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Bouncing along the east coast

Sherbrooke, Canada

Up at 6 and quietly finished the blog and read until 7. Down to breakfast at 8 with a lovely couple who emigrated from Germany 6 years ago to get a better quality of life. They are thoroughly settled and enjoying the move; Martine spoke some English before they left with a sister and cousin settled in England but Carl has had to learn from scratch. It seemed he had done a pretty good job; I'm not sure that I could have done that. Also at the table were a mother from Seattle and daughter from LA.

We first drove down to the quay to see the harbour and fortress in the distance across the harbour, then down to the site of the oldest lighthouse in N America, now replaced with a modern beast. It gives an idea of how difficult it is to approach from the sea. The other side of that is it was easy to blockade by the British Navy with control of the seas. Wolfe landed further down the coast and cut off the garrison so they surrendered after 7 weeks.

After some debate as to the best route to take to Sherbrooke, we decided to go up to Sydney then along the Bras d'Or lakes to St Peter's canal then cross over the Canso causeway back into NS proper before heading south to Guysborough and along the South Coast itself.

The trip along the huge expanse of the Bras d'Or lakes gave us many photo opportunities with some lovely lakeside communities and properties with stunning views. There were a number of stop offs from which to get a good perspective of the scene but no camera can capture adequately the majesty of the outlook.

Our first stop at St Peter's canal was very rewarding. The 800 metre long canal was dug to provide a sea access at both ends of the Bras d'Or lakes. There is a swing bridge at the northern end and a lock at the Southern end. The lock is unusual in that it has double facing lock gates so that it can cope with operating in 2 directions, whichever direction has the higher water level. Apparently, the tidal range here is not too high at around a few feet. We saw a few boats go through and a yacht which meant the swing bridge had to be operated. There is no charge for the boats during normal operating hours so Parks Canada obviously picks up the bill for operation and maintenance. One of the boats was a fishing boat with long booms for his nets, presumably off for the cod and haddock.

After a quick lunch in St Peter's we were off and across the causeway to mainland NS. The trip along the south coast here was not only scenic but it is relatively untravelled and the roads are not as well maintained as others. Just after Guysborough, TomTom suggested we take a right turn down a gravel track but having fallen for that before we drove on – somewhat uncertainly – in the hope that the relatively poor map we had would take us in the direction we wanted. We were right and ultimately TomTom relented and gave us the route we wanted but not before an extended period of self-doubt. It was worth the effort; the views of the area uncluttered by the paraphernalia of tourism were wonderful. At one pull off, we discovered a monument to Prince Henry of Orkney who may have discovered America at this point in Chedabucto Bay in 1398, some 100 years before Cabot. As we went past the driveway of a house, I had to do a double take – it couldn't be – but it was – a bald eagle getting stuck in to a meal. An about turn and some minutes later we were sitting in the car not 15 feet from this huge bird who was totally unconcerned as long as we left him alone with his meal. We watched for a few minutes and videoed him/her I wouldn't know how to start sexing a bald eagle, even if it would be a good idea to try.

After about an hour and a half or so of being tossed about on the road in a manner worthy of a rodeo rider on a bronco, we got to calmer surfaces on our approach to Sherbrooke. On arrival, a rather stern matron enquired – 'Name?'. As this was about 6 and we must have been the last of the guests she was expecting tonight this seemed a bit odd but she seemed satisfied with my answer. 'Fill in this card with your name and address' – well she had those details when we booked but I didn't think she would appreciate me mentioning that. 'I think you have booked the chalet' – well I thought so too, so we were on a roll now. 'The chalet is over there, you can park by it' pointing to a small house about 50 metres back down the road. We were dismissed – Sue asked about breakfast; 'Oh, the chalet is self-catering – if you want breakfast, you can get it in the cafe in town, over the bridge.' All the charisma of a porcupine on steroids; thank goodness we weren't staying in the house on a B&B basis. We got directions to a local inn for an evening meal only 5 minutes walk away and it was very pleasant and unpretentious with good service from a friendly waitress.

When we got back, the porcupine was mowing her lawn with her tractor. I switched on the laptop and tried to connect to the internet – only 2 in range and neither of them worked with the code that had been given on a card by the TV. I noticed she was emptying her grassbox near the chalet so tentatively went over and said 'excuse me' no response – again, louder. She looked up and removed an earplug, though it may have just been earwax. 'Which of Mabel or Sherbrooke 2 is the wifi to connect to?' I asked. Puzzled or slightly irritated or possibly both, she said 'neither – it is 'days ago'' – then helpfully offered 'the signal may be a bit weak in the chalet – by all means use the sun porch in the house.' Weak, WEAK it was non-existent and never would be anything else if it is based on a house 50 metres away; I don't think anyone should be allowed to advertise wifi unless there is 60% signal strength at the location stated!

The chalet itself is very nicely finished with the bedroom upstairs on a gallery. I don't think we shall have much problem waking early tomorrow as the window in the upper wall opposite the gallery looking towards the river has no curtain.

permalink written by  rickandsuejohnson on August 14, 2012 from Sherbrooke, Canada
from the travel blog: Go West then go East
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