Bourreaux de l’Etat


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I follow a blog which specialize in locating the tombs of famous people in France. The period covered is usually 17th, 18th  and 19th centuries. I often wonder where is so and so buried, a famous name does not necessarily have a famous grave. Each entry gives you the story of the person and how it ended with often some strange family detail about the burial. One entry recently was about the French Revolution (Civil War) and how the Kings and Queens of France buried in the St-Denis Cathedral were dug up and their tombs smashed. Some with vivid description of the cadaver, like that of Louis XV whose body was black and gave out a powerful stench despite the fact that he had died some 17 years prior.

This week it is about the family Sanson, who for 7 generations where the Official Executioner of France, from 1688 to 1847. A profession that no longer exist, but a profession nonetheless required for putting to death the great and the not so great of France who had been condemned by the State. Official Executioner was a title given by the King and then at the Revolution by the Committee in charge. It was  a paid job with honours and benefits. One benefit was on the death of the Executioner, he was entitled to a Funeral Mass with full Civilian Honours. So for 159 years the Sanson, from fathers to sons where in charge of executing by whatever means decreed, prisoners. They not only exercised their profession in Paris but also in several other cities of France. The head of the Family usually had Paris and his sons had other cities, some  sons were also helpers in the putting to death of a condemned person. They were responsible for maintaining the tools of their trade and setting up the scaffolds etc ensuring that all would go well.

A very grim business and not always a quick affair, sometimes in the 17th and 18th centuries executions which were a public spectacle required some showmanship. However amongst the duty of the Executioner, he had to meet with the condemned prior to the execution, they would have a surreal conversation about what was to take place and the condemned could make a request that he be dispatched quickly if possible, often giving the Executioner a sum of money. One of the Sanson was known for his consideration and kindness toward the condemned person, his job was to put them to death not to make them suffer unduly or turn a public execution into butchery.

It was Charles-Henri Sanson who had to execute King Louis XVI. Though he had been a revolutionary in 1789 by 1793 he had lost his appetite for the revolution and turned against it. In his opinion far too many innocent people had been condemned by comedy show trials, where the results were more important than the facts or the truth. When he was given the paper ordering the execution of the King, Charles-Henri Sanson said he felt faint and wanted to run. He knew the trial had been rigged against the Sovereign and Sanson was hoping for a last minute reprieve or a plot to free the king. This royal execution would haunt him for the rest of his days and in his will he left money so that a Mass could be said  monthly to ask God for forgiveness for this horrible business.

Sanson’s son would execute 9 months later Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was leaving behind two young children. The day of the execution the Parisian crowds were in an ugly mood and sullen, very much against putting the Queen to death. He also dispatched other revolutionaries like Danton and Robespierre. He like other members of his family are buried around Paris in churches or in cemeteries amongst other dignitaries.  We do not know much about the Sanson family except for the journals and correspondence they left behind, they had a job to do and it required a certain amount of discretion.





The boardwalk


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Today was another nice sunny day in Charlottetown, so I took Nora for a walk on the boardwalk around Victoria Point. A very nice park area all along the North and Hillsborough rivers looking out towards the strait of Northumberland. Sail boats and luxury yachts.

Nora likes to walk and her attitude is, the boardwalk belongs to me so get out of my way.


I made her sit for a little while but she is sniffing the air and there was a good breeze so I am sure she picked up a lot of scents. Victoria Park is known for its numerous aggressive crows, Nora does not care, crow pie she says. There are also Foxes and skunks though not usually seen in the day time.

A very nice area to walk but with Nora it is always quickly as if she is on a mission.



Yes you have to look where you are going because a Fox can appear out of nowhere. Nora of course would given the alarm with her hound howling before I would see anything.  The other night coming home, walking down Great George Street there was a Fox sitting on the grass just a few feet away from me. He startled me but he did not move, they are very bold.


and once a week Holland American cruise ships enter the Charlottetown harbour.

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This map shows the park, it was once the entire estate of the Residence of the Lieutenant Governor of PEI who is the personal representative of the Sovereign. In the 1960’s the park was open to the public and the Crown kept one third for the Official Residence. So I walk with Nora along the brown line and back which is a fair distance for her about 3 km but she does not mind.

At least today she did not try to jump into the river. It is salt water and I would not want to have to go after her. As for our Nicky, he does not like to walk any distance so there is no point is taking him. I would end up carrying him.





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I have always been interested in historical restoration of buildings, despite the fact that many archeologists oppose such restoration as not genuine, especially in buildings of great antiquity or in buildings which have been totally destroyed.

If any restoration should take place often it is in the consolidation of the buildings foundations or some partial and limited reconstruction of any structure, clearly marking where the work took place so it should not be mistaken by any future restorer or student as original.

In Athens in the last 30 years important restorations have taken place on the Acropolis, a monumental complex 2500 years old. The work was necessary due to the advance state of decay of the remaining buildings and their importance to Western Civilization. The Parthenon has been extensively restored to prevent any further decay and hundreds of fragments have been found so they could be re-incorporated into the building. The original Parthenon was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC and re-built under Pericles between 479 and 439 BC. The greatest destruction was inflicted during the long war between the Ottoman Turks and the Venetians who attacked Athens  in 1687 and fired upon the temple which the Turks had used as a gun powder depot, the resulting explosion gave us what we see today. The restoration which I visited many times in the last 17 years are very impressive and will conserve this important monument for the future. The Greeks in recent years have also restored the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and the gate or Propylaea.


Under Mussolini from 1923-1939 much of what tourists see today in the Roman Forum was the results of excavations and restorations as political gestures to support the Fascist program of Il Duce. Prior to Mussolini’s rule little could be seen and most of the Roman Forum was covered with modern neighbourhoods, all had to be destroyed and removed to uncover Imperial Rome.


In Germany with the end of the Second World War much of the country was in ruins, the great monuments of the 17th and 18th centuries had been bombed and burnt. Dresden was destroyed in two nights of fire bombing in February 1945. After the war, Dresden found itself in the Eastern part of Germany and the Communists had no interest in re-building the city. What Canaletto had painted in 1747 while under commission to Frederick-Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland was the only memory of that glorious city. Canaletto-nach-Restaurierun_01.jpg

We visited Dresden 3 years ago and saw how the city has been re-built to a point where all the ancient monuments have been brought back to life. The most stunning is the Lutheran FrauenKirche (church of our Lady) built in 1726 by George Bähr with a height of 91 meters.


When we first saw it it was nothing more than rubble, an amazing feat of restoration.

The City of Berlin has undergone the same transformation since 1989 with its re-unification as the Capital of Germany, the Berlin City Palace is nearing completion and is the single most expensive public-private project in Germany at 790 million Euros.

In Potsdam which is a suburb of Berlin, much restoration and re-building of the 18th century buildings has been going on. The City Palace was completely re-built and the Park complex where the famous palace Sans Souci of Frederick II the Great is located has seen much restoration of the pavilions, gardens, Royal tombs and other palaces including the Neue Palais built in 1763 to commemorate the victory of Prussia and England in the Seven Years War against France and Austria.


The Neue Palais (new palace) is intact and avoided being bombed during WWII. Frederick II used it to show off the power of the Prussian State. Frederick II would live there in the Winter and move to Sans Souci down the park alley in the Summer. This palace is also interesting has it was the last residence of the German Emperor Frederick III who only reigned for 99 days dying of cancer and his son Emperor Wilhelm II until his forced abdication in 1918 and exile to Holland.

In front of the Palace and in keeping with the baroque style so loved by Frederick II a folie or fantaisie was built in the form of a semi-circle colonnade with two pavilions. It was damaged after 1918 and during WWII. The first time I saw it in 1997 it was in very poor state and needed much repair, it was cordoned off because it could collapse.

As of 2004 a great effort was made to re-built it and the work is now complete, it can be admired as it was at the time of Frederick II. Here are some photos of it.


This photo taken from the steps of the Neue Palais looking at the colonnade during an open air concert.



Side view, prior to 1997 many of the allegorical statues on the top where missing and had to be re-carved and re-installed. The columns and architectural elements replaced and the copper roof completely redone.


This aerial photo shows the complex, the buildings on either side of the colonnade where servants quarters. Today the buildings are part of the University of Potsdam. While the Neue Palais is a museum, it has 200 rooms and 4 state reception rooms and much of its original furnishings. All of these places are interesting to visit because it is living history.

There are many more cities in Europe who restored their ancient buildings. The State is actively involved and the public often subscribe with donations to these projects.

In France one famous site is the Palais of Versailles, with the help of the American Friends of Versailles, hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised to restore this palace and garden to its pre-revolutionary glory. I remember one visit in 1969 with my parents, what a sad site it was, so much was closed to the public and only up-keep work could be done. Much of the furniture of the palace was sold in 1792 prior to the execution of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Most bought by wealthy English Aristocrats for a few pennies, in London today much of this furniture and various paintings and objects belonging to the Royal Family of France can be seen in mint condition.

Restoration and conservation is important and gives an accurate picture of what life was like back then. One wonders why in Canada we make so little effort to conserve and protect our history.



End of Summer?


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Officially Summer ends on 21 September but schools and Universities re-open next week and so with the Gold cup and Saucer Harness Race, the Season ends here in PEI. Much of the Summer theatre ends this weekend and the restaurants and other venues will be much more quiet, which to me is a blessing.

We had a lovely parade today from 10:00am to Noon time, 50 floats and marching bands. I have discovered that on bagpipes you can play 3 tunes and they are always the same. We have quite a few Islanders whose ancestors came from Old Scotland, so you can imagine bagpipes and tartans are all the rage. We also have the PEI Regiment and the Canadian Royal Navy and many Service Clubs participating and the RCMP were there also. It was a lot of fun, our friend Pico made wonderful muffins and I went to watch the parade from the house of our friend DS who lives just a few doors down from us. The weather was perfect, beautiful sunshine and a lite breeze.

Then I had museum duty and it has been a very busy season for me, on any given day at the Art Gallery I have about 40 to 60 visitors wanting to know about this or that painting or installation. In one gallery is the portraits of Robert Harris (1849-1919) in another I have prints by Landon Mackenzie, her 1975-2015 period, she gave a talk yesterday and I was able to speak with her afterwards and it was very helpful. We then have this installation by Graeme Patterson called the Silent Citadel, a lot of people love it, exploring the theme of friendship and solitude.


Graeme Patterson, Silent Citadel


Robert Harris, Bessie in her wedding gown, 1885. Bessie Putnam was his wife.


Landon Mackenzie speaking with a group of visitors.

And now for photos of the Gold Cup and Saucer Parade 2016, 155 edition


Muffins made by Pico with blueberries and strawberries from his garden. The flowers are also freshly cut. 

DSC08431.jpgWater street before the parade around 9:30am.


The RCMP on parade, they are the Police force of the Island.


The First Nation Mi’kmaq, they had a powwow in the park next to our place, drums and chanting for 2 days an free lobster dinner for anyone coming. Pretty nice.


Colonel Gray Marching band, named after John Hamilton Gray, Premier of PEI 1864. Pretty good musicians and great costumes.



a hunk in the parade because you need one.


The piping school band, yes you can take courses to learn to play the bagpipes. But as the old saying goes, a gentleman knows how but abstain from playing.

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Canadian Sailors


Charlottetown Police and Fire Service our taxes at work.


The Grand Marshall, Anne Shirley, (of Green Gables), who said she was fictional.

In all 50 floats and 5 bands, lots of fun and all the neighbours were out, so we all had a chat.

Some photos


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As we near the end of the 188 edition of Old Home Week in PEI, tomorrow is the big parade in Charlottetown and the Gold and Saucer Cup Race at the Exhibition grounds. The parade goes past our front door on Water Street, we have the best seats. Here are some picture of the end of day. CqLtRyGWEAAOzu5.jpg

Here is a view of the end of the dock at the marina on Peake’s  Wharf next door. Known as Confederation Landing, where the Fathers of Canadian Confederation arrived on the SS Victoria and were brought to shore in a small canoe by Mr Pope.


Full moon tonight over Charlottetown but just 30 Km North of us in Cavendish look at those clouds. A violent storm is coming which will pass us quickly in a matter of 5 minutes. Clouds over Cavendish look at those pictures and they are coming South towards us.



I walked the dogs 5 minutes before the storm hit, the sky was clear and the moon and stars bright. But North of me I could see flashes of lightning and then all of a sudden a strong cold wind came by, I got in just in time. The rain fell hard in buckets for about 5 minutes and then it was all gone. They say the farmers need the rain for the potato crops, but not that sort of violent rain.

* Cavendish weather photos CBC News.

Barbers, Barbieri


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Having travelled around the world and lived in many countries, I have had to find a good barber at every destination. By good barber I mean someone who knows how to cut hair and who you can trust to do a good job and understand what you want.

It is all about service and making you feel relaxed. Easier said than done, many countries have different approaches to the barber and hair cutting or styling, not to mention manicure and shoe polish.

In Mexico City I found a good barber almost immediately, the salon was a little like an old club and in the Latin American tradition of what gentlemen expect, you got the hot towel treatment, manicure and shoe shine, spit polish which I like at a reasonable price.

I found that in any Latin American country I went to, you could always get a great hair cut done by barbers who had been in the profession for years, real professionals.

In other countries like Egypt or Jordan, it was touch and go and though I got what I wanted the conversation was a mix of Arabic-English and the topics were limited to the style of the haircut. In Chicago, I went to the Drake Hotel, they had a salon in the basement next to the flower shop of the Hotel, very nice, well done.

In Poland I cannot remember where I went to get my haircut, same for Beijing, it must have been in somewhere but I really don’t recall, just to say it was highly forgettable like most of the PRC is really.

Italy was the best, the salon on Via dei Serpenti (Snake Street) a name it got in the 14th century when the Quirinal Hill area was mostly uninhabited. It had been a prosperous neighbourhood in Antiquity and to this day it is considered one of the oldest of the Capital.

I met my barber Domenico LoTorto (Mimo) at the coffee shop on the corner across the street from the Bank Of Italy (central bank of the Italian Republic). I was studying Italian in the building above. In Italy social contact and conversation is common, people talk a lot and will start talking to you. I told him I was looking for a barber and he told me that he was the barber of the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano. I would later learn that Napolitano had been his customer for many decades since he lived in the neighbourhood. When he became President he simply kept Mimo as his barber and would phone him for an appointment.

I would usually go see Mimo around 4:30pm, my office was not in the area, but this being Rome I could walk it in 10 minutes from Piazza Reppublica. It was an excuse to leave the Office early. Love that salon, on the TV was the Financial News of Italy, no one watched. The newspapers were Sport and Soccer newspapers, the customers were either bankers from across the street or various people from TV or Radio, art world etc.

I always got Sisi to do my nails, she was not Italian but Romanian, she had lived in Italy for years. It was a nice 30 minutes, a cut and a wash, 20 Euros.

When I came back to Canada, I looked for a barber, not much to write about here, finally I found two brothers, Italo-Canadians who with their fathers had been in the business for 40 years. But it was not the same as in Rome, it was ok but it had none of the finesse or the atmosphere of going to the barber. In Canada, you get your hair cut and that is it, no wash no manicure and no shoe polish. Finally here in Charlottetown, there are several barbers, from the designer types who can do your hair starting at $40 dollars for a cut to the more down to earth barbers at $18.

Currently I go to a barber in Charlottetown across from City Hall. They do a good job, but they have so many customers that they never remember from one time to the other who I am. The conversation is polite but I sense they are not listening and it is all chit-chat somewhat mindless. It is also a very straight barber shop, all the workers are women, very much an old style, good ole boys kind of place. The price is right and they do a good job, so it will do. I am not going to pay $40 dollars for a haircut that takes 10 minutes to complete.



Queen Street, Charlottetown, PEI





Ferragosto 15 Agosto


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We did spend quite a few Ferragosto in Pesaro in the Marche region of Italy on the Adriatic attending the Rossini Opera Festival between 2007-2011. Lovely town and much fun, sun, music, seafood and beach, not to mention the good wines.

This year it’s Charlottetown and though there is no Rossini Opera Festival, we do have the beach, sun, wines and seafood on the Atlantic.


It was some of the best summer vacations ever, driving from Rome across Italy on those wonderful highways to Ancona and then North to Fano and Pesaro.


Sculpture in the sea side park in the centre of the City.

Ferragosto is the height of the vacation season in Italy when everything in cities like Rome is closed. Here in Charlottetown it is almost the end of the summer season and already the end of summer is announced. It was Emperor Augustus who instituted this holiday to celebrate his own birthday in 18 AD. So let’s enjoy those last days, Buon Ferragosto!

A chi è al mare e a chi è in montagna, a chi va al lago o preferisce la campagna. A chi è al lavoro e a chi è in riposo, e a chi si gode questo caldo afoso. A tutti quanti, amici e parenti, auguro un buon Ferragosto, che renda tutti più felici e contenti!

You do the math


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There was 31 delegates at the Charlottetown Conference in 1864 and 17 tons of Champagne on the SS Victoria which brought the delegates to PEI. That is an awful lot of Champagne for one conference on writing up the Canadian Constitution and making a deal to united the colonies into one Country, classic case of In Vino Veritas. Though you will be told that the delegates had their meetings at Province House the Seat of the Legislature, most meetings took place at the Cross Key Tavern on Queen Street and the Bar Keep was both keeping the minutes of the deliberations and serving drinks. All this while the Circus was in town for the first time in 20 years. Unlike France and its bloody civil war dubbed a revolution, or the American tax revolt of 1776 with unhappy landowners like G. Washington and co., we chose to have a party and a stiff drink with much dancing and food every night. They call Canada boring, I cannot think of another country born this way.


This rondelle with snippet of information can be found at the Memorial to the Fathers of Confederation. Canadians are a funny lot.


The Fathers of Confederation at Fanningbank, the Official Residence of the Lieutenant Governor of PEI in Charlottetown.


In 2016 some 152 years later on the same veranda of Fanningbank, Dr. Spo trying to call the Fathers of Confederation on his iPhone, unbelievable.


The front Porch of Fanningbank today, not much changed at all.



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Summer time in PEI brings tourists and visitors/Friends. In the last week leading to Ferragosto (15 August) which is also the Acadian National Day in the Maritimes.

*Acadians are known as Cajuns in Louisiana. The Acadians are the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia during the 17th century going by ethnic identification, some would define an Acadian as a native French-speaking person living in the Maritime provinces of Canada. The Expulsion of the Acadians starting in 1755, also known as the Great Upheaval, the Great Deportation and Le Grand Dérangement, was the forced removal by the British of the Acadian people from the present day Canadian Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island —an area also known as Acadia.


Matos Winery on road 9 in Cornwall, PEI. The Rosé, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are very good.


View from the river of the City at Confederation Landing with the Spires of St-Dunstan Cathedral.

We had two friends with whom we have been on vacations to Stratford, Ontario for the theatre season. This year we convinced them to come East to the Maritimes to visit PEI, something they had never done. They were with us for a week. The height of the tourist Season is July and August, it tapers off after September 1, then we get cruise ships with retired and seniors coming in for the day. They got a pretty good view of the Island, met a lot of people, we introduced them to, saw many sights, fine dining, wine sampling, theatre and shopping. We also went to the beach on a quiet rainy day, the only one of their stay. We also did things with them we would not normally do such as taking a city and river cruise on the amphibious bus and saw seals in the Hillsborough river, they are pretty big seals, not cute little things. Also on two separate nights while walking back home we came upon a Fox which looked nervous at seeing us and moved on pretty quickly. Obviously a young fox, the older more mature ones will sit at a distance and look at you.


Our friends at Point Prim Lighthouse (1847) the oldest lighthouse on PEI, still in use.


Will and I walking from the Beach at Stanhope on that rainy day.


The garden at Dunes Café and Gallery with it’s cluster of multicolored flowers in the large gardens surrounding the sea side property. Peter and Nash have over the years done a superb job, it is such a pleasure to go and visit, just 20 minutes on Brackley Point Road. 


This week is Olde Home Week and Saucer and Gold Cup Week with harness races everyday. The 14 horses competing for the Cup have been named and now is time to place your bets.

We are going to see Anne Kenstein and Friends at the Guild Theatre this week, it is a play adaptation of Anne of Green Gables done as Rocky Horror Picture Show, it is described as the Mother of all PEI Comedy shows. This play has not been done for a few years but it was a huge success when it premiere. Some of the original cast are back this year, I am looking forward to it. There is quite a lot of theatre in town at the moment, Mamma Mia and Spoon River which I liked a lot, it takes place near Joliette, Illinois in a small town cemetery. The dead on the Hill come back to talk about their regrets and what they should have done while alive, great music and quite entertaining. There is also a lot of musical venues not only in Charlottetown but also in many smaller towns around us. All of it is really affordable, there is no lack of things to see and do and shows to go to. On the 25 August at the Guild there will be a special show Tower of Tease Burlesque which as the title indicates will be a mix of Gypsy Rose Lee meets Magic Mike, who said we did not have entertainment in this town.  The Art Gallery has 4 shows running at the moment, I am conducting a tour in French for a group of University students from UPEI next week.

All in all a busy Summer so far.



The puppies on the balcony amongst the flowers.


The Provincial Flag of PEI now on the front of my car.


A year ago, August 2015


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In late July 2015 in the wee hours of the morning at the Ottawa General Hospital E.R., Will suddenly said to me, you know we have never been to PEI. We visited all other territories and Provinces, in my case with the exception of Newfoudland. I was not expecting that sort of suggestion but two weeks later we were off to PEI.

The week we were in Charlottetown and PEI saw the Annual celebration of Old Home Week and the Gold and Saucer Cup Harness races which has been taking place since 1888, Parades and much celebration in the Capital City. This is when we had the first idea of moving here. Our friends in PEI did warn us to visit in Winter, pointing out that the Island is much different, there are no tourists and the tourist shops and sites are closed. So we returned in February 2016 to see what life was life. The fact that there were no tourists did not bother me at all.

For many Winter weather is the big obstacle, however being Canadians, Winter is Winter no matter where you are. My family has been in Canada since 1662, we have had a few winters. We left a bitterly cold and icy Ottawa and flew East to the Coast. The weather in PEI was much milder, cold rain, grey skies and fog was the norm. There was snow but none of the icy conditions of Ontario, it was an Atlantic sea side climate. There was plenty to do, arts and culture are dominant here. Life was more quiet but you could still shop and be occupied with various projects. We moved to PEI in May and now a year later we are established here. I got a job at the Art Gallery

This week we are welcoming to Charlottetown friends from Phoenix AZ who are visiting us in our new home.

There will be much activities, I told them that we could go to the Fringe Festival straight from the airport at 11PM. to sing Karaoke style the score of Hamilton. I also bought PEI Island Red Beer, they want to try some of the craft beer of the Island. Tomorrow morning is the Farmer’s Market, then a garden party in New Glasgow. Theater tickets for 3 plays, visit to a distillery, we make absinthe and moonshine on the Island 75% proof, there is also wineries. A visit to Cavendish to see Anne of Green Gables farm, and many more sights.


How time flies when you think of it, a whole year and such a different life now.


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