Spring adventures in Canada: Part 5

Cape Breton

20130620-IMG_1225-1From PEI, we went on to Cape Breton.  We stayed first with some cattle farmers in Antigonish, which is just off the island the cape is on. Antigonish is largely farming communities with thick forests.  My partner Greg and I actually had a chill out day; we were a bit worn out by all the travelling. We went to a Scotch Whiskey distillery, a rather beautiful location with manicured lawns and whitewashed walls.

Cape Breton and the areas surrounding it acknowledge their heritage. The Scots history is heavily embraced, and many houses bear the Acadian star. For those not too familiar with Canadian/North American history, the Acadians were the early white settler,s mostly from France, many of who made a life with the Metis people as well. In the colonial wars between the UK and the French in that region of the world, these people found themselves in the middle. Many were shipped out, and are linked to the Cajun history of northern America.

Cape Breton

The Cape Breton National Park covers a huge area, and incredibly varied in environments. There was red sand cliffs, savannah, forest, beaches and mountains made of shale that seemed loosely piled in a mountain shape. We saw more than a few trees that had fallen over, seeming having only wrapped their roots around one large flat rock. The Cabot Trail, the main encircling roadway, rewards travellers with many breathtaking scenes. But hold on to your hats; those steep hillsides were created by fierce winds and water.

Cape Breton 2It was on this portion of the trip that we saw our first moose, nibbling amongst the evergreens. Easily tall as horses, these extremely quiet animals were quite happy munching away as we watched them. I guess they see a lot of people in that part of the world. Everywhere we went we carried sticks; the risk of coyote attacks low, but the risk not worth taking.


We walked in maple forests and amongst ruins from early Scots settlers; we climbed up on sheer and windy mountain tops and in swamps. We did not camp, but I am sure that if we had, there would have been some lovely places. Instead we stayed in a lovely homely cottage on the tip of the island at Bay St. Lawrence in a small fishing village, St Margaret Village. The lovely fresh salt air and glorious sunsets just took our breath away.  Hummingbirds flitted around a feeder and a friendly little dog came to play. We had wonderful hosts who gave us hints about what to do, where to go. We had our first fresh lobster, cooked at home. I have to admit, having done it, I wouldn’t again. I don’t know if I could deal emotionally with it again, and it was a lot of effort for a little reward.

Bay St. Lawrence

RopesAround Cape Breton, the water is deep, dark and blue. It’s dotted with the hundreds and thousands of lobster pots, pretty flotsam in the waves. Interesting discussions were had with our host about the state of lobster and crab fishing in the area, a large industry with strict regulation, yielded that the buying price of lobster was almost not worth the fishing effort because of  a glut in the industry. It was hard to listen openly to, particularly when the talk of trawling came up (very minimal in that area); I am in favour of regulation and protection of our oceans and its life. Especially when you compare the monster lobster carapaces on the wall in the cottage with the average size of catch (about a third of the size). Interesting fact: lobsters are extremely long lived and they are unsure of their exact longevity in the wild. In contrast, my aesthetic appreciation was brought out by the brightly coloured boats bobbing in the harbour and the elegantly coiled ropes and painted crab pots of a working dock.

Our hosts directed us to a céilidh in Chéticamp, an event with Gaelic folk music. Our performer was considered one of the pre-eminent people in the Gaelic music field. It was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Meat Cove

On our way out of Bay St. Lawrence, we stopped at a tiny little place called Meat Cove, where the rock looks like it is sliding into the sea and the beach is made of rock pebbles. This cove is locally famous for being a great spot to whale watch and see the pilot whales that are everywhere around the cape. We definitely saw a pod hanging out in the bay, and I have to confess, I was so excited to see their bulbous heads that I may have hogged the binoculars. In my defence, no one was as excited as me.

Pilot whale!

We left the lovely scenery of the Cabot Trail and Cape Breton and travelled northwest again, towards the Bay of Fundy.

To read about our journey, start from the beginning, or you can go on to the Bay of Fundy.

Spring adventures in Canada: Part 3

The St. Lawrence: A river of dreams


Our drive took us further along the north bank of the St. Lawrence, up to the Sanguenay and a little town called Tadoussac. The water of the Sanguenay River is black as pitch, until the shallows where it’s the colour of a tea that puts hair on your chest. Must be all those pine needle tannins. Crossing it was fascinating to me, as the depths would be unfathomable from the surface, and I imagine, from within it also. Tadoussac is a picturesque seaside town, with white-railed boardwalks, bobbing ships in the harbour, hanging baskets and ornate lamplights. On a clear day, like the one we had, it’s all clear blue sky down to thick, pine forests and skirted by an inky blue-black sea. Tadoussac stirred the writer in me, and it sparked the biggest writing project I’ve worked on my entire life. I really fell in love with it.

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We stayed in a little hotel in a nearby township, run by a lovely man called Jacques, whose English was as poor as our French. He proved to have a delightful sense of humour when the boys put a big decorative bear in his chair; he got us back with a big bearskin (with the help of Phoebe). Let me tell you – I admit to a moment of (almost) pants-wetting terror when confronted by a bear coming through the door.


20130613-20130613-IMG_7925This region of the world is renowned for whale watching. The St. Lawrence is warmer than open ocean and is fed by freshwater streams, which creates an enviroment that’s optimum for plankton. They get so many types of whales, but beluga whales are endemic. They do get blue, fin, minke and northern right whales to name a few (and on occasion orcas too). We took a walk down the Sanguenay, where we saw chipmunks and eastern red squirrels, and a marmot who walked right by us (apparently couldn’t get up the bank next to the path?), less than a metre away. The rest of the afternoon we spent drinking cider on the sunshiny beach at Tadoussac. I took off by myself and spent the later hours watching the white backs break the waves. I wish we had gotten kayaks and taken a closer look at the whales. It’s my one regret: if I went back in the spring/summer, I would hire a kayak and spend a day out on the water. I am still kicking myself, as I did not recognise whale breath until the third one, where I saw a big dorsal fin not far off. I am still not sure what that whale was, but the tall dark fin was unlike any of the usual species, unless maybe an orca fin.

Best I could get!         Still a better photo

 Don't notice me!       Handsome marmot posing

We headed north again the next day, stopping at an observation station supposed to be good for whale spotting. I am pretty sure we saw some minkes (the other most common whale) popping up near the hovering Zodiacs. I had no luck on the ferry over the St. Lawrence; no whales showed themselves to me. A great disappointment, as seeing a blue whale would be something off my bucket list.


This is what camping enjoyment looks likeMy partner Greg had his first camping experience at Parc National du Bic on the south side of the St. Lawrence, and I am sad to say he really didn’t enjoy it. We did find the mosquitos in Eastern Canada to be an especially fearsome breed. I still have bite marks over 3 weeks later. But we did see our first deer wandering around the camp grounds! The beach we were camped near was interesting; a cross between marshland and shale beach.


We then headed south into New Brunswick and stayed in the capital Frederickton. Very much a university town. We found it a very relaxing place to stay; there was just a really chilled out vibe to the place. There was a real lack of information about interesting places to visit in New Brunswick, which was a huge shame. We practically just drove through it.

A beautiful church in Fredericton

To read about our journey, start from the beginning, or you follow us to Prince Edward Island.