Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

Advice for Amy and George: Be on your best behavior.

26 Sep

During our recent trip to Canada, we established (through the wonders of Facebook) that we had friends who planned to visit Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island about a month after us. Midway through our  vacation, I asked Alan, “Any advice for Amy and George based on our experience thus far?”

I thought he’d offer up a highlight, like “They MUST go whale watching with Captain Mark,” or “Dinner at the Red Shoe Pub.”

But after some quiet consideration, he said, “Tell them that this is one place they won’t want to have the attitude that their behavior doesn’t matter because they’ll never see these people again. Because they will.”

So true. Perhaps it’s because Cape Breton has done such a great job creating and marking scenic driving trails that all travelers tend to share the same itinerary?

For example, we drove the full Cabot Trail (primarily scenic, weaving around the highlands national park), the full Ceildih Trail (packed with Celtic heritage and music), and part of the Bras d’Or Trail (along the coast of the huge inland saltwater lake). We didn’t venture to the eastern part of the island, so we missed the Fleur-de-lis Trail, which traces more of the island’s French heritage.

And along those routes? We repeatedly crossed paths with people we’d seen earlier on our trip. The couple from the whisky tour at Glenora? Seated next to us in the restaurant forty kilometers down the road for lunch. The couple who loudly made love (and I’m being generous with that term) in the motel room sharing the wall with our headboard? Sipping coffee across from us at breakfast the next morning – and again outside a restaurant on the other side of the island two days later.

A quick note on that: Cape Breton has limited lodging options. There were no real hotels, so we generally found ourselves choosing between a B&B or a motel that looked like it was plunked from the 1950s – still cute rather than creepy. When we checked into our first motel, Alan looked skeptical. “I’m pretty sure these places rent by the hour,” he commented.

I rolled my eyes. “Did you see any other options? Do you think someone’s going to buy a national park permit so they can drive up here to have motel sex?”

But then, two hours later, we started to hear an odd knock along our wall and our headboard shook. We looked at each other: Seriously?

Of course we muted the television for a minute so we could confirm that a moose wasn’t head-butting the building. If we’d had any question, it was quickly resolved. So we turned the volume back up, trying to ignore our neighbors. But they kept going. And going. If it had been a vibrating bed that took quarters (remember those?), they would’ve needed two rolls.

In the morning, as I stepped out to head to breakfast, their door opened at the same time. I couldn’t help but pause to retie my shoe so I could see what they looked like – I was picturing fake boobs, bleached hair and guy wearing multiple gold necklaces. Out stepped a seemingly conservative couple in their late 50s, looking like they’d just dropped their kids off at college.

All righty then.

So that’s the advice we have for George & Amy when it comes to Nova Scotia: Stalk or be stalked, but always be polite. And also? You can probably save a bunch of money if you negotiate your lodging by the hour. Apparently that’s acceptable.

A Whale of a Good Time. Really.

4 Sep

Alan and I tipped off Labor Day in Pleasant Bay, on the northwestern shore of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. The weather was, in fact, pleasant, so we walked over to the marina and jumped on the 9:30 departure of Captain Mark’s Whale Tour.

We soon realized how lucky we were: the boat (a tuna trawler-cum-research vessel) was sailing for its final day of the season,  presumably because the researchers – and their funding – had just returned to their homes the week before. One more day and we would’ve been on a veritable air mattress with a motor. Instead, we – and a dozen other people – chugged out of the harbor with Captain Mark himself at the helm.

Glancing around, Alan gave words to my own observation. “We’re the youngest people on this boat,” he whispered (as much as one CAN whisper over the thrum of a fishing boat’s motor). Awesome. I prefer old people to babies. (But if you’re giving me a gift, I’ll take a puppy over an old person ANY DAY.)

About that time, our guide Brandon covered a few rules, which gave the Seniors a chance to practice their stand-up. “Sounds like we’re in for a WHALE of a good time,” the love-child of Pat Sajack and Chuck Woolery quipped. A French-Canadian woman sporting a long white braid (whom we’d seen at dinner the night before and assumed was drunk) then jumped in with unintelligible jibberish. “Captain Mark! I ride the cock… pit with you!” she shrieked to the amusement/horror of her friends.

Alan and I traded a look and shook our heads. Please, God, bring on the whales fast. Or let someone fall overboard to chum the waters.

We shouldn’t have been so crabby. (<– See? I’m also funny on this boat!) Twenty minutes later we were well off-shore when we saw the first pilot whale. I’m not sure what I expected – a submarine slowly rising to the surface, perhaps? – but was more like Shamu showing off at SeaWorld. We soon had a dozen whales around the boat, including multiple pairs of mothers and calves. Which – despite my not liking babies – were ADORABLE.

It was breath-taking. Don’t believe me? Watch this video from our tour (and see if you can hear the crazy French lady screaming):

As if that weren’t enough, we then followed grey seals hunting in the water off the rocks.

All in all: not a bad way to start a vacation.

Travel Post: First 48 Hours in Nova Scotia

2 Sep

I had no idea what to expect when Alan and I boarded a flight for Halifax Saturday. After only a two hour flight, we descended into what appeared to be a forest. There were dense trees – and nothing else – as far as the eye could see.

At this moment, Alan remarked, “Nova Scotia is known as Canada’s Ocean Playground.” Given his timing, and since (to my knowledge) he’d done absolutely no research on our destination, I assumed he was being a smart ass. Until that motto greeted us on the license plate of our rental car. One point for Alan.

We hopped in the car, leaving Halifax in our rearview mirror as we made our way to Cape Breton, where we anticipated gorgeous scenery, a great music scene and a solid dose of Celtic culture.

In case you’re not familiar with Cape Breton, it’s an island that was primarily settled by Scots. There are Gaelic signs dotting the road, advertising square dancing or Ceilidhs – live, informal music gatherings pronounced as “kay-lees.” It also is home to the Cabot Trail, showcasing some of the most breath-taking scenery in North America.

Among the highlights during our first 36 hours:

  • Dinner at the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou – featuring some amazing scallops and the promise of live music (if only I hadn’t gone to bed early!)
  • Fresh blueberry scones at the farmer’s market in Mabou
  • A tour and single malt tasting at the Glenora Whisky Distillery
  • A road-side music store featuring only Nova Scotian and New Brunswick artists
  • Sunset on the Cabot Trail
  • Fresh lobster rolls!

Sorry, I recognize this isn’t pithy and I should probably rename this blog MundanePants, but I’m just trying to provide a bit of context for the <hilarious> posts that will undoubtedly follow this week. Because if I happen to catch a moose running with a deer in its basket, or a baby seal seal doing a handstand on a whale, I don’t want to have to back-up to explain that these miraculous feats aren’t happening in Washington DC. Are we cool?

Guess what’s on tomorrow’s agenda?