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Louisbourg, NS

2017-08-08 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Alexander Graham Bell and the Gaelic College

Today we learned about Alexander Graham Bell and his life in the town of Baddeck.

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We visited the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site in Baddeck, which commemorates the genius and compassion of renowned inventor Alexander Graham Bell.  Exhibits here show how he and his associates achieved Canada’s first powered flight with their airplane Silver Dart, produced the world’s fastest boat, advanced recording technology, designed giant kites and, of course, invented the telephone. Original artifacts, films, and family photographs highlight his scientific and humanitarian work.  Situated adjacent to downtown Baddeck, with a superb view of the Bras d’Or Lake, the Site overlooks Bell’s summer home, Beinn Bhreagh, still privately owned by his descendants.

Alexander Graham Bell (March 3, 1847 – August 2, 1922) was a Scottish-born scientist, inventor, engineer, and innovator who is credited with patenting the first practical telephone.

Bell’s father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech and both his mother and wife were deaf, profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work.  His research on hearing and speech further led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in Bell being awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876.  Bell considered his most famous invention an intrusion on his real work as a scientist and refused to have a telephone in his study.

Many other inventions marked Bell’s later life, including groundbreaking work in optical telecommunicationshydrofoils, and aeronautics.  Although Bell was not one of the 33 founders of the National Geographic Society, he had a strong influence on the magazine while serving as the second president from January 7, 1898, until 1903.

After he gained wealth and fame through the invention of the telephone, Bell and his wife lived in Washington, D.C.  In 1885 the Bells vacationed on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, spending time right here in the small village of Baddeck.  Returning in 1886, Bell started building a summer retreat on a point across from Baddeck, overlooking Bras d’Or Lake.  By 1889, a large house, christened The Lodge was completed and two years later, a larger complex of buildings, including a new laboratory, were begun that the Bells would name Beinn Bhreagh (Gaelic: beautiful mountain) after Bell’s ancestral Scottish highlands. Bell also built the Bell Boatyard on the estate, employing up to 40 people building experimental craft as well as wartime lifeboats and workboats for the Royal Canadian Navy and pleasure craft for the Bell family.  He was an enthusiastic boater, and Bell and his family sailed or rowed a long series of vessels on Bras d’Or Lake. 

Until the end of his life, Bell and his family would alternate between their two homes, but Beinn Bhreagh would, over the next 30 years, become more than a summer home as Bell became so absorbed in his experiments that his annual stays lengthened. Both Bell and his wife became immersed in the Baddeck community and were accepted by the villagers as “one of their own”.  The Bells were still in residence at Beinn Bhreagh when the Halifax Explosion occurred on December 6, 1917 (see my blog dated 8/1/17).  Bell and his wife mobilized the community to help victims in Halifax.

I had read a lot as a child about Alexander Graham Bell, but most of the books I read stopped at the invention of the telephone.  Today we learned about the hydrofoil boats and airplanes he was working on throughout his life.  He loved triangles and tetrahedrons, so these are represented in the architecture of the Museum.

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After we finished enjoying the museum we drove a few miles south to the Royal Cape Breton Gaelic College (in Scottish Gaelic: Colaisde Rìoghail na Gàidhlig).  It is a non-profit educational institution located in the community of St. Ann’s, along the Cabot Trail. Founded in 1938, its focus has been on the perpetuation of Highland Scottish Gaelic culture.

We went for a lunch time ceilidh (pronounced,”Kalie”).  A ceilidh is a social event at which there is Scottish or Irish folk music and singing, traditional dancing, and storytelling.  The college also has lots of public programs; Lynda spent time learning about the Gaelic language. I considered sticking needles in my eyes to avoid going to this presentation, but instead I escaped to the exhibit hall and spent time learning of the Gaelic culture and history.   Then on to lunch and the ceilidh. (By the way, if anyone reading this is considering naming their precious baby girl Ceilidh, be aware that once she is in school she will be forever known as “See-Lid”…)

We enjoyed the music. It was similar to what we heard at the Louisbourg Playhouse and still a lot of fun.

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This evening, back at the campground, it started raining. And raining hard.  Some of the caravanners gathered in the Rec Room for games.  Several folks played Mexican Train dominoes; I joined in a rousing game of Spoons, except that we didn’t have spoons, only knives… Hilarity (and torn table clothes and other things) ensued…

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An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-08-07 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Leaving Louisbourg

Today we are leaving Louisbourg, and we are heading to our final campground in Nova Scotia. We are again part of the parking crew, so we are able to leave early.  In this tight campground the hitching-up is like a delicate ballet…

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We were soon on the road, along with two other Airstreamers; we stopped to catch a view at a convenient look-out point:

Our drive was uneventful, and we arrived in Baddeck, on the west coast of a large inland lake (technically a river…), called Bras d’Or Lake.

We performed our parking duties, and soon were able to relax. Lynda took in the view of the water, and even tested its temperature:

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This evening there is a festival or street fair in the nearby town of Baddeck; we went to see what small Nova Scotia towns do for fun.  It seems that they do about what all towns do: eat junk food, listen to local musicians, and wander about Main Street.

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And, being on the water, we can see the lovely shoreline:

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We didn’t hang around very long. We went back to the Villa and enjoyed the sunset:

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Tomorrow we go see the Alexander Graham Bell museum…

 

 

 

 

 

2017-08-06 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Louisbourg Lighthouse and the Louisbourg Playhouse

Today we drove along the coast to the Louisbourg Lighthouse:

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The lighthouse is not unlike hundreds of others along the Atlantic coast, but this one seems more remote than most. It faces the open Atlantic along a very rocky and rugged coastline.  We walked along the “hiking” path:

2017-08-06 Louisbourg Lighthouse Walk 02We took hundreds of photos – every turn revealed another remarkable vista:

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As we watched the waves crash and the tides swell, I was struck by the thought that we are enjoying a few minutes of this awesome beauty, yet it has been going on like this 24 hours a day for millions of years… Very awe inspiring!

The hiking path followed the coast for about one mile; it was then interrupted by a stone beach; the sign said, “Path resumes beyond the stone beach”.  We walked a few hundred yards across the stone beach – it was very difficult – 5″ and larger sharp stones – not much smaller. I’m sure Mr. Rainbow didn’t anticipate this when he designed and made my flip-flops…

When we reached the other end of the stone beach we discovered that the hiking path turned into a very small trail through the woods, away from the coast, and it was labeled “only for serious hikers”, which we are not.  We are trekkers and walkers, not hikers, and we have the shoes to prove it.  So we turned around and hobbled across the stone beach again, and returned to the lighthouse along the shore path.  We ran into some of our caravanners, who are braver than we are:

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It was an exiting morning.  Unspeakable beauty.  It seemed to us like we were standing at the end of the world…

We returned to the Villa, after stopping off to see the tall ships again.  We found out that you can book a 2-3 week tour with these ships, to be part of the amateur crew.  Pay big money and work really hard…  Such a deal!

Back at the Villa we relaxed for the rest of the day… Most caravanners were out on various activities:

2017-08-06 Louisbourg Airstreams 01

This evening was another new treat: We attended a show of local musicians playing Nova Scotia music.  This music is a variation of Irish and Scottish folk music, but is a distinct version of it.  Violin, keyboard, guitar, drums, and base, plus vocals.  The Louisbourg Playhouse is quite an interesting place.

Based on London’s 1599 Globe Theatre, an open-air playhouse was constructed at the Fortress of Louisbourg by Walt Disney Studios for the motion picture “Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale”.  The Fortress stood in for the village of Plymouth, MA.  After filming wrapped up, the structure was donated to the city of Louisbourg and relocated to its current location, just off the main street of the town.  Subsequently, the structure was remodeled, with a roof being added, along with back stage facilities.  For such a small town it is quite an impressive facility.  It is booked with shows all Spring, Summer, and Fall.  This particular group was doing six weeks, six nights per week.

It was a fun time.  Lots of toe-tapping.  Best of all, afterwards, we could walk back to the campground; it had been raining, but the rain had died down by the time we left after the show.  But it was foggy, and dark; we realized that we had not been out after dark for many weeks now…

So another day is done; an enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the Louisbourg Playhouse

2017-08-05 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Louisbourg Fortress and the Beggars’ Banquet

What is a Fortress? How is it different from a Fort?

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A Fortress is a fortified town.  A Fort is a military-only defensive structure.  A Fortress contains both the military and civilians. All the essential operations are of a town – the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker – are within the fortress, as well as government and military operations.

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The Fortress of Louisbourg was a French fortress on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  Its two sieges, especially that of 1758, were turning points in the Anglo-French struggle for what eventually became Canada.  

The original settlement was made in 1713, and initially called Havre à l’Anglois. Subsequently, the fishing port grew to become a major commercial port and a strongly defended fortress.  The fortifications eventually surrounded the town.  The walls were constructed mainly between 1720 and 1740.  By the mid-1740s, Louisbourg was one of the most extensive (and expensive) European fortifications constructed in North America.  The Fortress of Louisbourg suffered key weaknesses, since it was erected on low-lying ground commanded by nearby hills and its design was directed mainly toward sea-based assaults, leaving the land-facing defenses relatively weak.  A third weakness was that it was a long way from France or Quebec, from which reinforcements might be sent.

Louisbourg was captured by British colonists in 1745, and was a major bargaining chip in the negotiations leading to the 1748 treaty ending the War of the Austrian Succession. It was returned to the French in exchange for border towns in what is today Belgium.  It was captured again in 1758 by British forces in the French and Indian War, after which its fortifications were systematically destroyed by British engineers.  The British continued to have a garrison at Louisbourg until 1768, when it was again returned to the French.

The fortress and town were partially reconstructed in the 1960s and 1970s, using some of the original stonework, which provided jobs for unemployed coal miners.  The site is operated by Parks Canada as a living history museum, much like Williamsburg, VA and the Plimoth Colony in Plymouth, MA.

We were able to walk from the RV park to the Visitors Center, whereupon we were bused over to the Fortress.  We entered through the original gates, where we were met by a “guard” who demanded to know our business here.  We wandered the town, hearing some of the history from our guide. They have a bakery operating in the old bakery building, making fresh bread daily using centuries-old recipes and methods. They also have a few restaurants, serving food of the era… we passed on the opportunity to eat centuries-old food…

They also have daily recreations of various milirary operations… After our tour we walked all the way back to the Villa…

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That evening, we were introduced to another fascinating feature of the modern day town of Louisbourg: we learned about what they call “The Beggars’ Banquet”.  We were told nothing about this event, other than we had to pre-select our entree for the dinner – lobster or steak.  This didn’t sound like what beggars normally ate, but we went along with it.  Also, we were told that we would have to dress in period costume, something that always freaks me out…

We arrived at the location of the Beggars Banquet about 30 minutes early, and we were not the first ones there.  This proclivity of being chronically early for all events is an Airstream Club tradition (and curse…).  We were immediately re-dressed in what we assume are “beggars clothes”.  Luckily for me, this consisted of an oversized shirt and a 3-corner hat.  We then were shown to our dining room and invited to buy drinks at the bar.  So far, so good.

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The dinner was quite good, considering the buffet banquet-style operation. There was musical entertainment all through the evening.  One of our members even helped-out at one point in time:

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Other members of our group:

The “fun” began about halfway through the evening: A bizarre-looking caricature of a women joined the group and set about selecting men from our group to dance with.  I almost ran screaming running from the room… I vowed to do just that if she approached me… Luckily, she did not…  I must have looked as scary to her as she looked to me…!  (We later found out that she actually is the owner of the place, and this is just her shtick for the evening…)

We again walked back to the Villa.  An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017-08-04 Nor by Nor’east Caravan – Cape Breton Island

Today we traveled off the mainland of Nova Scotia onto Cape Breton Island.  Cape Breton Island makes up about 1/3 of the province of Nova Scotia. Our first stop:  Louisbourg. I’ve seen pictures of California beach towns taken in the 1920s or 1930s; they look similar to Louisbourg today:

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We left Hammond Plains and the Halifax area and arrived at the appointed time at the campground in Louisbourg.  Parking was in turmoil; the park was very tight.  The parking crew did a great job keeping things in order and eventually everyone was parked successfully.  While the park was tight and it is small, it is located within walking distance of just about everything we need to see here in Louisbourg.

We set up the Villa, and walked about the town; it is very quaint and quiet; there is some fishing industry, but, again, tourism seems to be the mainstay of the town.  We walked towards the docks, and found that the Tall Ships had arrived:

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Also on our walk we spotted this place across the bay:

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It is the Louisbourg Fortress; we are going there tomorrow.

The bay was another Nova Scotia wonder:

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We walked back to the Villa and prepared for Happy Hours. An enjoyable time was had by all…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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