The fiddles were playing and the chowder was hot and delicious all over the small towns of Cape Breton Island. Unfortunately the WiFi and our cell service was very sporadic, hence the lack of blog updates. So we spent about 2 weeks just enjoying the people and some of what this beautiful island had to offer. The island, which is on the far eastern part of Nova Scotia, has a shared very strong Celtic and Acadian influence. One can stay in an Acadian village where French is the first language and travel just down the road to be greeted with signs in English and Gaelic.
We toured a single malt whiskey distillery, created by a master distiller from Scotland and the only one of its kind in North America. We had intentions of buying a bottle while there but with prices starting at $150 and up to $500 per bottle, we wisely decided to pass. It was good, but not that good.
The heavy Scottish influence has produced some of the world’s best fiddlers and during the summer months there are players everywhere, sitting outside coffee shops and performing in ceilidhs (pronounced kay-lees) in small halls in almost every town we passed through. We attended a ceilidh in Baddeck where we were staying and listened to an amazing fiddler Dara Smith-MacDonald, and Buddy MacDonald, a singer songwriter on guitar. The tradition is not to clap along with the music but to stomp your foot and it was awesome to feel the entire building shake from the rhythmic stomping of everyone’s feet.
We also had the good fortune to have a touring performing family come and stay in our campground right next to us. The Ballaghs hale from Ontario and were touring Cape Breton Island for 2 weeks before heading to Ireland to perform for 2 weeks. Leonard being Leonard went over to talk with them shortly after they arrived and when he found out they were musicians went up to the campground management and asked if they could have a jam session in the rec room. One thing turned into another, a large tour group pulled into the campground, the place was packed and the jam session turned into a full on performance with 4 fiddlers, a keyboard and step-dancing, which they have been competing in since childhood. Leonard played a song with them and the next morning he jammed with them for a couple of hours before we had to leave. They are a wonderful family and we will stay in touch.
Of course we toured the world-famous Cabot Trail, deciding to just do one half at a time. We left from the Acadian village of Cheticamp during bright sunlight and promptly hit fog, one of the most unpredictable characteristics of our time here. It was so foggy going up the steep curvy cliff side road that we could barely see in front of us much less down to the cliffs below. We took a dirt road and went as far east and north as we could possibly go and ended up at Meat Cove and hallelujah there it was, a chowder hut set on the hill overlooking a campground and the cliffs below. It was heaven-sent. The campground is awesome and would be perfect for small units (Mike, I’m talking to you).
On our drive back to Cheticamp most of the fog had lifted and we had the pleasure of sitting on a cliff and spotting pods of pilot whales off shore.
Part two- to be continued……