Sunday, September 13, 2009

Joe's Scarecrows Roadside Attraction

Joe's Scarecrows, near CheticampSo here we were driving along outside Cheticamp, glancing back once in awhile to say good-bye to the mountains in the distance when out of the blue, we see scarecrows. Lots of them. They were hilarious! We actually had to turn around because they demanded our attention.

The place was Joe's Scarecrows just 10 minutes outside Cheticamp in a community called St-Joseph-du-Moine. Here you can meet members of the royal family, political figures, music stars etc They all are dressed up with a caption written on a piece of cardboard that introduces who they are and their name.

There is a table with a donation box set up so you could help the owners dress for next year. Nearby you can buy a burger, fish & chips, meat pies, ice-cream and home made pastries.

Joe's ScarecrowsJoe Delaney originated Joe's Scarecrows.Mr. Delaney, who passed away in 1996, enjoyed a good laugh. The story of how it all began was back in the mid 1980’s when Mr. Delaney put up scarecrows to keep crows from eating vegetables in his garden. Joe, being a huge fan of Mi-Carême , put up two scarecrows dressed in funny costumes and masks. Right away, this created a road-side attraction that just kept getting bigger. I imagine the idea of having a garden was scrapped because I didn't notice a garden (then gain, I was distracted).

Joe's ScarecrowsMi-Carême literally means the middle of Lent; the third Thursday of the forty days of fasting and penance before Easter. This day was reserved to give everyone the opportunity to celebrate and escape their Lenten duties. Brought to North America by French settlers, la Mi-Carême has survived in only four Canadian villages. For over 200 years, this celebration has been kept so strong in the Chéticamp, St-Joseph-du-Moine and Margaree region that instead of one day, people of this area have made it last a whole week.

Today, his family carry on the tradition of dressing up the scarecrows for the thousands of visitors every year who stumble upon the attraction.

Information on Joe Delaney

See more pictures from Joe's Scarecrows on The Right Coast NS's Flickr web album

Map location of St-Joseph-du-Moine

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Red Shoe Pub

Red Shoe Pub entranceA month ago, my sister had her vacation and had every intention of going to The Red Shoe Pub but didn't get there. I did the perfect "naa, naa" when I texted her to say that I was there (I know, I am a brat). It was the last day of our family vacation around Cape Breton and we had to put the brakes on while driving through Mabou, Inverness County. BTW, there should be a bumper sticker handed out at Cheticamp saying "I break for The Red Shoe Pub."

Once inside, the place was busy, but then again, it was lunch time and we happened to nab the last four seats. This place is a mecca to The Rankin Family- their career and early family years. Mabou is where this musical family group were raised and is featured in their songs. One quickly realizes that this pub was designed for musical entertainment with a piano, Piano at The Red Shoe Pubspeakers and audio equipment along the middle wall of the establishment. Musical entertainment is every night of the week featuring local artists providing suppertime music and ceilidh's.

While living in British Columbia, listening to The Rankin Family kept me connected to Nova Scotia. Their first self-titled CD (released in 1989) brought me happy memories of "back home". I'm certain that a lot of east coasters living away can relate.

There is a large sign that reads "Beaton Building", this original sign was part of the 150 year old building. After an extensive restoration, it was sold to Rankin sisters Raylene, Heather and Cookie and it's been a popular spot ever since. At the back corner of the pub, I noticed an elderly local man wearing a green hat with a plastic grocery bag at his table. He sat alone. Suggesting to those who walked in the door as to where to sit. Nobody noticed him but I was fascinated watching his quiet gestures. It made me wonder who he was. An old family friend of the Rankin's? A local who liked to people watch? I think people like him add flavour to a place such as this.

Red Shoe at The Red Shoe PubThere is an interesting story on how the pub got it's name "The Red Shoe". An adventurous shoemaker Angus D. MacEachern of Glendale, Cape Breton had stained his handmade shoes a bright crimson with Sherwin-Williams paint. Johnny Gillis of North East Mabou, came up with the name 'Red Shoe' as a tribute to Cape Breton fiddler Dan R. MacDonald who had contributed a lot to Cape Breton's music culture. Do you know why shoes were painted red?

Enough about that. We actually went there to eat! The food was fantastic. Loved the Nova Scotia inspired menu and beer and wine selection. Particularly how the menu suggested wine pairings. I only wish we were there during dinner time, when there is live music.

If you go:

The Red Shoe Pub is a seasonal operation open from June 1st to mid-October.

Red Shoe Fan Club on Facebook

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Skyline Trail - Cape Breton Highlands National Park

Skyline Trail startEver see a TV commercial or magazine ad of Cape Breton and wonder, "where is that place?" Well, I found the place. It's called the Skyline trail.

The trail is #7 on Parks Canada's Cape Breton Highlands visitor map and judging by the packed parking lot at the trail entrance, this 9.2 km (5.7 mi) trail is a popular one.

Cabot Trail, Cape BretonSince it was 26C, we packed a lot of water for the hike. We stopped for a quick break to see a presentation on moose delivered by two Parks Canada interpreters. This info was helpful because we did encounter a moose on the trail, busy eating grass while hikers quietly watched and kept their distance. While driving up MacKenzie Mountain that morning, we also encountered a moose who was oblivious to the dozens of people with cameras.

As we were hiking along the relatively flat trail, once in awhile you'd get a blast of refreshing ocean air. You could listen to the vehicles climbing or descending nearby French Mountain (455 m).

Cabot Trail from SkyLine TrailOnce we reached the end, the landscape opened up and we were rewarded to a breathtaking panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. The trail led to wooden stairs - we counted 278 steps to the lower observation platform. As we soaked in the view and were cooled by the ocean breeze, we took a lot of pictures and picked wild blueberries that were growing just a short arms-length away from the platform.

Unfortunately it was time to go and hike back to the car. Although the trail map said that hike was 2 - 3 hours round-trip, we hiked it in 1 1/2 hours.

Helpful links:

Link to all the trails in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park of Canada.

Skyline Trail description