Friday, October 29, 2010


Hull to Wakefield Steam Train
Covered Bridge, Wakefield
At Niagara Falls
Park Near Niagara Falls
I have now reached San Francisco on the last 2 days of my trip and will leave to fly across the Pacific on Friday night.

I travelled by train from Quebec to Ottawa last Thursday with a few hours waiting in Montreal from where I wrote my last post. I liked Ottawa although it was bitterly cold. I have never experienced daytime temperature like that in Dunedin but perhaps I missed the worst of winter there. However this was only mid-Autumn in Ottawa. I finally needed the jacket I had lugged around and had only previously worn on deck in Norway. They said there were some snow flurries in the early morning on Sunday. Ottawa is a pretty city and, of course, the National capital. I had a tour of Parliament house (the library is in the first photo along with the river that separates English speaking Ontario from French speaking Quebec.) the second photo is taken from the clock tower of Parliament house over the city.

On Saturday I took a steam train trip (Photo 3) in Quebec from Hull to Wakefield up into the hills. The engine is over 100 years old. It was the last trip for Fall colours and many trees were bare or with brown leaves but I have included a photo (4) of the covered bridge across the river taken from the train.

That was a lovely sunny day but the Sunday was damp so after Eucharist in St John the Evangelist church almost next door to my hotel, I visited the Museum of Civilisations, again over in Quebec Province. A lot to see there and after a brief look at a display of west coast First nations people, I spent most of my time in the Canada Hall which travels through the history of Canada and its many periods.

On Monday I travelled to Toronto and passed through the town of Brockville. (Some may not know I live in the suburb of Brockville in Dunedin). It is a fairly large agricultural centre.  Sadly soon afterwards our train collided with a car and we had to wait 4 hours before being transferred to a following train. That ended any plans of mine to see much of Toronto but unfortunately I have since learnt that a 12 year old boy died and his Mother was seriously injured.

However Yonge street Toronto was very lively, even on a Monday night. It is a large city much the same size as Sydney with many large modern buildings like in Sydney. My views of the city were at night or in the early morning.

Although I stayed in Toronto 2 nights, I spent a whole day travelling down by train o Niagara Falls and back. I do have proof I was there (Photo 5). The season ended there a few days before, so much was closed down but I walked several miles up and down the river looking across at the USA to where I was to return the next day.  Possible it was good to not have so many crowds although the maid of Mist was not running.  I felt the tree colours there were the best of my trip and have included a photo(6) I took in the park next to the falls.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nova Scotia and Quebec

Cabot Trail
Cabot Trail
Bras D'Or at Baddeck
Chapel of Basilique Notre Dame in Montreal
Botanical Gardens in Montreal
Chinese Gardens in Montreal
Quebec City
I have finished the first part of my time in Canada and am now sitting in the station at Montreal waiting for my train to Ottawa.
Eastern Canada is a place of several languages. Along some of the roads in Cape Breton there were signs in Gaelic and on a bus, I was speaking with an older man who asked me where I came from.  I said he did not sound North American either and he said he was born in Cape Breton but only spoke Gaelic until he went to school. Of course while there we passed through French speaking villages and since coming to Montreal I have been surprised at the lack of English. I think it is harder here than in Paris. I suppose I was unprepared. Before going to France I always do some French revision but not this time.

I had to make some changes in order to do the tour of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton. I had booked 2 nights in the village of Baddeck and planned the day tour on my one full day there. However they would not run a tour with just one person so I ended up staying 3 nights and travelling on my 2nd day with a couple from Maine, USA and a couple from Ottawa. It meant I only spent one night in Halifax so only had a brief look at that city. To get to Baddeck required a 6 hour bus trip each way so it seemed pointless to go all that way and not do the tour. I think Canada, like USA, Australia and even NZ are difficult to see properly by public transport at least if you leave the main cities.

 I spent 4 hours in the terminal at Halifax airport waiting for the bus and discovered that, as it was a holiday Monday, the bus was packed for the first 3 hours with university students returning to college.  Luckily I also emailed the owner of the guest house (The Worn Doorstep) where I was staying to tell her I would be arriving late and asked where the bus stop was. She replied it was out of town about half a mile on the highway. The town has no taxi service so she offered to come and meet me The bus was half an hour late but I was very grateful as it was raining when I arrived.  Gina also drove me out the morning I left and rang around trying to arrange my tour. I was glad to be able to stay an extra night.

The Cabot trip was well worthwhile with great coastal scenery and autumn colours (photos 1 & 2).
On my other day in Baddeck, I wandered around the pretty little town and the shores of the lake Bras D’Or (Photo 3) and visited the museum of Alexander Graham Bell.  While I knew he invented the telephone, I did not know of his many other inventions including in Flight and his work with the deaf including Helen Keller.

After a brief look at Halifax, I boarded the train “The Ocean” for the 21 hour journey to Montreal.

I was disappointed with Montreal but did visit a museum of  it’s history, the very impressive Basilica of Notre Dame (Photo 4, the chapel) and walked around the deserted waterfront. Everything was closed down for the season. There are vast covered shopping areas in which I got easily lost.  Sunday was better when, after attending Choral Eucharist in the cathedral, the sun came out and I spent the afternoon in the vast Botanical gardens. The fall colours were excellent there (Photo 5) and there was a very impressive Chinese garden (photo 6). A lantern festival held at this time every year was a bit overdone.

I like Quebec City much better. It is a very historic old town and, perhaps because of the large number of tourists, my poor French was not such a hindrance. There were great views of the St Lawrence river and a lot of steps to climb up to the old city (Photo 7) and along its walls. Canada is spending a lot of money on roads as a stimulus program and I think they were also rebuilding the Quebec city walls which was not good for photography. I had two lovely sunny days although it was icy in the early morning and evening. I mainly stayed outside but did visit a number of churches and chapels and spent time in the Museum of French America.

Today I have travelled back to Montreal by train and am waiting for the connection to the capital Ottawa.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Farewell "La Stupenda"

My sister has just informed me that Joan Sutherland has died.  I cannot help it, the tears are flowing.  I had her photo on my wall in Australia and had not decided where to put it yet in Dunedin.  Her voice has given me so much pleasure both in the flesh at the Australian Opera and in recordings.  From what I have read, she was a remarkable person. Thankfully I will be able to continue to hear her remarkable voice.
From the Sydney Morning Herald

"SHE was a transcendental performer who had a magic quality that held audiences captive right around the world. Her influence extended well beyond the opera world and reached into popular culture"
"Lyndon Terracini, the artistic director of Opera Australia, said not only was Sutherland the greatest operatic singer Australia has produced but also one of its most generous and supportive ambassadors of the art form.
''I got to sing with Joan at a number of operas at the Sydney Opera House when I was in my 20s and she was always an interested, open and generous colleague. She was not all protective of her turf.
''When she retired from the stage, she was already a legend and no operatic singer including Melba, in my view, has had that impact, not only in her own art form but to the general public.''
''I think she was undoubtedly one of the most unique voices that one is ever likely to have heard and certainly one of the greatest voices in the history of opera,'' said a former artistic director of Australian Opera, Moffat Oxenbould.
''She had an extraordinary professional ethic … She was a very loyal friend, she was somebody who loved being part of a company … she rehearsed when it was necessary all day, all night, she knew the name of everybody with whom she worked. She was just Joan,'' he said."
Sutherland was nicknamed La Stupenda by an audience at Venice's famous La Fenice opera house in 1960 after a performance of Alcina.
Montserrat CaballĂ©´ described the Australian's voice as being like ''heaven'' and Luciano Pavarotti once called Sutherland the ''voice of the century''.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New England

With Mother Amelia
Home of Louisa May Alcott

Some Big Pumpkins

Fall Colours in Acadia National Park

Izzie as a Pumpkin Dog

Decorated Pumpkins in Damascotta
Lake Champlain
The weather has not been entirely kind although hopefully it is improving now.
After two days of rain in New York, I travelled by train along the Hudson River to Albany in beautiful sunshine and, as related in my last message, spent the afternoon walking around that city with my blogging friend Fran.

Sadly the rain returned the next day as I travelled by the Adirondack train further upstate and the journey along shores of Lakes George and Champlain were not as pretty as they could have been.  I was glad however to see Fall (Autumn) colours appearing.
We arrived at Port Kent, across the lake from my destination Burlington, 30 minutes late and in pouring rain. Five people had to run dragging bags about 100 metres down the road to the wharf and as it is a car ferry we were downstairs with only small port holes for the hour trip across the lake. By the time I reached my accommodation I was soaked. It rained most of the following day as well so, after spending an hour or two in a marine museum, I retreated to my room for the afternoon. However it fined in the evening and I discovered the main street is very lively with jazz groups and outdoor dining. Burlington is a university town like Dunedin.

Fortunately Saturday was fine if cold and I spent the morning walking along the lake shore looking at the tree colours.  I had planned a whole day of this but had to be satisfied with a shortened walk of about 5 miles return and then took a cruise on the Lake in the afternoon.
On Sunday I boarded the train, the Vermonter, and spent most of the sunny day travelling down through the states of Vermont and New Hampshire into Massachusetts and finally New Haven in Connecticut. The colours seen in the higher parts were not so evident down near the coast. ,
After a night in New Haven, the rain returned although only light drizzle for the first 2 days, and I travelled to Boston for 3 nights.

The first full day I went up to Concord and visited the home of Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) which was very interesting as well as spending time in the town museum with its history of the Revolution plus stories of Louisa, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.  I saw some of the other authors’ homes from the outside as well as the many other pretty homes and churches in the town. Finally I visited the cemetery and the authors’ graves.  I had visited the main Revolution sites on my trip back in 1980 so concentrated on the authors this time. 

As I wrote, there was just some light drizzle this day but the following day it poured down and  so I visited the Mapparium, a three-story tall glass globe of stained glass in the Mary Baker Eddy Library then the Museum of Fine Arts with its exhibitions of Greek, Roman sculpture plus European art through the ages and finally a room of historical musical instruments. The impressive Boston Library followed and an exhibition of travel posters of the 20’s and 30’s with some of Australia and New Zealand. Fortunately Boston has some large enclosed shopping centres plus the metro system which allowed me to move around without getting too wet.

On two evenings I went to dinner with friends I had met at the dinner in New York and on the last night we had dinner after attending a talk in the Boston Library by the author Michael Cunningham (‘The Hours’ and ‘A Home at the End of the World’)

It began to fine up on Thursday as I again travelled by train north to Portland where I was met by my blogging friend, Amelia (My Mother is a Father), who kindly offered to accommodate and show me around the state of Maine. The top Photo shows us on her balcony.

I did not realise it would involve so much driving on her part as along with her little dog, Izzie, we went an hour’s drive north of Portland to the little waterfront town of Damariscotta.
Amelia drove me around the waterfront of Portland and we visited the lovely cathedral of St Luke.  Damariscotta was in the midst of its Pumpkin festival and the main street was lined with giant pumpkins being decorated by various artists.

However first we drove a long way north to the Acadia National Park which is 160 miles north of Portland.  Besides more colourful trees I saw a lot of beautiful coastline, bays and rivers, big bridges and quaint light houses.  On Saturday afternoon we watched the town’s Pumpkin procession with some very noisy fire engines which Izzie did not like at all and in the evening we attended a concert of Ragtime music performed in the classical tradition. It was excellent.

Sunday after attending Eucharist at Amelia’s local Episcopal church we watched the Pumpkin Boat Race in which people competed in hollowed out pumpkins first with paddles and later with outboards. After lunch, yes I had pumpkin soup,  with some friends, Amelia drove me back to Portland. Heavy traffic meant I caught the 3pm train to Boston with just 3 minutes to spare and spent my final night in New England before catching an early morning flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Big Cities and Great Meetings

I have spent 3 nights in Chicago and 4 nights in New York and am now on my way to New England.
The weather has been hotter than I expected, Chicago had its hottest late September day on record and was very windy and New York was also hot and humid with a lot of rain.
On my first day in Chicago I met up with "Birdie" Strelitzia (Picture 1) from Indianapolis. She drove for 3 hours to meet me and I was chauffeured in style in her convertible with the top down along  Michigan Avenue getting a very good view of those super tall buildings. We then parked the car and took a river and harbour cruise. I learned all about the various buildings with their different ages and styles as we made our way up the Chicago River under countless bridges then out through a lock into the harbour from where we got a great view of the skyline (photo 2) Great for the 91’F (33’C) temperatures. It was a great contrast in skylines from the otherwise similar tour of canals and harbour in Copenhagen several weeks earlier.
Then over lunch we discovered more about each other than can be gained even from the internet. I greatly admire the work Birdie is doing to increase Gay acceptance in her church and her writing for Bilerico. I do pray her application to work more in the area of assisting gay youth is successful. A remarkable, fun lady.

After Birdie dropped me near my hotel, I met Madeline & Bill (photo 3) in the foyer. They are both former librarians and I have met them several times before, Madeline in Sydney in 98, then both of them at their home in Alabama in 99. They drove over to Charleston to show my sister, Bev, and me around in 2007 and now they flew up for a short holiday in Wisconsin and then to meet me in Chicago. We had several lovely meals together and, on my 2nd day, visited the Adler Planetarium before walking about 3 miles along the lake front to the Navy Pier.  I was sad to say good bye as on Saturday morning they headed for Midway airport and home and I went to O’Hare airport for the flight to New York. Keen travellers, I hope they find time to revisit New Zealand.

While it had cooled in Chicago, New York was still hot and also very humid. After finding my way on the subway to my hotel, not helped by weekend track work, I had a quick shower and was out to dinner with internet friends (Bettermost Forum devoted to Brokeback Mountain fans). The group was spending a weekend with a young couple, Kelda and Callum from Scotland and I had discovered that just by chance I would be in the city at the same time. They had been sightseeing all day but I joined them for dinner in a rather noisy restaurant which did not help my problems with accents. Photo 4 shows me with Meryl.

On Sunday I had planned to meet another internet friend, an Episcopal priest, about an hour’s train ride from New York but Elizabeth has taken a break from parish work so instead I went to Trinity Church, Wall Street not far from the World Trade Centre. I spent an hour beforehand in the area and Battery Point. On the way back to my hotel I saw Archbishop Carnley in the street. Peter Carnley, now retired,  was Archbishop of Perth and Primate of Australia. He has also written in favour of homosexual acceptance in the Church and was reviled by the Sydney establishment, so a hero of mine.  I spoke with him and he mentioned he had attended church at St James, King Street when he lived in Sydney.

I had planned an easy afternoon but the forecast for Monday was not good so I dragged myself out and walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (Photo 5 is an unusual angle). A walk around Brooklyn Heights then I was able to catch a subway train that crossed back over Manhattan Bridge rather than the usual tunnel routes. In the evening I was invited, with the Scottish couple,  to the home of Meryl from Bettermost who also loves Lord of the Rings (and therefore New Zealand).

On Monday. following advice from the dinner group and encouraged by rain, I visited the Neue Galerie which had a Viennese cafe, momentarily transporting me back to Europe,  then it’s exhibition of the sculpture of Messerscmitt about whom I had known nothing . There were also a few works by Klimt and Schiele. I headed for MOMA (Museum of Modern Art ) but found a long queue in the rain to buy tickets. so went back to my hotel room for the afternoon. Unfortunately the hotel in New York was small and poky. It is advertised as in a typical New York Brownstone but steep stairs and lack of light was not very pleasant. My room in Chicago and now Albany have been luxury in comparison at much the same price but I guess that is New York. I am grateful for the recent rise in the value of the Aussie dollar.

 Tuesday started fine but, after collecting my rail tickets for the rest of my US journey, I was drenched by a downpour on the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is huge and I could just sample a few sections before lunch then headed out to Times Square to line up for half price tickets to Musicals. Fortunately their was only a slight drizzle and after an hour I had a ticket to “A Little Night Music”.  I was tempted by Phantom, La Cage and Westside Story but had seen all of them. Wicked and Jersey Boys were not available.
A quick trip over the harbour  on the Staten Island ferry gave me a shrouded view of the Statue of Liberty and the Lower Manhattan skyline (photo 6) as the sun began to appear.
Then I had dinner in a French restaurant, getting a good deal with a coupon handed out while in the queue for tickets. I had a front row seat for the Musical starring Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. It was a wonderful performance.

Today, with the sun shining, I have travelled by train to Albany which I will describe later but the afternoon was another great meeting spent in the company of another blogger, Fran There will be Bread (Photo7). We have been reading each other’s blogs for several years and she is another very busy lady with a university course tonight but took time off work to meet me at the station, drive me to my hotel and then we walked around the city and enjoyed a coffee taking several too short hours to meet the real person. It is so great that the internet has allowed me to meet up with such wonderful people, friends over great distances.
I have probably had enough of big cities for a while but  never enough of great meetings with friends who have been made online.