Happily, things felt more positive as we continued on South on Sunday morning. We carried on down the coast, aiming for Mabou. Along the way, we found the
This is the only distillery in North America that produces single-malt whiskey. This is Scotch, but they are not allowed to call it that, because it is not made in Scotland. They actually got taken to court over the use of “Glen” in their name, but won that fight. We took the tour, which was almost comedically short — but still interesting.
We also bought some to bring home with us, as well as a Scottish-made bracelet for myself. It is made of cleaned, dried, dyed, bundled, compressed, sliced, polished Heather twigs. Did you follow that? It looks like this:
Personally, I think it looks like Van Gogh’s Starry Night.
From there, we carried on down the coast, and got lost up a one-way gravel-then dirt-then mud road. We thought it might take us somewhere fun, but eventually it just petered out, and we had to turn around and go back the way we came. Ha!
But we did find one beautiful scenic spot before turning around. It was a little marshy, but soooo big and blue and green!
Eventually, we made it to Mabou. We were fortunate enough to happen across it during their once-a-week farmer’s market. We bought a soy candle, a wooden spoon, some waffles, croissants, and coffee. Now, perhaps one of those items stood out to you…? Who randomly buys a wooden spoon on vacation at a farmer’s market? Apparently we do. Actually, it is a beautiful, full-of-character, one-of-a-kind wooden spoon. The guy who made it says he doesn’t carve wood into spoons, he simply reveals the spoon that was always hidden inside. No two are alike, and they all have their own little character. The one we chose has a bit of a curved handle, and is carved from apple wood. I can’t wait to make cookies with it!
Also in Mabou, we stopped by the Red Shoe Pub for lunch. It is owned by the Rankin Family sisters (who grew up in Mabou, and apparently are still very involved in the community). We had soup and salad and beer. It was pretty good, and if we’re out this way again, we’d definitely eat here again.
All in all, this was a pretty cool little area. We met some very interesting people (mostly at the farmer’s market), and had fun all around. Probably a smaller community than we’d want to live in, but a good little town to visit.
After Mabou, we headed northeast, to Baddeck. This is a bit of a tourist hub on Bra d’Or, and we had thought of passing it by, but were glad we stopped. We stayed at the Inverary Resort, and were very impressed. It was one of our cheapest accommodations, and also one of the nicest!
By staying here, we had access to a little “adventure centre”, where they rent out kayaks and mountain bikes and paddle boats and tennis rackets. We arrived late in the afternoon, so didn’t have time for any of that — but we did have time for a little 30 minute boat tour around Kitson Island. We heard some of the local history, and could see Alexander Graham Bell’s Estate, which overlooks the lake.
After our boat tour, we went for a dip in the hot tub, and then got dressed and went out for dinner.
The next day, before leaving town, we went to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum which was fantastically well done. We both found it to be really interesting, and inspiring. Going in, I only really knew him to be the guy who invented the telephone. But it turns out he did a lot more than that. He did a lot of work for the deaf, specifically teaching them to speak — using an alphabet his father had invented. He also was very into ‘flying machines’, and did a lot of work and experimenting with kites — and also did a lot of work with boats — he invented hydrofoils! He also had other little projects throughout his life. For example, he tried for many years to breed sheep that would be more likely to bear twins — using the theory that the more nipples a mother has, the more children she is likely to bear. Which is apparently true when looking at a species in general (A mother is most likely to bear one child at a time, per nipple. Humans usually have one — animals with eight nipples typically bear four, etc…) but he found that it was not true individually. His only success with this experiment was to breed many-nippled goats…
The following is our reflection in the mirror of the ‘discovery centre’, which is for kids to play and ‘discover’ things… Sounds, textures, shapes, etc… Aaaand apparently their reflections. Ha.
And, apparently there’s just something about us finding weird things on the way out of town, because on our way out of Baddeck, we found this yard all full of ‘life-sized’ simpsons cut-outs. We have some closer-up shots, but wanted to get the whole gist in. Definitely strange… There was a little rusty ‘donations’ box out front too. We wondered if they actually make any money… I mean, all that wood and paint has got to come from somewhere…
We weren’t planning to stay in Cheticamp… But that’s about where we were when it started to get late, and we started to worry about finding dinner and a room for the night. Our tour guide book said that the town was full of ‘budget-friendly’ motels, and the best of the bunch was Fraser’s. They said the motel was full, but they owned this house next door, which they rent out per night too. The price was uber-cheap, and it was getting late so we took it. Unfortunately, the place gave us the creeps. We can’t even totally explain it, but we constantly felt like we were in a 70’s horror movie. We weren’t even able to turn the lamp off for the night. We literally slept with it on. And besides that, the bed was literally the worst we’ve ever experienced. It was sunken in the middle, we had springs jabbing us in the backs and hips, and it creaked extremely loudly every time we moved even slightly. And when I say ‘creak’, it was more like a groan… Possibly even a shriek… There were doors into our ‘suite’ that weren’t locked when we got there, and we didn’t have a key to, but we locked from the inside… The TV and microwave seemed to have a combined age of 400 years old… Not that we used either one, or would have wanted to… But it somehow added to the weirdness. We have no good photos from this place, because we weren’t exactly feeling artsy about it…
Worst Bed Ever:
Oldest TV Ever:
And don’t let the cheeriness of daylight fool you… This place had bad vibes.
Other than our room, the town itself wasn’t THAT bad. However when we were deciding where to eat dinner, we saw a restaurant/bar that had a “live music tonight” sign out front. We walked into what was obviously a bar with a stage, and lots of people sitting around doing what people tend to do in bars. But almost immediately, a guy walked out from the back, made eye contact with us, and pointed to a door off to one side. So we were like “okay…” and went through this door. It led us to the “family restaurant” side of the place… Our only thought is that the live music is for locals only or something? It was just very odd. So we had our ‘family restaurant’ dinner and went back to the creepy hotel and had the worst night of sleep in a while.
We try to be positive about things, and in general I’m sure you know that our reviews are almost always glowing and exuberant… But we couldn’t sugar coat this… It just felt bad, and I’m pretty sure we won’t stop there again…
On Saturday morning, we enjoyed our coffee on our gigantic cabin deck by the ocean. It was not too cold, just that hint of morning-by-the-water chill. It was so serene, and quiet — just the lapping of the water on the shore. It was hard to leave, but we were excited to carry on with our adventures. This was Cabot Trail day!
It started off well — at the very first lookout we stopped at, we spotted wales. There must have been a whole pod of them, because there were multiple little dorsal fins poking up here and there. We spent a good, long time trying to catch some photos — but of course, as soon as you see them, they’re gone again. We managed to get a few, but they mostly look like this:
One of the things that is so breathtaking about this trail, is the vast, flat, blue. It just seems to go on forever. I found myself constantly trying to figure out what land we’d run into if we could draw a straight line. Sometimes it must be Ireland — and that fact just amazes me.
We have to admit that we ventured off the Cabot Trail a few times along the way. One of those times was for White Point — Which is basically the northeast point of the northwest point on Cape Breton… I don’t know how else to describe it. It was a tiny little fishing town, with a beautiful harbour:
Another of our little detours from the trail took us to Meat Cove. This is the northern-most community in Nova Scotia — and there is a camp ground right along the edge of the cliffs, on the very northern point. This is absolutely one of the most breathtaking spots I’ve experienced in this awesome country of ours. I sat there for a long time, even though the wind was cold. Some places just have a certain indescribable energy about them — and this was one of those spots. We very badly want to come back here with Ziggy!!!
After we were able to tear ourselves away from this very powerful spot, we carried on down the road…
Took about a gazillion more photos at lookout points:
And as we neared the end of the trail (the west side, as we took it counter-clockwise), the clouds started to settle in around us…
This next photo did not end as badly as it could have. Brian’s cat-like reflexes allowed him to land on his feet…
Friday evening, we took a Bird Islands Boat Tour. It was just us and two other couples on the Puffin Express. This tour has been run by the same family for 38 years. The captain was 7 when his father started it up. The Bird Islands are two tiny little islands off the coast of Cape Breton, which are inhabited only by birds.
This is the Puffin Express:
This is Captain Vince:
There are 3 major bird families inhabiting these islands -
There were a type of gulls, which seemed a lot like your regular run-of the mill sea-gulls, but apparently they are a different branch of the family, and more rare and interesting…
And there were Cormorants — double-breasted and great cormorants, to be exact… Apparently those are a big deal for bird watchers…
And our favorites, the razorbills and puffins. Razorbills are also known as miniature penguins, and they were adorable. They really did look like little penguins, except these guys do fly…
And everyone knows what puffins look like. We saw dozens of them — and they really are adorable. They were way tinier than we’d expected. We thought they’d be the size of little penguins, but really they’re more robin-sized.
We also saw a whole bunch of grey seals — they kept poking their heads out of the water, and looking at us…
There was a problem with the cage around the propellors on the tour boat, and it kept snagging lobster traps. Two of them we were able to pull up and detangle from the propellor, and throw back again — but on one of them, the buoy was wedged under the boat somewhere — so they’ll have to send a diver down to figure it out. So we just pulled that trap aboard. There was a lobster in it, which had to be thrown back. All part of the adventure, really…
When we got back to shore, it was just getting dark — and they had a beach bonfire and steamed lobster waiting for us. The kid in the photos is Mark — he was helping.
And at the end of this great fun evening, we headed back to our little rented cabin for the night — which is also owned by this same family. This was one of our cheapest accommodations, and it was literally ocean-front. Doesn’t get much better than that!