St. Andrews

Well, these are our  accommodations for the next two nights!  Not too bad, eh?  Top dormer window on the left is our room!  A beautiful view from there! We are located just outside of the community of St. Andrews, easily within walking distance of town.  The hotel was originally built in 1889, destroyed by fire in 1914 and rebuild to its current footprint.  Marriott purchased the properties and it underwent extensive renovations and reopened in 2013.  We loved it!  We even had a chance to take a ghost tour to various parts of the hotel, including an extensive tunnel system below the hotel.

St. Andrews, known as St. Andrews by-the-Sea, was first settled by British Loyalists after the American Revolution. Much of the town reflects the English- American heritage of the area.

One of the highlights of the area was a ferry ride out to Campobello Island, the summer retreat of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is easily accessible from both the Maritimes and New England.  The 34-room home is beautifully preserved.  It was built in the late 1800’s and renovated in 1915.  The home had been in the Roosevelt family since he was a young boy and he loved spending his summers there.  Roosevelt was born in 1882.  After his marriage to Eleanor in 1905 he continued to summer at Campobello until struck with polio in 1921 at the age of 39.  Eleanor came with the family each year, but Roosevelt only came 3 more times until his death in 1945.  The grounds are beautiful and the views are unsurpassed.

As we started out in the early morning on the ferry, the low tides of the Bay of Fundy were very apparent.  As seen in some of the pictures above.  The ramp to the ferry was very steep at the start, and incredibly less steep on the way home.  On our trip over, we saw minke whales (smaller that other species), seals romping near shore, one bald eagle to far to photograph, and much evidence of farming of salmon, mussels and shrimp. Very interesting.

Included in our time here was a trip to the Hopewell Rocks, a collection of whimsical formations standing from 40 to 70 feet tall in the Bay of Fundy.  The tide variance that day was 44 feet.  We arrived, after stopping to see a covered bridge along the way, when the tide was beginning to come in.  We came down a series of about 4 flights of stairs to the shoreline.  In the space of less that 20 minutes, the stairways were blocked off and people had to scamper back up the steps.  Amazing to watch the incoming tides!!

 

Under very cloudy skies, we crossed the Constituion Bridge over to Prince Edward Island (known only as PEI) and headed to Charlottetown for our next stay at the Rod Charlottetown.  We were exhausted!!!

More to come!!

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St. John, New Brunswick

Saint John is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick.  It is a mix of old and new.  One side of the street may have some nicely restored and preserved buildings, while the other has been torn down and replaced by cold, stone high rise buildings.

On June 24th of 2604 the French Explorer, Samuel de Champlain, landed here and, in honor of it being the holy day of St. John the Baptist, named the spot St. John.  It became a trading post, and was later raided by rebels at the start of the American Revolution.  By the end of the Revolution in 1783, some 40,000 “loyalists” had fled the US to escape persecution and established settlements in the area. Some historic buildings have been preserved from this era.

We had a chance to wander through some of the historic district, visit a covered market area, enjoy some of the whimsical statues dotting the town, and wander through a restored  theater and park area where residents gather for outdoor concerts.  While strolling through town we came upon a plaque that indicated that Benedict Arnold lived here from 1787 to 1791.  He was a prominent merchant and trader.  The story goes that he was not well liked and was forced to leave in the dead of night when it became apparent that he was no longer safe.

 

While coming into St. John, and upon leaving the next day, we stopped at the same spot to see a phenomenon that occurs daily known as the reversing rapids.  The Bay of Fundy  and the St. John River collide because of the tidal changes in the Bay of Fundy.  The high tides coming in from the Bay of Fundy can only push the water into the St. John River so far before it meets some resistance because of the narrowing space.  The ebb and flow of water creates a reversing of waters that is apparent daily.  A close look at the photos above will show the waters moving in opposite directions.  Very interesting!  More about that later.

On the way to St. Andrews, we stopped first at a salmon research station to learn more about Atlantic Salmon.  It was fascinating to learn that salmon can move thousands of miles during their breeding season.  And only a very small percentage of the eggs layed by the female, and fertilized by the male, even hatch and grow to adulthood.  Most Altlantic salmon that we eat are farm-raised.

We also stopped at a former fortification outside of St. Andrews built to defend the area from privateers during the War of 1812.  Maine was close by and fear that marauders would invade the area prompted the building of a blockhouse and some cannon mounts.   The area was never invaded and the guns were never used, although ships in the bay were attacked.

We were very happy to reach St. Andrews!!

On To St. John, New Brunswick

We left Halifax and the rain behind as we started out to explore other parts of the Maritimes.  Our first stop was to Grand-Pre, Nova Scotia to the National Historical Site commemorating the deportation of thousands of Acadians from 1755 to 1762.  The Acadians were French speaking people who settled in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as far back as the late 1600’s.  The British sought to remove non-English speaking people from many areas by deportation, separating families, and killing large numbers and burning their settlements.  Many fled to areas in the US, including Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns.  Longfellow even wrote a long poem about the deportation, known as “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie” and was honored with a statue on the historic grounds.

We continued on to Hall’s Harbour, Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy where the change of tides in a short time was becoming more evident.  Hall’s Harbour is a small fishing village and is memorable to us because we enjoyed our first whole lobster meal and had a chance to savor the delight of working to extract every bit of its tender sweetness!  This was followed by a talk where we learned more about these crustaceans and the importance of this industry to the Maritimes.

We continued on to Digby, Nova Scotia where we boarded a ferry, with our bus for a 2-hour cruise to across the Bay of Fundy to get to our next destination, St. John, New Brunswick.

We even encountered a tall ship as we were nearing New Brunswick.  The skies were beginning to clear and we were anxious to get to our hotel and start exploring Saint John, if only for one day!

More to come!

 

Peggy’s Cove

How could one not be charmed by just the name alone of this little community!!  There are various stories of how this little gem got its name.  One of the most popular is that a shipwreck happened near by and the only survivor was a young girl who was taken in by a couple and raised.  She was called “Peggy” and became known as “Peggy of the Cove”, hence Peggy’s Cove!

Peggy’s Cove, on the eastern shore of St. Margarets Bay,  only has about 35 permanent residents.  It’s primary attraction is the it’s lighthouse that stands prominently perched on the rocks at the end of the cove.  The rocks are strewn around all over the coastline, the result of the receding glaciers that eroded any mountainous area and deposited rocks as it melted back.  It’s a charming little stop, even in the rain that pelted us much of the day.

As you come in to the community, a memorial rock carving commemorates the fish an who lost their lives in the treacherous waters off the coast of much of this area.  

As we left Peggy’s Cove we passed a little museum where Ivan Fraser, a children’s author and storyteller, painted this house and created an inviting stop to enjoy his books and gift ideas.

 

We continued on to Lunenburg, a charming  waterfront community where we stopped for lunch and had a chance to explore some of interesting homes and shops in the area. Lunenburg Old Town area is a UNESCO World Heritage site for its beautifully preserved architecture.  It was established in 1753 and the downtown area is filled with colorful, charming wooden houses.  Some of these houses featured a feature known here in Lunenburg as a “bump” which can be seen in a few of the picutures.

It was still raining pretty hard, so we did not have a chance to wander as much as we would have liked, but a tall ship was in port and inviting people to board.  We did not choose to do it, instead opting for a delightful seafood lunch complete with some local brews!

Back to Halifax to pack and get ready to leave for another adventure!

 

 

Welcome to Halifax

Halifax is a great way to start a trip discovering the Maritimes of eastern Canada.  Halifax is a bustling, growing city of 300,000 people.  It lies on the southern coast of Nova Scotia and is separated from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia by a narrow inlet leading from Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin.  The city is undergoing a big growth as companies are relocating to the area because of available labor and cheaper land prices.  The growth is evidenced by the number of major building projects occurring within its borders.

We all assembled at the Lord Nelson Hotel in a very convenient area of Halifax, and got to check out our means of transport for the next 2 weeks.  Don, our driver, and Scott, our handsome tour guide were ready to get us all moving.

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We started out with a visit to the Fairview Lawn Cemetary where a memorial gravesite to those killed in the Titanic disaster.  Halifax had sent 3 ships out to recover those lost and many were buried here, some nameless, and others with very little information other than day of death.  Many women and children were from the steerage level of the ship, as women and children of the upper decks were evacuated first.

A memorial to those who died on in the famous explosion of two ships, the Imo and Mount Blanc on December 6, 1917. The Mount Blanc was loaded with explosives and not properly marked.  When rammed by the Imo, the resulting explosion was the largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima during WWII.  More than 2000 people were killed, including 200 crew members of the Ship Curaçao, also in the narrow inlet. Many onlookers were blinded by the explosion, and most homes sustained some damage.

Much of our afternoon was spent along the waterfront area where we had a chance for tasty lunch choices with many varieties of seafood, time to enjoy the Maritime Harbor of the Atlantic, and explore a few shops.

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After returning to the hotel, Claudia and I had a chance to take a quick look at a pubic garden across from our hotel before we joined our group for a welcoming dinner at the Waterfront Warehouse down near the Harbour.  We were satisfied and exhausted!!

We’re moving on, eh?

Siena

Siena has much to see and much to admire.  Siena has been designated  a World Heritage Site by UNESCO so it is always filled with tourists.

We first visited the main monuments outside the central area of Siena before heading to Campo Square.  Among them were the Siena Cathedral, begun in the 12th century, and considered to be a masterpiece of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.  It contains an inlaid marble mosaic floor along with frescos and sculptures from many noted artists. But no photos were allowed!

We also toured the sanctuary of St. Catherine of Siena, considered, along with St. Francis of Assisi, the two patron saints of Italy.  Born in 1347, St. Catherine devoted her life to Christ.  Her original home is still in existence and we toured parts of it.  The sarcophagus of St. Catherine in beneath the high altar of Santa Maria soprano Minerva in Rome.  However, her head was parted from her body and inserted in a gilt bust of bronze.  It is entombed in the Basilica of San Domenico where is remains today.

From there we ventured into the central area of Siena, a beautiful open area surrounded by shops and eateries where we wandered and shopped.  This is the spot for the famous Palio horse race.  The race takes place twice a year, July 2nd and August 16th.  Huge crowds fill the square and any space above it.  The medieval horse race takes place around the perimeter of the square.  The riders are bare-backed and compete only for pride and a banner bearing the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is televised each year, so try and take it in!

Our afternoon took us to San Gimignano, a small walled medieval town, known as the Town of Fine Towers.  It is known for its preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, as seen in some of the photos.  It is a delight to explore, with enticing shops and narrow streets offering saffron, wines cultivated from the area and lots of salamis prepared in the area.

After another exhausting day, we came back to our hotel, enjoyed another delightful dinner, and watched the lights come on over the hillside below.

Caio!!!

Florence

After a typical European breakfast of meats, eggs, fruits, cheeses and sweets, we started out for Florence through the beautiful countryside of Tuscany.  The rolling hills, vineyards and olive groves were so impressive, but tough to capture through the window of our bus.

Out first stop, with our Florence tour guide, was to the Academy of Fine Arts, of course, to see Michelangelo’s magnificent statue of David.  Not much one can say except to ogle, open-mouthed, as we circled this treasure.

We continued on through the busy, narrow streets to see the Duomo of Florence, known as Santa Maria del Fiore.  It is a cathedral that stands tall against the Florentine skyline and is the main church of Florence.

We caught a parade in the crowded Signoria Square, then headed through Holy Cross Square toward the Arno River.

Before heading out to lunch and an afternoon of serious shopping for leather and gold, we marveled at the famous Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge.  It was the only bridge across the Arno until 1218.  It was rebuilt in 1345 after a flood and was the only bridge not destroyed by the fleeing Germans during WWII.  It is lined with shops and apartments across its span and is very popular.

I am actually home, but will try and finish my last few days in Italy!

Caio!