September 30 Charlottetown to Cape Breton

Good morning! We were sorry to leave delightful Charlottetown, though we hoped for a more centrally located hotel and were eager to see what else was on our agenda.

Our first event of the day was a visit to the Hector Heritage Quay in Pictou, NS. The Hector was an English ship that brought more than 180 Scottish emigrants, victims mostly of the Highland Clearances, to Nova Scotia in 1773. It was one of the first in a huge wave of migrations to Canada.

Here’s more:

And here:

Anne, one of the docents, gave us a tour of the museum, and then we all climbed aboard a modern re-creation of the Hector,P1010869 though this new model had been built entirely using tools and methods of the 18th Century. That has its own story, as it was originally owned by the city, and, after completion, there was no maintenance done for years. Deferred maintenance, as it’s called. It was finally given to a foundation that set to work on overdue repairs. Several of the people involved were direct descendants of the original passengers. We climbed up into the captain’s cabin, P1010872P1010871and and then down into the hold. P1010873The whole ship was so tiny–it seemed full with just our small group. The thought of almost 200 people living in there for 11 weeks (unlike the advertised three-week voyage) with storms, smallpox, dysentery, and near-starvation, boggles the mind. Then they were dumped in the middle of nowhere in Nova Scotia with winter approaching. wow.

There was a carver, Keith Matheson, who was working on the new ship. He explained that such a prosaic ship wouldn’t have a lot of fancy carving, but he really enjoyed working with old-style tools on the project. Here was the carving I wished I could hide in my backpack:P1010874

We rode a ferry from Nova Scotia to Cape Breton. P1010863I hadn’t been on a ferry since we used to ride them to go camping on the San Juan Islands. We could stay inside, or venture out to look (in vain) for dolphins, whales, and unusual seabirds.  We had a little time before the ferry left, so Alice and I quick-marched to see this lighthouse/playground before we got on the ferry. P1010862 P1010864I even climbed to the top deck of the ferry and hung out with Linda. It was so windy I could feel the wind rushing up my nose. We finally gave up and climbed back down. But I loved being out on the water, surrounded by a liquid nature. Cape Breton is an island, and is part of the province of Nova Scotia, which is also an island. Nova Scotia is second in population density after PEI, which I found utterly astounding. But here it is:

We had lunch in there somewhere. All I remember is grabbing a wrap and a sandwich. And thinking I could eat a lot of cookies from the tray we all shared. I’m told it was at the Pictou Lodge Beach Resort on Cape Breton. There was, as there is almost everywhere on Cape Breton, a stunning view of a lake.

We drove, with a couple stops (I still wish I had gotten some t-shirts–cheap at end-of-season prices) to a little town called Baddeck, and our hotel for the next two nights, Auberge Gisele’s Inn. It’s probably the nicest place we’ve stayed in. The rooms are very nice; mine had an electric fireplace and two sinks. They fed us a very elegant dinner–it was nice to just walk to the dining room from our individual rooms. There was even dessert after dinner, and the wait staff was very attentive.

For our final treat of the day, they arranged for us to have a “ceilidh.” I have no idea how it’s pronounced. These are Celtic musical parties, a tradition with all the Scottish residents of Cape Breton. They’re held during the summer, and Road Scholar arranges for the group to be invited to one to enjoy the company and music. The ceilidhs were over for the season, so they invited two  musicians, a fiddler and a pianist, to play for us. They were both young guys, Scottish-looking, but looked very different.P1010875 The pianist was chattier, and in response to a question, did a truly extraordinary impromptu display of Scottish dancing. We were thrilled. The fiddler was happier playing his violin than chatting, but they both gave us a lot of theory behind their music to go with the vivid practice they displayed for us. It was an extraordinary highlight to end a wonderful day. Good night.


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