The Gateway to the North

Travel through time when you visit the gateway to the north; the beautiful community of Sault Ste Marie.

Bridge to the StatesSitting near the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, Sault Ste. Marie is a community with a rich local history steeped in the steel and shipping industries.  Opened in 1962, the three-arch Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge spans the St. Mary’s River, connecting the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

The reason why my friend and I were here: to cross one of those adventures we’d wanted to do for years off our bucket list – The Agawa Canyon Tour Train is one of the great train trips in North America.

And what is not to like about trains, the look, the feel, the smells and sounds come together in a symphony of delight.  Our anticipation was soon to be sated.  We had arrived in the Soo (as affectionately known) on Tuesday evening after a 6 hour drive through some spectacular scenery of its own from Orillia.  We had allowed a day for rest and relaxation before heading out again only this time with an engineer driving.

Algoma Canyon Park

This one-day wilderness train tour takes you 183 km north of Sault Ste. Marie, over towering trestles and along pristine northern lakes and rivers, to the Agawa Canyon created more than 1.2 billion years ago.

 

Since we did not know the Soo that well, we decided to go into town the day before the trip to suss out where the train station was in order to arrive on time (we tend to get lost a lot, I don’t know why).  After two failed attempts (one at the hands of a tourism info guide), we found the station and confirmed we were indeed booked for the next day, would we like to have our tickets so that we could avoid the line-up the next morning and just wait on the platform.  Would we?? Yes! She also told us where to park the next morning as our compartment number boarded to the right of the station.  Fantastic!  See, sometimes it pays to scout ahead.

The next morning we were up before the sun to be at the station for an 8 o’clock departure.  It was a cloudy day but we were hoping the sun would burn off the clouds once we reached the Canyon floor.  Unfortunately, the train’s departure was delayed by an hour due to an electrical problem but this did not dampen our enthusiasm and when it appeared blowing it’s whistle, the crowd cheered and we were off.

We appreciated that everyone was given a guide so we knew where we were. Also, there was an audio guide that played intermittently throughout the train, giving useful information about the sights and some history of the Soo.  A few of the highlights included spectacular vistas of Lake Superior and a thrilling ride across a train trestle bridge.

CautionSoon enough, we were at the Agawa Canyon Park. We had an hour and a half to explore. We chose to do the Lookout stairs which is somewhat not for amateurs but we did it anyways.  High-fives all around.  The view was well worth it.  As we had some time left we decided to walk to the Black Beaver Falls.  We didn’t have enough time left to go to the Bridal Falls which we passed by on the way in. We spent the rest of our time slowly making our way back to the train and taking a few photos and taking in the scenery.  And yes, the sun did come out a bit to make our day.

We heard the woot of the train whistle and knew it was time to board again. The next few hours were spent with enjoyable conversation with our fellow travellers. We met a lovely couple from Wisconsin who were retired and had been married over 50 years, no small feat I assure you. We pulled into the station tired but content from our day’s journey and having crossed off another must do off the bucket list.

As a side note:  Group of Seven Painters came to the Algoma area from 1918–1923, including Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer. They rented a boxcar and outfitted it like a cabin which was shunted to sidings near choice painting locations. From there they would go along the track on foot and by canoe throughout the wilderness. Their paintings became famous, as did the area they painted.

Tallest sunflower on record – over 30 feet!

Do you ever sit in the afternoon sun and ponder about how many different species of sunflowers there are in the world.  The answer my friend is 70.  You can rest easy now knowing that fact but did you also know that each sunflower is actually made up of thousands of tiny individual flowers, up to 2000.   And they are not always yellow.

I write about these today because I see them all over the place at this time of year except of course in my own garden.  I hate to admit it but I cannot grow them there and I have tried, oh yes, I have tried.  Since my husband loves them, I have periodically through the years, bought different ones and planted them in different spots in the garden and they die.  I don’t know why!  Subsequently, now I just take pictures of them and then give him a card every once in awhile so he can enjoy them if not in the flesh so to speak then through a photograph.  Below are some facts regarding sunflowers for you.

Famous Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh did a series of paintings called Sunflowers. 

Kansas is often known as the Sunflower state and the flower is in fact Kansas’s state flower. The sunflower is also the national flower of Ukraine.

Sunflower was  an important source of food for Native Americans. They used yellow pigment from the flowers to paint their bodies during spiritual rituals and to make dyes for fabrics. Also, they used sunflowers in medical purposes and for the production of bread.

Another factor that has a big influence on the meaning of  sunflowers is the belief (in Chinese culture especially) that they bring good luck. It’s believed that sunflowers are the ideal bloom to fill a home with a sense of safety and good fortune.

Sunflowers have also gone to space – specifically the International Space Station with astronaut Don Pettit in 2012.

Baseball players now substitute chewing sunflower seeds for tobacco which I think is not only prudent (less danger of contracting cancer of the mouth for one) but healthy as they provide Vitamin D and minerals to give them more energy. Along with health concerns, the slow pace of baseball provides players an excellent opportunity to find something to keep them busy. Chewing gum and seeds are also an excellent way to cope with the nervous energy built up during a high tension game.

And for your musical treat of the day

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Music from the Sixties

Feeling nostalgic today and thinking about the British Invasion when we finally heard music from outside North America and what a treat it was.  Now I realize that the Beatles and the Rolling Stones are the best known of the groups back then but one of my favourite bands was the Dave Clark Five which I stenciled onto the back of a sweater to promote my love of them as a teenager.  Good times back then and still enjoyable today.

 

 

Though the Zombies are more likely known for their big single “She’s Not There” which is very much deserved I’ve always liked this song.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio this year.

Another great group with many songs that I like especially  “Don’t Let the Sun Catch you Crying” and “I’ll be There” but this one stands out for me.

 

While the Beatles kick-started the British Invasion causing mass hysteria in teenaged girls who cried and fainted and yelled and screamed sometimes drowning out their music, there were many bands who came after them like:

Herman’s Hermits – The Animals (also one of my favourite groups) – Yardbirds – The Hollies – The Kinks – Freddie and the Dreamers – The Searchers – The Who – Chad and Jeremy – The Small Faces – The Tremeloes – Procol Harum – and many more!

They helped shape my love of music – Motown, Rockabilly, the Blues, Rock and Roll, Jazz, World Music, alternative, Cajun and on and on.  What would this world be like without music – I shudder at the thought!  There are songs that I hear that take me right back to a certain place and time and feeling as if it just happened.  I hope you enjoy this small sample of the British Invasion!

 

 

Two great singers gone too soon!

From time to time I like to reflect on songs, books, movies, situations that had an impact on me.  I hope that you will benefit from the following female singer/songwriters as I did.

Lhasa de Sela  Related image

“For four days after she died, it snowed in Montreal, it was as if the sky were grieving” –posted by Denis Spichak on you tube comments! 

Born to an American mother and a Mexican father in Big Indian, upstate New York the singer-songwriter died in her home, after a 21-month battle with breast cancer. She was 37 years old.  Known professionally as Lhasa, she marked the world music scene with her dreamy and ethereal songs, written and recorded in Spanish, French and English.

Lhasa grew up on the road, travelling in a converted school bus with her nomadic family. She eventually followed her sisters to Montreal, where she settled at 19.

In 1997, Montreal-based singer Lhasa de Sela released her first album, La Llorona, (the crying woman, in Spanish) an album of emotion-drenched songs that drew on the traditions of Mexican balladeers, French chansonniers, and Quebecois poets. The album was a huge international hit, selling 400,000 copies in France alone, and in its wake Lhasa performed several times in Vancouver, BC gaining a strong local following. Then she disappeared completely from the radar–no touring, no albums, no nothing–leaving legions of fans wondering what became of the elfin singer with the smoky, impassioned voice.

Extensive touring with the Canadian all-female music festival Lilith Fair left Lhasa feeling burnt out, and in 1998 she stepped out of the spotlight and joined Pocheros, her sisters’ touring circus, in France.

Lhasa settled in the south of France to write songs for her second album, The Living Road, recorded in French, English and Spanish. The Times of London named her sophomore work as one of the 10 best world albums of the decade.

Her ultimate album, called Lhasa, a collection of English songs recorded live, was launched at Montreal’s Corona Theatre.  Lhasa cancelled her 2009 tour because of her illness.

I first saw her perform with her very tight band at the Vancouver Folk Festival in the late 90’s and was captivated by her voice and strong persona whilst performing.  I had no idea what she was singing but I identified with the raw, emotional context.  My husband and I also caught her at the River Run Centre in Guelph a few years before she died.

 

            Lhasa de Sela, singer-songwriter, born 27 September, 1972; died 1 January, 2010

 


Eva Cassidy  Image result for Eva Cassidy photo

“Whatever genre she is singing, she totally nails. Gospel, country, blues, jazz, r & b. She makes every song her own. She was a rare talent, gone way too soon.”

Don’t be surprised if you have never heard of the talented singer and musician Eva Cassidy. Most people in the United States are not familiar with her or her music. If you live in the United Kingdom, chances are you probably have listened to this amazing American songstress as she reached popularity there long before being known in her native country.  One of her songs ‘Songbird’ is in the 2003 Christmas movie “Love Actually”, her music was featured on the Sopranos and in a Madonna documentary.  For those fans of the Netflix show “Grace and Frankie” – Eva’s song “Who Knows Where the Time Goes from the Imagine album played at the end of the final episode (episode 13 “The Sign’) of Season 3 as Grace and Frankie are going up in the hot air balloon. 

After having a malignant mole removed from her back in 1993, the melanoma spread to other parts of her body. Despite treatment, she lost her battle with cancer in November, 1996. Sadly, Eva Cassidy was only 33 years old when she died. Her parents, Barbara and Hugh Cassidy live in Bowie, Md., in the house where Eva, the third of their four children, came to stay in her final months, so her mother could care for her. Barbara Cassidy worked for years in a flower nursery, as did her daughter. Hugh is a retired special-education teacher. Like Eva, he is both musical, playing the cello and bass, and artistic. He produces metal sculptures; she was a painter who created murals for local schools.

In 1998, Blix Records released “Songbird.” The collection featured some songs taken from Blues Alley, others were recorded by Biondo (from her band) at his studios.

The record had middling success in most of the United States. But Cassidy’s posthumous career took off when a BBC producer in London got a copy of “Songbird” and began playing a live version of “Fields of Gold” and a studio rendition of “Over the Rainbow.” The phones lit up. The U.K. was enthralled. An amateur video of Cassidy singing “Over the Rainbow” filmed at Blues Alley was played on BBC-TV’s “Top of the Pops” and quickly became the most-requested video in the program’s history, according to the show’s producers. A handful of gold record singles and millions of CD sales followed.

 

My husband loves the organ in the first song and I love the saxophone on this one!  A great talent gone too soon!  A shy, introvert who could be stubborn and didn’t want to be pigeonholed never got to enjoy her fame and fortune …but who will live on eternally in her music.

Eva Cassidy – born 2nd Feb, 1963 and died 2nd of Nov, 1996


 

Cleveland, Ohio … Not the armpit of the world

For some unknown reason, at least to me, Cleveland is a city in America that has been called the ‘armpit of the world’ by some poor bloke that probably has never visited the place.  This past May two four week-end which we lovingly call the Victoria Day week-end in Canada – and for many shaking off the shackles of a long, cold winter has come to mean the celebration of warm weather finally arriving – and of course…a case of beer or two!

So, my husband and I took off on the Saturday morning to spend three days, two nights in Cleveland which is about six hours drive plus the wait at the border to cross which can be long.  I believe, we were over in a half hour so all was good, plus we had great tunes on the drive.  Doesn’t take much to make us happy!  Since we hadn’t had breakfast we stopped near Erie, Pennsylvania for lunch.  Fortified, we were on our way again.  Two things I noticed – there were so many deer dead on the side of the road or in the meridian and I felt incredibly bad for them …although I’m sure it was no picnic for the poor bugger who ran into them.  Secondly, there was a lot of road construction, happily being a Saturday they weren’t working, but I made a mental note to prepare for those work slowdowns on the way back.

Cleveland Museum of Art atrium
The atrium at Cleveland Museum of Art

Having a limited amount of time to enjoy the city, we nonetheless managed to pack quite a bit into the next two days.  Early in the morning on Sunday, we visited the Cleveland Museum of Art which is stunning and right next to the Botanical Gardens.  It is closed on Mondays so our only option was Sunday.  Located at 11150 East Boulevard. www.ClevelandArt.org

View from our seats way out Unfortunately, we only had two hours to visit as we were attending the Cleveland Indian ballgame that afternoon with Baltimore (the Orioles were badly crushed).  Progressive Field is a great ballpark and after watching a few innings from our seats we walked around to the other side to get different viewpoints and talked to a number of fans about their ball club and life in general.

East 4th Street.JPGAfter the game we had a quick appetizer and cocktail at 4th Street which is a pedestrian friendly alley with twinkling patio lights all along the length of it.

Ralphies,We decided to go and visit Ralphie’s house from “A Christmas Story”  which is one of our favourite Christmas shows to watch every year about the young boy who wanted a BB gun for Christmas and everyone kept telling him “you’ll shoot your eye out”.  If you’ve never seen it, it will give you a good idea of how cold it can get in the winter.  Located at 3159 West 11th Street and open from 10 am – 5 pm.

Guardians of Traffic on Hope Memorial BridgeNaturally, I had to get some photos of the Guardians of Traffic which are art deco sculptures on each end of the Hope Memorial Bridge (formerly Lorain-Carnegie) behind Progressive Field and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  The figures are carved from 43 foot tall local Berea sandstone.  I couldn’t believe how close everything was.  We walked for miles that day.  At the end of the evening we had a nice Italian meal at Carrabba’s in Westlake and fell into bed pleasantly exhausted.

Cleveland rocks.JPGMonday morning we headed back home but first we stopped off at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which I highly recommend if you enjoy music at all.  Long Live Rock and Roll. We did not see everything we would have liked so we will now have to go back and spend another couple of days sometime in the future.  Do you ever really get to see everything in one City?  All in all a very enjoyable few days away.


 

Toronto’s hidden jewel – highlighting the mundane but essential function that makes cities possible

One of Canada’s most spectacular public works and a tour de force of architecture lies at 2701 Queen St. E. in Scarborough, Ontario.  Providing the essence of survival to at least 35% of Torontonians, it is a marvel of engineering and produces drinking, bathing and cooking water to residents who don’t give its easy access a second thought.

What would happen if you couldn’t bathe, shave, have tea in the morning or flush your toilet….  Pandemonium, that’s what!  Something that we take for granted in our privileged lives…the simple act of having water!

Toronto’s main treatment plant, the R. C. Harris buildings produce around 35% of the city’s water.  Lake Ontario water is treated with a coagulant and pumped on top of several beds (water basins) which are covered in charcoal. The water filters down the charcoal and the successively coarser layers of rock underneath it, until it reaches an underground reservoir. Chemicals are added then, mainly fluoride and chlorine, the treated water sits in the basins for several hours allowing sediment to sink to the bottom, then it is treated with more filtering and presto bango bingo, water is delivered to almost a third of the citizens of Toronto.

  • Produces more than 120,000 million litres of water annually
  • Can produce 950 million litres daily

I would like to pay tribute to the man who built this ‘Palace of Purification’ for whom the building was named…Roland Caldwell Harris, Toronto’s commissioner of public works from 1912 until 1945. The water plant, and other Toronto landmarks such as the Bloor Street viaduct, were built during his tenure.  Architect Thomas Canfield Pomphrey designed the plant, that was built in phases throughout the 1930s in the art deco style opening in 1941.

The pumps in the low-lift room, seen from the gallery at the west end of the room, deliver raw water to the Filter Building for treatment.  Each pump is numbered; the elaborate limestone signal panel indicates which pumps are operating

The use of rich materials like marble and bronze in the interior (plus the extensive limestone carvings on the exterior helped earn the nickname “Palace of Purification”.

If you are ever in Toronto for an extended visit and have the time, you should definitely have a picnic on the grounds and inspect the many buildings comprising the plant.  It is incredible.

For a previous post on water, see the ‘essence of life’.  For a flash to the past, check out this video which really has nothing to do with the subject of this piece but I played it endlessly when travelling through Europe in 1986.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta lies on the Pacific Coast and is the chief port of Jalsico estado (state) in West-Central Mexico.  Over the years it has gone from a sleepy fishing village to the third largest destination in Mexico and hosts nearly 2 million visitors each year though its population is 300,000.  I have known people that have been going down there every winter for the past twenty years and I recently got to see for myself why they go back every year.  I suspect its chief claim to fame was when the director, John Huston, filmed “Night of the Iguana” 8 miles south of here in 1964 and the subsequent publicity helped put Puerto Vallarta on the map.  The movie starred Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon.  Richard’s girlfriend, Elizabeth Taylor accompanied him though both of them were married to others at the time.  How scandalous!

churchExplore the architectural wonder of the town’s centerpiece, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the focal point of a 12-day festival in December that marks the founding of Puerto Vallarta in 1851. White-washed villas with red-tile roofs, many capped with small domes sparkle in the hillside.  Spanish explorers had great influence on this region’s architecture, importing their arches, domes and courtyards.


For now, I will simply showcase five of the many sculptures that you will find when you stroll the Malecon (boardwalk) in the ‘old town’ region.

caballito de mar by rafael zamarripa, 1976Let’s start with the 1976 bronze of a boy waving while riding a sea horse by Rafael Zammarripa or the Caballito de Mar.  There are numerous sculptures lining the boardwalk, not all of which I took photos as they were generally encircled by tourists or they didn’t speak to me.  However, I might have paid more attention to some if I had done any research before my visit.  Poor planning on my part, I hate to admit.

 

the friendship fountain by james bottoms and ocatvio gonsalez gutierrez, 1987Next is the Friendship Fountain (Dancing Dolphins) created in 1987 by James (Bud) Bottoms, a Californian sculptor and environmentalist with co-artist Octavio Gonzalez Gutierrez, a Mexican sculptor best known for his Vallarta whale.  The use of dolphins is inspired by a Chumash Indian myth in which the Earth Goddess, Hutash creates a rainbow bridge, Wishtoyo, to help the Indians cross over to the mainland, along the way some looked down (despite being told not to do so) and fell off the bridge, to prevent them from drowning they were transformed into dolphins and since then the Chumash have considered them as brothers.

triton and mermaid by carlos espino, 1990
The Triton and Mermaid is a bronze sculpture fashioned by Carlos Espino in 1990 (born in Mexico City, May 3rd, 1953).  (Also found under the name “Neptune and the Nereid”, “Triton and the Nereid” or “Poseidon and the Nereid”). It depicts Triton, a merman, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite (God and Goddess of the sea respectively) reaching out to a Mermaid.

the subtle rock eater by jonas guitierriz, 2006Our fourth sculpture is a 2006 whimsical figure named “El Sutil Comepiedras”, (The Subtle Rock Eater) by Guadalajara artist Jonas Gutierrez moulded out of bronze, obsidian and stone.  When asked, the author states that he feels that negative emotions are like stones which we swallow through life. So this figure is certainly very artistically going through life digesting negativity at a rapid pace yet surprisingly unaffected so perhaps he is trying to help mankind by devouring all the negativity so that we can be spared.  One thing is for sure, you either love it or hate it!  I kind of think he’s cute!

 

xiutla folkloric ballet by jim dementro, 2006
I was utterly enchanted by the sculpture The Xiutla Fokloric Ballet in which a gentleman and his lady are dancing oblivious to the throngs of tourist with eyes only for each other.  This was also created in 2006 by Jim Dementro.  Xiutla means “the place where the vegetation grows” in the Nahua language of the pre-hispanic inhabitants. The Xiutla group was started in 1993 by Professor Enrique Barrios Limón, one of the foremost teachers of dance in Mexico. He used local Puerto Vallarta children to form one of the best troupes in Mexico, one which has toured internationally.  The sculpture captures the fluidity and grace of motion both in her dress and his stance.

Next week, I will highlight some of the restaurants in this beautiful City.  Thanks for visiting!

Loving Vincent and more

Happy New Year everybody, thank you all for hanging in there with me and I hope that 2019 is especially good for you all!


Vincent van Gogh Signature
Mar 30, 1853 – Jul 29, 1890
“I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”….Vincent van Gogh…

“Loving Vincent” is a full length animated feature film in which every scene is hand-painted and is based on the Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh and his paintings.  Now I didn’t know that much about his life other than that he was an impressionist painter who was supported by his brother in his pursuit of his passion and that he had spent time in an asylum because he had a nervous breakdown and had cut off his ear.  Naturally there is a lot more to the man … genius or madman the line between is pretty thin.  He did not start to paint until he was 27 and died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound when he was 37.  He painted over 860 paintings, wrote 800 letters in that time and sketched over 1,000 pieces.  Incredibly prolific and disciplined, attributes I admire and wish I possessed.

“It is not the language of painters but the language of nature which one should listen to, the feeling for the things themselves, for reality, is more important than the feeling for pictures.”

This past week I watched “Loving Vincent” … released in 2017 – the film features 65,000 frames made by 125 painters over the course of 6 years.  It was a passion project for the filmmakers and was funded in part through a Kickstarter fund that helped to pay for the numerous painters and animators required.  It is fascinating to watch many of his famous paintings brought to life in this manner.

“Real painters do not paint things as they are… they paint them as they themselves feel them to be.”

Vincent van Gogh’s artworks provided endless inspiration for artists, but his tragic life story has also captured the hearts of countless musicians, writers and filmmakers too.  There are many movies on his life.  Don McLean’s 1971 hit song “Vincent” is inspired by van Gogh’s unique perspective on the world. He sings, ‘they did not listen, they did not know how… perhaps they’ll listen now’.

“The best way to know God is to love many things.”

His canvases with densely laden, visible brushstrokes rendered in a bright, opulent palette emphasize Van Gogh’s personal expression brought to life in paint. Each painting provides a direct sense of how the artist viewed each scene, interpreted through his eyes, mind, and heart.  His paintings were often completed relatively quickly, as his style was spontaneous and intuitive, which gave some viewers pause.

On this point, he once told his brother, “When anyone says that such and such [painting] is done too quickly, you can reply that they have looked at it too fast.”

Much of Van Gogh’s work has been lost, as many people who owned his work initially thought it to be worthless. His own mother is said to have disposed of full crates of his paintings.  Though it is impossible to assign an exact monetary value on an irreplaceble, unique artistic masterpiece “Starry Night” which is arguably Van Gogh’s most famous work of art is estimated to be worth well over 100 million dollars.

“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” 

In 1987,  “Sunflowers” sold at auction for the incredible amount of 39.9 million dollars.  Even though Van Gogh himself lived in poverty most of his life and sold only one painting in his lifetime he has since become one of the most loved artists of his time.  A sad reminder that most artists never get to reap the rewards and fruits of their labour.

“In the life of the painter, death may perhaps not be the most difficult thing. For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

In May, 2015, Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “L’Allée des Alyscamps” sold  at a Sotheby’s auction for $66.3 million to a private collector from Asia. This is roughly 6 times the price it drew in 2003 when the hammer fell at $11.8 million.

In November of 2017, The 1889 painting, “Laboureur dans un champ,”an oil canvas by Vincent van Gogh fetched $81.3 million in an auction just short of a record sale price for the artist.

cafe “Café Terrace At Night” (1888) is my personal favourite of his works; it is a powerful scene which pulls you into it as if you yourself were strolling the cobblestone streets.  The cafe in Arles still exists today and is a mecca for his many fans visiting the south of France.

Describing this painting in a letter to his sister he wrote, “Here you have a night painting without black, with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green and in this surrounding the illuminated area colors itself sulfur pale yellow and citron green. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot…”

More Vincent van Gogh Artwork

Fourteen Sunflowers in a Vase (1888) The Bedroom (1889) Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889) Starry Night (1889) Church at Auvers (1890) Paul-Ferdinand Gachet (1890)

Portrait of Dr. Gachet — Vincent van Gogh

Sold way back in 1990 for $82.5 million USD (approximately $148-$152 million in today’s money), Vincent van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet was painted in 1890 — the same year van Gogh died. An auction sale, this work sold for much more than Christie’s anticipated — low estimates were predicted at $40 million, and some thought that was too high. Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito thought otherwise and won the auction; however, Saito died in 1996 and the whereabouts of the portrait is unknown though he is stated to have claimed he wanted the work cremated with him.  If true, a tragic loss to the art world.

The #LovingVincent UK Premiere will be broadcast to cinemas nationwide live from the National Gallery on 9th October: www.lovingvincent.film

 

Vincent van Gogh Signature

Lighthouses of PEI

There are 63 lighthouses on PEI according to a 2016 census with 35 still active and 7 which are privately owned.  How cool would that be to live in a lighthouse!  In no particular order are 10 favourites with location and a bit of history.

  1. West Point Lighthouse
    img234Located at 364 Cedar Dunes Park Road in O’Leary.  West Point is the tallest lighthouse at 60 feet, 8 inches and likely the most photographed.  Since it was restored in 1984, it operates as a museum and Country Inn open mid-June till the end of September.  Distinguished by it’s black horizontal banding.  This is the only Island lighthouse that had a dumb waiter which transported oil from the first floor to the fourth floor lightroom.  Due to some unusual unexplained happenings, the West Point Lighthouse had made a list of Canada’s most haunted places.  So for you adventurous types, another
    reason to go and check it out.

 


North Cape Lighthouse2.  North Cape Lighthouse – The biggest advantage of traveling through the western portion of Prince Edward Island to the northernmost tip is that it is much less frequented by tourists. The seacoast is spectacular and the fishing towns like Tignish have lobster, never a bad thing.
North Capes historic lighthouse was built in 1866 and still warning mariners off the treacherous rock reef at its base. The lighthouse is located on a narrow peninsula jutting northeast into the sea and exposed to the elements.  View the fabulous natural rock reef, walk along the beach at low tide, and check out the hundreds of inukshuks that have been built by previous visitors or build one yourself.  Fenced in and not the most attractive of lighthouses but the location is stunning.  Today the lighthouse is almost dwarfed by the giant telecommunications tower adjacent to the lighthouse, as well as the giant windmills at the Atlantic Wind Test Site.



3.  Cape Bear Lighthouse
– 42 Black Brook Road, Cape Bear. Cape Bear is located on the southeastern tip of Prince Edward Island. The coast consists of generally rugged red sandstone cliffs and small secluded beaches. Its high banks offer a good location for viewing seal. The Cape Bear Lighthouse has been in existence since 1881. The lighthouse is a square three story tower with a warning beacon on top. It has gabled windows at each level on three sides of the structure and is open to the public.  The Cape Bear Lighthouse is operated by a volunteer non-profit group, the Northumberland Community Development Corporation. It is open to the public during the summer months. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower to learn about the lighthouse and area. One of the highlights of the museum is a re-created telegraph office.

The "Cape Bear Light" painting captures the Cape Bear Lighthouse

claim to fame – received distress signal from the Titanic which sank off the coast of Newfoundland in 1912.

Painting on the right is by James Charles who gave me permission to post.  Prints are available from the artist.  Click on photo to visit his website.

 


 

4.  Panmure Island lighthouse – Octagonal in shape Panmure was the first wooden lighthouse on PEI – built in 1853 on Route 347 – 62 Lighthouse Road, Montague – In 1984 the Panmure Head lighthouse was recognized as a heritage site and the light was automated in 1985 when the lighthouse keeper retired.  In 2013 it received Official Designation as a Heritage Site.  Panmure Island LighthouseIn December of 2015 the Panmure Island Lighthouse Association, a community volunteer non-profit group, took over ownership of the lighthouse.  The beach, during the summer season has bathroom facilities and a little ice cream shack. It’s incredibly picturesque and not at all crowded.

 


 

5.  Wood Islands Lighthouse  173 Lighthouse Rd, Wood Islands.  Built in 1875-76, the Wood Islands Lighthouse is a well preserved three storey tower clad in cedar shingles with an adjoining one and one half storey keeper’s residence.  Great place to check out while you are waiting for the ferry to Nova Scotia. There is plenty of space to sit and relax and enjoy the view.  Interactive displays on rum running, sea glass, fishing, knot tying, audio interviews with lighthouse keepers, and a climb to the top of the light for some fantastic photo ops but be forewarned as the stairs are rather steep. Wood Island Lighthouse

In 1984 the bottom floor of the tower was renovated when a generator and fog alarm equipment were installed. Recognized as federal heritage building in 1992, it was moved inland 70 m (230 feet) in 2009 because of erosion.

In 1998, the Wood Islands and Area Development Cooperation opened the lighthouse to the public. Visitors will find a gift shop in the lighthouse along with a period bedroom, kitchen, and keeper’s quarters.  It also houses a collection relating to the history of the Norththumberland Ferry Service.  On September 25, 2013, the lighthouse was awarded a Provincial Designated Heritage Place plaque and certificate.


Seacow-Head6.  Sea Cow Head Lighthouse – 198 Lighthouse Road, Bedeque, PEI
photo reprinted with permission of the photographer Stephen Des Roches.  Please click on photo to visit his website.

Built in 1864, this octagonal wooden lighthouse has seen better days. What it does have going for it is great views of the Confederation bridge, it is very close to Summerside,  and has nice looking cliffs nearby. On the downside, the Lighthouse paint is peeling off and the parking area is just a circle of red dirt.

Automated in 1959, Seacow Head Lighthouse has been recognized as a heritage of Prince Edward Island place since October 2012.  Managed by the Canadian Coast Guard.  Mr. M.P. O’Raneghan, keeper of the Seacow Head light, was notable for his long tenure. He was appointed to Seacow Head on 21 April 1873 and served there at least 42 years.

The lighthouse appeared in several episodes of the television series Road to Avonlea


7.  Point Prim Lighthouse–  Point Prim Lighthouse has guided vessels through the southeastern entrance to Hillsborough Bay at the outer approach to Charlottetown Harbour since 1845 and is located at 2147 Point Prim Road, Belfast standing 18.2 m. tall. It is one of only a few circular brick lighthouses in Canada. The harsh weather took a toll on the brick and it had to be shingled just two years after construction. Automated in 1969.  In 2017 – With nearly $400,000 in federal funding, P.E.I.’s oldest lighthouse underwent a much needed makeover and now has washrooms.   Point Prim Lighthouse 1The parking lot was expanded and an open-air pavilion built for hosting events. The upgrades also included stonework along the shoreline to address erosion.  It is about 1/2 an hour drive from Charlottetown.  Open daily from 10 am – 6 pm in season.  Both the chowder house across the street and the bottle house down the road are worth a stop.  The lighthouse is leased by the Belfast Development Corporation and operated by the Point Prim/ Mount Buchans’ Women’s Institute. One of the interesting artefacts on display is an old fashioned fog alarm that is still in working order.


8.  Souris Lighthouse  – 134 Breakwater St., Souris. Built in 1880, Souris East Lighthouse is a white and red square tapered wood constructed tower on the cliff of Knight Point overlooking the town of Souris.  Lighthouse PaintingThe Souris East light station was the last of the 76 on the island to be automated. On June 18, 1991, keeper Francis McIntosh was officially replaced by technology. This is the only lighthouse where you can actually go outside on the top observation deck. Beautiful views of the town and the ferry going in or out, wonderful photo opportunity but again as in most lighthouses the stairs are rather tricky and steep. The Lighthouse contains a large sea glass interpretative display about the history and formation of sea glass.  Run by the Souris Harbour Authority.

 


9.  East Point Lighthouse built in 1866 –  East Point Lighthouse 1At the end of Lighthouse Road in Elmira.  It is situated on the extreme eastern end of Prince Edward Island where the mighty tides of the St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait meet to create a show of nature’s force. The most spectacular part of the convergence takes place at high tide for great photo ops. The lighthouse is well preserved and there is a small gift shop and cafe/bar adjacent, serving great local beer and plenty of parking.  Many visitors come to the site to view the spectacular scenery and tour the lighthouse during the summer months. The Friends of Elmira, a local non-profit group, operate the lighthouse during the summer.


 

10.  Indian Head Lighthouse – Indian Head Lighthouse in Summerside was built in 1881. Because of the small landmass it had to sit on, it was built with a keeper’s residence on the ground floor with its light jutting out of the roof of its octagonal structure. Despite the fact that there was a residence, none of the keepers who manned the light ever lived there full-time. Most rowed or sailed back and forth to the light every day.   In 1997, the lighthouse was decommissioned when Confederation Bridge opened to traffic.Indian Head Lighthouse print

In recent decades, a helicopter has typically been used to access the lighthouse when maintenance or repairs are required.  Still fully operational but not really accessible though if you wait till low tide you can walk out over the boulders to the lighthouse.  Not a beach walk for sure. Plans are afoot for the City of Summerside to take ownership of the lighthouse and promote as a tourist attraction for the City.


LIGHTHOUSES TO MAKE THE NATIONAL HERITAGE LIST ARE:

1. Brighton Front Range in Charlottetown.

2. Cape Bear in Murray Harbour.

3. Cape Tryon Lighthouse in Park Corner.

4.  Covehead Harbour Light.

5. Northport Rear Range.

6. Panmure Head Lighthouse.

7. Point Prim Lighthouse.

 

The Sydney Opera House

Way back in January of 2012, my husband and I took three months off work and traveled to the South Pacific.  We flew to Victoria, Vancouver Island for a short visit to our family in Sooke – then made our way to Fiji via Los Angeles where we stayed at a resort to decompress and have our worries and cares melt away.  After that rejuvenation we were off to New Zealand for two weeks (not enough time I’m afraid, poor planning that) and then to Australia.  Perth, Cairns, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide which I will delve into on another day – primarily I just want to tell you about the iconic Sydney Opera House which you see in most advertisements for Australia.                                Here are some interesting tidbits.

There are more than 1 million glazed white granite roof tiles covering approximately 1.62 hectares sitting over the structure. Imported from Sweden. The highest tip of the Sydney Opera House reaches 67 meters above the water – the equivalent height of a 22 story building. Over 350 kilometers (217 miles) of steel cable was used in the Opera House’s construction, which is long enough to reach from Sydney to Canberra.

There are 6,233 square metres of topaz coloured glass used in the construction of the building. The glass was made to order by Boussois-Souchon-Neuvesel in France in a shade used only by the Sydney Opera House.

The design of the Sydney Opera House was inspired by nature, its forms, functions and colours. Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect who won the design competition (a story in itself) was influenced in his designs by bird wings, the shape and form of clouds, shells, walnuts and palm trees. He looked upon nature for guidance when designing, as nature over time combined both efficiency and beauty, hand in hand.

The Opera house had originally been projected to cost $7 million AUD, but by the time it was finished, it had cost a whopping $120 million AUD.

It was initially estimated that building Sydney Opera House would take four years. Work, however, commenced in 1959 with 10,000 construction workers on site. It was officially opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth – 24 years after breaking ground.

It is one of the most elaborate entertainment venues in the world and has hosted some of the biggest names in the entertainment world. It is home to Opera Australia, The Australian Ballet, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

The House hosts 3,000 events every year.  200,000 people take a guided tour of the building.

The Concert Hall’s Grand Organ is the largest mechanical version of this instrument in the world, with 10,154 pipes. It took ten years to build.

15,500 light bulbs are changed every year at the Opera House.

In 1997, French urban climber, Alain “Spiderman” Robert, using only his bare hands and feet and with no safety devices of any kind, scaled the building’s exterior wall all the way to the top. (Remember that 22 story height earlier).

The Sydney Opera House celebrated its 45th anniversary this year (2018)

Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge has fantastic views of the Opera House, all you need to do is climb up to the top, do you see the line of people inching their way up it in the photograph above??  I wanted to try this but my husband wouldn’t accompany me and it is rather expensive – perhaps a helicopter tour would be just as good, non!