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.


One Response

  1. I’m starting here and I’ll work my way backwards. I love the photos and imagining your attempts to stump the docent. The food seems particularly lovely. I’ll need to eat more before reading further.

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