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The word Ferragosto in Italian means Holiday in August. This holiday is the 15 August, Immaculate Conception, a religious holiday which extended for several weeks, usually starting around the 2 August and extending until 8 September. The Month of September was when the ”Season” started, this in Rome meant when the Pope returned to the City after spending the Summer at Castle Gandolfo about 30 minutes down the road outside the City. After 1870 the King of Italy and the Noble families of Rome and the Pope and the Noble Families at the Papal Court would have dinner parties etc. in their palaces.

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Rome in August, can you hear the silence.

When we arrived in Rome on 1 August 2007 we found a ghost town, yes you had the tourists around the Forum but once you left that area the city fell into a strange silence. No traffic, closed shops and banks, no one anywhere, as if the city had been deserted. So in 2008 we did like everyone and decamped to Pesaro on the Adriatic, the birthplace of composer Rossini and found a delightful place devoted to an Opera Festival of his works, excellent seafood, wines and a beautiful city and region the Marche.

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Pesaro, the piazza by the sea front

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Food at the restaurant of Lorenzo Grazioli

This year, we were invited by my cousin Stephanie to her wedding to Kevin in Salaberry de Valleyfield which is located on Grande Ile, an island facing the Western tip of the Island of Montreal, on one side you have rapids and on the other the Seaway which since the 1950’s connects the St-Lawrence river to the great lakes and Toronto, allowing the large sea going ships to travel further into the heartland.

Salaberry de Valleyfield is an important National Historic site. During the war of 1812 the American Army was defeated by Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry, a French Nobleman from Navarre who was at the service of the British Crown. The small city is quite lovely, with beautiful parks and a large marina. It has a very European feel. Many good restaurants, lovely things to see. Many famous Canadians come from this small town, Cardinal Paul-Emile Léger and his brother Jules Léger, Governor General of Canada. In 1860 the Pope Pius IX raised an army of Zouave, mostly zealous Catholic youths to fight in Italy against Garibaldi and his Italian troops to thwart their bid for independence from the Papal States and unify Italy as one country. There is a monument to that in the centre of town.

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The monument as an homage to the Papacy of Pope Pius IX

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the strange City Hall in a clearly Italian Fascist architectural style c.1930

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View of the bay in front of our hotel

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The rapids of the St-Charles river used by Kayak enthusiast to practice.

The wedding was held in an old historic Manor Grant surrounded by many ancient trees, the weather was perfect for the 15th August, sunny and hot. The wedding had been beautifully arranged and the ceremony took place in the garden of the Manor. It was a chance to see people I had not seen in many years. It was so nice to take this trip down.

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On our return we decided to follow Road 201 North to Rigaud, going through small villages of less than 1000 people, like St-Clet (3rd Bishop of Rome), all villages with their big brick and stone Churches and numerous farms, all growing corn but also smaller crops of tomatoes, potatoes, tobacco and other vegetables. I remember as a child we would go to this area of the St-Lawrence river where Green Giant had a processing plant for corn niblets. This is the area on the Western tip of the Island of Montreal where the Outaouais River meets two large lakes, St-Louis and Deux Montagnes and the St-Lawrence, there are many islands in this area, rapids and farms. There was so much corn at the processing plant being delivered everyday that they sold a dozen ears of corn for .25 cents. It was always the best, sweet and rich buttery tasting.

Salaberry de Valleyfield is a quiet town of mix French-English culture, though many people only speak French. Many work in Montreal which is only 20 Km away and the suburban train serves the area on weekdays bringing people to Central Station in downtown Montreal.