Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bridgewater, Nova Scotia

Since we started this blog almost a decade ago -- and even before that, really -- we have had an interest in visiting the town of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. We are pleased to be writing the first lines of this post in the lovely River Revlections bed-and-breakfast overlooking the LaHave River, around which this equally lovely town was incorporated a few years after our house in Bridgewater, Massachusetts was built. (NOTE: We are wrapping up this entry a full year later!)


Yes, Canada's Bridgewater is much newer than our own, and local history suggests that the naming of the two is coincidental. An historical essay on the town's web site suggests that "the community got its name from being the place where the water was bridged."


Given the distance between these two Bridgewaters, we made a full week of the journey, and visited a few places on the way, and a couple that were a bit out of the way. The Bridgewaters Project - Nova Scotia album on James' Flickr site includes photos of a lot of great places -- particularly in New Brunswick -- that we do not discuss in this entry.



The easternmost point on our travel map is for future travel. We were not quite that ambitious, but we do hope to get to that corner of France before long.

Welcome to Canada; Have Some Chocolate

Over the years, we have driven into Canada through a dozen or so different border crossings. In this case, we entered at a small station perched on the edge of the St. Croix River, into the charming little town of St. Stephen. We were surprised to learn that it considers itself Canada's Chocolate Town -- and in fact that such a distinction might even exist.

Given our strong interest in foods in general and chocolate in particular, we were soon embarked on a brief tour of the town's chocolate museum. The focus is not, of course, on the growing and production of cacao in Central America or West Africa, but rather on the craft involved in the production of fine chocolates, which does continue in the town.

The exhibits included a very problematic collection of "Great Chiefs" trading cards, on which Native American leaders were featured but with the use of pejorative language, and which used to accompany some of the local candies.





Local Lunch

From the online reviews, we could tell that lunch at the Bridgewater Hotel might be more of a memorable cultural experience than a delectable culinary experience. This proved to be correct -- we are glad to have had the experience, especially given the establishment's iconic name and loyal local following. We were even more glad to have limited the experience to a meal, rather than the entire stay. We'll be checking in future for one of those "Under New Management" signs.


Meta Bridgewater 


A visit to the DesBrisay Museum in Bridgewater was, of course, de rigueur. This small museum was started in the 19th century by lawyer Mather Byles DesBrisay with his own artifacts.

Now boasting information and exhibits on local history as well as some of DesBrisay's original collections, it also had something extra special for these two Bridgewater aficionados.


We were greeted at the museum entrance by curator Linda Bedford, who asked where we were from. When we said Bridgewater, Massachusetts she smiled brightly and wondered if we knew how many Bridgewaters there were in the world. We answered that we believed there were about a dozen, and that we were on a quest to visit them all. She clarified that there were actually 17 Bridgewaters worldwide, and that she had written to all of them in 1999 for a special exhibit in honor of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia's centennial!


After we had a chance to watch an introductory video and explore the museum, Ms. Bedford brought us back to the Research Room and produced to file folders with information about the 16 other Bridgewaters. One folder had information about 15 of those towns; the other, fatter folder, had the information sent from Bridgewater, Massachusetts. Our proud, over-achieving Town Clerk had sent directories, letters, and a host of other artifacts about our town. What a treat to see names of some of our friends in a museum in Canada!

We posed for this photo which was then featured on the Museum's website!

An additional, more tangible reward for visiting the museum was the gift of the last two centennial commemorative pins!




Getting Carded


As with our own Bridgewater, that of Nova Scotia is situated on a river with very modest vertical relief. In both cases, a small mill was situated in one of the few places in which adequate flow could be found to operate a millwheel. 

In Bridgewater, Nova Scotia, this river's energy was used for the carding of wool -- that is, the combing that is a necessary precursor to the spinning of wool into thread.

Today, knowledgeable interpreters demonstrate the processes and machinery, and more importantly talk about the incredibly difficult working conditions of the mostly young women who did this work. Amazingly, they are able to share a video of an elderly woman who discusses her own experience in the mill firsthand, taking visitors back nearly a century in direct oral history.

Visitors are also able to try carding wool by hand, which requires some patience and attention to detail. Have a look at the souvenirs below and guess which one was done by James.




In Search of Ice Cream
After our day in lovely Lunenburg we felt ice cream was in order. It was harder to find than we expected and we ended up in Jerry's diner which featured 24-flavors of soft serve. We ordered our cones, and apparently ate the last of the ice cream there for the day!




The next day, after visiting the museums, we took a walking tour of the neighbor near our Bed and Breakfast and noticed a convenience store that sold ice cream cones by the scoop. When Pam remarked that we should have gone there for ice cream, James correctly pointed out that it was a new day, so another round of ice cream was fine, and in we went. It was kind of dumb luck that Pam tried Moon Mist ice cream. We had read about this multi-colored Nova Scotia treat from this Atlas Obscura post, put having some on our Bridgewater "to do" list, and then promptly forgot about it. Something in Pam's subconscious must have told her to order it though (James had the Shark Bite flavor). As Atlas Obscura indicates, the flavor is a combination of banana, grape, and bubble gum (heavy on the bubble gum)! Pam simply calls it "kid flavored."


image from Atlas Obscura
So What Do They Got that We Ain't Got?

Besides Moon Mist ice cream? Well, a skateboard park for one thing. We used to have one here in Bridgewater, MA. In 2010 ours was bulldozed by an autocratic parks director after one instance of graffiti. At the same time that our skateboard park was removed, our town also voted to drastically cut the library budget. The Library was actually closed for a few days, and then opened with hours cut to about 15 per week. I wasn't surprised when the local newspaper then reported a petty crime wave of vandalized cars and property.

Bridgewater, Nova Scotia also has a Cineplex, something one might expect that we'd have here in our our college town, but nope, no entrepreneur has figured that one out yet. I must admit that the Bridgewater, NS theatre wasn't playing anything that James and I had the least interest in seeing. Summer "blockbusters" just don't appeal, but a blockbuster theater is better than no theater at all.

More generally, Bridgewater Nova Scotia has a lot of publicly accessible open space, including miles of trails to connect those spaces. We took advantage of several miles of these trails.

Lunenburg



An article about Lunenburg showed up on Pam's Facebook feed at some point while we were in the early stages of planning this trip. Luckily this town, which is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Siteis the next town to the east of Bridgewater. The drive from one to the other is simply adorable and includes an optional ferry crossing, for which we of course opted.

The beautiful architecture is enhanced by the liberal use of bright colors with some houses sporting up to five different pigments!












Food & Beverage on the Working Waterfront

We were disappointed to have missed most Lunenburg's most famous Tall Ship the Bluenose II, but we enjoyed a horse and carriage ride through town, had lunch overlooking the water at The Salt Shaker Deli, and sampled some whiskey at the Ironworks Distillery. The Bluenose II is a replica of a racing yacht that is featured on the Canadian dime.


View from the restaurant patio


















Vinegar Bible


The stars on the ceiling represent what the night sky would have looked like in Lunenburg on December 25, 1 A.D.

Bird Islands

On the way home, we digressed a full day for an exceptional birdwatching tour. Our tour was late in the afternoon, when the light is just perfect, and led by guides with decades of experience in the waters of northern Cape Breton.

From a small dock in Englishtown that our guides use for the family lobstering business, we set off toward the northeast, past Cape Dauphin to "bird islands" that are visible as long slivers on this satellite image but that do not show up in the map view of the same area.



Eagle exiting stage right

Puffins!



We saw the Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Black Legged Kittiwakes, two types of Gulls, two types of Cormorants, about 20 bald eagles and a Great Blue Heron

Lagniappe: The 2024 solar eclipse will return to Nova Scotia (where the 1972 eclipse inspired Carly Simon), but only to this very northernmost tip of Cape Breton. It is going to be VERY crowded, and watching these birds after the return of the sun will be an unbelievable experience for those lucky enough to witness it.


Cafés

The journey to Bridgewater afforded us plenty of opportunities to find new cafés and diners. James added five of them to the GeoCafes map and blog:

Rogue Coffee in Saint John, New Brunswick
No. 9 Coffee Bar in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia
Fancy Pants in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
Dick's Restaurant in Mexico, Maine
Moose Muck Coffee House in Colebrook, New Hampshire

Honorable mention but not reviewed because we had nothing positive to say: Judy's in Bangor, Maine. Although it made for a memorable story, we cannot recommend visiting, even as a joke.

A Busman's Holiday
As a librarian Pam likes to visit libraries when we travel. We had a quest in mind for this trip - The Haskell Free Library and Opera House. Pam had written about this special library (which sits on the international border between Derby Line, Vermont, USA and Stanstead, Quebec, Canada) in her "Library" Books blog post about Idiot America. Once upon a time people in these two free countries were free to walk from one to the other without entering the building. Since 9/11 the only way for a person to be in these two countries at once is to enter the library.



The flowerpots in these photos mark the international border. The police car was parked there when we entered the building, but was gone when we came out. The gentleman in the background of the photo on the right walked right over the line, even though the sign says that you will be arrested for doing so.





We found books in French, Spanish, and English


Here James sits with one foot in the USA, the other in Canada. So nice of the library to set this chair just for Geographers to take nerdy pictures.

Just behind and to the right of the service desk (visible in the photo) is the public restroom. I was surprised at just how "public" it was after having read this article about an international gun running scheme involving this restroom. I actually heard the "tinkling" after someone went in to use it. 














And, while not an actual library, the Wilton (Maine) Free Public Library Used Book Annex piqued my interest, especially as a Public Library Trustee.

This bookshelf was located in the lobby
of our motel. As indicated by the sign books are available to take, with a request for a donation which to be applied to the operating fund of the public library.




Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bridgewater by the Bridge, on the Water

This week we made our first visit to Florida since 2002 or so -- not counting hectic layovers in MIA, Capital of Latin America. We had certainly not been there since starting this Bridgewaters Project blog, and on the second day of this brief visit, Pam suggested we should seek some Bridgewaters in Florida. Careful readers of this blog will know that it started as an exploration of towns that share the name of our town, of which there are quite a few in the United States and a few other English-speaking countries.

Careful readers will also know that we like blogging so much that we have extended our scope to include shopping malls, housing developments, and other geographic ephemera. Hoping to find a couple such places, I did a lazy search on Google maps, and found something like this:
Of these, the Bridgewater Inn was close to our planned travels for the day, so we started heading that way, following the low-tech map I sketched on the back of a restaurant placemat. When navigating in a rented car, I can use my phone's GPS, but I prefer to go old-school on longer stretches like this one was to be.

Following Burnt Store Road from I-75, we began to wonder if my navigational technique had failed us somehow. We passed mile after mile of low-density development being carved into the flatness to the west of Ft. Myers, block by block, until we lost track of the scale of our drive. We were both starting to think of giving up when we finally arrived at Pine Island Road. We were then surprised to find ourselves in the kind of resort-town traffic jam we associate with places like South Padre or Ocean City.

When we first found the inn, we were somewhat underwhelmed.

Usually we have nothing to do with crabs outside of the borders of Maryland. But this one was very cute.

We were confused when we first found the Inn, because it seemed very small and without an office. We abandoned our quest, and realized almost immediately that this was a small annex located just a few yards away. We learned, though, that amidst all of the sprawl and free parking in southwest Florida, we had found one spot where parking is at a premium. A nearby gift shop advertises free parking with any purchase.
We then found the main entrance and availed ourselves of the limited parking just long enough to take a few photos. 
Island time begins on this side of the bridge; no need to wait until getting across to the actual island.
Geographers love examples of "sense of place" -- the symbols by which people manifest their connections to places. This bric-a-brac collection certainly tells us where we are, and how the innkeepers see it.
Even more specific to this place is a mural in the main office that shows us both the bridge and the water. Rooms on the western side of the inn have a great view of both!
Since we started spending more time near the water over the past five years, we've become more aware of the rhythms of weather and water. Writing the daily details on a board like this might be a better way to get in tune than any digital gizmos.
The next time we go to Florida between blizzards, we might find a way to spend a couple of days right here, in the southmost Bridgewater we've visited so far.