Some photos

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I have not posted anything for a few days, have been quit busy in the last few days. Here is an illustrated story of life on the Island.

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Water Street freshly repaved, this is part of the upgrades the City is doing on its main streets to beautify the overall look of Charlottetown. It took 3 weeks to re-do the street which included landscaping and sidewalks.

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The Gardens at The Dunes Art Gallery and Café at Brackley Beach, just 15 minutes from our home. We went to the opening of the Dunes which has been in operations for 25 years. A spectacular place, art gallery, jewellery, pottery, fashion, furniture and sculpture from Asia. All on the beach. The food at the Café is wonderful and the menu is very original and elegant. Love the place.

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Will bought this art work, showing Indian Head Light House at Summerside, one of the more famous lighthouse on the Island. The artist is Wayne Barrett.

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After years of being blocked the great windows of the Art Gallery are open again to daylight.  It is so nice to see natural light into the Museum.

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Province House, the 1847 seat of the Provincial Legislature of PEI, renovations are in full swing. In 2020 the Legislature will return to the building once all the work is done.  The project is complex and at this time a special steel footing is being installed all around the old building. Eventually a steel skeleton will lift and hold up the building interior structure while the outside stone walls are dismantled and repaired stone by stone and then all put back together. This building is a National Treasure and highly significant in the history of Canada. The interior are all original to 1847, quite beautiful.

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The New Glasgow Church Suppers since 1958, an institution and a great meal by the River Clyde just 25 minutes from our home in a magnificent setting of rolling hills near the sea.

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The price on the menu may seem high but what is not said, it’s all you can eat. I did not want lobster, so I had a pale of mussels to eat which our waitress would refill on demand. Same for soup, salad, desserts and coffee, all is made on the premises and it is quite good, we will return with our friends, it is that good.

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Just out my living room window, installing new transformers to supply electricity to Receiver Coffee Co. and John’s Bread Works, the bread ovens and the coffee roasters need a lot of electricity. These are two companies we patronize, the coffee is wonderful and the bread from John is the way bread is meant to be.

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The Receiver Coffee Co. is moving into the old Brass shop of the now defunct railroad system. A red sand stone building from 1890.

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A Constable or Turner sky, you choose. We often get those as Sunset.

 

Reading

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I have been reading the latest biography on Queen Victoria by Julia Baird.  A very different biography, written from the Queen’s journals, those the author could gain access to, much has been destroyed by family members and the rest is under lock and key, Queen Elizabeth II wishes to preserve some secrets. The author also used correspondence and journals of her close family and Prime Ministers who served in her time.

This is not the Official saccharine version presented constantly in stories about that era but a much more unvarnished portrait of her family and her life.

Victoria was born in 1819 and baptized Alexandrina Victoria, the grand-daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte, both were Germans and the entire British Royal Family is in fact of German origin with very close Family ties to the German Imperial Family.  Her eldest daughter will marry German Emperor Frederick III and Victoria’s favourite grandson was Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1942).

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Grandmama Victoria and grand son Wilhelm 

Victoria’s father was Prince Edward who will die young when Victoria was a small child. Her uncles King George IV and King William IV did not like her much and will make all manner of difficulties for her and her mother German Princess Victoria of Saxe-Cobourg-Saalfeld.  The reason being that they did not have children of their own and this created a succession crisis. Victoria had 2 step-siblings from her mother’s first marriage, Princess Feodora and Prince Carl, both lived in Germany and they visited each other often.

Victoria spoke fluent German and had an accent when she spoke English. At home life was in German and governess and personal attendants were also Germans. She had a sad childhood, which she describes as one of melancholy. She was very emotional, frivolous, obstinate, selfish, mean spirited, a conservative not in favour of greater democratic rights for her subjects, she often berated her Prime Ministers and tried to undermine her own Ministers. She reigned in an age when the role of the Monarchy was rapidly changing, responsible government was taking root and a greater proportion of men will be able to vote thanks to Prime Minister Gladstone many reforms. She also opposed voting rights for women and self-rule for Ireland.

In February 1840 she married her first cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha at the suggestion of her uncle King Leopold of the Belgium. Victoria and Albert had daily strenuous sexual relations, of their union 9 children will be born and 7 will live into adulthood. This is were the hemophilia gene enters the story and how it spread to other Royal families in Europe through her daughters. Little was known at the time about this disease and how it was communicated through the female line.

It appears from the biography of Baird, that what is known as the Victorian Era was in fact a creation of Albert’s influence. Victoria had many pregnancies and she was unable to attend to State Affairs, Albert was happy to take care of everything, assuming the role of King, though he was in Law only a Consort with no authority. He came from a broken dysfunctional family and had strict puritanical attitudes and imposed a harsh moral code at Court. He was a cold intellectual and made people feel stupid when he spoke on any topic, had strong anti-semitic views which shocked people in Britain. He also had misogynist views on women and their role. Much correspondence exist on this topic between him and his brother.  Victoria in her diaries and in correspondence after a few years of marriage to Albert started to show a lack of confidence in herself, she will say I cannot make my mind up about anything without his guidance.  The Family spoke German in private and Victoria had to be reminded by her Prime Ministers to be careful to only use English in public. There was much resentment and mistrust of Prince Albert as he was seen as a foreign influence on Victoria.

Albert dies in December 1861 of what is believed nowadays to have been Crohn’s disease. Victoria enters into a 10 year period of very deep mourning and disappeared from view. Living away from London, refusing to open Parliament or do any public duty. She developed a system were a cohort of medical expert would present ”Doctor’s notes” to explain her absence or inability to do her duty to the Prime Minister and the Press.  The Press and the public criticized her for her absence and questions were raised about the role of the Royal family, why do we need them, she kept her adult children including the heir, the Prince of Wales, her eldest son Edward from any Royal duty. The image of the Royal family suffered during that period only to improve slightly towards the end of her life.

Her mental health after the death of Albert deteriorated so much that many feared she was going mad like her Grandfather King George III. In reading this biography, you see Victoria as indulged and weak and then as temperamental and emotional, much weeping about everything. Her children marry, they will move away and she feels always very depressed at every wedding. These marriages will also increase the prestige of Britain, connecting her family with other Royal Houses, like Denmark, Russia, Germany, Romania, Greece. She will offer asylum to French Emperor Napoleon III and his family in 1870 after his overthrow. She will also put Chancellor Bismarck in his place during a meeting in 1888 over the succession in Germany.

As for her relationship with the Scottish oaf John Brown, there is a strong suspicion that she had an affair with him for many years, he was a substitute for the dead Albert. Baird does bring a lot of context to this book and it helps the reader understand the dynamics of the time and destroy some myths about Victoria.

 

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Painting of Victoria and Albert with 5 of the children in 1846 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter

 

Some sights

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Just walking around the centre of the City, the old 500 block as it is called and here are some shots of the area. I start first with this archival photo of Queen’s Square which is the geographical centre of the City with the most prominent building, the Legislature of PEI, Province House, 18839286_639172542955873_3791057212684176620_n.jpg

In this photo around 1900 we see the Old Post Office now gone, in the Centre Province House built in 1847 and next to it the Old Court House which is known today as the Coles Building after our first Provincial Premier back in 1851. It currently serves as the seat of the Legislature while Province House is undergoing massive restoration work. The Old Post Office was destroyed by fire and the land remained vacant for a long time. In 1964 the Memorial to the Fathers of Confederation was build in the brutalist style so en vogue back then. The Streets are Queen street and Richmond Street.

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Same area, a view of the library of the Confederation building, Province House is just behind with its columns now wrapped up for the process of restoration of the building.

The modern brutalist architecture is somewhat jarring, but was built at a time when the thinking was that a new statement was being made and we were not going to copy or harmonize the architectural styles to please the old.

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Richmond street also known as Victoria Row, with its buildings in island sandstone and brick, all of the same 1880 era. The tall spire are St-Dunstan RC Basilica on Great George street. All those buildings are protected and unlikely to be demolished.

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Terraces surround the Confederation Centre. It softens the brutalist look of the place. No one would dare build in that style nowadays, it truly belongs in the 1960’s to 1970’s era.

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My favourite view, at the end of Queen Street, the entrance to the Harbour of Charlottetown with Rocky Point on the left. This is where the great ships come into the Hillsborough river to dock at the bottom of my street.

Gardening

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We have on the south side of the house a balcony which overlooks a park to one side and the river on the other. So we always have flower boxes but this year the price of flowers and plants is outrageous. We mentioned to friends who have a house in the city and a home in the countryside that I had been to the usual flower centres and was not pleased with what was on offer and the high prices. Our friend P.S. mentioned a garden centre in York, a small farming community 10 minutes from our place. I had never heard of them, they are just off St-Peter’s Road on York Road. In the area is Vessey and Jewell two well known garden and seed businesses.

From the road looks are deceiving, it looked small but very nice, as we entered the property driving down the driveway I realized that the green houses where tucked away at the back and it was extensive. The prices were much better than in the City a few minutes away. In fact Jewell which is just 3 minutes away did not have as good prices for plants and flowers. Just goes to show that it pays to shop around and talk to people.

http://yorkgreenhouses.ca/PicsCustom.html

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Also today I had to deliver my bags of recyclable blue garbage bags, plastic, bottles, paper and cans to the IWMC plant just on the outskirts of town, because of major road repairs on Water Street yesterday, the truck did not come for the schedule pick-up.  So I loaded up the bags in the trunk and drove to the plant, surprisingly a very green place, beautiful mature trees all around. The image of green environment, recycling etc, I simply tossed the bag in big bins and voilà. Since they only do pick-ups once a month and we have on average 9 large bags of plastics, cans, bottles, paper and no were to store it, in the Summer I will simply deliver it to the plant on Saturday morning. Our little Province of PEI is #1 in Canada in terms of recycling.

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Unfortunately there are still lots of people who refuse to recycle, why? I believe it has to do with mental disturbance of some kind, like denying climate change, not caring for others or the future, being negative, the age when people could be reasonable is past.

 

2 June

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Today is June 2, in Italy it is the Anniversary of the Italian Republic 2 June 1946 when by referendum the monarchy was replaced by a Republican system. Festa della Repubblica Italiana.

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The giant pine cone from the Villa of Emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, seen here in the courtyard of the Vatican Museum.

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Our old neighbourhood in Rome with its beautiful gardens

June 2, 1953 is also the day Elizabeth II became Queen. She is now the longest serving monarch in British History, longer than Victoria. Elizabeth II celebrates in 2017 her Sapphire Jubilee. In Canada the only other monarch to have reigned longer is King Louis XIV a total of 72 years.

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Photo of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II taken on her Coronation day 2 June 1953.

New car

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I decided last week, after receiving the umpteenth letter from the dealership that I would go in to look at a possible new car. The current one an Elantra GL 2012 is still very clean with no mileage or Km on it, under 30,000Km which makes the car dealers salivate.

So I went in to see what they had, first it is the end of the month and for any car salesperson this is the time when they have to report how many units they sold in the month and counts on their appraisal as a good or bad sales person. I also wanted a good price for my car as a trade in, no nonsense.

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Elantra GL 2012

Buying a car, any car is a con game and I have yet to meet one person who enjoys the exercise. Despite the advertised prices and the promises made, once in the show room you will know that what ever you were told is just flash and no substance. You will have the sales person who takes you on a spin in the model you might want to buy, then the finance guy who will explain how much it will cost. If you have a trade in  well the used car manager is involved and he will offer a price for your car, always much lower than what you expect. Then the Manager comes in to say hello with all the sincerity of a serial killer. Everyone pretends that they are looking out for your best interest but it is so insincere and false it is laughable. I have to say I do not envy these poor fellows, pawns in a game tailored to make the dealership owner rich and the car manufacturer a hefty profit.

It’s a cutthroat business literally, so I came prepared, pencil, calculator and paper to note everything said. I was careful to keep a poker face expression and saying as little as possible. No I am not excited about buying a car, as I told the Manager for me it is the same as buying a dishwasher, a totally utilitarian transaction. I laid down the things I wanted and pointed out I don’t get them, then no deal, I walk. They were careful also not to give too much of their game. So I pushed them to make me an offer I could consider. First offer they made I rejected out of hand, telling the car sales guy that his colleague was losing him the sale with his poor attitude. Second offer was a little better but still not what I wanted completely. So I told them that I was busy and had to go, maybe they could better it some more. Once at home I wrote them an email with my final position. Within 10 minutes I got a reply telling me that all was ok. So I told them that I would return after the weekend. On Monday, all was resolved, I got what I wanted, signed the paper work and I will get the new car tomorrow.

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What I bought, Elantra GL 2017. The colour is Blue Star gazing, I call it Plum colour.  I see a similarity with the BMW 5 series in the body design.

20 years

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Today 31 May 2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Confederation Bridge linking the mainland  of Canada to PEI. The construction of the bridge required a special amendment to the Canadian Constitution because it involved the clauses which allowed PEI at the time a colony to join Confederation. The Island Government had a special condition that in joining in 1873 they would get financing for the railway on the Island and also a ferry service paid for, operation and maintenance, by the Federal Government. A special referendum was held and 60% of the Islanders voted in favour of the construction of the bridge and the end of train service on the Island.

Construction of the 12.3 Km sea bridge over the Abegweit channel of the Strait of Northumberland took place between 1993-1997 at a cost of $1.3 Billion dollars. The architect was Frenchman Jean Mueller who developed a new technique of pre-cast concrete for such a construction making it a marvel of engineering, the longest bridge over sea water locked in ice in winter.

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the footing of the bridge on the sea bed

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The bridge under construction around 1995.

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The bridge in Winter ice, this is when storms are at their worst with 100Km winds being frequent, but you can still cross with a private car.

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What it looks like when driving across at the middle section point

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The opening of the bridge was a very big deal for PEI and in the years that followed saw an increase in investments and business, day trips are now common to the Island, we are only 2 hours away from Moncton and 3 hours from Halifax, it put an end to the isolation and made going to and from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia much simpler and faster. What was lost was the adventure of the ferry service.

From my home in Charlottetown I am at 35 minutes from the bridge going West. The sticking point to this day is the toll to use the bridge at 46$ return. It is believed that in 2036 the toll will be removed once the contract with the private firm maintaining the bridge ends.

Photos

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Yesterday I got a newsletter from the Canadian Club Of Rome, we use to be members when we lived there, lots of nice activities for Canadians living in Italy.

This caught my eye, the Embassy of Canada to Italy not to be confused with the Embassy of Canada to the Holy See (Vatican), is participating in Gay Pride 2017.

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Here is a promotional photo taken in the garden of the Chancery of the Embassy on Via Salaria with the staff and the Ambassador holding up the letter D.

They will have a float for the parade which starts at Piazza Repubblica and winds down into the centre of the City.

Today our Prime Minister met with the Pope at the Apostolic Palace for 42 minutes, one on one and many topics were discussed. Sophie Grégoire his spouse joined them for the photo afterwards in the Office of the Pope. The Prime Minister then walked around the Palace which in itself is a museum (not open to the public) and is attached to the famous Sistine Chapel built in 1473. Everyone was smiling on the photos and you could see a good rapport between the Pontiff and Trudeau. The Pope was invited by Trudeau to visit Canada.

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Photo courtesy of the CBC. It is rare to see the chapel so empty, it was closed to allow the couple to visit quietly. The Prime Minister then gave his press conference in the beautiful and vast gardens of the Vatican. I once visited the chapel with just 10 other people on a private tour, it beats being in the chapel with the multitudes. Our guide explained the various figures and pointed out that God the Father stands above in the centre of the ceiling wearing a diaphanous pink like toga mooning us. Perhaps a little artistic liberty Michelangelo took with the topic while painting The Last Judgement ceiling between 1508-12, apparently Pope Julius II did not say a word about it. The Sistine Chapel also known as Cappella Magna took its name from Pope Sixtus IV.  The architects were Giovannino de Dolci and Baccio Pontelli.

During the reign of Sixtus IV, a team of Renaissance painters that included Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Roselli, created a series of frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe oeil drapery below. These paintings were completed in 1482, and on 15 August 1483 Sixtus IV celebrated the first mass in the Sistine Chapel for the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

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