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Posts Tagged ‘Atlantic Canada RV trip’

It’s over.  So now I need to sum up the last days of it, and send it off into blogspace  so I can move on to where we really are – moving down the eastern seaboard of the United States.

From Glace Bay we drove to Baddeck, and visited the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. He had a summer home near here.  I didn’t know that he’d had such a keen interest in helping the deaf, his wife being one of them. And what an amazing support, financial and otherwise, she was.

Drove towards the coast that night, in the rain, looking for a campground with a southern exposure that would allow us to watch the first Packer/Viking meeting – pulled into several spots, but no luck.  So we wound up at  MacLeod’s  Campground in the dark. We really have no idea where we are.  But the owner is wonderful, and we have a good talk with him about life and sports before pulling into our site.  We listen to the game on Sirius.  Maybe that was the less painful option, given the outcome?

We’re buffeted by storms all night long. And when we wake up, it looks like we’re in Scotland or Ireland.  Hills and grassy meadows to one side, down to cliffs and crashing ocean surf on the other.

MacLeod Campground, Cape Breton

MacLeod Campground, Cape Breton

We left in the rain, with a final shot out the window.

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Several more ceildihs before we left Cape Breton, one at the Rankin family-owned pub, the Red Shoe in Mabou .  Took the ferrry to Prince Edward Island –  we were in the lower level and with the open air ferry “window” and the breeze coming in through our own, it felt like we were on a cruise ship. The most hilarious moment – we’re in the middle of the North Umberland Strait crossing, looking out at the sea – and we hear a voice from the cab.  Our GPS voice, saying in her annoyed voice, “Recalculating.”

Ferry to Prince Edward Island

Ferry to Prince Edward Island

Spent two nights across the river from Charlottetown -and learned some interesting Canadian history, then on to the Holy Grail of Prince Edward Island, Anne of Green Gables. Had the best lobster of my life (sorry, Maine) at a restaurant in North Rustico, after a wonderful hike along their boardwalk.  We closed the trip with another night at St. Andrews in the same campsite, so pretty much came full circle.

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Men of the Deeps

We drive back to the mining museum in Glace Bay – Dick goes down into the mine on a tour, and I go through the museum, waiting for the group to arrive for their rehearsal.  I have so much respect for these guys before they even start singing. For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t- before I arrived in this area) Men of the Deeps is a choral group made up entirely of miners and retired miners from the Cape Breton area.  When they perform ( they’ve toured China, Yugoslavia, Appalachian coal mining communities and Las Vegas, to name just a few “foreign” venues) they wear their miner’s uniforms, and come on stage lit only by the helmet lamps in their hard hats. They sing about life in the Cape Breton mines and in mining communities, and they sing from the heart, with the voice of experience. We just missed a concert they gave the night before we got to this area.  I console myself by thinking it was already sold out.

So now, in this magical turn of events, I get to sit off to the side in the small auditorium, named for them, while they practice for their upcoming tour through Canada. It’s like a private concert – but I’m only a few feet away.  They’re getting ready to do a Christmas show with Rita MacNeil so they’re working on some background parts, but they also run through some of their own numbers, and it’s breath-taking.  I didn’t take pictures because I felt it would be an intrusion, but I’ll never forget their faces and their voices. Some of them come over and talk with me during their break.  One of them, Nipper MacLeod, is one of the original members – I recognize him from videos in the mining museum.  They are all so friendly, funny, down-to-earth – talent without the pretense.   I hope I get the chance to hear them in a real concert someday.  Until then, I’m going to treasure forever the song they sang at the end of the rehearsal – “for sitting through the whole practice”.  And I was already pretty choked up – just being in their presence… wow.

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Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotai

Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

We choose Point of View RV Park for our stay here.  They have a hotel at the end of a little peninsula, right in town, but the “campground” (more like a nicely appointed parking lot) has views of the water, and since we’re off peak, we’re basically alone in it.  The people who run it are super nice and helpful – and offer a great dinner (tough choice between halibut and lobster) and breakfast deal.  We eat some local halibut and then start our love affair with Cape Breton music.

In Cape Breton, a musical gathering is called a ceilidh -pronounced kay-lee for those of you, who like me, find our Gaelic a bit lacking – as in, what in God’s name is that?  And it’s where you go to hear amazing Irish and Scottish music. And love your family roots and tap/stomp your feet when you can’t dance (which you definitely want to).  Our first ceilidh is held in the Louisbourg Playhouse, which is a re-creation of  Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, built at the Fortress by Disney for the filming of Squanto: A Warrier’s Tale.  Disney donated it to the town, and they moved it – and built a roof over the uncovered part of it.  We had a wonderful talk with one of the older gentlemen who’d been part of that construction during intermission (where they also serve oat cookies and tea on the amazing second floor). As for the amazing music – Jennifer Roland  introduced us to beautiful, dancing fiddle-playing, Jason Hempt  was a strong back-up for her and Troy Young, who was making his debut as a guitarist song-writer, some lovely tunes.   Jason definitely held his own as singer/keyboard artist/humorist, when it was his turn.  Lucky 9th graders that get him during his day job.

The next day we went to Glace Bay to visit the mining museum there. But before we buy our admission tickets, we learn that if we come back on Sunday, Men of the Deeps, (North America’s only choral group that requires you to be a coal miner to join) will be rehearsing there.  We just missed their performance by a day in Louisbourg – and since they are taking off on tour in a few weeks (and we missed them in Vegas- wow, these guys did Vegas!) I am so excited about being able to see them in rehearsal, we postpone our tour of the museum until Sunday.

But before Sunday – comes Saturday and I wake up on my 61st birthday to find the little Navion all festively decorated.  (Brought back so many memories of our decorating boats in the past for Christopher’s 4th of July birthday.)

Happy  61st Birthday

Happy 61st Birthday

Then, we finally make it to Fortress Louisbourg.  It’s definitely worth the trip.  Beautiful, historic and even though it’s not as staffed with costumed interpreters  as during high season, we had many interesting conversations with the staff that were still there and doing a great job.  And we had a fabulous lunch.  Since it’s a certain year in the 1700’s, we get to choose where we eat according to class – so today there’s a restaurant with soup and cheese , which is crowded and we can’t get in – or a full-course meal a few doors down.  Dick gives me a birthday lunch in a cozy little house, fire blazing –  a tureen of soup, delicious chicken and vegetables, potatoes, and apple tart.

Fort Louisbourg
Fort Louisbourg
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Then it’s back to the Louisbourg Playhouse to hear Third of a Dozen, which included Jason Hempt, an absolutely  rollicking good time.

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It was hard to leave the Lunenburg area, so we eked out one more night at an RV park right in Lunenburg itself.  You’d never know we were in the town, (and close to the filming of Moby Dick)  given the view and the visiting deer.

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Out my bedroom window

Out my bedroom window

But after five nights, it was time to move on to Halifax.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has exhibits on both the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic (bodies were recovered and buried in cemeteries here).

I got interested in the history of the Halifax explosion after reading Anita Shreve’s novel, “Wedding in December”.  So then I read Laura MacDonald’s non-fiction account “Curse of the Narrows”.  Two ships , one carrying tons of explosives, collided in the Halifax Harbor in 1917 , set off a fire,and then an explosion,  that killed at least 2000 and injured 10,000 more, leaving Halifax in ruins.  It was the most powerful man-made explosion ever, prior to the atomic bomb, and caused a tsunami in the basin – as if the fire and shock waves from  the blast weren’t enough.  So many people, standing at their windows, watching the ship on fire after the collision, were blinded or killed by the shattering glass when the explosion went off.  The chaos that followed, the search for dead and wounded in the blinding blizzard that arrived the next day, and the sheer magnitude of the medical and relief efforts were  mind-boggling.

We also visited Pier 21 – Canada’s Ellis Island, which has been transformed into an immigration museum, rode up to Citadel Hill and around the downtown on the free and friendly bus, “Fred”,  and toured Alexander Keith’s Brewery, before having a delicious dinner and heading back across the bridge to Shubie Park Campground.

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Pulled over at Blue Rocks to watch Packer game

Pulled over at Blue Rocks to watch Packer game

Just pull over.

We decided to drive to Blue Rocks, just beyond Lunenburg.  What a good place to test our clear view to the southern sky…

Reception was great.  So was the view.

(This was the Packer – Rams game, from a week ago. There won’t be pictures of us watching the Vikings …)

View out back window, Blue Rocks

View out back window, Blue Rocks

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Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

To say Lunenburg is a colorful little port is an understatement.  It’s a candy store for the eye.  Oh, please don’t let me say William Hurt is too…oops!  Yes, they’re filming Moby Dick here (with William Hurt, Ethan Hawke, Donald Sutherland and Gillian Anderson), but that’s not why we came. We had no idea they were filming here – we came to see a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site town (only two in North America, the other one is Quebec City) and were here for two days before we discovered the film crews.  Which was good because it gave us time to visit the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and enjoy the town without distraction.

Lunenburg Harbor

Lunenburg Harbor

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

The museum is great – I didn’t know my favorite fish (to eat), halibut, was a bottom-feeding flat fish, but I’ve seen one in person now.  I’m still going to eat it.  We had a long, great talk with a scallop fisherman.

So okay,  back to William Hurt.  I fell in love with him in “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”. Would it help if I said Dick did too?  Probably not.  Let’s just say we were both surprised and happy to see him in person.  And even more surprised to see him in these circumstances, sitting alone on a small chest, in costume,  on the side of the street.  No make-up artists hovering, no production people around, he was just sitting there, almost on the curb. Definitely not a prima donna – or whatever the masculine version of that is. We walked within feet of him before we realized who he was.  He raised his eyes, lowered them. Respecting his privacy, we walked right past him, like he was just any other person on the street.  Saw him again the next day, this time he had one of his legs wrapped in green tape, so as to make it disappear for the peg leg… aren’t movies wonderful?!

We also walked to one of the sets they built at the foundry in Lunenburg to re-create a Nantucket wharf.  They were dis-assembling it while we watched.  Look for it in the movie, though.

Lunenburg Set for Moby Dick - representing Nantucket

Lunenburg Set for Moby Dick - representing Nantucket

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View out door at campsite

View out door at campsite

I could rhapsodize about Ovens Natural Park for pages, but am way behind on blogging – so will sum it up quickly and share a campfire story.

Being off-season, we had the place to ourselves, with unlimited ocean views and crashing surf.

There are sea caves to explore.

Looking out of sea cave

Sea cave

And great hiking, along rocky shoreline overlooking the ocean.

And on the very first night, we’re sitting outside in the dark, around a campfire.  Suddenly, we see a strange silhouette appear… out of nowhere, really close by us.  Dicks says racoon – we strain our eyes, and I make out the definite form of a fox.  We’re freaked because he’s coming right up to us, so we grab our chairs as weapons and back towards the Navion, thinking there must be something wrong with it to come so close.  We train a flashlight on him (from inside) and he’s as pretty and healthy as can be, he looks into the light and lies down next to the fire.  We hadn’t finished cooking our hot dogs yet, so when we head back outside, Dick shoos him away with the light.  A little later, in the dark of the campfire, he joins us again.  This time we let him stay and we share a hot dog.

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Statue of Evangeline, in front of Memorial Church, Grand Pre

Statue of Evangeline, in front of Memorial Church, Grand Pre

The opening lines of Longfellow’s poem, “Evangeline”, have thilled me ever since I was a little girl.  I can’t take credit for any literary precociousness – “Forest Primeval” was the name of the northern Wisconsin resort where my family rented a cabin for several weeks each summer when I was growing up.  The entry sign would begin the poem, “This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pines and the hemlocks…” and we’d turn off a paved road onto the bouncy, two tire tracked,  pine-needle strewn dirt road that would lead us to the old log lodge and one of the primitive log cabins, all with names like Evangeline, Gabriel and Longfellow.  The whole family would get into such a dither of excitement, cheering and clapping, that our black labrador once jumped out of the car window along the route, showing his own exuberance for a couple of weeks in the woods and lake.

I did read and love the poem though, because of those summers.  I thought the story of the ill-fated love between Evangeline and Gabriel was the most romantic story in the world.

Visiting the Grand Pre National Historic Site is a much more somber experience.  The visitor center, film and memorial church bring to life the history of Acadia and the tragic deportation of the Acadian people by the British in 1755.

Grand Pre National Historic Site

Grand Pre National Historic Site

No sign of the struggles and heartbreak today.  We walk through beautiful grounds, orchards and gardens, and statues commemorating the brave heroine, Evangeline, and her creator, Longfellow.  They brought this incredible story to the world’s attention.

And I feel like I’ve filled in a bit of a childhood chapter of my life that started in the north woods of Wisconsin.

Grand Pre National Historic Site

Grand Pre National Historic Site

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We took the ferry from St. John to Digby, NS,  a pleasant 3 hour trip.  The Bay of Fundy was not as roiled as it was when we took the Bluenose from Bar Harbor to Yarmouth a few years back with my Mom and Dad.  I didn’t feel the need to kiss the ground when we got off.  Taylor fared well too, cat in a motor home in the hold of a ship.  We checked on him periodically (would have stayed if he needed us) and after a little initial concern about all the strange vessel noises, he bedded down and took a nap.

Digby is a colorful little port and home to the world’s largest scallop fleet. I never order scallops because in some kind of perverse logic, I think that because Dick is allergic to them, they might make me sick too.  Big mistake, I learned.  We headed to the “Captain’s Cabin” restaurant, where, while Dick ate haddock, I had the scallop special.  It wasn’t because it came with a complimentary slice of lemon meringue pie, honest. The scallops were just perfect.  I liked them and they liked me, and I won’t be avoiding them from now on.

The next day we headed to Port Royal National Historic Site. It’s a reconstruction of the first lasting settlement north of Florida (1605).  We’re following a Samuel de Champlain theme, having seen the failed settlement on St. Croix Island a few days ago.  Champlain and Sieur de Monts came here after a terrible winter on that ill-advised site, where many died and the rest, except for one man who accompanied them,  headed back home.

We also had a pub lunch, rappie pie – an Acadian specialty made with chicken and mashed potatoes, (delicious!) in Annapolis Royal and walked the town a bit, including the grounds at Fort Anne.

Port Royal National Historic Site

Port Royal National Historic Site

Port Royal National Historic Site

Port Royal National Historic Site

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View out window from campsite, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

View out window from campsite, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Usually we think of campgrounds as a means to an end.  Not that lots of them haven’t been beautiful – we’ve enjoyed gorgeous views, hikes and amenities (we’ll make travel plans AROUND one with a great restaurant!). But the main reason we stay in them is to get somewhere, visit something. We can choose a nice Inn or restaurant if we want, but we can avoid crummy motels and marginal restaurants if that’s all there is around.  Okay, and Dick likes having a bathroom wrapped around his little finger, and I like not having to pack and unpack a suitcase all the time.  And we both don’t want to leave Taylor (our cat, not child) behind anymore.

Right now we’re staying in a campground that probably qualifies as both a means and an end.  It’s a good stopping-off place on our way to St. John and the ferry we plan on taking to Digby, starting our tour of Nova Scotia.  But because it’s at the ocean-surrounded tip of St. Andrews, it also offers beautiful ocean views of Passamaquoddy Bay out our windows, and a charming, historic town within easy walking distance.  So, it becomes sort of a destination campground -even though we only stay three nights.  We had delicious dinners and breakfasts in town, a Kingsbrae Garden visit with High Tea, and great walks through the historic section and by the ocean.

Our front yard

Our front yard , Kiwanis Oceanfront Camping, St. Andrews

The Gables Restaurant, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

The Gables Restaurant, St. Andrews, New Brunswick


Kingsbrae Gardens, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Kingsbrae Gardens, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Cafe at Kingsbrae Gardens, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

Cafe at Kingsbrae Gardens, St. Andrews, New Brunswick

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