Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cape Breton Highlands

We spent Monday mostly in and around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. We left North Sydney, where we stayed the night Sunday at a lovely B&B, at about 9:00 AM. The weather was glorious, by the end of the day it was in the 70s. From North Sydney we took 312 and the Englishtown Ferry across St. Anns Bay and picked up the famous Cabot Trail just north of there. Shortly thereafter we entered the park.

There is not a lot to say about it. We began at the visitors centre and came away with a helpful lists of must see's and short walks. And then we set out. Early in the trip while looking out from Green Cove I remarked to a fellow Californian who noticed our license plates that I thought this among the most beautiful places on Earth. He agreed.

We spent a long day in the park, did some driving and a little bit of walking. Sharon, it turned out, was coming down with a cold so we did less walking than we might have liked. At day’s end we stopped for dinner at Le Gabriel in Cheticamp. I had not yet had my lobster supper for this part of the trip, so I did. I knew the lobster was big, but my lord! When I asked, after barely finishing it, the server grinned at me and said, “about 2 ½ pounds." Yum!!

From there we undertook the rest of the drive back to Halifax, arriving at the Macdonald Bridge about 10:00 PM only to find it closed. Beginning March it is to be closed Sunday through Thursday nights for a couple of years. GPS was singularly unhelpful, so we picked our way around the bay and fell into our room around 11:00. Not a great way to end a lovely excursion.

Interestingly, I did not find it easy to photograph the spectacular terrain of the highlands, despite favorable weather and light. I’m not sure if it is the terrain, the softness of northern light and mist or me or what. But here’s what I got.

This image of The Bog, from later in the day, may have been my nicest shot
It's hard to remember all the stops and what was shot where (I don't keep a notebook nor mark metadata, which I should). This is from Green Cove, I think.

The shores crawl with lobster boats

One of the most striking things is that the park gives ocean access and great mountaintop vistas, often within only a few miles

The Buelach Ban waterfall is much more massive than it appears to be from across the valley

A stream and sugar maple forest near Lone Shieling

Note the Cabot Trail

At The Bog we found ourselves ankle deep in snow to complete the walk around the bog itself

This shot gives you a great sense of how the road snakes through the shoreline

Tuesday will be a rest day in Halifax before we head out toward Quebec and the last stage of the trip.

Monday, May 25, 2015

To Cape Breton

Strange things happen when you travel, especially with minimal planning. Sometimes things work out better than they should and sometimes less so.

I did not do my homework properly on Nova Scotia, not in terms of what to see, in what order or how much time to take. The result is that we are not doing full justice to Halifax and we are barely getting to see the rest of the province. We are seeing Cape Breton, but only for two days and a night which just ain’t enough time. Were it earlier in the trip, it would not have been a problem, we would have simply extended our time here, but this close to the end and having already done that several times before, spending more time here is not an option. But I think we are pretty well agreed that we will be returning to the Maritimes soon.

So much for that. So, on Sunday we departed Halifax (we will return on Tuesday, probably) and set out along Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore Marine Drive toward Cape Breton. We made it a daylong drive and stopped several times to take pictures along this spectacular coastline.

This is a harsh land and folksw live by the best means they can and that means extractive industry. This was actually our first glimpse of Cape Breton from the shore in Nova Scotia

But, obviously not all of it is like that

Can't do a travel day without a few examples of windshield iPhonography

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Halifax: On the Waterfront Edition

The guidebooks all say that the waterfront is the place to start in Halifax, so we did.

A vital downtown, not the best for preservation, but active

Renovations as we watched

Some tall ships remain from 2000

Dartmouth across the bay

And lighthouses on George Island

Farmers Market with foods and all sorts of goods

Sunday, off for a two day jaunt to Cape Breton before returning to Halifax and from there Quebec City and Montreal to finish up.

Farewell to PEI and on to Halifax

On Friday we bade farewel to Prince Edward Island, though perhaps au revoir since we were both so greatly taken with the place. The blow was softened by the fact that we were bound for Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

So what we have here is a brief entry with a few in-transition images:

Lighthouses? Yes, PEI has lighthouses

And ferries

First look at Nova Scotia

Yes, they has lighthouses, too

And rain

First look at Halifax, about to cross the MacDonald Bridge

Friday, May 22, 2015

More Island Touring: West PEI, Lobster Suppers, Sweaters and Music

Thursday, our last full day on Prince Edward Island, was spent touring the northwest portion of the island, more heavily populated and toured than the southeast where we were the day previous. Part of this is Anne of Green Gables country, though we simply drove past Cavendish, where the story centers and where the island gets most touristy. We began our day with a drive out to Dalvey-by-the-Sea where we walked along the beach, gathered a bit of driftwood and I took countless photographs. From there we wandered backroads, some of them paved and some of them downright scary. Rocinante was in mud up to the front air dam and 19 inch wheels. Traction control saved the day.

Dalvey Beach

Someone made this, I assume

Made? Found?


Lunch was at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers in Rustico where I also added a hand knit sweater to my collection of Gaelic clothing. 

Sharon preparing to tuck into the traditional lobster supper. I had mussels, which were fantastic but I regretted passing up the lobster.
I just love what the Celts do with wool, sweaters, jackets, you name it.

In the afternoon we had planned to go out to Tignish and Sea Cow Pond at the northwestern most corner of PEI, but a road was out and it was getting late and we had some plans for the evening.

We finished the day in The Old Triangle Pub in Charlottetown, just three blocks from our hotel. What drew us there? Since neither of us drinks beer or is generally known for our clubbing?

Music. Twice before we have heard Celtic music the way it is meant to be heard, not from a recording or even a stage, but in a setting like a pub. Once in Dublin we were directed to an “Irish House Party.” While it was aimed at tourists the music was real and everyone (even we) participated in some form. It was fun and I am still in occasional facebook and e-mail contact with one of the couples there.

But before tonight our most authentic experience came in York, England when the Black Swan pub hosted a Gaelic music festival over a weekend when we were there. Musicians came from all over the North and Scotland and just played together in constantly shifting groups throughout the various rooms in that large, sprawling pub. There were no playlists or set performers, people drifted in and out and anyone could start up a tune and people would come in on it or not as they chose. We spent the better part of the afternoon there.

Tonight was far more informal. On Thursday nights the Triangle hosts musicians, buys them beer and in return they play. The format was much the same as before though people came in and out, folks swapped instruments back and forth and it seemed like everyone played at least two instruments.  There was a semi-formal “leader.” Cynthia MacLeod led, mostly through sheer musicianship and force of personality. When she played the whole group seemed tighter, but there were probably at least three bands at the big table, guitars, mandolin and fiddles; flutes, pipes and fiddles; and everyone. From the audience came three groups of dancers, and a song. And “band”members both sang and danced as the spirit moved them. My images came from my phone (everyone, including the band, were taking snaps) but hopefully they help to convey just a bit of the experience.
The "band" early in the evening
Musicians kept wandering in over the course of three hours or more