Big Beach (Cape Breton)
It was another beautiful day but this one was spent mostly in the car, driving to Cape Breton Island. I don’t think I will ever get used to the distances between places here!
We left Halifax at about 10.15am after another very hearty breakfast, stopped once for a short break and arrived in Sydney at 3.45pm. It was extremely windy, everything was closed but there were 3 cruises ships in with their passengers either still on the boats or milling about the cruise ship terminal. We had a wander around the craft market that seemed to have been especially provided for them and then set off once again for our accommodation.
This was another Airbnb situated on a farm about 30 minutes out of Sydney and overlooking Bras d’Or Lake. What a welcome! There was one other lady staying, the house was small but beautifully decorated and we were immediately offered a glass of wine. My kind of house! Ann, our host, had to deal with her delivery of hay for the horses, so we chatted amongst ourselves in the meantime. She then cooked for us as, of course, nothing was open and none of us had eaten. Definitely, above and beyond the call of duty and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all.
After an excellent breakfast and yet more chatting to Beverly, who has been housesitting for 4 years, is an astrologer and has lived in all sorts of places and therefore very interesting to chat to, we hit the road once again. As luck would have it, today was grey and overcast. We had spent the last two beautiful days mostly in the car and today planned to do a walk on the Cabot Trail. It was back to the winter clothes, once again, having spent the last two days in t shirts and 3/4 pants.
We drove slowly up to Ingonish, stopping at Baddeck briefly and then at a Quilt Shop, where we had a long discussion about quilts and quilting with the owner. There were yet more road works along the way and the road was quite windy, so the drive was very leisurely. By the time we arrived at Ingonish, though, the weather had brightened.
We stopped at the Visitor Centre to hand over a chunk of money (i.e. park entry fee for several days) and got some information about the walking tracks. After lunch at a cafe, we checked into a waterfront motel, which would have had a beautiful view of the sunset over the water had there been a sunset!
It was a lovely afternoon for a walk along a headland, from where we could see a view of the harbour and Ingonish. The wind was freezing, however, so we didn’t stay long on the exposed point but headed back along the track through woodland. There were a number of birds and, of course, many squirrels, who all called warning sounds to each other as we approached. Alas, no moose or whales, which is what Robyn and I would really like to see.
After stopping at a shop for supplies, we spent the rest of the evening relaxing in the room. Staying at Airbnb is wonderful for meeting other people, but socialising can be exhausting and it was nice to have a quite evening on our own!
Pleasant Bay (Cape Breton)
Today was a sad day and a disappointing one. We were greeted this morning with the news that Milo, our family dog, had died, which upset both of us. Then, we had planned a day of hiking but, on opening the curtains, we couldn’t see any mountains. They totally obliterated by cloud and it was raining, so we had to have a change of plan.
We packed up and drove up the coast towards Pleasant Bay, which is a little further round the coast, hoping that the weather might brighten. We stopped briefly at Green Cove and then did detours to Dingle and to Margarets Village at the northern most tip of the peninsula. However, we couldn’t see any of the views so it was almost a waste of time.
We also stopped at a craft shop and then, on arrival in Pleasant Bay, we had lunch in a cafe that had wifi so we could check the accommodation possibilities, as we hadn’t booked anything. The area is well known for mussels, lobsters, crab and scallops, so it was inevitable that it was fish for lunch!
I decided to try one of the motels, which looked large and very pink with a seaview. Here, we met our first totally obnoxious Canadian. The reception desk was in the restaurant and this older lady was attired in a bow tie (skew), white shirt and black jacket (i.e typical waiter/matre d’ type uniform). She was totally unfriendly and got quite aggressive when I objected to her writing all my credit card details on a large sheet of paper that was visible to anyone at the desk (even though she asserted that she was the only one who used it!). I decided she didn’t deserve my money and left.
We then went down the road to, what we thought, was a guest house even though there were no signs. It was, but they were full. However, the owner worked at another motel in town, gave us cheap rates and couldn’t have been nicer. (He also later wanted to give Robyn a job, which is the second job offer she has had from places we have stayed!)
Having got the accommodation sorted and the weather now looking a lot brighter, we drove up to the start of the Skyline walk, which was about 20 minutes away. Robyn was desperate to meet some wildlife, although I was not so keen to meet the coyotes or the bears that are apparently in the area. Within about 5 minutes of starting off, we met a moose walking towards us with a park ranger’s vehicle driving slowly at a distance behind it. And who was it that immediately retreated, looking for a tree to hide behind? Not me, that’s for sure. I was left to take the photos. Luckily for us, the moose decided to veer off into the bush or I’m not quite sure what we were meant to do. The park rangers told us that the males are rutting and are therefore dangerous at this time of year, which was a little unnerving. They seemed a bit blase about it though!
We continued on and did a big loop walk, scaring ourselves with each little sound of breaking twigs and descending down a long boardwalk at the furthermost point to admire the view. On our return, we came across a whole family of moose in the trees, which we were able to observe for quite some time before they ambled off.
On the way back, we stopped a couple of times to admire the sunset and arrived back in the room about 6.30pm.
As the motel man had been so helpful, I felt obliged to eat in the restaurant. (We also didn’t have any fridge or microwave in the room so it was almost a necessity.) We had a very light meal and a couple of glasses of wine and then it was back to the room and bed.
Today was still overcast and it had been raining overnight. However, we decided we had to go for a hike and, in fact, the day brightened considerably as it progressed and there were blue skies once again by the afternoon.
We backtracked a little way on our drive of yesterday and located the start of the Aspy Walk. This was a couple of hours of walking up through forestry to a viewpoint at the top. It was quite a disappointing and boring walk though, as we had anticipated it being a bit more open and scenic. Nevertheless, it was good to get outside rather than spend so much time in the car.
Once we had completed the hike, we retraced our steps even further and could actually see the mountains and views today, both of which were quite spectacular.
We did a detour around to White Point, which is a small fishing village, of which there seem to be quite a number along this coast, and then on to Neils Harbour, another little fishing village with an unprepossessing but excellent fish cafe. Even Robyn (she, who does not eat fish), ate their mussels!
We had a little wander around and then drove back towards Pleasant Bay and on to Cheticamp, which is just outside the National Park. It was absolutely beautiful all along the coast, particularly at this time of day, and I stopped on several occasions at viewpoints to take photographs. We also did the short Bog Walk, which was a boardwalk over the fragile wetland.
On arrival in Cheticamp, I was quite relieved to find that there were a number of motels (not having booked again) and the first one we tried had the best room we had seen so far. It was also the cheapest (not that that is saying much, given the Canadian prices!) We went off to buy essential wine, cereal and milk, which had to be from a small corner shop, the main supermarket having shut at 5pm. Interestingly, the town seems to have reverted to French, which we thought was quite strange in the middle of all this Celtic-ness. We then retired to the room to savour the comfort!
This morning was spent on the Acadian track, which was a loop trail with a number of lookouts on the seaward side of the loop. We decided to do the uphill woodland part first and save the views until later. Naturally, the weather had changed by this time!!
The whole walk was about 3 1/2 hours and we had lunch, which we had bought from the local bakery, at the top. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t let Robyn had lunch on the red chair in the sun with the magnificent view of the coast, but made her wait until the next lookout, which happened to be in the most exposed spot at a time when the sky had clouded over and the sun and blue sky had disappeared! Needless to say, we didn’t stay long. We did, however, stop at one lookout for quite some time, chatting to a very interesting couple, comprising an English/Australian lady and her Swiss husband, who worked for a humanitarian agency in the Sudan and who had lived all over the world. I certainly didn’t envy him his job.
Once we had completed the trail, we headed out of the park and south towards Mabou. On the way, Robyn dosed off and I decided we would be better off getting a bit closer to Pictou, from where the Prince Edward Island ferry departed, so that we had a shorter drive tomorrow. Consequently, we didn’t stay in Mabou as I had planned, but continued on until we reached Port Hastings, at the foot of the Cape Breton peninsula.
Here, we asked about acccommodation at the Visitor Centre and, after several phone calls, they found us a B&B outside Antigonish, which was a bit further than I had anticipated driving but closer to the ferry.
It took about 3/4 hour to reach the farm, having made a wrong turn or two along the way. Once there, we were greeted by our hosts, Margaret and Hughie, were shown to our room and then it was back into town to find some dinner. We hadn’t eaten since the top of the mountain so even I was getting a bit hungry!
We decided upon a bistro, where the food was excellent, but the service was extremely slow, as there were a couple of large groups as well as a constant flow of people coming in. We found out afterwards from Margaret that the restaurant had an award winning chef and was quite renowned. No wonder it was busy and our most expensive meal yet. We will be living on microwave meals for the rest of the week!
North Rustico (Prince Edward Island/P.E.I.)
After a very substantial breakfast that kept even Robyn going for a little while, we left the B&B and drove to Caribou and the ferry. We arrived in good time and waited for a while for the ferry to arrive, along with a few coach passengers, truck drivers and other people like us.
It was a very smooth crossing and 1 1/4 hours later we were disembarking at Wood Islands, having spent the journey on the top deck in the sun, reading. I had booked a motel in North Rustico, but we first drove into Charlottetown, the main town on P.E.I. and had a wander round there. We also had to have lunch as, of course, Robyn was hungry again.
After a delicious sandwich, we wandered a bit more, had a very large ice cream (entitled moosie woosie or squishy wishy or some such name), reputedly the best in Canada, and then drove on to North Rustico, which is on the east(?) coast of P.E.I. in the central part. (I only query this because we followed signs to the west coast, which confused me somewhat!)
On arrival at the motel, I had a very long conversation with the owner whilst Robyn got quite impatient in the car. However, I discovered that we were in the best part of P.E.I. which is a bit of inadvertent luck, as I had already decided that I didn’t want to drive far and see the whole of the island, which I had also realised was much too large to ‘do’ in a day!
From what we had seen so far, the island is very agricultural and attractive. I suspect, though, that it is very similar throughout the island and you don’t really need to see the whole of it. People we have already spoken to have described it as one big potato field or one giant golf course. There are certainly a lot of pumpkins, judging by the number being sold by the wayside.
Having checked in, our remaining activities of the day were doing the large pile of washing, going to the supermarket and driving along the coast to see the sunset over the sea, for which we were too late! We did see a couple of foxes though, one of which was quite intent on chasing the car, which I thought was somewhat bizarre behaviour for a fox in a national park.
From what I have seen so far, I would be quite happy to spend tomorrow pottering and walking around the village but I expect we will at least go to the Anne of Green Gables house, which appears to be the main tourist attraction.