Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Posts tagged ‘Canada’

Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan “The Rapids of St. Mary”

The roaring river of St Mary’s separates the twin cities,  Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and Sault Ste Marie, Michigan on the northwestern tip of the UP of Michigan.  The International Bridge takes road traffic over the St Mary’s River, which is the connecting river between two of the Great Lakes:  Lake Superior to Lake Huron.

Soo LocksThis is home to The Soo Canal, the longest locking system in the world, commonly called “The Soo” by locals. A stop at the Information Center gives you additional information regarding the magnitude of the locks and their importance to shipping in the Great Lakes Region.  Through The Soo, it is possible to watch very large ships being lifted or dropped 21′ as they go through the rapids from lake to lake. Two of the ships being moved this particular day were the S S Atlanta Huron, a bulk Canadian freighter measuring 736′ X 76′, and Lee A Tregurtha, an original WWII tanker now sailing for over sixty years,measuring even larger at 826′ X 75′.

Tower of HistoryIt was fascinating to watch the ships being moved and there were several vantage points.  A nearby tower provided an overview of the area, while it was also possible to watch the ships from the dock area – nearly close enough to touch them.

The Tower of History also gave great overviews of the city as well as the locks. Built in 1969 by the Catholic Church, its purpose was to tell the history of the early missionaries. Today the story of Native Americans as well as the early missionaries is told with pictures, films and displays. 2000 years ago the Native American Indians gathered near the waters here due to the abundant supply of fish and furs. The Tower of History is 210′ high with outside balconies to make viewing a pleasure.  Since it was a very windy day, it was advised that visitors not go to the top. But that was just a challenge and proved quite scenic.

Agawa Canyon FallsThe following day, an early morning train, Agawa Canyon Tour Train, left Sault Ste Marie on the Canadian side. The round trip of 228 miles over towering trestles into the Canadian wilderness provided a scenic view including many lakes, waterfalls and pines.  At the farthest end of the tour, the train sweeps down into Agawa Canyon with a stop at Canyon Park, home to many beautiful waterfalls.

Before leaving Sault Ste Marie the next day, visited the Museum Ship Valley Camp, an actual retired ship. The S.S. Valley Camp was built in 1917 by a shipbuilding company in Lorain, Ohio. It is possible to walk not only the decks, but also visit the living quarters and explore inside from top to bottom. Valley Camp once had a crew of 29 men, so is the perfect place to display lifestyle of the Great Lakes’ sailors. From the more luxurious Captain’s Quarters to the rather plain cabins of the Oilers and Coal Passers, visitors receive a true glimpse into how they lived and worked onboard.

Museum Ship Valley CampA museum with over a hundred exhibits exists inside Valley Camp. Many items are displayed that have been recovered from sunken ships in the Great Lakes. An attractive aquarium features many of the fish who swim in the St Mary’s waters.

Sault Ste Marie does not claim to be tourist country, but it certainly holds many interesting pieces of the past for the curious to explore.

To reach Sault Ste Marie on the US side, take I-75 North to its end. 

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The International Peace Garden May Peace Prevail on Earth

Opened on July 14, 1932 the International Peace Garden on the border of Canada and the USA near Dunseith, North Dakota is the world’s largest unfortified border, “Like No Other Place On Earth”. It encompasses 2,300 acres of botanical gardens and on a stone caim on the border are inscribed these words:

TO GOD IN HIS GLORY,
we two nations
dedicate this garden
and pledge ourselves
that as long as men
shall live, we will
not take up arms
against one another.

What a great thought all those years ago as a symbol of friendship between the two nations.

The sounds of bell chimes faintly echo every fifteen minutes from the Veterans Memorial Bell Tower.  The nearby 120′ concrete Peace Tower has four columns symbolizing the four corners of the world from which thousands of immigrants arrived in Canada and the United States to make better lives for themselves. Two of the columns are in Manitoba, Canada while the other two columns are in North Dakota.  The foundation symbolizes one solid base of democratic beliefs between the two countries.

The Peace Chapel provides the perfect place to sit down and relax, meditate, or read the positive thoughts written on the walls. The Peace Chapel has been a long time project of area members of the Order of the Eastern Star and is the only building which straddles the United States and Canadian border. While the chapel is a simple building, the addition of amber glass windows from France gives it a soft, golden, peaceful glow.

The three encircling walls into which quotations have been engraved were one of the special features that grabbed my attention. All quotations were either spoken or written by great men of peace throughout history. Some of the limestone walls still have embedded fossils of strange marine life, which had been molded into the bed of a tropical sea in the Manitoba region millions of years ago.

Flower beds are around every corner here, but two displays that have been constant from the beginning are beds forming the United States and Canadian flags.  A beautiful International Peace Garden Floral Clock actually works and was originally donated by Bulova in 1966. This original was designed as a replica of the famous Bulova Floral Clock in Berne, Switzerland, but inner workings were replaced in recent years by a clock from St Louis, Missouri.  The clock contains over 2,000 flowers with the design changing yearly, and reminds visitors to take time for the peaceful feeling surrounding the gardens.

Just down the road in the Turtle Mountains near Dunseith, North Dakota is the largest man-made turtle in the world. Constructed of nearly 2,000 wheel rims, this “W’eel Turtle made from Wheels” has a head that actually bobs up and down. While the turtle is nearly forty feet long, its head alone weighs almost a ton! Stop and visit this tire rim sculpture at Dale’s Thrifty Barn – a gas-station, cafe, and motel in Dunseith, North Dakota. Little extras like this always bring a smile.

Turtle Mountains seem to be a perfect location for the International Garden of Peace as the slow movement of the turtle gives a relaxed and peaceful feeling just like the gardens. May peace prevail in your world as well. We should all attempt to be more like the turtle… at ease in our own shell.

The International Peace Garden in North Dakota can be reached by taking I-29 North in North Dakota to Exit 203.  Take Route 81/281 West to Dunseith where 281 bends North to the Canadian border.  This is a beautiful back-road drive away from the crowds.

Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia

Enjoy Your Life!  That was the theme of Gampo Abbey, a small Buddhist Monastery situated along the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. This was certainly a place where it was easy to enjoy the beauties of nature as well as the peaceful environment on the Northern tip of this island.

Fiddle Farm Bed & Breakfast became the starting point for this adventure. While visiting the other boarders in the evening, Arlin, a young geologist, discussed his plans to go to the Abbey in the morning for a one month stay. Here he would relax and develop an openness of mind and heart by plunging himself into a time of meditation. He was to call the Abbey for pick up, but there was a problem that day so this gypsy volunteered to drive him to the Abbey – but then, only with the Abbey’s approval.

Having been here before, Arlin was a great travel guide.  With his background in geology, he pointed out and explained the rock formations along the way. One of the breathtaking spots very near the monastery was Cathedral Rock.  This was viewed off a three hundred foot drop into the vast Gulf of St Lawrence. Have to be careful not to get too close to the edge!

Then came the beautiful white Gampo Abbey trimmed with red. Arrived just in time for lunch, which today was salmon – their one meal of the week where meat or fish was served.  The beautiful salad really caught my eye as it was made from the various plants in the yard and garden of the Abbey, and even had flowers mixed in for beauty. Turned out the flowers were also quite tasty. They did explain that they studied the plants in the area so they knew which plants were safe to eat and which were poisonous. Lucky not to have any poisonous plants that day!

Seating for the meal was at long plain tables with benches. Everyone served themselves and when finished, washed their own dishes. Arlin volunteered to serve me that day, but personally felt it would be an interesting part of the experience to follow their example.  While washing my dishes, also got to talk to others on the retreat and felt very welcome.

Then toured the shrine rooms elaborately decorated with Buddhas and pictures of leaders of their Tibetian section.  This was where they meditated nine to ten hours a day while sitting on rugs on the floor.  The aim was to make their mind blank and then allow that space to be filled with the beauty and blessings existing in their present world.  Silence was an important part of their training.

Everyone participating in the retreat must agree to abide by the five Buddhist principles: avoid killing, stealing,  lying, sexual activity and intoxicants. Everyone must participate in the daily schedule and observe silence. Heads were shaved on men and women alike, and both wore the garb of monastic life. No outdoor shoes are allowed inside the Abbey, just slippers.

Gampo Abbey is a very powerful place to become a loving, caring person interested in helping others. Relax your mind and listen to the world around you so you can enjoy the moment.  One important question they pose is: What is the best use of each day of our lives? That would be a great question for us to ask ourselves every morning.  Enjoy your life!

Bottle Houses of Prince Edward Island

People who live in glass houses should never throw stones!  You certainly wouldn’t want any stones in the area where this unusual Canadian attraction has three different structures made of glass bottles.

Edouard Arsenault was a native of the area and lived in Cap-Egmont, Prince Edward Island, Canada all of his life.  His occupations varied from fisherman to carpenter to lighthouse keeper. After receiving a post card from his daughter of a glass castle on Vancouver Island, Edouard decided to recycle glass bottles in a very unusual manner. After collecting bottles from restaurants, dance halls, friends and neighbors, he spent the winter months in his basement cleaning the bottles and removing the labels. There aren’t many pop or beer bottles in his structures as those bottles at that time still had a deposit refund when returned.

When he was 66 years old he began construction of his first bottle house, a six gabled house composed of nearly 12,000 bottles.  This interesting arrangement of glass bottles measures 20′ by 14′  and is in three sections.  Carefully cementing 300-400 bottles per row, Mr Arsenault used bag after bag of cement as he carefully arranged the beautiful patterns. Everywhere you experience the serenity and beauty of the flowers he enjoyed.

The second house, a tavern, was constructed in a hexagon shape. Built in 1982 this is a much smaller house using 8,000 bottles. The pillar of bottles, viewed through this open door, stands near the bottle bar. This bottle cylinder is the only original part actually constructed by Edouard. Originally this building was used to house the souvenirs and special bottles that he did not want to be part of the structures. Today you will find here his personal collection of bottles that he felt had extra special features.

The chapel was the third and last building completed before his death.  It is a real work of art. Approximately 10,000 bottles form the chapel, complete with pews and altar. It was situated so that sunset streams in behind the altar giving a feeling of peace to those who visit.

Due to the terrible winters on Prince Edward Island, it was necessary to reconstruct these buildings in the late 1990s.  The same bottles were used in the original design.  The roof and center of the tavern are the only two that are almost completely the original structure.

A beautiful Acadian garden path meanders through the houses and ends up at the present gift shop.  Here you can find many locally made gifts as well as Prince Edward Island souvenirs.

These beautiful Bottle Houses are a real inspiration of what can be done with recycled products in our environment… and a lot of creativity.  Plus, they reflect beauty from every angle!

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