A Travellerspoint blog

Washington Highlights

overcast 18 °C

In among the various things I saw in Washington, several were standouts. I had originally planned to work in the rather splendid public library because it was, well, rather splendid and not far from where I was staying. On about my second day, however, I checked out the Georgetown University library, which was nothing special, to be honest, but it involved a walk through Georgetown - I enjoyed the walk so much I did it every day. Things always seemed to be a bit misty by the time I got to the uni.
Georgetown University

Georgetown University

large_270_IMG_9759.jpglarge_WP_20141105_028.jpgGeorgetown University Library

Georgetown University Library


The main thoroughfare was pretty interesting, with cool, boutique shops, cafes, bars - kind of like Ponsonby Road but with a lot more going on. There is even a canal, not just a canal but a monumental one - the Chesapeake and Erie Canal National Monument is just off the main street in Georgetown, and looks rather like a canal. Georgetown itself was built here because of the canal. There is a park office, but it is closed indefinitely and the canal boat they used to run tours is laid up, also indefinitely. In its heyday, this canal would have 150 vessels a day, taking stuff from the hinterland out to the Hudson River, so its present state is a bit sad.
large_IMG_9788.jpglarge_IMG_9789.jpglarge_IMG_9794.jpglarge_IMG_9797.jpg
Off the main thoroughfare, things became even better: Georgetown has been here longer than Washington, and indeed there are apparently some in Georgetown who refuse to acknowledge it is part of Washington. So walking through the streets, some of which are cobbled, means seeing lots of good looking old houses, with the occasional cafe or shop sprinkled in to keep up one's energy.
Georgetown

Georgetown

large_270_IMG_9753.jpglarge_IMG_9754.jpglarge_IMG_9758.jpg
One evening, I was working so late that I just couldn't be bothered walking home (it was something like 3 miles) so caught a random bus I found loitering outside the library, hoping it was going where I was: it took me along P Street (couldn't name a street in New Zealand P Street, could we) and eventually things started looking so good that I had to get off (luckily, this was at Logan Circle, which was about 4 blocks from my hostel). Apart from the Whole Foods store (where I spent $25 just to acquire some of their pre-cooked food for dinner), there was a great ice-cream cum coffee shop which was tremendously busy the whole time I was there, a nice Thai place and a bit of an altie vibe which I enjoyed.

On my last day, I took a walking tour run by the hostel which went via Union Station and Congress to the Supreme Court of the United States. This was on the Friday, the one day of the week the Court does not sit, so I couldn't see them in action. I couldn't even get into the Courtroom - even though we were on a tour, we had to standby while an official tour went in. Like many of the buildings in Washington, the Supreme Court was built to demonstrate the status of the US as the pre-eminent nation and an enduring one - with very classical lines. It is made entirely of marble, so is going to be available for the dispensing of justice for a while (let's not get drawn on the quality of that justice). Inside, there are a couple of elliptical spiral staircases which run for (I think) three stories and are entirely self supporting - that would take some fine craftsmanship and a crafty design.
Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States

large_WP_20141107_012.jpglarge_IMG_9805.jpglarge_IMG_9804.jpglarge_IMG_9803.jpglarge_270_IMG_9802.jpglarge_WP_20141107_008.jpglarge_WP_20141107_009.jpg
One of the key Smithsonian Museums I wanted to see was the Museum of American History, which was a bit of a strange one, as it picks out particular themes to display, so it can be a bit disjointed and certainly doesn't even try to create a narrative of American history. I struck it lucky, because two of the three themes really worked for me. The entire top floor was devoted to Presidents and First Ladies, which did little for me (although I was amused at the props used - dinner sets and dresses for the First Ladies, armament and uniforms for the Presidents). But the other two themes were transport and food - couldn't be better. Both took a social perspective - the various forms of transport illustrated the ideas of freedom (so there's a caravan and a cabin) and connection (so there are trains and buses). There is also the first car to ever cross the USA - in 1903 - despite a marked lack of roads! The team was H Nelson Jackson, Sewell Cracker and their dog, Bud.
Car Collection, Museum of American History

Car Collection, Museum of American History

large_IMG_9776.jpglarge_IMG_9778.jpglarge_IMG_9777.jpglarge_IMG_9772.jpgCrocker and Bud

Crocker and Bud

large_IMG_9771.jpglarge_IMG_9769.jpglarge_IMG_9764.jpg
The food one was pretty much the opposite, it was focused on fast food and how it led to the breakdown of people eating at the table together. And when it comes to finding a table (and kitchen) to demonstrate the value of eating together, they had Julia Child's entire kitchen, set up just the way she left it.
Julia Child's Kitchen

Julia Child's Kitchen

large_WP_20141106_003.jpglarge_WP_20141106_004.jpg
Saving the best for last (and it was almost the last thing I did in Washington (apart from another late night visit to Logan Circle) - the Library of Congress.
Library of Congress

Library of Congress

large_WP_20141107_006.jpglarge_WP_20141107_023.jpg
I was most annoyed to find out (a) I couldn't go in to the reading room without a card and (b) I could have been working there all week if I'd asked for a card when I arrived. The reading room is guarded by Minerva (Roman goddess of wisdom).
Minerva

Minerva


Reading Room, Library of Congress

Reading Room, Library of Congress

large_IMG_9814.jpglarge_270_IMG_9813.jpg
I took another tour, this was run by a rather unusual woman who worked for the library - I actually quite liked her, and she was very enthusiastic about her "Italianate Palace", but she'd pop in odd personal details: somehow she had to talk about something mathematics-related, and she reverted to her schooldays, and told us she was good at math, that she'd help others with their math (OK so far) but then drop in the discoforting detail that she did maths on a Saturday night because no-one ever asked her out. She sounded like a right geek, so I probably would have, had I been there. The library is just beautiful.
large_270_IMG_9808.jpg
large_WP_20141107_017.jpglarge_WP_20141107_016.jpglarge_WP_20141107_015.jpg
large_IMG_9816.jpg
Oddly enough, the security was tighter to get into the library than the Supreme Court - all belts, shoes, watches, glasses etc off. They did have a few things of value inside, I suppose - what's left of Jefferson's library (there have been a few fires in the library history, some accidental, some set by the British - Jefferson donated his library after one such fire, and then half of that was burnt in yet another fire). The library also had a special visitor - one of the four extant versions of the Magna Carta - this is the one from the Lincoln Cathedral.
Jefferson's Library @ Library of Congress

Jefferson's Library @ Library of Congress


Magna Carta

Magna Carta

large_IMG_9819.jpg

All in all, despite some dubious weather, I had a great time in Washington - helped along by my hostel, where breakfasts were a bit special. John worked for the hostel, and he'd not release any breakfast to us until we'd said good morning to him in some language other than our own. He then went around working the room, making strangers sitting opposite each other introduce themselves and working very hard to make people feel at home. That early in the morning, I could only handle it once, and so would escape to find a coffee shop.

Posted by NZBarry 16:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Long Night to Washington

overcast 20 °C

I think I left Toronto just in time - there was just a twitch of snow, so light I thought it was a few small leaves floating about, a couple of days before my passport turned up. The news came through and I swooped on the Greyhound site (so much cheaper than any other departure option) and booked a ticket through to Washington that evening. I guess travelling overnight on Greyhound has a certain mystique, as people hear Greyhound and think drunks and losers. Apart from the fact that it wasn't actually a Greyhound bus and the shocking state of the Buffalo station, it was fine. I had a double seat to myself for most of the way, with a teenage bloke joining me for about an hour at one stage, and they served up some most excellent fried chicken at one of the stops. The only real problem was getting through the border, at Peace Bridge. It must be a regular smuggler's route - they very calmly and very politely searched everything I had, and that of many other passengers. It caused quite the delay. Don't think it was smugglers, more likely they were bored and just looking for something to do as it was very quiet. At least they confirmed that I really have lost my passport - just as well, as I don;t know what sort of questions it would have led to if they found it.

After a 45 minute stop in the Transit Authority in Washington and we were off again, on another non-Greyhound bus and I was in Washington at 1:00 (p.m.). As we drove in, I realised that my only real images of Washington are of grand buildings, but the drive in was quite nondescript. Matters changed dramatically when we hit Union Station - it is just down the road from the Capitol so had to be built in suitable style. Here's the wikipedia description:

Classical elements included the Arch of Constantine (exterior, main façade) and the great vaulted spaces of the Baths of Diocletian (interior); prominent siting at the intersection of two of Pierre L'Enfant's avenues, with an orientation that faced the United States Capitol just five blocks away; a massive scale, including a façade stretching more than 600 feet and a waiting room ceiling 96 feet above the floor; stone inscriptions and allegorical sculpture in the Beaux-Arts style; expensive materials such as marble, gold leaf, and white granite from a previously unused quarry.

Unfortunately, there are bits falling from the ceilings, so they've installed a heavy mesh, which meant no photos were possible, except for the clock - which is famous for having a mistake on its face.
Arriving in Washington

Arriving in Washington

Union Station

Union Station

large_270_IMG_9825.jpglarge_IMG_9828.jpglarge_WP_20141108_001.jpg
I was there for a few days, so had a good walk around the centre, several times as I planned one sight-seeing thing a day, and then off to work. First up was the National Building Museum, which sounded like it would be just my thing. It was certainly in the right sort of building
National Building Museum

National Building Museum

large_WP_20141105_001.jpglarge_Building_Museum.jpglarge_IMG_9710.jpglarge_IMG_9714.jpg
Unfortunately, in terms of exhibits, it fell a bit flat. There was some Lego, a room with little mock-ups of designs - it looked so boring I didn't pay to see the exhibits. I was amused watching a teacher run through an alphabetical list of do's and don'ts in the museum for his wee (all of about 5 years old) charges - somehow, in his alphabet, E comes before D.

This post is really about the also-rans of my visit to Washington - in the next, I present my highlights. I was very impressed at the scale of the Mall of Washington and the government buildings generally, plus there's the Smithsoniam (sadly, my top of the list museum, American Art, was closed for refurbishment). I must confess that I had trouble identifying some buildings - I just took pictures of those which really caught my eye, as well as a few monuments (and I have one of them which I have not been able to identify - its plaque was blank). Of course, I could identify the White House, not that I could get very close (I was a wee bit surprised to see that despite its size and having an even bigger guesthouse across the road, the President had to put up a tent to deal with the visitors (I was not invited) and the Capitol, at the other end of town:
White House

White House

White House

White House

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill

US Capitol

US Capitol

large_WP_20141107_007.jpglarge_270_IMG_9801.jpg
That last photo might be a bit hard to identify - it is an intake for the air-conditioning for the Capitol. From there, you look straight down at the Washington Monument (where they were expecting 800,000 odd people for a free Veteran's Day gig featuring Eminem, Rhianna and Springsteen).
National Monument

National Monument

Simon Bolivar

Simon Bolivar

large_270_IMG_9719.jpglarge_270_IMG_9724.jpglarge_270_IMG_9745.jpglarge_270_IMG_9746.jpglarge_270_IMG_9747.jpgAshes to Answers

Ashes to Answers


That last one is a monument to celebrate fire rescue dogs. Up next to the White House, I really liked the Eisenhower Executive building, with its odd protuberances, and was surprised at the Reagan Building (because it fits in so well with its surrounding buildings but is actually only 20 years old - there had been a plan to have a building there all along, but the workmen making the other buildings found it a useful place to park, and the habits stuck, for decades). Quite surprising alongside these major buildings, is the former lock-keeper's cottage, which is just across Constitution Avenue from the White House, and is built according to a completely different scale and aesthetic.
Dwight Eisenhower Executive Building

Dwight Eisenhower Executive Building

large_IMG_9739.jpglarge_WP_20141105_011.jpglarge_IMG_9738.jpgRonald Reagan Building

Ronald Reagan Building

Lock-keeper's Cottage

Lock-keeper's Cottage


As you drive up Constitution Avenue, the buildings are just huge - the point is to create an idea of the immense power of America, and it works - apparently, as official visitors are brought into town, they're driven along the intimidation route, just to get them in the right frame of mind before meeting the President.
large_WP_20141105_012.jpgUS International Trade Admin

US International Trade Admin

large_IMG_9748.jpglarge_IMG_9731.jpg
And then there were just a few random buildings around I needed to snap - an art gallery near the Eisenhower Building, the infamous Watergate Hotel, looking a bit sad (the fact it was raining didn't help), the Organisation of American States Building (who knew this organisation even existed? It isn't about the states of America, but the nations comprising the American continent), Judiciary Square (where the local courts are and then some unidentified randoms
Art Gallery

Art Gallery

Watergate Hotel

Watergate Hotel


Organisation of American States

Organisation of American States


Judiciary Square

Judiciary Square

large_WP_20141105_015.jpglarge_WP_20141105_007.jpgSpy Museum

Spy Museum

Posted by NZBarry 15:01 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Disaster: Two Weeks in Toronto

sunny 22 °C

So, about Halifax not wanting me to leave? Turns out all of Canada was in on the act. After a last visit to the Rocket Bakery and a chat with Laura, I caught a taxi to the airport with plenty of time (there is a bus, but it stops 2 km short of the airport on Sundays. Small towns, huh.) I go in to check in and naturally have to produce my passport since I'm flying to New York, and reach into where I keep it in my backpack. Not there. I check my pockets. Not there. I take my bags away and empty them all on the floor of the airport. Not there. I search my memory to see if it has any recollection of putting my passport somewhere safe. Not there. So plans get a bit of a spanner chucked into them: I had a carefully laid out line of buses and trains all the way down the East coast, a gig to go to in Philadelphia, hostels booked. Instead, I get Air Canada to take me to Toronto, report the loss of my passport to the airport police there (no police anywhere near St John's airport), have a surprisingly nice stay at the airport Travelodge and start working out how to replace my passport.

For those who know me, it may come as no surprise that this is not the first lost passport incident in my life. In my very first trip overseas, within less than a week of leaving home, I'd lost my passport. I put it on the counter in a Bangkok Post Office while I bought some stamps, and someone swiped it. In the bad old 1980's, I was able to go to the Consulate that night, borrow a couple of hundred dollars and sort out a new passport within a couple of days. Now with modern technology and communications (I even have a Government approved digital image of me in the fancy RealMe system), getting a new passport took two weeks. It is a good thing I'm running in arrears with my blogging, because there were a few false alarms, when I thought I'd be good to go but wasn't. I learned not to book transport out until I'd actually seen the passport.

With a Consulate just a few hours away in Ottawa, getting a new passport would take no time,I thought. Nope. With the improved NZ passport system, they're issued only in Wellington, London and Sydney. My digital photo was no good: I'd have to get it done the old-fashioned way, with someone signing the back, someone who knows me and has a NZ Passport. After a bit of research, sending it back to New Zealand was going to be the quickest, as it was going to be quicker to send it there than to the one person in Canada who met both criteria! [Although now as I write this, it suddenly occurs to me that I do know someone right in Toronto and another down the road in Windsor. D'oh!] I paid a small fortune for couriers both ways, so what do the passport office do when they [very quickly, to be fair] issue the passport? Put it in the post. The POST! My trusty envoy in Wellington retrieved it and got it on the courier which (a) failed to get it to Auckland for 24 hours (b) retained it in Memphis for a similar period and then (c) when it finally arrived in Toronto, detained it because they don't deliver on Saturdays. Let's not even suggest a Sunday delivery. The post would have been quicker. My Monday involved a refresh of the Fedex website every five minutes - oddly enough, Jess at the hostel I was staying in was quicker to tell me it was there than Fedex.

My time in Toronto was not all bad. I found a nice coffee shop at the main library, Balzacs, and when the right barista was on, the coffee came out perfect. I ate some nice food - great ramen in a wee shop I went into simply because it was the busiest in a line of restaurants, even better dumplings in a place that turned out to have been voted the best Chinese restaurant in Toronto (again, I went in because t was busy). I went twice to a place called Lee Chen just because it was straight outside the public library and then three times to a place called Fran's, a diner started 70 years ago which still sells diner food but is a bit more posh and has a bar, because I enjoyed the atmos and the food. I wasn't carrying my camera around so have hardly any photos, and they're all of food.
Mother's Dumplings

Mother's Dumplings

large_WP_20141023_001.jpgRibs @ Fran's

Ribs @ Fran's


Getting work done was a bit of a trial as Toronto seemed to have a permanent go-slow on the internet - the public library was always rammed, cafes seemed to go slow, the Bora Laskin library at UToronto was transferred into a telephone box while they refurbished, and wouldn't let me use the internet anyway. Oddly enough it was only in the last few days when I tried the rather splendid Robart's library that I got that sorted - I have an eduroam account which has never worked but suddenly decided to leap into life.

I paid a couple of visits elsewhere - a few days down to Niagara, because it is close and really a bit of a cliche. I saw the falls the first evening I was there and then, um, forgot about them. I was staying at the other end of town, in the old part (although I did splurge one night in the Sheraton which is right beside the falls, but I barely heeded them). I was curious about Queen Street, Niagara - it is the old main street, and last time I was there, it seemed doomed: a derelict former department store taking up a lot of space and the shops barely occupied. Now, the department store has been replaced by a nice sort of park and while maybe 35% of the shops are empty, lots of them are quite new business, and there's more coming (although at least two had their closing down signs out). One of the better new businesses is Jeffro's BBQ, although for the life of me, I don't know why I went for stodgy old chicken when he had brisket and ribs.
Niagara

Niagara

large_IMG_9707.jpglarge_WP_20141026_002.jpglarge_WP_20141026_001.jpgJeffro's BBQ

Jeffro's BBQ

large_WP_20141026_004.jpglarge_WP_20141028_002.jpg
Saving the best for last, my other visit was out the other direction, technically to Whitby as that's where I stayed (and spent a day working in the wonderful Whitby public library), but really to visit some friends in Peterborough. I was picked up in the morning in Whitby and chauffeur driven up to Peterborough, where a promise made a couple of years ago to take me to Costco was honoured. I gave Jim strict instructions that if I looked like I was going to buy something ridiculous because it was cheap, like a tonne of toilet-paper - so impractical to carry - he was to shoot me. We wandered around sampling anything that looked palatable (from the people providing samples, not the shelves), had one of their very cheap but still tasty hotdogs and shopped. I was shown the sights of Peterborough - it really is a pleasant town - and taken out to the Lift Lock, which was the highest lift in the world when built: it lifts vessels 65 feet when the standard was just 7. No action when we were there, unfortunately.

Trent University was also on the agenda - the entire centre campus was designed in the early 1970's by one man, Ron Thom. His design brief must have come from someone like Henry Ford, saying you can use any building product you like, so long as its concrete.
Peterborough Lift Lock

Peterborough Lift Lock

large_WP_20141025_001.jpg
Trent University

Trent University

Trent University

Trent University

large_WP_20141025_005.jpg
I'm being mischevious - it has a lovely setting on the Otanabee River: its library is built out over the river a bit. Not all like the latest addition to the campus, Peter Gzowski College, which admittedly is not in keeping with the rest of the campus.
large_WP_20141025_004.jpglarge_WP_20141025_011.jpgBata Library, Trent University

Bata Library, Trent University

Peter Gzowski College

Peter Gzowski College


After a detour to feed the family animals, it was time to feed ourselves, which we did on a semi constant basis - with a visit to Horton's, another to DQ, a fruitless journey for a do-nut shop and then to a bar for dinner, where I gained a memento of my visit: a ceremonial pair of chopsticks with which I was supposed to eat my dinner, a lamb curry.

Good times, all day. Thanks guys.
Hooligans

Hooligans

Posted by NZBarry 13:32 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

St John's

overcast 20 °C

Being stuck away on the East coast of Canada makes Halifax just a bit awkward to leave. My plan had been to catch an overnight ferry which runs from the south of Nova Scotia down to Portland, Maine but it finished running for the year a bit before I was ready to leave. Then inspiration struck: why not go to an even more remote place? A while ago, I read Theatre of Fish by John Gimlette, who wrote about his touring around Newfoundland, tracing the footsteps of his great-Grandfather and noting the devastation to small maritime communities when they could no longer fish for cod, and more recently I read The Shipping News. They both made me want to spend some time there. While I wouldn't have time to get out and explore the Rock, I could at least have a few days to St John's and fly on to the States from there.

Halifax didn't seem all that keen to let me go: I was well in time for the hourly airport bus, but it was not there. Other buses came through, and I found out that there was a gas leak which had led to the road being closed and big traffic jams, and that's where my bus was stuck. I got talking to three others waiting for the same bus - three New Zealanders, as it happens, on their way to a wedding on Cape Breton - and we decided to share a taxi. Of course, then there were no taxis and none of us knew how to get one, but eventually one turned up to drop a passenger off at the bus stop, so we were finally on our way - with the airport bus pulling in just as we left.

St John's turned out to be a great wee city - first settled in the early 1600's, it only formally incorporated in 1921 and has about 200,000 residents. It was the kick off point for the first transatlantic flight and has a Marconi history of its own, as the first transatlantic radio message was received here. It was largely a fishing port until the fishery collapsed in the 1980's, but has had an oil boom - the main CBD is in much better health than Halifax. It is essentially two long main streets (Duckworth and Water) running along the harbour's edge, so close that you'll ships tied up at the ends of some streets.
St John's Harbour

St John's Harbour

large_IMG_9667.jpglarge_IMG_9669.jpglarge_WP_20141019_002.jpglarge_IMG_9693.jpglarge_WP_20141019_006.jpg
The whole town is built on the side of a hill - I doubt that there are more than about 10 square metres of naturally flat land in the whole place. About three kilometres up the hill is where they've put both the public library and the university - so I spent my time there trundling along the main streets, climbing the hills up to the university and, of course, doing some work there, getting claustrophobic in the extremely high shelving.
large_WP_20141016_017.jpg
One of the unique features of the place is its colourful houses, with about as many stories about how they came to be that way as there are colours - the two leading contenders for most accurate story are that fishermen painted their houses the same colour as their boats, so they could find them or that it is the St John's way of giving the finger to the fog and general grey weather - I didn't see the sun until my last day, and that only happened because we got hit by the tail end of a hurricane, which cleared away all the cloud.
Coloured Houses, Misty Day

Coloured Houses, Misty Day

large_270_IMG_9702.jpglarge_IMG_9700.jpglarge_IMG_9706.jpgNewfoundland National War Memorial

Newfoundland National War Memorial

large_270_IMG_9696.jpglarge_IMG_9689.jpglarge_270_IMG_9703.jpg
That last picture is of a very cool record shop, Fred's, which had lots of local music - I spent a couple of hours in there and came out with a couple of discs, including one by Ilia Nicol. I was looking for something to do that night and more than a little surprised to find that Ilia Nicol had a gig that very night. I'd talked a bit about local music with the guy at Fred's and he never mentioned it, and he obviously knew she was playing as I saw him there. The gig was in a venue called the Levee in St John's infamous George Street, made infamous by having the greatest concentration of bars in all of North America, most of them playing music, loudly (once they finally open, that is, at 10:30 at night).

Ilia was actually up first in the line out - on her CD she's quite mellow, but live there's quite a bit more energy - she needed it, because the Levee is in a little courtyard it shares with three other bars - one doing very loud rock and roll, another doing some sort of goth-heavy metal mash-up and the other, who knows, no-one could hear what was happening. The next band up was another local band called the Domestics - it took me a while to warm to them, but then they did this amazing song called What Kind of Man Are You, where the band took a back seat and let the rather mournful vocals shine. I also enjoyed their last song - You're Never Coming Back. They were kind enough to tell us that Gonzales (the former hurricane) had been further downgraded from a tropical storm, then spent a few minutes telling us how to prepare for a storm.

The main event was a band called the Naysayers, three bearded guys and a rock chick, 30's, in from Dawson City, Yukon - very loud, with an acoustic guitar, played furiously: in that venue, I found the music relentless. Most of the crowd disappeared when they came on, although a different group came in so it wasn't deserted. I'm afraid I deserted, however, they just weren't doing it for me. Outside I had a fairly random confrontation with an attractive enough woman in a green greatcoat. She came toe to toe with me, raving about some sort of implement she wants from US, waved her hands around to illustrate its size. The only thing I understood is it is for smoking, its like smoking 5 cigarettes at once, not e-cig, not hookah and it won't kill you. Sounds magic. After all that, I needed a bad kebab.
Entry to George Street

Entry to George Street

Ilia Nicol & Band  @ The Levee

Ilia Nicol & Band @ The Levee

large_IMG_9677.jpglarge_IMG_9678.jpgThe Domestics @ The Levee

The Domestics @ The Levee

George Street

George Street


Downtown had very few chainstores - a couple of Subways, a Hortons, a Starbucks, but otherwise it was all local shops and cafes and one thing that struck me was the number and quality of the menswear shops - I went into one, Chafe & Sons, which has been going for more than 80 years. It was a sizeable shop, so much stock I could hardly move. One illustration of the depth of their stock: they'd put up a shelf which ran the entire length of one wall, maybe a metre down from the ceiling - the shelf was stacked to the ceiling with caps! I'd been planning to buy a cheap belt from somewhere like Walmart, but I was happy to pay these guys a bit more. Just along from there is an amazing cafe - the Rocket Bakery - which I came across in my first walk and made a point of going to every day I was there - a couple of the staff were a bit off, but the rest were great, nice food, nice coffee but it was the shop itself which spoke to me.
Rocket Bakery

Rocket Bakery

large_WP_20141019_009.jpglarge_WP_20141019_008.jpglarge_WP_20141019_011.jpglarge_WP_20141019_012.jpg
large_WP_20141019_007.jpg
Just along from there is another cafe I swore I wouldn't go into (I think that cafes which can't do better than name themselves coffee or bean or variants thereof don't get my business), but I was wandering past Coffee & Company and there were a couple of old guys doing some really authentic music, the woman behind the counter was rather, um, appealing and they had fantastic cakes. Another cafe I stumbled across was in The Rooms - the local museum - which is where I took the elevated photos of the harbour. I mentioned I had a bad experience with cod on Cape Breton Island - here they had codcakes, so I thought I'd give them a go. Alright, I guess. I had a third go at cod - coming back down the hill, I was hit by a downpour just as I passed a cod shop - I think its official, I don't like north Atlantic cod.
large_WP_20141018_002.jpg
Codcakes & Beer @ The Rooms

Codcakes & Beer @ The Rooms


Last couple of pictures don't really fit anywhere else - the Newfoundland Supreme Court, and then up past the Cathedral, the entrance to another church caught my fancy.
Supreme Court of Newfoundland

Supreme Court of Newfoundland

large_WP_20141019_005.jpglarge_WP_20141019_004.jpglarge_WP_20141016_009.jpg
I need to finish by talking about the hostel - in some ways its one of the worst I've been in - just two toilets, so that I had to go to the cafe next door, and four chairs to sit on in the kitchen area. But it was one of those "it was the worst of times, it was the best of times" kind of places - one of the best hostel experiences I've ever had. I happened to mention to Elizabeth in the office that I was finding it weird that there was nowhere to sit - apparently the office is where people come to chill: I met heaps of people but best of all were the three women who worked there, Elizabeth from Toronto (obsessed with Brazil), Jeannine from Germany (obsessed with whales) and Laura from Bulgaria (obsessed with rum). I had been planning to go for a final night out on the Saturday, and was occupying 25% of the seating in the kitchen pre-loading (having ONE quiet beer!) when they came in. I fell for all three, as a collective.

Posted by NZBarry 16:04 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

On the Trail of Two Heroes

all seasons in one day 26 °C

When I was so much younger than I am today, I had an interest in electronics and radio. I made crystal set radios (that work without any power source),oddly shaped aerials, amplifiers, a malfunctioning power supply and the like. I read most of the magazines and several books devoted to these hobbies and in the course of doing so formed a vague admiration for a couple of 19th century inventors (but, oddly enough, when I had to do a school project about someone I admired, I wrote about that well-known Victorian inventor, Gandhi). I was more than a little surprised to find that both of the guys I admired when I was young have a pretty strong connection with Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia.

Alexander Graham Bell run aground (literally) on Cape Breton, and was so taken with the place that he established his estate, Beinn Bhreagh, just south of Baddeck and lived there for the last 30 years of his life. Here, he participated in the first manned flight of an aircraft in the British Commonwealth and developed some very fast hovercrafts, setting a watercraft speed record of 71 miles an hour (Lake Bras d'Or, being so big, would have helped). I was not able to look around Beinn Bhreagh, as it is closed to the public, but Parks Canada have built a shiny museum in Bell's honour in Baddeck.
Alexander_Graham_Bell

Alexander_Graham_Bell

Alexander Graham Bell Museum

Alexander Graham Bell Museum

large_WP_20140920_018.jpgNot a Bell Telephone

Not a Bell Telephone


There is a Bell Aliant telephone company - even if there is no connection with Bell, the least they could have done was put a Bell telephone outside the Bell Museum. Going in, there is a long time line setting out his various achievements, put into the context of world developments. One of the quotes was rather prophetic, albeit a bit early - he wrote a letter moaning to his wife that "the days of handwriting are gone forever; they belong to the 19th century". Yesterday, I went into two big stationery/office product shops - neither had any sort of writing pad, the type you use to write letters!

Something I didn't know about Bell (among the many things) was that he was very keen on phonetics, following in his dad's footsteps and given practical importance to him because Mabel, his wife, was deaf. She was actually his student, Using his method, visible speech, deaf people could communicate. I tried, but I coudn't work out how it works.
Visible Speech Alphabet

Visible Speech Alphabet

large_IMG_9353.jpg
Naturally, there was a fair amount of telephone related stuff - including the photophone, a very early version of a cell-phone, in that it transmitted speech without wires (using lightwaves) - they had it working but couldn't see it having practical significance. Another, his Liquid Transmitter, used water - for those who understand such things, here's a description I found of how it works:

The operating principle of a liquid transmitter is quite simple. A wire attached to the bottom of a parchment diaphragm is adjusted so that it just barely makes contact with the water, which is made electrically conductive with a small amount of acid. Words spoken above the diaphragm cause it to flex up and down, making the attached wire have more or less contact with the acidulated water, thereby changing the circuit resistance. The resulting current variations in the listening device reproduce the original sounds. Properly set up, a liquid transmitter can transmit remarkably clear conversations.

Cellphone, 1880 version

Cellphone, 1880 version

large_IMG_9369.jpg

The main event, however, looks to his association with the early days of flight. He must have been an annoying sort of husband - he had an idea that required objects of a particular shape - Mrs Bell came home one day to find all of the washbasins had been removed, welded together and were out on the lake. He was also a bit of a night owl - but apparently was not amused when Mrs Bell told him that she'd had a painting made of him, although he obviously got over it, because the painting took pride of place in his office.
Bell's Office

Bell's Office


He started with a kite so big that it would carry two men, Cygnet, which he flew on 6 December, 1907. I've seen photos of this as being in the museum, but didn't see it - maybe it was out flying? There was a group of kids outside the museum having fun with their kites. Bell made another kite, with an engine - Cygnet II - which would not lift off but was a stepping stone to making the Silver Dart, which he flew off the ice of the frozen lake at Baddeck on 23 February, 1909.

He had already moved on - a year earlier, he met a young American engineer called Baldwin, who became the son the Bells never had, and they started work on hydrofoil speedboats, which they called hydrodomes. This was their way to get powered flight - the hydrofoils would lift the hull, give it enough speed to allow it to fly. The first version was launched in 1911, but the HD-4 seems to have been the go. I don't know why, but he never actually rode in it, but Mabel did and enjoyed it "immensely". I don't think it actually flew, but it did set speed records. Unfortunately for the project (but a good thing for the rest of the world), World War 1 came to an end, and his funders were no longer interested. It seems criminal, but the hull just sat outside his house for decades - it is now in the museum, together with a replica of HD-4.
Flight Wing, Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

Flight Wing, Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

large_IMG_9357.jpglarge_WP_20140920_003.jpgHD-4 Replica

HD-4 Replica


large_WP_20140920_007.jpgHD-4 Original

HD-4 Original

large_WP_20140920_013.jpglarge_WP_20140920_009.jpg
As for my second hero, I was warned by the ranger at the Bell Museum not to expect much. After doing the Cabot trail, I headed east to Sydney and then to a town on the coast called Glace Bay, where I followed a large number of signs, before I finally found my destination. It is here that the very first transatlantic radio signal was sent from west to east (a year earlier, one had been received at St John's, New Brunswick. The man in charge of both sites was this fellow:
Guglielmo_Marconi

Guglielmo_Marconi


To say there was not much going on would be to overstate the activity. At the best of times, little seems to happen here, but when I was there, the site had closed for the season. Oh well, seeing the coastline was worth it.
Marconi National Historic Site

Marconi National Historic Site

large_270_IMG_9456.jpgCoastline, Glace Bay

Coastline, Glace Bay


Not really - because all of my buggering about meant I missed something quite spectacular. In Halifax, there are a couple of forts built to defend against the French, who had their own fort, just down the coast a bit from Sydney, at Louisbourg. I knew I would not be able to get in because it was so late but I thought I'd at least be able to get a look at the outside. The first two photos are found on the internet, the third is mine, taken from as close as I could get:
Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg


There was not much going on in Louisbourg, but it was a long way to anywhere else, so I thought I had better eat - the only place that seemed to have people in it also looked kind of interesting and, being on the coast, I thought the fish would be good. Problem is, I ordered cod, which is not at all like the delicious blue cod we get back home. This was not entirely the restaurant's doing: I have been all scientific and tried it somewhere else - not much better. By the time I'd eaten it was well after dark - so I have no idea as to whether what looks like a great drive down the east coast of Lake Bras d'Or has any nice views. Apart from a quick Horton's stop, I just kept driving until I hit Antigonish, back on the mainland, where I stayed. After a very nice visit (in heavy rain) to the Tall and Small cafe, it was back to Halifax for me.
Grubstake Restaurant

Grubstake Restaurant

large_WP_20140921_020.jpglarge_WP_20140922_001.jpg

Posted by NZBarry 14:29 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 181) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »