Thursday Tidbits

Posted on August 10, 2017 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

Merlin and Smita. Moose on the loose


“ My heart’s in the highlands, my heart is not here.

My Heart’s in the Highlands. Robert Burns.

Pure magic.

Every once in a while, you have one of those days that just seems about perfect. You wake up on the right side of the bed ( the “cup is half full” side ). You feel positive as the sun creeps up on a new day. The first cup of coffee tastes utterly divine. The weather forecast is perfect and you are about to head out on a road trip to one of your favorite places on the planet: The Cabot Trail. And you are going to share the experience through the eyes of two women who have come from India to the Coady to share their experiences with other global leaders.

I admit that, while the world still holds wonders for me, “ WOW” moments are few and far between. Those of us old enough to be collecting Old Age Security cheques can be blasé by times, thinking that we have seen and experienced  just about everything worthwhile.

Not so.

I picked up Merlin and Smita shortly after the birds began to chirp. In other words, it was quite early. We stopped in Auld’s Cove for a bit of breakfast before crossing the Causeway. They had expressed an interest in going on a whale watching tour as part of the trip around the Trail. I must admit that over the years, I had seen signage for such tours hundreds of times and never once did it catch my fancy. The plan was to do the east side of the Trail first , traveling in a counter clockwise direction. The drive would be leisurely and we would stop at the Chowder House in Neil’s Harbor for an early lunch before making our way to Pleasant Bay on the western side of the island for a 1:00 departure. We would have supper in Cheticamp and arrive home mid evening.

We were taking pictures at the Englishtown ferry when an e-mail arrived announcing the cancellation of the tour because of unfavourable winds. My guests hid their disappointment but I assured them that we would try and make it back some other weekend before they went back home.

I quickly recalibrated and decided that the cancellation would provide an opportunity to turn this into a leisurely day.  We would go and see places like Mary Ann Falls, Smelt Brook ( one of the least known hidden gems on the trail ) and a hike on the Skyline trail.

We had just arrived in Ingonish Beach when my phone rang. The tour operator from Pleasant Bay told me that a similar business in Ingonish Beach was doing tours because the wind direction on that side of the island was more favorable. We decided to check it out and sure enough, there was a sailing leaving at 1:00. The young man selling the tickets ( a St.F.X. grad ) told us that spotting a whale was a 50/50 proposition. I started to do some mental calculations and knew that if we chose to go out on the “ briny ocean tossed,” we would be in for a very long day indeed in order to complete the entire Cabot Trail.

“ What the hell,” I thought. My guests might never get the chance again so we booked our passage.

While passing the two hours before sailing,  I showed them the actual Ingonish Beach, the Keltic Lodge and the Highlands Golf Links before settling in at the Main Street Restaurant and Bakery. The “ and bakery” caught my eye. We shared a few plates of appetizers and a single piece of coconut cream pie. I’m supposed to be keeping my sweets intake to a minimum but how is it possible to pass up home made pie, especially when you’re only eating a third of the calories?!

Our boat slipped out from the dock on a glorious summer afternoon. The sky was blue and we were greeted by a warm breeze. Over half of the tourists on the boat were Japanese.

My expectations for a sighting were low but that didn’t matter. Feeling the warm sun, the taste of salt in the air and a breeze on my face was all that I could have wished for. Several times I closed my eyes and thought about my good fortune to live in this treasured part of the world.

The first hour was uneventful. We saw some grey seals, a few porpoises and a handful of small blue fin tuna. All of these were spotted close to the shoreline. With no sign of whales, the skipper, a grizzled old guy ( he was probably my age! ) with a three day beard, revved up his converted fishing boat and headed further out to sea. For the longest time, it looked like our quest would be futile until a young girl spotted the telltale spout of water  indicating a whale.

This wasn’t any whale.

On the first trip of the day, we had been told that 3 minke whales had been seen. These are amongst the smallest members of the whale family. The young man accompanying the skipper,  who was our guide, indicated that what we were seeing was a fin whale, a rare sighting in these waters. Fin whales are the second largest mammal in the whale family. They can grow up to 85 feet in length and weigh upwards of 80 tons. ( 160,000 pounds ). The skipper figured that this one was about 70 feet in length… longer than his boat.

For 45 minutes, the fin whale dazzled everyone on board including the skipper who admitted at the conclusion of the tour that he had never witnessed anything quite like this. And yes, it dazzled jaded old me. I was so thrilled for my Indian guests who were enthralled by the spectacle that I didn’t notice my elevated heart rate until the captain finally headed for home port. The whale was majestic and awesome to watch.

Anything from this point on would be a bonus but I knew my friends would see some of the most spectacular scenery in our country as we continued around the trail. There was an incredible amount of road construction from Neil’s Harbor to Cheticamp but being a holiday Monday, many of the work crews were idle. It simply forced us to go slower which paid huge dividends on French Mountain when we saw a moose slaking its thirst in a puddle at the side of the road. We stopped and took many pictures of this huge beast.

It was late as we pulled into LeGabriel Restaurant in Cheticamp. We once again shared two dinners and one dessert and chatted with Brenda Lee, one of the owners of the establishment ,who waited on our table. Brenda Lee is a great woman, with charm and a lovely sense of humour. She also gets around quite nicely in her wheelchair. And speaking of dessert. It was served by a quite tall and good looking young man who caught the attention of several women in the restaurant  including my two friends. There was some good natured ribbing on my part. I was curious as to the most impressive specimen that they had seen that day. A whale, a moose or the dessert waiter?!

The icing on the cake ( creamed cheese on our dessert cake  ) , on a day filled with mirth and camaraderie, was a spectacular sunset just outside of Cheticamp. The artistry of the creator never ceases to amaze.

I think that my guests were concerned about an old guy driving late at night. Fearing that I might fall asleep at the wheel, Merlin treated me to some songs, first in English and then in Tamil. Her voice is angelic.

While their hearts may well be in India, on this day my friends’ hearts were in the Highlands.

Have a great weekend.

P.S. The fundraiser for equipment at Emmaus ( in India ) is going great. After one week, we have raised $3,000 of the $6,000 needed to buy a new piece of equipment. If you are a parishioner of St. Ninian’s in Antigonish, you can go to the parish office. Otherwise stop in at the Credit Union and tell them that you want to donate to the “Investment India” account. Or send an e-transfer at


 Cheticamp sunset


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