Tonight my friend Tina and I went to a program/exhibit at the Lacey library. It was put on by the Pacific Northwest Vintage Sewing machine organization. It was fascinating. All kinds of antique and vintage sewing machines, as well as a program where several people spoke about them. Some folks there own more than a hundred sewing machines!
There were also quilts up on the library’s walls from a couple of local guilds, which was nice.
And I got to try a sewing machine about the right age to have been Karin’s sewing machine from True Gold, which was truly cool.
Here are some of the photos I took.
Oh, and by the way, this is a photo of the Golden Staircase up to the top of Chilkoot Pass that Karin carried her sewing machine over, and the conditions in which she would have done it.
September 2nd was a more or less catching up with life day, thank you so much, Christine and family. In the morning we went to one of the best needlework stores I’ve been in for a very long time, and I bought more patterns than I probably should have. I would give my eyeteeth to have a needlework store like that near me. In the afternoon I went and got my hair cut (third time on the trip, and the lady who cut it, bless her heart, fixed the disaster the lady in Quakertown, Pennsylvania created a month ago), and went to a quilt shop Christine had told me about, where I bought some completely unnecessary but adorable quintessentially Canadian fabric. And then they took me out to dinner at a very tasty Italian restaurant (well, the food was delicious, and the service was good – I didn’t try to eat the restaurant [g]).
Yesterday we got up at the crack of dawn to deliver Christine’s oldest son, Colin, to a boathouse down near Niagara for a regatta, then she and I went down to Niagara Falls. One wonderful side effect is that we arrived at the falls at about eight in the morning, before all of the crowds arrived. The first thing we did was do a tour called Journey Behind the Falls, which was exactly what’s on the label. We donned those funky plastic raincoaty/poncho things that keep everything dry except your head (yes, there’s a hood, no, it doesn’t stay up), your arms, and below your knees, and took an elevator down to tunnels that lead to the underside of the Horseshoe (Canadian side) of the falls. Thunderous is the word I’m looking for, I think. A solid wall of water pounding down just feet in front of your face, vibrating up through your feet and in through your skin and everywhere else. I had done the Hurricane Deck on the American side on my last Long Trip 17 years ago, but this was something else entirely.
After that we walked along the promenade (I think it’s got another name, but anyway) for a ways up above the falls to the rapids, and down below the falls to where we could see the American Falls, which apparently only account for 10% of the water (according to at least two sources). The rest of it goes over the Canadian Falls, which explains why the view is so much more impressive on the Canadian side!
By the time we finished at the falls, the crowds were getting thick, and we had other places we wanted to go. We drove downstream towards Lake Ontario (the Niagara River flows north, which confused me no end), and stopped at the southern terminus of the Bruce Trail, which runs along the entire length of the Niagara escarpment (I’ll be passing by the northern terminus in a couple of days). Then we went to the Printery, which is all about the history of newspapers in Canada, among other things, and I got to operate a printing press, which was fun.
Then there was Fort George. Fort George was all about the War of 1812, and played havoc with my so-called knowledge of North American history again. Plus we got to talk with some fascinating docents, see a scene from a play associated with the fort, and learn about the lot of a British soldier’s wife. Only 6% of them were allowed to travel with their husbands (chosen by lottery), and since the soldiers were conscripted for either 7 or 21 years all over the world, with no contact during that time, the wives left behind were considered to be divorced once the men were gone. Legally, from what I gathered. Talk about a hard choice.
We were about walked out at that point, and Christine’s parents live nearby, so she called and asked if we could come over for a cup of tea. That turned into a really pleasant couple of hours’ chat plus dinner [g]. Thank you so much, Christine’s parents!
And then we went back to the falls to see the lights. That’s a spectacle and a half. Crowded as all heck, but what they do, once it gets dark, is play spotlights all over the falls in rainbow (and patriotic) colors. Staying that late to see them is not something I’d have done on my own (I don’t like driving in strange places late at night, and we didn’t get back to the house until almost midnight), but I am so glad I got to see that. It was beautiful.
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.
Today I drove the forty or so miles down just past the modern-day town of Louisbourg, walked through a visitor center, and caught a shuttle bus into the past.
Louisbourg Fortress (a fortified town, as opposed to a fort, which is just a fort) was built by the French, back when they were battling the Brits for supremacy in North America. The current fortress is something like Williamsburg, only even more so. With Williamsburg they had a few existing buildings to start with. With Louisbourg they had archaeological digs and historians. What they’ve achieved with that is pretty astonishing. You really do feel like you’re walking through an 18th century (they’re portraying the 1740s here, the height of Louisbourg’s prosperity) walled town. You almost feel like you’re in France, not Canada, which is rather disconcerting.
The living history part of the deal is toned down here, though. Not a lot of demonstrations, at least not today. But a good many of the buildings were filled with exhibits, about how they did the research and the rebuilding, and telling the stories of some of the people who lived here. I was surprised (although I have no idea why I was surprised) to discover that a few African slaves lived here. I was also fascinated by the hierarchy of the place, who was on top, and who was unfortunate enough to be at the bottom. I learned about the soldiers’ lives, and saw where they lived, and all in all it was another part of history that I didn’t know about. I also had a very nice chat with a gardener about the local climate, and another with a soldier on the ramparts about how most English language military terms come from the French language.
I’ve been charmed by the way I’m greeted with “hello, bonjour” ever since I crossed the border into Canada. I keep meaning to mention it, but what I’ve learned is that this is how they ask you which language you speak. You’re supposed to respond in your language so that the person addressing you knows how to go on. Which is pretty nifty, IMHO.
I spent most of the day at Fortress Louisbourg, in a misty moisty morning and cloudy (and windy) was the weather, and then just in the brisk wind that made me glad I’d put my hoodie and my raincoat on.
After I left Louisbourg, I wasn’t in the mood to make a decision as to what I was going to do the next day, so I stopped at a provincial park campground nearby – and promptly got read the riot act for speeding in the campground. I had not been speeding. I’ve been paranoid about the whole kilometers vs. miles thing ever since I crossed the border, and I know for a fact that I was not speeding. But I didn’t argue with the man, and he didn’t do anything more than fuss at me.
I’ve already been feeling sort of weird about Cape Breton ever since I got here. I’m not sure I can explain it, but I’m more than ready to leave. It’s almost like I’m a rubber band, with one end fastened in western Washington, and apparently Cape Breton was just stretching me just a little too far. That’s also part of the reason I didn’t go on to Newfoundland.
There’s more to see here, and I could have stayed another night or two, but I’m ready to head west. Not directly west, not yet, but west.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Today started out as misty moisty and cloudy was the weather. Also in the upper 60sdF, topping out in the low 70s, which was wonderful. Wisps of fog, too, which were beautiful.
This morning I bopped back and forth between stretches of what passes for freeway in southern Nova Scotia (one lane in each direction, but with onramps and offramps and the occasional passing lane), and the coast road. The coast road is also a two lane, but it also adds more than twice as many miles to the same point-to-point, so I didn’t want to drive it the whole way. I passed through Yarmouth, where I stopped to pick up a few groceries, and my next stop was one of those serendipitous things that make me so happy.
I saw a sign for an Acadian historic village, so I followed it. What it turned out to be was a living history village of buildings preserved in the oldest continuously occupied Acadian village in Canada (the inhabitants came back after twelve years of exile, and, finding their old lands otherwise occupied, settled in the Pubnicos (there are several of them, ranging from Upper Pubnico to Lower Middle Pubnico and so forth)). It was interesting, and there were some beautiful quilts and other handicrafts, but the amazing thing was that all of the interpreters/docents/re-enactors I spoke with (and even the cashier) were descended from the families who had originally inhabited the buildings for centuries. It was amazing. “My great-grandfather was the last person to live in this house before it became part of the museum.” Stuff like that. For someone who grew up in four major metropolitan areas, it’s sort of mind-boggling. One of my fellow visitors pointed out someone in a photograph in on of the buildings and told her friend that this was her grandfather when he was seventeen, too. Amazing.
That wasn’t the only time I had that happen today, either. After I left the Acadian village, I drove out to the very southern tip of Nova Scotia, The Hawk on Cape Sable Island. I’m not sure why I did it, but I’m glad I did. The views were amazing, out over the Atlantic, and I struck up a conversation with an older gentleman who was sitting on a lobster trap [g]. He told me about how he’d grown up there, like his parents and grandparents and so forth, but that his son had followed his job to Alberta, and was home for a couple of weeks with his own son, the next generation. The gentleman was concerned that the baby would not remember Cape Sable. Then he asked me what my last name was. I told him, and he told me his last name was Atwood. Driving back to the main highway, I saw at least half a dozen Atwood references – street names and so forth.
What it must be like to have roots like that is completely beyond me.
The rest of the afternoon was spent driving northeast towards Halifax, searching for a campground. I finally found one, and went to sleep listening to the rain fall on Merlin’s roof. It was a very pleasant sound.
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.
And so it was on to Annapolis Royal.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anyway. I started my morning by navigating the c/o/w/p/a/t/h/s/narrow, winding, one-way streets of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, trying to find Strawbery Banke. I did, after less travail than I expected, and actually arrived before they opened (I tend to get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun when I’m camping).
Strawbery Banke is another living history site, but this one’s different. Instead of concentrating on one era the way Williamsburg and Mystic Seaport did, it covers almost all of the almost four hundred years Portsmouth (whose original name was Strawbery Banke) has been a community, concentrating on the old neighborhood of Puddle Dock, on which the modern Strawbery Banke now sits. So, from the mid-1600s to the 1950s.
Each building, from the oldest one, built in the early 1700s, to one that had most recently been remodeled just after WWII, represented a different time period and a different level of wealth and social class. And there were gardens! No one (ahem, Beth!) told me there would be gardens! Everything from a Victorian greenhouse and bedding garden to another adorable Colonial dooryard garden to an herb garden. There were stores and craftspeople, too. I got to try my hand at a loom, which was fun, and wander into a WWII-era grocery store, complete with ration points as well as the price marked on each item.
I spent a good chunk of the day there, and had a wonderful time.
Then I drove on north on I-95, because it was getting late and I wanted to get to my stop for the night – plus I’ve been to this part of Maine before, and I want to spend most of my time that I’ll be on the coast northeast of Acadia since I’ve never been to that part of the state before.
My destination for the night was Freeport, which is basically a factory outlet town surrounding the original LL Bean store. Not that I’m a huge fan of factory outlets, but LL Bean has a free overnight parking area for RVers (which I count as, since I don’t pitch a tent or anything). It was nice and shady and cool(!), and I ended up parked across from someone from the Tri-Cities (southeastern Washington) of all places, which was kind of hilarious.
So that’s where I am tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to Augusta, the state capitol, to visit the Maine State Museum, and then it’s on to Acadia National Park and Down East to Canada (yes, that’s the local turn of phrase, and no, that doesn’t sound right to me, either).
Starting to worry about Canada, for some reason, not sure why. It’s not like I haven’t crossed the border before. But I’ll never have spent that much time there before, either. And Quebec’s got me just a tad freaked out because of the language thing, too. Oh, well. ‘S good for me. Builds character.
Last night was fine, and this morning I got an early start and arrived at Mystic Seaport just before it opened at nine a.m. I’ve got so many photos of the Seaport that I’m just going to put them all at the end.
It was just as good as I remembered, although I have to say I don’t remember a lot about it. The highlight was the Charles W. Morgan, which is the oldest whaling ship left in America. She just turned 175 years old a few days ago, according to the docent who told me. It was built in 1841. I got to board her and look around, and watch a crew launch one of the little boats they actually chased the whales in. That was fun.
I also went through lots of reconstructed period maritime businesses and a couple of homes (one of which had a garden I fell completely in love with), and went through a really wonderful (and air-conditioned – while the temperature is only in the low 80s, it’s even more ridiculously humid) exhibit on whaling history. It sorta took Moby Dick as a jumping off point, but aside from that (Moby Dick is one of my least favorite books I ever had to read in college) it was enthralling. Some of the technology they used for the exhibits was stuff I’d never seen before, too, which fascinated me, too.
Oh, and I got to see the one thing that made an indelible memory for me the last time I was here, which was the exhibit of ships’ figureheads. They were so cool.
I finally left Mystic Seaport about the middle of the afternoon, and came back to the Indian casino camper lot, where I decided I’d go check the casino itself out. Why not, right?
Well, it’s the biggest casino I’ve seen outside of Nevada (and presumably Atlantic City, although I’ve never been there), and certainly the biggest Indian casino I’ve ever seen (which is saying a fair amount as we have a number of them in Washington). I thought I’d check out the outlet mall attached to it, just for the heck of it (since I’m not a gambler and also because they don’t believe in smoke-free casinos the way they do at home). It was the biggest outlet mall I think I’ve ever seen, too, and it was only one small part of the casino. Anyway, I was really glad they had a shuttle running out to the parking lots, because my feet were dead by the time I was ready to leave.
Tonight I’m camped here again, but tomorrow night I have a reservation at a hostel in Newport, Rhode Island. I’d have had one tonight, but the Newport Jazz Festival is this weekend, so lodging was hard to come by. So I’ll go drive around where all the mansions are, and tour one or two (I’m thinking of Cornelius Vanderbilt’s The Breakers, in particular), which is something I’ve always wanted to do, then I’ll spend the night and head north in the morning.
I will also have knocked off one more state (Rhode Island), probably the last one that I’ve never been to for this trip, since the only two left after that will be Oklahoma and Hawaii [g].
Then it’s on to Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and Maine. And Canada!
We got up early and went to a farmers’ market under a freeway in downtown Baltimore, where Teri picked up her weekly CSA allotment of veggies, then, after we dropped them back off at the house and ate a breakfast of big, gooey cinnamon rolls also purchased there, we headed to Fort McHenry, a national historic site on a point of land in Baltimore’s harbor, where the battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write our national anthem took place. It’s a classic star fort (the shape of the embankments and buildings), with re-enactors marching around wearing wool in this ungodly heat, and playing the fife and drums. In a way, it kind of reminded me of Fort Larned in Kansas, only instead of being surrounded by prairie, it was surrounded by water.
I learned a lot about the battle, and the War of 1812, and that Key was actually in the custody of the British when he wrote the lyrics, and lots of good bits of information to fit into my mind as steel trap for useless trivia (well, not useless, but you know what I mean).
We were going to take the water taxi over to the Inner Harbor area to eat lunch, but it turns out you can only buy tickets on the Inner Harbor side, so we got back in the car and Teri drove us through downtown Baltimore again [wry g] to a place to eat lunch, and then parked near the Inner Harbor where we explored around. This was the place that reminded me of Victoria, although it’s more just the geography (the harbor surrounded by the city thing) than anything else.
The highlights were McCormick Spices’ flagship store, the USS Constellation, and one of the more unusual lighthouses I’ve ever seen. But it was ungodly hot again, and we were all fading fast by the time we got back to the car. I really enjoyed it, though.
Then, that evening, we drove to the other side of Baltimore, to a drive-in theater which claims to have the biggest screen in the United States. It’s gigantic, I’ll give you that. The whole place, though, is a serious throwback to the 1950s, including some of the most un-PC concession advertisements I’ve ever seen in my life. They’ve also got rules out the ying-yang and are apparently control freaks about them. But it was fun. Oh, and I enjoyed Finding Dory, and, to a lesser extent, The BFG (double feature and a short to begin with – the short was a Pixar thing about sandpipers). But we didn’t get back to Teri’s house until almost two a.m. It was worth it, though.
Today we’re just sitting around – we were going to go to the Great Falls of the Potomac and hike around a bit, but it was 95dF when I went outside this morning, so that got nixed. After three days of pretty much solid sightseeing in this heat, we’re taking it easy (and I’m doing laundry) until this evening when we’ll be driving down towards DC for the listee dinner. I’m really looking forward to that. Then tomorrow I shall be picking Loralee up at the airport!
Which reminds me, I really need to clear off Merlin’s passenger seat and make space in the back for her suitcase before then.