enough help, as the place wasn't full and there seemed to be enough people working the floor. We joked about hoping our food wasn't sitting in the kitchen getting cold. Well, that's pretty much what happened. The food was warm, at best (e.g., a baked potato should be hot enough to melt the butter). The waitress came by to ask how things were going and we mentioned the food wasn't hot. She did offer to take it back, but we had waited almost an hour by then and decided the food was edible. She did also did offer "dessert on the house", which we all agreed was a rather cool way to handle it rather than an "I'm sorry for the delay and would you like some dessert compliments of the restaurant". But what really soured us on the restaurant was the attitude of the owner when I mentioned what had happened. He said he had more than 400 people that week and didn't get one complaint. Then he said, "well, there's nothing I can do about it now". Actually, given that we didn't want dessert, he could have discounted the bill a bit as a goodwill gesture. So as much as I would lavish high praises and write about a great dining experience, I have to do likewise for a disappointing experience and the reader can decide whether to visit this restaurant if visiting Baddeck.
Friday, August 1 - There wasn't a person we had spoken to about our plans to tour the Maritimes who didn't say that the Cabot Trail was something we definitely had to see. It encircles the northern region of Cape Breton Island and was listed as covering 186 miles. We ended up driving 195 miles today.
We decided to travel the trail counterclockwise by picking up the trail several miles north of where we were parked in Baddeck. As we started along the Cabot Trail, I was starting to think that maybe I have become very jaded because it was sort of like a ho-hum experience for about the first hour. Early on, we saw a sign for the Celtic Tea House, so we stopped for a pot of tea and a snack. We decided to try some new snacks and had an oat cake and a slice of bannock, a sort of bread. Both were delicious. Then we started along the trail again. At about the 53 mile mark, the road started to climb and the views started to get better. The ho-hum was now behind us as the rest of the drive around the trail was nothing short of magnificent.
Cape Breton is separated from mainland Nova Scotia and many of the people are of Scottish ancestry. Thousands of people from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland were cleared from their farms and homes by Scottish chieftains and absentee landlords who were pursuing their profits. The farms were needed for sheep whose valuable fleece was needed for the woolen mills of the Industrial Revolution. While many of the dispossessed farmers went to the slums of Liverpool and Glasgow, a few hardy and adventurous people left Scotland and went to Nova Scotia, which stands for New Scotland, and Cape Breton Island.
WARNING: The drive around the Cabot Trail is NOT free. We had even asked that question of some folks as we were doing some research for our journey and asked if we had to pay to drive through Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The answer was that we didn't have to pay to drive through the park. However, as we approached the park, we saw a sign that said that all visitors to the park must obtain a permit. When we got close to the park entrance and the booth, we saw the same sign once again. So we pulled in and asked if we really had to pay to drive through the park which, by the way, splits free and fee parts of the Cabot Trail, the young gal in the booth said that we did. I mentioned that we weren't going to hike or use any of the beaches, but that didn't matter. We had to pony up our $5 a person for the permit. The fee didn't break the bank, but it was unexpected. Of course, I should mention that we figured out that it was possible to just bypass the booth and drive into the park without paying, but I guess you take a chance that you won't get caught by a park ranger. We didn't see one ranger on our drive through the park.
The area was designated a national park in 1936 and covers approximately 640 square miles. It is the largest protected wilderness in Nova Scotia. The scenery changes from highlands to ocean as you drive around the trail. There were many hamlets and villages along the way, and there were lots of side roads going off the trail. We took one of those roads and went through Neil's Harbor and White Point, a small fishing village. We drove down into the village and saw some boats that were unloading their morning catch. We continued on our way as the views became more and more spectacular. Whereas we didn't see one lookout for much of the ride up to this point, there were plenty of them the rest of the way as we drove north up along the east side of the island. There were several bays along the way, such as South Bay Ingonish, North Bay Ingonish, and Pleasant Bay, as well as lots of coves, such as MacKinnons Cove, Scotch Cove, and Wreck Cove. The main bodies of water visible from the trail were the Atlantic Ocean on the east side and the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the west side. The road then moved inland as it cut across the top of the island to the west side. The views were still great, but not nearly as magnificent as the views of the water, especially from the top of the mountains we went over with names such as Smokey Mountain, Broad Cove Mountain, South Mountain, and French Mountain.
After a stop at one of the lookouts as we continued south on the west side of the island, I spotted something moving on the left side of the road. After a second, Diane realized it was a young bear, probably about two years old. We were about 100 yards away as he started across the road. Unfortunately, by the time we got close and got the camera ready, he was across the road and into the trees to our right. We stopped alongside the road to watch him meander into the trees. He stopped long enough to have a look at us, but he wasn't visible enough to get a good photo. When we stopped at an information center later on during our ride, I asked a ranger about the bear and he said there were lots of them being sited, and he agreed it was probably about a two year old.
By the time we got to Cheticamp, it was about time for dinner, so we stopped at Wabo's Pizza for some Italian food. It was along the waterfront and provided a nice view. We saw St. Peter's but decided to head home and visit the church another day.
Saturday, August 2 - Today was a most interesting day. Diane and I drove into Baddeck this morning to mail some postcards and check our email at the library, and then get a tea and cappuccino at Abracajava. It was a quite pleasant morning, so we sat outside to have our beverage and egg sandwich. As we were driving home, I told Diane that Ray and Earline were due in Baddeck today and it would be about the time I would expect they might arrive. We figured they would be at one of the other two campgrounds in the area. Well, as we passed the Bras D'Or Campgrounds, I saw a Dutch Star getting into a site and a yellow sticker for Adventure Caravans. It was the same Dutch Star we saw in Cavendish. This time the owners were there and it was Ray and Earline Greer. After hugs all around, we chatted for a little while and made plans for us to go back around 7 p.m. for a tour of their new motorhome and then out to dinner.
Diane and I had made a reservation for a noon whale watching cruise out of Cheticamp, but we found out when we got there that it was canceled as we were the only two people signed up and it was too windy to go out in the Zodiac with just three people on board. The lady at the place called their sister business in Pleasant Bay and scheduled us on the 4 p.m. cruise. However, as we got a little ways up the road, we decided that there was no way we could get back by 7 p.m., so we went back and rescheduled for noon on Sunday. We had lunch at the All Aboard Restaurant where they also book the whale cruises and then went to visit L'Eglise St. Pierre (the Church of St. Peter) in Cheticamp.
On Friday, as we were driving the Cabot Trail, we saw a large structure dominating the skyline off in the distance. As we got closer, we could see it was a church and decided we would come back to visit another day. It's one of the most beautiful churches we've seen in a long time. Cheticamp is an Acadian parish founded in 1785. Three churches have been built in Cheticamp, in 1790, 1810, and 1861. The present church was built in 1893. Stones for the church were hauled on the ice by groups of parishioners. The church was repainted and decorated in 1957, at which time frescoes and stained glass windows were added. The organ dates back to 1904 and was one of the first Casavant organs (for anyone reading this who is an organ afficiando).
The inside was mostly white and the sacristy area was up high and beautifully appointed. There was a mass going on that was just ending for a couple who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Cheticamp is a French speaking Acadian community and the mass was in French. We used the rest of the day to catch up on some stuff around the motorhome, like battery maintenance and some cleaning.
Thinking that we would be out all day on the cruise, we left a note for Norm and Linda, who weren't with us on Friday and were out touring the Cabot Trail, to tell them we had found the Greers and our dinner plans. They weren't yet home when Diane and I left to go visit the Greers, so we went over to see them and wait until 7:30 to see if Norm and Linda would show up. Just was we were leaving to go to dinner, they arrived. It was perfect timing. We all got the tour of the Greer's new rig and then drove to the Red Barn down the road for dinner. The food was very good, and the prices were good. It ended up being a long evening of food and camaraderie.
We found out that Ray and Earline were "trainees" with the caravan, which is why we were faked out by the "staff" sign when we found them at the campground in Cavendish on PEI almost two weeks ago. They indicated that it was quite fast paced when traveling with a caravan. They move mostly every two to three days, with only a few four-day stops. That wouldn't work for us or the Paynes. We like our much more leisurely pace of travel with the option to change a plan at a moment's notice. It was interesting to hear more about what caravaning is all about. I doubt we would do a caravan except to Mexico.
As I said, it was a very interesting, and enjoyable day.
Sunday, August 3 - Today was a great day. Norm and Linda also wanted to go on the whale cruise, so I called and changed our reservation from noon to 2 p.m. for the four of us. It was a long ride to Pleasant Bay, almost two hours, but we liked Wesley's Whale Watch better than the one in Cheticamp. We arrived with plenty of time to spare and just hung around the Whale Interpretive Center for a while as we waited for the Zodiac to return from the noon cruise. In case you don't know what a Zodiac is, think Jacque Cousteau and the raft that they would take off his ship, the Calypso, to ride out to research locations. Ours held 12 passengers and the pilot. They offered two types of cruises. One was a on a slow moving boat that didn't go very far out and allowed people to view pilot whales, which aren't very big, maybe 17 feet, or so. The Zodiac was a 24 foot long, rigid, inflatable boat that could travel up to 43 mph unloaded and about 25 mph with a full load. We all put on full length "survival suits" that would act as a flotation device in the event of an accident, plus they were very warm.
We got about six miles out pretty quickly and there they were, HUGE finback whales. Our pilot told us they were the second largest animal in the world, with the blue whale being the largest. The fin whales can weigh up to 60 tons and measure up to 75 feet long. There were several of them feeding and we watched them arch their backs to get ready to dive and then they would be gone for several minutes. The higher the arch of the back, the deeper they dove. Then they would come up to the surface and blow out their air. The water was clear enough to see their huge white mouths when they were near the surface. Along with the whales, there were dozens of common dolphins swimming and playing in the area. There were two young Dutch gals from the Netherlands on our cruise who were totally enjoying the dolphins and the whales with a youngster's exuberance. On the way back to shore, we stopped long enough to see some pilot whales. As we approached the entrance to the harbor, our Zodiac pilot started doing large donuts, and then figure eights. He kept cutting the donuts tighter and tighter and finished with a couple of 360s in a tight circle. Pretty cool. We all agreed that the only way to view the whales was via the cruise on the Zodiac. The boat cruise was $24, the Zodiac was $36, which we thought was a good price for a two-hour cruise in the Zodiac.
On the way back home, we made a quick stop at L'Eglise St. Pierre so Norm and Linda could see the inside of the church. I should mention that we did see a ranger checking park permits when we drove to Pleasant Bay for the whale cruise. There was a festival going on outside with lots of people milling around. Inside the church, someone was playing the organ as we ascended the stairs to the balcony area. He was very good. I don't know how people can play an organ with both hands and both feet. He was a young fella and we chatted with him when he took a break. Turned out that he was raised in Cheticamp, but moved to Dallas. He was back for a visit and told us he used to play the organ every week when he lived there.
Dinner was up for grabs tonight, as it is most nights, and we decided to try the Baddeck Lobster Suppers restaurant. It was a one-pound lobster, plus all you can eat mussels and salad, beverage, dessert. There was no salad bar as at the Fisherman's Wharf Restaurant on PEI, but they would bring the food to you. That's OK, but not as good as a self-serve salad bar. The lobster was delicious, although none of us could yet bring ourselves to eat the tamally, that awful looking green stuff that the place mat said some people think is the best eating. Maybe if the color was something other than green.
Monday, August 4 - The time was getting close for our journey to Newfoundland. We had one more thing to do while in the Baddeck area and that was to visit the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. The Bells had many homes during his lifetime, from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Brantford, Ontario, and Washington, D.C., but the one they most loved was the castle they built on a peninsula overlooking Baddeck Bay where he spent much of the last 37 years of his life. He and his wife, Mabel, who was once a student of his who had a hearing impairment, named their beloved home "Beinn Bhreagh" (Beautiful Mountain).
There were several things I didn't know about Mr. Bell. Of course, everyone knows about the telephone, but I didn't know how much he was involved in airplane flight in Canada. After he got that figured out, he got involved in hydrofoils and actually invented a hydrofoil that went over 100 mph on Baddeck Bay, and that was back in the early 1900s. However, WW I was over and the military became disinterested in the hydrofoil, so the project was abandoned. I also didn't know how involved he was with research to aid the deaf. He was very instrumental in helping Helen Keller learn to speak. Bell didn't think of the invention of the telephone as his greatest accomplishment. He wanted to be remembered for his work with the deaf.
Tomorrow we leave very early in the morning for North Sydney to board the ferry to Port-Aux-Basque, Newfoundland. Given that we don't normally leave on a travel day before the crack of 10, it will be an unnatural act to get up at 6 a.m. to drive to North Sydney. But we are all excited about the next leg of our journey, so I'm sure the adrenalin will be flowing and we'll be wide awake.
Until next time, safe travels.....
Copyright © 2003, Roaming America with Rich & Diane Emond - All Rights Reserved
Return to Travelogues Menu