Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fancy Morning Victuals, Whales and The Last Spike

Tuesday August 19, and Wednesday August 20th, 2014

We leave Shediac on the way to St. Andrews-by-the Sea, New Brunswick.  The sun has reappeared, and it turns out it has been sunny in St. Andrews the last few days, even while the deluge was parked over Shediac. We roll up to The Inn on Frederick in late afternoon...dispense with bags in a most lovely Victorian mansion, where the bathroom is larger than most hotel rooms.

Before arriving at the Inn, we stop at the Huntsman Marine Centre, where we learn a lot about the local marine (Bay of Fundy) ecosystem and its life.  This aquarium is reminiscent of the North Carolina Aquarium at Cape Fear.

 Sign outside and the welcoming door.  Just a block from the St. Andrews wharf. Upon arrival and settling in with the help of our doting hosts, I went down to the wharf to check out the whale watching tours. I signed up with Island Quest Tours, and I was quite pleased with the result. The staff consisted of two graduate student marine biologists and the captain uses his vacation time from his Coast Guard job to give these tours.
 The next two mornings, we were treated to artistically presented breakfasts, as pictured below,  a Korea-Canada culinary fusion. Taste treats and visual pleasure.
After the morning ablutions, we hopped, skipped and jumped to the Island Quest boat and emerged onto the Bay of Fundy under ideal conditions.  The cold water maintained shirtsleeve temperatures with light winds, smooth water and endless sun.

 Passing a lighthouse,
 And many islands, including Campobello, in the distance.  The enormous tides (40 feet at this part of the Bay) cause rapids between the islands which stirs things up, creating biological plenty which attracts many species to feed here...
including Humpback, Right, Minke and Finback whales.

A 60 foot Finback Whale makes an appearance.

 Above, a herring weir along the shore. There used to be a lot more of these. Now it is more common to see Salmon farms.

The warmth of the afternoon has caused the Harbour seals to bask, giving us a curious look or two before we proceed back to St. Andrews.

That afternoon, the waning tide permits us to pursue The Last Spike. How so, and why the caps?

The Last Spike refers to the Pierre Berton book. On the cover is a famous photo of Donald Smith driving in the last spike for the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Craigellachie, British Columbia at 9:22 am on November 7, 1885. Beside Smith is the brains behind the nation-building project conceived by our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald.  Of course, OF COURSE, this is William Cornelius Van Horne . W.C. moved to Montreal to oversee the new business, and proceeded to create a mammoth corporation at public expense.  Aside form the railway and monumental landholdings rivaling those of the Hudson's Bay Company, Van Horne also built a string of hotels, some as European destination points, such as the Banff Springs and, here in St. Andrews, The Algonquin.

Now, Van Horne's relationship to this area grew over the years. In the mid-1890's he bought a property near St. Andrews. The detailed story is fascinating, and it can be read at: my Alma Mater, McGill University in Montreal is closely related to Van Horne's story.

At low tide, one can drive along the sea floor to Ministers Island.  We did that, and had an awesome few hours touring.  Oddly enough, the site and the buildings are run by a very poorly financed local trust.  The site was purchased on behalf of the Province of New Brunswick.  Strangely, this is not a National Historic Park, and the Federal Government is noticeably absent from the maintenance, upkeep and interpretation of both Van Horne and this remaining large summer house.

The Guides are mainly local college students.  Although they are enthusiastic and well-versed, I was surprised by the answer when I queried our guide about Van Horne's winter home, a mansion on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, which was purchased earlier in the 20th century by the neighbouring McGill University,

She became interested when I told her I had an office in the building during a summer during my schooling at McGill University.  it turned out I was one of the few last occupants of the building, as just after I graduated in 1972, McGill (with the federal, provincial and municipal governments looking away) demolished this historical building in favour of a concrete  monstrosity, the McGill Business School.

The Guide had been given a much sanitized version of the story.  I was happy to set her straight, but I doubt the real story will replace the sanitized version.

Thankfully, the Sir William Van Horne House on Ministers island is still intact, more or less, as are some of the farm buildings.  There is fundraising going on for maintenance, but it was easy to see that it is a losing battle.  The managers require millions, and they are receiving thousands. I encourage you to go take a look if you are in the area:

 E,C. Maxwell, the architect, was from Montreal. This is a front entrance view.  It reminds me of a train station.
 Sir William and friends could retire to the billiards room for a cigar and cognac following dinner,

 A view out onto the Bay of Fundy from the veranda.
 The chimney and large windows on a foundation of local stone.
The Carriage House, home to a few stable boys, horses and carriages. I wonder if I could stay here on our next visit.

 At the left, the base of the 3 story bath house. The tidal bath is between the building and the Bay. The tides would fill the pool naturally each day, affording guests the opportunity for a salt water warm pool experience.  An almost natural swimming pool (it had been dug out and "squared").
 Your Blogger enjoying 4 O'clock tea on the veranda.  Sir William might have sat here doing the same thing!
 Another view of the impressive building.

The barn is reputed to be the second largest wooden structure in Canada. Sir William (and later, his daughter) raised prize winning cattle and horses as well as other farm animals in this brilliantly designed barn which maximized creature comfort and minimized labour. Note the price. United States average wage at the time was $0.17 an hour.

The above barn swallow was busy feeding young, another brood in the third week of August!

Main door of barn, above. Another outbuilding, below (creamery?)

Below, perspective on the length of the barn.

Was that the end of our day? Not by a long shot.....

Above, the lovely and stately Algonquin Hotel, originally a CP Hotel, bought by Fairmont and since taken over by the Marriott chain.  The long corridors inspired Steven King to write "The Shining".

In summer, you can rock on the long veranda and enjoy some wine before dinner. Now that is a great way to end an enjoyable day.