Trip to the sea continues! :D
We were so fortunate! We were told by the locals that the leaves in Cape Breton were 2 weeks behind their regular schedule this year, so we got to drive through the mountains when they were the most vibrant! <3
Like many people who visit Cape Breton Island, we drove around the Cabot Trail, which is the upper part of the island, as shown in this map here.
We stayed at the Auld Farm Inn in Baddeck, I think the largest village on the Cabot Trail. (We highly recommend the B&B, the rates are very reasonable, and the hosts are so very friendly and thoughtful. I loved that they took the time to explain the history of the farm house and referred to themselves as custodians rather than owners of the property. AND they use old keys for the rooms!)
We aimed for an early start in the morning, as fellow inn guests let us know that they took 6 hours to complete the trail the day before. It was a sunny and crisp fall morning when we set out on our road trip around the trail :)
If I remember correctly, we spotted this church near St. Anne’s Bay, not far from Baddeck.
Then we stopped at the look-out point at Lakie’s Head, with its rugged coastline of pink rocks.
We stopped here for the washroom I think. And I really like the building against the bright blue sky, and the name of the place. So honest.
This is also where we found an album named “Buttermilk Mary”. I thought Buttermilk Mary was the artist or the band, and I thought that’s a great stage name (or blog post title, or name for a cat, haha). It wasn’t until after we came back and Googled it that we realized Buttermilk Mary is a set of jigs by the Baroque N’ Fiddle String Quartet, and we totally regretted not buying the album at the general store! We ended up buying it on iTunes :P It’s really lovely, you can watch it played here.
Can’t remember the last time we navigated by paper rather than GPS or Google Maps. This map was given to us by a friendly staff when we got to the Highlands National Park office. We were asking for directions to waterfalls on the trail. She marked her favourite spot on the trail with a heart :)
White Point Beach was her favourite spot and she highly recommended it. Just a bit north of Neil’s Harbour, which is a very picturesque fishing community.
This lighthouse doubles as an ice cream parlour in warmer months!
Obviously October is not one of the warmer months in the east coast. It actually got really windy when we got to White Point.
And we snapped a few more photos…
But we never made the trek to the White Point Beach, because it was just too cold and windy. So we got back into our warm rental car and continued on the trail.
There were many look-out points along the way. Pictures really can’t capture fully the vastness of land and the majestic mountains. Can you see the river weaving between the mountains?
We started following one of the shorter trail to find the Black Brook Falls, but then Mike spotted the Coyote warning sign and told me about it. I started to panic, remembering stories from our east coast friends about how east coast coyotes hunt like wolves, in packs. So I convinced Mike to turn back. But we did venture into the woods for a few minutes. I love how moss seems to cover everything in these woods.
And we came across a river. Mike took a brilliant photo of it, which I don’t think he minds me showing it off :D
I also took far too many of these behind-the-dashboard pictures with Mike’s DSLR while he was driving. The view is different behind every bend! And as you can see, the weather was also different minute by minute. It was now hailing. But look at the sea!!
One of the last look-out points we stopped at was the most exhilarating. I believe this is at or near Margaree. The gusty wind, the sea mist, the salt in the air, the roaring sea — it simply commands us to be fully present in that moment of being there. I usually have a huge fear of deep water and height (because I can’t swim). But in that moment, looking down into the sea and the jagged rocks from a cliff, I felt strangely safe, like I’ve found my place in all the created beings and things. Like I belong. The experience of that moment was one of the best gifts that I brought back with me.
After going around the trail we explored village of Baddeck the next day. Aside from Baddeck Yarns (see previous post :D), we visited the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site and museum. I never knew that the inventor lived in Cape Breton! (he and his wife are also buried in Baddeck) And that aside from inventing the telephone, he also contributed to many innovations in aviation and shipbuilding. The tetrahedron was a structure that he frequently incorporated into his inventions, from kites to towers to aircrafts, because of its strength. This is a tetrahedron shelter that he would have stayed in to observe flying experiments.
Alexander Graham Bell fell in love with this view and stayed. I wish we could stay too.
Doing a bit of beach-combing here before heading to Sydney.
And here we are in Sydney, capital of Cape Breton, home of the big fiddle and beautiful purple rocks!
Here we spent the day visiting a couple of historic house museums. At Jost House the upper floor displayed an apothecary exhibit and a marine exhibit. The house was occupied by families of merchants from the 1700s until the 70s.
Then we visited the Cossit House, which is believed to be the oldest house in Sydney, built in 1787. It was the home of a minister, who lived there with his wife and 13 children. It has a lovely back garden maintained by the museum docents, with handwritten signs explaining the names and uses of the herbs in all the garden boxes. It really was a cozy place. But when I took the picture with Diana Mini it turned out sort of dark, and then it has this glow at the doorway, which makes it look like those pictures of haunted places… or a house with a glowing heart…?
Not sure where the glow comes from, it is also in a picture at the Joggins cliffs (picture of my feet), so I’m sure it has to do with the developing process or some kind of lens flare, and not the house itself :P
We then drove back to Halifax to catch our flight home, trying to squeeze in a few more strolls in the lovely city before we had to leave.
Argyle Street, naturally.
If you ever find yourself visiting Halifax, and you’re looking for souvenirs that are not in the shape of a lobster or lighthouse, be sure to visit the World Tea House and Biscuit General Store on Argyle St.!
Also, if you like East Asian food, I highly recommend the Beaver Sailor Diner up the street from the harbour! I think it’s pretty new, the staff was really friendly, the noodles are handmade, the prices reasonable, and the logo is cute! (I think they should make buttons/pins of the logo.)
Another great place where we found awesome souvenirs was the farmers’ markets. We visited the Seaport Farmers’ Market for breakfast one day at one of the bakers’ stalls, and bought quite a few bags of seaweed products from Mermaid Fare :D (the owner is very knowledgeable about the seaweed and how to cook them!) Here’s Mike’s picture of a friendly fish monger. We didn’t bring back any fish though.
And then we ventured into the Historic Farmers’ Market in the Alexander Keith’s Brewery building (still haven’t done the brewery tour, must do that one day!). We find that it’s a smaller (but equally vibrant) market with more local residents visiting, whereas the Seaport Market can be very crowded when there’s a cruise ship docking at the harbour :S At both markets there are produce, spices, soaps, coffee stalls, bakeries, crafts, artwork, and everyone is happy to explain their products even if we weren’t buying anything.
This is from one of our early morning strolls at the Old Burying Ground in Halifax. I like how the gentle sunlight of early morning is filtered through the trees and illuminating the old graves. It was founded in 1749, and closed in 1844. We spent some time there marveling at the old lettering and cravings on the headstones.
And finally, part of why we were in the east coast in the first place was because I was presenting a paper at an art therapy conference in Halifax. That happened before we went on the road trip to Cape Breton. And this was me, basically reading out my script because I so dread public speaking. But I hope whatever it was that the participants took from what I shared would make a difference one day, no matter how small, how indirect.
And that was my journey! I have a feeling that I will journey back one day. Just feel strangely at home in the east coast. Until then, I will miss the warm hospitality and the sea.
I hope you enjoy the photos and stories and travel tips! Thank you for journeying with me! :D