Le Château de Versailles




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Most of central Paris is within walking distance. And on the afternoon we arrived, we did just that, walked around the old city – from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elysées to the Louvre, and back along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower again. Many other attractions are within easy reach.

But the next day, our first full day, we ventured out of the city center to see the fabulous Château de Versailles. This palace and its surrounding gardens are about twenty kilometres from the city center and easily reached by train.

Leaving the train station we walked a block and turned the corner and there it was.

The front of the palace features lot of gilt work.

What started out as a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII in 1624 was greatly expanded by the Sun King, Louis XIV from 1661 to 1678. It was expanded again from 1678 to 1715 when two large wings were added to flank the Royal Courtyard. This phase also saw the replacement of the west facing terrace with what is now the Hall of Mirrors, the most famous and most popular room in the palace.

Versailles became the seat of power in pre-revolutionary France when Louis XIV moved the royal court there in 1682. It wasn’t until the French Revolution of 1789 that the seat of government was moved back to Paris.

Janis and I at the Apollo Fountain with the palace in the background. All the windows facing the gardens are from the Hall of Mirrors and its flanking salons.

Louis XIV liked to do things big and Versailles is probably his crowning achievement. The palace has 2300 rooms. The cost to build it was staggering. Wikipedia gives this description:

“One of the most costly elements in the furnishing of the grands appartements during the early years of the personal reign of Louis XIV was the silver furniture, which can be taken as a standard – with other criteria – for determining a plausible cost for Versailles. The Comptes meticulously list the expenditures on the silver furniture – disbursements to artists, final payments, delivery – as well as descriptions and weight of items purchased. Entries for 1681 and 1682 concerning the silver balustrade used in the salon de Mercure serve as an example:

  • Year 1681
    II. 5 In anticipation: For the silver balustrade for the king’s bedroom: 90,000 livres
  • II. 7 18 November to Sieur du Metz, 43,475 livres 5 sols for delivery to Sr. Lois and to Sr. de Villers for payment of 142,196 livres for the silver balustrade that they are making for the king’s bedroom and 404 livres for tax: 48,861 livres 5 sol.
  • II. 15 16 June 1681 – 23 January 1682 to Sr. Lois and Sr. de Villers silversmiths on account for the silver balustrade that they are making for the king’s use (four payments): 88,457 livres 5 sols.
  • II. 111 25 March – 18 April to Sr. Lois and Sr. de Villers silversmiths who are working on a silver balustrade for the king, for continued work (two payments): 40,000 livres”

Additional figures are given for 1682. There was over a ton of silver in the balustrade alone notes Wikipedia, a “cost in excess of 560,000 livres”. And that was just the silver. All told, one estimate has the expenditures during Louis’s reign at over US $2 billion! So crippling was this expense that in 1689, Louis had all the silver in the palace sent to the mint to be melted down.

Today the palace is a museum, a grand edifice filled with art and historical artifacts.

Tourist map of the Chateau

We started our tour at the southern end of the North Wing. Walking along a vast corridor  we quickly we came across a chapel complete with marble columns, a large pipe organ and a magnificently painted ceiling mural.

The chapel in the North Wing

Continuing along the corridor, we came across numerous works of art including a statue of Joan of Arc. At the end of the wing, we ascended a staircase to the second floor and walked back again. One of the more interesting pieces of statuary was a monkey riding a goat.

Statue of a monkey riding a goat in the 17th Century Galleries at Versailles

The long corridor was flanked by various paintings and sculptures on the left and tall windows on the right. It was through these windows that we caught our first glimpse of the magnificent gardens behind the palace. The garden we saw, the North Parterre, is just a small fraction of the overall gardens.

The North Parterre seen from the North Wing of the Chateau de Versailles

At the end of the passage we came to large room, a corner room that marks the transition into the original Château. The room is called the Salon d’Hercule or Salon of Hercules. It is the first of a series of such Salons that we encounter on our way to the Hall of Mirrors. The size of the room is immense – huge vaulted ceilings all covered in elaborate and colorful murals. The pillars are solid marble. And at one end hangs a huge painting. The video below captures the sheer size and majesty of the room.

From the Hercules Salon we head west, passing through the Abundance Salon, Venus Salon, Diana Salon, Mars Salon, Mercury Salon and Apollo Salon before arriving at the Salon of War which bookends the Hall of Mirrors. These rooms are referred to as the King’s State Apartments and were antechambers to the royal residence where gatherings, parties and amusements were held. Each of these rooms is filled with art and very elaborate decorative work. And each has giant ceiling frescoes as well.

 

The Salon of Mars was originally a bedchamber.

The Hall of Mirrors is one of the main attractions at Versailles. When it was built, mirrors were an expensive commodity and Venice had the monopoly on production. Louis’s Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert lured a number of Venetian workers to Paris to work in the Royal Glass and Mirror Works. The Venetian government retaliated by sending assassins to kill these workers to protect Venice’s trade secrets.

Nevertheless, the Hall was built. The great corridor runs 239.5 feet from one end to the other and is flanked by the Salon of War and the Salon of Peace. Its width is 34.4 feet and the vaulted ceiling soars 40.4 feet above the floor.

The space occupied by the hall used to be a terrace overlooking the magnificent gardens stretching behind the château. Today large windows overlook the gardens. On the interior wall are seventeen mirror-clad arches.

The Hall of Mirrors

Many fine pieces of sculpture line the hall and it is flanked on both sides by giant candleabras.

One of the many candleabras in the Hall of Mirrors

From the Salon of Peace we made our way to the royal bed chambers. The king himself had a large canopy bed and had a separate room from the queen. Her bedroom had a larger bed than the king.

The Queen’s Bed

Near the King’s Room were several antechambers where the King and his aides could meet to discuss affairs of state. Central to them all is the Bull’s Eye Room or as it is called in French, the Salon l’Oeil de Bouef. This room had exits to the King’s bedroom, the Queen’s Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. It also had a staircase leading to the Dauphin’s apartments below.

The large window known as the l’oiel de bouef

After passing through various other rooms including the Guard’s Room, we descended to the ground floor where staff and guests stayed, as well as the Dauphin. These guest rooms themselves were very lavish. Paintings and sculptures abound as well as a grand piano and an organ.

A pipe organ in one of the ground floor apartments

The Palace at Versailles is magnificent. It cost an unbelievable amount of money to build and included many pieces of furniture made of solid silver. Many later had to be melted down to pay some of the royal bills. But the grandeur and elegance of the period remains evident today. In my opinion, this is one of the wonders of the modern world, a must-see if you are ever in Paris.

But if you think the Palace is magnificent, prepare to be blown away by our next installment – Les Jardins de Versailles. The entire estate covers over 800 hectares or close to 2000 acres. This includes the Palace, the Gardens, the Park (which is a free public park), and the Trianon Estate (Marie Antoinette’s private estate). The gardens are a work of art – carefully landscaped and tended and abounding with sculptures and fountains, it is as much an attraction as the Palace itself.

Additional links 

Previous Posts on Paris

 




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Photo Gallery: Le Château de Versailles




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Here are some additional photos of our visit to the Palace at Versailles. These were taken with an older camera and if we should be fortunate enough to visit Paris again, I’ll replace them with better pictures taken with my newer camera.

Statue of Louis XIV at the entrance to the courtyard at the Château de Versailles
The lower corridor in the North Wing
Statue of Joan of Arc in the North Wing lower corridor
The windows in the Hercules Salon
Ceiling mural in the Hercules Salon
Another ceiling mural in one of the salons at Versailles
The North Parterre at Versailles seen from the Apollo Salon
Relief portrait of Louis XIV in the Salon of War
Ceiling art in the Hall of Mirrors which extends almost 240 feet from one end to the other.
On one side of the Hall of Mirrors are huge mirrored panels interspersed with the occasional door leading to the King’s chambers.
On the other side are large windows looking over the gardens and fountains. Giant candelabras line the hall.
Large fireplace in the Salon of Peace
The King’s Bed at Versailles
The dining table in the Antechamber Grand Couvert. This antechamber to the Queen’s apartments was where the royal family ate in public.
A large tapestry in the Antechamber Grand Couvert
Some furniture in the lower quarters where employees and guests stayed.




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Great Scot! It’s the Great Gatsby!




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Rowena’s Inn on the River is a delightful trip back in time. It’s an old homestead built by a pioneer logger in the area for his family.

Charles Nelson Pretty was a businessman and entrepreneur. In the 1920s he had an opportunity to buy a 160 acre parcel of land in Harrison Mills. That land became, among other things, a dairy farm, a silvertip fox farm and a logging operation. At one time, Pretty’s operation was the largest privately owned logging company in all of British Columbia.

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The Pretty Estate overlooks the Harrison River #HarrisonMills

When the home was built, there was no road. The Pretty family took the train to Harrison Mills and paddled by canoe to their estate. Later he had a yacht built and sailed up the river, mooring in front of his home.

While Charles and his wife Rowena spent much of their time in Vancouver, they also spent time in Harrison Mills. Betty-Anne, the youngest of their four children was actually born at the home.

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The Pretty family home at Harrison Mills

There was no electricity, so Pretty built a dam and produced his own electricity. The home still runs off the power from this generator.

In 1968, two of the children died tragically within six months of each other. Charles Pretty passed away in 1992 at the ripe old age of 102. The two surviving siblings, Ivan and Betty-Anne decided to convert the old manor into a Bed and Breakfast in 1995. They named the inn Rowena’s after their mother and late sister. There are five bedrooms available.

Four cozy cabins were added and the gatehouse which has two bedrooms is also available.

Two of the four cabins available for rent
Two of the four cabins available for rent #Luxurycottage

Ivan thought the location was ideal for a gold course and the 18 hole Sandpiper Golf Course soon became a reality. A restaurant was built adjacent to the old homestead. It was called the River’s Edge Restaurant but was renamed as the Clubhouse Restaurant to tie it in with the golf course. (I like the old name better!)

After Ivan passed away, Betty-Anne bought out his share and became sole owner of the property. Though Betty-Anne sold the estate in 2016, she and her husband Doug still live in the house, though Doug is currently in a convalescent home.

One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint!
One of the sand traps at the golf course is in the shape of a sasquatch footprint! #RowenasInn

The house is filled with antique furniture and old photos of the family’s history. As a home from the 1920s,  it seemed an ideal place to hold an annual themed party costume party. And so the annual Great Gatsby Party came about.

Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014
Janis and I and a vintage Rolls Royce at the Great Gatsby Party in 2014 #RowenasInn

We attended the party in 2014, dressed up in costume, and stayed overnight with our friends Chris and Sheila. The Pretty family and their staff do it up in grand style. They bring in several old period cars and park them on the lawn of the estate. They bring in a few large tents in case it rains (which it occasionally does) and they brought in a swing band, the Jen Hodge All Stars, to provide some atmospheric music. They rocked the place. Band leader Hodge is the bass player in the video below.

There were also professional dancers to get people into the swing of things.

Professional dancers got people's toes tapping.
Professional dancers got people’s toes tapping. #RowenasInn

It did rain for a while during the day and the party was moved under the tents and indoors. Tea and refreshments were served, including 1920s era drinks like mint juleps.

Janis and Sheila enjoy a cup of tea while chatting with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty.
Janis, Sheila  and Chris chat with Betty-Anne, the sole remaining child of patriarch Charles Pretty. #HistoricalInn

Of course, one of the main attractions is the attendees. Some go all out to create the 1920s look. Flapper dresses, vests, suspenders and pocket watches. My wife sewed her own dress for the occasion.

Three gals in flapper dresses
Three gals in flapper dresses #RowenasInn

We thought that the party might just attract older folks like ourselves but we were surprised by how many young people got into the spirit of the occasion.

Outside under a tent, the Baz Luhman version of The Great Gatsby was playing on a screen, but not many people were watching. It was backdrop.

The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound
The movie of The Great Gatsby was playing in the backgound #RowenasInn

The Gatsby Party skipped a year in 2016 but is back for 2017. A limited number of rooms and cabins are also available if you want to stay overnight.

Below is a short promotional video the estate produced for the Great Gatsby Party. My wife and I just happen to have a cameo appearance.

And while the Gatsby Party is a fun reason to visit Rowena’s, there are other reasons and seasons to visit. The inn is at the base of the road that leads to the Hemlock Ski Resort. The same road leads to the Weaver Creek Spawning Channel where you can watch salmon spawn. It’s open for visits from Oct. 6 to Nov. 1 every year.

And the Harrison River attracts one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America every year in November. November 18-19 this year kicks off the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. Pretty Estates is a great place for eagle watching.

And this year the estate is having a special Valentine’s dinner in both the Clubhouse Restaurant and in the dining room at the inn. My wife and I have booked a two day stay and are looking forward to it.

Rowena’s is a thoroughly charming trip back in time with many activities to choose from. It’s only 21.9 kilometres from Harrison Hot Springs and 108 kilometres from Vancouver, about an hour and a half drive.

Below are two photo galleries and some links of interest. If you’re on the front page of this blog, just scroll on down, otherwise click on the links. I will be taking more photos and adding them after Valentine’s Day.

 

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Busselton Jetty




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Although Margaret River is actually a small town located on a broad spur sticking out from the southwestern end of Western Australia, that whole region is widely known as Margaret River. It is wine country. It’s also an area of rolling hills, farms, forests and some great surfing beaches.

On the north end of this spur is the town of Busselton which has a claim to fame all its own. It is the home of the Busselton Jetty, the second longest wooden pile jetty in the world and the longest in the southern hemisphere. Built in 1865, it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2015.

 

The Busselton Jetty
The Busselton Jetty. This picture captures only a part of its length as it angles off at around 15 degrees at the end.

Originally entirely made of wood, it consists of a long pier into Geographe Bay and then extends twice as far again at a fifteen degree angle. Geographe Bay is quite shallow so the pier had to be long so deep sea vessels could tie up there.

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You can see the extension angling off at fifteen degrees from the main pier here.

The pier is a staggering 1.841 kilometres long. And it is well worth the visit. We first visited in May of 2015 and again in March of 2016. A comfortable walk on a nice day, although there is a train that runs the length of it with a stop at the elbow as well as the end. There is a $3 admission to the jetty and an additional fee for the train.

The little choo choo train.
The little choo choo train.

The pier was only 176 meters long when first opened in 1865 and it was continuously added to, reaching its final length of 1841 meters in the 1960s. It was in commercial use until the last ship docked there on October 17, 1971. The jetty was then closed and fell into disrepair. Cyclone Alby in 1978 destroyed the shore end of the pier.

Part of the original jetty is still standing.
Part of the original jetty is still standing. Much of this end of the pier was destroyed in a hurricane in 1978.

In 1987, the Jetty Preservation Society was formed. Battling more storms and fires over the years, it managed to raise both public and private funds to rebuild the pier, culminating in its declaration as a heritage site. The $27 million project was completed in 2011 and it is now a popular tourist destination.

It features a small museum and interpretive center close to shore and an underwater observatory and gift shop near the end. The observatory opened in 2003.

Along the way there is a long line of plaques commemorating people whose ashes have been scattered from the pier. They contain messages like “In memory of so and so whose ashes were scattered by his family from the 300, his favorite spot. Gone fishing.”

A number of people have had their ashes scattered from the pier.
A number of people have had their ashes scattered from the pier.

You’ll also see a number of large signs along the way detailing some of the history of the pier as well as featuring some poems and interesting facts.

There are also a number of platforms off to the side along the way. Stairs take you down to a lower level for different view. And these platforms are popular with fishermen.

A fisherman pulls in a catch.
A fisherman pulls in a catch.

We did not go down to the underwater observatory – there is a fee to do so, but we walked beyond the gift shop to the last 140 meters of pier. This is the very end of the pier – 1.841 kilometres out. Daughter Sarah and her fiancé Jamie, both yoga enthusiasts, struck a few poses with the Indian Ocean as a backdrop.

Striking a pose.
Striking a pose.

When we came out ten months later, more additions had been made at this end. A sign showing the distance from various city centers among them.

Signposts to the far corners of the planet.
Signposts to the far corners of the planet.

Also new were some large murals of whales on the floor of the pier. Created by local artist Ian Mutch, these drawings were life-sized. Mutch’s website includes an aerial video of his amazing renderings of these denizens of the deep.

Busselton Jetty whale mural from Ian Mutch on Vimeo.

Another striking difference between our May visit and our March visit was the great increase in the amount of wildlife we saw. We hit the jackpot with many bird sightings and a pod of dolphins.

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The dolphins swam around and under the pier not far from the swimming area. There are two in this picture.
Here's one close up.
Here’s one close up.

On the shore there is a visitor’s center as well as a nice park, a swimming area, a waterslide and a penned off swimming area. We saw wild cockatoos on both our visits but a lot more in March than the previous May.

A wild cockatoo enlarged from a wider shot of a flock of these noisy but colorful bids.
A wild cockatoo enlarged from a wider shot of a flock of these noisy but colorful birds.

So if you’re ever out visiting the Margaret River area, do check out the Busselton Jetty. It’s a colorful venue steeped in history.

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Fremantle Prison Torchlight Tour




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There is something foreboding about prisons. There used to be two large ones, right smack in urban settings in Vancouver, the old B.C. Penitentiary in New Westminster and the Oakalla Jail in Burnaby. Both now torn down. Before they tore it down, Oakalla was open for tours. We took the kids and it was grimly fascinating.

One large historical prison that is still standing is the Fremantle Prison in Fremantle, Western Australia. Australia was originally a penal colony and the Convict Establishment, as it was then known, was built by convict labour between 1851 and 1859. It is a large prison built to house up to a thousand prisoners. It operated as a maximum security prison until 1991.

The Gatehouse
The Gatehouse

Now the prison is a World Heritage Site, one of eleven sites that make up the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. A sign outside the prison says “Fremantle Prison contains major evidence of the physical apparatus of an imperial convict public works establishment and of its adaptation for subsequent colonial use. The establishment is the most intact such complex in Australia, and is an outstanding symbol of the period in which Western Australia was developed using convict labour.”

Visitors houses. Here convicts could meet family members who were visiting. It is between the Gatehouse and the prison walls.
Visitors houses. Here convicts could meet family members who were visiting. It is between the Gatehouse and the prison walls.

And it is open to the public offering a variety of tours including a Great Escapes Tour, a Tunnels Tour (not escape tunnels, but an extensive series of water mains that ran under the prison – some are navigated by boat on the tour), an Art Tour (some convicts were talented artists) and the Torchlight Tour, a tour of the prison at night by torchlight (actually small flashlights).

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Aerial view of Fremantle Prison circa 1935.

We came for the Torchlight Tour which run on Wednesdays and Fridays. After waiting around a bit, we were finally led to a doorway where we each fished a small flashlight out of a bucket before entering. Inside our tour guide, an enthusiastic woman named Janine, gave us a short rundown before we headed out. We passed through the reception area where prisoners were checked in and given their prison garb, though the prison kitchen and then through a gate into the large courtyard.

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The main prison complex seen from the courtyard.

Here we paused as Janine told us an eery story. First she asked us if we could imagine walking through these grim doors, a prisoner, even though we were innocent. In 1961, a 20 year old deaf-mute named Darryl Beamish was convicted of killing a young socialite, Jillian Brewer, with a tomahawk and a pair of dress-making scissors. Authorities had coerced a confession from him and so he stood before the judge as he pronounced those dreaded words, “You are to be hanged by the neck until you are dead.” Fortunately his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

Fast forward two years to 1963. John Button was convicted of manslaughter for running down his girlfriend, Rosemary Anderson, with his car. Button was a stutterer and the police interpreted this as nervousness. According to Wikipedia, “Button was refused access to his parents or a lawyer and was hit once by an interviewing police officer before finally confessing to killing Anderson after 22 hours of interrogation.” He was sentenced to ten years.

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Cells stand three stories high at Fremantle Prison.

Meanwhile serial killer Eric Edgar Cooke, nicknamed the Night Caller, had been arrested and stood trial. In September 1963 he confessed to killing Jillian Brewer, the woman Beamish was convicted of killing. The police rejected his confession because Cooke was “an utterly worthless scoundrel” and a “palpable and unscrupulous liar”. In November that year, Cooke was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang.

Ten minutes before he was to be hanged on October 26, 1964, Cooke, unprompted, grabbed the Bible from the chaplain’s hands and cried out, “I swear before Almighty God that I killed Anderson and Brewer.” He was then led to the gallows and dropped into oblivion. He was the last man hanged at Fremantle Prison.

The cell where a condemned prisoner spent his last few hours.
The cell where a condemned prisoner spent his last few hours.

Button ended up serving five years despite Cooke’s deathbed confession. The deaf-mute Beamish served fifteen. It was not until 2005 that he was finally acquitted of the murder, the longest gap between a conviction and an appeal acquittal in Australian history.

Thoroughly chilled by this story, we now entered the main prison. Janine led us to a grim row of cells, three tiers high. A net spreads across the open space above the first level. Too many convicts attempted suicide by jumping from the upper levels.

Netting prevented prisoners from killing nthemselves by jumping from the upper levels.
Netting prevented prisoners from killing themselves by jumping from the upper levels.

Janine pulled out a bucket and told us this was the prisoner’s toilet. Guards learned quickly to walk under the catwalk above the first level. Neophyte guards walking in the open space were likely to get a bucket of excrement dumped on them.

The toilet bucket.
Janine displays the toilet bucket. Remember the bucket you retrieved your torchlight from, she asked. Yep, it was one of these!

As we left, we heard a scream and a body fell into the netting. A dummy. Part of the show, folks! We went out into another courtyard on the other side of the prison. Here we saw a large vat where prisoners would come to dump their buckets. Through a gate to an exercise yard. Prisoners sometimes became unruly here and there was a gated hut where guards could go if they feared for their safety.

The safety hut.
The safety hut. Guards would retreat here if things got hairy in the exercise yard.

We continued on our tour which is an hour and a half long, entering another cell block where we went through a cell and back out to another courtyard.

Visitors enter a cell.
Visitors enter a cell.

This courtyard was a punishment area. We were shown a frame on which prisoners were tied to be flogged. Janine described the ritual in gruesome detail. The flaying of the flesh with the cat ‘o’ nine tails. Man’s inhumanity towards man, which was common then. And sadly, still common today. (See my review of Johann Hari’s book Chasing the Scream on another of my blogs. In it I describe the cruelty of punishments still inflicted in the United States of all places.)

The flogging frame. Men were tied here to receive a whipping with the cat o' nine tails.
The flogging frame. Men were tied here to receive a whipping with the cat o’ nine tails.

Further along we came to a barracks-like structure. This was the solitary confinement building. There are no windows here. When the doors close, there is no light either. Pitch dark. Men were known to go a bit crazy here. The first cell of this building was also the holding cell for the condemned.

An actor describes what it was like to be a prisoner here in the solitary wing.
An actor describes what it was like to be a prisoner here in the solitary wing.

The death chamber was a short walk back to the main building and through another door. We entered and took a sharp left and up two steps. Some of the group went a bit further and entered from a different door, to the witness viewing area. Janine told us that it was not something for the squeamish. Many a witness fainted at the sight.

The gallows. This rope was an actual reserve rope from a hanging. The executioner always had two backup ropes.
The gallows. This rope was an actual reserve rope from a hanging. The executioner always had two backup ropes.

We left the death house and soon found ourselves in another cell block.  We came to one cell where a prisoner, an artist, had received permission to paint his walls. A sign outside says, “The walls of this cell were painted between 1988 and 1991. Prison rules did not allow inmates to deface their cell walls but this prisoner was given special permission for therapeutic reasons.” The result was fabulous.

Garden scene painted by a special prisoner in his cell.
Garden scene painted by a special prisoner in his cell.
The prisoner's bed with a painting above it.
The prisoner’s bed with a painting above it.

We then went through the prison theatre which had an old black and white movie showing and through to some stairs down to a storage area.

Stairs down to storage areas.
Stairs down to storage areas.

We saw several areas where foodstuffs and other goods were stored. Big underground bunkers.

Underground storage bunker.
Underground storage bunker.

Finally we emerged back outside again, our tour at an end.

We're back outside, tour just about done.
We’re back outside, tour just about done.

It was fascinating trip back in history. A grim reminder that the veneer of civilization is thin. Indeed, around the time of our visit, there was a scandal in Australia over revelations of the maltreatment of juvenile offenders in Australia’s north.

Below is a link to a gallery of additional photos. Click on the link or scroll on through if you are on the main page. There’s also a link to the prison website.




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Photo Gallery: Fremantle Prison




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Here are some additional pictures of Fremantle Prison.

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The long broad walkway leading to the Gatehouse. The prison is not far from Fremantle Stadium.
Approaching the Gatehouse in the evening.
Approaching the Gatehouse in the evening.
Janine gives us the lowdown before we go further into the prison.
Janine gives us the lowdown before we go further into the prison. This is the registration area for prisoners.
Cooking pots in the prison kitchen.
Cooking pots in the prison kitchen.
Grim iron doors are everywhere.
Grim iron doors are everywhere.
The toilet buckets were dumped in this huge vat.
The toilet buckets were dumped in this brick vat.
Cells stand three stories high at Fremantle Prison.
Cells stand three stories high at Fremantle Prison.
Wall surmounted by razor wire.
Wall surmounted by razor wire.
Inside a cell.
Inside a cell.
Not much in the way of windows.
Not much in the way of windows in the cells.
The door to the execution room. The door leads to a hallway and the death chamber is immediately on your left after you enter.
The door to the execution room. The door leads to a hallway and the death chamber is immediately on your left after you enter.
The lever that drops the trap on the gallows.
The lever that drops the trap on the gallows.
Another amazing prison painting.
Another amazing prison painting.
Not sure where this door goes.
Not sure where this door goes.
A grim place.
A grim place.

That ends our tour of Fremantle Prison.



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Historic Powell River




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A couple of weeks ago Janis and I visited our friends Paul and Cheryl for the weekend. They recently retired to Powell River, though Cheryl still telecommutes. A lot of people think the Sunshine Coast is just the Sechelt Peninsula, but that’s only about half of it. It actually extends all the way to Lund, about a half hour north of Powell River. When you take the ferry from Earl’s Cove, there’s a big sign greeting you at Saltery Bay that says, “Welcome dude, you’ve like totally made it up to the Top of the Sunshine Coast!” Yeah, the Sunshine Coast is pretty laid back, dude!

Hey dude!
Hey dude!

To get there from Vancouver, you need to take the Langdale Ferry from Horseshoe Bay. The Sechelt is isolated and you can only get there and back by ferry, so when you go, you’re buying a return ticket. You don’t have to buy a ticket to go back to the mainland. At Langdale, you drive up the peninsula to Earl’s Cove and then the ferry hop to Saltery Bay.  Here’s a money-saving tip. Buy an Experience Card online from B.C. Ferries. It gets you discounted rates on many of the ferries plying the coast, including the ones to and from the Sechelt.

Powell River is about 28 kilometres from Saltery Bay, a half hour drive. It’s an old mill town which has done much to preserve some of its history. The mill was built in 1908 and the company town in 1910. The mill was, at one time, the largest pulp and paper mill in the world. But the mill has seen better days and is a shadow of its former self, though still operating.  Our hosts told us that the average age in Powell River is eight years higher than the provincial average as so many people have moved away to find work. And many seniors are finding it an attractive place to retire.

The Powell River Mill and the Hulks
The Powell River Mill and the Hulks

There is a lookout along the highway that offers a panoramic view of the mill and the Incredible Hulks. The hulks are a collection of old concrete ships that have been chained together to form a breakwater. An information board tells us that the hulks have been a feature of the waterfront since 1930. “Over the years, 19 ships built of wood, steel and reinforced concrete have been brought to Powell River for use in the breakwater. (They) were built for use in the 1st and 2nd World Wars when there was a shortage of plate steel for ships construction.” They were unable to compete with steel ships when peace arrived.

One of the hulks. Picture courtesy Paul Miniato
One of the hulks. Picture courtesy Paul Miniato

The old historic townsite has been designated a National Historic District “with over 400 original buildings contained within the original borders of the 1910 town plan.” Our hosts took us for a casual drive through the old town and pointed out many of its historic buildings. I’ll include most of them in a separate photo gallery and there is a link at the end of the article to the townsite’s website. Here I’ll focus on one particular building, the Patricia Theatre.

The historic Patricia Theatre
The historic Patricia Theatre

The Patricia was originally at the location where the Cenotaph is today. Built in 1913, it featured silent films with live piano accompaniment. The actors John Barrymore and Delores Costello visited the theatre in person in the 1920s.  In 1928, it was relocated to a new building, the current one shown in the picture above. Still operating today, it is the oldest continuously operating movie theatre in Canada.

Paul, Cheryl, Janis and I attended a movie showing (Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant) and I wish I had brought my camera. The interior is amazing with large mural panels and an old style feel to the place. The projection equipment was modernized to run digital movies at a cost of $90,000 in 2012, funds raised by volunteers of the historical society.  You can see more pictures at the theatre’s official website, linked at the end of this article.

Some of the carefully maintained residences of the historic townsite.
Some of the carefully maintained homes of the historic townsite. These larger ones on the main drag belonged to mill executives and management originally.

Powell River abounds in hiking and nature trails as well. One easily accessible trail is the Willingdon Beach Trail just off Marine Avenue. The trail used to be a logging road and it is now a walking trail and an outdoor museum. All along the trail are logging artifacts of a bygone era, each with signs explaining what we see.

Steam donkey
Steam donkey dating from the 1920s.

The pièce de résistance is a steam donkey that the Powell River Forestry Museum Society managed to retrieve from a ridge north of Haywire Bay on Powell Lake. The society preserved it and moved it by helicopter to the Willingdon Beach Trail in 2001-2002. The steam donkey is a steam-powered winch or logging engine. This particular one is #357 built by the Empire Manufacturing Company in 1920 and used into the 1960s.

Tree growing out of an old stump.
Tree growing out of an old stump.

Not only are there a lot of logging artifacts, the flora along the trail are a great example of how the forest renews itself. Heavily logged at one time, you’ll find many trees growing out of the stumps of long gone  brethren.

At the head of the trail is a sign telling you that you can get an audio guide on your cellphone by visiting Project Art Zoundzones. Just click on the link for the Willingdon Beach Trail.

This is just one of four city trails, each two kilometres or less. The others are the Willingdon Creek Trail, the Sea Walk Trail and the Valentine Mountain Trail. But for the serious hiker, there are many more.

Inland Lake Trail is a beautiful 13 kilometre walking path around the lake. The trail is well groomed and maintained and hugs the shoreline. At some points it goes out over the water along boardwalks.  And it is remote enough to be away from the noise and traffic of the city.

Janis and Cheryl walking along the Inland Lake Trail.
Janis and Cheryl walking along the Inland Lake Trail. This is one of several boardwalks along the trail which circumnavigates the lake.

There are always a number of activities going on in Powell River, especially on the weekends, including a regular farmers market. The city itself is much larger than in the company town days as a number of towns and villages were incorporated into the city. One has the colorful name of Cranberry.

One day our hosts took us to Lund 24 kilometres up the road. Along the way we visited the Okeover Inlet Marina, a very picturesque spot. On a ridge above the marina is the Laughing Oyster Restaurant, a fine dining experience with a magnificent view. Alongside the dock you’ll find many of the tiny jellyfish common in coastal B.C. waters.

Cheryl, Janis and Paul at the Okeover Inlet Marina
Cheryl, Janis and Paul at the Okeover Inlet Marina

Lund is a small coastal village with a fair size marina, several restaurants, a hotel and several shops including an art gallery gift shop. It is also the beginning of Highway 101, also known as the Pacific Coastal Route. This highway network runs 15,202 kilometres to Quellon, Poro Monte, Chile, one of the longest roadways in the world.

Mile 0 Marker of the Pacific Coastal Highway.
Mile 0 Marker of the Pacific Coastal Highway.

Lund was founded by a Swede named Charlie Thulin in 1889. He called it Lund after a place in Sweden. Today the town also serves as the home of the Savary Island Water Taxi. It is a passenger only ferry. All cars on Savary were barged in. Savary Island is itself worth a visit. We were there back in the 1990s. But that is a topic for another post.

Panoramic shot of Lund harbour.
Panoramic shot of Lund harbour.

On Sunday evening, our last night before heading back Monday morning, we went for dinner to a nice little place on the south end of town called the Savoury Bight Seaside Restaurant. In front of the restaurant is a magnificent wooden sculpture of a giant lobster eating the tentacle of an octopus. It was carved by chainsaw at a logging show a while back.

The Savoury Bight lobster.
The Savoury Bight lobster.

Dinner was served on an outdoor patio which proffered a view of a magnificent sunset while we ate. The food was pretty good too.

Sunset from the patio of the Savoury Bight Restaurant.
Sunset from the patio of the Savoury Bight Restaurant.

The Sunshine Coast from Saltery Bay to Lund offers plenty for the visitor, whether it is the historic aspects of the area or the many natural wonders to take in. It is a hiker’s and camper’s dream with facilities along Powell and other lakes and along the coast. There is a lot to do there.

Be sure to check out the additional photo galleries linked below as well as some significant websites you’ll find useful. Click on the links for the photo galleries or scroll on down if you are on the main page.


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Photo Gallery: Powell River Historic Townsite




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Here are some additional photos of Powell River’s historic townsite.

The first home built in the townsite, Dr. Henderson's house was built to entice the doctor to come to the city. At the time all the workers lived in tents and shacks.
The first home built in the townsite, Dr. Henderson’s house was built to entice the doctor to come to the city. At the time all the workers lived in tents and shacks.
St. Luke's Hospital, built by Dr. Henderson in 1913.
St. Luke’s Hospital, built by Dr. Henderson in 1913.
Arbutus Apartments, formerly Oceanview Apartments. It was built to house married employees with no children in 1916.
Arbutus Apartments, formerly Oceanview Apartments. It was built to house married employees with no children in 1916.
Chief Superintendant's home
A couple of the homes built for management at the Powell River Company in the 1910s.
The historic Patricia Theatre, oldest continuously operated movie theatre in Canada.
The historic Patricia Theatre, oldest continuously operated movie theatre in Canada. St. John’ United Church stands behind it, built in 1913 as St. John’s Union Church.
Dwight Hall, built in 1927, housed a library and a veteran's lodge.
Dwight Hall, built in 1927, housed a library and a veteran’s lodge.
The Rodmay Hotel, originally the Powell River Hotel, was the first commercial building in town, built in 1911. It was sold in 1917 to Rod and may McIntyre, who renamed it the Rodmay.
The Rodmay Hotel, originally the Powell River Hotel, was the first commercial building in town, built in 1911. It was sold in 1917 to Rod and May McIntyre, who renamed it the Rodmay.
The Bank of Montreal building built in 1931. Before then the company dealt with the Bank of Commerce, but when they turned don a loan request, the company enticed the Bank of Montreal to set up shop by offering the building.
The Bank of Montreal building built in 1931. Before then the company dealt with the Bank of Commerce, but when they turned down a loan request, the company enticed the Bank of Montreal to set up shop by offering the building.
Formerly the Provincial Building, this fine structure was built in 1939 and housed the B.C. Police, the courthouse, forestry service and other government offices.
Formerly the Provincial Building, this fine structure was built in 1939 and housed the B.C. Police, the courthouse, forestry service and other government offices.
Some of the more modest homes built for rank and file workers.
Some of the more modest homes built for rank and file workers.

Next: Photo Gallery: Willingdon Beach Trail



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Photo Gallery: Willingdon Beach Trail in Powell River




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Here are some additional photos of the Willingdon Beach Trail in Powell River.

Willingdon Beach Park. The trail starts t the end of this path.
Willingdon Beach Park. The trail starts off to the right at the end of the park.
The Willingdon Beach Trail features many interesting arboreal features such as this fallen tree that found new life.
The Willingdon Beach Trail features many interesting arboreal features such as this fallen tree that found new life.
An old boomboat
An old boomboat that served at Weyerhaeuser’s Stillwater Sort.
A logging arch. This was pulled by bulldozer and reduced the damage done by skidding logs.
A logging arch. This was pulled by bulldozer and reduced the damage done by skidding logs.
A grader
A road grader used at Haslam Lake in the 1920s.
A bulldozer
A Caterpillar bulldozer built in 1941.
Stiff arm swing boom dragline.
Stiff arm swing boom dragline.
A pole wheel truck. This was like a railway car but rode on log poles instead of steel tracks. A steam donkey lowered the truck by winch to unload logs into the lake.
A pole wheel truck. This was like a railway car but rode on log poles instead of steel tracks. A steam donkey lowered the truck by winch to unload logs into the lake.
The steam donkey.
The steam donkey.
Tree growing out of another fallen tree.
Tree growing out of another fallen tree.
This squirrel is just one of many wild animals living in the area. We spotted a large bear scat on the trail. I took a picture of it, but you don't really want to see it.
This squirrel is just one of many wild animals living in the area. We also spotted a large bear scat on the trail. I took a picture of it, but you don’t really want to see that, do you?



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Kennedy Space Center: The Space Shuttle Atlantis




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This is the second of two parts on the Kennedy Space Center. Part 1 looked at the bus tour which takes you to the Apollo-Saturn V Center. Today we continue with a tour of the Visitor Complex.

The handy map of the Visitor Complex at the Kennedy Space Center notes some twenty attractions and lists some as must-see. These include an IMAX Theatre with several shows available, an Astronaut Encounters theatre where you can actually meet a real astronaut, an early space exploration museum, the impressive rocket plaza which feature eight different rockets on display, all but one standing on end as they would have been during launch, and the piece de resistance – the fabulous Space Shuttle Atlantis display.

KSC Map - r
The map that comes with the visitor’s guide.

The Kennedy Space Center is still an active rocket launch site and on occasion you may be able to witness the actual launch of a rocket. Such happens to be the case tomorrow, May 26, 2016. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch at 5:40 PM EDT tomorrow. Regular visitors may be able to access viewing locations as part of their pass on a first come, first served basis. There is also premium seating at Launch Pad 39’s Observation Gantry.

The blurb on the KSC website says that “LC-39 Observation Gantry offers a premium, up-close view of the rocket on the launch pad and during lift off. You can feel the force of the launch and hear the roar of the engines from the launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This area features lawn and bleacher seating and live launch commentary. The package includes launch transportation, a light snack and souvenir t-shirt. Launch Viewing/Transportation Tickets to LC-39 Observation Gantry are available for $49 in addition to daily admission.” But at the time of writing, all tickets have been sold out.

The Rocket Plaza
The Rocket Plaza

While we enjoyed the various displays we took in, the big one, the one that is a must-must-see is the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Outside the building that houses the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis are the two large solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank that propelled the shuttles into space. Walking by them reminds you of the lines of that poem about a colossus bestriding the world. They are like two large legs.

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The giant rockets and fuel tank used for the Space Shuttle launches.
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Inside looking out at the two solid rocket boosters in front of the building.

Inside you attend a short film before going through the doors to see the shuttle itself. The Space Shuttle Atlantis flew 33 missions and was the last space shuttle launched before the Space Shuttle program was discontinued in 2011. It has been supplanted by the International Space Station program, the Orion project (which will see men land on Mars in the 2020s) and private agencies such as SpaceX which was founded by Elon Musk.

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The Space Shuttle Atlantis, an awesome sight!

Needless to say, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is enormous. There is a large viewing platform to experience the shuttle from different vantage points. From directly in front, you see the open cargo bay as well as its two Canadarms, the two robotic arms that Canada’s space agency supplied and which are used to manipulate materials in space. One of the arms is extended.

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The cargo bay with its two Canadarms.

Behind the viewing platform are various displays including a mock-up of the pilot’s seat which you can sit in.

My wife the astronaut! Janis takes the pilot seat in this cockpit mock-up.
My wife the astronaut! Janis takes the pilot seat in this cockpit mock-up.

Navigating down the stairs you find a variety of models and displays about the space shuttle and its history. And you get a good look at the underbelly of the beast with all its nicks and scorch marks from its many fiery re-entries.

The belly of the beast. Note the many nicks and scorch marks.
The belly of the beast. Note the many nicks and scorch marks.

It is on this lower level that you also get to experience another must-do experience. The Shuttle Launch Experience is a thrill ride designed by Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts who have designed attractions for Disney, Universal Studios and many more clients. This one has to rank as one of the best. It simulates what it is like to be an astronaut blasting off into space.

Before going in, you have your picture taken. Then you enter the ride itself where you are seated and strapped in. A large screen in front of you shows the exterior of the space shuttle launch pad. You have the sensation of being tilted back in your seats so you are facing up as you would be in a real space shuttle. The count down begins. The tension mounts as launch approaches. Then – blast off!

The screen shows huge flares of flame bursting from the booster rockets. And I have no idea how they create this effect, but damn if you don’t actually feel G forces pulling you back into the seat. You feel the rumble and the shaking, the intense vibrations. And after the boosters and external tank have fallen away, you feel like you are floating in space. This ride has to be experienced to be believed. Simply amazing.

After leaving the ride, you find out that that picture they took of you earlier is now available – with a twist. Yep!  It’s you in full astronaut gear.

56 - astronaut den Ouden - r 55 - astronaut Baker - r
 Janis and I in full astronaut gear. 

After the Space Shuttle Experience we wandered over to the gift shop which is extensive and worth a visit. Heading out we passed a wall with a mural of the International Space Station and flags of all the participating countries.

The International Space Station mural and flags of participant countries.
The International Space Station mural and flags of participant countries.

The sun was starting to set as we left. A very enjoyable day. And we still did not see everything. We will return some day! I have a few unused photos left but not enough for a separate page, so I’ll just close off with a few extra pics.

Sunset over the Rocket Plaza
Sunset over the Rocket Plaza
The front end of the Atlantis Space Shuttle
The front end of the Atlantis Space Shuttle
The back end of Atlantis Space Shuttle
The back end of Atlantis Space Shuttle
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The open cargo bay of the Space Shuttle with the extended Canadarm
The rockets of Atlantis
The rockets of Atlantis
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Sunset over Rocket Plaza




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