CFFC: Old Town Quebec City

October 6, 2017



Our ship, ms Veendam, docked at Quebec Cruise Terminal


Quebec City was our last port of call before the end of the cruise and I was looking forward to seeing this historic French town. Our daughter loved it when she went there a year or so ago.


The Chateau Frontenac, a hotel, dominates Quebec’s skyline.

Since our tour wasn’t until the afternoon, we decided to get off the ship in the morning in order to get online and also thought of having lunch at the market nearby. Several people were sitting in the lounge on the second floor of the terminal to check their email, etc. We spent awhile doing that, then we took a walk.


It was a couple of blocks’ walk on Rue Dalhousie, which runs parallel to the dock, to get to the market Marché du Vieux-Port. DSC02644.JPGAlong the way, I saw two rather strange things, which I found out later were art installations. One was an array of white miniature canoes suspended over the water, and the other was a small trailer with what looked like a bomb on top!

We walked through the market – there was a lot of food and I particularly noticed the strawberries – amazing that they looked so ripe and delicious in October! Later I found out there are two strawberry growing periods here – one in May through early July and then another in Sept.-Oct.!SONY DSC

We looked for places where we could eat and finally came to a sort of food court. We ordered sandwiches and sat at a table outside, overlooking a pier full of yachts. SONY DSC

We had to be back at the terminal to meet our tour by 12:45. We got back at 12:35 and already the groups were assembling. We showed our tour tickets and were put into a relatively small group, around 16, with a red-haired tour guide named Sandrine, who joked that we could also call her “Sardine,” it didn’t matter!

SONY DSCSandrine was very knowledgeable and funny. Her English was excellent but she did have a French accent. She asked us questions, to engage us, some of which had obvious answers, some didn’t. I tried to take notes but it would have been impossible to keep track of everything she told us.

What did rich people in the 18th century do if they had to relieve themselves during the night? An outhouse, more than one of us guessed. No – oh, yeah – a chamber pot! In the morning, a servant would collect the chamber pots, lean out the window and yell out a warning to those below, “Allô, …” before dumping the contents out onto the street below. Sandrine said that this was the origin of the word “hello,” which we got from the French allô. This is why we now greet people with this word – it was the first thing a servant emptying chamber pots in the morning yelled to passersby below! This is also why men wore capes – to protect from the pee being dumped out windows!

Quebec is the only city in North America with walls.


A piece of the old wall.

The city was founded by French explorer and navigator Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Sandrine showed us a street that showed the building of the city – it was marked by wavy lines with dates on the curb alongside.


The wavy lines indicated the water level of the St. Lawrence River on that date. In 1700 it was a good way down that street, but by 1800, the city had been built up and pushed back the water.

We stopped at Parc Montmorency, where Sandrine showed us a mural that occupied an entire wall. The mural was very realistic – it was a street scene, flanked by buildings and people leaning out of windows. Other people were on the street. It looked so real that one could easily imagine entering one of the doors depicted or walking up the street. Some of SONY DSCthe people in the mural were famous; others were just ordinary people. Sandrine pointed out a few of them, including Jacques Cartier, who was leaning out of a window. Cartier was a Breton explorer who first laid claim to this area and named it using a native word, kanata, the Huron-Iroquois word for “settlement.” This is how Canada got its name.20171006_134519

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Sandrine pointed out buildings made with yellow brick, which had been originally used for ballast and came from Scotland. Later, people used them to build their houses.20171006_142539

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I noticed several buildings decorated for fall and Halloween, which is apparently becoming popular here! There were pumpkins (not carved) as well as scarecrows and straw. Fall flowers, like mums, added more color to these displays.

DSC02700.JPGWe took the funicular up to the upper Old Town, where the Château Frontenac, a huge hotel which dominated Quebec’s skyline, was located. While waiting, I watched the crowds of people coming down and going up a nearby stairway, which also leads up to the upper Old Town.


Quebec got its name from a native word kebec, which means “where the river narrows.” (I knew the answer to that one!) The correct pronunciation is KE-bec – the /u/ is silent, which is the norm in Romance languages when the /qu/ is followed by /i/ or /e/. So we Americans are pronouncing it incorrectly. I will try to say it properly, I told myself. Canadians pronounce it correctly.

The Château Frontenac is surrounded by a square; the side with the best view is a wide sort of  deck. There is a statue of a man with a sword, 20171006_141419

but far more interesting is a sculpture by Salvador Dali of an elephant hanging in the air attached to a wooden triangular pyramid. 20171006_141735
I looked down into a gap in the floor with a window covering it. There was a man down there, looking at a painting.
Although we were going to have tea at the Château, we didn’t go in yet. We explored more of the Old Town. We saw but didn’t enter the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. This church was on one end of a large plaza, Place de l’Hotel-de-Ville. Some large buildings around it were government buildings, hotels, or apartment buildings. A long building surrounded by gardens was the Quebec Seminary.


We did go into the Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame de Quebec, where we learned about the holy door (only 6 of these in the world) that was opened on the 350th anniversary of the founding of the cathedral. There is also the burial place of St. Francoise de Laval, whose birth and death dates were given as 1623-1708. He was the first Roman Catholic bishop of Quebec.

See my previous post about the Basilica-Cathedral, with more of its history and photographs. I actually had expected this cathedral to be much more lavishly decorated, but it was rather subdued compared to some I’ve seen.
We returned to the Château and entered a large lobby, very elegantly decorated. 20171006_145100Sandrine said it had recently been remodeled and she didn’t like it much – she didn’t like the blue ceilings, nor a “strange creature” painted alongside cherubs and such. DSC02705.JPG

We were led downstairs to the Dufferin Room, where tables and place settings were set up for us. Everyone had a plate with six small pastries (all of which were delicious), a cup and saucer, and a tiny jar of honey. On the saucer was a packet of tea. When opened, the tea bag was triangular in shape. A woman came around and poured hot water into our cups. The tea was very good, especially with a little honey. We were told we could keep the jars of honey, so I wrapped Dale’s and mine with a tissue and stored them in my camera bag.

On our way back, Sandrine pointed out a tree next to a house and asked us if we noticed anything unusual about it. Yes, it was turning! It was another of the art installations; there were eight of these in all, spread around this part of the city.


This turning tree is called “Imposter.”


You can tell which buildings were built by the British, because they usually had windows with larger panes; the French used smaller panes, which were all they could afford.



Some buildings had a post sticking out near the top, which had been used for pulleys to pull up goods delivered by wagons.


An art gallery?

We walked back down to the lower Old Town on a street with a steep decline. We cut through the Musee de la civilisation to get back near the dock.SONY DSC

CFFC: Letter Q

Thursday Doors: The Holy Door of Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec

The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec is the seat of the Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church in Québec province, located at 16, rue de Buade in Québec City. It 20171006_144325is the oldest cathedral in the Americas north of the former Spanish colonies in Florida and New Mexico.  The original cathedral began construction on this site in 1647 and was officially founded in 1666, but was twice destroyed by fire.  The first of these occurred during the Siege of Quebec in 1759. It was reconstructed between 1786-1822. In 1843, the façade was reconstructed to resemble the façade of the church of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris in the Neo-classic style.

The second fire occurred in 1922, by the Canadian faction of the Ku Klux Klan. It was restored and a presbytery was added in 1931-32.



There are only eight holy doors in the world and only two outside Europe. Quebec’s holy door was opened on December 8, 2013 – a ceremony presided over by the recently ordained Pope Francis – and remained open until December 28, 2014.

20171006_144122Pope Francis gave Quebec’s Cathedral of Notre-Dame the privilege of opening a holy door to mark its Jubilee Year, the 350th anniversary of its founding, as the first Catholic parish in North America. The holy door was opened again from December 2015 to November of 2016 for the Catholic Year of Mercy.  Since then, it has been sealed, but will be opened again in 2025.  (I used Wikipedia as my source for the history of the holy door, in addition to what our guide told us.)

According to the web site Catholic Straight Answers, holy doors signify coming into the presence of God.  Jesus Christ said, “I am the door” (John 10:7) through which the faithful are connected to God.  To pass through the holy door also is a sign of one’s conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.



Norm’s Thursday Doors, 11/23/17

Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

This is my travel journal for October 3, 2017, but also fits into Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week: The letter L with at least two syllables!

Today our ship docked at Sydney, on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. We had signed up for an excursion to the fortress of Louisbourg, which my husband visited back in the ’80s, and likened it to Williamsburg, Virginia. The excursion was to leave at 11:00 but we were a little late getting started due to difficulty in placing the gangway. It caused a people jam on the stairways going down to Deck 3, but eventually we were all on our way.



The port of Sydney, Nova Scotia from the m/s Veendam


On the bus, our guide introduced herself as Almina, and the driver was Edmund. Almina told us a lot about Cape Breton Island, Sydney, and Louisbourg – which she pronounced “Louburg.”

She had put a map of the fortress on each seat so I followed along on the map as she told us what we were going to do as a tour and what were the highlights to see on our own.


Diorama of the Fortress of Louisbourg

In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht gave Newfoundland to the British. During the period between 1719-1744, it was populated by cod fishermen, merchants, and pirates (besides the native people, of course). At this time the fortress was built and expanded.
The period of 1745-1748 was the siege of New England Loyalists and France gained control of Louisbourg. In the second siege, during the French and Indian Wars, in 1758, the fortress was attacked again. The battle lasted seven weeks, France lost, and the fortress was destroyed.

SONY DSCUntil 1928, only ruins remained – foundations of houses and other buildings, including the house belonging to the Fizel family, above. After that, a team of archaeologists and historians began excavating the site and detailed documents about the fortress were found.


Fizel family effects



20171003_124246In 1960, a reconstruction project was begun, which hired mainly unemployed people for the meticulous rebuilding of the fortress. The reconstruction expanded and continued to add more structures up through the 1990s.





SONY DSCLouisbourg became part of the national parks system and uniformed guides reenacted life as it was in the 1700s.

Almina gave us 3 questions to find the answers to:
1. What is the difference between a fort and a fortress?
2. What vegetable did they NOT grow here and why?
3. Why do some of the buildings have a fleur-de-lis on them?


Some of the buildings are topped with a fleur-de-lis.

As a group, we first went to building #13, the engineer’s residence, where a servant – a woman dressed in period costume and acting completely in character – showed us how she made hot chocolate, while another servant passed out cups of cocoa to everyone.20171003_114045

The female servant said it was time consuming, so she had to get up early when the master wanted it. She told us she’d been up all night making ours! Assuming we were guests of her employer and having to serve us hot chocolate, she concluded we “must be rich.” But, she noted as she looked around, “I don’t see any lace.” She wondered about the women who didn’t have husbands, asking if these women worked. One of the women in the front said she had a pension.

“A pension? I don’t know what that is,” the servant said convincingly.20171003_114140
She herself was not married, she told us – she’d worked in this household since she was a teenager and if she’d fallen in love and wanted to marry, she would have lost her position. She said this matter-of-factly, but there may have been a tinge of bitterness behind her words. Now that she was older, she didn’t expect any of the young men or soldiers to take an interest in her anyway. But on the other hand, being single meant she didn’t have to share what she had with anyone. As for the family she grew up in, she left them behind in France to take this job and lost contact with them.


Furnishings in the engineer’s home:

She talked about an important part of her job, preparing food: lobster was a poor man’s food – it was so common and besides, rich people didn’t want to eat creatures that were “bottom feeders.”

Someone asked her about what vegetables she grew in the garden. She named some, like beans, but when someone inquired about potatoes and tomatoes, she said they didn’t grow them. Tomatoes, she said, are poisonous: “They’re a member of the nightshade family.” Although this is true, Almina said it’s not the real reason they didn’t eat tomatoes in 18th century Louisbourg. Although the people of that time didn’t know this, the real problem was that their dishes were pewter. Something in the tomato reacts to the pewter, rendering them unsafe to eat! (Lesson: Don’t serve tomato soup using a pewter ladle!)


Another fleur-de-lis

I was impressed with this “servant” – she totally stayed in character.


The soldier talks to our guide, Almina.

Outside, we met a soldier, dressed in a uniform with a white coat and layers of wool stockings. He told about life as a soldier in that remote outpost, and showed us how he primed and shot his musket – he could get off about 3 shots a minute, and that’s because he was very skilled at it.


Soldiers were issued uniforms upon arrival at the fortress, which they had to pay for, so right form the start they were indebted to their officers, since few of them had the money to pay for the uniform outright, and so they had to earn the money first. If they didn’t have a uniform, they would be cold and have trouble staying alive in this windy place.

Soldiers worked from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. They bunked in barracks full of fellow soldiers. The picture he painted of that life was bleak, but men enlisted in order to have steady employment and a certain amount of status compared to a common laborer or a man who couldn’t find steady work. They were dependent on the good will of their commanding officers, who “gave” them things (actually sold them, because it would be deducted from their pay) and looked out for them.SONY DSC
For a serious infraction, a soldier might be shackled to a wooden horse that stood in the yard. The offender would mount the horse and his feet would be shackled underneath. His hands would also be cuffed. He would have to remain there, enduring the vagaries of the harsh climate as well as the taunts of his fellow soldiers, until his commanding officer saw fit to unshackle him.


The sparse military chapel

From there, Almina took us to the military chapel, where she narrated more about the life and history of Louisbourg. We were given free time to explore the fortress, but we were to be back at the bus by 2:45 p.m.


Next to the chapel is a museum of found objects.

20171003_124143In the summer, there are lots of tourists here and the place is fully staffed with costumed employees demonstrating various aspects of life in 18th century Louisbourg. In October, things are winding down, but some of the staff remains. There is still lots to see.SONY DSC





Lackey’s room


We missed some of the demonstrations, though, such as the lace makers, because Dale and I went to the Hotel de la Marine to have lunch. It was 18th century food served by waitresses in period dress. We had pea soup, which contained sliced carrots and was served with bread. It was quite filling.SONY DSC

However, we had to wait about 10 minutes for a table and the service was a little slow. At the table where we were seated was a young German couple from Nuremburg in Bavaria, who were travelling on their own, although they did have an itinerary and booked places to stay. They had rented a car and were doing a lot of hiking. We enjoyed talking to them.SONY DSC





Answer to question #1: a fort houses only military, while a fortress has both military and civilians living there.
Answer to question #2: Tomatoes, because they thought they were poisonous.
Answer to question #3: The fleur-de-lis, the symbol of France, was placed atop buildings owned by the French government.



If we had more time, we would have been able to see everything there was to see in October. If you don’t mind crowds, however, you should visit Louisbourg in the summer when everything is in full swing.  It is definitely worth a visit if you travel to Cape Breton Island.

HOHO Halifax, Part 3 – The Citadel

October 2, 2017 (continued)

Our next stop was the Halifax Citadel, a fort on a hill with many things to see.

We went up to the ramparts and looked at cannons. A kilted guide spoke for a long time to a tour group. We descended a ramp where another guide in a kilt demonstrated how we primed and prepared his musket.

SONY DSCThe Citadel sits on a large hill overlooking the easily-defended harbor, which was what led the British military to found the town of Halifax there in 1749. One of the first buildings constructed was a wooden guardhouse on Citadel Hill, and Halifax’s first settlers built their homes at the base of the hill, close to the shore. As the fort grew, so did the town, which catered to the businesses of supplying the soldiers with essentials as well as off-duty entertainment.


The Citadel one can visit today was completed in 1856 and its official name is Fort George, named after Britain’s King George II. This is actually the fourth fort built on Citadel Hill. It is built in the shape of a star which was typical of many 19th century forts.  This shape provided a wider range to shoot from in case of attack.  In fact, the Citadel was never attacked. SONY DSC

The Citadel National Historic Site contains several things to see: the ramparts with their cannons, the Army Museum, the changing of the sentry guard (every hour that the site is open), reenactment by interpreters in full 78th Highlander uniforms, and one can become a “soldier for the day”, including: getting dressed in a full 78th Highlanders’ uniform –  a cotton shirt, wool kilt, sporran, red wool Highland “doublet,” wool socks, boots, spats, and a Glengarry bonnet bearing the brass badge of the 78th Highlanders. During the three hour program, one can learn to drill, fire a rifle (or, for those under 16, play the British Army’s field drum) and learn the ins and outs of a soldier’s life in Her Majesty’s army! (Pre-booking required; program fee and details available online.) (See Halifax Citadel National Historic Site within website for more information about the Citadel.)


You can dress like a bona fide Highlander in the program Soldier for a Day.


In the gift shop, I found only one style of hooded sweatshirt – not my favorite design, but I was desperate. I bought it along with a few other Scotland-related souvenirs. Dale told me the changing of the guard was about to happen, but by the time I finished the transaction and went outside, it was over! I went to the restroom where I put on the sweatshirt under my fleece jacket. After that, I was comfortable, but could still feel the cold.


Gift shop Mackenzie tartans!

We did not participate in the Soldier for a Day program and only had a quick look at the Army Museum. By far the most interesting thing, to me, was the trench warfare installation. I knew this was a grueling and commonly used type of warfare during WWI but really didn’t have a clear picture of how it looked and worked. We entered as small room where anther kilted guide explained the layout of the trenches in one area of France. There was a diorama of trenches zigzagging across the landscape, which I had never conceptualized before. When the guide moved over to a wall covered with battle maps, I went to have a closer look at the diorama.

A doorway led out to a realistic reconstruction of a trench, which snaked around until it led to an exit onto a grassy area. The floor of the trench was covered with wooden slats, which surprised me. I had envisioned muddy dirt. A female guide dressed in a woolen army uniform explained that the slats were added to trenches after too many soldiers got “trench foot” from constantly standing in muddy trench bottoms. The wooden slats greatly alleviated the problem.

The walls of the trenches were also covered with wood, and I was surprised at how high they were. How were the men able to shoot their guns from them? She explained that there were ladders and benches on which men stood or used to get in and out of the trenches. In some sections, there were rectangular holes where guns could be fired from.SONY DSC

There were also lots of sandbags. Here and there were small rooms, one for an officer’s post, one with medical equipment used for basic first aid (they had even smeared patches of red paint to the floor to look like blood!).


Serious wounds called for transport out of the trench – a hazard itself – to a medical tent or field hospital located some distance away from the battlefield.

When we exited, we returned to the main part of the fort along the outside of the trench, where recruitment and propaganda posters were plastered on the outer wooden walls.SONY DSC



Again we were lucky to arrive at the stop just when a HOHO bus was arriving. As on all of these tourist buses, there was a guide on board pointing out places of interest and narrating as we went along.SONY DSC

HOHO Halifax, Part 2 – the Public Gardens

October 2, 2017 (continued)

Emerging from the Maritime Museum, we took the first available Hop On Hop Off bus. The next place we went were the public gardens, a bona fide Victorian garden.



The requirements to be an “official” Victorian garden include being enclosed by a fence or wall and having a bandstand on the premises. It also has to be free to the public.


The gardens contained many still-blooming rose beds,

as well as a display of dahlias, identified by type.


Although many were starting to wilt, many other still looked beautiful and fresh. I took many close-up photos, happy for the chance to try out how well my new camera worked doing this (it did very well!).

There were designs of flowers arranged symmetrically around historic fountains. One of the fountains dated from 1869. One floral design consisted of flowers that resemble flames (celosia) of red and yellow in S shapes with silver round lights at one end of each, that resembled eyes, so they looked like snakes! (Whimsical snakes, not scary ones – I wonder if that was done on purpose?)

The Weekly Photo Challenge is about rounded this week, which these gardens demonstrated very well!




The gardens were delightful but I was glad it was lunchtime, giving us an excuse to go inside a café near the entrance where the HOHO buses stopped, since I was very cold! We both had coffee and chicken melt sandwiches. From the table we sat at, we could see the bus stop form the window, and when we were ready to go, a HOHO bus happened to pull up, so we ran out and waved so it would wait for us. It wasn’t full, so we got right on.



Horticulture Hall, post-1945



HOHO Halifax, Part 1 – Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

October 2, 2017

Today was an enjoyable day, especially because we got to choose exactly what we wanted to do. We had signed up for the “Hop On Hop Off  (HOHO)with admission to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic” and it also included admission to the Citadel.

The double decker buses painted various colors (like blue, pink, and white) were made in England and used in London until they were “retired” and sold to the city of Halifax. We were told that some London visitors recognize the buses by their numbers and can tell you what route they were on in London! The driver sits on the right side of the vehicle as people do in the UK, but Canadians drive on the right.
The Maritime Museum was Stop #3 and we spent quite a bit of time there. Significant exhibits were dedicated to the 1917 Halifax Explosion and the Titanic disaster. Halifax’s connection to the Titanic is that most of the bodies were retrieved off the coast of Newfoundland and brought to this port, where White Star Line had a headquarters, and about 150 of them are buried in Halifax cemeteries.


In front of the museum


The Halifax Explosion occurred on Dec. 6, 1917 (and the city will commemorate its 100th anniversary this year), when two ships collided in the “Narrows,” a less than one-kilometer wide passageway between the bay and the sea. There is a lot of maritime traffic in that spot. The explosion didn’t actually happen when the ships collided, but rather when they pulled apart. One of the ships was a French warship loaded with explosives. The explosion caused a major fire which destroyed more of the city that had not been blown up in the explosion.


The photographic mural on the wall shows what the port of Halifax looked like after the explosion.


Nearly 2,000 people died and about 9,000 were injured, while others were lifted into the air and set down some distance away unharmed or with only minor scratches. About 500 people suffered damage to their eyes, rendering them blind. That is why the display of the memorial quilt is surrounded by panels with the victims’ names stitched in Braille with beads. 20171002_092034



Each panel is stitched in Braille with 12 victims’ names using beads.


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Halifax’s ophthalmologists were busy operating on people’s eyes.



The Titanic exhibit showed comparisons between the Titanic and other passenger vessels. White Star Line was known for their luxury liners, but Cunard (which still exists today) had a better safety record.

The Titanic sank off the coast of Newfoundland and about 300 bodies were recovered and brought to Halifax. The bodies were numbered chronologically according to when they were recovered. This was a meticulous process to insure accuracy in identification.20171002_100930 (2) About 150 are buried mostly in Fairview Lawn Cemetery (another stop on the Hop On Hop Off route), 12 were buried in a Catholic cemetery and 10 in a Jewish cemetery. Each body had a mortuary bag with its corresponding number, which contained any personal effects that were found that belonged to that person. Some of the bodies were returned to families, but those buried in Halifax were either from families who could not afford to have the body shipped home or were unidentified. Some of the mortuary bags are catalogued and stored at the museum. One item on display was a pair of shoes allegedly belonging to the “unknown child” buried in a special grave at Fairview Lawn. (That child was identified in recent years due to the advances in DNA identification techniques.)

There was information about the separation of first, second and third classes. A lot fewer women and children from third class were saved than those in first class! There were also different menu items for each class.

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This cross section of the Titanic shows where the staterooms of each class were.

Even what they got to eat was different! (L-R: 3rd class menu, 2nd class menu, 1st class menu)

The museum had profiles of some of the victims. One was a man who had kidnapped his


Profile of a sound sleeper

two children and boarded the Titanic under an assumed name. He got his two children onto the last lifeboat, and they were eventually reunited with their mother. The father died and was buried in the Jewish cemetery under the assumed name, even though by then his real name was known.


Another story was of a mother who lost her life along with four of her children. They had not booked passage on the Titanic; they were supposed to sail on another ship, but the coal from that and other vessels was diverted to the Titanic for its high profile maiden voyage. As a result, these other ships were unable to sail as scheduled and some passengers were transferred to the Titanic, including the mother and her four children. The mother was buried with whichever of her children were recovered and identified. Although most of the children’s bodies were never found, all her children’s names were engraved on the tombstone, including those who had not been with her, because the survivors also requested to be buried with their mother when they died.

When we went outside to see a replica of a ship called the Acadia, the wind was blowing strong and cold. One can tour the entire boat, but I only spent a couple of minutes out there before telling Dale I was very cold and was going to wait for him inside.

When I came out of the bathroom, he was waiting for me, having visited a couple of the souvenir shops. (I wish it had occurred to me then to purchase a hoodie in one of those shops; I would have been more comfortable a lot sooner!)



Diorama of the way the Titanic looked when it was discovered at the bottom of the ocean



Pirates were a problem in the 18th-19th centuries. Here is what could happen to them if they were caught! This cage hung from a scaffold above our heads. I took this picture from a 2nd floor window.




Maine Excursion

October 1, 2017

Today was Day 1 of our cruise from Boston to Montreal. We left Boston on Saturday in late afternoon and by the time we woke up this morning, we had anchored off Bar Harbor. People who weren’t taking tours could obtain tender tickets to go ashore, and the first numbers were called just after 7 a.m. I kind of wish we had done that, because we waited to go until our tour was called and didn’t get back until the last tender was going back to the ship, so we didn’t have time to walk around Bar Harbor on our own or use a local Wi-Fi.

We had signed up for a shore excursion called “The Best of Both Worlds.” The tour guide used a lot of humor and told us that by the end of the tour we should figure out which “3 things” were true among everything he told us!

First, we went by bus toward Acadia National Park, the guide narrating about what we were seeing along the way. There were many beautiful vistas but although he told the driver to slow down, we didn’t stop at many of them.

Our first stop was about 40 minutes, where there was a small nature center (mostly about how climate change will affect the area’s future), a wigwam, and the Acadia Wild Gardens. The gardens were divided into several ecosystems and I took a brochure to help me interpret what I was seeing. It was pretty but most of the flowers were already gone and many plants were dying or getting ready to hibernate for the winter.


Acadia celebrated 100 years last year (this was one of the true things the guide told us!), because it was also the national park system’s 100th birthday. Acadia was one of the first national parks to be established in 1916. Most of the land had been privately owned, mainly by the Rockefellers, and Rockefeller gave most of it to the federal government for the park. There were several stone bridges he’d had built. We also saw the “shacks” (as our guide called them – they were actually mansions) that were the summer homes of rich people such as J. P. Morgan, Martha Stewart and Rockefeller.


One place we slowed down, but didn’t stop, was a spot where beavers had dammed a pond and built their houses. On the other side of the road, a tree had fallen where beavers had been gnawing away at it! Our guide told us about a huge forest fire that spread through much of this area in 1947. Before that, these hills were all pine forests. After a forest fire, the first trees that grow back are deciduous trees, with the evergreens eventually crowding them out. This probably takes generations. Our guide said the way to see which areas were unaffected by the fire, within the park borders, is look for the areas that are covered with deciduous versus pine forests. In town, the way to tell is by looking at the thickness of the tree trunks. The trees that survived the fire have an extra 70 years growth, so they are quite a bit thicker.

Some of the hills within the park borders are still covered with fir trees, not touched by the fire. In addition, some of the hills are “bald” on the top, with only bare granite. This is due to ancient glacial activity. Maine has a lot of granite. (I thought maybe it was called the “Granite State”  but when I looked it up, I found out Maine’s nickname is the “Pine Tree State,” named for the white pine tree that grows here.)


Partially bald hill


Granite topped hill

Our next stop was 15 minutes, a “photo opp.” The bus pulled over to the side of the road but cars continued to go by so our guide placed himself in the middle of the road to stop cars when we wanted to cross. I took several pictures at this stop, but  I didn’t go down to the rocky beach, because I was afraid of negotiating the rocky descent to get there.SONY DSC

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Just outside the park border, we came upon this rural scene, which the guide said looked like a “Rockwell painting.”
20171001_124757_001Next we went to the Maine Lobster Museum. Mostly it was some live lobsters in tanks and a place where we could buy snacks, water and a few souvenirs. It was noon and no lunch was included on the tour, so Dale got Oreo cookies and I bought a bag of popcorn and a bottle of water.


We crowded into a room set up with metal folding chairs in long rows to listen to an old former lobsterman tell us about lobsters. Lobster traps have a hole in them big enough to let small lobsters (not fully grown) escape. The best bait for catching lobsters is herring. Someone asked why all the lobsters on display have bands around their claws. This, he said, isn’t because they could pinch humans, it’s to prevent them from pinching each other! In a confined tank, they can become cannibalistic, although they do not each other in their natural environment.

Lobsters can live up to 100 years!  I wondered how old the big lobster in the tank we saw as we were coming in was. Lobster eggs take two years to hatch. They store up to 100,000 eggs, which are the size of the head of a pin. The first year, the female has the eggs inside of her body, and the second year, they are down near the tail on the outside. Therefore, she can have two batches of eggs developing at the same time!

Normally, lobsters are brown or green in color.  (They become red when they are cooked.) Their shells make pigments in the primary colors (red, yellow, and blue). Occasionally, though, one might come across a blue lobster – and the old lobsterman held a blue lobster up for us to see; this is the result of a genetic mutation in which the lobster is unable to produce the red and yellow pigment which make its normal color. Other than its color, this lobster is like any other.

When we returned to Bar Harbor, we went to the campus of College of the Atlantic, which our guide said has only one major – human ecology! (This is true – I looked it up. It’s one of those experimental, “design your own curriculum” colleges.) Graduates typically earn less than high school graduates, according to him. About 200-300 students attend the college. It is notable for being completely carbon neutral – they literally recycle or compost everything they use.

We went into a building called the “Turrets” (the administration building), because of its castle-like turrets or towers. We were allowed to look around the first floor of this strong stone building, built in 1895 and because of its construction of stone, it was the only building not damaged in the 1947 fire that ravaged this area.


Decorative railing, stairwell and ceiling.

Lovely flowers and views on the back porch.



Finally, animal curiosities: jawbone of a whale leaning against a building, and the typical tourist picture of Dale and me staring out the belly of the sculpture of a buck!

I will have to return to Bar Harbor someday, as we were told about several interesting things about the town but there was no time left to stop. When we returned to the pier, there was only enough time to line up in a very long queue to take the last tender back to our ship.



I was amazed at how many beautiful flowers were blooming this late in Bar Harbor.



Note the shadows of all the people standing in line!