September 29 Charlottetown/North Rustica

Good morning from Charlottetown! Didn’t sleep well, so I’m hoping there’s a long smooth bus ride on the agenda.

First up, after the usual breakfast, was a ride into Charlottetown, where we met with Boyd, a local historian who really, really knows a whole lot about the area. While we were standing with Boyd, waiting for the house to open for business, he remarked “You guys are early.” I responded “Tell us about it.” It got a laugh from the group, as Linda is pretty punctilious about punctuality, to say the least. We had come to visit Beaconsfield House, an utterly gorgeous, perfectly-restored Italianate Victorian mansion. Before turning us over to Boyd, another tour guide gave us some background about the residence.. P1010846

It really does make the other houses we’ve looked at look like cottages.Or hovels. It even boasted a flushing water closet! yes! I became obsessed looking at the individually carved door hinges, and the unique doorknobs and latches. I hope the photo of one is clear enough. Here’s a few I took:P1010844 P1010843 P1010845

The first photo is of the door hinge to the double salon. You can see the screws in the hinge. The original builders/owners of the mansion fell on very hard times when the shipbuilding business collapsed, and ended up losing the house and all the furnishings after just a few years living in the house. It eventually became a dorm for student nurses for many years, and finally, in the 70s, was taken over by the historical society and restored. They did an utterly fabulous job–all the gorgeous wallpapers were new but perfect for the setting and time. They had a collection of about 9,000 artifacts that they used to perfectly furnish the huge mansion. Only one little writing desk was from the original furnishings, and it was back in the salon. The original family was dispersed, but some grandchildren of the original owner came back a few years ago to visit what had been, briefly, the ancestral home.

I also got a photo of the perfectly good home that had been moved to make space for the new mansion. It’s just around the corner:P1010849

Then Boyd took us on a walking tour of Charlottetown, and these are a few of the sights we saw:P1010848 P1010853 P1010852 P1010851 P1010850

Boyd was the one who made the remark I wrote yesterday about the townspeople could not afford to replace the old buildings until all the tourists came, who loved all the old buildings, so the townspeople then had to keep them.We also learned about the history of Canada, and the rather haphazard fashion in which it finally became organized as a nation. The Maritimes have always felt shortchanged by the union of the provinces, and there had been some push initially for them to join the United States rather than Canada. As Boyd said, “Canada works in practice, but not in theory.” And it was simply wonderful to stroll around in such a lovely old town, while the weather was just perfect.

After bidding Boyd goodbye, we headed off in the bus to North Rustica, a little fishing village. We started with lunch at a nearby restaurant. During the selection process days earlier, I had chosen the vegetarian option, as I didn’t want to wrestle with a plate of mussels and had already had quite a few turkey sandwiches. It was a good choice. I had clam chowder, and my entree was a dish of brown rice topped with stir-fried veggies. But I enjoyed watching the others work on their mussels. For dessert, our table of five got two plates of four little desserts. Tim and Alice cut them all in half, and we were all able to eat enough sweets to get dizzy. It was fabulous. We had been talking about slipping over to the bakery after eating, but that obviously was no longer necessary.

After lunch, there was time to wander around before our next appointment, and I walked around the wharves and boats, and saw this sign: P1010854 I talked to the young woman inside the seafood market, and she said the name was French Canadian, but didn’t know anything else about it. I wrote my cousins Ray and Linda, and Linda quickly responded that it seemed Doiron was an old name, and had been involved in the Acadian expulsion, and apparently was not a variant of Drouin.

I also visited the Rustica Bay Wool Sweater Company, a lovely shop that carried beautiful knitted goods. They were almost all locally hand knitted or sewn, and warm and beautiful beyond description. Our group made quite a few purchases. I even bought a little knitted dishcloth that resembled the one my grandmother had made for me many, many years ago.

A short drive brought us to a marine museum that seemed to be the work of just one garrulous old tar named Norm.P1010856 There were some great photos and artifacts. But mostly there was Norm, regaling us with amazing stories, as we all got tired of standing, eased into sitting positions, and then began hoping Norm was nearly done. But he wasn’t. I nearly fell asleep somewhere while he was talking about all his Gallant cousins (On the way out of town, I happened to see several tombstones of “Gallants” in the local cemetery.) But Norm was an excellent raconteur, and the guys in the group especially seemed to enjoy his style and stories, and he was an absolute master of his subject matter. There were some interesting bits of psychology in his stories.

When we finally left we made a couple stops along the coast, including one where the beach sand suddenly changed from red to white, which was very interesting. Most of the way the road had a bike path next to it. It would have been a perfect place for bike riding, partly because the highest elevation on the whole island is just 300′ above sea level. Here’s a couple photos of those stops:

P1010857                          P1010858

You can see the white sand at the top of the beach of the second photo.

We got back to the hotel, and Linda gave us 15 minutes to get ready, and rejoin the bus if we wanted a ride into town for a couple hours. About ten of us took her up on the offer. Alice and I went to the bank and then stopped at Cows for the best ice cream one would hope for. Apparently, they also have an ice cream parlor in Halifax, so we have that to look forward to. I think the name of the flavor I chose was something like Messie Bessie.

Then we went shopping so Alice could buy stuff, but she didn’t find anything. But I did. oh well. Also saw this beautiful old Catholic basilica:P1010859

We picked up a couple sandwiches from Subway, and caught the 7 PM bus home, to prepare for the very very early start we have tomorrow. Stay tuned. Rain in the forecast.


September 28 Bay of Fundy and Green Gables

Good morning. The days starts in our funky little motel in a place that’s close to Hopewell Rocks, so we’ll go with that for a name. It’s a small-time place, and not fancy, so I’ll just say the yogurt and coffee at breakfast were good. But they had a ancient upright grand piano, and I couldn’t resist lifting the lid off and playing a few keys. When I started to leave, some group members asked me to play more, so I asked the guy at the counter if I could noodle around on it for a bit, and he thought that was fine. So I did, playing my old British folk songs from memory for about 15 minutes. At one point, the owner walked by and offered to put me on the staff. And when I was done, and leaving, he gave me a free post card for my playing. Does that make me a professional musician? (And earlier, a tour member put a couple dollars on the piano, as a joke, so I guess it does.)

Then Alice and I decided to go for a walk, as we were all ready to leave, but didn’t want to just hang around. We walked quickly, but a little too far, and the group was all waiting for us in the bus, which was idling, by the time we dashed back into the parking lot. We grabbed out stuff from our rooms, and I was careful to get on the bus before Alice, so I was #18, in Linda’s counting, and Alice was #19. hahaha.

Our first stop, just five minutes away, was at the interpretive center for Hopewell Rocks.

A semi-retired ranger, who said his name really was Ranger Rick, was there to greet us and show us around. He really knew his stuff, but just liked to drone on a bit to his captive audience, while we were panting go to down to the beach while the tide was coming in. I just couldn’t absorb all the information that I’m sure he’s been sharing for 40 years. But we finally climbed the 100 steps down. The tide was coming it at an amazing clip. He directed us to watch a particular rock on the beach, out of the water, and within a few minutes it was surrounded by water. He built a little rock cairn above the water line, and soon the waves had knocked the rocks over. Here’s some photos.  A couple hours after these were taken the water was almost up to the treeline on the rocks.There’s even a photo of moi that Linda took. P1010836 P1010834 P1010833 P1010832 P1010831

It was just wonderful being outside in it all. The weather was perfect: warm, but with a brisk wind. The air was pure, the rocks all on the beach and around us would have been a geologist’s dream. Lots of tourists, but all enjoying the spectacle just as much as we were. Rick said they’re trying to find ways to harness all the energy of the tides in an environmentally friendly way. Sounds like a great idea.

We then had a long drive to the other end of New Brunswick, through St. John, where I hoped we would stop for lunch, but we didn’t. So I went to sleep and we ended up at Cape Jourimain Nature Centre.

By the time we finally arrived, we were beside ourselves wanting lunch, so decided to have our sandwiches and soup (and blueberry cobbler) before Andrew, the bearded, informative young naturalist gave us a tour. One cool exhibit was of a cougar who used to live at the Center. I think his name was Flash, and here are a couple photos of him:P1010837 P1010838

Andrew said that Flash really liked people, and would purr for them. I coaxed him into giving an approximation of what Flash’s purr was like. Very nice, indeed. (Andrew, during his talk, also did a number of plausible bird calls. I think a cat would have been intrigued.) One very cool feature of the Center is a tower that gives an amazing view of the surrounding countryside, including the 8-mile bridge that connects New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. Here’s what I saw: P1010840 P1010839

That little lighthouse was built in the 1860s or so, and has already been moved inland twice as the coast eroded. It’s scheduled to be moved again next month, a couple hundred feet farther inland. It’s not really used since almost everyone crosses by bridge, not a water route, but it is historically significant.

Then we drove across the bridge, which definitely felt a little edgy, and were in Prince Edward Island, or PEI henceforth. It an amazingly bucolic, rustic little paradise. Lots of fields–it’s one of the major growers of potatoes in the world, old Victorian farm houses contrasted with modern houses with huge garages. And it’s beautifully maintained; we were told they keep all the huge lawns cut so short to cut down on the mosquito population. We cruised by the house were Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up, then drove to Green Gables, the setting for her famous series starting with Anne of Green Gables. It was interesting–I enjoyed comparing it with the other historic 19th Century homes we’d seen. I’m not a huge fan of Anne, so after getting a photo of the house,  I took off on the Haunted Walk and Lovers’ Lane, primarily to get some exercise:P1010842

There were an incredible number of Asian tourists visiting the house; apparently Anne is very big in the East. One tourist asked me to take his photo in front of the house. I hope it came out well.

Then we drove into Charlottetown, the biggest town on PEI, as well as the provincial capitol. It has a lot of Victorian structures that added much to its appeal. I guess there’s a joke that the province was so poor they couldn’t afford to knock the old houses down and build new ones. But then the tourists all came, loved the old houses, and they didn’t dare get rid of them. Go figure. Our hotel is a ways out of the town center–we’d had a better location, but were evicted when a huge convention of engineers came to town. But it’s modern and comfy. After settling in, we all hopped back on the bus for a dinner at the town’s convention/theater center. Rather nice food, but I think the wait staff had trouble taking care of all 20 of us at one time. Because of Canadian labor laws, our driver, Joe, couldn’t stick around to take us back from dinner to the hotel, so Linda ordered some taxis and we piled in. Mostly, I was hoping my driver would say “house” some more, as it always came out “Hoose.” Loved it. Need to write the blog and get some sleep. And get ready for the pleasures and thrills to be had tomorrow. Good night.

September 27 St. Andrews-Hopewell Rocks

Good morning! This is your faithful chronicler, trying to stay awake long enough to see the blood moon/lunar eclipse on Atlantic time. We shall see. Today has been another busy and wonderful day with my fellow unruly travelers. I wonder if the group is simply very different from the groups that I toured with in France, or if being in a foreign country (not counting Canada as particularly foreign) and struggling with another language made us all behave a little more formally. Whatever.

So here’s an early morning portrait outside my balcony, looking at St. Andrew Bay. I know there’s very little to see here, but it was so fascinating to see how far the tide moved during the night.P1010798

For breakfast we met at the ungodly hour off 6:45 (after staying up past midnight to watch the Ducks lose an utterly miserable game) to walk to a restaurant for breakfast. It was the usual breakfast fare, but this time I had tea instead of coffee. I always drink tea at home in the morning, so it was a good call. Had a lovely walk back to the hotel afterwards, through the sleeping main street of St. Andrews by-the-Sea.

We cleared out of the hotel and were ready for our next adventure. Ideally, it would have been a walking tour of St. Andrews, conducted by the same person who gave us the talk the night before, but it was decided we had to be in the bus, so we cruised St. Andrews that way. It’s an amazingly beautiful village. Many of the houses are 150 years old, and still in fabulous shape. There didn’t seem to be any slums or rundown areas–everything was carefully maintained. The group still talked about buying a place for timeshares. Sounds good to me. Then Mary asked about the lack of kitchen gardens visible in the landscaping. This was about the same time I was wondering about the lack of raised beds–great minds, etc. We were told that in past decades every house had a kitchen garden and grew their own vegetables, but residents have just lost interest in it, and preferred buying their produce at the grocery store. Somehow, this doesn’t fit with my preconceptions of Canada’s sterling citizens at all, nor with New Brunswick’s unhappy financial situation. And no, I didn’t get photos of any of the houses. It was too hard as the bus was moving too quickly. Look in Google images. Or go visit there yourself.

We then finished up with a tour of the church. St. Andrews, the Anglican church whose parish hall was the scene of our lovely dinner the night before.

The church was exquisitely crafted. The carpenters who did such beautiful work on all the ships made in the St. Andrews region practiced their craft just as expertly for the church. The ceiling of the church, curving and arched, looks like one is looking at the bottom, from the inside, of a wooden boat.

The Anglicans were good loyalists, so there were interesting flags representing various parts of the British Empire. Chuck and Di visited the church in 1983, and there were photos of that , with the Welsh flag to commemorate it. I found an interesting plaque commemorating two sisters who died in late 1918, but didn’t provide any more information. I asked the guide if they had died of the Spanish Flu. She didn’t know, but a doctor in the group thought it possible. Sorry, no photos, but I’ll make up for it.

We then went to Kingsbrae Gardens, a fabulous and important botanical garden.

We had our own guide there, too. Even more impressively, we had a darling goat, Max, for an escort–he was learning to accompany groups. Here he is:P1010810 He was very comfortable around people, though he would have liked to spend a little more time munching on the landscaping than was allowed. There were other animals on the property, and here are some photos of them. No explanation necessary, but apparently the ducks are badly behaved. The cat, who perhaps wasn’t as well groomed as he could have been, fled before I could take his photo. For that reason?P1010807 P1010808 P1010809 P1010813

The gardens were on the former great estate of a resident of St. Andrews. I think the house burned down at some point, so the visitors’ center was constructed to resemble the house that had lost. The cafe was in a tent to the side. Here’s the building: P1010803

And the actual gardens. They were just amazing. I can’t really describe what I saw, but I just photographed what caught my eye. There were also quite a number of sculptures in the garden, which fit perfectly. They have a sculpture contest every couple years, and keep the winners and runners-up in the garden, and I got some photos of that. Just enjoy them.P1010815 P1010816 P1010814 P1010812 P1010811 P1010806 P1010805 P1010804 P1010802 P1010800 P1010799

Especially intriguing are the last two photos. Read the photo of the plaque first, then admire the tree itself. The guide said the tree would get bigger if they planted it in the ground, but they brought it in during the winter. Even putting it in a bigger pot would help. We noticed a couple cones near the top of the tree, so maybe they could plant some more.P1010817P1010818

Can you read most of the plaque? The guide told us the original owners of the specimen auctioned off the seedlings it produced, and an anonymous donor purchased one for the gardens.

For lunch, we drove into St. Johns, the largest city in New Brunswick, and had lunch at Lily’s.

It was one of those affairs where we had to decide on our entree several days in advance, and by the time the meal arrives, one’s tastes for the day might have changed. But whatever; the food was good, the company was excellent, and the bill was already paid. We talked politics at the table, and Tom, who wears a hearing aid, explained to me why I should be wearing mine, and it encouraged me to try.

After lunch, we went back on the bus to finish watching a very sad CBC documentary about the expulsion of the Acadians from land their ancestors had first farmed more than a century earlier. I fell asleep, and missed the end of the program, but was awake long enough to hope there was a special spot in hell for the officials who ordered and managed the operation.

Our destination was the Bay of Fundy to watch the enormous tides. But because of the tide table, we won’t be able to walk down on the ocean floor until tomorrow morning, during low tide. But it was great to look around the area, and see the acres and acres of ocean floor exposed by low tide. The ground looked like skin, leathery and damp. The photos don’t do it justice.P1010821 P1010820

We then had an extremely short drive to the motel we’ll be staying at tonight. That’s its chief recommendation, as the facilities are not posh, and the dinner they served us was extremely forgettable. Now I’ll get some more photographs of the eclipse, and sign off here for the night.

September 26 Castine/St. Andrews

P1010789        Good morning. This is Chance, saying good morning to you. He’s a Cocker Spaniel I met on my morning walk. Breakfast was in the same cafe as dinner, and we were all exclaiming about the excellent oatmeal. We are easily pleased. I finished packing and headed out to the walk by the river. I met a local with this very cute dog, who was obviously interested in me. So we chatted. His name is Chance, as in the ABBA song. He also sang for me, though I didn’t get a recording of that. I also found some rose hips, which tour members were talking about and eating yesterday, so I got a photo today. Aren’t they lovely, especially as late Autumn color?P1010792

Then I had to get a better photo of Fort Knox; the light was much better than yesterday evening:P1010790

And finally, a photo showing the general view of the river:P1010791

Our first stop of the day was Castine, which had begun in the early 17th Century as a French settlement, but achieved fame and misery later as one of the more pro-British cities of the American colonies. It later found the value of its real estate rising as rich folks from Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City bought lovely houses for their summers in the country.  Castine is also the home of the Maine Maritime Academy, a university/training ground for the Merchant Marines.

Patrick, our lecturer on the history of Castine, was waiting for us, and spent a couple hours providing us with marvelous stories about the city. He’s a PhD student in history at a local university, specializing in the early 19th Century, and knows an incredible amount about local history. I tried my best at Stump the Docent, and he was totally unfazed (and unstumped.)

Castine saw a lot of action during the Revolutionary War. It was held by the British, and the Americans, including Paul Revere as the head of the artillery battalion, made an incredibly disastrous attack on the city (second only in scope of naval catastrophe to Pearl Harbor.)  Revere was later court-martialed for the incident. Here’s a photo of the ruins of the British Fort. Patrick said there were the ruins of eight, or perhaps, nine, forts around the town. It was also interesting that the grounds around the stone works have been converted by the locals to a soccer pitch and a baseball field. It keeps people in touch with their history, while also providing motivation for maintenance.P1010795

And another, showing where the powder was kept: P1010794

And yet another, showing a cute squirrel who came to see what was going on;P1010793

We then drove around Castine, which has little narrow streets, and Joe heroically was able to thread our big bus through the tiny eye of the needle, as Patrick shared more information about the town. I saw a cat in an upstairs window–my first cat sighting. Also found an adorable porcelain cat in a shop window, but at a prohibitive price. Oh well, I’ve requested cat photos from home.

We ended up at the Castine Historical Society, in a lovely old former school.

There were a lot of fascinating artifacts and treasures that Patrick explained to us, while providing more information about the dastardly Paul Revere (including how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about Revere rehabilitated his reputation because the North needed a northern hero before the Civil War, even though Longfellow’s grandfather, Peleg Wadsworth, a general in the American army, found his troops almost destroyed by Revere’s cowardice.)

There was also information about the Marquis de Lafayette, and his role in the American Revolution, and his closeness to General Washington. Lafayette’s ship, the Hermione, was placed in the service of the American navy after Lafayette joined Washington. Years later, the French built an exact replica of the Hermione, utilizing the craftsmanship that had been common in the 18th Century, and was almost forgotten today. The first ship had been built in 11 months; the replica took about 17 years to build. She was sailed to Castine (among other American cities) to commemorate Lafayette and his ship’s role in the war, and here was a photo of the Hermione II:P1010797

and here, a detailed  model of the frame:P1010796

Apparently there are some good Youtube videos of the ship under sail.

Lunch was at Markel’s Bakehouse, and was a wonderful selection of soups, salads, and wraps. They were all delicious, especially the haddock chowder (the cook warned us it would be the best chowder we would find,) and the beet salad. Cookies for dessert. Everyone had two.

The group has started looking at real estate and real estate prices, thinking we could buy something in the area and time share. It is certainly nice enough, though I can’t imagine this in six feet of snow.

Then followed the long bus trip of the day, with lots of kibitzing among the travelers, as we got to know each other better. Harold produced his iPad, with lots of Celtic music, and we listened to a Kingston Trio-type sounding group. I think Linda encouraged this, as she’d had enough of us for a while. We made it through the border and into Canada, though I got in trouble for straying too far from the bus while getting a walk in. St. Andrews, a little village of perhaps 1,500 year-round residents, was not far from the border, and our hotel is right on Passamaquoddy Bay. We have charming little balconies facing the water. When we arrived, at low tide, the water was about 400 feet from the balconies. By the time I went to bed, near midnight, I could hear and see the water in the moonlight, lapping against the banks, maybe ten feet from my balcony. Tides are amazing here, though they will be even more amazing at the Bay of Fundy. Checking it the next morning, the water is now almost as far away as when I first started watching it yesterday.

We had dinner catered by a local cook (she didn’t want to be called “chef”) and served at the local Episcopal Church, St. John the Evangelist. She told a story that last year she had catered dinner for another Road Scholar group in the same location. After the dinner, a participant came up and gave her daughter, who was helping serve the meal, a $20 bill, and told her to “buy something for the baby.” The woman didn’t even know she was pregnant! And of course her mother didn’t, either. They confirmed it a couple weeks later. But we were told strictly to NOT give the daughter any money, as they did NOT want another baby yet. We had baked beans, (a regional tradition) pork, salads, and three kinds of pie a la mode for dessert. It was all delicious. After dining, we received a short history of the area by a local historian, a retired school teacher. I perceived a couple errors in her talk, but after giving Linda so much grief during our chats in the bus about her factoids, I kept my mouth shut. Some of the group were going to a local cafe to listen to a  guitarist, and some were going to the ritzy Algonquin hotel for a drink. The rest of us came back to the hotel. I wanted to work on my blog and watch the Ducks’ football game. The Ducks lost miserably; I should have gone out for the music. But I enjoyed recalling as I wrote what a splendid day it had been as I watched the tide come in.

September 25, Bucksport

Good morning! Another fun-filled day in coastal Maine. (I really thought Maine was named after the old French county with the same name. During the pop quiz on the bus, I learned because it was a sort of “mainland” among all the islands. sigh.) We had an early departure time, so suitcases were showing up outside hotel doors at a shockingly early hour. After breakfast and a last-minute head count, we headed out of Portland. We had now acquired a driver, a jovial local named Joe, who has promised to find us a moose to admire.

The first thing we visited was the Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse (completed in 1791) in Maine. George Washington ordered its construction. Here’s a couple photos:

:P1010778  P1010776

That second photos looks like a postcard. It is that lovely there. There was much fussing that the leaves hadn’t begun to change much. We saw a few hints of orange and red, but none of the promised spectacles.

For a pit stop, Linda had arranged a quick visit to the Delorme Publishing Company, which primarily publishes atlases. They also have a company store near the bathroom, and of course all the tour members descended, eager to look at books. We did create a run on the various bird charts of New England birds, which I’ve already found helpful.

We cruised through Freeport after that. Freeport is the home of L. L. Bean, and we passed by multiple stores carrying their goods. Yes, we were pressed for time and No, we didn’t need to stop and shop, though I suspect if we could have persuaded Linda and Joe to stop the bus, we would have spent several blissful hours shopping, and finished filling up the hold of the bus.

Our second adventure was cruising through Bath, by the Bath Iron Works, and getting a few glimpses of some new high tech US Navy vessels under construction. Not conducive to photographs. Then we stopped at the Maine Maritime Museum for a tour and a lecture. It seems, years ago, every coastal community in Maine, blessed with trees and a coastline, built ships. They’re almost all gone now. This one in Bath has been turned into a museum. I think I went through it years ago, but don’t remember much. The size and the energy required to build the huge wooden vessels defies imagination. There’s a huge sculpture showing the outline of the Wyoming, their biggest ship. Most of the workshops are pretty much the way things were while the place was still active, early in the 20th Century. Most of the tools seemed pretty primitive–even the sewing machine I found was pretty basic. I got a photos of the house lived in by the owner of the works:P1010779 and an outbuildingP1010780

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the museum or the various buildings in which construction took place, but it was interesting, and deserved a longer visit. A local expert gave us a very animated, informative talk that chronicled the history of the ship builders, and some very interesting details of building techniques.

Next stop was the amazing Penobscott Narrows Bridge, which has the tallest bridge observatory in the world: 420 feet above sea level. I felt safe at that height, being safely enclosed, but at least one tour member had to bag it and return to earth. Safe to say, the view is worth the effort. Here’s one photo: P1010783and another:P1010784

I’m afraid the photo doesn’t convey how high up we were to take the photo. It seemed we could see the curve of the earth from that height.

From there, it was a quick trip down to road to Bucksport, our home for the evening. Our hotel was right on the water, and there was a very nice walkway, built fairly recently, along the Penobscot River from one end of the little town to the other. Last Christmas, the last paper mill in town closed suddenly, throwing 500 workers off the job. This was a huge blow in a town of just 5,000, and yes, there was a grim look about the place.

Some of us were dropped off at the local supermarket, and we decided to walk to the hotel. I walked through a little old 19th Century cemetery, and, on the way into town, saw a poster for a Baroque music concert that evening at a local church. Trying to figure out where the church was, I stopped a comfortable-looking middle-aged couple. They were chatty, but said they weren’t locals, and after a minute, I said “Are you from Scotland?” They, rather abashed, admitted they were, and lived just above Inverness. They were looking for a place to eat, but I couldn’t help them, either. But it was delightful to speak with them for a minute.

I managed a quick walk by the river before dinner, and got a photo of Fort Knox (same guy as the gold fort, but none here). It had been built around the time of the Civil War, in fear of a Confederate invasion. That was a non-starter, and the fort was never completed. But it was in a lovely location. Here’s a photo: P1010785

I also got a wonderful photo of a wading bird, but my little bird chart was useless here. Tell me if you can identify this: P1010787

There wasn’t a restaurant in our hotel, so we ate at a funky little cafe across the street. I am getting to know this Road Scholar group, and they are every bit as funny, curious, well-informed, articulate, and good company as the folks in other tours I’ve been in. After dinner, four of us headed off to the concert. It was utterly superb. There were three veteran musicians, playing harpsichord, flute, and viola de gamba, and three young musicians, university students who were also former students of the flute player, two singers (brother and sister, we thought) and another flute player. I was unfamiliar with these particular pieces by Baroque composers, including Schultz, Telemann, Bach and Handel, among others, but they were all exquisite, and beautifully presented. The standing ovation at the end of the short concert was certainly deserved. No photos of that, since most of the appeal was audible. Then, a short walk back to the hotel, and it was the end of yet another lovely day.

September 23-24, Boston – Portland

Good morning! I’m putting these two days together because there wasn’t much happening; at least, I didn’t think much would be happening. For my final morning in Boston, Erik walked me around the waterfront. It has changed a lot over the years, and urban renewal has converted a lot of old warehouses to condos and apartments. Housing prices are horrific. I definitely want to go back–there much more to see, but it was time to hop on the train and head north. Free coffee and newspaper for business class, which was an additional treat.

The train tracks that used to go into downtown Portland had been ripped out after WWII, in a mistaken conversion to all auto transportation. So I was dropped off a ways out of town, and soon found a couple more members of the group who had already called the hotel for pickup, and I just joined them. They’re a delightful couple from California, Tom and Augusta, and have a son who lives in Portland, Oregon, so we instantly were simpatico.

The hotel wasn’t ready for us, but took our luggage and sent us on our way, which was to the Wadsworth-Longfellow house. I’d forgotten what a major literary figure Henry W L had been in the Nineteenth Century; the guide was able to quote some of his poetry; we didn’t have much to contribute. I did get a couple photos of the house–it’s as interesting as a period piece as the home of a celebrity. P1010757 P1010756 P1010755

The very pretty woman in the portrait in the last photo lived in the house until I think the early 20th Century, and then gave it to the Maine Historical Society. They’ve done a lot of restoration work on the house, and the garden was very nice. It didn’t have running water until early in the 20th Century.

The group than gathered for a lecture given by a local expert named Jim. It was interesting but discouraging, having a lot to do with the various centuries of overfishing that have decimated the fish stocks in this area of the Atlantic. Basically, the only thing left to catch are the lobsters. I was thinking we should become vegans for the trip. But instead, they had planned a lavish lobster dinner for us. The thought of wrestling with a lobster, which I’ve never done, totally intimidated me, so I asked for something else, and got a nice piece of salmon. yum. There’s a lobster dinner later in the tour, which I’ll need to work around, again.

There’s more Oregon connections, including a couple from Lake Oswego, and a woman whose daughter recently moved to Eugene. As with all Road Scholar trips, I suspect my fellow travelers will be curious, intelligent, well-behaved, and excellent company. I’m still searching to discover if there are birders in the group, as I hope to receive enlightenment from them.

Jim gave us another lecture in the morning, which, alas, still dealt with overfishing. But there was also some interesting bits about the history of Maine and Portland in particular. With the fishing gone and much of the manufacturing and shipping disappearing, Maine’s economy has become increasingly dependent on tourism, which has some seasonal issues (though skiing is popular.)

Jim then led us on a walking tour of the waterfront. I saw some interesting houses on the way:P1010758  P1010760

We also learned about methods of fishing, the percentage (tiny) of lobsters that are actually caught in lobster traps, and how what was a junk fish ended up being very popular in the Midwest and sells for a lot of money there. Look at the name and illustration of this boat: P1010761

There were a lot of street vendors around, primarily waiting the arrival of the cruise ship passengers–we were small fry to them. But I loved the mascot of the booth that sold goat’s milk soap:P1010764Yes. I bought some soap, too.  And then there was this ad for a charter boat. What an unfortunate name: P1010765

For lunch, we ended up on the waterfront, at the Ri Ra Irish pub.

We had had to choose our lunch fare the day before, and most of us couldn’t remember what we’d chosen, or wanted something else. But I had a marvelous hard cider and cottage pie:

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Someone else had the cottage pie, and we both wished we had the recipe for the delicious bread served with it.

The afternoon was unscheduled, so I decided to visit the Portland Art Museum, just a couple blocks from the hotel. I was kind of museumed out from the S-G search, but they had some lovely pieces, including this one by John Singer Sargent:P1010768

And here’s a few more that caught my eye:

P1010769  P1010773

P1010774   P1010775

Notice the tail of whatever that reptile is on the blue pitcher becomes the handle.

This really caught my eye. I’ve been a fan of Argand lamps for a long time, and frequently encouraged my authors to give them to their characters for illumination, but I’d never seen one before today. Here it is: P1010772 Apparently, one wick of the lamp produces as much illumination as seven candles. I have no idea why.

Some beautiful Wedgewood pieces in the signature blue and white were worth a photo:P1010770  P1010771

That’s all the museum stuff, and indeed, all the photos. For now.

After the museum, I washed a load of clothes and worked on this interminable post. Then Linda, the tour leader contacted me to go out to dinner, and we were joined by Phyllis and Dick, two other tour members. We ended up at a quirky pizza place with a very unusual menu. I don’t remember what the name was, and I’m not even sure what I ate. But the company was delightful. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other. Then back to the hotel, and early bed. Good night.

September 22, Boston

Good morning! Another day of the great S-G quest. I was first distracted by delicious strawberries and tiny blueberries for breakfast, then out we went. Erik is again squiring me about, this time on the subway and the streets of Boston. We certainly earned our dinner for tonight. (More about that later.)

Our first stop was the Trinity Church in Copley Square.

Here’s a view from the front:

P1010731 and of the front altar:P1010725

We were looking for two paintings by S-G, of apostles. We found them, but couldn’t get a good photo of them. They wouldn’t let us go upstairs to try, so this was all I had of one of them. The other wasn’t even good enough to save:

P1010726It’s supposed to be St. Paul.

So then we went outside to one of the more famous S-G statues. It’s the Phillips Brooks Monument, and was not completed prior to S-G’s death.  And is, as far as I know, one of only two depictions of Jesus that S-G did. Here’s the statue:P1010734

It’s not one of my favorites, the subject matter makes me uneasy, and I wonder what S-G was trying to portray with Jesus in the background. Erik thought the swirling robes that so many of the statues have were an attempt to approximate togas. I think he might have a point.

At some point, we cruised by the Boston Public Library and found these two statues. S-G had started them, but they were finished by one of his assistants. They represent art and science. Both figures are female, though all the famous names by the statues belonged to males. Go figure.

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Then we were off to one of the absolute highlights of the trip, the famous Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common. Shaw was a white officer of the African-American corps of Union soldiers in the Civil War. Read up on it. S-G worked with Shaw’s family, who wanted his soldiers portrayed, not just Shaw, and then spent 14 years working on the monument. It was worth every minute. Erik sat to the side and looked at his phone messages, while I walked around the monument, sobbing. Here are just a few of the photos I took:

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There’s even one I took of the frame for the monument: P1010737

The monument is in a very busy public area, with a bus stop and a place where tourist groups meet up and began their tours. So I think a lot of folks who hadn’t traveled 3,000 miles to see the monument still deeply appreciated it. And of course, the tour groups all spent some time looking at it. And I especially liked the fresh flowers someone had strewn at the base. But I can’t begin to portray the massive size or overwhelming power of the memorial. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Immediately after that was another highlight of the tour. Erik took me to the Boston Athenaeum.

It was founded as a library around 1847, and members of the public purchased subscriptions for its use. We asked the receptionist for information about the S-Gs in the building, and were directed downstairs to the Art Department, particularly the Conservator. In the Art Department, Erik soon found one of the treasures:  P1010743 This rather pale bas-relief was of Roger Wolcott, a governor of Massachusetts. The other treasure we sought was a tiny cameo, just over an inch high, that S-G had carved as a young man in France. (His first work as an artist was carving cameos, and he continued to practice the craft to fund his other artistic endeavors.) The receptionist had no clue, and even the Conservator’s intern had no idea. But she finally tracked him down, and when we explained our mission, he responded that he knew exactly where it was, and if we could but wait a minute, he would get it for us. Yes, indeed. So here it is.P1010744It was in a cardboard box, with a cardboard frame around it, and tissue crumpled over the cameo to protect it. It was absolutely perfect, and the intern explained how the carvings were done. We admired the shell colors, the technique, the frame, everything about it. The Conservator, David B. Dearinger,explained the cameo was just too small to be regularly displayed, though he was delighted that someone had come looking for it. He had even written a monograph about it, and gave me a copy of that. And, as a final treat, he told me the Athenaeum had recently acquired a bust of S-G that another sculptor had carved about the time of S-G’s final illness. So that was an unanticipated delight, and here it is: P1010748

Erik and I just floated out of the Athenaeum, totally pleased with ourselves. We decided it was time for lunch. We tried the Union Club, but were rejected because I was wearing blue jeans. It rather felt like being back in the 70s.  I have no idea where we ended up, but it was very good, and I kept being distracted by Tom Brady on the television. Tom Brady and the Patriots are very popular in Boston, and there isn’t nearly the venom (jealously in disguise) that misguided people elsewhere in the universe display towards them. Then we were back on the subway, and off to Harvard and Cambridge. This part of the trip was enjoyable–I loved seeing the buildings and denizens of Harvard, but no luck on the S-G front. One library required us to fill lots of forms, and get a photo ID library card, before we could even ask if they had the drawings we sought. Another checked all eight pieces of his oeuvre that they had, and none of them was on display; it would take a special request and several weeks to procure them. Our final hope was a reduced copy of the Standing Lincoln from Chicago in the Cobb Memorial in Cambridge Commons. Alas, a major renewal project was happening, with fencing surrounding the commons and huge earth-moving machines stalking about. We couldn’t even get close, though I managed to get a photo from a distance. P1010749

The memorial was from the late 1860s, and the Lincoln statue wasn’t finished until the 1890s, so this copy must have been inserted well after the date. I thought it didn’t fit very well with the rest of the memorial, but technically and emotionally, it far surpassed its surroundings. But then, we know my biases here. Erik promised to return here once the work was done and get a proper photo for me. This concludes, alas, the S-G portion of the trip for a while.

Erik’s superpower has to do with transportation. We caught the subway three times, and at no time did we have to wait more than five seconds for our train. He also has the uncanny ability to find the absolutely closest parking space to his destination despite the apparent dearth of any spaces. It’s a handy superpower for Boston.

Our day was not yet done. We were off to dinner at Fairsted Kitchen in nearby Brookline.

Owner/manager Steve Bowman has put together an impressive bar and wine cellar, and paired them with an array of quirky, appealing, and totally satisfying menu items that are served family style, so everyone can share in the bounty. The other party members discussed the options with Steve. I listened, dumbfounded; everything sounded so wonderful that I was ready to start gnawing on the table. I did get a photo of the bar:P1010751

As the dishes began showing up on the table, the genius of the pairings became obvious: of course, the octopus shavings have to be with the lentils; It’s perfect. (I had about four helpings of that one.)  The South American chilis coloring and flavoring the new potatoes was a pre-ordained inevitability. A flamboyant cauliflower dish (is that an oxymoron?–not at all!) had to be photographed:P1010752

You serve yourself on small china plates of no particular pattern, which are frequently changed to prevent any flavor transfers. The staff was helpful and cheerful, and seemed to know just when my wine glass needed to be refilled. We got there early, and the dining room filled up nicely with very happy diners while we were there. Two hours later, we finally staggered out. Even the slice of what looked like a berry pie/cheesecake appealed only aesthetically; I knew there was no way I could have eaten it.  But I was glad Erik and I had logged so many miles on our quest to justify the feast.

So ended my only full day in Boston. It could not possibly have been more satisfying. If this is in indication of how my trip will play out, I am in for some fabulous adventures. Good night!