Thursday, September 12, 2019

East Coast: The Cabot Trail (Day 8)

The Cabot Trail is one of the world's most famous drives. Every travel list in North America has the Cabot Trail as one of its must drive highways.

Rising from the sea and clinging to mountains, the 298-kilometer-long Cabot Trail is a winding mix of roadway, paths, stairs, and stunning beauty that takes you from unreal ocean vistas to quaint fishing villages.

Since the Cabot Trail is a circular trail, every one debates whether to go around the Cabot Trail clockwise or anti-clockwise. We decided to do it anti-clockwise, starting from Baddeck, so this meant we were on the outside lane with the water. I would recommend the anti-clockwise route, as this means you can immediately stop on the side if you see something interesting, and the elevation keeps going higher and higher as you drive.

As a sidenote: fill up on the gas before you head out.

It was a cloudy start to the day. It had been raining in Baddeck the night before, and the forecast called for more rain. We were hoping the forecast was wrong, and thankfully, soon it brightened up.

 A small inlet of water, beautifully reflecting the sky,
somewhere just north of Baddeck

I had assumed this would be a challenging drive - somewhat like Highway 99 from Whistler to Vancouver. On the contrary, it was pleasurable drive. There were some ascents and descents, but nothing crazy.

The first stop was the Wreck Cove General Store. Now why did we stop here? Simply because almost every guide book and Tripadvisor post said to stop here. I wouldn't say there was anything much. Their lobster sandwiches are apparently "world famous" (you beginning to see a theme here?) but at $16 wasn't worth it.

You also get curious souveniers such as this. Now I am hoping this is really chocolate. I don't know though. In any case, we were soon out from the store after getting some magnets and what have you. And once again, it was starting to be a clear sky (even though it was slightly overcast) and bright sun breaking out from the clouds.

Soon we stopped at a spot that I can probably describe as an inverse Lake Louise. It was really beautiful - the mountains, the grass, the trees and then the wide expanse of the ocean. Just like anything natural - photos (particularly phone photos) do not do it justice.

Phone pictures seem to flatten out the colours, but in reality it was vibrant and the contrast was vivid. No wonder lots of cars just pulled over to take pictures!

As we started out again, it was surprising that without much elevation change being apparent, suddenly we were back at ground level with the water. I really don't know how the mapping of the road was; but sometimes we were quite high up and sometimes we were quite low on the ground.

We stopped again some time before Ingonish Beach. I don't know what the name of this Cove was, but it was not hard to imagine that at times of yore, this would have been the perfect place for smugglers to bring their wares onto shore, where known people would be waiting, perhaps in the middle of the night with lamps, to ship those goods into Canada.

It was now bright and sunny - no sign of those clouds or rain. And soon we entered Cape Breton Highlands National Park. This park occupies a huge terrain north of the island, and the Cabot Trail touches the park in many places, and you need a park pass to drive through it.

The beautiful Ingonish beach

The ocean, the rocky beach and the 
winding road hugging the coast 
line, with breeze blowing through your 
hair as you drive into the sunset

The beautiful Cabot Trail, with the
sun now beating down quite mercilessly

Waves crashing into the rocky beach,
with no one around for miles

Lakies Head is a beautiful place to stop and soak in the scenery, just north of Ingonish on the Cabot Trail. There are plaques describing the seasonal migrations of animals into the area.

It's an easy stop along the highway with great views of the ocean and sea birds. There's some warnings about the dangers of rogue waves so just be mindful.

It was now getting to be way past noon, and thus time for lunch. And for that, we stopped at one of the restaurants that almost every guidebook and tourist post seemed to praise. The Rusty Anchor.

I don't have to describe the sea food. Fried haddock. Pan crusted cod and haddock. Mussels. Clam. Corn. More haddock. And it was all so good, and disappeared from the plate so fast also!

An interesting take on the fish burger

You can never go wrong with the
standard order of a fish and
chips - just make sure there's
no beer batter if you don't
drink alcohol

They had some interesting signage
demarcating the mens' and womens'

A great restaurant - the hype is definitely
worth it - and I highly recommend
The Rusty Anchor if you are
visiting The Cabot Trail

Views of the road and the ocean
from behind The Rusty Anchor

The ocean - so blue!

The Skyline Trail: Most people who visit the Cabot Trail also hike the famous (or shall we say "world famous") Skyline Trail.

At the end of this level trail, a dramatic headland cliff overlooks the rugged coast. You can enjoy an eagle's view of the Cabot Trail as it winds its way down the mountain and vehicles look like toys. And you can watch for whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence from the viewing decks. Moose, bald eagles, bears and numerous boreal birds live in this habitat.

This was the start of the Skyline Trail. Now since our group included kids and seniors - we simply were not going to do the 7 km trail. It just wasn't going to happen. Instead, we did the next best thing. The lady at the Park Canada told us a secret.

The very next stop on the route AFTER the Skyline Trail was a stop that was at the end of the trail. So you essentially get the same view as if you have just hiked the trail. Minus the boardwalk, of course.


And once again I have to say pictures, as usual, do not do the scene justice. You JUST cannot take proper pictures that show the beauty of such a place. We would return to this spot after checking into our hotel at Cheticamp, the small village we were staying overnight, nearly at the end of the Cabot Trail (and close to Baddeck since this was a loop).

Our cottage (or chalet, as they called 
it) at Cheticamp

Cheticamp is a very small village. So small - there is one grocery superstore that closes by 5 - after which you only have a small convenient store to shop from. It's a beautiful French town though, and you can explore the fishing boats and the little houses. We decided to drive back to the trail to catch the sunset.

There's something to be said about sunset into the ocean. It is so pretty.

Dinner time - and why not pizza. Plus ... wait for it ... they have a world famous pizza store (but of course).

Overall, the Cabot Trail was one of the highlights of the trip. It was definitely worth the hype, especially the northern portions where you are so high up and you get some excellent views. You need a brilliant sunny day though - which is what we had - and not rain if you were to explore the Cabot Trail's beauty.

Friday, September 06, 2019

East Coast: Baddeck, Nova Scotia and the Bell Museum (Day 7)

It was raining. After a long time, we have seen some rain. This was not a sightseeing day though, at least not yet. For now, we had a ferry to catch. The ferry would leave at 930 am, and the terminal was at least an hour's journey away. We just made it - reaching the terminal at 920 am - and we were the last car allowed on to the ferry!

A light house dotting the PEI landscape. One of many on its many beaches. Now abandoned, derelict, and mostly a relic of a bygone era - these lighthouses served no more than a tourist picture's backdrop. The slight drizzle added to the grey mood as the ferry left the shores of Prince Edward Island. Onward to Nova Scotia.

If you climbed to the top deck of the ship, you could see the coast of Nova Scotia in the distance. It wasn't far - the ferry would only travel about 26 km or so, but the journey would take the big boat around 75 minutes. This is why people build bridges!

It was a huge ferry, and soon the weather cleared up - just a little - and we could enjoy the sun on the deck outside. Even though it was summer, the captain told us that the water was very cold - it was the Atlantic waters that was flowing into the Northumberland Strait. So ... um ... no one try any swimming, he joked.

The ferry reminded me a bit of the BC ferries trip when you journeyed between Vancouver and Victoria. Being the last car in meant we were parked on the lower deck. As we discovered, that also meant we were one of the first cars out of the ferry!

Welcome to Nova Scotia. Our fifth - and last - province on this trip.

It was around 1 pm when we reached our destination - the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. This was a museum dedicated to the life of the inventor of the telephone and his work here in Baddeck. Once again, it was free entrance with the National Parks Pass. It was raining in Baddeck, but for the moment we didn't care; we were going to be indoors in the museum. This used to be the Bell family home, but now it was converted to a museum.

One thing that was disappointing about the museum was that how little of it was actually devoted to the telephone - which is Bell's most famous invention. Most likely because much of the work on the telephone was done by Bell in Boston, USA (at MIT). To its credit, the museum had a lot on Bell's other inventions and work - which I didn't even know he was involved in. In particular, on aviation - much of the work that was done by Bell in Baddeck, Nova Scotia was on aviation.

It's surreal when something you remember using as a child (the rotary phone) is now found only in museums. I put a modern Android touch screen phone next to it to take a picture - can you spot it? Very amazing how technology changes.

An uncluttered work space - an uncluttered mind. You can see Bell's office, preserved here, was wide open with lots of space, and not a lot of clutter. Throughout the museum we also saw Bell's tribute to his wife. It is true - behind every successful man is a supportive woman - and Bell was driven in part to conquer sound and transmission, and later aviation, largely due to his wife's continued support.

The Silver Dart is what this museum is primarily dedicated to. You can read more about the Silver Dart here. This was what A.G. Bell is known for in Baddeck. It also just happened to be Aviation Day on the day we visited the museum, so there was a bunch of festivities to celebrate the Silver Dart.

Usually in museums I don't watch any of the video exhibits, but there is one here that I would recommend everyone to watch. It tells about Bell's passion for aviation and how Canada made some of the first steps in this new field.

It had stopped raining by the time we exited the museum. Now I understood why there was a old pre-WW2 plane outside of the complex. It was time to get some lunch, and for that we would have to go to the nearby village of Baddeck, which is also where our hotel was.

Can you spot the Silver Dart? 

Baddeck is really a very small village. Just a couple of streets, with some shops and souvenirs, and that's it. Still, there's a Tim Hortons nearby and an Imperial gas station, plus a small convenience store if you need water or fruits. However, it did have some nice restaurants and also a couple of pizza places (for kids).

By the time we had parked, it had started to rain again. It would be a combination of lunch and dinner, since it was late. We only had fast food on the way. We were supposed to do the Cabot Trail tomorrow, and the weather outlook wasn't great - it was supposed to rain all day tomorrow.

The seafood I had on the east coast simply has to be one of the best I have eaten. They don't use any spices, but mostly butter, garlic and some herbs, but I guess it's the freshness - it makes a huge difference.

The last time I had lobster before this was in Cuba, but it was very, very bland. Cuban food, sadly, is not the best. Here, the way they had prepared the lobster made it very yummy. Not to mention pan grilled halibut or even the fried fish.

The Cabot Trail. I will talk more about this in the next post, but this is a great road that goes around the northern part of Cape Breton, and is usually on the list of must-do drives on anyone's list. Baddeck is on the lowest point of the Cabot Trail.

The Red Barn Gift Shop & Restaurant, which is just outside the city of Baddeck, is usually the start of the Cabot Trail if you are doing it clockwise. We planned to do the Cabot Trail counter-clockwise, so we just visited this place after lunch as it is mentioned in every guidebook.

It's a neat gift shop, and I feel sad I didn't buy one of these big lighthouses. They were not that expensive, and if you have a big house, it would fit in very nicely as part of the decor. If you want to buy gifts and souvenirs from Baddeck, or of the Cabot Trail, this place is a must visit.

They even have a nice model of the Titanic - pretty realistic looking. I mean this is more of a Halifax thing, but why not. And if you wanted to purchase it ...

... it would set you back just a meagre $330 . 

Plus tax.

It really was a long day, so it was great to just head to our hotel and relax. We had booked in a small resort, and it was very well maintained.

One of the big advantages of starting early is that you can cover a whole lot of things on your day. This was one of the themes of our East Coast trip. Set out early in the morning, so you can travel as well as sight see. And don't worry about kids - kids adjust very well as long as you take care of certain things. Like lots of activities (Dollarama Zindabad), food and etc.

This was a nice place, and I can recommend the resort to anyone visiting Baddeck and the Cabot Trail. Quite near to everything in the village.

Tomorrow - the world famous Cabot Trail.