One of the best things about visiting Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is experiencing cultural traditions that were transferred from Scotland to the new world with the emigrant wave of the 18th and 19th centuries. This is especially true since some of these same things have all but died out in Scotland itself. Although I’ve been coming to the island every summer for the last 15 years, I have enjoyed experiencing these now familiar activities through the lens of the GreatScot! blog.
Among my favorite traditions are the almost daily Celtic Square Dances that are held in Parish Halls and Recreation Centers around the island. Almost any night of the week you can find a dance somewhere—Mondays are Brook Village, Thursdays are Glencoe Mills and West Mabou on Saturday nights. There are groups of people ‘from away’—as Cape Bretoners call tourists— and locals as well, who spend the week going…
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 tears, 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 outage 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.
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 in 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.
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.
Waiting for the Deer Island Ferry
First one on means being the first car off!
Some walk-on passengers
Enjoying the view
A very serene way to travel
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.)
Waiting for the L’etete Ferry
Sassenach, ANOTHER boat?!?!
I think I’m going to be sick.
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.
Mom perusing the menu. Don’t know why.
My scallops with 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.
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. 🙂