Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Quebec City, Canada

On the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence River the British built  Fort Levis. It was to protect Quebec City from the Americans in the war of 1812. It is an active military base still today. It houses the Canadian 22nd Regiment and along with the Governor General of Quebec Providence, who has a summer house within the Fort. The fort was built in the shape of a half pentagon with large guns at each point with high walls made of dirt and ditches dug in between. The Fort served as a weaponries warehouse and barracks for troops waiting to be sent to Europe in World War I and II. It was during WWI this regiment was honored. They took a strategic city in Germany; one that no one else could take and so honoring the country of Canada. Canada upon this victory was revered globally, recognized as a major military country and with that Great Britain would give them their independence. There is a large Gaelic cross on the grounds to honor those soldiers of that victory. They still post guards at the front gate dressed in Canadian red with large black fur hats.

Within walking distance of the old fort lays the city of Quebec. Built within the city in 1805 is the Sainte-Anne Hotel. It looks like a large fairy tale like castle. In front of the hotel is the monument to Samuel de Champlain to honor the founder of Quebec City.

We walked the charming city streets where we viewed art shops, tourist’s shops and French style sidewalk cafés. As we sat and sipped wine at a café in Old Quebec City while viewing the tourists walking within this picturesque city,  Peggy asked me if this was what Paris would feel like. We saw two of the largest churches within the walls of the city, Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral and St Andrew Presbyterian Church. St Andrew is where the Scots from Wolfe’s army would gather. It has a very large stained glass window. In the distance we could see the neo-Gothic steeple of Chalmers-Wesley Methodist church.

Montmorency Sepaq Falls

We headed up the highway to climb to the top of Parc de la Chute Montmorency Sepaq (falls), up 487 steps.  This awe-inspiring site is 272 ft. tall; Niagara Falls is only 98 feet high. From atop the falls you can view all of the St. Lawrence River way. This is where Montcalm (French) and Wolfe (British) fought for the control of Canada. This war did determine the destiny of Canada. This area would eventually be divided into Quebec and Ontario and the British would ultimately create the union confederation Providences known as Canada. This is where others from General Wolfe troops would gather on Sunday during the war of 1812. 

Peggy on the long climb...up..up & up!

After spending several hours climbing and hiking we then took a ride in the car across the bridge to Ile d’Orleans Island.  My legs were sore from all the climbing and walking we had done in the last two days. This is the largest island in the waterway and is covered with many types of agriculture; apples, strawberries, grapes, corn, dairy, several berries types and wineries. We stopped at the Domaine Steinbach winery and purchased two bottles of Ice wines and a jar of tomato-jelly.

The old hotel and officer's quarters

These were the giant heaters that dried all the clothes of the immigrants
One of the old shower stalls that were used

One of the many graveyards - just a representation
One of the old quarantined hospital buildings still standing

Young tour guide dressed like a nurse
Saturday we took a boat ride across the south channel to Grosse-Ile (Isle-Aux-Grues) Island. I would compare this to Ellis Island in New York City. From 1832-1937 it was a transition point of more than four million immigrants. In 1837 during the potato famine in Ireland more than 90 percent of immigrants were Irish. There are over 7,000 bodies buried on the island, mostly from 1837-1839.  Either Typhoid, Smallpox, Influenza, etc. killed a lot of the children and women. There are two churches on the island - Catholic and Anglican.
There were three hotels on the island too, one for first class, one for second class and tents for third class passengers, (barracks were to come later). We checked to see if our names were on the list of those buried there and found we didn’t make the list.  We finished by viewing the Decontamination Center. Any ship passing down the St Lawrence River was stopped and inspected for health problems. If they found only one person on that ship…any class, first, second or third, they were required to stop and all were to be inspected. All clothing and suitcases were put through a large decontamination heater to kill bacteria, along with any insects. All the people, no matter what their class, would be required to take hot showers where the water contained small amounts of mercury. The clothes they were wearing were then sent onto the decontamination boilers below. They were then inspected for any health issues. If cleared, they would spend seven days on the island then released and ferried back to their ships that had been cleaned too, allowing them to move on to their destination. The island was divided into three divisions, the west side where those who had no health issues awaited their departure. The center was where the doctors, nurses and staff lived. The east side was where those with major hospital requirements were stationed, each section divided by a fence and guards. There were three cemeteries where mass graves were dug and those who were buried were put in simple wooden caskets, stacked on top of each other.  The cemeteries were divided by religion; Catholic or Protestant. Over 8 million left Ireland because of the potato famine, which had the largest death totals of any one country of modern times without a war. Canada not only encouraged the migration but enticed them by giving them 160 acres of free land in the western Providences. Canada was concerned that US citizens might move into those Providences and they would take the land like they had done in Texas from Mexico.

Well, my legs were tired from all that walking and it was raining, so it was a good day for some down time.  While Peggy went to the grocery store to resupply I took a is good to be King George! 
Happy travels,
George (plus Peggy & Coco)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

St. Augustine, Florida

We stayed at Anastasia State Recreation Area, which is a 1,600  acre Florida State Park located on a peninsula on the Atlantic coast of Anastasia Island across Matanzas Bay from downtown St. Augustine. You don’t want to get caught on that draw bridge during rush hour.

The park has a variety of wildlife, birds and plants in a setting of beaches, tidal salt marsh, marine and upland hammock.

There were many activities including bird and wildlife watching, camping, fishing, sun bathing, surfing, sail boarding, swimming and kayaking. Amenities include a campground and nature trails, and the park is unique in being the site of a quarry from which the coquina stone used in the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos Fort in St. Augustine was mined.
Arch made out of coquina stone

 In the current city of St. Augustine is the Ponce de León Hotel. It is a fashionable hotel built by millionaire developer and Standard Oil co-founder Henry M. Flagler. The Hotel Ponce de Leon was designed in the Spanish Renaissance style. It was constructed entirely of poured concrete, using the local coquina stone as aggregate. The original hotel also was wired for electricity. The power being provided by D.C. generators supplied by Flagler's friend, Thomas Edison.

On our walk about town we saw several building including the Fort built of coquina stone. It is a sedimentary rock that is composed of fragmented sea shells. For a sediment to be considered to be a coquina, the average size of the particles composing it should be 1/2 inch or greater. Coquina can vary in hardness from poorly to moderately-cemented. The term "coquina" is derived from the Spanish word for cockleshells or shellfish. Over the century with environment settings and strong waves and currents resulted in the vigorous fracturing of shells, composites were developed.  Well-developed beds of coquina were readily available from a nearby quarry, whereas wood was not as available or as strong, so coquina was used for building materials by the Spanish.   

 We used the local Lighthouse for our navigation around the town; giving meaning to the saying ‘the lighthouse will navigate by land and sea’.

We'll never forget the Christmas Lights in St. Augustine, near the river and bay.  Florida’s historic coast was the setting for this year’s 20th year of St. Augustine’s Night of Lights. During the Nights of Lights, St. Augustine is aglow with holiday magic. From the ground to the rooftops on every tree and bush the sight is surreal.

 National Geographic, in 2011 & 2012, listed them as one of the ten best holiday lighting displays in the world! St. Augustine’s Nights of Lights features millions of tiny white lights that create a magical atmosphere in the nation’s oldest city. Tracing its origins to the Spanish tradition of displaying a white candle in the window during the Christmas holidays, the spectacular lighting reflects the city’s 448 year history. The illuminated beautiful setting will always be one of our lasting holiday memories.

In this smaller town we passed on the bus tours, but parking was not easy. The Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum parking lot was free and easy to access. Robert Ripley was a frequent visitor to St. Augustine and stayed at Castle Warden Inn often, however he did not create the museum. He died in 1949 and a year after his death, the Castle Warden was purchased to be the ideal,
My dear wife making googly eyes at Captain Jack Sparrow!
uniquely glamorous building to house his collections. The museum includes weird sights for family members of all ages. This collection included real shrunken human heads that Ripley collected on his trips to South America. He was also interested in pirates. The Peel Car which is the world’s smallest production car was on display. It was this young man’s dream to marvel at the largest operational erector set Ferris wheel.  Ripley, over the years was given various gifts from the famousto the common man and they are all on display. You can even take a picture of yourself with “The Lizard Man”, a two headed calf or various unusually formed animals. On display were pictures of the tallest and shortest and the heaviest men. There were over 800 unique exhibits, artifacts, art work on exhibition that amazed us. I can see why they made a movie of his collection back in the 80’s.


Happy Travels,

George (with Peggy & Coco)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Phoenixville & Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

I really show my age by knowing what the movie “The Blob” was all about.  For all our friends and relatives out there over 50…maybe you will remember that 60’s movie classic.  George & I really like to go to little towns and discover what is unique about them.  When we went to the Phoenixville Museum in Phoenixville, PA, the lady told us that the movie “The Blog” was partly filmed there.  The scene where Steve McQueen came out of the movie theater with all the other teenagers screaming their heads off, that was filmed at a movie theater in downtown Phoenixville.  Who would have known that, surely not me…I’m too young to remember that!  Here is the picture of the front of the theater. 

Does it bring back memories for any of you youngsters?  If not, then rush to the internet and see what the movie was all about; it was such a scary movie in the 60’s.

When we decided to drive to Bethlehem, we didn’t have anything specific to see, just wanted to see the countryside and enjoy a smaller town in PA.  Were we shocked when we arrived in Bethlehem.  First off, the town was named because it incorporated on Christmas Eve, 1741 by German missionaries and so they decided to name it appropriately because of that special day.  It was a big steel town from 1869 to 2001.  We expected it to be depressed and dirty and it was quite the opposite.  The main downtown area has been restored and it has three blocks of shops, lots of restaurants and a huge hotel.  The historic Bethlehem Hotel stands majestically on the main street overlooking the Monocacy River.  We went in to the hotel to check it out.  As we were walking around admiring the lobby a nice lady came up and introduced herself as the hotel manager and proceeded to give us a personal tour of the hotel. 
In the ballroom were these huge tapestries that depicted the scenes of Bethlehem and its origin.  They do a lot of weddings and anniversaries in that ballroom. 

I just love small towns and what a delight to experience such hospitality and fun walking the streets and having lunch at a local restaurant on a perfect summer day.  The town really had a struggle around 2000 when the steel mill shut down and the town really took a dive.  But, over the years they have come back and are trying to survive. So pleased to see the delightful town prospering now.
                                                 Isn't this the most original book shop name!

                                     Talk about cute...this was in a store window on main street
Woolworth Store....brings back memories

 Drove down to the visitor’s center for Bethlehem Steel Company and they just had a small new building that showed the mill’s history, etc.  They only had one afternoon tour and we missed it… just took pictures.

Bethlehem Steel Company, founded in 1869, was one of the top producers of steel for this country.  They produced the steel for the George Washington Bridge, Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge, Madison Square Garden, Hoover dam and one of the largest shipbuilder and the list goes on and on.  When the company went bankrupt in 2001 International Steel Group bought the assets in 2003. The site of the company's original plant is now home to SteelStacks, an arts and entertainment district. The plant's five blast furnaces are left standing and serve as a backdrop for the new campus. SteelStacks currently features ArtsQuest, a contemporary performing arts center, and the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem, a gambling emporium. The area also includes three outdoor music venues - Levitt Pavilion, a free music venue featuring lawn seating for up to 2,500 people, Air Products Town Square at Steelstacks, and PNC Plaza, which hosts concerts featuring well-known artists. 

Next, we decided that we had to go and photograph the covered bridges that were close by.  So glad we did.  It isn’t everyday you get to see them and we were able to see three and drive through two.  They call them ‘kissing’ bridges because back in the day when it was improper to kiss in public the young people in their horse and buggies could steal a kiss without the chaperone, following behind them, seeing them kiss.  George and I decided we must experience that tradition and stole a kiss in the dark…no one cared.

What a lovely trip into the country and was so glad we got to experience some ‘untourist’ kind of sights.

Happy travels,

Peggy  (plus George & Coco)