Day 34 – Canada: Cape Breton, Louisbourg and almost missing the Newfoundland Ferry

Wednesday, July 8, 2009 – Day 34

We had to get up early for the 1.5 hour drive from Port Hawkesbury to Sydney, Nova Scotia. We had an appointment to meet with CBC radio (English) and CBC Television (French) for interviews. It was a very scenic drive to Sydney and we managed to get lots of great photos on the drive. It was a beautiful sunny day (the first in some time we were told) and so we enjoyed every moment of it.

On CBC Radio and TV
We first headed to CBC’s office in Sydney where we were invited in.

The plan was to have a few of us in the interview room while the others listened. When the person doing our interview asked who would like to do the interview, all of the kids looked at him with their eyes saying, ME! ME! Well he couldn’t resist and so he invited all 8 of us in for the interview. He did say this was the largest group of people he had interviewed at one time and so it should be interesting… it was. As we gave him a good idea of what we were doing on our trip, each of the kids had an opportunity to share some of what goes on with our family as we travel and some of the destinations they have enjoyed the most.

Louisbourg Fortress National Historic Site
Wow! The Louisbourg National Historic Site was amazing. It is a fortress perched on the edge of the ocean, the site of one of Canada’s first settlements on the Coast of Cape Breton. We started our afternoon on a little pullout parking area that overlooked Louisbourg (along the coastline just past the parking area turnoff). It was a fun place for the kids to run around on some grassy areas and hike down to a small beach. The kids love any opportunity they can get to get out of the RV and run around. This was great because there was nobody else around and so they could just run around and I could see them from the parking area above. We were shown this great picnic spot by French CBC cameraman Dominique, who followed us the 30 minutes from Sydney to do an interview with Louisbourg in the background.
Following our picnic and interview we drove back to the Louisbourg parking area which is about 2 km from the actual Historic Site. The only way to Louisbourg itself is by taking a shuttle bus from the Louisbourg Information Centre and Parking Lot to this historic fortress. The drive to the site was beautiful as it wound around the coastline until we reached the outer edge of the village.

The first buildings we saw were outside of the village itself. They were recreated farmhouses complete with a burning fire and grass covered roofs. Inside we were told about what it was like in a traditional home in1744. We continued on past the guard at the gate to the village and were told what to expect in the village of Louisbourg itself and rules that us visitors must abide by. We walked up and down the streets that were filled with pubs and shops. Workers were all dressed in period clothing as they marched, drummed, piped and taught us about life in Louisbourg. The kids enjoyed a few games in the billiards hall. I enjoyed watching inventions of the 1700’s that were used to spin roasts over the fire using gears and weights. Of course we finished off the day with a powerful cannon blast demonstration as a cannon was fired over the water. Louisbourg had changed hands in the past as French and British fought for control over the region. It is a beautifully restored fortress that took us back for the first time to the late 1600’s and early 1700’s.

Newfoundland Ferries – Things to Remember
Following a full day in Louisbourg we headed directly for the ferry terminal in the town of North Sydney. This is where the Nova Scotia ferries to Newfoundland leave from. We had booked passage from North Sydney, Nova Scotia to Argentia, Newfoundland on a 14 hour overnight ferry… or so we thought. As we arrived we discovered that only 2 adults had been confirmed and our 6 children were not on the list… I had called an hour earlier and found this out but I was told that this sailing had been closed out and so I would have to try my luck at the ferry terminal directly. Fortunately there was space still available for our children to join us… otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to go at all.
Another key piece of information we discovered was that we would be unable to stay in our motorhome on the ferry. Yikes! 6 kids including a 1 year old on a 14 hour overnight ferry! How were we going to do it? When asking about this we were given two beds on the ship. All cabins had been long since sold out and all that was left were two bunk bed births. We were told we could try our luck on the ship at getting some more beds for the rest of our kids.
As soon as we boarded the ship we headed directly for the purser’s desk to put our names down on the waiting list for beds.
Name after name was called out before we were given an opportunity as we were some of the last people on the ship due to it taking over an our for the RV’s to be loaded. Finally it came time for our names to come up and our request for 4 more bunk beds. I think the purser had pity on us imagining how we were going to get our 6 kids to bed in the evening and so we received 4 bunk beds all facing each other and 2 other bunks that faced a wall where we could set up our baby play pen! What a miracle… we were going to be able to sleep after all.
The ship staff were very kind and helpful even though it seemed like they were a bit frazzled from all of the special requests that people were making. When taking the ferry to Newfoundland just make sure you are aware that beds should be booked for overnight crossings and no access is provided to the vehicle deck for the duration of the trip and you should have a great voyage!

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