My hometown: Isle Madame, Nova Scotia

The kids were excited to see the mainland of Nova Scotia. They knew this meant that we were extremely close to Petit de Grat, the small village in Cape-Breton nestled on Isle Madame, that was home to our cottage.

But first, we were heading to Dollar Lake Provincial Park. We set up camp and spent a fun-filled weekend with my sister. The skies looked threatening on our drive there but the weather worked with us. It only rained at convenient times. I listened to the pitter-patter of a sprinkle through the night and the next day, a shower at the end of our afternoon on the lake. I had the good fortune of catching up with some of my good friends from the east who I miss dearly. 

 Hanging out with friends at Dollar Lake Provincial Park.

Hanging out with friends at Dollar Lake Provincial Park.

 Ben getting some lifesaving instruction from the lifeguard at Dollar Lake.

Ben getting some lifesaving instruction from the lifeguard at Dollar Lake.

But even in good company, I was itching to get to Cape-Breton.

I was looking forward to visits with family, sleeping in a bed, spending lazy days at the beach, cleaning the van, and waking up without having to load up and go. After two nights enjoying the provincial park, we loaded up for our last leg of the trek to Cape-Breton.

As I drove along the highway and saw the Cape-Breton Causeway in the horizon, a wave of nostalgia overcame me. In the distance, my old stomping grounds, in the back of the van, my kids excited to spend some time with their grandparents and the place where I grew up. That was something special. The nostalgia intensified as I rolled the van across the bridge to Isle Madame. I had to pull over and have a moment. Tear, flick. I made it! Me+3!

 Black Betty makes it to Isle Madame.

Black Betty makes it to Isle Madame.

When I turned into my parents’ driveway, the kids jumped out of the van before I could even bring it to a stop. There were lots of high pitch squeals followed by a big round of hugs. After a visit and a yummy dinner with my parents, we got settled into our cottage. As promised, my good neighbor brought me an armful of fresh veggies from his garden, which I was very grateful for. I was happy to be anchored here for a few extra days.

 Black Betty settled nicely near the cottage.

Black Betty settled nicely near the cottage.

Over the next few days we emptied the van and enjoyed some time on Isle Madame. We spent our days at the beaches, combed the shorelines for treasures, rode our bikes to catch some sunsets, enjoyed time with cousins, found some wonderful lighthouses while pirates found us, and we spent lots of time on the water. We even had a special visit with friends from Calgary that came to see us on Isle Madame. We had so much fun that two weeks slipped by in the blink of an eye.

 Kayaking in the Arichat harbour with our fun cousins Mia and Lily.

Kayaking in the Arichat harbour with our fun cousins Mia and Lily.

 Beach combing in Petit-de-Grat with cousin Clara.

Beach combing in Petit-de-Grat with cousin Clara.

 Friends from Calgary found us on Isle Madame...oh what fun!

Friends from Calgary found us on Isle Madame...oh what fun!

 Ben catching the waves at Pondville Beach, Isle Madame.

Ben catching the waves at Pondville Beach, Isle Madame.

 He can't get enough of the ocean fun.

He can't get enough of the ocean fun.

 We left Isle Madame and drove to St. Peters to see the tall ships that were docked there. Who knew pirates would make an appearance?! First they busted us eating fast food (the kids still tell the tale). Then they went as far as to hi-jack one of the ships, throw the captain overboard, and break into their own rendition of Barrett's Privateer. 

We left Isle Madame and drove to St. Peters to see the tall ships that were docked there. Who knew pirates would make an appearance?! First they busted us eating fast food (the kids still tell the tale). Then they went as far as to hi-jack one of the ships, throw the captain overboard, and break into their own rendition of Barrett's Privateer. 

 Ben shakes hands with the pirates...hoping to get on their good side. Though he did volunteer to get tossed overboard.

Ben shakes hands with the pirates...hoping to get on their good side. Though he did volunteer to get tossed overboard.

 Ben chit chats with Captain Jack Sparrow.

Ben chit chats with Captain Jack Sparrow.

We only had a few days left before we would be hopping back into the van to drive west. Our last few days were bittersweet. They seemed to go by much too fast and we couldn’t quite squeeze in everything we would’ve liked to. But this was also a turning point in our trip because we would soon be reunited with Matt. The kids were excited to tell him all about our drive across and to lay down new tracks with him.

I went to pick him up in Halifax where we spent a night of fine dining, live music and strolling along the waterfront. Before heading back to Cape-Breton, we picked up the yellow kayak Ben had been asking for since Ontario’s Grundy. With our new purchases loaded, we drove the van across the mainland, back to the Cape.

 The odometer when I retired the captain's chair to Matt - I drove 7317 Km exploring Canada, just me and the kids. Now, we were going to do it all over again with Matt.

The odometer when I retired the captain's chair to Matt - I drove 7317 Km exploring Canada, just me and the kids. Now, we were going to do it all over again with Matt.

 Matt and I hanging in Halifax 'sans enfants' before the drive west.

Matt and I hanging in Halifax 'sans enfants' before the drive west.

 Matt and I went out for dinner at this fabulous restaurant on the waterfront in Halifax. It was an easy choice because we love bikes and their mountain of red bicycles were a definite attractant! The restaurant offered delicious east coast fare, topped with a stroll of the Halifax Harbour...I can't think of a better way to spend the night. (That Bicycle Thief looks familiar!)

Matt and I went out for dinner at this fabulous restaurant on the waterfront in Halifax. It was an easy choice because we love bikes and their mountain of red bicycles were a definite attractant! The restaurant offered delicious east coast fare, topped with a stroll of the Halifax Harbour...I can't think of a better way to spend the night. (That Bicycle Thief looks familiar!)

 Resting in the massive red chairs at Keppoch after a fun pedal around their park.

Resting in the massive red chairs at Keppoch after a fun pedal around their park.

On our drive back to Cape-Breton, we stopped at Keppoch Mountain to work out our bike legs and check out their park. We spent the afternoon on their trail, with occasional stops to rest in their red chairs. We ran into Hughie Stewart, who spearheaded the Positive Action for Keppoch, a group who helped clean Keppoch up and turn it into a day-use area. It had once been a ski hill. He told us about young kids, who years after the hill closed, had released an old truck from the top of the hill and sent it through the day lodge that used to be at the base of the hill. They worked hard to clean it up and built a new day-use lodge. It now offers single track biking, a pump/skills park, hiking, and winter sports such as fat biking and snowshoeing. I was thoroughly impressed with the park!

But it was time to get back to the Island to spend our last two days getting ready for the return trip. We spent an afternoon on the water with the ‘cousins’ and then worked on getting everything loaded up.

The next day, we were hitting the road and heading towards the Highlands of Cape-Breton.

 

More photos from Isle Madame:

 One of the best spots on  Isle Madame to catch a beautiful sunset. The Cape-Auget lighthouse.

One of the best spots on  Isle Madame to catch a beautiful sunset. The Cape-Auget lighthouse.

 Beach combing with cousin Clara in Petit-de-Grat.

Beach combing with cousin Clara in Petit-de-Grat.

 Checking out the canons on the Lower Road in Arichat, Isle Madame.

Checking out the canons on the Lower Road in Arichat, Isle Madame.

 Paddle in the Petit-de-Grat Harbour.

Paddle in the Petit-de-Grat Harbour.

 Beach combing and hanging out on the shoreline in the Petit-de-Grat harbour.

Beach combing and hanging out on the shoreline in the Petit-de-Grat harbour.

 Beautiful sunset at the Cape-Auget lighthouse.

Beautiful sunset at the Cape-Auget lighthouse.

 Me + 3: Van, Sophie, Ben, and Ellie: sunset hike to the lighthouse.

Me + 3: Van, Sophie, Ben, and Ellie: sunset hike to the lighthouse.

 We ate a huge amount of wild blueberries, fresh and in crumbles. Blueberry picking in Petit-de-Grat.

We ate a huge amount of wild blueberries, fresh and in crumbles. Blueberry picking in Petit-de-Grat.

 Tall ships in St. Peters.

Tall ships in St. Peters.

 Watching the pirates take-over a ship.

Watching the pirates take-over a ship.

 Pebble and Fern play zone - even though it was pouring rain, I had to drag the kids out of there. Great stop for fresh veggies, making mud pies, and checking out her lovely decor.

Pebble and Fern play zone - even though it was pouring rain, I had to drag the kids out of there. Great stop for fresh veggies, making mud pies, and checking out her lovely decor.

 Having dinner with Mémé and Pépé.

Having dinner with Mémé and Pépé.

 Lighthouse in St. Peters at Battery Provincial Park.

Lighthouse in St. Peters at Battery Provincial Park.

 Stand up paddle board in the Halifax Harbour. Beautiful day to float near Point Pleasant Park.

Stand up paddle board in the Halifax Harbour. Beautiful day to float near Point Pleasant Park.

 Ellie paddle boards the Petit-de-Grat harbour.

Ellie paddle boards the Petit-de-Grat harbour.

 Pebble and Fern - Clara counting rounds.

Pebble and Fern - Clara counting rounds.

 Sundown in Cape-Auget...wow! What beauty.

Sundown in Cape-Auget...wow! What beauty.

 Seaweed monster! Don't worry, he's pretty friendly.

Seaweed monster! Don't worry, he's pretty friendly.

 Enjoying a brew and a float with the homeboys...boatlife.

Enjoying a brew and a float with the homeboys...boatlife.

 Paddle board in the Petit-de-Grat harbour. 

Paddle board in the Petit-de-Grat harbour.