the other Sydney (Nova Scotia)

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Sydney, Canada has very little in common with its shared name cousin from down under.  For one, it is quite small, being located in the peninsular province of Nova Scotia.  There are no wallabys or koalas, but there is certainly an abundance of natural beauty.

Sydney, more of a community than actual city, is located Cape Breton Island (no relation to Breton crackers, I don’t think).  This island is located at the far Northeastern tip of the province, and has experienced a boom in tourism over the years due to said natural beauty.

This was the place to see some of the most beautiful fall foliage.  I mean, the roads along the famed Cabot Trail and up in the highlands (the Scots were attracted to this place for a reason) were lined with vibrant hues from the frostbitten leaves.

And yes there is another Canadian Sidney from Nova Scotia, but we’ll get to him later…

The port of Sydney underwent a major renovation to draw in cruise traffic, so there is a very large state of the art facility where you have free wifi, cafes, souvenir shops and even a large maker’s fair warehouse for local craftsmen to sell their goods.  The most notable feature is the world’s largest fiddle.  This is a nod to the Celtic culture that is pervasive in this area (it’s not called New Scotland for nothing).  There is a ton to cover on this island, so hiring a taxi/driver for the day is a more economical way to travel if you want to see it all.

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It’s important to me to learn about the history of a destination, especially about the native people of the region, groups that have been overlooked and marginalized over time.  Nova Scotia was inhabited by the Mikmaq people prior to European colonization.  The legacy of this people is represented by the Membertou First Nations Community in Cape Breton.  This small community (~1200) has a convention center and museum on the reservation.

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Although not very large in population, there were many interesting figures from this community with broader scale stories (several leaders were very involved in overturning Supreme Court of Canada rulings, one was apparently wrong accused of murder).

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There are several famous natural areas around the island, probably the most traveled is Cabot Trail.  This scenic highway takes you up into the Cape Breton Highlands National Park and around the Bras D’Or lake area, which is completely breathtaking.

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In the depths of these woods is the home of one of the history’s most important figures. He is a man that we owe pretty much everything to, as he developed the precursor of these little devices with which every one of us is totally obsessed.  I mean, you’re probably staring at one right now.

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mr. watson, come here i want to see you

That’s right, I’m talking Bell.  Alexander Graham Bell.

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His was the most incredible of extraordinary minds.  I mean, he did it all.  Medicine, science, technology, aeronautics, biology.  He was interested and motivated to put most of his ideas into action…and they worked.  That’s truly the amazing part, none of my crazy hare-brained schemes ever work.  His hometown of Baddeck now houses a wonderful museum dedicated to his work.

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Specifically of interest to me was his studies in speech and language pathology, and his work with the hearing impaired.  His father was a speech pathologist/linguist and his mother and wife both had hearing issues.

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Later on in his life, he developed an interest in hydrofoils and aviation, because of course, how else would you spend your retirement and golden years?  Maybe try enjoying the beautiful scenery around you?  Here’s another pic of the Bras D’Or lookout because it’s just so pretty!

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And really, visualizing the rolling hills of red-flecked, golden trees is the main event.  It’s so peaceful and quiet, and there are sometimes not another car for miles.  Tucked away up in the highlands is a Gaelic village, Baile nan Gaidheal, which is basically like a their version of colonial Williamsburg.  Nearby St. Ann’s college is the only college outside of Scotland that teaches a four year Gaelic curriculum.

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There are many bays, islets, lakes and ferries.  There’s even a place called Christmas Island, whose post office is famous for those who want to send their holiday cards with a Christmas postmark.  And apparently it is never too early for Xmas, since we’ve all been bombarded with Christmas music since November 1st  :/  Happy pre-busiest travel week of the year!

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