Vancouver: The Weird and the Wonderful

After our first full day in Vancouver, what next? Turned out, the weekend was full of weird and wonderful.

In addition to seeing a bit of the city, one of the things we did while in Vancouver was attend a Fan Expo, similar to the Science Fiction Comic Con (convention). Fans of SciFi, Fantasy, comics, super heros and their worlds and Japanese animation flock to these conventions. Many of them dress up as favourite characters. There are guests from popular televisions shows and artists of graphic novels and comics there to talk to fans. People can pay for autographs and photos with their favourites and sit in the audience and listen to the actors talk about their craft and the show.

There is usually a huge hall full of vendors where you can buy all manner of related items. It’s a great place to get swag, tshirts, memorabilia and related items to your favourite genres and programs. We bought a one day pass though the convention goes on all weekend. The Vancouver Convention Centre is enormous, covering two buildings on the waterfront. It was a rainy day so we decided to take a taxi to the centre. We still ended up trekking about between the two buildings because we weren’t sure where to go.

Vancouver Convention Centre from Stanley Park

The convention was in the main building that looks like a ship with full sails on it. It’s also where cruise ships dock. As you walk down the length of it, in the ground are inlaid plaques with various Canadian cities from the West to the East and then to the North as you walk along. We finally got in and got our entry bracelets and tried to figure out where everything was. My husband has a ticket to get a photo with one of his favourites and we wanted to sit in on two panel discussions and still have time to peruse the vendors. One section of vendors was Steampunk oriented which is something I really like.

The convention was hugely crowded so it took patience to work your way along the vendor stalls and through the hallways to find the various rooms. We have a similar convention here called Hal-con which, while crowded, seems a little more manageable.

We spent a great afternoon looking at all the items, listening to the panels  talk about the other actors and behind the scenes and people watching for all the great costumes. Lots of people go to such a great deal of trouble to represent characters in painstaking detail.

The second allocation of weird and wonderful was the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia. One of the prime focuses of the museum is the indigenous art of the people of British Columbia which is absolutely gorgeous. It’s very distinctive and it’s different from the art of the First Nations people from the east coast of Canada where I’m from which is also lovely, don’t get me wrong.

The museum has totem poles and pieces of them, as well as other artifacts such as bent wood boxes, feast “bowls” and intriguing sculpture. It’s also got collections from a great many other cultures around the world, primarily Asiatic and from the South Seas and Oceana but also from Europe and Africa. There are treasures, and maps and papers.You could spend all day there and never see it all. It is very intriguing and you’ll learn a lot. I don’t think you could see it all in one go because there is just too much to take in. We spent a couple of hours wandering about and spent a few dollars in the gift shop, too.

We had gone there with friends who live locally and after the museum closed, we found a Chinese restaurant for a nice meal to top off the day and the weekend. This is pretty much the end of our visit to Vancouver as well. The next day, we used the coin laundry in the morning before we had to check out and transferred to a Ramada by the airport, thinking it would be easier to get to the airport the next day if we were already nearby. In retrospect, we probably should have just spent an extra night at the Rosedale and enjoyed that last full day in the city. Turns out even a taxi to the airport from downtown wasn’t all that expensive.

We checked into the Ramada which was a couple of blocks from a large shopping mall, the Richmond Centre. We plodded over there under cloudy, rather wet skies and had some lunch in the food court along with a bit of a wander through the mall. Both of  us are on pins now, excited to leave for Hawaii but we still have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. We did end up getting a shuttle to the airport a lot earlier than we needed to after checking out of the Ramada just so we didn’t have to sit around the hotel lobby. At least in an airport, your baggage is checked and you can walk around and look at the shops. Pretty soon it’s time to board….
MOA - Haida items

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The “NBO” tour (Not Bleedin’ Obvious)

Does anyone know where the toilets are?

Do you ever have days when you just can’t seem to grasp the obvious? Oh yes. And when you’re traveling and in places you’re not familiar with, it’s twice as frustrating when something that should make sense doesn’t. This recent trip to British Columbia and Hawaii was one of those.

It could be something as simple as trying to work out how the shower functions. In all my life,  every hotel room is different and every single shower works differently. Some are easy to figure out but some are hugely confusing. The one in our lovely hotel in Vancouver had a diagram for the shower but even thing, we had difficulty working it out.

Trying to find the breakfast room wasn’t obvious, either. It was called the Stadium Room which sounds more like a function room to me, than a little breakfast room.

The fan expo in the convention centre was an exercise in “not obvious” when it came to trying to find the “ballroom” where the main panel discussions were. There was no map in the Expo guide. Well there was but for everything except the ballroom area. We asked several people and got a different answer from each one, at least the ones that did know. Or said they knew. Down that hallway over there just before you get to the big doors, turn left. Nope. There were escalators there and nothing resembling  ballroom at the top. Turns out you go *through* the big doors into the lobby of the convention centre and there it is.

Now we’re in the airport trying to navigate the screens of the check in area. I did check in online and I did get a boarding pass sent to my phone but it seemed to be only the one, not one for both of us. The Best thing to do was check in with the code and get it all printed. That worked. Why let you check in both people if you’re not sending the boarding pass, either two to the one phone or one each? Even when you do print off boarding passes at home, the airline invariably reprints them for you in the airline standard style, in my experience.

Another machine to work out at the US departure area for pre-screening. You try to follow instructions but they’re…not always obvious but someone came over straight away to help. Over to the security scan. We saw other people taking shoes off but there were no signs to say we had to. But they did ask when it was my turn. Why not put up a sign? Too obvious? Likely.

Don’t even ask about the frustration getting hooked up to the airport wifi. My phone doesn’t seem to have the capability to open the corresponding website to agree to Terms of Condition. It’s happened a few times but works with other connections. Even with my laptop it was a bit of a production because it kept trying to connect to an open network and I didn’t know what it was.

The un-obviosity didn’t end there. (yes, I know that’s not a word but stay with me). We’re in Hawaii now and we rented a car for a day to drive around the island. Nice day, now we have to fill up the gas tank before returning the vehicle. Never mind trying to get to the gas station across several lanes in heavy traffic, when we got to the pump, we had a heck of a time getting it to accept our credit card. Gas has to be prepaid but the instructions just weren’t comprehensive and we weren’t the only person trying to work it out. After I went into the attendant in the shop and got some instructions, it went better, much better than it subsequently went trying to find the right ramp to the parking garage to return the car. Let’s just say I’m glad we purchased the extra insurance coverage and leave it at that.

After an overnight flight back to Vancouver, we are faced with electronic customs clearance. I was aware of this and downloaded an app to enter all the information and generate a scannable code to save me time. Except there was no instructions for scanning that code, not that I could see so we had to enter the information all over again. Maybe I could have scanned the code as a first step even though there was nothing to say I could. Certainly not obvious. Even then, it wouldn’t have saved a whole lot of time because after that information was processed, we then had to have the most grotesque photos in the world taken. How the border guards could look at those and look at our faces and connect them as the same people or the pictures in our passports I have no idea.

Never mind. We’re finally back on home soil and after two overnight flights in a few days, we both need time to recover from our vacation!

Onward to Vancouver

A few days on Vancouver was a great way to start our visit to Canada’s beautiful west coast. Family and friends always make a visit enjoyable. We chose the bus/ferry/bus route across the Juan de Fuca straight to Vancouver on the mainland and paid a little extra so that the bus would take us straight to the hotel after the end destination of the main bus terminal. Worth every penny and cheaper than a taxi, especially trying to navigate and haul luggage around in the dark.

Our hotel is the Rosedale on Robson and is a suite hotel. We found out that they upgraded us to a higher floor and a room with a separate bedroom. The windows in these are floor to ceiling and the decor is light and airy. We had good city views from the18th floor! The staff were excellent and the room had everything we needed though there was one thing missing that seemed odd for a hotel like that. No in-room safe! Seemed odd.

North Vancouver from Stanley Park

We unpacked because we’ll be here for a few days. Our friend Annmarie came over later with wine and we had a great catch-up.

The sun was out on our first full day in the city, one of Canada’s largest. It seems even larger because of all the communities and cities that surround it such as Burnaby, Richmond, Coquitlam etc. I’ve been to Vancouver before but my husband hasn’t so we thought an orientation would be a good idea. The hotel is close to the circular central library where the hop on hop off trolleys stop so we jumped on one there and took the day to do the route.

We wound our way through the historic centre and decided to get off at the gorgeous Stanley Park, a 1000 square acre park on the tip of the peninsula of downtown Vancouver. The area has been settled with indigineous peoples and others for centuries and was turned into a park when the city was incorporated in the late 1880s. It’s a naturaly park, no landscaping or manipulating. The forests have evolved naturally. There is now a seawall built around the perimeter which is  a great place to walk and run and there are other very interesting things to explore as well such as the Vancouver Aquarium.

Totem poles in Stanley Park

We stopped at a spot where there are about 8 totem poles some dating as far back as the end of the 19th century. Each totem tells a story, a family, an event, a heritage. The style of art of the First Nations people  on this coast is really distinct and I really like it. We had a good look at the poles and did some shopping at the gift store there which had quite a lot of locally made gifts. I started my Christmas shopping!

We walked all around a point at the end of the area, saw a little lighthouse with great views over to North Vancouver, and back around where the trolley stops. We got on the next one which found it’s way through the rest of the park and around English Bay. We got off again at Granville Island which isn’t an Island but a spot of land under the Granville bridge over the False Creek area. There are craft and artist studios here, a huge famer’s market, restaurants and cafes, a theatre. We were quite hungry, though, so we looked for a restaurant first thing.

After a meal in The Keg, we went over to the market and were suitably impressed. More than fruit, veg and seafood, there are local crafts, anything you can think of. Lots of things and even the food was top quality and there were quite a lot of unusual items there. We popped into one ceramics/pottery shop which was also the studio for the studio for the artists. I have to say, even though one of the bus drivers or the prerecorded spiel said that Granville Island is designed to be pedestrian friendly, it isn’t. Cars everywhere and the roads are narrow and not logically laid out. It’s a really good place to visit but be warned, watch your step!

Aquabus across False Creek at Granville Island

Granville Island also has a number of small, brightly painted boats as a ferry service for a small fee to areas across the water on the main area of Vancouver. They almost look like toys!

By this time, we are ready and done for the day so we trudge back up to the trolley stop and get back to the hotel. We had a rest and then headed out to meet up with Annmarie, her partner Brian, her son Tristan and his girlfriend for cocktails and a meal and a very nice meal it was, too!

A good introduction to Vancouver if ever there was one and the best weather we’re going to see. Weather-wise, it will be downhill from here.  Tomorrow will be spent in the Vancouver Convention Centre, the large complex on the waterfront with ‘sails’ as a roof. But more on that another time.

Vancouver Convention Centre from Stanley Park

Cathedral Grove, Vancouver Island

Between the city of Parksville and Port Alberni on Vancouver Island is a little oasis of calm and peace. It’s a stand of trees, very old trees, mostly Douglas Fir with Red Cedar as well. The oldest standing tree is about 800 years old and stands over 250 feet tall, taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa apparently.

Recently we visited Vancouver Island. Most of the few days we were there were spent in the capital city of Victoria with relatives, doing a bit of driving around and hanging out. We rented a car and drove “up island” to see some friends in Parksville and before returning the next day, I really wanted to see Cathedral Grove. It was a long-standing destination on my list and it’s only about a half hour drive from Parksville on an inland road from the coast.

The weather is overcast with rain threatening but we only got a little heavy mist. There had been a tiny dusting of snow and in the forest there was still a little on the ground, enough to make the path slippery so we trod carefully. The light was low due to the cloud cover. No sunlight streaming through the branches picturesquely. The air was damp and cold. The breeze rustled the leaves. It was completely quiet aside from an occasional car that drove by. The grove is part of the MacMillan Provincial Park and its near the road. In November, there were few tourists besides us three. I hate to use a cliche word but it did feel a bit magical. Just when you think Nature can’t throw one more jaw dropping sight at you, in comes a curve ball. Here is a bit of video I took and a few photos.

The drive to Parksville is only about 2 hours from Victoria. You could easily visit Cathedral Grove in a day. You also drive past Goldstream where, in early November or very late October, the salmon return to spawn and you can watch them flipping through the water trying to get upstream. We were just a little late and there were only a few fish left alive (yes, that’s Nature again. The fish return to where they were hatched to spawn, and once the eggs are laid, the fish die and are food for eagles, birds and bears)

We stayed overnight since we were visiting friends and booked the Travelodge. Not a bad choice. There are quite a few hotels and motels in Parksville as it’s a resort area with some nice beaches.

WPC: Peek

WordPress‘s weekly photo challenge is Peek. They want examples of photos that make you want to see the larger picture, showing just a part or a corner. They say “a photo that reveals just enough of your subject to get us interested. A tantalizing detail. An unusual perspective. ” So here’s my take on it, ,mostly from my favourite city, London.

Regal

Houses of Parliament, the old Palace of Westminster. Top of Victoria Tower

Chelsea Royal Hospital Dining Hall

Portion of the dining hall at Chelsea Royal Hospital

St Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Lincoln's Inn, Old Square

Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn (the traditional legal sector of London)

Stealth Ginger

Stealth Ginger. Not London, but I couldn’t resist.

The Final Countdown

With little over a week to go, we’re on the final countdown of things to do before our trip. Last minute laundry, print off all the tickets, vouchers, etc (I like having a hard copy), decide what to pack (two climate zones!), distribute contact information to the family (note to self!), last minute touch base with friends and family that we plan to see, airport drop off / pick up to be arranged where necessary. I’m sure there’s more on that list.

All hotels are booked, even the single overnighters. Rental car is booked for an overnight visit to see friends on Vancouver Island. Transport from Victoria to Vancouver is booked and we were lucky there, it includes hotel drop off! Bonus! Still don’t know how we’ll get from downtown to the airport hotel but taxis may be involved even if just to get the luggage to the nearest skytrain stop downtown. There’s a skytrain stop near the hotel and the hotel has a shuttle to the airport.

There’s an airport bus from the Honolulu airport into town so we’ll probably get that. Or a taxi. It’ll be fairly late so that might be the more comfortable option. Two activities are booked (Pearl Harbour, and an Atlantis submarine tour!), the rest is open to possibilities because we don’t want to schedule every minute. We will be meeting up with a friend that my husband has known online for many years but there are no set plans as to when or what we’ll be doing yet. We won’t get through the list of all the possible things we might like to do/see but the five days in Oahu will at least be a sampling in the sunshine!

Back to Vancouver for a couple of days with family before heading home again. Two overnight flights back to back is too intimidating so we needed a day or two in between. At least the flight from Vancouver to Toronto overnight is in business class! Thank you, Aeroplan!

Must get the suitcases out of the storage room this weekend and start throwing things in. I can’t do it all last minute like Mr. Mister can. One more recharge session for the laptop to make sure it’s ready to go, all updated etc. Should put my pdf documents on one of the cloud services, too, like Dropbox or Google drive. I do have them on my phone. Overly organized, you say? Me? Perish the thought!

This will be fun. I’ve been to the west coast before, twice and it’s his first time there. Hawaii is new for both of us which is nice. I’m looking forward to seeing various family members again and a few good friends as well. When you live in a country that covers 6 time zones and 5514 km (5780? depends on which source you look at. It’s over 3400 miles, give or take.) from the farthest east to west points, and you have friends and family scattered across the country, you don’t get a lot of real time with them.

Travel Theme: Storm

Where’s My Backpack often posts a weekly photo challenge and this week’s is “Storm”. I don’t have a lot of photos depicting bad weather and most of them I’ve posted in challenges before so most of these may be a repeat for some of you. I did find a couple that I think are new to the blog.

Skies looking grim over Loch Lomond, Scotland

Rainbow on the ground

Also in Scotland, so high above sea level that the rainbow after the storm is on the ground, that’s the top arc of it that you’re seeing.

December

Winter storm out my window

Rainy evening in Manchester

Rainy evening in Manchester, UK from the warmth of the car

DP Challenge – Scale

This week’s challenge from The Daily Post on WordPress is Scale. Scale is interesting. It’s much better to demonstrate the size of one thing by putting it with another for comparison. Or, you can create something in a smaller size or scale than an original, such as a sailing ship that fits in a bottle. Here’s a few photos from my archives showing scale.

Blue Rocks view

Boats don’t seem so large on the vast waters of the sea! Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

 

Citadel Trenches map

Scale model of WWI trenches in France. Seen in the Halifax Citadel

Peggys Cove Lighthouse

Peggy’s cove lighthouse with the tourists, to give you an idea of how tall it is and how large the granite rocks on the shore are.

St. John's.

How steep is that hill? Seeing the angle of the vehicle gives you a better idea than just seeing the road. Look closely just behind the car. You can see steps built into the sidewalks, *that’s* how steep it is! St. John’s, Newfoundland

Road Trip to Cape Breton, Part 2

Fortress Louisbourg from across the bay

We’ve decided to base ourselves in Sydney, Cape Breton for two nights. Sydney is only a short drive of about 30 minutes or so to Louisbourg where the restoration of the French fortress is.

Saturday September 23, 2017

The Fortress Louisbourg was established by the French in the name of King Louis in the early 18th century. While it was primarily there to watch over the lucrative cod fishing trade, there were military stationed as well, just in case, since there was always and inevitably another war just over the horizon. This was always a commercial town, with few farmers. It was filled with soldiers, fishermen and merchants and their families. There was a contingent of support with religious, medical and domestic servants, slaves and the like. There were inns, taverns, butchers, bakers, forges, all the services you need to contribute to a living community.

Bastion Reenactor maleThe site that’s there now as a National Historic Site represents the fort as it would have been in 1744, one year before the first time the British invaded. It changed hands between the British and French several times over the next couple of decades until it ended up with the British. They destroyed it in 1760. The current site is only about 20 percent of the original site. I didn’t know that before and it must have been enormous! There were five bastions for the army with barracks etc., 2.5 miles of wall surrounding and protecting the town and many, many merchants and businesses. Parks Canada began restoring the Fortress in the 1960s.

The park today employs seasonal workers who all dress in period costume in various roles and are very interesting to talk to. They all really know the history of the fortress and of the characters they play. They have events all summer, they have walking tours and special tours. There are often demonstrations of various types of things from cooking to crafts to musket fire and military drill. It’s pretty neat to step back 300 years in time.

View from the Bastion battlements over the town of Louisbourg

We arrived mid morning and at this time of year, near the end of the season, we could park right next to the site. Normally, you park by a visitor centre a couple of kilometres away and are bussed in. It was actually fairly busy because I believe there were a lot of tourists from a cruise ship in Sydney. We parked and headed to the visitor centre to get a map and off we went. We decided to investigate the King’s Bastion first, where the soldiers would be quartered as well as the unmarried officers. This one also included the Franciscan chapel, a jail where the prisoners would be shackled to the bunk, the governor’s quarters and a court. Graham and Malc walked around up on the battlements for a while leaving me to look into some of the other nooks and crannies and rest my bones in the sun as well.

Officers quarters coats

In the Officers’ quarters at the King’s Bastion, Louisbourg

We probably spent a good hour in the bastion and were starting to get a bit hungry. We made our way down the main street, looking into various buildings and listening to some of the staff talk. We got to the café but all it offered was tea, coffee and buns so we went to the main restaurant where you sit at communal tables and eat 18th century style with a pewter spoon and dish. That’s it. No fork or knife. The food they offer is all easily eaten with what you have. I had a really tasty piece of fish with vegetables and a vegetable soup to start with. Malc had French toast which he said was really, really good and Graham had chicken in a mushroom cream sauce, and pea soup, also really nice. I also had a small cup of French style drinking chocolate which seemed to be bitter unsweetened chocolate grated and melted in a bit of water or maybe milk. Different, anyway, very chocolatey.

Onward. We wandered around the site looking here and there, taking lots of pictures of course. If you take the time to talk to the various re-enactors, you can really steep yourself in the history of the fortress and the era it depicts.

Our feet finally gave out and we made our way back to the car. We stopped in the town of Louisbourg to have a look at the old train cars at a museum which was closed and we drove out to the old lighthouse as well. The original lighthouse on the site was erected in 1734 and destroyed in 1758 during the second seige of Louisbourg. The current lighthouse dates to the 1920s.

Tonight, we decided on an Indian meal at a fairly new restaurant I found while searching the area on Google, called Mian’s. It seemed to have good reviews but in the end, it was another disappointment, this time it was mine. Graham enjoyed his meal and Malc liked his. The samosas we started with were superb but my beef was dry and too chewy. Apparently the coffee was awful and they didn’t have milk for the tea, only cream. Unimpressed.

It’s back on the road tomorrow for home, stopping at a Highland Village open air museum on the way. A successful road trip indeed, with mostly spectacular weather!

Sunday September 24, 2017

The Black House Barra

The Black House, Highland Village, Cape Breton

The sun is up and shining and we are hopeful for another nice day. We are going to immerse ourselves in more history today.  This morning’s drive took us along the side of one of the lovely lakes though we mostly only saw it a bit through the trees.

The Highland Village Museum, part of the Nova Scotia Museum network, is high on a hill in Iona overlooking Bras d’or lake and gives you the experience of the Scottish immigrant to Nova Scotia between 1770 and 1830 and then the life of the community and Scottish Gaelic culture over the next 100 years or so as well.  Its staff are all dressed in period costume and talk to you of their lives for the period they represent. There are 11 period buildings on the site.

The first one was in a little “black house”, which is a stone shieling type of dwelling with a thatched roof. The woman there was very much into character and was really good. She told us lots of information about why and how the people in Scotland left home for a new life and what life was like in Scotland for these various clans in the western Hebrides islands. She’d speak partly in Gaelic and then in English which enhanced the experience.

Church and school view 1

Church and schoolhouse, Highland Village, Cape Breton

We climbed up the gravel paths slowly and talked to a few others in the next couple of homes and then it was all downhill. We were also overtaken by several groups of tourists bussed in from another cruise ship so we felt a bit flustered and rushed at times. Most of the buildings were brought here from other sites around the island to create the village and they often have demonstrations of various crafts and cookery.

I have a friend who told me that her late husband’s father and grandfather were ministers in the church, originally located in Malagawatch, that is now located here. He spent many a Sunday listening to long sermons in it! They have a general store, a school house and a forge as well as residential homes represented. The visitor centre gift shop has a good selection of nice things and there’s a small coffee shop on site. The whole village is very well done and informative and very much worth a stop.

Village view

Highland Village, Iona, Cape Breton

We started to lose the sun and from there, pointed the car in the direction of the Canso Causeway. We stopped in a market type place for lunch in Whycogomah and had another leg stretcher near New Glasgow and got home about 7. Brilliant few days on the road!

Mid 19c farmhouse matron hand spinning

Louisbourg Harbour lighthouse and the ruins of the original one, which was the oldest in Canada

Road Trip to Cape Breton, Part 1

Whale Cove Cemetery

Whale Cove Cemetery, Cape Breton

We’ve got a houseguest for a couple of weeks and he’s never been to Canada. We live in a really beautiful part of the country here in the east coast and wanted to show off some of the best of it so a road trip to the island of Cape Breton was organized. We headed out on the road and stopped for a pre-trip breakfast at Tim Hortons before getting on the rainy road to Cape Breton Island. Yes. Rain, most of the time just light showers but it made for a somewhat grim drive. Highway all the way to the island and then we were able to take a more scenic road, the 19, through the east side heading north to Cheticamp.

Malcolm had bought a map of Cape Breton at one of our comfort stops earlier and I had a look at it and spotted something called a Celtic Music Interpretation Centre. Does anyone want to go? Hell yes! We drive on to Judique where it’s located and head in. Malcolm was in heaven in the shop. So many of the cds calling his name! They also had live music in the café, a fiddler called Chrissy Crowley who was absolutely top notch. She was superb as was her pianist accompanist and both are fairly well known. We had a bit of lunch while listening to her play all the instrumental traditional ballads, jigs and reels and it was all I could do from stopping myself squealing out a “EEEEYAH!!!” when she was up to step dance speed.

The rain stopped more or less after that and we chugged along happily listening to one of the cds Malc bought. He kept track of where we were heading on his map and suggested a side scenic road. Good choice. It was quite pretty, following the coast closer than the other road. Then we spied a high open hill, with a little cemetery on the side and doubled back to check it out. It was a lookout spot over Whale Bay, according to the map. The cemetery was surrounded on by little brick chimneys. There’s a nearby area called Chimney corner so it’s likely to do with that. It was an absolutely beautiful spot.

On my way back to the car, I thought about the name “Whale Cove”. Why would it be called that? I turned around to have a look out at the bay. You never know. Yes, yes I spotted some dark shapes out in the bay and called back to the guys. Malc came out with his binoculars and said it looked like about 5 or 6 creatures out in the water. They were too far away to take even a full-zoom photo but we’re pretty certain they were whales which were likely pilot whales!

Cheticamp Harbour Boats

Cheticamp, Cape Breton

Onward to Cheticamp to find the motel which was about 5 minutes the other side of the town, just at the entrance to the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The woman working there, the owner, was really nice, showing us a few scenic routes and ways to get around some of the road construction going on and she also recommended a restaurant for dinner tonight and made a reservation. There’s going to be live music there, too, so it should be nice. What a great start to the holiday!

We drove back into the town and had a look at the harbour with the boats. The sheltered water was like glass, it was that still. It was just at dusk so there was still enough light for a few photos. The restaurant had a French woman singing in the dining room. She was all right, sticking to safe crowd favourites in both languages. Most were just not my taste really. The food was as good as predicted so we all enjoyed our meal. We relaxed over dinner and finally headed back to the motel to relax. Tomorrow is our whale watching tour and we’re really hopeful the weather and the sea cooperate.

Thursday September 21

Sunny, cool and crisp this morning. Unfortunately, it’s also a bit too windy and the whale watching tour was cancelled. The boats can handle the choppy seas but the passengers can’t always and it’s a safety issue. We had got up early, checked out, picked up hot drinks and breakfast at Robins donuts and headed out to Pleasant Bay in plenty of time but to no avail. We did ask what companies did similar tours in the Ingonish area where we’re staying tonight and she gave us the information and even tried to get hold of them to book for us but couldn’t get through. We decided to take in the Whale Interpretive Centre they had there which was very interesting. It showed the evolution of the animal, it’s current environment and habits. They had a model of a full size pilot whale which is very common in the Cape Breton area. It’s a good little museum and well worth a stop if you’re in the area.
Northeast Cabot Trail views
We went on a few drives along the lesser beaten paths and drove to the northernmost community in Nova Scotia, called Meat Cove, accessed by a gravel road. The name apparently came from early settlers driving the deer and moose over the mountain to this location to be butchered and salted and shipped to other locations. We found a good place for lunch in Cape North called Angie’s and filled up the gas tank as well. There aren’t a lot of stations around the long stretch of the Cabot Trail from Cheticamp to Cape North so you should take advantage of it when you find one. The road around the Cape Breton Highlands National Park is hilly and twisty, sometimes following the coast and sometimes cutting across inland. There are lots of trails to hike with fabulous views and there are a number of roadside lookoff spots, little craft shops and a few cafes along the way.

It’s such a lovely day for a drive, too! We made a few photo stops along the way and got to the motel, the Sea Breeze Chalets and Motel in Ingonish Beach about 4 p.m. I called the whale watching company and booked us three spots for tomorrow. The man I spoke to said they would likely be ok to go. The Ingonish area is a popular stop. There are lots of motels and holiday chalets for rent. Our rooms face the sea from across the road. We’ll sort out somewhere to eat tonight and have a recommendation for breakfast tomorrow. It’s only a 10 minute drive to the harbour where the tour boat is located so we won’t have to get up quite so early!

Whale Watching Graham and Mal

The lads

We ended up at the Main Street restaurant and I went all out for something different and had swordfish, caught locally in Neil’s Harbour. I thought it was very good. Graham was not overly impressed with his burger, thought it was ok but really didn’t like the fries but Malc enjoyed his vegetarian meal a lot. Back to the motel for the night.

September 22

We checked out and went to the café up the road that was recommended to us, the Bean Barn Café, and they did indeed provide delicious all day breakfasts. We found the Whale Watching company down a small side road very close to where we ate last night and bought our tickets. It’s another beautiful day, perfect weather to be out on the boat. It’s a smaller boat and there were about 12 passengers so it wasn’t crowded at all. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any whales but we did see seals, bald eagles and a sunfish which was a good sized fish and had fins and flippers. There was a demonstration on how the lobster traps work as well.

We drove from there to the pretty town of Baddeck to see the Alexander Graham Bell museum. Because this year celebrates Canada’s 150th birthday, all of the National Historic Sites and parks have free entry. This is one on the list. It’s a very interesting museum. We never realized how many things Bell invented or started that were cutting edge for the time. Not everything worked out but he was fascinated with how things worked and tried to find new ways to do things all the time. He didn’t actually invent the telephone here in Canada but he maintained a summer home here for many years from about the mid 1880s onward.

It’s off to the city of Sydney tonight for two nights. Sydney is an industrial city at it’s core though these days the former regional industries of coal mining and steel are things of the past. We checked into the Comfort Inn on Kings Road. Be warned, there is no elevator, but they only have two floors. Nice large room, good wifi and lots of space. Breakfast is free but leaves a lot to be desired.

We had supper at the Old Triangle, a sister pub to the one in Halifax. Food was good but the first young man playing music was inadequate to the task. Reminded me of a busker who wants to play everything like it’s a party tune, and faster than it’s meant to be. The main act came on at 9:30. They were much better singers and players but their choice of tunes was mediocre middle of the road. We didn’t stay.

I’ll be back with part 2 very soon, where we visit the Fortress Louisbourg and the open air Highland Village museum.
Sunfish

Whale Watching eagles

Ingonish Beach area