Cape Breton and Beyond

August 23, 2010    Port Hood, a community campground, was our first stop in Nova Scotia and mother nature provided a fabulous welcome sunset.  As we headed onto Cape Breton Island, it became apparent that there are two different cultures.  The Gaelic community has signs in Gaelic and English, with restaurants serving Scottish /Irish delicacies. Within the French Acadian community, signs are in French and English, and many homes fly the Acadian flag.  English may be the legal language but French is the language heard on the street or in the shops.  Despite the exile of most Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755 and the separate communities which are still maintained, the towns all coexist as Canadians.

In Cheticamp, we landed a spot in overflow camping.  Heading into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park for the afternoon, there were numerous fabulous overviews of the coastline along the curvy road.  On our return, we spotted a female moose with her  calf and moments later another female.  The views were spectacular but the highlight of the trip was the moose.  The following morning we returned to hike on French Mountain.  Skyline Trail was primarily on the ridge of the mountain---the 400 foot incline over the 5-mile loop made for an easy walk and provided a dramatic overlook of the rugged Gulf coast and our first sighting of the elusive bull moose.  In fact, we spotted two.  One a younger male with small antlers and the other a healthy fellow with a full rack.  Unfortunately, both were camera shy so picture attempts were not successful but then we didn't want to get too close to these huge animals and upset them.

Doryman Tavern provided our evening's entertainment.  Accomplished fiddler, Colin Grant, accompanied by Maybelle Chisholm McQueen on the keyboard, had the crowd stamping their feet and clapping along to the fast-paced Celtic tunes.  An elderly gentleman from the audience joined them playing spoons, for a jig that went on for about 10 minutes---his hands were flying.  Colin and Maybelle are both on You Tube--you can get an appreciation for the energy involved in the performances.

Next, we moved on to Margaree Forks specifically to go to The Barn.  Another Celtic concert but this one was to be followed by Celtic square dancing .  Another incredible program---there are so many talented musicians in this area---must have something to do with the long cold winters.  Brenda Stubbert, Howie MacDonald and Douglas Cameron (only 16) were the fiddlers. (All available on You Tube.)  After the concert, the chairs were cleared from the floor and the dancing began.  Square dancing Celtic style is similar to square dancing in the State but we were told that in Nova Scotia, the calls vary from village to village.  There was a pervasive family atmosphere at this event.  Young teenagers to grandparents tapping their feet on the sidelines or getting out on the floor and swinging their partners.

We bypassed Halifax on our way to Peggy's Cove.  This cove and lighthouse, named after the lone survivor of a schooner wreck in 1811, is covered with unusual rock formations created by glaciers of the past.  The lighthouse is reputed to be one of the most photographed in North America.  We enjoyed breakfast at the nearby, Sou'Wester, where I ate a traditional morning meal of beans with molasses, fish hash, and tomato chow,  right up my alley.

Finding some kayaks for rent in Tantallon, we took out two singles for a 3-hour paddle around St. Margaret's Bay.  Typically, the wind which had been against us on the way out turned against us on the way in, but with temperatures in the 70's, the cool water and clear skies made for a perfect day out.  The longer, skinnier kayaks made them a bit more tipsy but we made it back to shore without having to complete the Eskimo roll.

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