Saturday, August 31, 2013

Day 45: Dartmouth to Baddeck

350 kilometers, 3:38 hours

The weather was perfect for our transfer from Dartmouth to Cape Breton Island. The sky was clear blue except for a few puffs of cloud for emphasis; the breeze was fresh but not cold. If the weather were like this, even Hell would look good. The forests and waterways of Nova Scotia looked delightful, postcard-perfect.

We left the highway at New Glasgow in order to have lunch in the harbor town of Pictou, which is located on an inlet of the Northumberland Strait. Once a busy harbor town, now it has a placid marina.

Pictou calls itself "The Birthplace of New Scotland" because it was the landing point of many Scottish immigrants. The town is in the process of restoring a ship called Hector that brought about 200 Highland Scots in 1773. They haven't rebuilt the masts and sails yet.

Ship Hector, 1773
Lacks masts and rigging
The town also commemorated its heritage by identifying the Scottish clans on their light-posts.

Scottish Clans are identified by plaid, symbols, and motto
The Salt Water Cafe served us a good lunch and we enjoyed views of the harbor. 

Salt Water Cafe in Pictou
Not long after we got back on the road, we crossed the Canso causeway and bridge which connects the main part of Nova Scotia with Cape Breton Island. We were enthused because Cape Breton was the ultimate destination of our journey, and a long-held dream of Dan's. We have spent about a month in Canada. When we head west in two days, we will be heading home. We will stop to see stuff and make each day interesting, but home will be our real objective.

The scenery on the island was so beautiful that I couldn't stop taking video, yet it was ordinary enough: very dense forest of firs, trees so short and thickly growing that the lumber couldn't be worth much. The highway wound gently through the forest with picturesque hills and dales.

The big resort town in Cape Breton is Baddeck, located on one of the arms of the Bras d'Or Lake. The Bras d'Or Lake is technically an inland sea, with northern and southern openings to the Atlantic; it is also fed by several rivers. It is shaped something like a split-leaf philodendron, and sprawls out across the center of Cape Breton island. Literally translated, Bras d'Or might mean arms of gold or golden arms, but the language heritage here includes both Gaelic and French, so it is hard to trace. My favorite theory is that it was originally French Bras d'Eau, arms of water, but that it got corrupted by a Scottish pronunciation. It is a very beautiful body of water.

We have a very nice room at the Silver Dart Lodge, with a wonderful view of the lake from the balcony. 

Lake Bras d'Or from Silver Dart Lodge

As soon as we got settled, we headed for the marina, arriving about 6 p.m. The last couple of hours of the day were glorious. The sky was blue, the breeze was mild, the water rippled hypnotically, the shape of the harbor was picturesque, the colors were as vivid as Kodachrome. A few water craft crossed the scene on mysterious trajectories. A few people were hanging around the wharf; everyone was blissful. I kept taking video of the scene, and the video shows the light reluctantly fading.

Baddeck Light
Baddeck Marina

Baddeck Marina
In order to have a reason to hang out and watch the light change, we drank a local beer and enjoyed the view from the upper deck of the Baddeck Yacht Club.  We got into a conversation with the folks at the next table, a couple from Perth who had sailed their motor yacht here from South Carolina. It was a beautiful, impressive craft. Their dinghy was tied to the wharf. 

Having lived in Australia myself, and traveled to most of the big cities, I was curious about Perth, which I had never seen, because it is so isolated from the other cities. I enjoyed their description of Perth and the settlement of Western Australia in general. We talked at some length about the various cities in Australia and the politics there.

Then a couple from Rochester, New York arrived and joined the conversation. The fellow was excited about a terrific storm they had witnessed the previous day on the east end of Prince Edward Island, but it was nearly dark by then and time for us to get going.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Day 44: The North Coast of Nova Scotia

This is the kind of country where if you can catch a sun break, your day is made. It was cold and windy this morning when we left Dartmouth to explore the north coast of Nova Scotia. Dan said, "I've heard that they have milder weather up there."

Halifax to Annapolis Royal and Digby
The north coast is on the Bay of Fundy, so it is sheltered from the Atlantic and its winds. The sky was heavy while we drove Northwest for about an hour, but when we turned west and drove parallel to the coast, the sky was blue and the clouds were merely decorative. Our spirits soared. The country was beautiful—a lot like the rural parts of Oregon, with a combination of forest and agriculture. The forest is mixed and short, but there are some huge grain fields. The land is laced with waterways—rivers, and bays, and lakes shaped like rivers; it's pretty hard to tell what is what. Some of the rivers are muddy and red, but in general the Bay of Fundy is more blue here than on the coast of New Brunswick.

Our first destination was the town of Annapolis Royal. There, our first objective was lunch. We chose Bistro East. My salad consisted of a variety of bitter weeds with strawberries and blueberries, and dressed with hair-frizzing vinaigrette; absolutely the worse combinations of flavors I've ever had in a salad; my mouth felt like I had lunched on dill pickles. Dan was happy with his local scallops wrapped in bacon. Scallops are what the area is famous for.

What I liked about Annapolis Royal was the boardwalk along the shore of the Annapolis River which empties into the Bay of Fundy. The river's tidal action fascinated me. 

Boardwalk at Annapolis Royal
The tide was going out when we got there, low enough to expose black rocks as well as mud, and to make a wide shoreline. 
The tide is low and going out
At this location, the tidal change is about 26 feet. On a dock is a clock and a meter to show high and low tide, but it is hard to figure out.

We hung around the dock and Dan took photos of the small ship repair operation.

Low tide at the ship repair dock

While I was standing at the end of the dock watching the water, I sensed a sort of confusion in the water, and then I felt the tide withdrawing. I was uncertain at first, but I found a meter showing that low tide had just past, and soon it was obvious that the water was higher and bluer. What a kick!

Rising tide 
The town has a lot of history, dating back to British colonization, and some nice old buildings, but we didn't really get into all that. We did have a quick walk around Fort Anne. It's ironic that old forts often become peaceful and pleasant places. This one was shaped with grassy ramparts that gave pleasant views of the bay; picnic tables were stationed under huge dark trees.

The next objective was to visit Digby, a fishing port famous for its scallops, about a half hour farther west. In Digby we were surprised to encountered thousands of motorcycles and their riders lining the streets; we discovered that they were gathering for the Wharf Rats Rally this week-end. There were places to register and pick up info. The shops and eateries had signs welcoming them. They seemed like a pretty tame bunch, but there were sure a lot of them and the sound of revving motorcycles is not one of my favorites, especially en masse. 

A traffic director pointed us toward the wharf, and we managed to find a place to park. A grated metal catwalk with rope handrails enabled us to descend to the dock. A couple of rock bands were playing at the same time at bars on the shore. It was quite fun. The breeze was pleasant; the sky was blue; excitement and community was in the air. But it wasn't our community, and we soon buzzed out of there. Anyway, it was almost 5 p.m. and we had a couple of hours of driving to do.

Determined not to drive in the dark, 
Dan sped east on the 101 highway in the afternoon's last light and made it back to Dartmouth in 2 hours and 15 minutes: 7:15.

At the hotel's restaurant I was able to get the waitress and the chef to work with me to get a nice meal. The chef pan-fried the haddock in butter for me, instead of breading and deep-frying it; it was local, fresh, and fabulous. I specified the appropriate salad ingredients and ranch dressing; it came out great. I felt soothed.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Day 43: Exploring Halifax

The reason we went to Nova Scotia was to enjoy the scenery and history. However, a cutting, damp wind was blowing this morning, and the idea of making a long drive in low visibility and then walking around outdoors was not very appealing. Plan B was to tour the museums in Halifax, a mostly indoor activity requiring only a short drive.

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia occupies two buildings in the old part of town, but one of these was closed for renovation because of "sprinkler problems." The other one was occupied by two exhibits.

Making Waves was a selection of the top forty works of their permanent collection, focused on Nova Scotia's ties with the sea and the coast. Some of the artists were known to us from our study of Canadian art, including Arthur Lismer, an important art educator and promotor of modernism.

Arthur Lismer, 1885-1969
Sackville River, 1917
My impression is that women have played a large role in Canadian painting, and their works are shown in large numbers. This gallery's selection of their top forty included several good works by women.

Edith A. Smith, 1866-1954
View of Crescent Beach, near Petite Riviere, N.S., c. 1930

Marjorie Hugh Tozer, 1900-1959
Windswept, c. 1927

Marion Bond, 1900-1969
Halifax Harbour, 1957
A group of five works paid tribute to Alex Colville, a Canadian precisionist that we have been following; he was a special friend of AGNS and his death was recent. Colville seems like Canada's most formidable artist to me because of his unflinching attitude and his unmatched draughtsmanship.

Alex Colville, 1920-2013
Headstand, 1982

Alex Colville, 1920-2013
Studio, 2000
The other major exhibit was the work of a local primitive artist called Maud Lewis. Although she was a victim of crippling arthritis, very poor, and completely unlearned and untraveled, she took up painting. She started by painting the walls of her shack, but with her husband's encouragement, she graduated to masonite panels; he sold the paintings in front of the shack, as folks used to sell quilts along the highway in the Ozarks. The small paintings would make good images for Christmas cards, like those of Grandma Moses: kids on sleds, farm scenes, boats, etc. Her style was simplified and colorful, and she often repeated various 'cute' subjects like portraits of cats.

After the couple's death, some group undertook to save the painted shack and install it in the museum. I tried to imagine two people living in a tiny room with a wood stove and a cot and a table, all painted with flowers, and how they got by on her income. It's an amazing story, and her work is now popular with collectors.

Home of Maud Lewis

Maud Lewis

Paintings by Maud Lewis
Lunch in the gallery's restaurant was nice. Dan keeps experimenting with seafood chowder, which can be quite a let-down if it isn't done right. I had baked haddock, the local fish, with salad.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was only a short walk away in the Halifax harbor.  Dan fed the parking meter some more "Loonies," one dollar coins engraved with a loon, and we rushed down there in the damp wind. We passed some very interesting architecture, in various bulky stone styles from the 19th century. There is a lot of granite around here and they put it to good use.

After buying our tickets, we went straight back into the weather to tour an historical ship, the CSS Acadia, a sailing vessel that was used for scientific surveys from 1939 to 1969.

Former Ocean Survey Vessel
Dan hung around outside taking pictures of the harbor, but the wind drove me indoors, to navigate the unfamiliar seas of a maritime museum on my own. One exhibit featured sailing ships, in models and pictures, and ships in bottles. Another featured steamships in glass cases.

A model-making craftsman was working in his open shop, making a model of an historical harbor scene. I was fascinated by his painstaking work. He grumbled because they had him working on steamships, when sailing vessels were his interest.


Model of historical harbor made by the craftsman above
An exhibit about the Sambro Island Lighthouse, oldest lighthouse in Canada, presented the lens that was used for the light. It had lovely sculptural and optical qualities.

Lens for the Sambro Island Lighthouse
Lighthouse active 1906-1967
The most authentic and interesting section was the ship's chandlery, because it was an actual historic chandlery, standing on an important corner in the harbor. A little girl asked the costumed guide why the store was called a chandlery. The guide said it came from the French word for candle seller. Originally the stores had sold only candles, but gradually they started catering to the shipping industry and carrying every other sort of hardware that a ship might require, especially lots of different types and sizes of rope for rigging sails.
Rope for use on sailing ships

Dan engaged the guide in an extended conversation about steam engines on trains as well as boats, and traded various experiences. "The romance of the steam engine." Ugh. Coal makes such a lot of grit in the air.

We hoped the weather would lighten up the next day, but Dan observed that Halifax is located about the same latitude as Seattle, which means that wet and gray is part of its DNA.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 42: Moncton to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

260 kilometers, 2:34 hours

Peggy's Cove

From Moncton, a town that is sheltered on the north side of the Bay of Fundy, we drove around the east end of the bay to Dartmouth, a suburb of Halifax, on the weather-beaten south coast of Nova Scotia. 

Moncton, New Brunswick to Halifax, Nova Scotia
It was about 4 p.m. when we got settled into our hotel in Dartmouth. The clouds had been thickening and thinning all day, but there was pretty good sunshine right then; rain was predicted for tomorrow. So Captain Dan decided we should drive out to look around Peggy's Cove, a coastal town that was supposed to be picturesque. The only problem with that was that first we had to get through Halifax, one of the largest cities in Canada, at rush hour. And the problem with that was that after the freeway goes over the bridge from Dartmouth to Halifax, it ends abruptly, forcing the heavy traffic to work its way through narrow streets and copious stop signals to get to the next freeway. Traffic moved so slowly that I could just feel the drivers fuming, and there was no escape; we finally tried an alternate route, but it was just as clogged.

Anyway, after a tense hour and a half to cross the city, then a half hour of pleasant driving on a narrow country road lined with trees and ponds, suddenly we emerged onto the coast at Peggy's Cove, a small fishing village. The problem with that was that it was foggy. Captain Dan's tour group whined and grumbled—anticipating a long, damp walk to see another stupid light-house and seriously in need of a latte after that stressful drive. 

We stopped first at the Visitor Center, but there we learned that we could park up the hill near the light house. That cheered me, but Dan started carping about the fog to the guide. She replied, "Actually, the weather is better than it has been all day, and I think the fog may even lift." Sure enough, the fog was lifting as she spoke. That was cheery, and when we parked in the upper lot, I noticed an "espresso" sign on the restaurant/gift shop there. Alright!

The Atlantic slams right into the south coast of Nova Scotia, but the coast is well armed, being built of solid granite—slabs, and sheets, and boulders of granite. The ocean would find it hard to carve any fancy formations out of this stuff, though it had succeeded in creating 
cracks and fissures. What would it look like if the tide withdrew and revealed the granite wall of the continent? 

Rocky Coast at Peggy's Cove

The light-house there is the archetypical light-house— a single, shapely white tower with a light on top, and no buildings attached. It was conveniently perched on a granite plateau allowing tourists to walk far enough away to take photos of each other in front of the tower.

The Light at Peggy's Cove
The little fishing village is very picturesque. Dan raced around and bagged his shots in the setting sun; I hung around the shore. We had about 45 wonderful minutes before the fog re-gathered.

Sunset in Peggy's Cove
We soon drove out of the fog and had a pleasant drive through the woods back to Halifax. The city was empty at 8 p.m. and we crossed quickly, using my iPad mapper to guide us through the strange city. It doesn't give directions, because I was unable to buy a data plan, but it still shows maps and there is still a blue ball marking our location. That's enough. In fact, when I am able to use wi-fi to get directions, frequently the directions include some step that is completely useless. A mapper can only use algorithms; it doesn't actually know what's happening on the ground, so to speak.

Once again our Best Western reservation has been upgraded to an executive suite. This time that means a very large room with no more furniture than necessary, leaving lots of empty space for our copious luggage. The walls are light tan, instead of the mud color of the previous room. Both of us feel very comfortable here. Fortunately, the hotel has a restaurant called Trendz CafĂ© & Wine Bar, where Dan had a great dinner. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Day 41: Bouctouche Dunes

The Atlantic Ocean doesn't just smack up against the east coast of Canada the way the Pacific slams the Western wall of the continent. The Island of Newfoundland forms a gulf with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick—the Gulf of St. Lawrence. New Brunswick is further protected by the smaller Prince Edward Island, and the water between the island and the mainland is called Northumberland Strait. Projecting out into Northumberland Strait several miles is a thin spit of land known as the Dune of Bouctouche. It is an ecological preserve. A curving wooden promenade extends a half mile through dune grasses, with a few staircases that give access to a narrow sandy beach.

We spent a few very pleasant hours on the dunes. We walked out on the boardwalk, dismounting here and there to sit in the sand and watch the gentle waves lapping the shore. The sky was crowded with piles of clouds shifting around, covering and uncovering the sun, but mostly yielding a gentle gray brightness. The color of the straight's clear water depended on the movement of the clouds. If the clouds separated to reveal a gap of blue sky, that blueness extended right down into the ocean, like a broad stripe. The other stripes were silvery-blue or pinkish-blue, depending on how heavy and dark the clouds were. The ocean and the sky were constantly changing, ever so quietly. To enjoy such a scene, you don't have to do anything, or know anything. You just sit on the sand in the mild breeze and let the emptiness fill you.
Bouctouche Dunes

Half-mile long boardwalk

On the way to Bouctouche we got caught up in a tourist trap. In the little town of Shediac, the Rotary Club has installed the world's largest statue of a lobster in a tiny, bayside park with a few other phony tourist attractions.
The World's Largest Statue of a Lobster
Do you suppose there is a lot of competition for that title?

More photo opportunities in front of inevitable souvenir shop.

For lunch we went back into the town of Bouctouche and ate at a restaurant that turned out to be Acadian. Dan knew from his guidebook that the coast was largely populated by Acadians, but we weren't deliberately looking for that type of food. The two women we dealt with in the restaurant spoke very flat, broad French and had rather a rough manner, though they were nice. They served a terrific vegetable soup. They grilled filet of sole without flour for us, and served it with fresh steamed carrots, an unusual side dish, and finely chopped cole slaw. On the sound system they played country music, heavy on the fiddles, that sounded just like the Cajun music around New Orleans.

Acadian Seafood Restaurant
The drive back was marred by a pretty awful traffic accident. A car was crosswise to the road with the driver's side smashed clear over to the passenger's side. I don't know what happened to the driver, but the EMT workers were trying to free the front passenger as we passed by; the airbags had filled the car. Two ambulances were there with lights flashing, but I didn't see the car that slammed into the first one. There were no police on the scene. It appeared that a local guy undertook to direct traffic through the narrow lane that wasn't blocked by the accident scene.

In general the traffic was very difficult. I think it's typical of touristy coastal towns everywhere–two-lane highways, clogged by a combination of tourist and local traffic.

When we got back to Moncton we stopped by Bore Park. When the incoming Fundy tide starts rolling up the Petitcodiac River, it starts with one low even wave that rolls right up the river; that is known as the tidal bore. You can sit in this park and watch it pass, if you can get the timing right; we didn't see it. Still, it was interesting to see the muddy water being pushed back by the incoming flow of somewhat bluer ocean water. I wanted to sit there until the tide started going back again, but it was going to be a few more hours. I find it very addictive to observe a natural process like this.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Day 40: Hopewell Rocks at Low Tide

After observing high tide yesterday afternoon, today we returned when the park opened at 9 a.m. to walk the ocean's floor at low tide. The sky was dull and lifeless.

When we got to the metal staircase that gives access to the beach, we saw that the ocean had withdrawn until it was a silver band near the horizon, exposing forty foot of cliffs and free-standing formations that had been submerged the previous afternoon, as well as a broad stretch of the ocean's bed. We descended the stairs and joined the tour groups streaming down the beach.

The Flower Pots at Hopewell Rocks
Some people were interested in the receding water and tried see how close to it they could get. In places the earth's crust is corrugated like mighty ribs, but you don't see the rock at first because it is modestly clad with hairlike seaweed. In some places it is pebbly, or muddy. The young kids came back with their legs coated in chocolate mud.

Floor of the Ocean at Low Tide

Others are fascinated by the cliffs and the formations. As I said before, the earth is exceptionally porous here and the tidal action has created fantastical shapes.

This cliff was underwater the previous afternoon.
With the earth right in front of you at eye level, you can study its very composition, and you can observe the plants that spend half their day submerged and half exposed.

Beneath the ocean's surface, formations and plant life.

The stronger types of rock retain their form.

The whole shore was corrugated, scalloped, and indented.

Dan standing in an undersea forest
The tide was so far out when we got there that it was hard to sense it withdrawing yet farther, but my heart quickened when it changed direction. The water's sound changed slightly, tiny ripples flowed toward us, the air felt different. My sensors said, "Be aware now. The water is coming back. Don't get trapped." Theoretically, you could drown in muddy water if you didn't watch your timing, as pointed out by a warning sign and a clock at the head of the staircase. I overheard another tourist say, "They must blow a big bull-horn when it is time to go back." Uh, no, not exactly. It's up to you. But, with busloads of Chinese tourists streaming back, it's pretty obvious.

We had an okay lunch in the restaurant at the park's entrance; Dan liked his seafood chowder. The restaurant wasn't crowded but the souvenir shop was.

The afternoon was subdued by rain b
ut we enjoyed the ride anyway. The rain wasn't too bad and eventually stopped. The scenery was beautiful—very thick mixed forest, partly tree farms and partly natural growth. The road had a satisfying number of hills and curves without being difficult. Narrow two-lane roads with no barriers along the edge gave us a close look at the woods and meadows. Dan really enjoyed the driving.

We sought out the light-house at Cape Enrage, but by the time we got there the rain was too heavy for pictures. We continued on to the fishing marina of Alma. The rain let up and Dan walked down to the harbor to take photos of the boats while I waited in the car. We went to the best hotel in town and enjoyed a latte in their beautiful Tides Restaurant. 

We drove through Fundy National Park, but we didn't stop as we had planned. In some places the road was very rough and damaged. In others, recently repaired. One section of road had been tarred and graveled that day. We had to wait a long time for a pilot car to take us slowly through the area, and at the end, the road crew hosed the left wheels of every car.

When we got in, Dan got right to work on his laundry, and I made a supply run to Walmart. I grabbed a salad from Wendy's and stayed in to work on this blog; he took a cab downtown and had a good meal at  Mexicali Rosa's restaurant.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 39: The Bay of Fundy at High Tide

Fredericton to Moncton
180 kilometers, 1:48 hours

Many years ago a friend of ours who liked to travel got both Dan and me interested in the Bay of Fundy because of its extreme tidal action. Depending on the season, the weather, and the location, the tide may rise and fall as much as forty-five or fifty feet in twenty-four hours. One of our major objectives for this trip was to observe this tidal action, both at high tide and at low tide. My research indicated that the most dramatic place to observe this phenomenon was at the Rocks Provincial Park, near Hopewell, usually called Hopewell Rocks.

After a short drive from Fredericton, we checked into our motel then drove another half hour to Hopewell Rocks. The weather was perfect, sunny with a mild breeze. The road follows the border of a river that was the color of chocolate milk; the water was thick with warm-brown mud. The level was low, showing that the banks of the river were just reddish mud with no visible rocky support. It was yucky. I mean, after the beautiful blue Saint John River that had been our companion for a couple of days, or the wonderful Saint Lawrence in Ontario and Quebec, a muddy river is a let-down. For tourism it is known as the Chocolate River, but its real name is the Petitcodiac.

At the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Fundy, where the Petitcodiac meets the Atlantic ocean, we looked down on porous rock formations known as the Flower Pots. The soft rock has been worked by the action of the ocean into hour-glass shapes with conifer crowns. It was about four o'clock, an hour and a half to high tide. Kayakers were circling the formations and even threading the arches; shallow strips of beach were still visible against the cliffs. I didn't get good photos of the flower pots; these shots are from other points along the cliff.

About 1 1/2 hours to high tide at Hopewell Rocks

This staircase is not open to the public.
The Bay is near high tide. The beach is under water.

To get to the staircase that gives access to the beach at low tide, we had to walk about a half an hour. The path had several interesting points with views of the bay, but it was so steep that I began to worry about the return climb. By the time we arrived in the tourist area, I was panicked, but we soon learned that a shuttle was available for $2, so I relaxed and had fun.

We descended the staircase as far as was allowed; a chain blocked access to the beach and the staircase was crowded with gawkers watching the water creep slowly up the little beach at the bottom. You can't exactly see it rise like water in a bath-tub, but by checking various markers every few minutes, you see the water is rising. You can also see the current flowing forward in little ripples.

We walked farther down the cliff to a shore that was closed to the public and occupied by a mighty tribe of sand-pipers. They were too tiny and far away to be very interesting. I tried to get the ranger to run down there and scare them so I could make a movie of them in flight, but she said the birds needed to rest so they could make it to South America.

We walked back up to the staircase to the beach about ten minutes before the tide peaked, and looked at the views from the landings of the staircase; we could see the water was very high on the formations and the little beach was completely covered. The ramp the kayakers had used to access the bay was completely inundated. I watched the water until the tide started to recede. I felt the change right away. The current started to flow outward; the sound of the water changed; soon I could see that more of the formations and beaches was exposed than before. I found the whole process exciting and calming at the same time.

Our reservation at the Best Western Motel in Moncton was upgraded to an executive suite because we are Diamond members (I should bloody well hope so). This gives us two rooms, with a door between them, two TVs, two easy chairs, and a couch. Unfortunately the walls are the color of muck, making the rooms very cave-like and claustrophobic. Ironically, though we have more space, we have fewer places to put things.

For dinner we went to Pisces, a pretentious fish place next door to the pretentious Chateau Moncton. The interior was that same mud color as our room and the banks of the Petitcodiac, making it very dark and claustrophobic. The food and the service were first rate. Dan had local scallops and shrimp with roasted vegetables that he liked a lot. I had mixed seafood croquettes that were okay and a nice salad.

I couldn't help observing a fat and loudly dysfunctional family play out their drama over dinner, finally resulting in the louty, fat father marching the pouty, fat pre-teen daughter to the car for offending her haughty, fat mother.

Suddenly I burst out of the purgatorial eatery to enjoy the evening air along the muddy Petitcodiac. All along the bank of the river is a strip of park and a bike trail. By then I had accepted the muddy river, and by then, blue and silver reflections flickered in the muddy water.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Day 38: Fredericton and King's Landing

The small historical town of Fredericton is pleasant, mainly because it was built on the bank of the Saint John river, which is wide at that point and satiny blue. There is a modest marina and a long green strip of park near the shore.

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery was kind of a dud, I'm sorry to report. They have sent their "masterworks," meaning the only ones by recognizable artists, on a tour that has lasted over three years. You can buy a book that shows you what you're missing, including an important painting by Salvador Dali. 

As for the work they had on exhibit, in my opinion, there were two very good paintings, about a dozen pretty but unremarkable paintings, and two watercolors by Winston Churchill. Major space was given to contemporary local artists who held very little interest for us. We looked at everything and tried hard to appreciate what they had, but…a dud is a dud.

The museum doesn't allow photography, but I sneaked a few shots just out of boredom and orneriness. Here are the watercolors by Winston Churchill. Pretty good perspective, for a politician.

Winston Churchill

I was impressed by two portraits by the same artist, painted 49 years apart. The artist, Joseph Oppenheimer, is German-British-Canadian, and the portraits were both donated by Vincent M. Prager, possibly a relative of both subjects. These works remind me that some very talented artists do not achieve widespread fame; they are worth seeking out.

Joseph Oppenheimer, 1876-1966
Alice Bernheim, 1901

Joseph Oppenheimer, 1876-1966
Eva Prager, 1950
We had a pleasant walk along the river and photographed an old wooden light house. We found a cafe where I got a latte. 

The Garrison
We took a quick look at some of the buildings of the town's historic garrison. The barracks have been turned into craft shops; the officer's headquarters and the guards' off-duty station were kept as exhibits. A pair of charming college students in 19th century costume were our guides. 

The Garrison Guards' Off-duty Station
Our guides also played old-time instruments
We hiked a couple of blocks to a large historical cemetery, right in the center of town, but we weren't in the mood for macabre reflections on such a gorgeous day.

Dan's first try for a lunch place turned out to be all deep-fry; we weren't that hungry. It was already 2:30. We decided to head for King's Landing and take our chances there.

King's Landing
The town of King's Landing was on the bank of the Saint John river when it was in its original bed. When the river was broadened and deepened by a dam, some of the old buildings were moved farther up the bank before the town was inundated. They were repaired but not restored. This was about forty years ago; the town was already old, and now the buildings have aged further. They have been spread out haphazardly amid open fields of wildflowers and deep green patches of trees. Many are residences with their own vegetable or flower garden, their own barn and outhouses, perhaps a big old hog snuffling in a large pen, or an oxen knocking his horns on a split rail fence. There are one or two churches, a general store, a school house; none of them tricked up or dramatized, except that there are costumed guides who will give you as much history as you will stand still for. Anyway, some of the views seem right out of 19th century paintings of rural life, especially with the satiny Saint John glimmering in the background.

Rough old barn with satiny Saint John river
Split-rail fence
Corn stalks and vines
General Store
Drying herbs
These guides were friendly,
 and their dresses look authentic in their simplicity.
We headed straight for the King's Head, the restaurant. It is quite a distance from the Visitor's Center, so we eventually hitched a ride on one of the two horse-drawn wagons which constantly ply the gravel road around the park. The King's Head is an old two-story house, quite awkward to use as a restaurant. They were just recovering from a rush, so it took them quite awhile to seat us, and we almost gave up. Just as we were getting ready to go, they called us. Then it all went fast. We cleverly ordered a salad with cold poached salmon, which they could put together in a hurry. It was tasty and gave us a good clean dose of protein. 

We were soon back out in the light. The light was just about Kodachrome perfect; blues and greens to die for. We had about an hour to walk around.

An incident occurred near the General Store that I thought would mar my visit. A boy about 12 years old was hanging about the village, in 19th Century costume. He would hop on and off the wagons, sitting with the drivers. He seemed to be an expert on the plan of the park. He wasn't putting on a show or relating to the guests; he was just hanging about. When I got to the General Store, he and a young man, also in costume, were having a water fight around the horse trough. Suddenly the laughter turned to cries of pain from the younger boy. He had tripped on a stump and banged his shin, he explained between sobs, which went on in a pitiful and lengthy manner. I didn't feel responsible because there were a couple of young men hovering around. I skipped the store and moved on, but after awhile I noticed the crying was replaced by guffaws and laughter. I strolled back that way. Two of the grown-up boys and the one young boy came spilling out the doorway with banter that I can't quite evoke. The young boy filled two tin cups with water from the horse trough and threw them at one of the older boys, who just stood there and shivered. Two more cups went straight into the shoes of the other one. One of the young men said something like, "There! Does that make us even now?", and the young boy responded, "Yeah, it's okay now." So I was happy to see a resolution. And though it was a real event, no audience but me, it was like a scene out of Tom Sawyer, which was just perfect for the setting.

I wanted to stay there forever, but those horse-drawn carts quit running around five o'clock, and the hike back to the parking lot was too long and steep to try on foot.