Sunday, August 30, 2009

Broad Cove Campground - Cape Breton Highlands

It was 8:20 p.m. when we pulled into campsite #189. We were in Broad Cove and it was the first night of our three day tour of Cape Breton.

Cabot TrailMinutes earlier we entered the Cape Breton Highlands Park and paid our family rate (2 adults, 2 kids) of $19.60 / day at the ticket gate. After driving about five minutes, we arrived at the gate for Broad Cove campground where we were pleased that they had one campsite left but (to our kids disappointment) there was no fire pit.

The light was beginning to fade so we quickly set up camp and ate dinner. After quick showers, we crawled into our sleeping bags. No reason to stay up because there was no fire to watch- the kids made sure that we took note of this.

Somewhere between the woodpeckers and the crows my REM sleep was interrupted. I generally don't mind crows but a nylon tent does not make a great sound buffer.

Fishing at Broad Cove BeachBefore packing up to leave we walked down the beach where the kids played in a brook that flowed into a beach. The beach had a couple broken up lobster traps that were left over from a storm. Nearby a man wearing waders fished for mackerel and trout from the beach.

My husband headed back to the campsite while the kids and I explored the brook and beach. When we returned, everything was packed up and we were ready to go. This was awesome and the kids and I planned this perfectly ;)

Broad Cove BeachNext stop? Many. It was the Cabot Trail and who knew what what around the corner.

See photos from our Cape Breton trip on Flickr

For more information:

Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada

Information on Broad Cove and other campsites in the park

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to the Future at Fortress of Louisbourg

IMG_4224On a foggy day in Cape Breton, my family and I stepped back in time to the year 1744. Actually, we drove there - to Louisbourg. After parking the car we went to the Parks Canada info centre where we jumped on a bus that took us to the largest re-constructed 18th century town in North America. Our curiosity was piqued on the bus ride for what was beyond the fog and then the town slowly appeared into view.

At the gate, we were greeted by an armed soldier who questioned the intention of our visit. This playful interpreter asked us what was the purpose of our trip, if we were English or French, even if we were spies (I'll never tell). Fortress LouisbourgI still think my daughter thought the soldier was serious.

Once on the other side of the gate of the fortress, it was clear that you could spend a day at this impressive site. Friendly costumed interpreters smiled for pictures or said hello as they walked by. They also welcomed onlookers to watch them do tasks such as making fishing nets.

In 1744, the fortress was an important seaport for France. A thriving fishing industry and trade made Louisbourg a stronghold in what is now Atlantic Canada. At that time the soldiers' rations over four days were: 4 oz of salt fish, 4 oz of vegetables, and 6 pounds of bread. Fortress Louisbourg National Historic SiteThese men worked a 24 hour watch (usually without any sleep) and then had 48 hours off. During their free time they'd hunt or fish (probably for more food :)) As many of the soldiers were criminals, Louisbourg was a lot better than prison in France. To these men, life as a soldier was better than prison. At least as soldier they had a roof over their head and food to eat. If they stepped out of line, they had to sit on a wooden horse with their hands tied and sacks tied to their legs. This was a form of humiliation because they'd be in clear view of everyone.

By 1760, Louisbourg lay in English hands and its fortification, destroyed. Fortunately, the French were meticulous record keepers because when the fortress was being re-constructed beginning in the 1960's, there were 750,000 documents to sift through. The re-construction was a massive undertaking which included archeological digs etc to re-build everything as a carbon-copy of the original. Cape Breton miners were enlisted in the project for their valuable skills.

IMG_4243It was time well spent in this 18th century town. By late afternoon we had to jump into the car and set up camp in Broad Cove but we all said we'd like to go visit again someday.

See more pictures of Fortress of Louisbourg on Flickr.

Related links:
- Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site
- The Louisbourg Institute of / L' Institut de Louisbourg de Cape Breton University
- Destination Cape Breton
- History comes alive

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to pick mussels

There are many places along the coast of Nova Scotia to pick your very own mussels.

Growing up along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, picking mussels was one of my favourite pastimes. Some like to keep their mussel patches secret. One wouldn't want to give away too good of a good thing right? So I'll explain the "how to", for now.

Blue mussels can be found in cold and warm waters all over the world, however many of them are found along the coast of Nova Scotia. They are a member of the clam family and are somewhat similar in appearance-except for the blue-black coloring.

Mussels can be picked at low tide. Unlike clams, they grow above the sand amongst seaweed around rocks. One can tell that mussels are in the area by noticing how many empty mussel sheets are lying around. If there are lots of empty shells, then walk to the waters edge, move aside the seaweed around the rocks, and have a look. There is no need to remove the seaweed, it generally stays where you want it to stay. Rocks can be slippery so be careful. If you notice a cluster of mussels, grab one and tug (they can attached themselves firmly to a rock).

In summer-time, mussels' capacity to filter small particles makes them accumulators of the deadly red tide organism, Gonyaulax. Please check with the Nova Scotia Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture before mussel picking to make sure your area is safe: Don't plan on pickin' until you get the thumbs up!

Once picked, take your bounty home. Wash them well in the sink with cold water and gently tap two together at a time.  If they stay tightly closed, they are good to eat. Discard the ones that don't close and stay open. Now, try this fabulous recipe.

The difference in colour of the meat has nothing to do with a difference in taste. I'm told that the orange meat is a mature female mussel, whilst the pale cream meat mussels are males (or immature females). Yummy.

Blue mussell photo is Courtesy of Sean MacNeill.

Here's a yummy Curry Cream Mussel recipe

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A & K Lick-A-Chick

A&K Lick-A-ChickIn Bras D'Or (outside Sydney) is a restaurant called A&K Lick-A-Chick. After hearing about this place as the "best tasting fried chicken on the island", we just had to stop in for a bite.

It was lunch time and judging by the number of people waiting in line, my husband and I knew we were in for a bit of a wait. We found a booth and with ticket stub in hand we passed the time listening to the locals, looking at the merchandise (taking note of the hats in individual plastic bags over the counter) and watching the traffic rush by. When our number was called, my husband and kids had to wait another 10 seconds while I took a picture of our delicious crispy chicken and fries. Then we ate like beasts from an episode of "Wild Kingdom."

IMG_4198This place is such an icon that there are over 4300 fans on Facebook. A discussion item on the fan page asks "what is your favourite menu item" and it appears to be a toss-up between the 3 piece chicken dinner and the chicken fingers. A person named Sha wrote that "chickens don't have fingers."

After a satisfying lunch, we were back in the car and on our way to Louisbourg. Thinking that we should've drove across the street to Lick-A-Treat for an ice cream but, then again, we had one earlier that day in Baddeck.

Directions to A&K Lick-A-Chick.

See more pictures from our visit on Flickr

Monday, August 17, 2009

A visit to Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

It was day one of a whirlwind three day tour of Cape Breton. My husband is one of those drivers who doesn't like to make pit stops at leisure. As a "cultural explorer", it is sometimes painful to drive past something worth stopping for (at least in my eyes).

IMG_4170That being said, imagine my astonishment when I said to my husband 5 km outside Baddeck "hey, let's see the Alexander Graham Bell centre" and he said "yes". As a kid, I always wanted to visit. Partly because growing up, I remember my parents had coasters with an exterior photo of the centre.

The centre is managed by Parks Canada and it is here where you'll find artifacts, audio-visual programs and photographs that tell the story of Alexander Graham Bell. This remarkable inventor and humanitarian, Bell taught deaf people to speak, transmitted sound to graphophones, created man-carrying kites, airplanes and the fastest boat in the world. Oh, and he invented the telephone.

IMG_4172Inside the centre, our daughter was handed a Seek and Find activity where you matched items to those in the exhibit and then circled them. After a 25-minute talk about his life and accomplishments, it was clear that this lifelong learner loved children. In fact, the exhibits painted this family-man as one who was inspired by them. On display were early models of phones, kites, the original record-setting hydro-foil boat (HD-4), and original parts of The Silver Dart airplane.

IMG_4186By this time, my son was intrigued. When asked what impressed him he said that he liked how Dr. Bell experimented with air conditioning. My daughter liked the talking tube. My husband and I liked the tectrahedron (a triangle) that Bell considered the perfect structure. Bell used this shape in his kites and there was an area in the exhibit where kids could make their very own tetrahedron.

Across the Bras d'Or Lake, is Dr. Bell's family estate "Beinn Bhreagh" meaning "beautiful mountain", it was here where Dr. Bell and his wife Mabel spent much of his last 37 years.

Back in the car we went, after stopping for ice cream (our daughter was handed a coupon when she passed in her Seek and Find activity). Next stop, Louisbourg.

See more pictures of our visit on Flickr.

Useful links:
Parks Canada Alexander Graham Bell site

The Flight of The Silver Dart

The Village of Baddeck

Thursday, August 13, 2009

One year of The Right Coast Nova Scotia

Happy Anniversary!
It's been one whole year since you were created. The name "The Right Coast" was how I described Nova Scotia in Cover Letters to identify that I was a "come from away" applicant. My sister-in-law came up with "the right coast" and it stuck.

I wasn't really a "come from away" but your typical person who, after graduating university, moved out to the west coast to find work. It took 11 years to come home to the other coast.

So, as I re-discover Nova Scotia as a wife and mother a blog was born. You see, since the age of eight I've had a journal. Thus, moving to an online journal, is a natural progression. But this journal would be read by anyone and not hidden under the bed.

To celebrate one year of The Right Coast Nova Scotia, here are a few of my favourites:

My favourite posts:
Lavender Jelly was my very first and favourite post
Between a rock and a soft seat: Economy, Nova Scotia
Paradise, Nova Scotia: This was fun to write, after the sting of paying the speeding ticket wore off.

Most read by readers:
How to pick mussels: Yum!
Canada's Best Smoked Salmon: Willy Krauch's
Making Nautical Wreaths: Recently a reader asked where you could buy one, this stumped me. Anyone know?

Most comments from readers:
Melmerby Beach Provincial Park: A spring time visit got a lot of comments.
Destination Guy's Frenchys
Everything you wanted to know about Nova Scotia

My favourite pictures:
Because I love taking pictures and have a tough time picking which 2 or 3 go into a blog post, I've just started a Flickr account where you can see more. The pictures on Flickr are the more recent ones (July'09 onwards).

Most importantly, thank you for reading this blog and giving me ideas for new posts. Time is short for us all and I appreciate how you take a minute out of your day to read these posts.

I am excited to be a blogger for Nova Scotia's tourism website: and The Right Coast NS is also on Twitter.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ferry Boat Tales

Ferry Tales 038A few weeks ago I met up with a girlfriend for lunch. She works in Dartmouth and I work in Halifax so I agreed to hop on the 12:15 ferry from Halifax to meet her at Alderney Landing in Dartmouth. I had read about a new summer program on the Metro Transit ferry system where actors tell tales of Halifax's rich seafaring history.

Ferry Tales 030 So, on a Tuesday afternoon I paid $2.25 (made sure I got a transfer ticket for the trip back) and caught a Dartmouth-bound ferry. It was a beautiful sunny day so I sat on the top deck to soak in the view and the rays. Minutes after leaving dock, out jumps Jack Tar and his friends. Jumping from seat to seat and telling a story about a battle near Sambro, ferry passengers (once the surprise settled in) soon realized that they were in the middle of an reenactment.

Ferry Tales 027Here we were, in the middle of Halifax Harbour receiving an entertaining history lesson where the harbour itself has been the topic of text books, movies, conversation and so on. Another cool thing was traveling on the oldest salt water ferry service in North America.

It was perfectly choreographed and the length of the story was the exact length of the ferry ride. I didn't want it to end but I knew my friend was waiting for me and I was hungry.

Ferry Boat Tales is presented by the Halifax Regional Municipality in association with Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Produced by Heritage Explorers and performed by DaPoPo Theatre.

If you go:
July-August - Tuesday to Saturday

To Dartmouth
(Halifax waterfront at the foot of George Street)

12:15 pm 2:15 pm 7:15 pm

To Halifax
(Dartmouth waterfront at Alderney Landing)
12:30 pm 2:30 pm 7:30 pm

Free with transit fare: $2.25 Adult; $1.50 Senior/Child

See more pictures on The Right Coast Nova Scotia's new Flickr account.