Category Archives: Travel

Mussels, a View, and a Cozy Little Cottage for Two – Vacation Day 3

Woke up this morning feeling pretty smug that Hurricane Arthur had turned out to be pretty toothless in the Port Hawkesbury area of Cape Breton.  There was a bit of wind overnight but not more than a few drops of rain and, once a few hours of morning had passed, the day was bright and beautiful.

Loading our stuff back into the car, Mom and I prepared to make the trek to Mabou for lunch and the farmer’s market. Now what is Mabou, you may ask? Mabou, in my humble opinion, is one of the most beautiful spots on Cape Breton Island and is in large measure the reason we started coming to Cape Breton in the first place.  Many, many years ago—I’ve reached the point in my life where I’ve stopped giving the actual number of years for anything—we saw a group called the Rankin Family at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, NC. After listening to them rave about their home village of Mabou for two years, Mom and Dad decided to come north to see what all the fuss was about. One visit and they were hooked and the rest is history.

Anyway, back to this year’s vacation. We were headed north on Highway 19 towards Judique when our attention was caught by the whitecaps on the beautiful expanse of ocean to our left. This is actually pretty unusual, as the waters off the western side of Cape Breton are normally very calm. However, with what was left of Hurricane Arthur having just passed, the water was much rougher than we were used to seeing. There were actually waves breaking on the beach. We pulled off into Christy’s Lookoff and took a few pictures illustrating the unusual event.


We climbed back into the car and continued north passing through Judique and then Port Hood. Finally, we crossed the bridge (An Drochaid) into Mabou and pulled into the parking lot of our favorite on island restaurant, The Mull Cafe and Deli. I Have been waiting approximately 50 weeks to enjoy my favorite meal of steamed mussels with garlic butter and a Caesar salad. I should have known there was a problem when the parking lot was empty at 12:30 pm on a Sunday. To my horror there was a white sign on the door that said ‘Closed due to power outage.’ Apparently Arthur had not been toothless after all.

Manfully trying to swallow my disappointment and blinking back WP_20140706_12_39_42_Protears, we decided to head to the weekly Mabou Farmer’s Market held at the local hockey arena. It’s always a great place to grab some fresh lettuces, vegetables and meats that we can cook back in our cottage as well as crafts from assorted vendors. It appeared that the power WP_20140707_11_19_01_Pro20140707112038outage was affecting the arena as well but just as we walked in the door, power was restored. I guess we had an electrifying effect. And sure enough, I found some lovely baby arugula and a bundle of freshly dug green onions. I also found some delightful little scented tea lights that will hopefully delight friends back home.

Crossing our fingers that The Mull would be open now that power had been restored, we headed back to the restaurant and were rewarded with an OPEN sign. All was right with world once again as we tucked into our mussels and caesar lunch.

The Mull Caesar salad
Mussels with garlic butter
Mussels with garlic butter

After enjoying a lunch that was every bit as good as I wanted it to be, we grabbed a few provisions from the Fresh Mart grocery across the road and made our way back down to Troy via the scenic Colindale Road. First we cross the two one-lane bridges and then drive past the West Mabou hall where Saturday night square dances are held. After that there are no words that can adequately describe the Colindale Rd, so this photo gallery will have to do.

Rejoining Highway 19 in Port Hood, we admired the few hard souls WP_20140706_15_56_12_Proin the water at Port Hood beach and then continued on down to Troy.  We did make one stop to photograph one of the English/Gàidhlig place name signs.

Finally, we arrived at our home for the next two weeks and are cozily ensconced in our own little piece of heaven. Be warned you might not hear from me for a day or two. If not, I’m too busy drinking tea, reading, and admiring the view.

Fàilte Dachaigh (Welcome Home) – Lubec to Cape Breton – Vacation Day 2

Woke up early this morning. I never seem to remember how much earlier the sun rises this far north. After some checking of the current weather situation re: Arthur, and a quick consultation with Dad back home, Mom and I decided to forgo our planned stop in Moncton, New Brunswick and drive all the way to Cape Breton.

Having quickly packed up and eaten a bite of breakfast, we headed to the Campobello border crossing. One of the reasons Mom and I come through Lubec is the ease of crossing into Canada here. A quick trip over the bridge, a brief stop at the Canadian Customs shed to show our passports and answer a couple of questions, and BOOM, we’re in Canada. By the far the easiest Canadian border crossing I’ve ever used.

Another fun thing about crossing into Canada via Campobello Island is that you have to take two ferries to get to mainland New Brunswick. As the sole driver on this trip, I love the opportunity to sit back and let someone else do the driving for a bit. The first ferry is from Campobello to Deer Island.

Once we arrived on Deer Island, Mom and I made the 15 minute trek across the island to the next ferry. Deer Island is a pretty little island with quaint houses dotting the landscape. Mom and I always say we should stop and explore at some point but there is no time for that on this trip. Very soon we were at the next ferry embarkation point for the ferry from Deer Island to L’etete. After waiting briefly, we drove onboard for the 20 minute trip. For my Outlander friends, you will see that Pocket Jamie was a wee bit fashed to see a second boat trip. I was a bad Sassenach and forgot to pack the wee stabbers. (Non-Outlander friends—I promise to explain later.)

Disembarking from our second ferry of the day, we headed to our annual New Brunswick lunch stop—Comeau’s Seafood in Penfield. Yes, for those of you asking, we do plan our vacations around places to eat. Sorry, but some habits are hard to break. Mom had the Fried Fish and Scallops platter while I had Fried Scallops with a side salad.

Fortified for the long haul to Cape Breton ahead—about a six-hour drive—we hit the road. Giving up on finding an acceptable radio station and lacking a suitable conversationalist (Mom fell asleep within 20 miles), I plugged in my phone and began a re-listen to the audiobook version of Diana Gabaldon’s Written In My Own Heart’s Blood. Nothing makes a drive go faster than listening to a great book in my opinion.

In what seemed like a flash, we were across the provincial line into Nova Scotia and paying the toll at the Cobequid Pass.


Just a couple of hours more and we were once again crossing the bridge onto our favorite home away from home.

WP_20140704_20_28_56_Pro (2)

Grateful to have beaten the hurricane, we climbed from our car and into the embrace of old friends.  Let the real vacation begin.

Note—this is where blog posts will get less frequent. Some days we are pretty lazy while we are on vacation and there is nothing to report. 🙂

From Lobster to Sardines – Vacation Day 1 Portland to Lubec

Well, it’s that time of year again—time for my annual pilgrimage to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  For those of you not familiar with it, Cape Breton is an island off the northern tip of mainland Nova Scotia in Canada. Unfortunately air lines and rental car companies have made it pretty expensive to fly directly to Nova Scotia, so Mom and I fly into Portland, Maine and drive to Cape Breton from there.

The downside to this plan is that we spend a couple of days on the road, although the drive could be made in one day if necessary.  However, this is vacation and Mom and I see no need to hurry. The upside to this plan is that we get to take our time traveling from Portland to Cape Breton and we always try to find interesting places to stay.

First things first though, our first stop after arriving in Portland and picking up the rental car is always Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster in South Freeport, ME.  I mean really, what better way to start a maritime vacation than with a seafood lunch at the harbor?  Mom had her traditional meal of Lobster Roll and a side of Onion Middles, while I opted for a cup of Seafood Chowder and an order of Mussels. Both of us agreed that our meals were a wonderful as always, but how could you not enjoy anything while looking at the spectacular view of the South Freeport harbor.

Thus full from our lunch, we hit the road towards our first destination—Lubec, ME. On our way, we drove through many picturesque Maine towns such as Wiscasset, Belfast, Searsport and Bucksport.

Unfortunately, due to some traffic jams in these quaint little towns, we ended up a bit behind schedule and were forced to stop for dinner on the road before reaching Lubec. Well, I say forced, but really we just stopped at Helen’s—one of our favorite restaurants in Machias, ME. Mom had her traditional Lazy Lobster, a dish where a whole lobster is removed from its shell and served, swimming  in butter, over fresh-baked bread. I, on the other hand, was trying to eat a little lighter and had a cup of fresh Tomato Basil soup and a Mixed Greens salad with Pecans, Cranberries, and Goat Cheese accompanied by the first of many pots of hot tea I will consume this trip.

Fortunately as we were quite full from dinner, our first night’s lodging wasn’t far. In our never-ending quest for interesting places to stay, our first night’s lodging was at The Inn on the Wharf in Lubec, ME. What makes this spot unique is that it is housed in a newly converted Sardine Factory on the wharf in Lubec, ME. Arriving and checking in, we were quickly shown to our room. We were quite relieved to find it smelled only of a bit of bleach and NOT sardines.

Although not overly fancy, our room was very comfortable and had a great view of the harbor below. I filmed a quick video tour to give you a taste.

I also took a couple of pictures of the outside of the Inn and the view of the harbor and wharf from our room.

Stay tuned for Vacation Day 2 when we take 2 ferries and then make a mad dash for Cape Breton to beat Hurricane Arthur.