|Q Arena #5: Sydney Nova Scotia's Centre 200|
Within 30km of Sydney, Nova Scotia (Map)
The Man Of War Road clearly wasn't passable. Even though the sun hadn't yet risen on this day, a product of our early ferry arrival, we parked the car on the highway & walked down this dark, snow-covered side road. I wasn't sure whether there was public access to the Man of War Lighthouse, so I covered the majority of my bright flashlight with my hand, only letting a sliver of light escape to illuminate the way.
I had to laugh in the moment. With the ferry actually early for once, I had stopped for coffee, but still hadn't killed enough time. Whereas normally you could probably walk down this road & talk to any private residents during the daytime; I'm not quite sure they'd have the same hospitality if they found me creeping through this snow at 7am on some random January morning.
We never found the Man of War Light, as we eventually reached a fork in the road with 2 nearby houses. As we approached, a dog started barking at the house to our left & I couldn't exactly light up all of the surrounding forest in search of the mysterious lighthouse.
I decided it was best to high-tail it back up Man Of War Road & wait for a better opportunity in the future.
I tried to go to the McNeil Beach lighthouse next, a lighthouse which I figured would be much easier to reach. I've seen this one from the Seal Island Bridge before, but never went about turning down the road & actually visiting.
With the sun rising, I gave this one a better effort, including keeping a certain speed down a few poorly-plowed roads & walking down another road driveway too steep for the car. This was all for naught though, as when I finally reached the shore of Bras d'Or Lake, I realized that I was still not even close to McNeil Beach. (You can see the white land stretching out into the lake in the above picture).
I would have kept trying, but I thought I had exhausted my options & didn't understand how anyone could get there.
(Apparently there is now a parking lot & path down to McNeil Lighthouse, so I should (hopefully) be able to handle it in the future.)
I was happy with the Seal Island Bridge picture this effort afforded me anyway.
The day was hardly 3 hours old & I had already gone 0/2 in the lighthouse department.
I'd had enough of this mockery & trudged through the calf-deep snow, right up to Great Brad d'Or Range Rear.
And it wasn't long before I bagged the Black Rock Point Lighthouse as well.
The snowplow was just ahead of us & thankfully clearing the way - allowing me to park at the gate & walk all of 300m to Black Rock Point.
This is an area of Nova Scotia I've always passed, but hadn't spent much time exploring. I was rubbernecking at the houses & views throughout the drive, as well as taking it all in as I stood on this promontory looking over Bras d'Or Lake emptying out around the Bird Islands & into the Atlantic Ocean.
Moving along, I was excited for Point Aconi, since I had seen pictures of this lighthouse & thought it was interesting looking. What I didn't realize, was the scenic location which it marks!
The location is actually the reason for its interesting look, as they built this lighthouse knowing that the land here erodes quite often - i.e. it was built in a fashion where it would be easy to relocate when the time comes.
Sadly, the lighthouse was wide open & in a severe state of disrepair when I visited this day. I later learned that this was the result of copper thieves, and with the Coast Guard trying to wash their hands of all lighthouses, I can't imagine them investing the money to relight this one.
Thankfully there is a good preservation group in Nova Scotia. I'd have to imagine a lighthouse like this, on such a pleasant piece of Earth, would rank high on their list. (Although NS does have a high number of lighthouses on pleasant pieces of Earth).
I had an hour's drive to the next lighthouse on account of having to drive around the Sydney Harbour. I stopped in North Sydney to break it up, with an excuse to check out their new skatepark.
The ferry terminal must really rack up the money for this community. Their skatepark looked pretty good for a community with 1/3rd the population of Corner Brook. Then again, this is the mainland, so they can have nice things without having to suffer & sacrifice to live on an island.
(I would kill for this skatepark, but haven't been able to crunch the numbers to make it worth it. Even if I sneaked my bike onto the Newfoundland ferry, I'd still have to drive 500km round trip to Port-Aux-Basques, plus pay $40 each way, simply for a passenger ticket. The gas would cost about $60, so it would be about $140 if I wanted to ride this place without any other reason for coming to Nova Scotia. I still might do it come this December.)
I left North Sydney & merged onto the Trans Canada, then exited at Sydney and went north towards New Waterford. I eventually came to the Low Point Lighthouse, a lighthouse which I've seen from the Newfoundland ferry for years.
Although Low Point has the same concrete base as tens of other lighthouses, its lantern room was very similar to New Ferolle & Pointe Riche in Newfoundland, and this is a style of lantern room which I really like.
It was windy & chilly at this point, but I stood & contemplated which I liked more today, Point Aconi or Low Point. I think Low Point won today.
Low Point has seen its share of vandalism over the years, so I hope it can continue to fight off the dimwitted rubes.
With the lighthouses done for the day, I returned to Sydney & checked into my hotel.
Before today, I hadn't did much in Sydney besides eat Taco Bell & visit their skatepark. Seeing as their best park (yes they have multiple parks) is about 3km outside of downtown, this means I hadn't explored all that much. A quick run through was all I had ever done here.
Today, even though the lighthouses ate up about 7 hours, I still had time to cruise around their downtown & wander.
It actually reminded me of my time in Quebec, with blue collar cities and aged structures. If all I had to do to replicate that awesome Victoriaville/Drummondville trip, was to head over to Sydney Nova Scotia, well I wish I would have known earlier!
I really hate the winter in Newfoundland, so the feeling of being very far away put a huge smile on my face.
(One of my favourite things in life is to walk around & explore new cities, so that might have played a contributing factor as well.)
The amount of culinary options in Sydney also put a smile on my face. The 105,000 nearby residents meant that Sydney has Indian, Italian, Mediterranean, Sushi and actual authentic (non-hotel chain) pubs to choose from!
To come from a place with only deep fried Chinese food as an option...this was exciting! I went with the Indian & it didn't disappoint. It wasn't just the food either, I was blown away by the service, decor and authenticity of the place! I was really excited for the Indian food, and it blew away my excited expectations.
I had somehow used up 12 hours & it was time to get over to the Centre 200 for tonight's hockey game.
The Centre 200 was built in 1987, with a capacity of approximately 5000, replacing the old Sydney Forum which stood at the same location on George Street. The first event it held was a Bryan Adams concert.
I had modest expectations for Centre 200. As an 80s arena, I hoped it to be a bit quirky & intimate.
I was happy with what I found inside Centre 200. There were some modern amenities, but it was closer to the intimate hockey feel of Victoriaville, than it was to the modern, drowsy Charlottetown rink.
As always, I love the QMJHL games because of the seats you can get. Not only random good seats, but for Sydney, I was able to highlight what section I wanted, then pick which specific seat I wanted!
Right next to the penalty box with no one beside me...yep, thanks!
Another bonus of Centre 200 is that it is attached to a casino!
Growing up near a city with a casino, they don't hold that much novelty for me; but I found it hilarious when I read that people would leave during the intermission, to play a few slot pulls or hands of blackjack.
So I had my ticket marked & followed the hordes who went over to the casino during the 1st intermission. In addition to the novelty, I won at blackjack for the first time in my life! I guess it plays to play blackjack without Monaghan around sucking up all the good aces and face cards.
My $10 in winnings went towards keeping the poutine tradition alive, as well as another Rickard's Blonde.
Sydney's poutine was much better than Charlottetown's; but it was still no comparison to Gatineau's, Victoriaville's or Drummondville's (big surprise, eh?). I enjoyed the gluttonous offering, but still, I'd only give it a 5 or 6 (out of 10).
The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles edged out a win with a 5-4 victory over the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Chicago prospect Mirko Hoefflin had 2 goals for the Titan in the loss.
I was the most excited to see a guy who is from the Congo suit up for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, but he didn't play.
I woke up early the next morning with hopes of going for a long walk. After 20 or 30 minutes though, MarineAtlantic Ferries called me & asked if I could get to the ferry terminal a.s.a.p. (I did, then still sat waiting to board for 90 minutes. thanks fucktards).
Having to get to the ferry, meant that I had to pack up my stuff back at the Royal Hotel. Sydney didn't seem to have any motels near downtown, only high-end chain hotels. Therefore I was really happy to find the Royal Hotel, which although quirky with bathroom sinks in the bedroom, was nice and a steal at $70/night.
I didn't really care for how they scolded me on the phone about how it's not a party hotel once they heard my young, male voice - but that's a complaint for another time.
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1 - Sydney, NS - Wikipedia
2 - Centre 200 - Wikipedia
3 - Seal Island Bridge - Wikipedia