Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cape Breton Island

I just love this place, it is that simple.  There is a reason that Conde Nast and Travel and Leisure repeatedly pick this lovely destination as one of their favorite places in North America.   Cape Breton is located at the northern end of the province of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, about a five hour drive from Halifax. At one time, you could only get there by ferry but there is now a bridge connecting the island to the rest of the the province.  Upon your arrival, follow the Cabot Trail, named in the 10 Best Motorcycle Trips is USA Today.

The vistas are spectacular.  You will never tire of seeing the cliffs meet the ocean as you meander through small fishing villages.  We drove the the most northern point of the island to a place called Meat Cove and crossed a shaky wood bridge to get to the top of the cliff where a small shack sat with a "seafood chowder" sign out front.  We purchased the thick, fragrant chowder and went outside on a beautiful October afternoon and sat at a picnic table.  I have never before, and probably never again, had such a wonderful lunch because as we savored the warm, tasty soup, we watched an enormous pod of whales swim below us on their way to warmer waters for the winter.  It was, quite simply, magical.

One of the most unique things about the island is that all the signs are in English and Gaelic.  Nova Scotia means New Scotland in French and this lovely place was settled by the Scots and some Irish and their influence is everywhere.  Cape Breton houses the only Gaelic College outside of the United Kingdom and it is a neat place to visit.  But that is not where the influence ends, Celtic music is heard everywhere and some of the most famous Celtic musicians in the world come from this tiny island.  Often when sitting in a pub, a spontaneous Ceilidh, which involves singing and dancing, will begin.  One moment you are sitting quietly eating dinner and in the next moment, the room comes alive with a delightful folk song, sometimes in Gaelic. The spontaneity of these very traditional Gaelic songfests makes the experience like no other.

Perhaps, one of the things that I like best about the island, is just how unpretentious it is.  Our innkeeper recommended what she called the "best restaurant" on the island.  When we arrived, we entered a bakery, the restaurant was in the back.  There was absolutely nothing fancy about it but the meal did not disappoint.  I had Lobster Mac-n-Cheese and it was memorable.  For dessert, I opted for a Butter Tart, which is a popular pasty in Canada, and it too, was really good (not my Grandmom's but I don't think any tart will ever be that good).  The meal was inexpensive and delicious, a wonderful combination.

There are a myriad of accommodations on the island.  There are a couple of resorts available.  They are very nice and a bit pricey.  We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast Inn that is owned, ironically, by a couple from New Jersey.  It was a lovely little place right on the Atlantic.  We had a studio room and our bed faced French doors.  If we left the curtains open, we could watch the sunrise over the Atlantic.  It was a lovely way  wake up each morning.  Our breakfasts were made to order and really tasty.  There was a hot tub on the deck overlooking the Atlantic which we put to good use.  We used the Inn as our base and traveled all over the island.

If you visit between May and September, take the time to visit the nesting grounds of the Atlantic Puffins at Bird Island.   The Puffins share the island with bald eagles, Great Comorant. Razorbills, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and many other species of birds.

There are surprises around every corner as you explore the Cabot Trail.  You will pass a Buddhist Monastery in your travels which is open for tours.  You will also find a small town that doesn't speak English or Gaelic, they all speak French.  Also visit the town of Baddeck where Alexander Graham Bell had his summer home.  Here you can visit exhibits and interactive demonstrations at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site.

We just loved the time we spent on the island.  The scenery, the wildlife, the food, the music and the people of Cape Breton made this trip a unique and treasured memory.

Until next time, safe travels!

Watching the sunrise from our room

One of the little fishing villages along the trail

Just one example of the beautiful scenery

The beaches are rocky but beautiful

My husband having some fun with Alexander Graham and Mrs. Bell

Quote of the Week:  All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. 
                                                                         --Martin Buber

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