Wednesday September 24
Blue skies, a very chilly wind, and one hundred thousand Gaelic welcomes awaited us this morning in the port-town of Sydney on the beautiful island of Cape Breton. And we weren’t long on our coach tour before we were wishing (yet again) that we had more time. This delightful corner of Nova Scotia (Latin for ‘New Scotland’) is riddled with French, English and Scottish history – and boasts of highland villages, the scenic Cabot Trail and golden inland seas.
Our choice for today’s shore excursion was the Fortress of Louisbourg – where every barn, barracks and pipe-&-drum corps appears just as it did when King Louis’ troops occupied the site in 1744. Our mad Kiwi midlifers explored its nooks and crannies, engaged in animated conversation with the costumed locals (who played their parts with enthusiasm), watch a musket-firing demo (a big bang and a even bigger cloud of smoke), and munched on hot bread (fresh from an 18th-century oven). It was great fun!
Then, for something a little different, we met at the World’s Largest Fiddle (Sydney’s 10-tonne steel landmark) and followed the piper to an intimate musical performance of lively Scottish fiddle-playing, singing and step-dancing. To note the occasion, we were officially inducted into the World’s Largest Fiddle Association and required to pledge “always and within the bounds of reason that each year on the anniversary of today’s date we will turn towards Cape Breton Island and listen for the sound of fiddle music being played and kick up our heels in a joyful ceiliedh-style dance.”
We also got to sample the famous Cape Breton Oat Cakes. Yum!
Tonight, as the Maasdam rides the ocean waves, we’ll be heading for our usual four-course banquet – followed by another evening of top-class entertainment in the Rembrandt Lounge. Last night it was the colourful ‘Showtime’ – with broadway favourites from the 50s and 60s. Tonight, a comedian takes to the big stage.
Oh, and at 10:15pm, if you’re free, there’s a Dutch Chocolate Extravaganza on the Lido Deck. See you there …
TOMORROW: We’ll enjoy a lobster-bake in Halifax, Nova Scotia – and visit Peggy’s Cove, one of Canada’s most photographed sites. So don’t change channels …
Yours bloggedly – JOHN
P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!