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Articles Blog

Filtering by Category: North America

Victoria, Canada

Karyn Planett

A Bit Of Britain 

There’s Vancouver, the city; then there’s Vancouver, the island, which contains Victoria, the city, instead of Vancouver. All very confusing. And to contribute to the confusion, compact, cultured Victoria, not sprawling, brawling Vancouver, is the capital of the Province of British Columbia. Not only that, but Vancouver Island, and Victoria jut so far south into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, they look like they should be part of the United States, not Canada. And when you go there, you’ll think you’re back in England.

The Empress 

For the tourist, everything in Victoria will seem to start and end at the 500-room Empress Hotel. Its impressive façade dominates the waterfront of the inner harbor and its attitude defines what is unique about Victoria. Refined airs and strictly enforced dress codes mark that certain properness found throughout this very British city.           

Opened in 1908, the hotel is named for Queen Victoria, Empress of India. It is a legacy of the heady days of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which commissioned Francis Rattenbury to design it along the lines of his well-received Parliament Buildings nearby. From the Empress you can walk to most of the important sights and catch ferries to the more distant ones. Information about all of them can be found at the visitor center in the art deco building across from the hotel.           

Not to be missed is Miniature World with a 110-foot model of the entire 5,000-mile, continent-spanning Canadian Pacific Railway line. And, of course, no city worth its British accents would be complete without a wax museum.           

Taking Tea 

Another most British behavior, practiced throughout Victoria but achieving mythic proportions at the Empress, is afternoon tea. The formality of the event has contributed much to the hotel’s reputation and draws inquiries from all over the world about the proper brewing, serving, and sipping of tea. Think “pinky up.”           

After tea, you may be refreshed enough to visit Market Square, the former red light district, its unsavory past replaced by shops full of savory goods. Nearby, you’ll come across Fan Tan Alley, a collection of artist’s studios in the middle of what used to be a substantial Chinatown. If the weather is fine you may also want to take a carriage out to one of Victoria’s two turn-of-the- (20th) century Scottish Castles, Craigdarrock and Hatley, built by the robber baron Dunsmuir brothers.


“If you plant it, they will come,” seems to be the motto of anyone sharing the heritage of English gardening. And Victoria is thick with them. Start with the Crystal Garden, another Rattenbury design sitting just behind the Empress. It’s a glass-roofed “tropical paradise” that once contained the largest salt-water pool in the British Empire. Now, it’s another place to have tea.           

Beacon Hill Park features Victoria’s signature tree, the Garry Oak, which closely resembles a stalk of broccoli. Other than that, it has the requisite duck ponds, flower gardens, stone bridges, benches overlooking the sea… and tea.           

The granddaddy of gardens is of course, Butchart Gardens, about 13 miles north of Victoria in Brentwood Bay. Jenny Butchart began creating this masterpiece in 1904 when her husband set about excavating limestone for his cement plant. The former quarry is resplendent now with ponds, fountains, color, and fragrance. The gardens are open at night when lighted pathways provide a whole different experience.           

Butchart Gardens have inspired similar botanical projects around the world, including the recently opened Hunter Valley Gardens in Australia, designed and built by The World’s own Bill and Imelda Roche. 

The Island, And Beyond 

Our ship will call in Victoria three times this summer. More than enough opportunities to see everything this city has to offer at the refined pace preferred by the locals. On one of our visits, you may also want to reserve time to see the rest of Vancouver Island on an organized tour, by self-drive automobile, or even the train. The island offers a variety of scenery ranging from snow-capped mountains to sunny beaches. The west coast is storm-battered and lined with craggy fjords. The east coast, facing Vancouver across Georgia Strait, has farms and inns scattered around peaceful bays. 

Those with more ambition, and a bit more time, will want to start their exploration of the environs from the in-town corner of Douglas Street and Dallas Road, otherwise known as Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway. From that point it is only 4,860 miles to the terminus in St. John’s Newfoundland. The World will probably stop by to pick you up again sometime in 2005. 

Sydney, Canada

Karyn Planett

Former Steel Town 

“I have traveled the globe. I have seen the Canadian and American Rockies, the Andes and the Alps and the Highlands of Scotland: but for simple beauty Cape Breton outrivals them all.” 

So wrote inventor Alexander Graham Bell who loved this island. His warm praise is an apt tribute to its dramatic landscape.

Cape Breton Island 

Sydney, a once bustling steel town, is found on Cape Breton Island, a mere stone’s throw from the Nova Scotia mainland. The Strait of Canso separates the two. This province, along with Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, is part of the Canadian Maritime Provinces, which count fewer than two million Maritimers in total population. Most of them choose to live along the coast. 

Islanders speak of a long and interesting history and the folks here are fiercely independent, somewhat out of necessity. They live where the Atlantic Ocean never allows them to drop their guard. This was a lesson learned long ago by the Malecites and Micmacs who cultivated some crops though were a bit nomadic, following the wild game and good fishing. 

Europeans eventually heard tell of this bounty and struggled to get a foothold to snare their share. Some historians believe the Norsemen were here in approximately 1000 AD. John Cabot is credited with having slogged ashore on the island in 1497 and it is for this Venetian explorer sailing for the British in search of the Northwest Passage that the glorious Cabot Trail is named. The 200-mile-long Cabot Trail laces through the rugged interior, across the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. 

Cape Breton Island is a jagged puzzle of inlets and bays and Nova Scotia’s largest island. 

Hints From The Past 

Something quite unique for the early colonists of this Maritime Province is their nickname. “Bluenoses” they were called because these hearty folks could withstand the most brutal cold Mother Nature could throw at them. Rest assured, however, that even though you may be braced for crisp breezes announcing the coming autumn along the Atlantic seaboard, there’s little chance you’ll endure anything remotely resembling the harsh conditions that hammered the earliest settlers of this land. In fact, when rampaging wintertime ice flows in the Bay of Fundy literally strangled locals off from their food supply on the mainland, many actually starved… starved to death! This is something unlikely ever to happen on this ship.           

Nova Scotia, as you’ll soon discover, has been aptly described as “a bit of this and a bit of that”, referring to the hardened seafarers and fishermen of the eastern coast, the farmers of the central valley, the French descendants in Acadia, and the Scots who settled the highlands of Cape Breton Island. Nova Scotia is all of that, and to experience it you must simply get out and explore. 

Sydney Sights       

Some compare Sydney rather unfavorably to the province’s other major city, Halifax some 250 miles away. Sydney was once a humming steel town until the 1950s even claiming to have the largest steel mill in all of North America. Early coalmines date back to the 1700s and shafts once jutted some three miles out into the sea. For more than 50 years, her mills combined Nova Scotian coke with Newfoundland iron ore and produced steel. Tons of it. Then the death knell rang with gas and oil production, which made Sydney’s industry no longer economically viable. Furnaces grew cold, men no longer worked the mill, and unemployment ran rampant—twice that of the rest of the country. Today, Sydney is the province’s third largest city with approximately 30,000 residents. 

The city, draped along the east bank of the Sydney Rivers, itself is home to an inviting historic district fronting the Esplanade. Here one finds among its historic homes the Jost House, dating back to 1786, which was purchased by Halifax merchant Thomas Jost in 1836. His descendants lived there until 1971. Today, it has on display for visitors a sampling of Victorian artifacts as well as a cooking fireplace, beehive bake oven, and 20th century medicinals. The Cossit House Museum, dating back to 1787, was home to Reverend Ranna Cossit, Sydney’s first permanent Anglican minister. Town fathers claim it is Sydney’s oldest surviving house and features early New England colonial architecture as well as personal furnishings. Charlotte Street is the main thoroughfare.           

An interesting side bar—Alexander Graham Bell moved to Canada from Scotland in 1870 when he was 23 years old. Seven years later he married Mabel Hubbard, a deaf student of his (Bell’s mother was also deaf). In 1885, the pair built their home on Cape Breton Island where he spent his summers until 1922, when he passed away. A museum in Baddeck captures this story. 

The St. Lawrence Seaway

Karyn Planett

From The Great Lakes to the Sea 

This massive project, undertaken by the Canadian and American governments, has served as the key to unlocking the natural travel and trade barriers along the St. Lawrence River. Known as the St. Lawrence Seaway, it has opened the doors for pleasure craft and container ships to travel deep into the continent, unstoppable now by rapids and rivers too narrow or too shallow.           

The St. Lawrence Seaway has paved the way for commerce and recreation all the way from the heartland of Canada and America to the steel gray waters of the mighty Atlantic Ocean. An engineering marvel. An architect’s dream. The Seaway reshaped the region’s geography as well as the world’s economy. Its story follows. 

A Long Time Coming 

Since the opening of the Panama Canal in 1904 (measuring a mere 51-miles long), nothing on this scale has been attempted anywhere in the world. Here are some amazing statistics about the St. Lawrence Seaway: 

•            22,000 laborers worked on the Seaway.

•            It took four years to complete.

•            The machinery alone cost $70,000,000.

•            Five lakes drain into this body of water.

•            A quarter of a million cubic feet of water flows every second to the sea from the St.      Lawrence River (enough to permit each American to shower more than five dozen times daily).

•            The Seaway stretches 2,342 miles.

•            From Montreal to Lake Ontario (183 miles) the St. Lawrence rises 224 feet.

•            The Seaway is divided into five sections: Lachine, Soulanges, Lake St. Francis, International Rapids, and Thousand Islands.

•            The St. Lawrence Seaway was officially dedicated in 1959 by President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth II.

•            The US and Canadian economies are now closely tied – 80% of Quebec’s foreign exports go to the US. In return 45% of its imports come from the US.           

Most of the St. Lawrence has always been navigable. The problem has been areas that were narrow or shallow that turned calm waters into roiling rapids. For the French priests living in the area during the 1700s, the solution was to construct small canals that were capable of handling boats and canoes. Larger ships, however, were unable to pass.           

A series of locks followed that allowed bigger boats through. But, it was not until the beginning of the 20th century that a vessel of any substantial size could navigate the St. Lawrence River all the way to Lake Ontario from the Atlantic. Beyond Lake Ontario there were the Sault Ste. Marie and Welland Locks that permitted passage even deeper into the other Great Lakes.           

With the opening of the full complement of the Seaway’s locks and canals, cities like Chicago and Duluth were closer to, say, Liverpool than Florida or Louisiana. And Ohio became a competitive trading partner for Europe, in lieu of some eastern ports such as Baltimore. In the early days grain, coal, wood, and iron ore were among those commodities loaded aboard ships plying the St. Lawrence.           

To sum up the importance of this extraordinary Seaway, realize that more than 8,000 miles of coastline became accessible to sizeable vessels, shifting the balance of trade dramatically. 

It Wasn’t Easy To Build 

In fact, one of the most difficult factors the construction crews had to face was the long, cold winter. Ice crusted over the frozen river and temperatures dipped as low as 35 degrees below zero! The workers had to wear protective gear, including gloves so their fingers wouldn’t freeze to the tools. Even the machinery failed in this weather.           

Not to be outsmarted by Mother Nature, however, the fellows pouring concrete would heat the sand, water and gravel mixture before pouring it into heated forms. This kept the concrete from freezing before it could set.           

A Mr. Martin W. Oettershagen, speaking on behalf of the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, said, “the St. Lawrence commands respect.” And respect it they did as the teams worked with 19-foot tides, hot and humid summers, and bone-chilling winters to overcome rapids, waterfalls, and underwater hazards. Their reward was not only a wonderfully successful waterway project but also the added bonus of hydroelectric power. Enough, in fact, to light major cities in the area.

All in all, the St. Lawrence Seaway has been very, very good for both the United States and Canada, not to mention the rest of the world. 

St. Johns, Canada

Karyn Planett

“Although in cloathes, company, buildings faire,

With England, New-found-land cannot compare:

Did some know what contentment I found there,

Alwayes enough, most times somewhat to spare,

With little paines, less toyle, and lesser care,

Exempt from taxings, ill newes, Lawing, feare,

If cleane, and warme, no matter what you weare,

Healthy, and wealthy, if men carefull are,

With much – much more, then I will now declare,

(I say) if some wise men knew what this were,

(I do believe) they’d live no other where.”

            Robert Hayman, ‘A skeltonicall continued rhyme in praise of my New-found-land,’ in Quodlibets, 1628.

That ringing endorsement aside, many do wish to live in Newfoundland and no other where. It seems to be a collection of fishing type houses clinging to the craggy cliffs or scattered up the surrounding slopes facing the island’s 6,000 miles of coastline. St. John’s heralds as the province’s first city and others might pale by comparison.           

And Newfoundlanders are the outdoorsy type. They chatter over thick hot coffee of the types of fishing tackle they’ve just purchased, their last hike into the island’s interior, or the whales they’ve spotted running off the coast. Some may even share a tale or two with visitors about John Cabot’s historic journey here in 1497. But others might just be recapping the local hockey highlights.           

Their ancestors were probably born in the English West Country, Scotland, or Ireland. With them came the brogue, the vernacular, and the lilt of their mother tongues. Visitors might want to pick up a copy of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English if you can’t quite catch what that fellah is saying. For more contemporary reading, pick up a copy of Annie Proulx’ Shipping News.           

Newfoundlanders are proud of their heritage, quick to share their lore, and rigidly independent. They only joined the Confederation less than 50 years ago! Until then, Newfoundland was an independent country.           

For the record, historians record that the Maritime Archaic Indians, the Vikings and the Basque all built small settlements in the region. 

St. John’s Story

Well, John Cabot really opened the floodgates for Europeans who followed for the fishing and the commercial opportunities in the area. In addition to the Italians were the French, Basque, Portuguese, Spanish, and of course the English. Some say the town’s name, though up for debate, can be attributed to Gaspar Corte-Real, a Portuguese explorer. He stepped ashore here in 1500. Evidence points to early Portuguese maps from 1519 where this area was identified as Rio de San Johem, the Portuguese translation for St. John’s River.           

Everything comes at a cost and there was conflict and scuffling associated with the wealth from the fishing industry. In 1555, French troops were overpowered by Basque fighters who wrested control of St. John’s away from them.            

Next came the British who were sailing about this part of the world dropping settlers ashore and establishing control over fishing and other enterprises. The Oxford family was the earliest known settlers to put down their stakes just west of Beck’s Cove. That was in the opening years of the 1600s. Then the Dutch, utilizing the brilliance of naval strategist Admiral De Ruyter, grabbed control from the British in 1665. 

All around, the fishing industry grew. More and more permanent buildings rose up to accommodate this commerce. Water Street was born. Locals claim this is, therefore, the earliest commercial street in all of North America.           

Prosperity reigned for the next two centuries. Even so, the population didn’t really explode as one might expect. And the French and British spent tremendous effort and energy battling each other for supremacy over St. John’s. The guns finally fell silent in 1762 with the British planting their flag for the final time, giving the French the boot.           

As luck would have it for some, the Napoleonic Wars erupted in 1791. This meant the demand for salted fish skyrocketed and St. John’s found even greater importance. Prices soared and immigrants flocked in for their share of the fish pie. In fact, the population multiplied to some 10,000 by war’s end in 1815. The bottom then fell out of the fish market and everything looked bleak in St. John’s till war raged again across Europe in 1914.           

Fast forward to the present, St. John’s is still Newfoundland’s economic hub and the official provincial capital as well. It’s found on the Avalon Peninsula and is home to more than 100,000 people. Officials claim St. John’s is North America’s “most easterly city” and they’re darned proud of it. Sadly, many of its historic structures have been destroyed by fire. In 1892, the city experienced what they called the “great fire.” One hundred years later, another conflagration swept through the town taking remnants of history with it.           

Climb atop Signal Hill to take in the view all around. Below is The Battery, looking like something from a movie set. Many buildings resemble those of the 17th century. Then a stroll past historic structures like Commissariat House (1821), Government House (1831), and the Colonial Building (1832) will complete the picture. Just ask one of the locals if you get lost. They’re quite friendly and eager to share their heritage with you. You’ll see. 

St. John, Canada

Karyn Planett

Many Great Men 

Someone once asked the riveting question, “What was the secret behind all the great men that this tiny, rather backward corner of Canada produced?” Alistair Horne replied, as quoted in the 1961 Canada and the Canadians, “It’s the challenge of having to creep out to the outhouse every winter’s day at 30 degrees below zero!”           

Well, times have changed but New Brunswick in general and St. John in particular has enjoyed its share of great men and great women over the years. A few of their stories follow after a brief introduction to this city found at the mouth of the St. John River on the Bay of Fundy.

A Long and Colorful History 

This region’s first inhabitants were members of the Maritime Archaic Indian civilization then, several thousand years ago, the Passamoquoddy Nations people. Sailors from across the Atlantic found their way here including Basque, Breton and Norman fishermen as well as a Spaniard named Gomez in 1524. Samuel de Champlain also explored the area in 1604. The French established settlements and traded with the tribal people. The British followed and ultimately there were military engagements with the American revolutionaries. In 1785, St. John became British North America’s (currently Canada’s) first incorporated city.           

During the Irish potato famine large numbers of immigrants arrived by the leaking boatload only to be summarily quarantined on Partridge Island. So many perished in their perilous journey or in unsanitary conditions on the island. Theirs is an amazing tale and their brave legacy lives on in the history and character of this fine city.           

Shipbuilding brought prosperity to St. John as it grew into New Brunswick’s leading industrial center during the 19th century. At that time it was the world’s fourth largest shipbuilding center. Wealthy families erected enormous mansions as a display of their success. Then a monstrous fire raged through the city in 1877 swallowing up much of the central business district. Ask someone to tell you the story about the fire wagons that had no horses to pull them. Many feel this oversight led to the fire’s opportunity to get a good hold before much help could arrive. Irish immigrants played an important role in raising this city from the ashes.

Naming Names Of Some “Great” Men 

Benedict Arnold moved to St. John after surrendering West Point to the British. Lived here six years. Some historians call him great while others disagree.           

Lois B. Mayer, Hollywood producer of MGM fame, moved from Minsk to St. John with his parents at the age of three, only leaving at the age of 20.           

Walter Pidgeon, famous movie star, was born in St. John in 1898 and made his debut performance as a singer here at 13.           

Donald Sutherland, famous actor, was born here in1935 and went on to star in a long list of hit films.           

Amelia Earhart, prettier than the others mentioned, landed nearby on her 1932 solo trans-Atlantic flight that catapulted her to fame and some fortune.           

And for your information the movie, Children Of A Lesser God, was filmed in St. John in 1985.

And Speaking Of Big 

The tide in the Bay of Fundy is the largest in the whole wide world. It’s faster than a speeding bullet, higher than a 4-story building, and able to squeeze 100 billion tons of seawater in and out of the bay two times every day come rain or shine. In fact, it’s estimated that every 12 1/2 hours the water that rushes through Fundy is approximately equal to the 24-hour flow of all the other rivers in the entire world combined. Can you imagine? It’s this event that causes the “Reversing Falls” whereby the river actually flows back upstream. Isn’t Mother Nature amazing!           

All this is great news to the 15 species of toothed and baleen whales that migrate here every summer to dine on a tasty array of everything on their particular diets.           

But science aside, know that the local Micmac people believe a massive whale angered an important god named Glooscap and smacked his tale so hard it caused the seawater to slosh in and out, back and forth even to this day. A scientist will tell you it’s more about the underwater terrain and local geography but that’s not nearly as dramatic. 

Out And About 

Put on your tennies because this is an up-and-down town with hills to tackle. A few sights worth the journey include the City Market (the oldest continuous market in the nation); Prince William Street (like a step into the history books); King’s Square, Queen Square, and Market Square (each with its own highlights); plus the Trinity Royal Preservation Area (an architecturally-important 20-block area). Your visit to all the above will be its own reward. 

Seward, Alaska

Karyn Planett

What’s In a Name?? 

Locals will be happy to tell you the history of how their tiny town got its name. Actually, if you had a year or two to spare they could go all the way back to the earliest of days, 30,000 to 10,000 years ago, when bands of hearty travelers crossed the land bridge between Siberia and Alaska. They’d fill in the blanks with details about the Aleuts, Inupiats and Yup’iks, Athabascans, Tlingits and Haidas, all tribal people who fished and hunted and built communities. Yes, the Russians followed, as did Captain Cook. The Americans and the Brits also had an eye on this bountiful land so America ultimately bought Alaska from the Russians for the whopping sum of $7.2 million. The year was 1867. Back then it was a load of dough. Today you can hardly remodel a bathroom for that. 

So, who do you think orchestrated that deal? You guessed it … the then Secretary of State William Seward (pronounced “Soo-word”) for whom this town is named. Now you know. Unfortunately Secretary Seward, serving in President Abraham Lincoln’s administration, was lampooned in Washington and the whole ordeal was referred to as “Seward’s Folly” because of the high dollar figure paid for this 663,000-square-mile backwater wilderness. 

More of the story unfolded when a gentleman named John Ballaine arrived in 1903. He founded the town and the Alaska Central Railway to serve this deepwater port. A marker to memorialize this event is located on the shore of Resurrection Bay in Hoben Park. 

By the way, it was Seward who had the very last laugh when gold was discovered in 1908 on Otter Creek, a tributary of the Iditarod River, and the rush was on. You can almost hear his gloating chuckle echoing off the hills even today. 

That Brings Us To The Iditarod Story 

We all know about the famous sled dog race called The Iditarod. Well, the whole thing began years ago when sled dogs were basically the only means of traveling about the countryside across rugged peaks and swollen rivers. This was long before snowmobiles and Ice Road Truckers became popular. Anyway, these huskies, malamutes, samoyeds and other robust dogs served as the power source for the only available form of transportation for people and goods over harsh terrain. Their mushers’ early goal was to open up a route to a newly discovered gold mine, right in Iditarod.

The Iditarod’s 1,150-mile-long Anchorage to Nome race* retraces an event in 1925 when mushers and dog teams had to make the grueling 674-mile journey to deliver diphtheria medicine to the people in Nome who feared an outbreak of the epidemic. They completed the trek in an epic 127 hours. Today’s race runs between Nome and Anchorage but the actual Iditarod Trail begins in Seward and is still referred to as the Seward-to-Nome Mail Trail. This string of smaller trails felt the footsteps of thousands of prospectors starting in 1910. Along the route were ramshackle lean-tos, rudimentary shantytowns, hovels, dog barns, sheds and cabins.

A Dog Named Balto

You’ll also hear tell of Balto. He was a mighty Siberian husky who is famous for the mission of mercy role he played in saving Alaska’s children. He lived from 1919 until 1933 and was celebrated as the sled dog that guided his team during the final stint of the famous diphtheria delivery. Then six, this jet-black dog is known for his ability to withstand the final leg of the run in -23 degrees Fahrenheit, in near whiteout conditions and mostly in the dark. The medicine that began its journey in Seattle was safely delivered to the doctors and nurses who inoculated Nome’s youth, saving the day by successfully preventing a potential tragedy.

Other dogs and mushers deserve their place in history as heroes, as well, but it is Balto who became famous. There’s even a statue of him in New York City’s Central Park plus an animated 1995 movie of the same name. And, for the record, he was named after the famous Sami explorer Samuel Balto. 

Seward Today 

Approximately 2,700 people call Seward home, with another 2,700 or so living on the outskirts of town. That number swells with visitors coming by ship and others interested in exploring the Kenai Fjords National Park. Many visitors make their way to the Benny Benson memorial (not directly in town). This 13-year-old Alutiiq “orphan” living at Seward’s Jess Lee Orphanage was born in 1913 and is credited with having designed the state flag, the winner over 700 other entries. That was the good news. The bad news was he had to wait another 32 years for Alaska to become America’s 49th state. The contest was open to all the children of Alaska between the 7th and 12th grades. Benny’s design depicted the Big Dipper and the state’s flower, a forget-me-not, set against a blue background. His notoriety served as an enormous sense of pride for Alaska’s native citizens when it was flown for the first time on July 9, 1927, only four years after Native Alaskans received not only citizenship but the right to vote, as well. 

The people of Seward have much to be proud of and you’re going to hear all about it. 

Sept Îsles, Canada

Karyn Planett

In other words, “Seven Islands”

Let’s start with the bigger picture. Sept-Îles is a tiny little spot in the massive Canadian province of Quebec. Covering nearly 600,000 square miles, approximately one sixth of the nation’s sweeping landmass, Quebec has a French flair that has been and probably will always be its signature. When you look at the statistics, it becomes quite apparent that three out of every four Québécois consider their French heritage as a distinctive part of their current persona. More than 90% speak French as their first language. Compare that to the less than 10% of the residents who trace their roots to their British ancestors. And certainly not to be overlooked are those whose heritage remains with the indelible roots of the indigenous native peoples. Among them those are those who are considered Inuit, First Nations, and Métis.           

All this is changing, of course, and with the introduction of immigrants from many countries one can understand the mélange that is uniquely Quebec. 

St. Lawrence Lowlands 

Sept-Îles is directly north across the St. Lawrence from the Gaspe Peninsula as well as the “seven islands” of the archipelago for which it is named. Two of these islands today are First Nation Reserves. This is a bountiful region, known as the Côte-Nord, with clear streams, boreal forests, free-flowing rivers, and seemingly endless wild game. It is the province’s furthest north town of any size with a population of some 26,000 people located between the banks of the Moisie and Sainte-Marguerite Rivers. Early inhabitants used the streams and waterways to access the interior in a nomadic lifestyle. Traditional people paddled their slender crafts upstream, pitched their skin tents for shelter from the elements, and practiced the “hunter-gatherer” traditions taking what they needed to sustain them through long, harsh, cold winters. They filled their sacks with berries, herbs for traditional medicines, pelts for garments, as well as fish to eat or dry for their future needs.           

The Europeans were here, as well, including fishermen from the Basque community. They were drawn across the icy Atlantic with the hope of finding schools of cod as well as whales. It was in 1535 that French explorer Jacques Cartier made note of his sightings along with mapping the Gulf of Saint Lawrence as well as the river of the same name. He’d been commissioned by King Francis I to search for a navigable passage to Asia and all the treasures he’d hoped would fill the coffers of France.           

Little more than a century later, Father Jean Dequen founded a mission in this location.             

Following in the fishermen’s wake were fur-traders. In 1679, Louis Joliet advanced the industry by building trading posts to formalize this trade. Sea otter and beaver pelts were harvested from the waters while buffalo skins, bear hides, ermine furs and buckskin were taken from the land animals. A lively trade took place with Europeans offering knifes and metal objects, collecting pelts in return. In the mid-19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company staked their claim to this lucrative business by establishing their own trading post in Sept-Îles.           

Today’s business activity surrounds the iron ore mining that takes place inland with their production finding its way to waiting ships in Sept-Îles’ busy port. Today, some of this activity has subsided causing some economic consequences. 

Welcoming Ships 

Recently, this vibrant port began to welcome passenger vessels, developing their tourism offerings for visitors. Many consider Sept-Îles ideal as a jumping off point for traveling inland to hunt or fish for salmon at Moisie, a mere 8 miles east. Those wishing to remain in the town usually begin their discovery at le Vieux-Poste, which dates back to 1676. Louis Jolliet was among the members of a French commercial society that managed this early trading post. Among its many exhibits is a small chapel and displays highlighting traditional hunting practices. Another notable attraction is the Regional Museum featuring the detailed history of the Innu people, found among the 40,000 objects on display.           

Some visitors prefer interacting with Mother Nature either through visits to surrounding landscapes, catching a few salmon of their own or zipping about over to several of the offshore islands. Among them is Manowin, with its bird-nesting cliffs and Corossol, known for its bird sanctuary and a shipwreck of the same name. Foodies simply sample the local salmon, freshly caught or smoked, bannock bread, and a specialty cloudberry jam called chicoutai. Bannock is a campfire favorite. Crafty cooks wrap the dough around a branch they then suspend over the open flame until it’s cooked to a golden brown.            

Perhaps campers are out on one of the seven islands right now putting some raisins in the dough for a little added bonus. If you’re lucky, you might be offered a sample.

Seattle, Washington

Karyn Planett

Bright Lights, Big Business 

Seattle is a city of superlatives. Just as Chicago is the city of Big Shoulders, New York is the Big Apple, San Francisco is Bagdad by the Bay, well Seattle is definitely the City of Superlatives. Things seem larger than life here. Just as the Space Needle soars high above the skyline, entrepreneurs here have rocketed into the stratosphere by thinking big, really big. The biggest aircrafts ever built come from here. Seattle has a big story to tell, so let’s begin. 

Early Pioneers 

It all began in 1851 when a band of settlers scratched out a simple life nearby before moving to Elliot Bay where today’s Pioneer Square is found. Sealth was a Duwamish Indian whom the settlers honored by naming their fledgling community after him. Men started logging operations then focused on coal mining. Fishing and shipbuilding also ratcheted up the local economy with Seattle being included in the important Northern Pacific Railway Co. This boom lured as many as 1,000 new arrivals monthly as the clock ticked toward 1890. But it all went bust with a catastrophic fire that destroyed the downtown area.           

Next came the hoards of men with gold dust in their eyes, bound for Alaska and Canada’s Yukon where gold was found along the muddy banks of the Klondike. Immigrants flocked in to service the growing city. Another boom came with the echo of guns during WWI when Seattle hummed along building ships for the war effort. A similar push during WWII pulled Seattleites out of the Depression. And that’s when one of Seattle’s greatest success stories was written.

Welcome Aboard

The Second World War brought misery to many and opportunity to others. Unemployed laborers camped out in shantytowns found jobs at Boeing, a small company run from a red barn on Lake Union in 1916. The Boeing Company hired men by the score multiplying their workforce hundreds of times over and, it is said, saw their business jump from $10M to $600M each of the war years. The Guinness Book of Records recognizes the Boeing Everett Factory as including the world’s largest building by volume. It measures a staggering 472,000,000 cubic feet. It was an up and down ride for a while for Boeing till the 707 came along. Next, the 747, 767, 777, and 787. The rest, as the say, is history.           

But, then you’ve got Microsoft with its own story of success. And Amazon. Who could have imagined a website selling books would write a new chapter in the history of literature? You’d have to ask the same question about a little company called Starbucks that thought it’d be a good idea to sell cups of coffee in Pike Place Market. Today Caramel Macchiatos are served in 16,000 Starbucks in 50 countries. It’s pretty amazing when you add up all that this city of 500,000 has contributed to the contemporary business scene. And let’s not forget local success Microsoft’s Paul Allen whose Experience Music Project celebrates all that Seattle contributed to the music world. Its tower of guitars, on-stage costumes, and memorabilia tell the story in a building reminiscent of Jimmy Hendrix’s smashed guitar. It’s a must.           

Big also refers to Seattle’s Space Needle standing 600 feet tall that was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. And Mt. Rainier, the tallest volcanic peak in the lower 48 states standing 14,400 feet high. Zow. 

Pick And Choose 

Well, it’s time to make plans. To see the city sights, you mustn’t miss Pioneer Square where it basically all began. It’s here that you explore beneath the city streets, prowling through subterranean passages past old storefronts. For a bird’s eye view, there’s the 43-second ride to the Observation Deck of the Space Needle. From here, there’s a panoramic view of the distant mountains and the tranquility of Puget Sound. And everyone’s heard of Pike Place Market, reputed to be the biggest open-air market on the West Coast. This former farmers market now offers more than local row crops. There are cheeses and jams, regional specialties and flying fish. If you don’t know about the flying fish then you absolutely must go to see for yourself. Do have a Mocha Frappuccinno here at the site of the world’s first Starbucks.           

If it’s a stronger beverage you’re interested in, you might make your way to Seattle’s Famous Pyramid Alehouse. In addition to an assortment of wheat beers and lagers, you can quaff one of a half-dozen old-fashioned sodas served with flair.           

Whatever it is that suits your fancy this day, surely Seattle will call you back for more. 

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, Canada

Karyn Planett

In The Soup 

There are places in the world that, due to their geographic location, always seem to find themselves in the middle of things—not always of their own doing. Saint-Pierre & Miquelon, two islands forming an overseas territory of France, are just such a place. They could have been a sleepy tropical paradise like French Polynesia, or a jet-setter’s playground like St. Barts. But no, they had to find themselves at the crossroads between the Old World and the New, between the fishing fleets of Canada and the United States, between the Vichy and the Free French, and between Prohibition and Canadian Whisky. 

As a result, this otherwise unspectacular little archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence has a rich history rivaling any in Metropolitan France—nearly 2,400 miles to the east.

Pea Soup 

Another intersection in the neighborhood is created by the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and the cold of the Labrador Current. As anyone living near the sea can appreciate, the result is a nearly daily fog of the pea soup variety. So why are we here you may ask? Because when you add fog to a handful of low lying, completely barren and infertile, climatically severe, windswept islands, peopled by a grizzled bunch of seafarers, you have the stuff of romance, legend, mystery… and more than 600 shipwrecks. In fact the waters between the two main islands are known as “the Mouth of Hell”.           

Citizens of Saint-Pierre & Miquelon trace their lineage to some of the more rugged areas of France and North America—fisherfolk from the Basque region to Brittany, and from Maine to the Acadian Peninsula have populated the islands. Economic times have not always been kind to them but they have found ways to survive and sometimes prosper in spite of the obstacles. 

Fish Soup 

War was one such obstacle contributing to the boom/bust cycle. Between 1713 and 1816 the French and British were involved, directly or indirectly, in a number of wars—the War of the Spanish Succession, the Seven Years War, the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars, and the Hundred Days War. Each time the islands were occupied and reoccupied and the population moved off to make way for the other nation’s settlers.           

World Wars I and II, threw another obstacle into the mix—U-Boats. It took a brave captain to venture out into the fishing grounds knowing he might catch a torpedo instead of a codfish.           

In World War II, the administrators of Saint Pierre and Miquelon sided with the Nazi-supporting Vichy government, which for a time was recognized as the official representative of the French nation. But the Free French government in exile took exception to allowing the Nazis a foothold in North America to run U-Boat operations from, and on Christmas Day in 1941 a force under the command of Admiral Émile Muselier occupied the islands. 

Also in World War II a number of young islanders were recruited to man a French Naval Corvette, which accompanied Allied convoys headed for Europe. In 1942, she was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of 65 of her 69-man crew, a significant blow to the local population.           

Between the World Wars there were the Whiskey Wars spawned by the advent of Prohibition in the U.S. in 1920. The islanders had already become accomplished smugglers in order to see them through other tough times, but in the late 20s and early 30s they made smuggling an art form. It is claimed that a hat belonging to Al Capone hangs in a local bar. Whiskey from Canada (nearly two million gallons at the peak), rum from the Caribbean, wine and cognac from the continent all made their way to the laxly regulated islands to be transshipped to the U.S. by an innocent-looking fishing fleet.           

Most recently, Saint-Pierre & Miquelon have been embroiled in the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) Wars. As the fishing grounds have played out, the U.S. and Canada have placed stricter regulations on commercial operations in the surrounding waters. And in 1992 Canada banned all cod fishing in the area. That same year, a special arbitration panel awarded a 4,700 square mile EEZ to the islands. It is hoped that potential oil reserves in the zone may help replace lost revenue from fishing. 

What A Visitor Should Know 

Where there are Basques or Basque descendents, there is usually a Basque Festival. These festivals often feature stone heaving (Scots are good at this, too), lumberjack skills (think Monty Python), and pelota, a form of jai alai. You may be lucky enough to find some local athletes practicing these skills.

These resilient citizens have decided that tourism may help make up for the loss of revenue from fishing, so a few enterprising folk have decided to do a restoration project on Isle-aux-Marins, or Sailors Island, a scallop throw from Saint-Pierre.           

The Saint-Pierre & Miquelon men’s hockey team played an exhibition game against the French national team in 2008. They lost 8-6 and have not played an international match since.           

The State Museum in Saint-Pierre houses the only guillotine ever used in North America—to dispatch the unfortunate Joseph Neel on August 24, 1889. The event is rarely celebrated.           

You can discuss all the above with locals who’ll be happy welcome you to their island home. 

Portland, Maine

Karyn Planett

Lobsters and Lighthouses 

“Oh happy Portlanders, if they only knew their own good fortune! They get up early, and go to bed early. The women are comely and sturdy, able to take care of themselves without any fal-lal of chivalry; and the men are sedate, obliging, and industrious. … Probably of all modes of life that are allotted to man by his Creator, life such as this is the most happy.” 

So wrote Anthony Trollope in his 1862 North America.   

Well Mr. Trollope, the respected English novelist of the Victorian Period, truly smacked the proverbial nail on its old head. “What’s not to be happy about?” one asks oneself. Portland’s air is fresh, her seas are bountiful, its history is celebrated, and the city’s future is bright. Portland is one of those destinations you’re most happy to visit and a bit slow to leave.

A Thumbnail Look At Portland’s History 

A captain in the English navy is named as the first European gentleman to try to carve out a community he called York in this rugged countryside draped along Casco Bay. His name, Christopher Levett. The year, 1623. His efforts failed. Ten years later, two guys named Cleeve and Tucker did succeed by putting down roots to form a small fishing village they named Casco. Settlers followed, the town grew, and its name changed to Falmouth then ultimately Portland.            

Over the years, Portland’s prominence increased because this vibrant seaport is 100 miles closer to Europe than competing US ports, saving ships precious time. Even then, time was money. This industrious history is written on the red brick walls of restored warehouses lining the cobblestone streets of the Old Port. 

So Much To See, So Precious Your Time 

The vibrant waterfront is a great place to start with views of the scattered outlying islands. The Arts District is rich with antique stores, galleries and artists’ studios. Congress Street is punctuated with the Wadsworth-Longfellow House at number 485. The poet Henry was third generation in this house that’s said to be the place where he penned The Rainy Day. Victoria Mansion, completed in 1860, was designed by Gustave Herter and still displays approximately 90% of the original household furnishings set against a backdrop of stained glass windows, frescoes, and intricately carved woodwork. Nearby Fort Williams speaks to the chapter in history where it served as part of the coastal defense system.           

Lighthouse buffs will enjoy a visit to Port Head Light, which first shined its mighty beacon in 1791. Breakwater Light, lovingly called “Bug Light” by locals, first shone in 1875 and was the handiwork of Thomas U. Water whose name is also associated with important buildings in Washington D.C.  If these examples don’t satisfy your lighthouse lust, there’s always Spring Point Ledge Light, the caisson-style lighthouse resembling a “sparkplug” yet alerting many a ship captain to the danger of running aground on the treacherous ledge just offshore. And, did you know it was just this rugged coastline that inspired Longfellow’s Wreck of the Hesperus in 1869?

The Portland Freedom Trail highlights the story of the Underground Railroad that spirited escaped slaves north to freedom. Along the Portland Peninsula, you’ll find a walking trail with markers telling of this sad chapter in American history       

Something For The Foodies 

Lobsters, live from lobster beds tended by rugged New Englanders, are offloaded dockside daily. And there’s nothing like a plump, fire engine red lobster dripping in butter to celebrate life. This tender delicacy is probably the reason Bon Appétit magazine called Portland the “foodiest small town in America.” Restaurants and eateries also serve up farm-fresh produce, handcrafted cheeses, hearty chowders and cold beer from local microbreweries. Chocolate lovers gather to photograph Lenny, touted as the biggest and only full-scale chocolate moose in the world. And, for the folks back home, you can them ship live lobsters packed in ice. That’s way better than a fridge magnet. 

Portland’s Famous Citizens 

Well, in addition to Portland’s poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow born here in 1807 and whose works include Hiawatha, The Courtship of Miles Standish as well as Paul Revere’s Ride, you’ve got other native sons like Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth and Stephen King. Another local citizen of note is Leon Leonwood Bean, more commonly known of as L.L. Bean who took outdoor gear to new heights. His local store addressed the founder’s goal of providing the finest service possible by keeping their doors open around the clock, 365 days a year starting in 1951.           

And, speaking of shopping, there’s a semi-precious stone called a Maine tourmaline that just might be too tempting to pass up. Discovered in 1820 by two local lads named Elijah Hamlin and Ezekiel Holmes, the tourmaline mines have offered up many fine gemstones. Perhaps leave time to make a gem discovery of your own. 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Karyn Planett

We’re goin’ hoppin’.

We’re goin’ hoppin’ today.

Where things are poppin’

The Philadelphia way.

We’re goin’ drop in

On all the music they play

On the Bandstand!

American Bandstand!” 

Well, our beloved William Penn would have had a right proper hemorrhage if he believed our greatest interest in Philadelphia was Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. But, for those boomers whose history began after 1950, Philadelphia’s hit televised dance show was exactly what put this fair city on the map. Not Betsy Ross but Diana Ross. Nor Benjamin Franklin but Aretha Franklin. Not even George Washington but Dinah Washington. Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, and the Liberty Bell were topics to discover at a later date, perhaps one day even eclipsing our addiction to Clark’s daily after-school party that “had a beat and was easy to dance to.” Nonetheless, Fabian, Frankie and Bobby LIVE ON!

The Dusty Tomes Of History 

Vast sections of our local libraries are dedicated to early American history and much of it began on the hallowed paths you’ll soon tread. As you wander about, you’ll hear of William Penn’s 1681 gift from King Charles II of a tract of virginal land stretching from Chesapeake Bay to Lake Erie and the Delaware River, as well. This parcel, worth 16,000 British Pounds at the time, became Pennsylvania and wiped clean a pesky outstanding debt. Of course, the Lenni-Lenape tribe had lain down their claims to this countryside long before, but that’s a long chapter in and of itself. For the record, it was Penn who dubbed Philadelphia the “City of Brotherly Love” in 1682.

aA teenaged Benjamin Franklin arrived in 1719 from Boston and was hired on as a printer’s assistant. Some twelve years later, Franklin founded the first subscription library, the Philadelphia Library. Little did he know at the time how historic the tale of this city would become. 

Rising Up and Laying Down A Nation’s Foundation 

There had been a lot of wrangling between the colonists and King George III who’d grown weary of this faraway land. However, it was the Stamp Act of 1765 that seemed to be the last straw for the fledgling American community. At that time, our Ben Franklin was in England and regrettably agreed to this act. When news of his actions reached Philadelphia, a pack of angry citizens gathered outside the Franklin home only to be greeted by a musket-toting Mrs. Franklin who gave them a suitable tongue-lashing. The ensuing mayhem unleashed a boycott of British goods and forced the king to back down from this nasty tax business. A messy bit of legislation, known as the Townshend Act, followed only to become the fodder for the “no taxation without representation” rallying cry. It, too, was repealed. London was enraged once again. Then the 1773 Boston Tea Party, the single most important event leading up to the Revolutionary War, exploded prompting the First Continental Congress to pen the Declaration of Rights thus unifying the colonies. The beginning of the end for the colonial powers was at hand.           

In 1775, the “shot heard round the world” was fired and the American Revolution began. George Washington was appointed commander of the continental troops. The stellar cast of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson put quill to parchment drafting the Declaration of Independence. It was signed in Independence Hall and rallied the citizens of this fledgling nation to throw off the yokes of England forever. That mission was accomplished when the last British troops pulled out in 1778.           

In 1787, Pennsylvania became America’s second state with Philadelphia as this nation’s capital for the decade from 1790 to 1800. No wonder the “City of Brotherly Love” became etched into the consciousness of the citizens of this new land, a place it still holds to this day. 

Exploring Philly At Warp Speed 

Well, your “Sightseeing Top Ten” should include Carpenters’ Hall; the Betsy Ross House; the Liberty Bell; Independence Hall; Society Hill with its collection of original 18th and 19th century buildings; Elfreth Alley which is the country’s oldest continually inhabited street; Congress Hall; the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Penn’s Landing.           

Number Ten should be … any diner that catches your eye. You’ve got your fast food joints slamming out hoagies and Philly cheesesteaks and starred, mini-portion, big-check restaurants; your pretzel-packing street vendors and ethnic markets including “Rocky Balboa’s” Italian Market in Little Italy and the Reading Terminal Market dating back to 1893. 

But, here are two Philly food factoids you might not know. In 1901, two regular guys named Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart introduced the “automat” to America – a coin-operated, prepared food dispenser-restaurant. And that ballpark treat, the pretzel, was brought to America by folks known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Originally from 7th-century France, it was concocted by a French monk who fashioned unleavened dough scraps into this unique form meant to remind us of arms crossed in prayer. These pretzels were then given to pious children who’d mastered all their prayers. The name, as you might know, comes from the Latin pretiola, meaning “little gifts or prayers”.           

Well, whatever you do today, save room for Hershey chocolates from neighboring Hershey, funnel cakes and shoofly pie from the Amish community, or just about anything slathered in Philadelphia Cream Cheese, inaugurated in 1880. You can’t go wrong, but you gotta get out of town before your diet goes all to heck in a handbasket. 

Lunenberg, Canada

Karyn Planett

New Scotland 

Well, Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia means “New Scotland.” And, you know what’s a really fascinating fact about this part of the world? Halifax, which is the province’s capital city, is just about exactly half way between the frosty snows of the North Pole and the swaying palms draped along the steamy Equator. Isn’t that fascinating? 

Something else that’s interesting is that this part of Canada is called “Atlantic Canada.” The rugged shores of these four provinces that include Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, are hammered by the pounding Atlantic Ocean to the east and lapped on the other side by the relatively tranquil Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Bay of Fundy. 

Historians tell us that, even though Nova Scotia’s population is nearly one million strong now, long before the Europeans slogged ashore there were only Mi’kmaq people here. They were traditional hunters and fishermen who tackled the rough realities and harsh conditions, and survived. Then, as the Europeans spread across the area, the Mi’kmaq suffered from conflict and disease for which they had no resistance.

You’ll learn more details about the settling of this region but the guides will mention the Norse, Irish, Basque, French, English and Spanish all lured here by the rich waters that offered up fine fishing. But it was James I who gave the mandate in 1621 to a Sir William Alexander to create the “New Scotland”. A mere two years later, Charles I gave the whole lot back to the French and it was they who coined the term “Acadia” as the name for the area. 

Things got a bit messy when the British and the Acadians went at each other hammer and tong. A rather unpleasant chapter unfolded in 1755 when the Acadians, close to 15,000 of them, were deported when they refused to pledge their allegiance to the British. It was then that many of them traveled south to Louisiana and became what we know today as the Cajun people. Others settled in outlying areas. But here’s where it gets really intriguing. Following these deportations, an invitation went out to British citizens, German people from the Rhineland, and any brave soul from New England to come and put down their stakes in Nova Scotia. Thousands followed as the explosive chapters unfolded in America in 1776. They were “loyalists” looking for a new homeland. The German settlers were under the watchful eye of George III who referred to their new land as “New Brunswick”, reminiscent of the Grand duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Sound familiar? And their influence is felt to this day because many residents trace their lineage back to Switzerland and Germany, as well as France. 

And, by the way, nearly one in every three Nova Scotians proudly traces his heritage back to the fine country of Scotland. 

Finally, here’s a bit of trivia. If you’re a movie buff you might recognize Lunenburg as the setting for such blockbusting films as Jumping the Broom and the very haunting Dolores Claiborne. Remember the solar eclipse? 

That Brings Us To Lunenburg

Well, as we said, its name harkens back to its German counterpart … Lüneburg … from where settlers came more than 250 years ago. Today, the city is recognized for its historical importance with the naming of its Old Town as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was not afforded such respect when American privateers stormed ashore and sacked the whole place when the town was only 30 years old. 

Her people were always attached to the sea either as fishermen themselves or boat builders on whose backs the economy was borne. The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic tells these tales as well as that of the Bluenose. A fine boat, this salt banker was built here at the Smith and Rhuland Shipyard in 1921 and recognized as not only the undisputed champion of the North American fishing fleet but also the victor of not one or two but four international schooner races between 1921 and 1938. The Captain was a man named Angus J. Walters. Bluenose II is her recreation for the original Bluenose sadly sank near Haiti in 1946. At the museum you’ll also learn the dark secrets of the illegal rumrunners who gained sizeable profits during the days of Prohibition.   

On a cheerier note, there is a lovely spot called Mahone Bay, appreciated by artists and camera buffs for its subject matter. So, too, a tiny place called Blue Rocks and the more famous Peggy’s Cove. Pause to chat up one of the locals, then sample a succulent lobster, some Digby scallops, a crunchy oatcake, or handpicked blueberries before wrapping up your visit to Lunenberg. 

Kodiak, Alaska

Karyn Planett

The City and The Emerald Isle

“Land of fox and deer and sable

Shore end of our western cable,

Let the news that flying goes

Thrill through all your arctic floes…

Know you not what fate awaits you

Or to what the future mates you?

All ye icebergs make salaam, --

You belong to Uncle Sam!” 

In 1867, America purchased Alaska from Imperial Russia. It had been the capital of Russian Alaska from 1733 till 1867. That same year, Bret Harte wrote An Arctic Vision from which the above quote was taken. The territory was then governed variously by the US Treasury Department, the US Navy, and the US Army. However, it was President Chester Arthur who declared it the District of Alaska. That action may have been one of his greatest moments. 

The Russians Did Come, The Russians Did Come! 

Well, certainly Grigor Ivanovich Shelikof came. He’s believed to have been the first Russian in the area. In 1784, Shelikof and his men beached their boats in what is known as Three Saints Bay, named for one of his vessels. Tempers flared with the local indigenous Koniag people and the tragic events of that day were written in blood. Officially, 500 male residents were killed, unofficially perhaps many more. And rather than leave with the sea otter pelts Shelikof was originally after, he rounded up the women and children instead and kept them for three weeks. Besides these unpleasant events, Shelikof left behind the first Russian enclave in Alaska in Three Saints Bay.

Within a year, the reins of power were handed over to an Adrevich Baranof who moved things lock, stock, and whale oil to what is now Kodiak. Street signs and local names reflect this Russian influence. Over time, the Koniag people were largely assimilated into the Russian culture yet their heritage thankfully lives on in Kodiak’s Alutiiq Museum.           

The Russian heritage also lives on in the blue-domed Holy Resurrection Russian Orthodox Church and the St. Herman’s Seminary with its log chapel replica of their first church. In fact, this religion still has a strong following on the island. 

America Rethinks Its Position 

The wise legislators in the “Lower 48” states weren’t very interested in their northern neighbor. “Too far away,” they cried in chorus. “Nothing but empty land,” they reckoned. The indigenous Alutiiq didn’t agree and had long settled the region hunting sea otters for their pelts, which they traded to the Russians. But as the dark chapters of World War II unfolded, fears of an attack from the west surfaced following the Japanese invasion of Kiska and Attu. It was at that time these legislators recognized the strategic importance of this barren outpost. They built Ft. Abercrombie as part of the North Pacific’s WWII defense system. Then, in 1957, oil was discovered on the Kenai Peninsula in Swanson River and the rest was... history.           

Statehood came to Alaska on January 3rd, 1959 with Juneau its capital. Alaska became the forty-ninth star in America’s stars and stripes.

Kodiak, The Island 

Kodiak Island is found on the western side of the Gulf of Alaska. The terrain is rugged yet rich with geologic drama and wildlife, much of it living in an almost primal landscape. Ft. Abercrombie State Park is home to puffins, guillemots, eagles and eider ducks.             

Mother Nature has added her dramatic touch to this bucolic tableau. An 18-inch thick layer of white volcanic ash blanketed Kodiak in 1912 following the eruption of Mount Katmai. Some 52 years later a mighty earthquake, the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake, ground through the town followed by a deadly tsunami that measured 35 feet above the mean high water mark. It devastated the waterfront and rocked her citizens back on their heels as they took to the hills watching boats being tossed about like children’s toys. But locals come from hardy stock—people willing to linger through long winters and pack a year’s worth of living into their short summers. They may have been down but they were never out. Stop by the Kodiak Police Station to see the plaque measuring the wave’s high water mark.           

Kodiak, The Town 

Think fish. Locals, fewer than 7,000, claim their town ranks among the country’s top three fishing ports with 700 fishing vessels calling here annually. Kodiak is filled with crab pots, drying nets, canning factories, fish smokers, and curbside eateries serving everything from silver salmon to king crab, halibut to trout and steelheads. Knowing this, you’ll be surprised to learn most of the catch is frozen immediately and shipped out to markets around the world. Take a walk along Cannery Row, skirting the waterfront, for the full montage.

Jacksonville, Florida

Karyn Planett

Yeah Yeah Goin’ To Jackson 

Ville. Florida. That’s Jacksonville, Mr. Cash. You’ve been singing about the wrong town. We’re all going to Jacksonville. Plus, we’re all going to St. Augustine, too. You know someone could write a country western song about going to “Jax” and tell it like the locals do. It’d probably be a hit, just like this happening Florida city. And, oh my, there are volumes to discover about these glorious place so you’d best get out and about and see just as much as you possibly can. 


Did you know Stephen Crane wrote about Jacksonville in the 1890s? If you pick up a copy of one of the world’s greatest short stories, “The Open Boat”, you’ll learn about his quest to find his shipwrecked SS Commodore. It’s all right there. 

Another famous Jacksonville-ite is a gentleman called Merian Caldwell Cooper. Adventurers will remember his name for he traveled to many of the world’s darkest, most exotic and unexplored backwaters, as it were, like Siam (now Thailand) and Abyssinia (now Ethiopia). Remember these rugged expeditions happened not long after WWI when travel was a bit dodgier than it is now. Think “no cell phones or GPSs or even Handi-Wipes!” Cooper became a documentary filmmaker and gained fame and acclaim for his 1933 film King Kong. Many believe the lead character was fashioned after none other than himself. A long and hugely successful Hollywood career followed, even earning him two Academy Awards. 

Johnny Cash sings about the fire going out in Jackson. Well, it didn’t go out in Jacksonville in 1901. In fact, in practically burnt the whole darned town down. It was as if Mother Nature cast down a path of conflagration two miles wide with flames devouring 2,368 buildings leaving some 10,000 residents with no place to call home. As true southerners, they picked themselves up by their bootstraps and started all over again. For the record, some claim this devastating event was and still is the largest fire in the metropolitan South. 

On To St. Augustine 

In 1905, well-known author Henry James wrote to the English poet Edmund Gosse about St. Augustine and here’s what he had to say. 

“I am stopping for two or three days at the ‘oldest city in America’ – two or three being none too much to sit in wonderment at the success with which it has outlive its age.” 

Well, mull that over for a spell.

Mr. James was right about the “oldest city in America” bit. In fact, their own historians state their community was founded in 1565 and is the “oldest continuously occupied settlement of European and African-America origin in the entire US”. If you remember your American history, the English colonized Jamestown in 1607 and it wasn’t until 1620 that the Pilgrims slogged ashore at Plymouth Rock. There is history all around us here today. 

And much of it is related to... tobacco. The Virginia Company of London initially sponsored the colony and its growth, basically, and needed to make a profit. Indentured servants cleared the land and toiled in the steaming heat. The colony grew more with the introduction of Africans in 1619 from West Central Africa’s kingdom of Ndongo in Angola. Their numbers grew substantially from the 1650s on. The tobacco industry’s roots grew, as well, with the planting of each and every tobacco seed. 

For the record, St. Augustine got its name from Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés who was a Spanish admiral sent here to roust the French out of the area and protect the lands for Spain’s King Philip II. He and some 600 others came ashore in Florida on September 8, 1565, which happened to be St. Augustine’s feast day. You’ll learn more about this early history as you explore. 

Fun, Everywhere! 

You might want to satisfy your fun quotient with a Jax attack. Get out and find a park, which shouldn’t be hard to do as Jacksonville oversees some 80,000 acres worth. Hemming Plaza is the city’s oldest and is great for a picnic on a shady bench. Don’t forget some Peterbrooke chocolates, made right here. The chocolate-dipped popcorn balls are to die for. Salty, sweet, crunchy, creamy. Oh, there goes the diet!

If you’re a zoo buff, you can wander among the thousands of animals at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. In 2014, it celebrates its centennial anniversary and the animals are absolutely ecstatic. Party hats all around. 

For a more refined outing, there’s the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, with a permanent collection of approximately 5,000 pieces. Draped along the banks of the St. Johns River, the Gardens are the brainchild of Arthur and Waldo Cummer, brothers with the funds from the family’s Michigan lumber operation. The early plantings flanked theirs and their parents’ homes. While the men ran the family business, the women orchestrated the development of the plantings and the designing of the reflection pools, arbors and sculptures.

Well, here we are. It’s time to don your white linens, a floppy-brimmed sunhat and see just exactly what all this fuss is about. 

Havre-St. Pierre, Canada

Karyn Planett

A Walk In The Canadian Woods 

This tiny little spot on the Canadian map is rich with the types of blessings Mother Nature casts about her vast globe. Found in the heart of the Minganie Region, Havre-St. Pierre boasts a backdrop of carpeted forests and limestone cliffs as well as a scattering of sculpted islands and little hamlets of clustered houses. Against this tableau, one discovers the history of indigenous peoples, the story of intrepid explorers, and the touch of 21st-century man. 

The Tiny Port 

Havre-St. Pierre’s 3,500 people can trace their town’s history back to 1857 when a clutch of a half-dozen fishing families began to carve out their lives here. They gave it the name of Point-aux-Esquimaux, which only lasted until 1927 when it was changed to Havre-Saint-Pierre* in honor of the patron saint of fishermen. 

The focus of the townsfolk, who call themselves Cayens due to their Acadian roots, changed from fishing to mining with the opening of the mines in the Allard Lake district a mere 25 miles from town. Ilmenite was found in such quantity that it was considered to be the world’s largest deposit of this precious commodity. For those in the dark about this material, it’s an iron titanium oxide that is the primary ore of titanium. If you already knew that, make your way to the head of the class and collect a cookie. And if you have a titanium hip, take your time getting there. 

Locals boast that their community is known, somewhat casually, as the Minganie regional capital as it offers many services outlying areas cannot. 

“Take Care Of The Place Where You Live” 

A short 22-mile distance from the port of Havre-St. Pierre is a place called Mingan. Mingan is an Innu First Nations reserve at the meeting point of the Gulf of Saint-Lawrence and the Mingan River on Mingan Bay.  As you’ll quickly learn, “Mingan” translates into “Ekuanitshit” in Montagnais, which means, “take care of the place where you live.” 

That heartfelt motto is the translation of the name of the Innu First Nation community found here. These Innu have lived in this area since approximately 5,000 years prior to the arrival of the first Europeans. Officially, they number just above 500 so they guard their history and protect their traditions with a passion. 

For the record, others believe the name Mingan is from the Innu word for “timber wolf”, which is maikan while some claim the translation is “place where things run aground.” 

The people themselves are also known as Mingan. In the past, their skills as hunters caught the attention of the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) which, among others, opened trading posts in the area. They traded caribou, beaver, salmon, seal oil, pelts and such to the HBC, which has been in continuous operation for nearly 350 years. At one point in time, it’s said the HBC was the largest landowner in the world, including among its holdings15% of North America through its Hudson’s Bay watershed. 

Though the Mingan were seal hunters and such in the past, their economic base today revolves around the creation and marketing of art and handicrafts. Member of the community also serve as fishing guides or trappers. Tribal elders are dedicated to passing on their traditional ways to the next generation. Just know more than 97% of the Innu people who inhabit this community speak as their first language neither French nor English. 

Out And About 

Some visitors to Havre-St. Pierre travel about 45 minutes out of town to a place called Logue-Pointe-de-Mingan. Dating back to 1849, it attracted fishermen who searched for the big catches of cod. Today, Paspayas (anyone born here) showcase the Mingan Island Cetacean Study center with its exhibition on the many marine mammals native to the Saint Lawrence including several species of whales.  

Others visitors find their way to the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. This natural wonderland, laced with hiking trails, is graced with some 30 sculpted limestone islands and more than 1,000 granitic islets and reefs that are a photographer’s dream. Sculpted by a tireless sea, these rounded rocks are home to numerous seabirds and hearty plant life, while dolphins, seals and whales swim offshore. 

But Before You Depart … 

You’ll want to sample some of the fine food offered in the small restaurants in town. Typical menus including lobster and surf clams, game dishes featuring venison and duck, fresh vegetables plucked from nearby farms, buttery cheeses from local dairies, maple syrup pudding and wild blueberry cheesecake. With all these temptations, you might never leave this little bit of heaven. 

Before you leave, however, ask someone to point you toward the Roland-Jomphe Museum for a look back at the town’s history. Then ask them to hum a few bars of “La Côte-Nord”, made famous by Carolyne Jomphe. It captures the welcoming spirit of the Cayen’s signature hospitality in lyrics like, “Bienvenue chez-nous, vous dira t’on.” In English, these are words of a warm welcome that locals seem to live by. You’ll surely discover this as you wander about Havre-St. Pierre. 

Charlottetown, Canada

Karyn Planett

Landscapes and Literature

Prince Edward Island, PEI to the locals, is a sculpted, windswept chunk of land just offshore from the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Tossed into the chilly waters of the Northumberland Strait, this island is a scone’s throw from the mainland. The northern shores are washed by the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with seas pounding against the red sandstone cliffs. Inland is a rolling landscape of tiny farmhouses, hamlets dotted about, and fields of potatoes forming the agricultural backbone of this pastoral setting. Imagine that one-third of all potatoes grown in Canada come from these very fields.

Altogether, today’s descendents of European settlers number fewer than 150,000 for the entire island, and they’re clustered in a few cities or at home in the countryside of this 2,194-square-mile island. The entire package is so inviting, visitors arrive for a stint in summer happy to camp, explore the beaches, and attempt one of the many sports offered.

The Mi'ckmacks

Also spelled “Micmacs,” these indigenous people believed this was the “most beautiful place on earth.” The elders of these original inhabitants will tell you about the Great Spirit and how their ancestors came to this island to fish as long ago as 2,000 years. It was they who called it “Epekwitk,” which the Europeans changed to “Abegweit.” But whichever way you spell it, the term translates to “land cradled on the waves.” Sadly, you’ll need to seek out one of the Micmacs for details as there are a mere 1% left on the island.

Jacques Cartier “discovered” this island in 1534, claiming it for the French government with the proclamation that it was the “fairest land ‘tis possible to see!” Even so, they were slow to establish a permanent settlement, as one was not in place until 1719.

The island became incorporated into the French Colony of Acadia. Things went along rather well for a time. Ultimately Great Britain obtained ownership of the island through the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Some 35 years later, they changed the name to Prince Edward Island in honor of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn who became the father of Queen Victoria.

Charlottetown Confederation

In 1864, something called the Charlottetown Confederation occurred on this island in the very town you’ll soon visit.

Charlottetown is the idyllic backdrop where settlers first put down their roots, for two bountiful rivers flow past and everything is tucked into the protective arms of an embracing harbor. The town itself is named for the consort of King George III, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. It was also the site of the historic conference, the Charlottetown Confederation that took place here in 1864 planting the seeds for an independent Dominion of Canada. The memory of this event is evident throughout the town. There’s the Confederation Centre of the Arts Gallery and Museum, the Confederation Court Mall, and the Province House National Historic Site. Just know you’ll have enough Canadian history to satisfy even the staunchest history buff.

And, there’s more. There’s an iconic literary figure yet to discover.

Anne of Green Gables

You best order up a pot of hot tea and open this Lucy Maud Montgomery book to drift off into all that is PEI-Past. Published in 1908, the story of this local, headstrong little orphan named Anne Shirley captured the hearts of millions since Ms. Montgomery wrote it while living in rural PEI. The book was an overnight success, which you may have read as a child as more than 50 million copies have been printed in 36 languages to date.

The farm, in fictional Avonlea, is where life unfolded for the book’s lead character. Today, fans travel to the heart of Anne of Green Gables country to hear again of the antics of this exuberant, clever, redheaded eleven-year-old. The recreation of Avonlea is, indeed, a look back to that long-ago, simpler time. You can even see the Belmont schoolhouse where the author served as a schoolteacher. The Haunted Woods and Balsam Hollow are also on most itineraries, as is the old farmhouse from the 1800s where Ms. Montgomery played as a child in the Green Gables Heritage Place in PEI National Park.

Now, no visit to PEI is complete without a plate of chilled, fresh oysters. This delicacy can be followed with sweet scallops, smoked salmon, steamed mussels, or hearty seafood chowder. If you’ve a mind, instead, for meat try maple-flavored pork, a juicy slice of venison, or a crisp duck breast. Oh, rest assured, there’ll be potatoes on the menu. Follow this all up with a fruit pie, homemade ice cream, and a chat with that local lad who’s only too happy to tell you about his forefathers who came here from Europe long ago to carve out a life in this challenging yet bountiful land. All the locals puff up with pride when you touch upon that subject.

California's Literary Scene

Karyn Planett

Author, Author! 

Who knows what inspires someone to put pen to paper. Is it the mood or the muse? Are writers just sparked to share their indelible impressions too powerful to keep tucked deep inside? Who knows? But, whatever it is that has stirred the celebrated team that follows, we can be forever thankful. Their works live on long after they’ve cradled their pen for the last time. 

While sailing along the Californian coast we have time to relive their artistic journey. We can take them along with us for the ride. 

The Early Days 

As the pioneers came west to carve out a life in this new land, their impressions were of a simple nature. They merely recorded their sagas, their hardships, their challenges in this rugged landscape. As time passed and others traveled west to stake their claims in the gold fields, it seemed there was a cry for literature that was more sophisticated, poetic even. Merchants and teachers trapped in dreary worlds along the eastern seaboard let their imaginations wander while reading about cowboys and indians and the wild. 

Fiction found its niche, as well. Writers like Bret Harte helped create the local-color school of American fiction. In 1854, the author kicked about California’s mining camps, especially along the Stanislaus River. He wrote for the Northern Californian as well as the Golden Era. It was Harte who hired Mark Twain to write for him on a weekly basis. Harte captured much of the gold rush romance for readers the world over. His famous short stories include “The Luck Of Roaring Camp” and “The Outcasts Of Poker Flats.” Twain, as everyone knows, wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in 1865 which skyrocketed him to fame. 

A Social Agenda

The San Francisco Examiner became the vehicle for the strong social criticisms of writer Ambrose Bierce. This satirist and author of sardonic short stories wrote a column called the “Prattler.” Among his works is Nuggets and Dust Panned Out in California, published in 1872. 

Then, there’s Jack London who deserves an exclusive nod on his own. So revered is he that there’s a spot in the Oakland called Jack London Square and his San Francisco birthplace is noted with a brass plaque. Raised in dire poverty, he worked as an oyster pirate, a cannery worker, and was actually even a hobo riding the rails. His fame spread far and wide in the early 20th century and remains strong today. Though many of his works focus on the rugged Alaskan north (and we should read them as we travel north), Jack London is still one of California’s own.

Upton Sinclair was not native Californian born. He arrived following the First World War and found himself protesting for the poor in the 30s. He even organized the EPIC (End Poverty in California) socialist reform movement. Based in Pasadena, Sinclair ultimately ran for state governor on the democratic ticket in 1934 and lost. It’s all there in his Autobiography published in 1962. 

John Steinbeck is the quintessential California writer. Born in Salinas in 1902, the American novelist’s most important work is The Grapes Of Wrath. For this, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Tortilla Flats depicts the difficult life for Mexican-American migrant workers. Of Mice And Men gained worldwide attention, as did The Red Pony and East Of Eden. He is revered in Monterey County for he was their native son. 

Who Dunnit? 

To figure that out, you’ll have to read three important California authors. Dashiell Hammett, first and foremost, has surely come into your psyche at some point. Think Humphrey Bogart and The Maltese Falcon. Without a formal education, he worked in San Francisco for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, a profession that let him peer into the criminal mind. Hammett also wrote The Thin Man, which introduced the world to Nick and Nora Charles.   

Raymond Chandler went from his birthplace in Chicago to California where he created the Los Angeles-based private detective character Philip Marlowe. As a screenwriter, Chandler collaborated on Double Indemnity and The Blue Dahlia. His novels include Farewell, My Lovely and The Long Good-Bye. Once an executive in the oil industry, he was sacked for drinking problems. This opened the door on his new career as mystery writer and the rest is history. 

The third of our trio is American mystery writer Ross Macdonald. Born Kenneth Miller, he is credited with raising the bar for detective fiction and brining it more into the mainstream of American literature. He was born in Los Gatos, California and died Santa Barbara. Among his many critically-acclaimed works, he wrote 19 novels in all, were The Underground Man and Sleeping Beauty. 

The Beat Goes On 

The cry for social injustice was heard loud and clear across the California landscape. Writers sharing a passion for justice locked elbows in 1950 to form the San Francisco “Beat Movement.” A handful of authors stand out from the crowd, including Allen Ginsberg who wrote the epic poem Howl. Many credit this as the most profound piece, called “the anthem for countercultural rebellion”, to come out of this movement.   

Everyone remembers Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. These words, written in only three weeks on a 120-foot-long scroll in 1957, were the embers that sparked the counterculture gospel beyond the California border. Was it he or columnist Herb Caen who gave the Beat Movement its name? That is debatable. Kerouac also wrote The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels. 

When you mention Kerouac, you have to follow quickly with William Burroughs. Trouble followed this author wherever he went. The Yage Letters chronicles this turmoil. His words exposed the darker side of life. Naked Lunch was also one of his important works. 

Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s contribution to the Beat Movement came in the form of his poetry as well as his publishing. Ferlinghetti owned San Francisco’s famous City Lights Book Store and helped get non-mainstream writers published. He personally printed many poetry books by Beat authors. His store was America’s first featuring only paperback books. Ferlinghetti’s poems are best read aloud, and include such works as One Thousand Fearful Words for Fidel Castro and Where Is Vietnam? 

And the beat goes on and on and on and on and on. 

California's Ethnic Diversity

Karyn Planett

From Multicultural To Omnicultural 

It’s probably no secret that California is the most populous state in the Union. What may not be as well known is that it has become the most ethnically diverse as well. Consider that the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District speak 90 different languages! 

While you might think this is a result of the state’s benign climate, natural resources, or sheer size, California’s ethnic mix is really the result of geography. As the last frontier for settlers crossing the country from east to west and the first port of entry for immigrants and refugees crossing the Pacific from west to east, California has gathered them all to her ample bosom. But this social phenomenon is a work in progress. While the state has provided space enough for all to keep out of each others’ ways, this elbow room has slowed the pace of real assimilation for many of the newest cultures and even some of the older ones. 

The Chronology Of A Melting Pot 

First to arrive, of course, were the people we now refer to as Native Americans. Extensions of the tribes that crossed the Siberian land bridge to Alaska then drifted south, these were the state’s first citizens. Fueled by the granting of additional rights in the 1960’s, California now claims more Native Americans than any other state and, unlike some other groups, they have opted for integration rather than separation. 

The Hispanic influence came next. Spanish explorers arrived in the 17th and 18th centuries establishing the foundations of many of today’s cities. You cannot travel anywhere in California without being aware of the Spanish names that identify many of its towns and streets. Similarly, Spanish-speaking people have moved beyond their own communities to become more involved in state and local government. Political trouble in Central and South America has continued to drive Hispanic populations north and, since 1940, California has had the largest Mexican population outside of Mexico. Demographers predict that Hispanics will overtake Caucasians as a percentage of the state’s population in the next few years. 

A large population of Russians drifted down from Alaska as the fur trade began to peter out in the early 1800s. They established a significant settlement around Fort Ross in Mendocino County, and today there is a 25,000-strong Russian community around San Francisco. 

Next to arrive were the Chinese. First, as mineworkers during the Gold Rush, then as laborers to help build the Continental Railroad. The Chinese were subjected to open racial violence by thugs claiming they were stealing “white” jobs. The theme has been repeated many times over as other ethnic groups arrived to take on the most menial work. The violence combined with a natural inclination amongst traditional Chinese to stick close to their own and resulted in Chinese ghettos in many California cities. As younger generations have moved out into the communities, these Chinatown ghettos have evolved to become charming tourist magnets. 

The Boom Years 

After the Gold Rush and the opening of the railroads, the flood of immigrants to the state multiplied severalfold. Italian vintners arrived in the late 19th century, attracted by the climate and soil. They sparked the California wine industry and created the North Beach community in San Francisco, still home to some of the city’s finest restaurants. 

The Japanese came in the early 20th century. They were primarily farmers and helped sow the seeds of a robust agricultural industry that has become America’s salad bowl. During World War II, however, the Japanese were subjected to one of the most humiliating experiences to befall any American citizens at the hands of their own government. Interred in virtual concentration camps for the duration of the war, many lost homes and businesses that took generations to recover. 

With the increase in heavy industry during WWII, the African American population, which had been present in the state for some time, boomed afresh. Arriving mainly from the poorer southern states, they were forced into urban ghettos and suffered the low social standing, racial problems, and underrepresentation that accompanies that pattern. But, like the Hispanic community, their presence is now felt all up and down California’s political and economic structure. 

Recent Arrivals

The wars of Southeast Asia sent a new influx of refugees into the California melting pot. Long Beach has the largest population of Cambodians outside Cambodia and is known locally as “Little Phnom Penh.” Fresno has the second largest Hmong population outside Laos. These groups, along with the Vietnamese, were forced to settle in the poorer areas of California’s inner cities. But through their own industry they have transformed these dying areas into thriving communities in just a generation. 

Not everyone, though, has come to California to escape somewhere else. The state has long represented the land of opportunity for people from the rest of America as well as many distant lands. Santa Monica has a large British contingent along with more authentic pubs than any other California city. Danish immigrants founded the town of Solvang in 1911. It is a regular tourist stop in Central California. The state has the second largest Jewish community in the U.S., two-thirds of whom live in Los Angeles. And most recently, the technology revolution of Silicon Valley has brought significant numbers of Indian and Pakistani computer nerds to that region. 

Many believe that in another half-century, California will be a hybrid of cultures with no ethnic majority. It remains to be seen whether old social, religious, and political prejudices can be broken down so that California will become the first truly multicultural society or just the Balkans with palm trees. 

British Columbia, Canada

Karyn Planett

The Pocket History 

Who could have described British Columbia better than Rudyard Kipling. In a 1908 letter to his family, he wrote, “Such a land is good for an energetic man. It is also not so bad for the loafer.” 

You’ll soon discover that British Columbia is marvelous for almost everyone. To fully enjoy this magical land, you should learn something of its history. Having said that, note that the 1881 S.W. Silver & Co’s Handbook to Canada states, “the history of British Columbia proper is of the briefest possible kind.” Brief or not, let’s examine. 

Early Explorers 

In our thumbnail sketch of the history of BC (as the “in” people call it), we’ll highlight only the most important events and figures starting with Sir Francis Drake. This English sea captain sailed past British Columbia and Vancouver Island in 1579. He and his men never set foot ashore. Then a fellow named Juan Perez puttered about the area, swapped goodies with the “Indians” and reported back to his Spanish bosses in Mexico. That was in 1774. The 80,000 Indians had been there for centuries and were known as Haida, Coast Salish, Nootka, Kwakiutl, Bella Coola, and Tsimshian. 

Captain Cook actually slogged ashore on Vancouver Island at a spot called Nootka Sound in 1778. Perhaps he wasn’t smitten with the weather, plus he never found the elusive Northwest Passage, so Cook set sail for the warmer climes of Hawaii. Nonetheless, he’d opened the door for American and British fur traders who established a mutually beneficial business with local tribes. 

Things heated up between the Spanish and the British. Spain was ultimately forced to relinquish any claim to the area. Enter, and remember this name, Captain George Vancouver. Formerly one of Cook’s sailors, he was ordered to formalize Britain’s control on the area and did so. 

A pioneering sort named Alexander Mackenzie succeeded in crossing the North American continent overland in 1793. This then blazed the trail for others to journey from the Atlantic seaboard to the Bella Coola Inlet and the Pacific shores of BC. 

Another fellow of note was Simon Fraser, a Scotsman born in 1776. He is credited with having established successful fur trading posts in the region during the first half of the 19th century. That’s while he wasn’t tromping about the woods or fine-tuning his whitewater rafting skills for which he became legendary. It was he who put Fraser River on the map as a major fur-trading route. This was developed into big business, along with timber logging and mining. 

Formalizing The Border 

It came time to draw a line in the sand (fertile sod, really) formalizing the border between Canada and the United States. Ownership of Vancouver Island had been disputed for years. It was decreed a British territory, then officially named a crown colony of the Imperial government in 1849. 

Hoping to keep the American interests at bay, Britain colonized the mainland territory in 1858 as well, the land known at that time as New Caledonia. With the swipe of a quill pen, it became British Columbia. Seems that suited Queen Victoria more than the former name held dear by the Hudson’s Bay Company as well as the Scottish Nor’-Westers. But as a nod to the former company’s director, James Douglas, he was picked to be the first governor. It was Douglas who had convinced the 775 Vancouver Island residents to create a legislature in the first place. 

At the same time gold was discovered along the icy banks of Vancouver’s Fraser River. (For the record, some Indians had already discovered gold two years earlier in the North Thompson River.) 

Settlers arrived, small towns flourished, and in 1871 an agreement was reached whereby Vancouver Island joined up with British Columbia and were accepted as one of the provinces of the Dominion of Canada. In exchange, the Canadian government promised to further develop this remote part of the country by completing the trans-continental railway within ten years. (Had certain concessions like these not occurred, British Columbia might have defected to the US—and wouldn’t we have been the better for it.) Despite these promises, things ran behind schedule and the disgruntled citizens of the Pacific region actually threatened to pull out of the Dominion. That was in 1876. Nonetheless, Canadians kept arriving by the score. Within four years the local tribespeople were considered a minority, rather than the other way around. In fact, fewer than 25,000 Indians still lived in BC at that time. 

The 49th Parallel ultimately became the demarcation of national sovereignty between America and Canada from the Pacific shores to the Rocky Mountains. You may remember the rally cry of the Americans, “Fifty-Four-Forty or Fight.” That term referred to the northern-most latitude that the Americans wanted to own. They finally settled on the 49th giving America the fertile fishing and fur area around the Columbia River.  

Trade Links With Europe 

The 20th Century witnessed great growth in the BC region. Much of this was directly attributable to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1915. Travel time by ship was reduced and trade with European markets boosted BC’s economy incalculably. After World War II, Dutch, German, and Italians arrived. Much later, immigrants from Hong Kong and India completed the mixed-heritage picture. 

By 1949, the local indigenous people were granted the right to vote. Within a few years, long-standing geographic barriers began to fall. The Trans-Mountain oil pipeline successfully crossed the Rocky Mountains, which had impeded progress to the west via land. Additionally, the Trans-Canada Highway was opened up to automobile and truck traffic bringing in more residents and necessary provisions, all of which further built up BC.   

Today, nearly 50% of all British Columbians are transplants. They’ve come to take in the good life—clean air, glorious mountains, magnificent coast, (OK, some dicey weather but not bad if you’re from Cleveland!), and only 3.3 million residents in an area bigger than Texas or California. Natural resources remain the backbone of the economy with BC supplying nearly 25% of North America’s marketable timber plus the bulk of the world’s wooden chop sticks. Who knew?      

Baie-Comeau, Canada

Karyn Planett

Far From The Wandering Crowds 

Any traveler worth his salt-sprayed passport knows he’s got to stray far from the beaten path to discover the real soul of a place. Well, now he and you have done it. You’ve earned your “Good Traveler” badge because you’ve found your way to Baie-Comeau. Good on ya! Good on us all! 

But, where exactly are we? 

Well, technically we’re going ashore along the banks of the Saint Lawrence River. In case you’ve forgotten, this mighty body of water connects the vast washes of the Great Lakes with the cold green seas of the Atlantic Ocean. As best as anyone can estimate, it’s 1,900 miles long if you measure from its most distant headwater to the Atlantic shores. Local boating enthusiasts and fisherfolk will explain further that you’re quite close to the Manicouagan River. They’ll also refer to it as the “Manic” and tell you that a Jesuit named Henri Nouvel paddled upriver in 1664 and officially recognized it as the Grand Manikouaganistikou River. Now you see why the townspeople call it the Manic. In fact, the Manic Dam is very important to the community and the region beyond as it provides electrical power for homes and businesses across the territory. For the record, it’s believed the river’s name means, “where the bark tree is found.” Once ashore, you’ll understand why. 

So Who Is Comeau? 

Napoléon-Alexandre Comeau, to be exact. Born in 1848, he spent his youth discovering the ways of local Indians. They taught him how to speak their tongue, fish the streams, hunt the animals, and survive in an often-inhospitable environment. He later became fluent in other traditional languages as well as English and French. These skills made him the perfect figure to aid in the rescue of stranded individuals, for which he was later decorated by the Canadian government. Without formal training Comeau functioned as a doctor and brought into this world more than 200 babies. All in all, he was an almost larger-than-life man who left his mark everywhere, including on the town you now visit. 

Where To Start? 

Town, if you want. And this might be just one of those destinations where the greatest guide is a resident or two you engage in casual conversation. Surely, they’ll point you to Place La Salle. This is where they go for nights on the town, a good meal of regional specialties, and shopping. Of course, most Canadian towns feature landmark churches and Baie-Comeau is no exception. St. Amélie showcases some 30 stained glass windows plus a Casavant organ that’s delighted many parishioners. St. Andrew Anglican’s signature is its Tudor style. 

Another impressive structure is the landmark hotel Manoir Baie-Comeau. In French, it’s “L’Hôtel Le Manoir.” The year 1937 was a busy one for its creator, a gentleman named Robert Rutherford “Colonel” McCormick. Not only did he construct this magnificent manor but also he formally founded the town of Baie-Comeau. Meanwhile, in this striking French colonial home, he hosted his friends and employees on holiday from their jobs at his Chicago Tribune newspaper. He was, indeed, the owner and publisher of this powerful publication and was known as a very controversial figure. For the record, the original structure sadly burned to the ground in 1965 but was rebuilt later from stone by the Quebec North Short & Labrador paper company. That’s how you see it today. 

Mother Nature Calls 

Well, Canada is a natural wonderland, as we all know. And you can gaze upon a tiny slice of it from the St. Pancrace Lookout at just shy of 2,000 feet above sea level. Then there’s Mance Lookout, as well. Further afield is Pointe-aux-Outardes Nature Park. Bird lovers will be in Bird Heaven because the naturalists have recorded in excess of 250 species that have flown by or made this area their home. And a big home it is for this park covers the entire western tip of the Manicouagan Peninsula. Oh, don’t forget your binoculars if you go. 

If you don’t go, just wander about town and chat up a couple of the 10,000 Baie-Comeau locals. They can tell you all about their life here and something about the more celebrated citizens who call this town home including Canada’s former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney who was born here.