Wow, it's been a while since I wrote here. I got back to Toronto safely (and my bag eventually showed up, just a day late) and had a short week to hang out there before heading off again. I didn't get to see nearly everyone I wanted to, but will do better when I'm back again! (And it was GREAT to see those of you I did get to spend some time with ... there's nothing like old friends.)
Right now I'm sitting in a ferry terminal in North Sydney, Nova Scotia, after a gorgeous sunny day of driving up from Halifax. I'd forgotten how spectacularly beautiful the Cabot Trail is, on Cape Breton Island (it's been about 25 years since I was here ... yes, I am old). For the Canucks out there who haven't made it to this particular corner of the country, make a point of getting here -- forget about the exotic foreign destinations for a bit, the Maritimes are worth it!
I took the train out on Wednesday, after spending a couple of days in Barrie with the family -- despite a minor miscalculation of leaving it too late to get a bus back to Toronto on Tuesday night, I raced back to the city on the first GO train (5 o'clock in the morning is a very uncivilized hour) and threw some stuff in a couple of bags and headed back to the train station to meet my sister and brother-in-law and catch the train to Montreal. From there, we switched to the overnight Halifax run -- surprisingly comfortable, even in economy, and not at all crowded so we got to eat with the posh folks in sleeper class in the dining room.
After a day in Halifax and Peggy's Cove (possibly the most photogenic village in Canada), we hit the road today for Cape Breton. The villages are tiny and colourful, the houses painted every colour of the rainbow (my favourite was the cute wee purple house -- I think I'll paint my house that colour, when I eventually have one). A huge national park takes up most of the northwestern corner of the island, as the Cabot Trail winds its way around the coast -- my ancestors (Irish and Scottish all) must've felt right at home here, as it looks very like the west of Ireland or the highlands of Scotland. Stunningly beautiful Kodak moments in every direction ... and as an added bonus, we saw a huge bull moose grazing peacefully by the side of the highway, completely uninterested in the paparazzi tourists snapping his picture.
I feel much more like I'm from "away" now -- the accents have noticeably changed, and road signs are sometimes sporting Gaelic as well as English. (I plan to make that my next language to learn. Possibly not as useful as Spanish, but definitely would reclaim my Scottish roots.) We ran out of time to make a pilgrimage to New Victoria (where the MacLellan great-grandparents are buried) but will make a visit on the way back through.
Assuming the ferry's on time, we'll leave in about two hours for Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland, on the southwestern tip of the island, arriving about 7:30 in the morning. We'll stop in the Codroy Valley (also ancestral MacLellan homeland, where my grandfather was born) before heading up the coast toward Gros Morne National Park. With a bit of luck, the sunny weather will continue and we'll actually be able to see the mountains -- always a bit iffy in misty, rainy Newfoundland. But it'll be beautiful, regardless.
Then it's up to L'Anse aux Meadows and the Viking ruins, and possibly a quick side trip to Labrador, before heading around the island to St. John's. Buchans, at the end of a road in the middle of the province, is a necessary stop along the way, since my father was born there before Newfoundland was even part of the country (but the fact that he was born British doesn't help me get to the UK any more easily -- I checked into that years ago when I first came home to Canada). We get the ferry back from Argentia (on the east side) in about two weeks.
I can't wait! I haven't been to Newfoundland since I was 15 or 16 -- so never as an adult and never without my parents. Going to George Street in St. John's will probably be a very different experience this time around ...