Our friend Hilary and her boyfriend, Ray, met us at the cruise terminal. We’ve stayed in touch with each other since meeting eight years ago in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada when we were invited to speak at an international search and rescue conference. Hilary just happened to be in St. John’s on vacation then and stayed at the same hostel as us before we moved to a hotel for the conference. We became instant friends and are happy it finally worked out to meet again! Ray is from Sydney, so we had a great tour guide today!
Ray expertly drove us toward Cape Breton as he shared stories of his childhood memoires. We felt we were glimpsing a very local experience!
We stopped at several points for magnificent views . . . and an opportunity to dip our feet in the Atlantic Ocean while Ray bravely dove in! Brrrrrr!
The Fortress at Louisbourg, originally settled in 1713, stands majestically now as a partially reconstructed National Historic Site of Canada. The fort was built to protect Quebec City from British invasions. For this reason, it has been given the nicknames ‘Gibraltar of the North’ or the ‘Dunkirk of America.’ The fort was also built to protect France’s hold on one of the richest fishing grounds in the world, the Grand Banks. One hundred and sixteen men, ten women, and twenty-three children originally settled here.
Though it began as a fishing port, it eventually became the spot where two significant turning points in the Anglo-French struggle, for what is now Canada, took place. It 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 Seven Years’ War (called the French and Indian War in the United States), This siege ended the French colonial era in Atlantic Canada and led directly to the loss of Quebec in 1759 and the remainder of French North America the following year. It’s fortifications were systematically destroyed by British engineers, who continued to have a garrison at Louisbourg until 1768.
Construction for the first lighthouse in Canada, started in 1730. It was completed in 1734, but the lantern was destroyed by fire in 1736. It reopened in 1738 with a new lantern. During the 1758 Final Siege at Louisbourg, it provided a commanding gun battery location to bombard the fortress. It was badly damaged and abandoned by the British after they demolished the fortress.
The present-day lighthouse was constructed in 1923 and is a twin to the Georges Island Lighthouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia. 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. It is described as the largest reconstruction project in North America.
Lunch at The Foggy Hermit Café was delicious Haddock Fish and Chips.
We meandered back to the ship and posed with “The World’s Largest Fiddle.” Standing sixty feet tall, it is a ten-ton tribute to the folk music and traditions of the province’s Celtic community. Made of solid steel, the giant fiddle was dubbed FIDHEAL MHOR A’ CEILIDH or the “Big Fiddle of the Ceilidh”. Ceilidh is a Gaelic word which translates into “visit”.
As we left port, we enjoyed a lighthouse guarding the entrance to the port and the pilot boat pulling alongside our ship for the harbor pilot to disembark. The temperature on our balcony was very comfortable as we just relaxed and savored the scenery.
On many cruises we’ve gone to the Lido for meals. This cruise we’re enjoying the main dining room more. With “As you wish dining,” we’re seated with new companions and enjoy the conversations that develop. Tonight’s companions were from Boston. He retired after a career of buying groceries for a co-op, that had taken him all over the United States. They were both a delight!
It was time to turn in a bit early for a full day tomorrow.