New London, CT – May 2018 – Crossing the Long Island Sound

If you are in New England and you want to go to Long Island you can either make the drive to New York City and backtrack back out the island, or you can take a cross sound ferry.

We made a choice to take the ferry from New London, Connecticut to Orient Point, New York. With a full day in Boston, we showed up in New London in the early evening and spent the night before taking the 1st ferry of the morning.

We spent our evening in New London having dinner (an interesting experience at Tony D’s Italian restaurant) and walked the downtown area, where it was apparent the architectural firm that designed the library was the same one who had designed the Waterworks in Boston, as the buildings had a strong resemblance.

 

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The schooner Amistad is docked in the harbor.

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While along the harbor front is a row of American flags.

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A fountain celebrates the whaling history of the city.

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The New London Union Rail Station was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson in the late 1800s.

 

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A centerpiece for the town is a schoolhouse that Nathan Hale taught at before the Revolutionary War.

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The next morning we caught the ferry out of town. It offered a nice overview as we left.

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Including the impressive interstate bridge over the Thames River.

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Past the lighthouse and into the Long Island Sound.

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We were on the slow ferry since we had the car with us. Soon the passenger only Sea Jet ferry caught us and passed us in their 40 minute crossing, whereas ours took 80 minutes. But soon we were on Long Island and continued our trip.

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New York City – May 2018 – Sights Around the City

A couple of days in the city with some highlights.

 

The Staten Island Ferry

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The Statue of Liberty

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Statue in front of Bowling Green (Customs House)

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Madison Square Park in bloom and Met Life Building

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St Patricks

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Relief on 50 Rockefeller Plaza

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By the end of the day I was back in Jersey City and Hoboken, both of which offer great views of Manhattan. This view shows some of the posts from an old pier in Jersey City back across to lower Manhattan. The buildings are lit up from the clouds just beginning to break when the sun was setting.

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This view of Midtown from Hoboken across a pier.

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A view of the Newport neighborhood with the Hoboken Terminal in the foreground.

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Cincinnati – June 2017 – Scenes of the City

A day in Cincinnati for a couple of tours (other posts) resulted in some ‘scenes of the city’ shots…

 

The view from the Incline Pub on the west side of Cincinnati.

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With a major bridge under construction causing massive traffic jams, we took the Anderson Ferry to Kentucky.

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The Pride Parade had just ended as we arrived downtown.

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The Cincinnati Bengals are celebrating their 50th season (still without a Super Bowl win!)

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Findlay Market.

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Cincinnati Streetcar barn

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Rookwood Pottery Mural

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Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel & Jamestown, Virginia – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 5

Today is Election Day, but we had already voted, so we had the entire day to enjoy the scenery. As usual we were out and at it by dawn, stopping first at Kiptopeke State Park, a park at the very southern tip of the eastern peninsula of Virginia. The park offered a unique recreational area with a series of old ships serving as a reef to the Chesapeake Bay as well as an opportunity to see part of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel from the park.

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The Chesapeake Bay area is the largest estuary in North America and third largest in the world. An estuary is a body of water where fresh and salt water mix. This estuary is approximately 200 miles long and 30 miles wide. Fisherman Island is the southernmost island on the chain of barrier islands located at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay where we began our crossing; the island is located within the Eastern Shore of the Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.

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From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, we entered the Chesapeake Channel Tunnel which connects Island 4 to Island 3 beneath the bay. We popped up onto the Bay Bridge again and then followed into the South Thimble Channel Tunnel that connects Island 2 to Island 1. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge System consists of three bridges, two tunnels and four manmade islands spanning a distance of 17.6 miles from shore to shore at a cost of $25 as toll. Each tunnel is one mile long.

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Island 1 also known as Sea Gull Island is the southernmost location of the Bridge-Tunnel’s four manmade islands, 3-1/2 miles from Virginia Beach. The fishing pier on the island is 625 feet long and was busy with fishermen that had multiple lines cast.

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This island provided a place for us to stretch and to look back at the bridge and tunnel exits that we crossed. The island also had a cafe and gift shop that we visited.

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From Virginia Beach, we passed by Norfolk, an area rich in military naval influence, to cross another bridge and tunnel onto I-64 and onto Hampton, Virginia. We continued through the area of Newport News and into Williamsburg, Virginia to see the Jamestown Settlement.

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The Jamestown Settlement is a living history museum operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia. It includes a re-creation of the original James Fort of 1607 to 1614, a Powhatan Indian Village, indoor and outdoor displays, and replicas of the original settler’s ships the Susan Constant, Godspeed, and the Discovery.

The Powhatan native village demonstrated real life with instructors dressed in 17th century garb. A woman was working with leather making satchels with leather fringe. She crafted her bag with a handmade tool made of an antler or bone which she sharpened often. Deer hides hung between wooden sticks to facilitate the scraping of fur from the hide.

The village had native homes made into a wooden reed shaped modules. Bent limbs formed the concave skeleton of the structure covered in a woven mat surface. Inside a home were hides and personal items that the native tribe may have used. A vent was open on the roof to allow smoke from the fire inside to escape with a covering to close the vent when not needed. The village had free-range chickens and smoldering pits too.

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Our path led us to the replicas of the ships that brought the English settlers to the new world. We boarded the Susan Constant and the Discovery but the Godspeed was not docked for us to see. The largest ship, Susan Constant used five miles of rope to work the sails and maneuver the ship. The ship held cannons and weaponry of cannonballs and chain ball. We stepped down to the lower level of the ship to see cots on the floors and cots hung off the walls. The ship would have been tight quarters for the travelers.

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Further up the trail is a replica of the English fort, complete with the homes for the soldiers and the governor’s house.  Many of the homes as well as the church were made of stucco with thatched roofs. The governor’s house, however, was made of brick. Next to the church was an armory with muskets, pikes, swords, helmets, and shields, where the men in the armory were stoking a fire and pounding metal into weapons.

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Just down the road is Historic Jamestown, a cultural heritage site that was the actual location of the 1607 James Fort and later the 17th century city of Jamestown. It is located on Jamestown Island where evidence of the settlement existed.

Maintained by the National Park Service, we entered the grounds and made our way to the obelisk, a monument in tribute to the birthplace of the Commonwealth of Virginia and commemorating the 300th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

There a guide was dressed as John Rolfe, husband of Pocahontas. In character he gave an account of the life and history of the settlers as if they just arrived in 1614. His wardrobe of hand-sewn baggy pants with metal buttoned vest and white shirt was cloaked in a dark colored cape and a large brimmed hat with a feather. He sported a sword and scabbard and tall leather boots.

The guide talked about his life as John Rolfe, who was bound for Virginia in May 1609 with 500 new settlers.  In July, a massive hurricane scattered the fleet, and ran aground just off the Bermudas. Rolfe’s wife and daughter died on the island but from salvage he made a smaller ship that took him to the Chesapeake Bay later. At the colony, the colonists at the settlement had tried many ventures with no financial success to return profits to their sponsor, the Virginia Company.

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Eventually most of the settlers died of starvation or battles with the natives.  It was only after the arrival of the new governor, Lord De la Warr, and his supply ships that helped the colonists endure.

An assembly convened there on July 30, 1619. Construction on the current church tower began in 1639 taking 4 years to complete. The rest of the original church was destroyed after abandonment in 1750; artifacts such as nails from coffins, armor, pottery, tools, tobacco pipes, and jewelry were found at the site.

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We had a quick lunch of sandwiches at the Dale House Cafe on the grounds at Colonial National Historical Park before going into the archeology museum called Archaerium. Upon entering the building, foundation bricks of the original assembly house were seen through the glass floor tile of the lobby. Many of the 4000 artifacts dug at the James Fort site were displayed behind glass.  Indian-made clay pipes, pots, shell beads, arrow points, and bone and stone tools have been found and now exhibited. There were also colonial wine bottles, tools, bricks, skulls, glass, nails, and pottery.

The results of forensic research on the skeletal remains of a teen girl found among animal bones and food remains show evidence of the early settlers suspected of cannibalism during the starving year of 1609.  Facial reconstructions of some of the settlers themselves were displayed.

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We also learned about how these artifacts were found. A three-dimensional representation of a 1620s well showed armor and dozens of tools and household objects suspended within it the way they were archaeologically recovered from the brick-lined shaft. A partial reconstruction of a mud and stud building inside the museum shown early Jamestown’s architecture. The archaeology team was busy digging on site as we were leaving.

At the edge of the National Park are ruins of the colonial glasshouse. Bricks and stones left from the original kiln were protected behind a glass wall. A glassblower demonstrated the art of glass making selling his craft lined on shelves surrounding the newer glasshouse. Glass has been made for centuries from a mixture of sand, soda ash (burnt marsh plants), pot ash, lime, and oyster shells.

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The ferry named Pocahontas carried our car and us across the James River from Jamestown to Scotland, Virginia. The ferry service is an extension of Route 31. We drove through Norfolk, Virginia to see the city before going to the Best Western hotel.

Captain Groovy Seafood Restaurant provided a dinner of shrimp and a sandwich for us. Later we packed ourselves in for the night to watch the results as our country moved to make the movie Idiocracy from fiction to a documentary.

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Nova Scotia & New Brunswick – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 13

With most road trips we know we will catch a day a bit less interesting than the rest, this was that day for this trip. While we managed to sleep through the slightly rocky crossing to Nova Scotia, we drove out of the ferry at 7 a.m. into a bright sunny warm day in North Sydney, and after a quick breakfast were on our way.

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Afterwards we started our long drive of almost four hundred miles to Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick. Our route would take back along much of the route we had come so we tried to make as good a time as possible, stopping every once in a while to stretch the legs.

Clearly Nova Scotia is blueberry capital of Canada, as we saw numerous signs along the road for fresh blueberries for sale. The blueberries grow wild in the area; we would often see parked cars with dozens of people along the road busy picking buckets of berries.

Eventually we made our way to Truro, Nova Scotia. The town has transformed dead trees into works of art with many notable figures from the town’s past are featured in forty-six tree sculptures which were carved in tree trunks after Truro lost most of its elm trees to Dutch elm disease in the 1990s.

Unfortunately only nine sculptured trees remain, but we cruised town to find them, photographing the tan painted wooden carvings of a lumberjack, colonial woman, and three others.

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Nova Scotia Highway 102 leave Truro to the southwest, running near the Bay of Fundy, where we once again had a number of opportunities  to see the low tide expose the ocean floor. There was a large area of mud that stretched along the edge of the Bay and inward so that the bay resembled more of a river rather than a bay.

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A river that led into the Bay of Fundy was also drained with the low tide from the look of the wet mud. The empty river dropped almost twenty feet leaving only a small stream flowing through its center low point. Twice each day, 160 billion tons of seawater flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy — more than the combined flow of the world’s freshwater rivers!  The Bay’s tides officially measure over 50 feet in height, but the incoming tide is not a 50′ wall of water. It takes 6 hours for the tides to change from low tide to high tide. That means it takes more than an hour for the tide to rise 10′ vertically. In some places, it can change the direction of a river or create tidal bore that flows against the current.

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As we drove away from the Bay of Fundy and onto the freeway, we heard Tab Benoit sing Muddy Bottom Blues. This is the third coincidence where songs related to our vacation spot. I suppose it was serendipity because there was no way to plan it so exactly.

Other than a brief stop in Amherst, Nova Scotia for lunch at Connors Family Restaurant, we drove. At least lunch was good.

Eventually we arrived in Fredricton, New Brunswick where we spent the night at a large Delta Hotel. Next to the hotel was the Chinese Canadian restaurant where we ate dinner, where the buffet seemed to be the popular choice so we dined on shrimp cocktail, moo goo gai pan, potato salad, rice, pork riblets and more. The food was ok and there was a lot of it; so we ate our share then left to explore the city.

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We found the Provincial Legislative Assembly Building, the seat of government in New Brunswick since 1882, when it replaced the old Provincial Hall destroyed by fire in 1880. Continuing, we passed the governors house and walked into a concert at the park for incoming freshman at the University of New Brunswick.  After driving through the city and walking the streets we went back to the hotel for the evening.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 12

In all of our adventures it is really amazing that the weather doesn’t impact us more than it does, but on this day we woke to a foggy rainy day which was disappointing because we reserved seats on a cruise into the gorge at Western Brook Pond, a fresh water fjord carved out by glaciers during the most recent ice age.

The landscape at Gros Morne during our drive to our hotel yesterday was stunning with views of mountains and steep cliffs dropping into the ocean and gorge that we wanted to see up close.

After leaving our motel in Cow Head, we drove to the trail that led to the boat tour where other tourists waited hoping for the weather to improve. Visibility was only about 50 feet with poor conditions to see anything so we decided to skip the boat ride and went to the fishery at Broom Point.

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The tour guide had not arrived yet so we explored the area on our own but it was windy and foggy, providing an excellent photo op of an ocean front privy held up with wooden boards and only one other building stood in the park so we left.

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We had to drive to Rocky Harbour to cancel our boat reservation and it turned out to be a scenic ride that presented lots of opportunities for photos, because amazingly we popped out of the fog. The ladies at the boat tour reservations desk however have a web cam back at the boat and they assured us it wasn’t going to sail that day because of the fog.

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Having finalized the decision not to wait for a boat tour that wouldn’t occur, we continued to the Tablelands, an environment so different from where we started that morning. Most of Newfoundland that we have seen was green with water everywhere in forms of fjords, rivers, waterfalls, countless ponds and lakes, also with mountains and ridges covered with evergreen trees; but the tablelands looked more like a barren desert with prickly brush.

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The Tablelands were a rocky mountainous landscape where we hiked a two kilometer trail up the hill to a lookout to see straight into the pass between the mountains. It was incredibly windy making it hard to walk along the trail.

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We did see two waterfalls from the trail that ran down the mountain range beside us. Returning to the car, we headed down the road a short distance climbing almost 900 feet in only minutes to Green Gardens for a better look at the mountains. Even with the clouds and fog, the view was very pretty.

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Gros Morne National Park is a spectacular place, far off the beaten path, but with scenery to match the best in the United States. We felt it was every bit as impressive as many of the parks out west, and definitely the best in the eastern half of the continent.

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We left the park for lunch at the Deer Park Motel and Restaurant, where we had very good clam chowder and a hot turkey sandwich. Well nourished, we headed out onto the TCH again for the four hour drive to Port Aux Basques ferry terminal.

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On the way we passed Corner Brook, which I knew well from the in flight maps on all the trips I had taken back and forth to Europe. When I saw Corner Brook pop up on my map on the airplane I knew we were back over land, which always gave me a sense of relief. The city of Corner Brook is clearly an industrial town with a port, as we saw one of the largest piles of logs ever ready to be shipped.

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The road between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques is 120 miles of trees, mountains and damn few people, so we sailed along admiring the scenery, except during the intermittent rain showers, which always seemed to occur when we would go through areas signed ‘significant moose activity – be alert’, complete with 12′ high fences along the roads, however we went 1000 miles through the northlands and never saw a moose, other than the plastic one at the rest area in Maine.

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Not long before we reached Port Aux Basques we came upon Cape Race, which has a nice lighthouse. It is located in a small town but important because it is here where the trans-Atlantic cable connected from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and then to the North American mainland crossing borders to New York City. The cable is now replaced with modern electric lines but a historic marker is erected in front of the lighthouse on the edge of the shore.

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The wind produced a steady line of waves that crashed onto the beach for some great photos. Small homes lined the street to the lighthouse and also stood along the pretty shoreline. Mountains sat in a beautiful backdrop of shanties for homes. It was a thousand dollar house with a million dollar view.

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We took our time driving the rest of the way to Port aux Basque. When we arrived in the town, we stopped at the Historic Railroad Museum. The Railway Heritage Centre consists of a replica of the original 1898 passenger station and a restored nine car train. The train is made up of a snowplow, diesel locomotive, two tank cars from World War II, a Newfoundland boxer, sleeper, two baggage cars and a caboose. The museum was closed for us to go inside but I think we saw the main attractions outside.

After a visit to a quirky little shop for a Newfoundland T shirt, we had a leisurely dinner at Pizza Delight. 

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Just down the road was the Port Aux Basque Marine Atlantic ship terminal to board the ferry to Nova Scotia, where we arrived 3 hours early, spending the time hanging out in the modern terminal editing the photos from the last few days.

Since we were on another over night crossing, we had again reserved a cabin with a private bath. At 10 p.m. we drove the car onto the Marine-Atlantic ferry with hundreds of other cars and semi-trailers, and headed to our cabin for a quick night’s sleep.

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St Johns Newfoundland – Late Summer 2016 Road Trip – Day 10

At 7:30 a.m. the restaurant on the ship opened for breakfast and we were waiting. The breakfast buffet was overpriced; the hot food was only warm and not good. Since we still had a couple of hours to go we went for another walk on the top deck to get some exercise. We walked eight lengths from one side of the ship to the other side guessing that it equaled one mile, not to mention a great sunrise.

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At last – Newfoundland! Driving off the ship onto the road, we followed an old drunken Newfoundlander in a truck who swerved to the right nearly off the road and over the center line in front of oncoming cars, but fortunately we were able to quickly get past him, hitting neither him nor any moose, of which there were plenty of warnings.

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The 90 minute drive into St. Johns, Newfoundland went without incident. As soon as we reached town, we headed back out to the east to nearby Cape Spear to be at the easternmost point in Canada and North America (no more further east landmarks on this trip!).

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Because of its proximity to convoy routes during the Second World War, a gun battery was installed at Cape Spear to defend the entrance to St. John’s harbor. The bunkers and gun barrels offer a sheltered view of the ocean. Barracks and underground passages leading to the bunkers were built for the use of troops stationed there. The gun barrels and bunkers are still there which we explored a bit.

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The Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest surviving lighthouse in Canada, operating since 1836. The structure consists of a stone light tower surrounded by the lightkeeper’s residence. In 1955 a new lighthouse tower was built on the site using the active light from the original lighthouse. The historical park gave us a glimpse into the life of the keeper. Glass chimneys were kept upstairs of the keeper’s house so that the lightkeeper could clean and replace them on a three hour regular schedule. The life of a lighthouse keeper seemed isolated and hard.

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Next we drove to Quidi Vidi (pronounced by the local residents, as “Kiddy Viddy” a neighborhood in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. The neighborhood is named for both Quidi Vidi Lake and Quidi Vidi Harbor – known locally as “The Gut”.  Located in Quidi Vidi is the Quidi Vidi Battery Provincial Historic Site, which had significance as a battery during the War of 1812.

Quidi Vidi was known for once being a historic fishing village dating back to the 1600’s and still maintains the look of a fishing village today. This tightly tucked in a ravine village is also home to Newfoundland’s largest microbrewery, the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company which seems to be the only business in the town.

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St. Johns is listed as the oldest English settled city in North America but there is dispute in that Jamestown, VA could be the oldest English settled city also. Our next stop was at Signal Hill which overlooks the city of St. Johns, high on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and St John Harbor.

Due to its strategic placement overlooking the harbor, fortifications have been built on the hill since the mid 17th century. The final battle of the Seven Years’ War in North America was fought in 1762 at the Battle of Signal Hill, in which the French surrendered St. John’s to a British force under the command of Lt. Colonel William Amherst. Lt. Colonel Amherst renamed what was then known as “The Lookout” as “Signal Hill,” because of the signaling that took place upon its summit from its flagmast.

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Historical military barracks are nestled in the hill and the tour guide explained the life of a soldier stationed at the Queen’s Battery Barracks during the 1860’s when the barracks were built. The barracks furnished fold up cots and British styled table and benches of the era and a fireplace. The guide showed us the high-waisted trousers and short jackets worn with a tunic and leather shoes that the soldiers had. The shoes had metal plates fastened with ten tacks to prolong their wear since each soldier was only issued items annually.

Large cannons set at the front of the barracks protected the harbor below. Ruins of gunpowder storage once stood within thick walls and thin roofs in case of accidental explosions. We hiked the trail back up the hill to see Cabot’s Tower.

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Located at the highest point of Signal Hill, overlooking the entire city and the ocean, Cabot Tower is a Gothic Revival style of architecture. Built of red sandstone, it is a two story, 30 foot, square structure with a three story, 50 foot octagonal tower. The first transmissions received in North America by Marconi were at Signal Hill, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1901 and Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1902.  In 1933, a Marconi station was opened on the second floor of Cabot Tower, which operated until 1960. In 1920, one of the first wireless transatlantic transmissions of the human voice was made there.  A few items honoring Marconi were displayed on the second floor the tower.

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We walked onto the open deck of the roof of Cabot’s Tower for a look of the city. It was extremely windy, so windy in fact; it was difficult to open the door to get back into the building. As soon as we entered the building again, the staff closed off the roof for safety reasons.

Leaving Cabot’s Tower and driving into the city allowed us to see the colorful houses. Each wooden-sided home was painted a bright color different from its neighbor. The city of St. John’s is well known for its jellybean row houses that started in the 1970’s as a way to inject new life back into the declining city. Residents jumped onto the idea whole-heartily and spread the colorful palette outward so that the majority of the city is a jellybean row house street.

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We found our boutique hotel, The Jag, in downtown St. Johns near the convention center. After check-in we walked the streets a bit and opted for an early dinner since we missed lunch. We went to Green Sleeves, an open bar cafe with pub grub, with a beer and burger for dinner. They servered us in a Rolling Rock glass etched with the familiar 33 words which begin “from the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe” but because we were in the bilingual country of Canada these words were also etched in French on the glass. I explained to the waitress the significance of Latrobe to our family, I asked her if I could buy the glass as a souvenir.

After checking with the bartender she said that if the glass was not there when she returned to clean up, oh well. We got the hint and the glass seemed little compensation for the very long wait that we patiently had for our food order.

It was fifty minutes before our food arrived. The restaurant gave us a discount on the food and apologized for the delay while they catered the wedding upstairs. When we got back to our hotel, the housekeeper knocked on the door to deliver us chocolates. It was a nice gesture and a good ending to a busy day, and as example of how our trendy hotel in far off Newfoundland was the best of the trip.

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