Our Trip to Cape Breton (Day One)
Since Marilyn and I hadn’t had any sort of vacation for several years now we decided we were going to break away this past September even if only for a short trip.
It’s been more then 40 years since we last traveled around the Cabot trail so that’s what we decided we would do this year. Since Marilyn is spending two nights a week and the following days at her mother’s apartment now we had to plan it around that schedule. We decided to leave early on a Friday morning and return on Sunday so she could go to her mother’s on Sunday night as usual.
Our first stop was Tim Horton’s at Auld’s Cove near the Canso Causeway for coffee and donuts. Also the first opportunity for Marilyn to get some photos while I gassed up the car. Then on we went across the causeway only to be stopped halfway while the bridge was turned to allow a small fishing boat through.
We made a brief stop at the tourist bureau in Port Hasting to get a few ideas then on to Upper River Denys where we stopped to check out the Curious Collector, a little shop filled to the brim with antiques, collectibles and used books. It just so happened he was having a sale that day on oil lamps and Marilyn spotted one she liked so we collected it.
Next stop was the little community of Orangedale where the local train station has been turned into a railroad museum. We toured an antique Pullman car, viewed many interesting displays in the museum building and then toured the station, which has been preserved much as it was in the days when it was in use including where the station master and his family lived upstairs.
Of course it was about this time that the rain which had been threatening for some time decided to make an appearance. We dashed from one display to the next, trying to squeeze between the raindrops but by the time we had finished the tour it had begun to taper off again.
Our next stop was the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck. We had passed the signs on the highway many times when trucking back and forth to North Sidney, but this was out first opportunity to see it close up. It’s quite an impressive facility which does a good job of explaining the life and works of an extraordinary couple. Alexander and Mabel Bell were certainly a huge part of the Baddeck community and great contributors to the scientific community as well.
The rain started again during our time in the museum so we motored on toward the Margaree Valley where we had motel reservations for the night. As I was checking in I asked the clerk about places to eat in the area as well as possible places where there might be entertainment. It being a Friday night in Cape Breton I figured something had to be happening somewhere. His suggestions for food were all farther along the trail but he did make a phone call and found a place that was having a concert and ceilidh that evening back in the direction we had just come form.
After putting our luggage in our room and freshening up we headed back up the road to check out a couple of restaurants we had spotted earlier. Eventually we settled on a place called The Lakes. Pretty original name don’t you think since it was right beside a lake? Anyway I decided on the spaghetti and meatballs. The waitress informed me that this particular item was very hot and felt it necessary to warn me. I figured well, how hot could spaghetti and meatballs be? Right? Anyway both of our meals were delicious, the waitress was very attentive and when it came time for our bill I informed her she hadn’t been entirely honest with me. She inquired what I meant. I said well you said the spaghetti and meatballs were hot. You didn’t tell me they were DAMN HOT!
From there we continued on to the Normaway which is a combination campground and restaurant on Egypt Rd. We could probably have eaten at their restaurant but our target was The Barn where they hold Ceilidhs Wednesday evenings in the summer and Friday evenings in the fall. We were a bit early so we had our choice of seats in the non-reserved area. It seems a lot of the campers at the campground had reserved seats for the show. In fact there wasn’t really a bad seat in the house, er I mean barn, as no one was very far from the little stage as you’ll see in the accompanying video.
The ceilidh was our very first and we both enjoyed the music immensely. My friend Ross from Perth, Australia reminds me that not everyone knows what a ceilidh is. First of all it’s pronounced key-lee and the Gaelic speaking host of the show told us it means a visit. For all intents and purposes it’s a visit usually held in the kitchen of a private home and allows for anyone who wished to participate in the making of music. The host also gave a demonstration of Highland dancing. He teaches Highland dancing, fiddle playing and Gaelic at the The Royal Cape Breton Gaelic College in St. Ann’s. There were square dancing lessons being given following the ceilidh but we are not dancers so decided to forgo that particular part of the evening. Following the show we returned to our motel room and had a very peaceful night without a siren to be heard.