Friday, July 30, 2010

Ur Beatha an Cheap Bhreatainn

Mom and Dad and the monkeys joined us in Baddeck, on the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia on July 10th. The Baddeck marina has good facilities (and good internet so we could watch the football finals) and we all stayed together on the Pjotter.  After a joyful reunion (Seb and I have not been apart from the kids for more than a few hours in months) we took a nice walk through the town and along the boardwalk before settling in cosily on the boat.
Probably Baddeck’s best known resident ever was Alexander Graham Bell.  Having become wealthy from his successful invention and marketing of the telephone, he and his wife Mabel undertook a sailing vacation in 1885 along the coast of eastern North America. Along the way, they were impressed by Cape Breton's Bras d'Or Lakes and constructed a house and laboratory there named Beinn Bhreagh. Some of his most notable accomplishments at Beinn Bhreagh included the first manned flight of an airplane in the British Commonwealth (the AEA Silver Dart) in 1909, and his HD-4, a hydrofoil boat that set the world watercraft speed record (71 MPH) in 1919, which remained unbroken for many years. On our first morning in Baddeck we visited the Alexander Graham Bell Historic Site which includes exhibits of his life, his inventions and a life size model of the HD-4. Not only is it an extremely interesting museum depicting the life and accomplishments of an amazing person, it also has a really good kids room and child friendly activities.  We were therefore easily able to tag team kids room and tetrahedron making supervisions and all get the most out of the museum. 

Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton in particular, has a very strong ties to its Gaelic past brought from its Scottish settlers and much of the culture and music in the area can be traced to these roots.  Ceilidgh is the Gaelic word for a gathering.  It refers to any time that people get together, frequently involving music or storytelling.  In Baddeck there are daily ceilidghs in the parish hall and we headed there on the 11th at 1930 to take in a little local music.  Macsen unfortunately had little patience for the fiddler and pianist and spent much of the time climbing the banister outside the hall but the rest of us enjoyed ourselves.  

The Irish boat the Northabout was in the harbour and two of the men from the boat were in attendance and gave us a couple of Irish songs as well.  They invited us over to the Baddeck Yacht Club after the town ceilidgh for another more informal ceilidgh with the rest of the crew.  One of the performers from Baddeck came along as well and we sat in a small and cosy ring and enjoyed an exchange of Cape Breton (mostly Scottish influence) and Irish musical and dance styles.  Amongst the Irish performers from Northabout was Matt Malloy, who plays in the band The Chieftains, and is considered one of the finest Irish flute players playing today.  Their music was wonderful.  I sang as much as I knew of two Nova Scotia songs and we promised to learn a good Dutch one before we met again.  Seb and I toddled back to the boat in the wee hours of the morning marvelling at our luck to be able to take part in such a wonderful gathering. 

Baddeck is located on the Bras D'Or lakes an area with immense and easy cruising and gunk holing potential.  We took the Pjotter across the bay to a place called Iona to visit the Highland Village Museum located there.  This is a living history museum recreating an early Gaelic settlement. The six of us spent close to three hours wandering about, learning about the old days from the extremely knowledgeable staff, gazing at the huge workhorse named Mira, playing with and marvelling at the old barn tools (including a dog powered butter churn), and learning to bake bannock bread (Emma was the only one who actively tried her hand at this). My parents drove back to St. Andrews on July 15th.  Emma and Macsen in particular were sad and a bit disoriented to see them go but we all find it easier knowing that will see then again in September. 

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