Driving Cape Breton Island, day 1

Everyone we talked to about Nova Scotia said the same thing: “You have to see Cape Breton Island; you have to drive the Cabot Trail”. Today, we started that.

Actually, it was an enjoyable day, but really it was just a relaxed day of driving. I didn’t take that many pictures (49); we didn’t do that much that was really exciting. So I don’t have much to write about (apart from the birthday story in the previous post), and I don’t have many pictures to show.

We left our hotel in New Glasgow this morning around 9:00, and took the Trans-Canada highway all the way to the Canso Causeway.

Emergency geography lesson: Cape Breton Island is the half of Nova Scotia that is an island. The strip of water that separates Cape Breton from the mainland is the Strait of Canso. A causeway has been built so that you can drive from the mainland onto Cape Breton Island; this is the Canso Causeway. A set of locks and a swing bridge have been installed so that ships can still get past.

Canso Causeway and Strait, viewed from Cape Breton Island, looking toward the mainland.

Canso Causeway and Strait, viewed from Cape Breton Island, looking toward the mainland.

Once we got to Cape Breton, we drove the Fleur-de-Lis Trail to St. Peters, and then the Bras d’Or Lakes Drive to Sydney. Along the way we went through over a dozen tiny little towns with almost nothing to them. It was weird — there were all these cottages and country homes, but no sign of anything like grocery stores or gas stations to support them. It made no sense. Nobody’s really trying to survive off tourism either, so while it was a very pretty drive, there wasn’t really anywhere to stop, and we made quite good time. (For anyone considering the drive: St. Peters has some very nice walking trails and a picnic area; if you want to stop somewhere, this is the place to do it).

Bras d'Or Lake

Bras d'Or Lake

We did end up in a little Celtic-themed gift shop; I almost bought a bodhran, but it looked kind of cheap (almost like it was designed for display, not for playing), so even though I liked the way it sounded, I bought a tin whistle instead, enlarging my collection of “traditional instruments purchased as souvenirs” that I began in Turkey.

One of the bilingual English/Gaelic road signs we saw today.

One of the bilingual English/Gaelic road signs we saw today.

Our hotel in Sydney is nice, especially Mom & Dad’s suite — it looks like a decent small apartment. And this was also one of the cheapest hotels we could find around here, so getting a recommendation from the hotel staff last night was definitely worthwhile. The only disappointment so far is that this is the first hotel we’ve been in that doesn’t have 24-hour coffee/tea/etc. We have a microwave, mugs, teabags, etc. in our room, so it’s not like we have nothing to drink, but still.

Tomorrow, we drive the Cabot Trail, which is reputed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

Giant fiddle outside Sydney Port and Tourist Centre. Speakers hidden inside play fiddle music.

Giant fiddle outside Sydney Port and Tourist Centre. Speakers hidden inside play fiddle music.

(Pronunciation note: “Cabot Trail” is universally pronounced “CAB-it”, not “ca-BO”. They claim there are a lot of French people here, but based on this fact alone, I’m disinclined to believe it. The town of Ben Eoin is pronounced “Ben Yawn” — I mention this not because the town is in any way important to this post, but because I couldn’t figure it out, and then I heard it on a TV commercial, and now there’s one less mystery in the world. The place names and general multiculturalism around here could be worth a post all by themselves.)

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Posted on September 18, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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