Category Archives: hostels

August 26: The lower part of Old Town, and the Musee de Civilization is amazing

So. They call the stairs that run from the upper part of Old Town to the lower part the Breakneck Stairs, and when they’re wet, as they were this morning, yeah, the name fits. But I was careful, and I made it to the bottom just fine. All almost 300 steps of them, or so I’m told (and, no, I didn’t have to climb back to the top, thank goodness).

Anyway, I knew there was another whole part of Old Town, but I don’t think I’d realized just how much more was down there. I’d gone down there because of a history museum (which turned out to be much more), but there’s a whole other warren of streets and shops and stuff (and a cruise ship dock, of all things).

The weather was still awful, but I was headed for a – hopefully air conditioned – museum, so I grinned and bore it.

The Musee de Civilization is, at least in part, a museum about Quebec-the-province’s history, so the local equivalent to a state history museum like the ones I’d visited in Kansas, Kentucky, and Maine. It was extremely well done, and since before I arrived here I knew next to nothing about how Quebec came to be Quebec (including the name, which is from an Indian term meaning where the waters narrow – the waters in question being the St. Lawrence, which narrows appreciably at Quebec City), I found it enthralling.

But that wasn’t all they had to show at the Musee de Civilization. There was a temporary exhibit about Australian Aboriginal art, which was fascinating (and completely unexpected by me), and an another temporary exhibit about cats and dogs, including a virtual reality thingy where you could see what they think it’s like to be a cat or a dog. That was hysterical, actually, esp. the part where the mouse went into the garbage can, the cat went in after it, and the garbage can lid fell on the cat, completely freaking him out [g].  And yet another temporary exhibit about Nanotech, which, for some reason, had a lot of SF stuff in it [g].

But the best part of all was the huge exhibit on Quebec’s First Nations (the Canadian equvalent, so far as I can tell, for Indian tribe). Artifacts were just the beginning. It was the stories that were the best part (and the part that’s really impossible to photograph). And these wonderful enormous screens in the background running this incredible film of Quebec’s natural world and how its original inhabitants relate to it. I could have watched that film for hours, and I did sit and watch it for a long time. It was moving, the same way I found the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York moving when I was there on my last Long Trip seventeen years ago. I wish they’d had DVDs of that film for sale in the gift shop, but they didn’t.

Anyway, that’s how I spent most of today, and after I left (I ate lunch in the museum’s café – you know you’re in a place that values food when even the museum café has great food), I wandered through the lower Old Town towards the funicular.

The funicular is why I didn’t have to climb all those stairs back up. I’m not normally big on that sort of manmade height, but even though the weather had dried out a bit (and warmed up, but drier was better) while I was in the museum, I put aside my nerves and rode it back up to Dufferin Terrace.

The last thing I did today was go inside Chateau Frontenac. It’s got quite the lobby, but my favorite thing was a sculpture that you can see below. And then I stopped at a little grocery store for supper fixings, and realized about three blocks after I left it that I’d left my camera there. So I ran back, got it (thank goodness), and came back to the hostel for one more night. And here I am.

I have a motel reservation for tomorrow night just outside of Montreal. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to spend much time there. I’m sort of leaning against it right now, because I still have Toronto and Ottawa to go before I head across western Ontario (more people have tried to warn me against western Ontario in the last couple of weeks, for some reason) to the prairies.

At the bottom of all those stairs.
At the bottom of all those stairs.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
An art installation on the way to the Musee de Civilization.
A fou -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
A four -foot tall Australian Aboriginal mask.
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century.  This is part of one of them. And it's blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
When they dug the foundation for the museum, they found the remains of some boats from the 18th century. This is part of one of them. And it’s blue because I was messing with my whiteness thingy on the camera, and this is what happened [wry g].
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
A full-sized set of Iron Man armor was part of the Nanotech exhibit.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Part of a row of models of Quebec First Nations housing.
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they're meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of "Indian-ness."
Those are made of thousands of beads, and they’re meant to represent differing amounts of blood, and different percentages of “Indian-ness.”
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town.  Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
This was a funny little fountain I saw in a little nook in Lower Old Town. Still blue because I was still figuring out how to get my camera settings back where they should be.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town.  There's a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
A huge mural in Lower Old Town. There’s a sign (that I also took a photo of) that points out all of the historical figures and buildings in it by name.
See the funicular in the background?
See the funicular in the background?
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
The view from about halfway up on the funicular.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac.  I love her.
This lady was in the lobby of the Chateau Frontenac. I love her.

August 25: Dear godlings, the humidity! And Abraham Martin’s son.

I woke up to more than 100% humidity this morning.  Not all that hot, maybe 80dF by afternoon, but that wasn’t the point. I know more than 100% isn’t physically possible, but trust me, I think it was more like 142%. It did rain a bit, but mostly it was just air so thick you had to drink it. I sweated far more than I did in DC, and that’s saying something, especially since sweating in weather that wet does nothing but soak your clothing and drip into your eyes, making them burn.

Dear godlings. Seriously.

I went to the parking garage to look for my umbrella (no way could I actually put my raincoat on in this – it would be like wrapping myself in saran wrap or something), but I couldn’t find it, so I put my camera in a plastic bag and resigned myself to getting soaked. But by the time I came back out of the parking garage, the rain had stopped.

I had decided that today was the day I’d go to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham, where British General Wolfe and co. fought French General Montcalm and co. to decide the fate of North America. Well, sorta. Or part of it. Or something. Anyway, I wound up in the Battlefields Park Museum (the official name of the Plains of Abraham is Battlefields Park nowadays – back about 100 years ago they turned the whole thing into a big, gorgeous city park). The museum about the battle was very interesting, but the bus tour through the park (the rain had begun to come down again, so a dry, air-conditioned bus was just the ticket) was what was worth the price of admission.

It was driven (he called it the Devil’s Chariot) and conducted by a young man playing the part of one of Abraham Martin’s sons (Abraham Martin was a local landowner the field was named after back in the 18th century), in full costume, and, yes, he was informative and interesting to listen to, but he was also fall out of your chair hilarious. His tongue was so far over in his cheek I thought it was going to come out of his ear. I really do wish I’d asked if I could take his photo, but I didn’t. That bus tour was one of the top five best things I’ve done on this entire trip so far. Seriously. I haven’t laughed so hard and learned so much simultaneously in my life before, I don’t think. If you ever get to Quebec City, go to the Battlefields Park Museum and ride Abraham’s Bus. It was so worth it.

After I caught my breath from laughing, and the rain stopped again, I walked over to the Citadel. Apparently it’s in dire need of reconstruction work or something, though, because the labyrinth to actually get through the equipment and stuff was quite the to-do. I did finally make it to the gate, however, and took a photo of one of the guards, but then the skies opened up again, and I was already so sweaty that I looked like I’d just taken a shower fully dressed, that I decided, you know, I’d seen the one at Halifax and I needed to call it a day.

Maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not. I’ve got another museum I really want to see tomorrow.

Along the wall between the parking garage and the  Citadel.
Along the wall between the parking garage and the Citadel.
Another view of the wall.
Another view of the wall.
I'd never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter.  This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
I’d never seen a NW Territories license plate before, or a license plate shaped like a bear, for that matter. This Transit Connect was just down the row from Merlin the Transit Connect in the parking garage.
One of the gates in the wall.  There's a city street going through there.
One of the gates in the wall. There’s a city street going through there.
Battlefields Park.  This is roughly where the battle took place.
Battlefields Park. This is roughly where the battle took place.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
One of the Martello Towers at Battlefields Park.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
Standing guard at the Citadel.
This carving looks like celery to me!
This carving looks like celery to me!  Even though I know it’s supposed to be acanthus or something.

August 24: Quebec City!

It was only a bit over two hours’ drive from my campsite to Quebec City this morning, mostly on the autoroute (what they call freeways here). I managed to navigate my way to the old town and to the hostel without too much trouble, and was exceedingly relieved to discover that the hostel has a deal with an underground parking garage only a couple of blocks away so that I had a place to stow Merlin for the duration (I had already decided that I wanted three nights here, because there’s so much to see and do). Driving in Quebec City is interesting, in the Chinese sense, and I wanted as little to do with it as possible.

Anyway, I parked Merlin, gathered up my camera, and went exploring.

I like Quebec City. I love the narrow, winding, hilly streets (once I was on foot, anyway), and I like the shops and the scenery and even the crowds of tourists aren’t that big a deal. I mostly explored the upper part of the old town (the walled part of Quebec is divided into two sections by a huge cliff) this afternoon, just prowling around and getting oriented. Oh, and having lunch in a café called L’Omelette (no, I didn’t have an omelette, not today, at least) next to a very pleasant couple from Saskatchewan who were gave me some advice about what I should see in their province (apparently there is more to see there than endless prairies [g], just like in Kansas).

It was a nice sunny day, but rather humid, and, like I said, the streets were hilly. I paced myself accordingly, and came back fairly early to rest up for tomorrow.

Anyway, here’s an assortment of what I saw today.

A quintessentially Quebec view, with the tall Catholic church steeple marking a small town.
A quintessentially Quebec view, with the tall Catholic church steeple marking a small town.
At a rest area along the way.  Canadians will plant flowers in anything, bless 'em.
At a rest area along the way. Canadians will plant flowers in anything, bless ’em.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway into Quebec City.
The bridge over the St. Lawrence Seaway into Quebec City.
Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico City, and here's part of the wall, taken while I was walking back from Merlin's garage to the hostel.
Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico City, and here’s part of the wall, taken while I was walking back from Merlin’s garage to the hostel.
The main drag in the upper part of Old Town Quebec.
The main drag in the upper part of Old Town Quebec.
The obligatory photo of the Chateau Frontenac, which I'm told is the most photographed hotel in Canada or North America or something.  It's perched up on the edge of the cliff above the lower Old Town and the river.
The obligatory photo of the Chateau Frontenac, which I’m told is the most photographed hotel in Canada or North America or something. It’s perched up on the edge of the cliff above the lower Old Town and the river.
Dufferin Terrace, outside of the Chateau Frontenac.  Lots of really talented buskers here.  I was surprised that the whole thing is wood-surfaced, though.  Terrace to me generally means stone.
Dufferin Terrace, outside of the Chateau Frontenac. Lots of really talented buskers here. I was surprised that the whole thing is wood-surfaced, though. Terrace to me generally means stone.
The view from Dufferin Terrace out to the river and beyond.
The view from Dufferin Terrace out to the river and beyond.
A statue on Dufferin Terrace, apparently there to advertise a Dali and Picasso exhibit elsewhere in town (I never did figure out where, but it wasn't all that high on my list of priorities, either).
A statue on Dufferin Terrace, apparently there to advertise a Dali and Picasso exhibit elsewhere in town (I never did figure out where, but it wasn’t all that high on my list of priorities, either).
Samuel de Champlain, and I'm not sure exactly what that's supposed to be below him (the text was in French), on Dufferin Terrace.
Samuel de Champlain, and I’m not sure exactly what that’s supposed to be below him (the text was in French), on Dufferin Terrace.
This statue was tucked away in an alley off of a side street.  I saw it while I was walking back up to the hostel.  He's a river driver.
This statue was tucked away in an alley off of a side street. I saw it while I was walking back up to the hostel. He’s a river driver.

August 15: I love, love, love Halifax, Nova Scotia

Although I do understand the climate can leave something to be desired [g].

Anyway, today I walked and museumed all day. First, I hiked up to the Citadel, an 18th century (reconstructed in the 19th) fortress in the heart of Halifax. I told you the hostel is in a great location – it was only about eight blocks, albeit most of them uphill.

The Citadel reminded me almost forcibly of Edinburgh Castle, and I don’t think it was just the bagpiper or the young men and women in uniforms including tall fuzzy things on their heads. The location, up on a hill in the heart of a bayfront city, the weather (cool and cloudy, at least in the morning), and the age of the thing (granted, not nearly as old as Edinburgh Castle, but much older than anything I’m used to at home), all made it seem similar, in a very happy-to-me way.

The very cheerful young man with a very fuzzy thing on his head who greeted me at the Citadel.
The very cheerful young man with a very fuzzy thing on his head who greeted me at the Citadel.
The inside of the Citadel.
The inside of the Citadel.
A 19th century British naval sailor's uniform.  So natty, especially the straw hat!
A 19th century British naval sailor’s uniform. So natty, especially the straw hat!
A peekaboo view of Halifax Harbor from the Citadel's ramparts (the view is mostly obscured by high-rises, which is kind of sad, if understandable).
A peekaboo view of Halifax Harbor from the Citadel’s ramparts (the view is mostly obscured by high-rises, which is kind of sad, if understandable).
Bagpiper and friend next to the flagpole on the Citadel's ramparts.
Bagpiper and friend next to the flagpole on the Citadel’s ramparts.

The museum inside was – eye-opening, yes, that’s the word. Okay, I watched Canada: A People’s History when it was on the CBC (I get the Vancouver affiliate on my cable when I’m home) a few years ago, and I knew they have a completely and utterly different perspective on the War of 1812 than we do, but it’s still odd to view exhibits talking about the U.S. invading Canada (which barely even gets mentioned south of the border, even in school). Anyway, it was fascinating. Well worth the morning I spent there.

Afterwards, on my way to the waterfront, I stopped at a little sandwich place called As You Like It for lunch, which was cute, with a mural on the wall purporting to depict a scene from the play, and tasty, with a roast beef sandwich and a brownie.

I'm pretty sure this is about as quintessentially Canadian as it gets -- seen on my way from the Citadel to the waterfront.
I’m pretty sure this is about as quintessentially Canadian as it gets — seen on my way from the Citadel to the waterfront.

At the waterfront was the other main thing I wanted to see while I was here, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, which is to Canadian maritime history what the Kansas Cosmosphere was to the space race. Which has pretty much become about the highest compliment I can give to a museum.

See, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic had me when I first walked in.  This is a *first order* Fresnel lens, right in the lobby where I could adore it up close.
See, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic pretty much had me when I first walked in the door. This is a *first order* Fresnel lens, from the lighthouse at the entrance to Halifax Harbor, right in the lobby where I could adore it up close.
A miniature (about a foot long) replica of an Inuit kayak and accessories.
A miniature (about a foot long) replica of an Inuit kayak and accessories.
Yes, that label says colored guano (as in bat poop).
Yes, that label says colored guano (as in bird poop).
A deck chair from the Titanic (they re-caned the seat).  They also had a replica nearby that you could actually sit in.
An actual deck chair from the Titanic (they re-caned the seat). They also had a replica nearby that you could actually sit in.

The exhibits were all over the place – arctic exploration, the ages of sail and steam, the Titanic (Halifax was the closest port of any size to the disaster, and they sent the ships that went to recover the bodies, or as many of them as they could), and the Halifax explosion.

What, you’ve never heard of the largest pre-atomic manmade explosion in the world? Which killed almost as many people as 9/11 did in New York, and leveled most of the north end of an entire city? The sound of which was heard hundreds of miles away? On December 7, 1917, a munitions ship loaded with thousands of pounds of explosives bound for the war in Europe accidentally collided with a Belgian relief ship, caught fire, and, well, you can imagine the rest. I’d known a little about the explosion, again thanks to the CBC and a historical movie about it a few years ago, but I don’t think the scale of it all registered until this afternoon. Apparently it did more damage than the San Francisco earthquake or the Chicago fire. Oh, and then the next day they had a blizzard. Those poor people just couldn’t catch a break.

My last stop of the day (so to speak) was at the ferry terminal, where I paid $2.50 to make a round trip across the harbor on a cute little passenger ferry, and strolled along the Dartmouth waterfront, where I had a great view of the Halifax skyline. That was fun.

The Halifax skyline from the ferry to Dartmouth.
The Halifax skyline from the ferry to Dartmouth.
An interesting exhibit on the Dartmouth waterfront.  Those rocks in the exhibit case are from all over the world (including a piece of the Berlin wall from Germany).
An interesting exhibit on the Dartmouth waterfront. Those rocks in the exhibit case are from all over the world (including a piece of the Berlin wall from Germany).
The MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, from the ferry.  I can't get over how much it looks like the old (as opposed to the new, and also as opposed to Galloping Gertie) Tacoma Narrows Bridge.  It's even the same color.
The MacDonald Bridge in Halifax, from the ferry. I can’t get over how much it looks like the old (as opposed to the new, and also as opposed to Galloping Gertie) Tacoma Narrows Bridge. It’s even the same color.
Two of the lighthouses at the entrance to Halifax Harbor, taken with tons of zoom from the ferry.  I had no idea until I opened this photo on my laptop that there were *two* lighthouses in this photo.
Two of the lighthouses at the entrance to Halifax Harbor, taken with tons of zoom from the ferry. I had no idea until I opened this photo on my laptop that there were *two* lighthouses in this photo.

By the time I hoofed it the ten blocks or so back to the hostel (stopping at a needlework shop along the way) my feet hurt, but it was a great day. I enjoyed the heck out of Halifax. It was an awful lot of fun.

A mural I walked by on my way back to the hostel this evening.  I love the colors in it.
A mural I walked by on my way back to the hostel this evening. I love the colors in it.

Tomorrow, though, I’m headed to Cape Breton Island. I’ve been looking forward to that, too. And D-Day for my Newfoundland decision is getting awfully close here…

August 14: Quaint is the word, I believe

My Seahawks won their first pre-season game last night.  17-16, on a last-minute Hail Mary pass and a two-point conversion.  I can’t believe it’s football season already, but Go, ‘Hawks!  (no, I didn’t have the bandwidth at the campground to watch the game, but I did see and hear some highlights)

It was wet when I woke up this morning. Not raining hard, but the air was seriously saturated. I felt like I needed gills.

Along Highway 103 on the way to Halifax.
Along Highway 103 on the way to Halifax.

I drove north on the highway till I got to the turnoff for Peggy’s Cove. Peggy’s Cove is one of those iconic places you’ll recognize from the photos (I bet), supposedly the most-photographed lighthouse in Canada [g].

Along the road to Peggy’s Cove is a memorial to a plane crash in 1998, on a windswept bluff south of town. 229 people died in that crash, out in the Atlantic off of the coast here, and the memorial is lonesome and peaceful.

The view from the Swissair crash memorial, looking northish towards Peggy's Cove.
The view from the Swissair crash memorial, looking northish towards Peggy’s Cove.

Peggy’s Cove itself is tiny, with a visitor center (complete with composting toilets) that I suspect was built in self-defense. It’s also adorable, as is the lighthouse itself. The granite shield the town and lighthouse are built on is rather amazing, too. Anyway, it was very pretty, and very damp, and I enjoyed strolling around it very much.

Part of the Harbor at Peggy's Cove.
Part of the Harbor at Peggy’s Cove.
The lighthouse at Peggy's Cove.
The lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove.
Granite field at Peggy's Cove.
Granite field at Peggy’s Cove.

I stopped at a farm stand somewhere between Peggy’s Cove and Halifax, and ate fish and chips from a food truck parked nearby. I bought blueberries and a cherry bar (a bar cookie) at the farm stand to round things out. Wow, those blueberries are good (I ate about a third of them, and put the rest in my cooler).

And so on to Halifax, where I’d called last night to make a reservation at the local hostel, so that I didn’t arrive there only to discover they were full up. It’s right downtown, within walking distance of everything I want to see in Halifax, which is great. I will be staying here two nights in order to see everything I want to see here.

The Old Burying Ground in Halifax, just down the street from the hostel.  They *stopped* burying people here in the 1840s.
The Old Burying Ground in Halifax, just down the street from the hostel. They *stopped* burying people here in the 1840s.
A statue of Winston Churchill in front of the Halifax Public Library, which I passed while walking to the public gardens.
A statue of Winston Churchill in front of the Halifax Public Library, which I passed while walking to the public gardens.

The first of which was the Public Gardens, which are about six blocks from the hostel. They’re supposedly the best example of Victorian show gardens in North America, and I’m willing to agree with that [g]. Lots of bright flowers in patterned plantings, a fancy gazebo where they sometimes have band concerts, several statues, and broad lawns dotted with huge trees. Fortunately, the air had quit being quite so soaking wet by the time I arrived in Halifax, so I didn’t get drowned wandering through them.

The entrance to the public gardens.
The entrance to the public gardens.
Gazebo/bandstand and flower beds at the public gardens.
Gazebo/bandstand and flower beds at the public gardens.
A statue of the Roman goddess Ceres at the public gardens.
A statue of the Roman goddess Ceres at the public gardens.
The facade of the municipal/court building in Halifax.
The facade of the municipal/court building in Halifax, taken on my way back to the hostel.

I haven’t been sleeping well for the last couple of nights, so I suspect I’ll be going to bed fairly early tonight. Wish me luck for a good night’s sleep!

August 12: History, lots and lots of history, oh and two gardens

Today was a very full day, even though I drove less than 100 miles for the entire day. I started my day at Grand Pré, which means Great Meadow in English. It’s one of the first sites of the expulsion of the Acadians, back in the mid-18th century. It’s a UN World Heritage Site as well as a National Historic Site, and the museum there tells the story of the Acadians.

Before today, my entire knowledge of the Acadians is that a bunch of them wound up in Louisiana and became the Cajuns. Now I know a lot more of the story, and it was moving and sad. I’m not sure what all to say about it without putting my foot into it, except that I kept thinking about what’s going on with the Syrians today.

The other two things were that I’d had no idea that the Acadians reclaimed lands from the Bay of Fundy in similar ways that the Dutch have in their country. It was fascinating to learn about how they’d done it over a period of over a hundred years, and so long ago. And then there was the Longfellow/Evangeline connection – yes, she was fictional, but apparently his poem brought a lot of attention to what had happened to the Acadians, and so she’s become something of a cultural symbol.

The gardens surrounding the memorial church, etc., were lovely, too.

Anyway, I learned a lot at Grand Pré, some of which I was not expecting to learn.

The Evangeline statue and the memorial church at Grand Pre.
The Evangeline statue and the memorial church at Grand Pre.
Part of the gardens at Grand Pre.
Part of the gardens at Grand Pre.
The Longfellow bust at Grand Pre.
The Longfellow bust at Grand Pre.
Looking out over the polders/reclaimed land at Grand Pre, complete with the two red Adirondack chairs that seem to exist at every viewpoint in the Canadian national parks.
Looking out over the polders/reclaimed land at Grand Pre, complete with the two red Adirondack chairs that seem to exist at every viewpoint in the Canadian national parks.  ETA:  I am informed that in Canada, those chairs are called Muskoka chairs.
A view back from the lookout towards the memorial church at Grand Pre.
A view back from the lookout towards the memorial church at Grand Pre.

And so it was on to Annapolis Royal.

I drove past this today, something else I'd never known about before.
I drove past this today, something else I’d never known about before.

Annapolis Royal is about fifty more miles down the road, where I visited two National Historic Sites, Port Royal, which was supposed to be a living history site about a French fort, but which, according to a fellow visitor who went on about it for quite a while, was no longer what it was because Stephen Harper had eviscerated the National Parks. The site was still there, but the re-enactors are apparently no more. It was still really interesting, though.

The reconstructed fort at Port Royal.
The reconstructed fort at Port Royal.
Inside Port Royal, which was sort of the Canadian French version of Old Bent's Fort.
Inside Port Royal, which was sort of the Canadian French version of Bent’s Old Fort.
Those window panes are made of animal hide.
Those window panes are made of animal hide.
My first turned leaves of the trip. Holy cow.
My first turned leaves of the trip. Holy cow.

Then there were the historic gardens in Annapolis Royal, which were really lovely. No Longwood, granted, but then I expect not many gardens could stand up to Longwood. These were smaller, and have been there since the 1930s, and were absolutely filled with glorious flowers.

The perennial borders at the Historic Gardens.
The perennial borders at the Historic Gardens.
Unlabeled (I wish I knew what variety these were!) lilies at the Historic Gardens.
Unlabeled (I wish I knew what variety these were!) oriental lilies at the Historic Gardens.
A reconstructed Acadian house at the Historic Gardens.
A reconstructed Acadian house at the Historic Gardens.

My last stop of the day was at Fort Anne, right on the river in Annapolis Royal. It’s the oldest National Historic Site in Canada (so now I’ve visited their first national park, Banff, last summer, and their first national historic site today), but what struck me as funny was that they were refurbishing the officers’ quarters/museum in the fort, and at the moment it’s all covered with modern-day waterproofing plastic film.

The tyvek-wrapped officers' quarters at Fort Anne.
The tyvek-wrapped officers’ quarters at Fort Anne.
The powder magazine at Fort Anne, built in 1708 and the only entirely original building at the fort.
The powder magazine at Fort Anne, built in 1708 and the only entirely original building at the fort.
The view from Fort Anne, down the Annapolis River.
The view from Fort Anne, down the Annapolis River.

Fort Anne is a classic on-the-waterfront star fort, just like Fort McHenry in Baltimore, although it’s considerably older and there aren’t as many buildings. The redoubts definitely looked familiar, though. The museum had an absolutely gorgeous needlepoint tapestry inside. I never did find a date when it was done, but apparently it’s fairly recent. It’s spectacular, too.

Half of the dropdead gorgeous needlepoint tapestry at Fort Anne.
Half of the dropdead gorgeous needlepoint tapestry at Fort Anne.

By the time I left Fort Anne, I was pretty tired, so I drove the last 25 miles down to Digby, where I’m ensconced in a very nice hostel, with wifi and showers. I will continue on around the coast tomorrow, and probably wind up in Halifax in two or three days.

I can’t believe it’s been eleven weeks today since I left home. Criminy.

July 25: Back to the country, and a “Henry Ford Museum lightbulb machine moment”

I took Loralee to the Baltimore airport this morning. I have to say that a) I’m going to miss her, but I’m seriously glad to be out of that motel, and b) it’s so good to be out of the city!

I drove around Baltimore on its beltway, then headed northeast on the same highway Katrina and Teri and I took to get to Longwood the other day. I turned off before I passed it, though, and headed up into Pennsylvania.

Is it just me or does this look like Kansas?  Along the road in Pennsylvania.
Is it just me or does this look like Kansas? Along the road in Pennsylvania.

I’m generally headed for New England now, but while I was looking at the map last night, I noticed a place on the map marked Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Curious about why a furnace would be historical [g], I headed in that direction. As it turned out, Hopewell Furnace was what I think of as a Henry Ford Museum lightbulb machine.

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Sometimes you (or I, at any rate) take things for granted, without thinking about how they’ve come to be, until you see something that jolts you and makes you realize that, no, these things do not spring full blown from the head of Zeus. My primary example is the lightbulb machine in the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, which I saw on my last Long Trip 17 years ago. Now tell me. Have you ever thought about how light bulbs are manufactured? I didn’t think so.

Well, yesterday I learned how cast iron was made back in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was something I’d never considered before. It was made by hand, by skilled craftsmen, each one supported by an infrastructure and a cadre of workers, then the results were hauled off by horse and wagon to the cities where they were sold. I had no idea that iron was originally smelted using charcoal, and that places like Hopewell Furnace went through hundreds of cords of wood every year.

Butterflies on purple coneflowers at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
Butterflies on purple coneflowers at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
Stoves cast at Hopewell Furnace in the 1800s.
Stoves cast at Hopewell Furnace in the 1800s.
Part of the CCC-restored (of course) Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.  The house is the home of the owner of the furnace.
Part of the CCC-restored (of course) Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. The house is the home of the owner of the furnace.
A charcoal pit, where so much wood was burned so iron could be smelted.
A charcoal pit, where so much wood was burned so iron could be smelted.
Looking back towards the cooling sheds, where the charcoal was cooled before being used in the furnace.
Looking back towards the cooling sheds, where the charcoal was cooled before being used in the furnace.

Hopewell provided iron for cannons at Yorktown and in the Civil War, as well as cookstoves that were prized for decades, and many kinds of smaller pieces.

Anyway, the site was fascinating, although the heat and humidity made walking around the actual reconstructed town problematic, of course. The visitor center had a terrific little movie about the place, too.

A very strange sign along the roadside in Pennsylvania.
A very strange sign along the roadside in Pennsylvania.
I absolutely love the old stone houses in this part of the world.
I absolutely love the old stone houses in this part of the world.

After I left Hopewell Furnace, I headed towards somewhere I’d stayed at on my last Long Trip, a hostel in a state park about an hour northwest of Philadelphia. It’s in an old stone house that was the landowner’s before he gave the land to the state, and it’s a peaceful, quiet spot, which I much appreciated.

With the proprietor’s help, I also found a laundromat, so I’m set for clean clothes again for a while. And I managed to keep from getting drowned when the skies opened again, too.