Thursday, 21 September 2006

Trees, trees and more trees ...

Saturday 16th September... cont
We headed out of Halifax and onto the main highway north. When I say “main”, I should say that it is not exactly the M25! The sky was clear blue and so the colours of the leaves on the trees along the road just shone and shone. We were in true heaven! The further north we got, the more rugged the landscape and the more we felt, yes – this is what we were waiting for. We crossed from the mainland to Cape Breton Island along the Canso Causway which was a bit weird but exciting all the same. We decided to take the more scenic route rather than the short cable ferry crossing and with every turn of the street, you just could not stop yourself from exclaiming how beautiful it all is. After about 4 hours, we started to climb Cape Smokey, which was a bit hair-raising… Sheer drops down to the ocean, hairpin bends, no metre of straight road, steep climb – you name it, it had it all. But boy, the sights were amazing. Poor R had to really concentrate on the driving so I am not sure he really got to appreciate the spectacularity of it all, but for me, it was simply stunning! The sun was reflecting on the lakes and the ocean, there were trees of all colours as far as you could see, and every now and again, small houses like out of a picture book. No photo could possibly capture it all so I must hold it in my memories.

Overall, there were not as many blazing autumnal colours as I had been expecting, but just when I thought that there were only evergreen trees, I would suddenly spy a flash of yellow or orange or red and against all the green, it was somehow even more incredible.

We pulled up at the National Park entrance and purchased our park pass. We needed to buy an annual pass as our hotel is situated inside the park and therefore, it was cheaper than buying 10 day passes – that alone is special for me – our hotel is IN the national park!!!! While I was there, I very sensibly picked up a Bear Aware leaflet! Black bears total about 3000 here in Nova Scotia so I guess we would have to be pretty unlucky (or lucky depending on which way you look at it!) to come across one but it pays to be prepared!!!!

On up the road to the Keltic Lodge Resort and the reality was even better than I had been expecting! It is smaller than I first thought, but that means less people and more personal. We checked in and I experienced my first “down” moment. Our room is a TWIN – I mean a real twin, with two single beds and a small bedside table in the middle! I am TOO young to be starring in my very own Doris Day movie!!!! However, they have no other doubles in the main lodge and we don’t want to stay at the Inn (no biblical references intended!) so we decided to keep the room and I calmed down from my hysterical level!!!! The ocean view was, after all, everything they promised – clear out across the ocean and over to Ingonish Beach . And the room has a certain “charm” (photos to follow!) We are obviously in the Butterfly room as the whole room is decorated with butterflies and motifs – including the light switches, the mirror, the shower curtain, the cups – the lot!!!! We are way younger than most of the guests – I reckon the average age here is about 109, but you know that R and I are old fogeys at heart so that it ok!!!

So here we are on the top of a cliff – both sides of the hotel, with one road in and one road out of the place. Just what the doctor ordered. The hotel is located on a small narrow peninsular – Middle Head – and the only way to get to the end is an hour long trek. Can't wait to do that in the glorious sunshine that met us on that first evening. We strolled around the grounds and lo and behold, I saw a Bald Eagle – COOL! Only in the country a few hours and I have already sighted one of the most famous wild animals around. It was truly magnificent, gliding down across my line of vision with that distinctive white head and enormous wing span. Strike 1!!!!

We decided to eat at the Purple Thistle restaurant which is the “fine dining” restaurant – but of course this is a bit different to German standards! But after we had moved table, turned down the tap water that is given out to everyone at every restaurant, and R had “trained” our waitress a little, we had a wonderful dinner. The food was divine – lots of fish and shellfish of course – and we rounded it all off with a bottle of Dom Perignon which always smoothes everything somewhat! One thing that surprised us was that even here, if you want a lobster dish then it is complete with plastic lobster bib, claw cracking and poking out the meat – all things which do not appeal to me totally, but which is completely normal here! So, on the first evening, we avoided the lobster!!!

After dinner, we went to the bar (11pm) only to find that it had just closed and the bar staff just left without saying anything – things are certainly a bit different and take some getting used to. But it is all part of the charm of the place!

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