O Canada!

Next to France and Italy, which for me is a toss-up, I love Québec best. I won’t speak for Hubby, but I believe he feels pretty much the same way. Therefore, in honor of Canada Day, and all things Canadian, here are just a few photos from past summer trips. In the cityscape cover photo, you can see almost all of the walled Vieux Ville, the old city, with the Château Frontenac at its heart on the right, overlooking the St. Lawrence. It is all so lovely. If I could just wish myself there, right now…

 

One in a thousand

It’s a gloomy Friday. While I appreciate the good things that rainy days do for the water supply, the bounty of fruits and vegetables our farmers will be harvesting soon, and the flowers and shrubs in my “dooryard,” as my Maine relatives call it,  I would prefer some of that sunshine we had a few days ago.

So I guess I’ll just have to create it for us, with a photo tour of our cruise on the 1000 Islands a summer or two ago.

The 1000 Islands, on the Canadian Border in northwestern New York, had been on my you-know-what-list since roughly 1971, when I worked with a well-known photographer whose family had a summer place on one of the islands. Stunned by his photos and fascinated that there were not one, but two, castles there, I determined to see them someday. More than 40 years later, Hubby and I were on our way.

To start with, it was an easy ride north, straight up 81. And every day after that was easy and relaxing as well. The St. Lawrence, which surely must be one of the most beautiful rivers on the planet, is one of the longest and most complex water systems in North America. The water is French marine blue and the air is crisp and clean. This is one of the few tourist boat excursions you absolutely should take—totally relaxing and well worth the price for the history and lore you hear along the way.

We always do road trips in September, to avoid the summer throngs. If you like more activity, such as summer festivals,  you won’t find much to do in the 1000 Islands after Labor Day, save to enjoy the considerable natural beauty.  That was fine for us, especially for a first visit. We stayed on the US side but did drive across the bridge to Ontario to visit the charming town of Gananoque. Yes, that’s a French name, and there’s a French festival in Cape Vincent, on the US side, every July. If we ever go back that way, I’d like to be there then, crowds or not, loving all things French as I do.

There are actually 1,864 islands in the archipelago; the qualification for island status, as you will find on the website linked above, is that the island must be visible 365 days per year and must have at least one tree. And yes, the salad dressing probably originated there.

If by chance your weather is as dismal as ours, or even if it isn’t, perhaps you’ll enjoy some photos from our cruise. Perhaps you’ll plan your own visit if you haven’t been there. The cover photo, above, is Boldt Castle.

 

 

 

 

A village by the lake

It’s HOT here in Central Pennsylvania, so it seems logical to continue the “going north” theme of my  “I miss the mountains” post a few days ago. Turns out I also miss northern waters.

I am absolutely enthralled by the Great Lakes. So far, I’ve been on the US shores of Erie, Michigan, and Ontario. The others are on my you-know-what list, and I’m really itching to see them from both sides of the border.

Sackets Harbor, NY is on the banks of Lake Ontario, near the point where it meets the St. Lawrence and an easy drive from Watertown NY.  It was an unexpected surprise during a September trip to the 1000 Islands. More about that trip in a future post. Sackets Harbor is historically important—there’s a War of 1812 battlefield there—and absolutely lovely. You can see in the photo above that the blue of the lake and sky just about match! How’s that for soothing?

I miss the mountains

This time of year, I get a very specific wanderlust that  always involves going north, to the mountains. I was never lucky enough to live in New England, but my father was born and raised in western Maine, just 30 miles from the Canadian border. I’ve had one Yankee foot since I was old enough to understand that I was born in Boston, not Pennsylvania.

Throughout most of my life, being “down the shore” was always my favorite summer treat. I still love the ocean—don’t get me wrong—but some time in the mid-90s, the mountains of New England stole my heart. Every year since, when summer comes, I begin to yearn—there is no other word for it—for the mountains up north, and the sweeping crystalline lakes, as blue as a June sky, that punctuate them.

Just about wherever you go in New England, the mountains are with you. At the “Height of the Land” on the way to the Rangeley Lakes region in Maine, you can see Canada on one side, New Hampshire on the other, and Mooselookmeguntic Lake beneath. It’s hard to imagine a more breathtaking landscape—that’s one view in the photo above. Click the links to learn more, including the real truth about the lake’s interesting name, which the natives simply call “Mooselook.” And if you want to have your cake and eat it, too, drive up the coast to Bar Harbor and take in the view at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, where the mountains meet the sea.

By the way, I’m so grateful to our relatives up north, who always welcome us warmly and share their favorite places with us.

Photo: Mooselook, in the Rangeley Lake Region.

Note: “I Miss the Mountains” is an absolutely gorgeous song from the Broadway musical, Next to Normal. I borrowed the title for this post but, unfortunately, the song has nothing to do with mountains. Still, it’s worth a listen.

 

 

Tranquil in Bethlehem

Bethlehem is one of Pennsylvania’s treasures, for its rich historic significance and the gracious, centuries-old buildings that have held fast despite the encroachment of time, the birth and death of the steel industry, and the Sands Casino erected in Bethlehem Steel’s reclaimed brown fields. That the casino and its trappings flourish within blocks of the Northern Province headquarters of the Moravian Church in America, and rarities like the annual Bach Festival staged this time of year by the world-acclaimed Bach Choir of Bethlehem, seems more than a little ironic to me.

Bethlehem, of course, is appropriately known as the “Christmas City.” Its Christmas decorations are resplendent, and it’s fun to tour the shops and the Old World Christkindlmarkt, while carolers in Victorian garbs walk the streets. There’s an annual Celtic Festival, and Musikfest during the month of August. All of these are fine, but a cast of thousands rarely appeals to me; I much prefer the city, especially its historic heart, in quiet times.

I took these photos a few years ago on a gorgeous spring day in early May, on Moravian Church grounds. In another life, I spent quite a bit of time in the shadow of Central Church, the Bell House, and Moravian Academy’s Lower School. I always found this spot to be an oasis of great tranquility. You can learn more at the Historic Bethlehem website: Do enjoy. And visit if you can.