Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Part 3 of the "My Favorite Places" Series

Wreck Cove General Store – I have made the trip from Lingan to Ingonish hundreds (maybe even thousands!) of times and have stopped at this store every single time. It’s tradition. The store has been there since I can remember and it hasn’t changed since the first time I stopped. That’s why I like it – it never changes. The outside is rugged and old-fashioned and so is the inside. When I walk in there, it’s like I’m walking into the past, into one of those old ma and pop stores I used to frequent when I was kid but have all since disappeared. Even if I don’t need to buy anything, I go in and look around and have a friendly chat with the cashier or walk around outside to stretch my legs. If that store were ever to close, the drive to Ingonish would never be the same again!

Kananaskis Country – As I was driving through the Rocky Mountains near the town of Canmore, I stopped to take a break and noticed a gravel road near a reservoir that looked like it went right up into the mountains. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I don’t pass up too many opportunities – especially ones that involve me driving up roads that I’ve never been on before. I didn’t know it at the time but I found out later that the area I drove into (and got lost in, of course) was known as Kananaskis Country. There was a maze of roads up there and it didn’t take long for me to get lost. But that was ok because the scenery was out-of-this-world, like nothing I had ever seen before. And there was no one else around! I didn’t see a single other human being during the many hours I wandered that remote region. The air was crisp, there wasn’t a breath of wind and the only sounds were of birds chirping and trees rustling. It was like I was the only person left on the planet.

The Fairy Hole – Hard to get to but well worth the trip! Tucked away in a far corner of the Bras d’Or area, at the end of a long dirt road is the fairly difficult trail leading to one of Cape Breton’s best kept secrets. The trick to getting the most out of a visit? Go when the tide is low. So that is what I did. I arrived at the trailhead late in the afternoon and made the hike down to a small, rocky beach. From there, I had to swim through some very rough waters filled with giant boulders to an entrance in the side of the cliff. I was tossed about and came out bruised and cut but made it through that entrance to be greeted by a site that was almost fairytale-like; a round pool of deep blue water protected by large rocks and cliffs so the raging waters of the bay could not disturb me. The most eerie thing about the swimming hole was how warm the water was for that time of year compared to the water raging just a few feet away. It was October, not a time of year that is great for swimming in Atlantic Canada. The other eerie thing was the deep, dark cave that lurked right above the swimming hole. I didn’t dare go in since the tide was coming up but it’s on my list! I did, however, enjoy the warm waters of that spectacular swimming hole for a couple of hours.
Bell Island – Another island within an island. Bell Island is located about a half-hour boat ride from Portugal Cove on the bigger island of Newfoundland. I decided, on the spur of the moment one day, to take a little day trip over to the little island I often admired from the shore at Topsail Beach. There was a small town with a museum and some resting areas but it was the leisurely drive on the one road that went completely around the island that really made the trip worthwhile. There were hardly any other cars around so it was like I had the entire island to myself as I drove the windy road and admired the surrounding view. I pulled over at a little park by the water with some trees and a little beach and just sat there in the sun until the last ferry crossing of the day took me back to the other side.

St. Anne’s Loop – There is an option to take the ferry at Englishtown to get across the bay to the North Shore but I almost always take the long way. Why do I chose to waste time and gas to go the long way around? Because I don’t see it as a waste of time or gas. This scenic loop takes me about forty-five minutes out of my way but it is worth every minute. The road is windy and almost free from potholes (which makes it very fun to drive!), it is almost always deserted (which means I have the road to myself to drive as slow or as fast as I please!), there is a quiet little picnic park to stop and rest and there are frequent views of the bay through the trees. When the moon is full, sometimes I drive to St. Anne’s just to go around that loop and back home again because there is just something about that road on a clear, moonlit night that makes it perfect for summer night cruise.

Fortress of Louisbourg – As a child, the Fortress of Louisbourg, a reconstructed 18th century fortress on Cape Breton Island, was like a giant playground. There were so many buildings and rooms to explore, places to hide and walls to climb. Today, it is still like that to me. Although I have explored those buildings and exhibits over and over again over the years, I still love to go to the fortress at least once a year to just wander those gravel streets and imagine what it must have been like to live in such an interesting time in history.
Under the Seal Island Bridge – Anyone who has driven on the Trans-Canada Highway through Cape Breton has gone over the Seal Island Bridge, that massive structure that makes it possible to pass that body of water that cuts between Kelly’s Mountain and Boularderie Island. Some people are afraid of crossing over it because it is so high and narrow and is said to sway on very windy days. Other people, like myself, love crossing it! Recently, I discovered something else to love about the bridge – that there is a way for me to get underneath it and experience it in a while new way. I love being able to crawl underneath the workings of the bridge for the simple fact that hundreds of people are driving right above me and have no idea that I am there. It’s also cool under there on hot days and the view is amazing!

California/Nevada Border – I’ve only been there once but there was just something about crossing over that state line that gave me a sense of achievement. As a child growing up in Canada, California was this magical place with beaches, sunshine, parties and happy people. This is what flashed across TV screens and was highlighted in books and magazines. I just always wanted to go to California and experience that for myself. I reached that point on that deserted, lonely, desert highway mid-day and stopped to take in the moment and, of course, get a picture of the sign saying I had reached the threshold of the two states. Crossing that state line fulfilled a childhood dream…even if I only went as far as Death Valley National Park!
That Long Sandy Beach in the Magdelan Islands – I always wanted to travel to the Magdelan Islands, the archipelago that lies between Prince Edward Island and Quebec in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the place my great-grandparents hailed from. I finally got that chance in 2009 and had no idea what to expect before I arrived. I was mesmerized by the scenery and relaxed way of life on the islands but I most intrigued by a sandy beach I discovered quite by accident. The main highway passing through the main island is lined by sandy beaches but driver’s are unable to see them because they are hidden behind giant sand dunes that line the highway. I noticed foot paths leading over the dunes in some places and decided to park the car and follow one over to the other side. I’ve been to the southern United States and the Caribbean and have yet to see a beach as spectacular as the one I found that day. Long with soft, white sand and warm, blue waters. The best part? It was completely and totally deserted!

The Beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico – To some people, a beach is a beach and they are all the same. To me, every beach I’ve ever visited had something unique and the beach lining the town of Playa Del Carmen was quite different from many of the beaches I have visited. During the day, locals and visitors congregated together on the beach which was lively with music, volleyball games and people out to enjoy the nice weather and relax. By night, it was something different. The long, sandy stretch was a welcome alternative to a night spent in a nightclub or hotel room watching TV. Each night during my visit, I took my place in the warm sand and listened to the sounds and smells around me. Gentle waves rolling ashore and Mexican music and the smell of freshly cooked local fare coming from the beachside restaurant behind me. I couldn’t imagine spending my evenings in the town any other way!

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