Friday, September 26, 2008

Mount Desert Island

In 1604 French explorer Samuel Champlain was exploring the north-east coast of America. One large island he named "l'Isles des Monts-déserts" because of mountains bare of vegetation. Today this island on the south-east coast of Maine is known by it English name of Mount Desert Island. Much of the island is now part of Acadia National Park. Acadia National Park was the first national park established east of the Mississippi. This park is also the only national park created by donations of private land. In the late 1800s, the island became the summer playground for very wealthy American industrialists such as the Rockefellers, Morgans, Fords, Vanderbilts, Carnegies, and Astors. They built large summer mansions euphemistically called "cottages". Because of increasing commercial development on the Island, these land owners began exploring ways of preserving the Island. In 1901, George B. Dorr and others formed the Hancock County Trustees of Public Reservations to acquire land for perpetual public use. The land was offered to the federal government, and in 1915 President Wilson established Sieur de Monts National Monument. In 1919 Lafayette National Park was created from the monument. In 1929 the park nearly doubled in size with the donation of the Schoodic Peninsula. But this land was donated by a British family with the stipulation that the Francophile name of Lafayette be changed. In 1929 the park was renamed to the present Acadia National Park.

There is a 27 mile scenic loop automobile road within the park on the eastern part of the island. There are also about 45 miles of carriage roads that were built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. The carriage roads are open to hiking and biking, but closed to autos. There are even horse-drawn carriage rides available.

On the island is the town of Bar Harbor. This area is an extremely popular travel destination with many inns, restaurants and shops. Even though we visited after Labor Day, there were still many people visiting. But we were told it was nothing like the crowds during the height of summer.

Also found around the island are restaurants called "Lobster Pounds". These restaurants serve the crustacean that happens to be one of Barbara's culinary passions, so we had to try a couple of them. These places have live lobsters in tanks. You pick the one you want and they then cook it for you. The best one we tried (Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound) cooked its lobsters outside in boiling seawater heated over wood fires.

Here is a view down to Bar Harbor from Cadillac Mountain. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along the eastern coastline of the United States. As you can see, cruise ships visit Bar Harbor.

Here is one of the few sandy beaches along the mostly rocky coastline of the island.

This is typical of much of the coastline surrounding the island.

The island was covered by glaciers in the last ice age. Much of the granite rock on the island was left smoothed and exposed.

This is one of many beautiful bridges over streams and roads that were constructed using the local stone.

Acadia National Park is definitely not to be missed if traveling in the area. There are also several good restaurants, gift shops and tours available in Bar Harbor, but be prepared for lots of people.

A Lovely Little Island, But...

After a short ferry ride from the northern coast of Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island (see map below, if you would like a reminder of how the Atlantic Provinces are arranged), we looked forward to exploring what is promoted as the Gentle Island.

PEI (the acceptable nickname of Prince Edward Island) is the smallest of all the Canadian Provinces. It's flat, very pastoral and ringed with sandy beaches. It's noted for its many golf courses and is famous for its potatoes. Yes, indeed. It is gentle.

But after the wilds of Newfoundland and Labrador, and after the rich multicultural history of Nova Scotia, we just couldn't get too excited about Prince Edward Island. It was, perhaps, a little too gentle for us.

And, truthfully, we were dismayed by the crass commercialization of PEI's favorite daughter "Anne of Green Gables."

"Anne of Green Gables" is a popular children's classic about a young redheaded orphan and her coming of age on Prince Edward Island. It was written in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, who was born on PEI. "Anne of Green Gables" has made the island famous around the world and is vitally important to the province's economy. I can understand and accept that.

And, this being the 100th anniversary of the publication of the book, there are - understandably - special events. And special merchandise. But little Anne is everywhere on this small island. Her fictional face is on posters for festivals and musicals, on dolls and coins and stamps, on jars of jam and bags of potato chips. And frankly, we got weary of seeing her.

We did, however, enjoy our visit to the College of Piping!

Ah, piping. As in bagpiping, that most noble of Scottish musical pursuits. The College of Piping is devoted to promoting and preserving Celtic culture and offers instruction in traditional Celtic disciplines: Highland bagpiping, Scottish-style snare drumming, Highland dancing and Island step dancing. That, my friends, is cool. Very cool.

The College of Piping is the only year-round teaching institution of its kind in North America and is affiliated with the College of Piping in Glasgow, Scotland. It has an excellent gift shop: Celtic music CDs, Celtic jewelry, Celtic tee-shirts...what more does one need? Being a school, it also offers a student supply store where all your bagpiping needs are met:

I happen to dearly love bagpipe music, but I do realize that not everyone does. However, it is my hope that those of you who remain resistant to its soul-touching melodies, some melancholy and some stirring and some as infectious as fiddle music, can appreciate the complexity of the bagpipe itself. Any musical instrument that uses cobbler's wax and goose adapters is an instrument to be admired (although Art and I do wonder what the goose thinks about its participation). And no wise a** comments on the bore oil, please. ;-D

To wrap up this short (for me!) update on PEI, Art and I would like to say this: Prince Edward Island is a lovely little island, but - and this is just our opinion - it would perhaps be best served as an appetizer for the main courses that are the other Atlantic Provinces.

--- Barbara (currently in Brattleboro, Vermont)
Day 109
Total miles: 10,013

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Peggy's Cove

Another of the places in Nova Scotia we had heard a lot about was a little sea side village along Nova Scotia's south-western coast called Peggy's Cove. This is said to be one of the most photographed sites in Nova Scotia because of its picturesque setting. The village is most definitely extremely photogenic, but it also draws lots of tourists. Just be aware of the possibility of crowds if you visit.

One of the most photographed subjects is the Peggy's Cove Lighthouse. This is still operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. In the summer the Canadian Postal Service operates a tiny post office in the bottom of the lighthouse. Cards and letters mailed from here are given a special lighthouse themed cancellation stamp.

The origin of the name of the village is the subject of various theories. The popular local version is that the name came from a young girl who was the sole survivor of a shipwreck. Having no memory of events before the shipwreck, including her name, the young girl was named "Peggy" by the people who took her in. To further add confusion to the origin of the name, is a fictional novel by artist/author Ivan Fraser called "Peggy of the Cove". He grew up in the area and has written a couple of books giving a fictionalized account of Peggy's life. We visited with Ivan at his museum/gift shop. He is quite the fascinating character, and we had to get his picture with Barbara during our visit.

From this area we head north towards Prince Edward Island.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Fortress of Futility

The message came from the top. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to infiltrate the French-built Fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

There's a catch, however. We need to infiltrate the Fortress circa early 1700s. 1744, to be precise.

Art and I look at each other. No problem. Time traveling is our specialty.

So we do our time traveling thing and arrive safely in 1744. Our dossier on Louisbourg stated that construction of the fortress began in 1713. France had just lost its outposts in Newfoundland and the Bay of Fundy to Britain. Its North American coastal holdings were now down to two islands - Cape Breton and Prince Edward. The French weren't about to lose those islands to anyone. Especially those pesky British.

So they had a plan. They would build a walled city, a fortress, that would support a commercial economy based on cod fishing and trade. And it would house a mighty military presence that would protect Louisbourg from assault by land or sea. It's now the year 1744, and so far, so good. But Art and I know the clock is ticking for the good folks of Louisbourg.

We proceed cautiously to the fortress gate, aware that we are under the muzzles of heavy artillery and in the sights of musketmen.

We reach the gate, but encounter our first obstacle. A French soldier on guard duty.

Word is that the French soldiers here only drink rum. They would, of course, prefer to drink French wine. But they can't afford it. So they drink cheap rum while their officers and the town administrators and the many well-to-do merchants enjoy the French wine.

We attempt to bribe the guard with a bottle of France's finest. A 2005 Louis Latour. It was the best we could do. Fortunately, the guard does not look too closely at the label.

We're in. The city of Louisbourg is before us.

Our main objectives on this mission: find and document the French armament and see what the citizens of Louisbourg are up to.

It's not long before we encounter our first stronghold. We see a formidable array of cannon, each capable of firing an iron ball weighing 26 pounds. We document our discovery.

Suddenly, we hear the beating of a drum. It's soon accompanied by the high clear notes of a fife. We observe the citizens of Louisbourg hurrying down the Rue Toulouse to Place Royale, the main town square. We join the crowd and are witness to a show of French firepower.

After this impressive display, meant to reassure the townspeople of the security of the fortress and serve as a warning to any spies who might be in town, we notice one lone soldier heading towards the King's Bastion, the main battery of Louisbourg. Knowing we will see even more artillery there, as well as get a good birds-eye view of the entire town, we stealthily follow him into the citadel.

Once inside, we behold the ramparts. And more cannon. It seems the French are serious, deadly serious, about preserving their North American assets. Little do they know, it won't be enough.

We observe an officer up on the ramparts. There's something familiar about him. His posture, his bearing. Could it be?

Alas, no. Napoleon Bonaparte was not even born until 1769.

We furtively climb up the ramparts and peer over the wall into the town. And a pretty little town it is, too. With a population of roughly 4,000 people (1/4 of those being soldiers), Louisbourg in 1744 is doing what it was built to do. It's a bustling home port for French fishing and merchant fleets. In fact, in 1744, Louisbourg is the 4th most important port in North America, after Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

We climb down the ramparts and head back to the main town square to rendezvous with our contact. Ah, there she is! Code name: Little Red Riding Hood. We've seen Louisbourg's military prowess; Red is our ticket into the other side of this fortress town: its homes and its citizens.

And, evidently, its gardens. Cabbage, beans and carrots add essential nutrients to a diet heavy on bread and salted cod.

Red takes us into an inn. Look! It's a ceilidh! No, sorry. It's two French (not Scottish) fishermen playing the guitar and fiddle. I wonder what the French word for ceilidh is.

With Red's assistance (she knows the cook), we enter a Louisbourg residence. We slip into the kitchen and immediately realize that we are not in the kitchen of a poor fisherman, or even a moderately wealthy merchant. This is the kitchen of a prominent citizen: Etienne Verrier, a military engineer and the architect of Louisbourg's bastions, as well as the main gates and most of the public buildings in town. Busy man.

Food is in abundance in this kitchen...meats, fowl, vegetables, grains. And the man has a chocolate pot! Monsieur Verrier is, indeed, a member of Louisbourg's elite.

But egads! What is that? Some hideous 18th century torture device?

Ah, thankfully, no. Art, my own personal engineer, quickly ascertains its true nature. It's an ingenious invention that automatically, without electricity (remember, this is 1744), turns a spit for roasting meats. It uses a heavy weight on a chain, along with a speed control and gears. I want one.

Red sneaks us into a few more homes. We are privileged to meet and speak with the folks who are the heart and soul of Louisbourg. But knowing what's to come, Art and I realize we need to leave these good people. The future must have its day.

As we leave Louisbourg, we look back at the town and its harbor and think about what will unfold here in the months to come.

Later in the year, France will declare war on Britain (the War of the Austrian Succession, also called King George's War in North America). As French forces from Louisbourg attack various British ports in other parts of Nova Scotia, French privateers are harassing New England ships. Neither the British nor the New England colonists are amused.

The governor of Massachusetts decides that the French threat to New England must be dealt with immediately. Knowing that Britain has its hands full dealing with the French in Europe, he proposes assembling a colonial force to capture - yes, actually capture - the Fortress of Louisbourg. You have got to be kidding. A novice militia daring to take on veteran troops who are safe behind massive fortifications? Those gutsy New Englanders! Now we know where the American Revolution militias got their grit. But back to Louisbourg. The operation is authorized and over 4,000 colonial volunteers (from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire) get ready to head to Louisbourg. The Massachusetts governor decides to appeal to London for naval support and three British warships from the Caribbean are sent to aid the New Englanders.

Knowing there will be repercussions for their military forays, Louisbourg prepares for an attack. Expecting it to come from the sea, expecting it to be led by the British, expecting it to be led by the British in war ships, Louisbourg points nearly all its cannon at the harbor and its mouth. But on April 30, 1745, the New England militia lands two miles down the coast from Louisbourg! They face no opposition as they bring in men and artillery.

Much has been written about what then ensues, and therefore, I won't go into the details here (although I am, don't you know, sorely tempted :-D ). But for the purposes of this blog, let me just say this...what does ensue is a seven week siege of the fortress, with heavy losses on both sides, culminating in the surrender of the French on June 16, 1745. The mighty Fortress of Louisbourg is handed over to the British. The remaining French soldiers and citizens of Louisbourg are allowed to return to France. The New England colonies are reimbursed for the costs of the expedition.

And the British give Louisbourg back to the French.


Yes. In the 1748 treaty that ends the war that began in 1744, Britain gives Louisbourg back to France.

The New England colonists are, understandably, furious. They did not plan, participate in, suffer and sacrifice their lives in the capture of Louisbourg to have it simply handed back to the French. They do not wish to be poker chips in some grand imperial game. They will not forget this.

In the meantime, the French return to Louisbourg. Fishing resumes, commercial shipping resumes, the French garrison triples its numbers and the town grows to a population of 6,000.

And in 1755, the next war breaks out between Britain and France. Yes, another one. This time it's the Seven Years War, known in North America as the French and Indian War. And this time, because the New England colonists have not forgotten, there is little to no enthusiasm in New England for helping the mother country. When, in 1758, the British lay siege to and capture Louisbourg once again, it will take 13,000 British troops and 40 warships. The New England colonists could be forgiven, I should think, if they feel a bit of grim satisfaction when they hear this.

We now bring the story of Louisbourg to a close. In 1759, the fortress serves as a British base for a successful attack on Quebec. It is the beginning of the end for the French empire in North America. And in 1760, to ensure that the French will not once again regain possession of Louisbourg in a future peace treaty, King George III orders Louisbourg to be demolished. The Fortress of Louisbourg is no more.

DISCLAIMER: Okay, we confess. There was no time traveling. At least not in the scientific (or even science fiction) sense of the word. But we did visit the Parks Canada historical reconstruction of 1/4 of the original Fortress of Louisbourg, as it was in 1744. It was a fantastic experience and one of the highlights of our trip. Archaeologists, historians, engineers and architects were all involved in the reconstruction, as well as many unemployed coal miners from Cape Breton who were taught 18th century French masonry techniques in order to create a reconstruction that was as historically accurate as possible. The original plans for the fortress, found in France, were used, as well as many of the original stones. The result? You would swear you were in Louisbourg in 1744! And for a while there, Art and I really thought we were. ;-D

I'd like to bring this update to a close by sharing with you photos of a couple of paintings of Louisbourg. They were painted by Canadian Lewis Parker who did extensive research on the fortress. I hope these paintings will give you even a better idea of what Louisbourg was like in 1744.

"View from the Clock Tower" (above) and "View from a French Warship" (below) show the very busy Louisbourg harbor as it would have appeared in the summer of 1744. Parks Canada staff helped Lewis Parker gather information on the ships that were actually in the harbor on August 18, 1744.

A final and personal note: it's pretty clear that when I began writing this update, my mood was one of whimsy. But as I found myself getting deeper into the history of Louisbourg, I couldn't keep it up. Reading and writing about war will do that to you.

But sometimes, somehow, whimsy and war come together. Here's one more photo from Louisbourg. We call this one "Irony."

--- Barbara (currently in Mystic, Connecticut)
Day 107
Total miles: 9,865

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Driving the Cabot Trail

As we had been planning our trip we read a lot about the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is a very scenic 185 mile loop that circles the northern end of Cape Breton. Much of the road is in Cape Breton Highlands National Park. Because the road is steep, curvy, and narrow in places, it is usually recommended not driving it in an RV. The other options are to drive it all in one day, or spending one or more nights in an inn or B&B along the way. Wanting to sleep in our RV, we decided to drive it in one day.

We started the day with a stop at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park Visitor's Center near Cheticamp, then headed up the coast. As we climbed into the highlands of the National Park we drove into fog which grew steadily worse. Unfortunately, we drove most of the western part of the road in dense fog and missed some of the more dramatic scenery. We have since heard this is not an uncommon problem.

After we came down from the highlands and turned east, the fog cleared. Since there was a waterfall off a short side road we decided to investigate.

We drove to the parking lot for Beulach Bahn Falls and hiked up the short trail. As some of you know, Barbara is a self admitted "waterfall junkie!" This one did not let her down. We later were told that this is probably the best waterfall along the Cabot Trail.

After we got to the east side of Cape Breton we stopped in the village of Neil's Harbor for Lunch. This is a view of part of the harbor, with the ubiquitous stacks of lobster traps.

The eastern part of the Cabot Trail gives one many views of the rocky coastline.

After a long day of driving, we finally got back to our campsite. The day ended with a very colorful sunset.

After driving the Cabot Trail, we are still glad we didn't take the motorhome. There are definitely some tough stretches (and we are used to driving California's Highway 1 and the western mountains). It IS drivable in a motorhome but you would need be careful in a couple of stretches. If towing, we would advise driving the toad separately through the worst stretches, if possible. If you don't mind motels, booking a room makes a lot of sense if you really want to explore the area.

Fiddles and Whisky on the Ceilidh Trail

A day to fill the heart and feed the soul!

Especially if you're a Celtic music fanatic. And I am.

But first, another one of those "this is where we are" geography lessons. And I'm going to throw in another history lesson, as well, because the history of Nova Scotia (especially Cape Breton Island) is bound to Celtic music like Atlantic lobster is to melted simply cannot have one without the other.

First, to put Nova Scotia into geographical perspective, here's our Atlantic Provinces map once again. Nova Scotia (specifically, Cape Breton) is just a six hour ferry ride from Newfoundland.

And as you can see from the map below, the Nova Scotia tourism powers-that-be have been busy. They have divided the province into seven areas, each with its own scenic drive. Well, except for Cape's so special it has five scenic drives!

This day found us exploring the scenic drive called the Ceilidh Trail (pronounced kay-lee), a 67-mile long stretch of road along the west coast of Cape Breton Island that winds through towns with enticing Scottish names such as Creignish, Dunvegan, Inverness, Glenora and Craigmore.

A wee bit of the history of Cape Breton is helpful in understanding how very, very important music is to the folks who call these villages home. And, as you might guess, a history of Cape Breton is simply not possible without a mention (just a mere mention, I promise you!) of the history of Scotland.

The mid-1700s in the Highlands of Scotland were a time of drastic change. After years of attempting to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne (remember Bonnie Prince Charlie?), the Highlanders suffered a decisive defeat at the bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746. The aftermath of this final defeat was as devastating as the battle itself. In an act of brutal repression (the British Parliament's Act of Proscription in 1747), the Highland clan system was banned, along with the wearing of kilts and tartans (unless a man was a member of a Highland regiment serving in the British army...a slap in the face to members of his old clan who would not pander to the English). In addition, economic oppression was rampant as rising prices for wool and meat prompted landlords to drastically raise rents in order to clear the land of the Highland people so that they might lease the land to Lowland sheep farmers instead.

A dismal future loomed for many of the Highlanders. In a quest for land they could call their own, many set sail for Nova Scotia. Why Nova Scotia? Because of the already existing Scottish connection. In 1621, King James VI of Scotland (who was also King James I of England...that's another history lesson, but I'll let you learn about that one on your own) granted to William Alexander, a Scottish poet and statesman, a charter to establish a colony in Canada. The charter stipulated that the new colony be called "Nova Scotia", Latin for "New Scotland". Due to French interference, the colony never really did succeed. So when the unhappy Highlanders of the 18th century needed a new home, Nova Scotia (with plenty of available land and the French now basically booted out) beckoned.

Now, something that needs to be mentioned at this point is that in Scotland, one of the most important facets of Highland social life was the ceilidh. Pronounced kay-lee, it's a Gaelic word that means "a gathering". And ceilidhs were exactly gatherings of family and friends that featured Gaelic storytelling, the singing of Gaelic ballads, fiddle and bagpipe music and step dancing. Besides being entertaining, and besides being a source of bonding for family and friends, ceilidhs were also a vital means of passing down precious Highland culture from one generation to the next...something the English authorities were not too keen on seeing continue and were actively attempting to suppress.

So when our hopeful Highlanders boarded the ships that would take them from their beloved homeland to the unknown that was waiting for them in Nova Scotia, their fiddles and bagpipes often had to be smuggled on board. But smuggle them they did. And over the years, as shipload after shipload of Highlanders arrived in Cape Breton (over 30,000 from 1817 to 1838 alone), the ceilidhs continued and the Highland culture thrived, some say growing to be more fiercely Scottish than Scotland itself.

Now, as I was saying before our little geography and history interlude, I am a Celtic music fanatic (Celtic music actually has several definitions, but for the purposes of this blog, let's just define it as music representative of Scotland and Ireland). In fact, I am so nuts about Celtic music that if I could only listen to one kind of music for the rest of my life, it would be Celtic. Hands down.

My apologies, Bach and Mozart. So very sorry, Miles Davis and B.B. King. Led Zeppelin, CSN, the Eagles...please forgive me. I dearly love all your music, but if there can be only one kind, please let it be Celtic.

So to be in Cape Breton, where a ceilidh can be found every night of the week...ah, such bliss!

Now back to our extraordinary day. It began with a visit to a shrine of sorts: the Celtic Music Interpretive Center in Judique, Nova Scotia (on Cape Breton Island). The mission statement of the center is to collect, preserve and promote the traditional Celtic music of Cape Breton Island through education, research and performance.

The Celtic Music Interpretive Center

One interactive exhibit helps visitors understand the difference between jigs, reels, slow airs, marches, strathspeys and hornpipes (it all comes down to timing). Another exhibit showcases all the famous fiddlers who have called Cape Breton home, including Natalie MacMaster, a spirited fiddler Art and I have had the pleasure of seeing in concert several times in Santa Barbara.

There is also an exhibit that explains the anatomy of a fiddle, and an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to actually pick up a fiddle themselves and attempt to learn a short fiddle riff, with the help of some video instruction by one of Cape Breton's best, Kinnon Beaton. Did I give it a try? Oh, how could I not?

Ha! Let's just say that Natalie MacMaster has nothing - absolutely nothing - to worry about.

The interpretive center's final exhibit is all about island step dancing (think "Riverdance", but with a special Cape Breton flair). A piece of wooden flooring and a video showing a few simple steps awaits any visitor willing to give step dancing a go. In my case, the spirit was willing, but the artificial knees said "I don't think so."

After viewing all the exhibits, we wandered into the little restaurant at the interpretive center and were delighted to discover a lunchtime ceilidh! The aforementioned Kinnon Beaton (who is also the current director of the Celtic Music Interpretive Center) was playing the fiddle, while his wife Betty (sister to Cape Breton fiddle legend Buddy MacMaster who is uncle to Natalie MacMaster...there are many connections among Cape Breton's musicians) was playing the piano. We had a wonderful lunch, all the while tapping our toes to the infectious music. Suddenly, our waitress walks to the area in front of the musicians and begins step dancing! Could this day get any better for a Celtic music fanatic? Yes, it could! And it did.

Somehow, Art managed to pull me away from this most wonderful of places and we continued our trek down the Ceilidh Trail. Our next stop: the Glenora Distillery, North America's only single malt whisky distillery. A beautiful building in an even more beautiful setting, we had a great time touring the distillery and learning how this Canadian nectar is made. And we learned that much like sparkling wine may only be called Champagne if it's made in the Champagne region of France, whisky may only be called Scotch if it's made in...Scotland! Who knew? I didn't, because I'm not a whisky drinker. But I must admit that the wee sip of the Glen Breton Rare Canadian Single Malt Whisky we received at the end of the tour went down really easy.

So for all our whisky and Scotch drinking friends (Mike and Tom, are you reading this?), this one's for you!

Those who make whisky say whisky is only as good as the water that it's made from. The location of the Glenora Distillery was chosen because of the purity of the water flowing in the stream on the property. The water from MacLellans' Brook flows into a pond in front of the distillery where it is stored until needed.

Malted barley is soaked in hot water in the copper mash tun (at the back of the room) to extract the sugars in the barley. The resulting sugar water is then put into the fermentation tanks (in the foreground), yeast is added, and the fermentation process begins.

The whisky is distilled from the now fermented sugar water in two phases using copper pot stills. The fermented liquid is first heated in the still on the left, and the resulting vapors are condensed to produce an intermediate concentration of alcohol. This liquid is distilled again in the second still on the right and the resulting whisky goes into the "spirit safe". The whisky is then put into oak barrels for several years of aging.

And then? Well, as the Irish writer James Joyce once said, "The light music of whiskey falling into a glass - an agreeable interlude."

Now, while I'm not a whisky or Scotch drinker, per se, I am rather fond of Drambuie, a Scotch whisky liqueur made from aged malt whisky and then enhanced (to my palate, anyway) with heather honey and a secret blend of herbs and spices. In a bit of historical synchronicity (considering Art and I are in Cape Breton and its history is tied to the aftermath of the aforementioned Battle of Culloden), the legend goes (one might also say, the marketing) that in 1746, after the devastating defeat at Culloden, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) fled to the Isle of Skye and found refuge with the Clan MacKinnon (there may have been an act of Parliament banning the clans, but is that going to stop a determined bunch of Highlanders?). Despite a high bounty on the Prince's head, the MacKinnons would not turn him in. It is said that a grateful Prince Charles then gave the clan's chieftain his secret recipe for a golden elixir. Somewhere along the way, this lovely ambrosia was named "Drambuie" which comes from the Gaelic "dram buidheach" and which translates to "the drink that satisfies". And it does.

Hey Lorna, maybe that special Scottish connection is why you and I are so partial to Drambuie! Well, that plus the fact that you are part Scottish and I wish I was! :-D

After our visit to the Glenora Distillery, it was time for dinner. And more Celtic music, please!

So we headed to the Red Shoe Pub in Mabou for some good food and drink and more toe tappin' Cape Breton fiddle tunes. The Red Shoe Pub is owned by the Rankin Sisters, one of Cape Breton's most beloved musical groups, so you can bet there's going to be music served along with the food.

This night's ceilidh was courtesy of Melody and Derrick Cameron.

Before I bring this magical day to a close, there's just a wee bit more I'd like to share...

As we drove the charming Ceilidh Trail, we would see signs in both English and Gaelic. We later learned that Gaelic is taught in many of Cape Breton's schools. And among the island's teenagers, fiddle and step dancing lessons are as popular as hockey. The Highland spirit is, indeed, alive and well in Cape Breton!

Finally, have you ever wondered what the difference is between a fiddle and a violin? It's actually quite obvious, especially after spending a day on the Ceilidh Trail.

A fiddle is a violin with an attitude!

Mar sin leibh an dràsda!

--- Barbara (currently near Boston, Massachusetts)
Day 100
Total miles: 9,488