After our time in Fundy National Park and exploring around Chignecto Bay and Moncton, we headed on a marathon jaunt into Nova Scotia with Louisbourg, in Cape Breton, as our destination.
We stopped in at the Visitor Centre in Amherst, as we entered Nova Scotia, where we were “piped in” by a bagpipe player.
It took us most of the day to get there, and it was intensely hot and humid. I think it was the first real summery weather we’d experienced all year, but it was the kind of weather we get in Ontario, not what you’d expect on the east coast. We soon realized that the locals were not used to it either. We stopped at a McDonald’s in Cape Breton and a guy was crawling around under his van while his family watched, to see where a large trail of water was running from. We asked him if he’d been running his air conditioner a lot and he said yeah, and we told him it was probably just the water off the condenser — he’d never experienced it before!
We arrived in Louisbourg and got ourselves situated at the Louisbourg Harbour Inn B&B (a place we highly recommend, it was a lovely place to stay). Then immediately went searching for a good meal. Our hosts recommended The Lobster Kettle, just down the street and on the water front. And as you can see, we had lobster. And it was delish. The seafood chowder, also stellar.
The next day we headed off to explore the Fortress of Louisbourg, a national historic site. I recommend if you’re going to go, do it first thing; be one of the first groups to arrive there, and do it on a weekday. It wasn’t too busy while we were there and it was gorgeous to see it all foggy and slowly emerge as we got closer.
We only heard about it once we were out east, but in the summer they have lantern-guided tours in the evening. We would have loved to go during that time, but the tours were booked solid for a month. Regardless, it was terrific to explore it during the day.
I don’t know what you know of the fortress, but I knew virtually nothing about it before I got there. In a nutshell, it is a reconstructed 18th century French fort, recreated based on the period just before its first siege. In the 1960s the government embarked on the project to rebuild the fort as part of an effort to revitalize the local economy. A major archaeological excavation took place, and a huge army of out of work fishermen and minors were retrained to build the site using the authentic, traditional period techniques, for everything from stone masonry to blacksmithery.
I didn’t even realize the place was a reconstruction until I started reading some of the interpretive information. Incredibly, they were able to rebuild the site with incredible attention to detail, because, as a French city, everything was meticulously tracked in the royal records of France. Nearly everything was imported to the town, so not only were there extensive ship manifests to refer to, but all the building plans were approved by the royals, so they are on record as well.
I adored how there were pigs, chickens, sheep, turkeys and veggie gardens all in the works. You could buy bread at the bakery in three different grades (soldier’s bread is the heaviest and roughest in quality). We even ate at a restaurant that served period food.
After lunch we were ready to move on. We drove along the coast and stopped at the magnificent Louisbourg lighthouse, which like the fortress, was draped in fog.
Our next destination was North Sydney where we boarded the Newfoundland ferry, the Marine Atlantic Vision. We had booked the night ferry and a cabin, which would mean we could spend the night sleeping, since the trip takes about 7 hours or so.
The ferry pictured above is actually the Smallwood, a much smaller and relatively older ferry, than the one we took over. The Vision was only a month old, and the cabins were beautiful, clean, new and came with a TV, private bathroom and shower. I felt sorry for the poor saps who had to crash out in the lounges!
It was as we watched the evening news in our cabin that we started hearing more details about Hurricane Bill, and when I started to get a little more nervous. We were scheduled to spend three nights camping in Gros Morne, which would take us until Sunday, when the storm was expected to hit that area. NOT cool. But we were too excited to worry about it much yet.
It was a gorgeous day when we landed in Port aux Basques, and headed up the west coast of Newfoundland towards Trout River in Gros Morne.