Captivating Cape Breton

Cape Breton is basically a warmer version of Scotland (especially today, when it's 22 degrees and sunny…I can't believe we've been so blessed). The 50,000 Scottish immigrants that arrived in the late 17th and early 18th centuries re-created their homeland on this side of the Atlantic, and many of those families have been here ever since. More Gaelic is spoken in Nova Scotia than in Scotland. It makes for a very cool cultural experience.

We spent the day touring the Fortress of Louisbourg. Built by the French in the early 18th century, the fortress was captured by the British, later given back to France, then finally reconquered by the British, who proceeded to level it. There was nothing but rubble until the 1960s, when the area was designated a national historic site and one-fifth of the original fortress was painstakingly reconstructed.

Guides in period costume give talks about what life was like there in 1744. A soldier showed us his musket and even demonstrated how to fire it; a maid let us try a sample of hot chocolate and explained what a rare treat this was at the time. We also had some free time to wander around admiring the buildings, cannons and fortifications. Very cool.

On the drive back to Sydney, our guide regaled us with tales of the Celtic traditions of Cape Breton and even sang a few Gaelic songs that none of us understood but all of us appreciated. I could easily spend two more days here exploring the sights — especially if it continues to be this gorgeous weather-wise — but alas, the ship leaves tonight.

On to Halifax…