Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Cape Breton

We're getting “Hitch Itch” again, time to move on the Nova Scotia I think.

The other attraction here in the “Maritime Provinces” is the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Naturally we've never been before and so have no idea what to expect. It's been fun exploring.

Cape Breton Island is joined to the mainland by the Canso Causeway. Airplane nuts (like me) probably know that the Canadian Built version of the PBY “Catalina” flying boat in WW2 was called the “Canso”. Now I know where the name came from!

The island isn't huge, you could drive around it in a day. The center of it is the Cape Breton Highland National Park and there are no roads thru it. So it's coast road or stay home. But the coast road is where you'd want to be anyway. More rugged than PEI and so much more scenic in my opinion, most of the island is unspoiled by commercialism. The main industries appear to be fishing and tourism.

Baddeck Harbor 
We decided to split our visit into two pieces. For the first part we'd stay in the south east of the island and drive north on the trail to the National Park at the top, then return the same way. That way we could take our time and get to know the little towns along the way. We stayed in Baddeck at the Cabot Trail Campground which is a Good Sam club park with excellent facilities and free WiFi.

One thing that grabs your attention straight away are the road signs. Instead of English and French like many areas of Canada, they are English and Gaelic here. There is even a Gaelic University. Celtic stores and restaurants abound.

Why? Well the area was settled by Scottish and Irish people who spoke Gaelic and their descendants still do. Listen to the locals talk in their natural accents and you'd swear you were in Ireland. I find it completely fascinating.
Ingonish Beach

Life is slower in Cape Breton. People drive UNDER the speed limit. They stop and let people walk across the road. There's no rush to get you out the door when you've finished your meal. The park guides want to tell you everything about the place IN DETAIL!

For a big city boy like me it's taken a little getting used to. One day I rebelled and drove the Fiesta down the 60 miles of the twisty road well over the speed limit (which is 50 mph). I even overtook several people! I know, I'm bad. Still sometimes I miss the motorcycle, and I just know how much fun that road would have been on a bike.

Twisty Roads and nice scenery
For as much as I'm beginning to hate the Fiesta for it's lousy transmission, I have to say that it does go around corners surprisingly well.

The second part of the visit we had decided to move the rig to another Good Sam park on the north west side of the island in Cheticamp. The Plage St Pierre Campground. Not quite as big or well equipped as the one in Baddeck but still nice and much less expensive. No WiFi though and very full for the Labor Day weekend. "Plage" means beach in French and this park has it's own private beach. There was nobody on it even on this busy weekend.

The boardwalk to the beach
Plage St Pierre on the Labor Day weekend
We went into the town of Cheticamp to shop and get a feel for the place. To our delight this side of the island is Acadian. The Acadians are descended from the French and everywhere we went we had that musical language surrounding us. We tried a local bar the “Doryman Pub” and got talking to Real the bartender. He told us about the area and the music and language associated with it.

Of course the Acadians explored the whole of North America some of them settled in Louisiana. “Acadian” became corrupted and the descendants now answer to the description “Cajun”. They speak the same quaint form of French.

Our daughter Sally when at college was studying French. She spent a semester in Strasbourg France as part of her major. She was intending to teach French in High School when she graduated and as part of that she had to spend time in a High School French class. Unfortunately she and the current teacher had a dispute. She pointed out that he was teaching Canadian French which is quite different from modern French. Real thought that was very amusing! He called modern French “Parisian French”

The Red Shoe Pub
So, apart from breaking speed limits what else have we done? Pretty much the same as we've been doing for several weeks! Eating seafood, visiting fishing villages and lighthouses. If you don't like any of those things you might want to stay away from here.

Sunset on our last evening in Cheticamp
There are whale watching and Puffin watching trips if you'd like to try them, or rent a kayak if that appeals?

Us? We're slowing down to match the locals, taking our time and settling in. Visiting the local watering holes, a distillery, eating out, stopping at all the overlooks.

Except on that twisty turning super little stretch of coast road!

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