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.