Category Archives: Heritage Travel

Coast to Coast, Canada’s Heritage, Culture, Wilderness Beckon Ecotourists in Summer

Celebrating a birthday at Salmon n’Bannock, Vancouver’s original indigenous restaurant © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Edited by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

From coast to coast, Canada’s heritage, culture, wilderness beckon ecotourists this summer.

Experience Indigenous Cultures in British Columbia

June is National Indigenous History Month in Canada, culminating in National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, but all summer long, British Columbia offers any number of ways to experience histories, traditions and values of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. Indigenous tourism encourages visitors to understand and respect different perspectives of the world, and to experience histories, traditions, and values in an authentic and unfiltered way.  

British Columbia has the greatest diversity of Indigenous cultures in Canada: of the 12 unique Indigenous language families in the country, seven are located exclusively in BC. Together, there are 204 unique Indigenous communities in BC. Here are 11 ways to engage in Indigenous experiences in British Columbia this summer. 

A Three-Hour Song, Dance & Cultural Experience  During festivals, weddings, and potlatches, the Tla-o-qui-aht People come together to share a wholesome meal while exchanging wisdom and stories, with the belief that good food facilitates an easier reception to teachings. Visitors can join the tradition at the Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino, where the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation will host naaʔuu (which means “feast” in the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation language), an immersive experience taking place on select dates in June. The three-hour experience tells stories from the Nation’s history through song, dance, and traditional carvings, presented during a symphony of cultural delicacies and foraged ingredients. Proceeds go back to the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation to support language and cultural resurgence. Tickets start at $199 per person and can be purchased here. (Get there: From Vancouver, fly into Tofino-Long Beach Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines, or right into Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Comox and drive approximately 3.5 hours to Tofino).

naaʔuu expereince at Best Western Plus Tin Wis Resort in Tofino (photo: Indigenous Tourism BC/Melissa Renwick) 

Indigenous tour operators lead visitors into their traditional territory, providing a new perspective of local wildlife, plants, and waters:

Guided nature adventures led by the local Nation – Explore Ahousaht territory with Ahous Adventures, which is owned by a nation that has stewarded the lands and waters of Vancouver Island since time immemorial. The popular hot springs tour cruises the coast and inlets of Clayoquot Sound, with guides pointing out wildlife along the way. Once onshore, guests take a 30-minute walk via wooden boardwalk through old-growth rainforest, leading to the healing mineral waters of the hot springs. Throughout the journey, guides will discuss the history and cultural significance of Hot Springs Cove, a site that has been used for centuries by the Ahousat Nation for medicinal and spiritual benefits. Dates: Tours are available throughout summer and beyond. 

Cruise an Island Archipelago – Sidney Whale Watching, serving Sidney (just 30 minutes from Victoria, BC) and the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island, is owned and operated by the Tsawout First Nation, with whale-watching experiences taking place on the traditional territories of the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation. The three-hour whale watching tour cruises through the Gulf Island Archipelago, winding past orcas, sea lions, and bald eagles hunting for salmon. Sidney Whale Watching has a 95% whale-sighting rate throughout the year; if guests don’t spot a whale, they are welcome to join another tour free of charge, anytime. Dates: Whale-watching tours take place daily between March and October. 

A group with Takaya Tours, rowing a traditional First Nations canoe in Deep Cove (photo: Destination BC/Hubert Kang)


Take a cultural tour in a 35′ canoe – Takaya Tours, based in Whey-ah-wichen, or Cates Park, in North Vancouver, leads guests through the territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Guests can paddle the protected waters of Indian Arm in replica ocean-going canoes, while guides share songs and stories of ancient villages. There’s also an option to add a rainforest walking tour to your paddling adventure. Dates: The Cates Park location is open between May and September for guided tours, as well as rentals of kayak, surf-skis, and stand-up paddleboards. 

BC Tourism Industry Awards Best Indigenous Tourism Operator Winner 2024 – Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours, which stewards the grizzly bear population in Bute Inlet—the ancestral home of the Homalco Nation—welcomes visitors to discover the area’s longstanding cultural and historical significance. The company’s full-day bear-watching and cultural tour leads guests to viewing areas that showcase grizzlies feeding on spawning salmon, along with plenty of opportunities to whale watch and bird watch. Guests can also wander through Aupe, an uninhabited Homalco village site. Dates: Tours are offered between August and October.

2023 Yelp Travelers Choice – Sea Wolf Adventures, which leads tours in the Broughton Archipelago and the Great Bear Rainforest, on Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw Nation territory, combines cultural experiences with grizzly- and whale-watching safaris. The Grizzly Bears of the Wild tour connects guests with the iconic grizzly inhabitants of the Great Bear Rainforest, with bonus viewings of Pacific white-sided dolphins, eagles, orcas, and other wildlife. The full-day tour departs from Port McNeill, and includes Indigenous interpretations of local landscapes, as well as stories about the Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw People. Dates: Tours run from May 31 through October. 

Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s first aboriginal art hotel, affords the nearest thing to staying in a First Nations community you might find in a major modern city © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Try Plant Medicine Lemonade  Opened in February 2024, The Ancestor Café in Fort Langley brings traditional Indigenous nourishment to locals and visitors while supporting Indigenous food sovereignty. The eatery is owned by Chef Sarah Meconse Mierau, a member of the Sayisi Dene Nation. On the menu: bison and elk Bannock tacos, handcrafted plant-medicine jams and lattes, and other delicacies made with traditional Indigenous ingredients. Beyond the food, the café features a fair-trade gallery displaying works by local Indigenous artists and brands. 

Indigenous-owned and operated accommodation welcome visitors come into their community to experience warm hospitality alongside stories and culture—all with a deep-rooted respect for nature: 

Gorge Harbour Marina Resort – One of the most desirable cruising destinations in BC – Located at the edge of Desolation Sound, on Klahoose Nation land, Gorge Harbour Marina Resort offers an idyllic home base for adventurers eager to explore the sound, Cortes Island, and the Discovery Islands. The resort offers a multitude of overnight options, including a rustic lodge with four rooms, a cottage enclosed by lush gardens, and two self-contained trailers. Summer-specific options include 21 full-service RV sites, six glamping domes, and six tent sites—open for the season now. Summer activities span live music on the waterfront, yoga at the harbour, family movie nights, as well as whale-watching tours offered between May 1 and October 15. (Get there: Take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo, then drive 1 hour and 45 minutes to Campbell River. From here, take a 10-minute ferry to Quadra Island, then a 45-minute boat trip to Cortes Island. You can also fly direct to the resort from Campbell River, Vancouver, or Seattle, Washington.)   

Nemiah Valley Lodge – Off-grid & highly requested – Open year round, Nemiah Valley Lodge is located in the Chilcotin region, on Tŝilhqot’in Nation land. Here, guests are immersed in the food, history, and traditions of the Xeni Gwet’in community through local events, cultural experiences, and wildlife viewing. The all-inclusive packages include lodge activities such as lakeside yoga and meditation, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, archery. Note: Nemiah Valley is taking bookings for 2025. (Get there: The lodge is a 30-minute floatplane ride from Whistler. Alternatively, take a flight from Vancouver International Airport to Williams Lake (available throughout the summer), and drive 2.5 hours to your destination. The lodge also offers a transfer from Williams Lake.) 

Talaysay Walking Indigenous Tours experience in Stanley Park in Vancouver (photo: Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout)

Tsawaak RV Resort – A 2024 Indigenous Tourism Award Winner – Whether you’re seeking a cozy wilderness cabin or a place to park your RV, Tsawaak RV Resort— located in Tofino, on Tla-o-qui-aht Nation land—offers a tranquil space for rest and rejuvenation. Guests can choose from 34 RV sites and 13 longhouse-style cedar cabins—all situated close to Mackenzie Beach and a 30-minute walk from town. The central amenities building offers laundry facilities and vending machines, while the visitor center houses an art gallery and retail shop. The resort provides easy access to Tofino’s most popular adventures, including surfing, hot springs, and hiking. (Get there: From Vancouver, fly into Tofino-Long Beach Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines, or right into Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo or Comox and drive approximately 3.5 hours to Tofino.)

Spirit Bear Lodge – Located in the largest, temperate coastal rainforest in the world – Wildlife viewing and cultural experiences take centre stage at Spirit Bear Lodge, located in Klemtu, on Kitasoo Xai’xais Nation land. The lodge’s all-inclusive adventures are anchored by visits to cultural sites of the Kitasoo Xai’xai People, who have lived for thousands of years in the Great Bear Rainforest—the largest temperate coastal rainforest in the world. Guests can search for the elusive Spirit bear, watch grizzlies roam lush estuaries, see whales and other marine life, and explore the remnants of ancient villages. Open from August to October, with limited reservations available. (Get there: Board a flight at Vancouver International Airport with Pacific Coastal Airlines to Bella Bella. You’ll be met by Spirit Bear Lodge staff and shuttled to the dock, where a lodge boat will take you on the two-hour journey to Klemtu.)

Wildlife viewing experience at Spirit Bear Lodge (photo: Indigenous Tourism BC)

For more authentic Indigenous experiences in British Columbia visit www.indigenousbc.com

Nova Scotia Hosts Worldwide Celebration of Acadian Heritage

This August 10-18, Nova Scotia will host the Congrés mondial acadien (CMA), a worldwide celebration that takes place every five years and brings together the Acadian diaspora from around the world for musical events, culinary and cultural attractions and family gatherings. Several major outdoor concerts featuring noted Acadian artists are scheduled, including Canada’s National Acadian Day on August 15. From the brightly painted houses of Yarmouth and picturesque views of seaside villages like Belliveau Cove and Pointe-de-l’Eglise, visitors will find vivid reminders of the French settlers who first claimed Nova Scotia as their home in the early 1600s. The CMA reunites and welcomes communities, families, and visitors to the province to honor Acadian history and to commemorate the thousands displaced in 1755 when the Acadian people were expelled from the province by the British for not taking a vow of loyalty to King George III. (https://cma2024.ca/en/).   

Throughout the summer, there are important Acadian historic sites to visit in Nova Scotia:

Grand Pré National Historic Site: Open from May 17 to October 14, the Grand Pré National Historic Site is a powerful way to discover the history of l’Acadie (a historical Acadian village in Nova Scotia settled from 1682 to 1755), its people and its culture. The location is a monument that unites the Acadian people, and for many, it is the heart of their ancestral homeland. Guided tours lead visitors through the center of this Acadian settlement and where they can learn about the history of the mass deportation of the Acadians, “Le Grand Derangement,” that began in 1755. This tragic event continues to shape the vibrant culture of modern-day Acadians across the globe. Tours are available in July and August. 

Explore the oldest Acadian region still inhabited by descendants of its founder in Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle Ecosse.

Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse: Explore the oldest Acadian region still inhabited by descendants of its founder in Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Founded in 1653 by Sieur Philippe Mius-d’Entremont, the village is a breathtaking, 17-acre space overlooking Pubnico Harbour. Attractions include historical buildings and original 19th century wooden homes like Duon House and Maximin d’Entremont House, a lighthouse and local cemetery, nature trails with natural fauna and flora indigenous to the area, and opportunities to learn about the historic Acadian fishing and farming traditions.  

Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre: Open year-round and located on the campus of Université Sainte-Anne in Clare, Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre is an Acadian cultural and interpretive center. Attractions include an artist-run gallery, a souvenir boutique, a 263-seat performance theatre, and an outdoor performance area. Travelers can experience the interpretive center and museum which delve into the Acadian peoples’ history through multimedia displays of music and language with free guided tours available. The venue is also a trailhead for a three-mile network of walking trails leading to the breathtaking Nova Scotian coast (guided walking tours available). 

More information: Nova Scotia, www.novascotia.com  

New Brunswick’s Acadian Heritage

Another place to experience Acadian heritage is in New Brunswick, just across the strait from Nova Scotia:

Historic Acadien Village is an open air living history museum with costumed (fully bilingual) interpreters who recreate the roles of real people. What makes this place so extraordinary, though, is that you walk a 2.2 km circuit through 200 years of history – the 40 buildings represent a different time, the oldest from 1773 up to 1895, then, you walk through a covered bridge built in 1900 into the 20th century village where the buildings date from 1905 to 1949. As you walk about, you literally feel yourself stepping across the threshold back in time.

You not only visit but can actually book a room to stay at the Hotel Chateau Albert (1910). Albert opened hotel in 1870 but had financial problems from the beginning and was put out of business by Canadian Pacific railroad.. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1955, and restored using the original plans. It now offers 14 rooms (with bathrooms) that you actually can book to stay overnight. (hotelchateaualbert.com, 506-726-2600).

Historique Acadien Village, 5 rue du Pont, Bertrand, NB, 1-0877-721-2200, [email protected]villagehistoriqueacadien.com  

Metepenagiag Heritage Center displays how the Mi’kmaq would have lived, season by season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Also in New Brunswick, Metepenagiag is an active archaeological site and research center where artifacts unearthed have provided proof the Mi’kmaq have been occupying this land for at least 3,000 years. When you first walk into the exhibition building, you can look into the lab where researchers examine artifacts. Some of the items, like a 1200-year old Earthenware pot, arrowheads and other items are on display.

What is more, you can overnight in a tipi (glamping), cabin or lodge, have a First Nations dining experience, storytelling and be immersed in the 3,000-year heritage around a campfire. Or take part in “A Taste of Metepenagiag” and learn about foods and cooking techniques. New experiences are also being developed.The Mi’kmaq operate SP First Nations Outdoor Tours, authentic indigenous experiences that begin with a traditional welcome, a river tour by canoe or kayak, storytelling; and authentic First Nations dining and accommodations (56 Shore Road, Red Bank NB, Metepenagiag, 506-626-2718).

Metepenagiag Heritage Park, 2156 Micmac Road, Red Bank NB, 506-836-6118, [email protected] 1-888-380-3555, metpark.ca.

Travel planning assistance from Tourism New Brunswick, 800-561-0123www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

Summer is a 5 Sensory Season in Newfoundland and Labrador

From the rolling waves lapping off the coastline to the colorful clotheslines dancing in the ocean breeze, Newfoundland and Labrador is home to the slow way of life, especially when the seasons change. As spring rolls into summer, regular visitors to the province return, including the whales, birds and icebergs that heighten all senses. Visitors can experience the first sunrise in North America, witness the migration and play of whale species that return to the shores each year, and taste food foraged from land and sea. For relaxation, guests can soak in the bounty of the ocean in a bath with seaweed gathered off the coast of Grates Cove, go for a cold-water dip in the many outdoor locations including the North Atlantic Ocean, or sit and listen to the push and pull of the beach rocks as they roll with the waves. 

Sea of Whales Adventures: The Atlantic Ocean surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador boasts as many as 22 diverse whale species. Just off the Bonavista Peninsula, travelers will smell the ocean breeze and be humbled by the spectacle of whale species like humpbacks, sperm, orcas, feeding, migrating, and playing on Sea of Whales Adventures whale watching boat tours. Family owned and operated since 2009, Sea of Whales Adventures offers three-hour whale watching tours daily from May 15 to October 14 and two-hour tours daily from June 15 to September 3. The two-hour tour rates start at $90 CAD for adults and $60 CAD for children, while the three-hour tour rates start at $110 CAD for adults and $80 for children.  

Preserving the Dark Sky: Terra Nova National Park, the first designated Dark Sky Preserve in the province, allows travelers to gaze into the cosmos untouched by light pollution. Under the Dark Sky Preserve Program, the park is committed to protecting and improving nocturnal ecology by adjusting, retrofitting, or eliminating light fixtures while delivering new educational and interpretive programs on astronomy and various dark sky themes. The most popular viewing locations include Sandy Pond, rated to have the darkest skies in the park, Ochre Hill, historically used as a fire-watch station, Blue Hill, the highest point in the park putting guests among the stars, and Visitor Centre, with the starlit sky reflected across the water. New in 2024, UNESCO World Heritage Site Gros Morne National Park is applying to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for designation as a Dark Sky Preserve, offering visitors even more unaltered space to bask in the celestial views. 

Wild Island Kitchen: Open year round, Wild Island Kitchen offers travelers the chance to dine aside breathtaking seascapes listening to the crashing waves while wild and sustainably caught seafood is cooked over an open fire. The locally owned tour and culinary group provides menus that change daily based on what is foraged and discovered each day, with guides teaching guests how to cook and prepare the cuisine. The “From Sea to Plate” Tour features sustainable, high-quality seafood cooked with water from the sea and cooked over an open fire, and guests can expect four to five courses over a three-hour period. For a shorter, one-hour experience, visitors can book the “Mug-Up” Tour which typically departs at 10 a.m. and includes a trip down the cove for a cup of tea or coffee and an interpretative food journey inspired by traditional coastal delights. Tour rates start at $175 CAD, but guests are encouraged to email [email protected] for specific pricing per tour. Pre-booking is required for both culinary experiences. 

Grates Cove Seaweed Baths: In the northernmost part of Newfoundland and Labrador, weary travelers can soak in a seaweed bath at Grates Cave Co. Known for its healing and rejuvenating properties, seaweed is harvested off the coast of Grates Cove and transformed into 7 Fathoms skincare, producing a high-quality, highly bioactive brown seaweed extract suited for personal care. Grates Cove Co. uses the product, densely packed with essential nutrients and minerals, for the fresh seaweed baths in the comfort of the bathhouse overlooking the North Atlantic. The bathhouse is bookable from Monday to Sunday for two-hour time slots from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2-4 p.m., and 5-7 p.m., and the price per couple is $110 CAD + HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). 

More information: Newfoundland and Labrador,  www.newfoundlandlabrador.com  

See also:

ON THE TRAIL TO DISCOVER VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

WALKING TOURS, DINING EXPERIENCES REVEAL VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

TRAIL TO DISCOVER BRITISH COLUMBIA’S INDIGENOUS HERITAGE WEAVES THROUGH WHISTLER-BLACKCOMB

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: EXPLORING FRENCH ACADIA’S CULTURE, HERITAGE BY BIKE!

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: METEPENAGIAG HERITAGE CENTER HIGHLIGHTS MIRAMICHI VISIT

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Experts at NY Travel Show Offer Tips for Satisfying, Meaningful, Purposeful Travel

A wedding couple in Hangzhou, China. Travel is how ideas, innovations and progress, improved living standards and quality of life are spread among peoples, as Marco Polo proved. Travel is humanity’s best hope for peace and cooperation as people from different places see and appreciate that we are more alike than different, and appreciate the differences. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s like this: travel is humanity’s best invention to promote the advancement of civilization. Travel is how ideas, innovations and progress, improved living standards and quality of life are spread among peoples, as Marco Polo proved. Travel is humanity’s best hope for peace and cooperation instead of zero-sum annihilation, as people from different places see and appreciate that we are more alike than different, and appreciate the differences. Travel is a community’s best hope for providing the economic underpinnings that provide jobs, upward mobility and enable people to stay on ancestral lands, have the funds to preserve and protect the environment, culture and heritage, and yes, make the adaptations and mitigations to prevent the ravages of climate change. Indeed, just as the travel industry has led the way with e-commerce, yield management, and  loyalty programs, the industry – the third largest in the world – is leading the way on climate solutions,

Tourism is what provides the economic underpinnings to support jobs and upkeep of such treasures as the Treasury at Petra, Jordan. To avoid crowds, stay overnight and enter the ancient city in the early morning © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Travel also is life-enhancing, enriching, potentially life-changing and among the best therapies against despair – providing a conduit for forging social connections, self-improvement, overcoming fear, anxiety and apprehension by fostering understanding and empathy, broadening perspectives. The experience of travel fosters resilience, self-confidence, self-reliance, adaptability, forges lasting bonds of family and friendship and broadens perspective and outlook.

That’s not just me saying it. It’s what travel experts with collective experience of decades (including myself), have seen and experienced firsthand.

“When we travel, experience the world, it changes us in a deep and profound way,” Pauline Frommer of frommer.com, told a standing room only audience at the most recent New York Travel & Adventure Show at Javits Center. “Right now we live in such a divided word – different facts inform our view but when we travel, we see the truth on the ground, that other countries have something to teach us, we can bring that back, and present an impression of America that is positive in places that may not have positive impression of America. Even with climate change, travel is one of the best tools in our ongoing search for creating world peace. So have wonderful, relaxing vacations, but your trips also can be meaningful and you can make a difference when you travel.”

“Consume news, but don’t let that make you a frightened person,” advises Rick Steves of ricksteves.com. “Be outward looking. If we want world to be peaceful, we have to build bridges. We can be challenged and stimulated by smart people who do things in smart ways. We can celebrate the Moroccan dream, the Bulgarian dream, just like the American dream – there is room for lots of dreams, As a traveler, we get to enjoy them all….[If we want a world of] peace and stability, the most powerful thing we can do as individual Americans is to travel and get to know people.”

Machu Picchu, Peru: travel has the potential to be life-enhancing, life-changing. But don’t put off your “bucket-list” experiences because you never know if there will be a pandemic, a political issue, a climate disaster. “Carpe diem,” says Patricia Schultz, author of “1000 Places to See Before You Die”

The COVID pandemic reinforced the value of travel – the three years of lockdowns and constrained travel upended local economies, while shutdowns that kept people from traveling underscored the human need for connection, for renewal, for new horizons to broaden perspectives.

“A life lesson we took away from COVID and postponed pleasure is that there is never a guarantee that we will be able to travel tomorrow or next year- our health, our need to care for people, political situation, climate disasters. Carpe diem,” says “1000 Places to See Before You Die” author Patricia Schultz.  She reflects on the places that she had included but have had to drop off her list recently – Ukraine, Syria, Iran even Jerusalem. “The lesson from this image [of people at the Western Wall] is carpe diem – if some place is on your bucket list and you think, well, the Pyramids will always be there, guess what? Don’t take anything for granted.”

And so with the pandemic in the rearview mirror (at least for now), people are traveling with furor and we are back to worrying about being crowded out and the potential impacts – and actions to prevent – overtourism. COVID-generated technologies and policies for advance purchase, capacity control are here to stay.

The excitement for traveling to the four corners of the globe and in every style, from decompressing on a beach, to joining an expedition to see gorillas in Uganda, to standing up for Ukraine by showing up in Ukraine, was evident at the New York Travel & Adventure Show, where booths were crammed and talks by experts including Rick Steves, Peter Greenberg, Pauline Frommer, on traveling smart, well and meaningfully were standing room only.

But because there is a whole world out there, you can make choices of where and when to travel. Don’t like crowds? Try to visit a destination when less crowded (though there is less of an “off-season” or “shoulder” season these days); find the “hidden gems” that offer as much atmosphere, experience and character; visit attractions either very early or later in the day (to avoid the hoards of cruise passengers and daytrippers); overnight in those charming, historic cities and villages (preferably in or within walking distance of the historic district) so you are there in the early morning and the evenings to enjoy the stillness and light without the hoards of cruisers and daytrippers; and pre-purchase tickets, city/museum/attractions passes so you don’t waste valuable time and money standing in line to purchase tickets. Climate and weather also have become major issues that should factor into where and when you travel.

Their message: By all means, experience the highlights of a place, but go further afield to seek out local experiences, opportunities to visit or stay in neighborhoods. Be a mindful traveler, a purposeful traveler: enhance the experience by learning the background, the stories and back-stories, hire a local guide, take a “free” walking tour (you basically tip the guide), sign up for some volunteer opportunity to give back to the community; seek out those tour programs that provide immersive opportunities to engage with locals.

The Pont du Gard aqueduct, for example, is the most-visited ancient monument in France. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world. Most people see it as a pretty photo op and do not understand how innovative the engineering was – how the Romans brought water from 30 miles away – and what a difference it made in the lives of people who didn’t have to spend hours of their day in pursuit of water.

Meet the people who live on Inle Lake, Myanmar © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“For a lot of tour groups, it is just a pretty bridge, a potty break, a souvenir stand. [But learning the backstory], humanizes this site,” says Rick Steves says. “How to carbonate the travel experience is about how to connect with people..Too many tourists sit on folding chairs watching yodeling on stage, but not connecting, and back in the hotel, only interact with other Americans. It’s a vacation, to be sure, but what is missing is what it means to travel.

Steves urges travelers to “get out of their comfort zone, to see culture shock not as something to avoid, but as the growing pains of a broadening perspective.”

“Become a cultural chameleon – physically change from culture to culture because it’s different.” That means going to where the locals hang out in the evening, drinking Ouzo in Greece, whisky in Scotland, tea in England, red wine in Tuscany, beer in the Czech Republic.” Go three blocks off the main drag to find the restaurants popular with locals; for some meals (breakfast, lunch) go to local groceries and markets and picnic. Seek out the family owned two-star hotel, inn, lodge, hostel or AirBnB – that not only saves money but adds enrichment because of a more “authentic” experience.

Pre-planning is the way to mitigate wasting time and money in line or with crowds.

“There are two types of travelers: those who wait in lines and those who don’t. Think carefully of minimizing lines,” Steves notes.

Crowds in front of the “Mona Lisa” in Le Louvre in Paris. Travel experts at the New York Travel & Adventure Show offered tips on how to avoid crowds and the lines, especially in places like Paris, where advance purchase of tickets to major museums and attractions is essential. In Paris, purchase the “Museum Pass.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Before you go: get an idea of the attractions and sites you want to visit (I query “Three days in….” at TripAdvisor and other travel writers to get some idea). Then, go to the attractions’ websites to get all the visitor FAQs (can I take a water bottle into the Vatican; a backpack into Le Louvre – not likely after the latest incident of vandalism against the “Mona Lisa”). As soon as you have your travel dates (that is, your air fare), immediately reserve the tickets– if the attraction is a highlight for you it is a highlight for most others. Your priority places will set the framework for your itinerary, and the time saved by not waiting on line can go to those serendipitous experiences and discoveries. The same with restaurants you have your heart set on frequenting – book a reservation as soon as you settle your dates.

Take advantage of city passes, museum passes (a must for Paris) and attractions passes from companies like GoCity.com and CityPass.com, as well as the passes offered by the cities themselves, like the PragueCoolPass.com. They not only let you breeze through, but give extremely helpful information about current exhibitions, hours, directions, visitor information.

The PragueCoolPass maximizes your enjoyment of this historic city, like visiting its famous Castle © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Try to book the earliest opening hour of the day in order to minimize the crowds, but in any case, book the earliest time available in order to have the most amount of time.

If you are visiting an outdoor site like the Acropolis in Athens, avoid mid-day when it is not only hot as blazes, but overrun with thousands of visitors who have come off cruise ships or day trippers. Come either as soon as the Acropolis opens in the morning, when it is cool and uncrowded, or at the end of the day (as I did), when the light is a gorgeous golden, the views of the city are amazing, it is cooler and the biggest crowds have left.

Visit attractions like the Acropolis at the beginning or at the end of the day to avoid the crowds and the heat and enjoy the golden light © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

This is also the advantage of overnighting in the most charming cities like Bruges, Strasbourg, Seville, Venice, Prague, Amsterdam, Fez and important sites like Petra – choose a hotel in the historic district that is walking distance to everything but you get to enjoy in the early morning and evening when the lights/lighting/colors are so amazing, the canals like mirrors, the city streets are quiet and empty, before the onslaught of cruisers and daytrippers.

Overnighting in the boutique Flanders Hotel in Bruges’ historic district means you get to have this impossibly picturesque city to yourself at night and in the quiet of the morning before the daytrippers overrun it © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com.

Take advantage of “free” walking tours in cities – local guides work for tips. These are great way to get an orientation. Search “free walking tours” and read the reviews.

Also, in major cities like Paris and London, you can buy mutli-day transit tickets for the train/bus (you can also do bikeshare), so that instead of paying the price of a taxi or Uber from airport into downtown, you can purchase the pass that includes the train or tram from the airport, and not have to wait on lines to purchase individual tickets from machines and deal with the confusion of zones and station names.

Searching muiti-day tour finders is a great way to get an idea of how to organize your time, what to see, what you should pay, and find tour programs that might best meet your needs. Frommer recommends Travelstride.com and Tourradar.com. These marketplace sites, she notes, can introduce you to local companies instead of the big-name tour operators.

Considerations for choosing the right tour company: price (per diem) is only one consideration, also consider what is inclusions (all meals aren’t necessarily a good thing, you might prefer to be able to go off and find those local favorites instead of a restaurant that caters to foreign groups); traveling companions (it is fun to travel with people from other countries, not just Americans); expertise of the guide; demographics of the tour company (often there are family itineraries; women-only; solo travelers; small groups (EF Tours, Audley Travel); price (luxury versus mass market) and age such as younger travelers (Contiki) versus older (Road Scholar) (visit www.frommers.com: How to pick the right tour company for you”).

Discovery Bicycle Tours stops at a winery at the end of the day’s ride in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Bicycle tours are ideal for women and solo travelers © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To find day tours, attractions, guides: Getyourguide.com; airbnb.com/experiences; tripadvisor.com. Foodies could look to TravelingSpoon and Eatwith. I like contexttravel.com.

Also be sure to pre-book rail (for example, raileurope.com) and bus transportation (flixbus.com is terrific) between cities. Find schedules at Rome2Rio.com.

Taking the train from Paris to Strasbourg, France. Be sure to book your ticket in advance © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To find the best airfares (always tricky), Frommer recommends searching Momondo.com/Kayak.com, Skyscanner.com, and CheapoAir.com. Momondo (and Kayak, which are owned by the same entity) tended to consistently find the lowest fares, and have filters that let’s you select for everything from the type of plane (if you wanted to avoid a Boeing 737 Max 9, or if you wanted to find the airlines with the cheapest fares with a checked bag.

But the experts also recommend that after searching for the best fares, you book directly with the airline, ”because if you book through a third party, you can’t rebook as easily as directly through the airlines” if there is some delay, cancellation or need to change. “Search but don’t book,” Frommer says.

Frommer also railed against “drip pricing” – the extra fees that airlines attach (even though Biden has waged a campaign against junk fees.) US airlines average $78 in added fees; European airlines average $58. So for United, the average is 122% of the base fare; for jetblue it’s 147%; but for Sun Country its 201% and for Frontier, its 376%, so the added fees can be higher than the fare.

When you search for an airline, Frommer consistently recommends you “Hide your identity” “Use a privacy setting on the browser, or use a different browser and different computer if you return to search fares” because the airline will track you, gauge your interest and post higher fares.

Also, there are optimum times to search and book:

  • Purchase airfare on Sundays (6% cheaper domestic travel, 13% cheaper international)
  • Book 28 days out (“the sweet spot”) for domestic travel (24% savings), 2-4 months out for international (10% savings)
  • Start your trip on a Thursday (16% savings over flying on a Sunday)
  • Fly before 3 pm (to avoid the 50% increased risk of being cancelled or delayed)

For best hotel rates, book 3-plus months in advance for resorts like Hawaii, Mexico, Caribbean, Florida but just one week before in business cities (New York, London, Paris, Denver). “It takes courage to wait to book one week before travel, so book a refundable room in advance, then search a week ahead of travel.”

“For first time in 20 years, I am having to research New Jersey hotels for people coming to New York City, because on September 18, the city got rid Airbnb, and all the cheap hotels are filled with migrants. Hotels were  charging $900 in December compared to $129 in January for the same room.”

Welcome to Riad el Yacout, built in 1347 for Professor Laharchi, philosophy who taught at the famous Al Qaraouvine university, which stayed in the family until 2000, when it was converted to a 33-room guesthouse, Fez, Morocco, booked on hotels.com © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

To find “secret hotel discounts, Frommer is recommending seeking out travel clubs like RoomSteals, the new Travel & Leisure Club, professional associations’ travel clubs – some which have fees to join – and @Hotel on Instagram (no fee to belong).

How do clubs have “secret: rates? “Hotel companies have contracts with Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity etc. and are not allowed to offer publicly deeper discounts (more than 5-10%) than they give to expedia, orbitz). But if they can’t fill their rooms, they turn to the clubs.”  On the other hand, the clubs often do not show as much information as you need about services and the like.

Also, Frommer notes, Airbnb isn’t necessarily a bargain over hotel rates. “Now because so many extra fees, a recent study showed in 48 of 50 states you pay more at Airbnb than hotel (two exceptions are Nevada and Louisiana). But AirBnB is great for groups, families, if you need a kitchen (and want to save money cooking), but on average, you no longer save money on a rental vs. hotel.”

On the other hand, Frommer has always been a big booster for home exchanges – where you actually trade the use of your home for someone else’s – a way to save money but also really live like a local.

“You can go anywhere in the world – a Paris apartment, a houseboat in Sausalito.” Among the exchanges are HomeExchange.com.

Pauline Frommer cautions about getting too cautious – fearful – of traveling abroad,

Pointing to the recent US State Department’s worldwide travel advisory in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, she notes that Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Uruguay, and Venezuela all have travel advisories against coming to the US because of the gun violence epidemic. “Venezuela thinks it is too dangerous to come here.”  The State Department’s worldwide caution for Americans, is as if to say, “’Don’t travel anywhere, the world is too dangerous. That’s mind boggling. Yes, listen to the US State Department, read the cautions, but understand the rest of the world is terrified to come here.” There is a lot to listen to, though – such as where women of child-bearing age should be mindful of Zika, or where there is political instability or widespread crime, and urges travelers to enroll in the State Department’s “Smart Traveler” program.

The experts advise purchasing travel insurance and soon after you purchase your flights, so that you are covered if for some reason you have to cancel.

Pauline Frommer suggests looking for travel insurance that covers “Cancel for any Reason” (CFAR), includes medical evacuation and covers pandemics (policies do not necessarily cover “fear of travel” if there is a pandemic but a destination isn’t closed by authorities).

“Say the destination has a new strand of COVID but didn’t shut down, and you decide not to go – if you cancel with regular insurance, it won’t be covered – because ‘fear of travel’ is not included. A CFAR policy allows you to cancel for any reason – it’s more expensive, but will repay 75% of costs.

All the experts discourage purchasing travel insurance from the travel provider (tour operator, cruiseline), but to use apps that give you different policy recommendations based on your needs (date of travel, who traveling, age, destinations) such as Squaremouth.com, Insuremytrip.com and Travelinsurance.com.

“Inevitably the most expensive policy covers the least, but the best is usually in the middle,” Frommer advises. “Never ever buy from the travel company you are going with – if they go belly up, you’ve lost insurance too.”

Angel Castellanos (www.angelestravellounge.com) offered more tips on traveling smart with technology, like Google Fi (which makes its own SIM cards and has free international data roaming in most countries) and T-Mobile (which do not charge roaming fees for international calls; calls are 25c/minute; unfortunately, it is rare to get internet service with T-mobile abroad; you use the available WiFi) instead of having to pay for an international phone/data plan. Also, consider purchasing an international SIM card for $2.

For digital safety, he recommends installing a VPN (a virtual private network) on to mask your identity when you are on a public network, with digital thieves trying to steal passwords. He recommends ExpressVPN which works all over the world.

Flying, definitely register for TSA Precheck (costs $75, good for 5 years, and some credit cards rebate the charge), and CLEAR, which uses biometric data to verify your identify, and let’s you go directly from the kiosk to the front of the line “like a VIP. In certain airports that can make the difference in making the flight.” And several business credit cards like American Express Platinum rebate the cost of Clear.

Denver International Airport. Use TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, MyTSA, to breeze through the airport © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can also install the MyTSA app on your device, a free app that gives real time information for what is happening at airport – how long the security line is taking, if one area of the airport is closed and you need to go through TSA in a different location.

Now, the Homeland Security department offers mobile passport control, even if you are not registered for Global Entry (which is similar). You can enroll by submitting passport information and responses to CBP (Customs & Border Patrol) – the free version requires you to enter passport information each time – answer the questions, then you get to whisk through a third line (the regular line, the Global Entry kiosk, and now the Mobile Passport control).

“Google is one of biggest game changers for international travel,” he notes. You can download maps in advance so they are available when you do not have access to WiFi.

The same is true for languages. “Language is no longer a barrier. You can program a phrase like ‘I’m allergic to peanuts,’ and it will show it written as well as speak. You can download the language in advance so it can translate even when offline. You can use the camera function to translate foreign languages into English.”

Of course this eliminates the delight and satisfaction of finding a local person who can either speak English or mime an answer to “I’m lost, Can you tell me how do I get to….?”

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© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

New Brunswick Roadtrip: Exploring French Acadia’s Culture, Heritage by Bike!

Biking the beautiful boardwalk in Shippagan, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, with Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda

Travel Features Syndicate, www.goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our New Brunswick roadtrip that has so enthralled us with the natural wonders of the Bay of Fundy, now takes us to the Acadien Peninsula, where its French heritage is most pronounced and you really feel you are in another country. We are also excited to explore a portion of a marvelous new cycling trail, the Veloroute Peninsule Acadeienne, which opened in 2019, consisting of 14 cycling circuits, totaling 379 miles, that go through 14 coastal French fishing villages and communities. 

Because the Veloroute is so new, it seems, it is not well set up for a supported, self-guided multi-day trip, so we stitch together our own, with the help of Neil Hodge at New Brunswick Tourism. Neil arranges a multi-day bike rental for us from the Villegiature Deux Rivieres Resort (more geared for day rental), and an itinerary that follows the C15 circuit. Fortunately, Laini prefers to spend the day painting, so volunteers to drive the car to the next stop and then take my bike for a shorter ride with Dave at the end of the day. And we have to ferry the bike back to the rental shop (not really difficult, it is less than one hour’s drive back to Tracadie, and we’ve prepared by taking our bike rack). It is exciting to feel like we are pioneering a new biking destination.

This is an opportunity to take advantage of what is best about cycling (and clearly, this is an extremely popular activity throughout New Brunswick and Quebec): you ride at a perfect pace through local communities, small villages, see where and how people live. And there is such freedom during the day, to stop and explore, and really be immersed in a place.

Biking the New Brunswick’s new cycling trail, the Veloroute Peninsule Acadeienne,  from Tracadie to Shippagan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This first day, we bike on the trail 22 miles from Tracadie at one end of the circuit, to Shippagan, riding mainly through woods and then along marshes, arriving at Shippagan at about 2:30. We have a delightful late-lunch in a Mediterranean-style restaurant, Chez Aicha (197 Bd J. D. Gauthier, +1 506-336-8989), then Dave and I continue exploring Shippagan, picturesquely set between Saint-Simon Bay and the Chaleur Bay inlet that goes into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, stopping at its most popular beach, Le Goulet.

Shippagan, New Brunswick’s beautiful boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We discover the boardwalk along Shippagan’s waterfront, and that we can bike all the way to Point Brule, the road that leads us to the cottage Laini has booked for two nights on Airbnb. We calculate we cycled 40 miles for the day.

Our charming Airbnb cottage on Point Brule, Shippagan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dave and I are giddy with delight when we see the sweet, cozy aquamarine-colored cottage and how it is poised on the tip of Point Brule, perched on a ridge with our own ladder to the beach into the bay.

Who can resist? We quickly change and play in the water (surprisingly not too cold), then set out to watch the sunset on Miscou Island, which sits between the Bay of Chaleur and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, at its magnificent historic lighthouse.

The picturesque Miscou Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We reach the Miscou Island Lighthouse on the northeastern tip of the island, just before sunset. The lighthouse was built in 1856 and designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974.

The picturesque Miscou Lighthouse © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is surprising how long (how far) Miscou Island actually is (24 km long by 16 km wide – small for an island but a good distance by bike), because this is the route we are supposed to bike tomorrow. Even on our itinerary, the route is 26 miles each way, hilly, on a two-lane, windy road. But Miscou is fabulous to explore – for birds and wildlife (we see a family of foxes), peat bogs, and not to be missed.

Steve of the popular Terasse a Steve restaurant on Miscou Island © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Our plan is to have dinner at Terasse à Steve a fun, rustic place so beautifully set overlooking the Miscou wharf that is legendary in the community, but when we pull up, we discover Steve has closed early (for mosquitoes!).

That means we have to race back to Shippagan before the restaurants close (at 8:30 pm). We’ve called ahead to Pinokkio’s who tell us to just get there by 9 pm. We race back, arriving at 9 pm on the dot, and sure enough, they seat us. The wood-fired pizzas (fungi pizza, margarita), with the freshest, most flavorful ingredients, are fantastic. ((Pinokkio Pizzeria Resto-Bar, 121 16e rue, Shippagan, 506-336-0051, www.pinokkio.ca).

Sunset from our cottage on Point Brule, Shippagan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Instead of biking back to Miscou Island (Veloroute map shows the Miscou route as 41 km just on the island), Dave and I decide to explore Lameque Island, which is in between Shippagan and Miscou (so glad we toured by car).

We set out again from the cottage on the road that leads to the entrance to the beautiful wooden boardwalk and connects to our biking routes, winding passed the colorful marina, then over the bridge to Lameque.

Biking around Lameque, on the Acadian Peninsula, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We first find a lovely bike trail in the woods that parallels the busy Route 113, cross another small bridge, and then find a beautiful, if short, trail along the water. But when that ends, we ride on the shoulder of Route 113, which serves as a bike path. We come upon an eco-park on Lameque, and explore that before continuing our cycling,

Enjoying a meal at Steve’s Terrasse on Miscou © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We are determined to dine at Steve’s Terrasse on Miscou, which is just on the other side of the (high) bridge from Lameque. Laini pulls away from her painting and meets us there for a late lunch – a sensational meal of lobster with spaghetti, pesto and parmesan; steamed clams; and a whole lobster (9650 route 113, Miscou, +1 506-344-7000)

Biking around Lameque, on the Acadian Peninsula, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Biking back to Lameque (back again over the steep bridge!), we follow a route that takes us along the eastern side of the island along the road (with ups and downs, unlike the bikeway) – it is marked in purple on the map – that give us some lovely views of the water as we ride through neighborhoods. (Amazingly, we don’t find actual stores or restaurants, absolutely nothing for the people to do except for some churches).

Each day, our ride begins and ends on the Shippagan boardwalk, my favorite part of the ride.

Enjoying a second dinner in a row at Pinokkio, Shippagan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By the time Dave and I get back to our cottage in Shippagan, we calculate we’ve biked 45 miles. But now we have to race back into town to find a restaurant. The recommended places we call are all booked solid (it’s graduation day), so we (happily) call again to Pinokkio, and sure enough, they are booked too, but make room for us. The mushroom risotto is sensational. (Pinokkio Pizzeria Resto-Bar, serving up wood-fired pizzeria, appetizers, salads, pasta, seafood, steak, international cuisine, wine list, selection of domestic and imported beers, and decadent desserts, 121 16e rue, Shippagan, 506-336-0051, www.pinokkio.ca).

Biking Shippagan, New Brunswick’s beautiful boardwalk © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We really have to pull ourselves away from Shippagan (regrettably we don’t have time to visit the Aquarium which we keep passing on the boardwalk, 100 Aquarium St., Shippagan, 506-336-3013, [email protected], aquariumnb.ca).

(Shippagan, https://tourismepeninsuleacadienne.ca/en/region-shippagan/, 506.336.3900).

Caraquet

Biking the new cycling trail, the Veloroute Peninsule Acadeienne, along New Brunswick, Canada’’s Acadian Peninsula, from Shippagan © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Today’s ride takes us back onto the delightful Veloroute to Caraquet, 20 miles on the trail. Basically we back track from Shippagan 10 miles to a fork in the trail and then back up 10 miles to Caraquet, most of it in the trees (so refreshing).

We find our way to a charming waterfront village of cute shops, a small artist’s collective, eateries and a picturesque wharf and marina, where we have lunch.

An artisan village within Caraquet © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We consider biking back the 20 miles from Caraquet to Tracadie to return the bikes, but realize we would be doubling back 20 miles on the trail we had already taken, and prefer instead to spend the afternoon exploring the rest of the trail, 7 miles further along Caraquet Bay to where it ends at Bertrand.

Biking along the shore from Caraquet © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is the best choice! This part of the trail is particularly scenic, hugging the coast along Caraquet Bay (an inlet of Chaleur Bay), passing some gorgeous houses and views of the water, adding about 14 miles to our total for the day. We then drive the bikes back Tracadie, racing to get to the rental shop by closing time.

(Veloroute de la Peninsule acadienne, 506-336-4116, [email protected], www.veloroutepa.ca)

Caraquet is an extremely nice place to live, and clearly, very popular for tourists, judging by the string of hotels along the main street.

My hotel is the Super 8 By Wyndham (9 Avenue du Carrefour, 506-727-0888), is ideally located right in the waterfront village, alongside the coastal trail.

Returning the bikes the afternoon before works out superbly for me, because it gives me time to visit Caraquet’s major, not-to-be missed attraction, the Historic Acadian Village, which proves such a highlight of our New Brunswick roadtrip.

“Leave the 21st Century behind at Historic Acadien Village”

“Leave the 21st Century behind at Historic Acadien Village” a highlight of our visit to New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Historic Acadien Village is an open air living history museum with costumed (fully bilingual) interpreters who recreate the roles of real people. What makes this place so extraordinary, though, is that you walk a 2.2 km circuit through 200 years of history – the 40 buildings represent a different time, the oldest from 1773 up to 1895, then, you walk through a covered bridge built in 1900 into the 20th century village where the buildings date from 1905 to 1949.

As you walk about, you literally feel yourself stepping across the threshold back in time.

Walking through this idyllic village, looking at the goats, the sheep, the cows which supply the milk, meat, fiber for clothes, the fields and streams for fish, you would imagine they had everything they needed, life was tranquil, sustainable. But I soon learn from my conversation with the interpreter in the 1852 Cyr house that it was a daily struggle for survival.

An idyllic Acadien village masks how hard life would have been like for the Acadiens Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This arises when I watch her sewing and she says she baked 25 loaves yesterday, enough that would have lasted her family of 8 including grandparent and a farmhand, a week (but actually supplies the village restaurants which serve menus appropriate to the time). I suggest that must be a lot of work. She tells me that her children help. Don’t they go to school? “The children don’t go to school, they are needed at home. It’s a question of surviving. We would have been too isolated to go to school in winter, and they are needed in summer.” Homeschool? “We cannot read; we depend on the priest to read any letter that might come.”

On the stove, she is preparing a pie with pork, onion, turnip, potato. “The pot is on legs so it doesn’t burn; we put wood chips on top so the food cooks from the top and bottom.”

This house came from Saint-Basile, New Brunswick, near the St. John River near Maine/Quebec. I observe that it seems quite large. “We’re not rich, but there was enough wood to build.”

What she tells me next seems to explain why the French Acadiens are so fiercely French (and why, as we travel, we see many flags of French Acadia but few of New Brunswick or Canada):

It was during the French and Indian War, when Britain battled France for control of the New World colonies. “In 1755, the British took the French men in one boat and women and children in another – they didn’t want families together. They felt there were too many Acadiens in same place and would be able to fight British. They made the Acadiens sign a contract to be British, not French, and those who refused were sent away. The boat took them far away – they didn’t know where they were going- some were sent to Charleston, South Carolina, to Louisiana.”

Seeing how life would have been like over 200 years at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1763, with France giving Great Britain its colonial possessions in North America, except the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland (which remain French colonies even today). In 1764, the British allowed Acadians to return in small isolated groups, but by then as many as 18,000 had been forcibly removed and thousands more killed. (See: https://www.cbc.ca/acadian/timeline.html)

Seeing how life would have been like over 200 years at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

She says that when the French colonists were kicked out of Nova Scotia, they would send word to each other to come “a Cadia” (“to Cadia”), a name derived from an Indian word meaning “the place.”

Indeed, all these buildings were collected from other places in New Brunswick during the mid-1970s, creating a what appears to me to be an idyllic “Pleasantville” community.

I continue my walk through these fascinating homesteads. You also get to visit the chapel (1831), post office, general store (1889), tavern (1880), blacksmith’s shop and forge (1874), all with interpreters demonstrating their crafts.

The 1867 printing office at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My personal favorite: the newspaper/printing office (1867), which had been owned by Israel Londry who had five employees putting out 2000 copies of a four-page weekly paper (delivered to the post office), that would cost $1 for a six-month subscription. There are copies you can read.

There is also a one-room schoolhouse (1869), where the teacher tells me that on any day, she might have 20 students or 2, depending upon whether they were needed at home. “Before 1941, there were no mandates to attend school – children stayed home as free labor. It was a matter of survival.”

The one-room schoolhouse where the teacher could have 2 or 20 children a day depending if they were needed on the farm © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I love seeing the machinery of the 1895 grist mill. Originally it would have milled flour, sawed wood, made cedar shingles, serving a 50-mile radius. The miller would keep 10% of the flour, which he would trade for something else. “There was not much currency,” the miller tells me.. But in 1918, the miller closed the flour mill over a dispute of $125 from a bill for repair parts that went back to 1890, when new repairs were needed in 1914, and the $125 was again added to the bill, he shut it down, but kept the saw mill, carting machine and cedar shingles.

Cross the Kissing Bridge into the 20th century to visit the Irving Gas Station at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then you walk across the covered bridge (1900), called “the Kissing Bridge,” and you are in a 20th century town. There is an Irving Gas Station with antique cars; a saw mill (1949), general store (1924), tinsmith’s shop (1905) where you can buy a stove, cobbler’s shop (1945), a railroad station (1930). The Thomas Cooperage that dated from 1937 actually made barrels until 1980, employing 60 people who made 200 a day, until plastic barrels made the wood ones obsolete.

The Irving Gas Station at the living history museum, Village Historique Acadien, Bertrand, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You not only visit but can actually book a room to stay at the Hotel Chateau Albert (1910). Albert opened hotel in 1870 but had financial problems from the beginning and was put out of business by Canadian Pacific railroad.. The building was destroyed in a fire in 1955, and restored using the original plans. It now offers 14 rooms (with bathrooms) that you actually can book to stay overnight. (hotelchateaualbert.com, 506-726-2600).

You can stay over in the Village Historique Acadien, at the Hotel Chateau Albert © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a really nice café in the (modern) visitor center before you go back in time, plus a restaurant in the historic village serving a menu appropriate to the period.

Plan on staying at least three hours. Open June through mid-September.

Historique Acadien Village, 5 rue du Pont, Bertrand, NB, 1-0877-721-2200, [email protected], villagehistoriqueacadien.com  

Travel planning assistance from Tourism New Brunswick, 800-561-0123www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

See also:

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP BEGINS IN ST. ANDREWS

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA ROADTRIP: SAINT JOHN, CITY OF FIRSTS, OLDESTS, AMAZEMENTS

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: DISCOVERING FUNDY TRAIL PARKWAY, FUNDY NATIONAL PARK, CAPE ENRAGE

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: MESMERIZING HOPEWELL ROCKS

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: METEPENAGIAG HERITAGE CENTER HIGHLIGHTS MIRAMICHI VISIT

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

New Brunswick Roadtrip: Metepenagiag Heritage Center Highlights Miramichi Visit

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Metepenagiag Heritage Center has artifacts that show 3,000 years of habitation of the Mi’kmaq people in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

So often the best travel experiences happen by serendipity. I had left the Bay of Fundy coastal trail behind in Moncton this morning to continue our New Brunswick roadtrip, driving 90 minutes to Miramichi, a small city that’s the gateway to northern New Brunswick, Canada, renowned for hunting and fishing. I meet up with Amanda Craig, from Miramichi’s tourism office who was taking me to hike a mile-long trail to Fall Brook Falls (at 108 feet high is the highest in New Brunswick). It’s located in Irving Woodlands private preserve, but alas, the access road is closed. I had spotted a sign along the highway to the Metepenagiag Heritage Park and was really excited to learn more about New Brunswick’s First Nations history and so we head there.

Metepenagiag is so much more than a museum exhibition – it preserves, documents, honors and resurrects the Mi’kmaq heritage and culture.

Metepenagiag is an active archaeological site and research center where artifacts unearthed have provided proof the Mi’kmaq have been occupying this land for at least 3,000 years. When you first walk into the exhibition building, you can look into the lab where researchers examine artifacts. Some of the items, like a 1200-year old Earthenware pot, arrowheads and other items are on display.

Earthenware 1200 years old is on display at Metepenagiag Heritage Center, Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The significance of this place is clear when you learn that it was after decades and generations of a national policy to eradicate First Nations’ cultural heritage, when even speaking the language, so critical to passing along its oral history and tradition, was banned and children were forced from their community into residential schools to strip away their native identity, that in the 1970s, a Mi’kmaq member, Joe Augustine, discovered the Augustine Mound and Oxbow.

“When a company was planning to expand its gravel pit in our community, our beloved and respected Elder Joe Augustine remembered being told from his Elders before him of an old burial ground in the area,” state the notes accompanying a photo of Joe Augustine and Yvonne (Paul) Meunier digging at the pit state. “He went to the site they described and found what was to become the Augustine Mound – a cemetery dating back to over 600 BC.

Mi’kmaq Elder Joe Augustine discovered the Augustine Mound and Oxbow archaeological sites in the 1970s which provide evidence of 3,000 years of habitation in Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

The concept of preserving, protecting and presenting the rich Mi’kmaq culture is expressed by our Elder and lives on in our community.”

In 1977, archaeological work began on another site Elder Joe Augustine uncovered: the Oxbow, a village site situated at the head tide, showing Metepenagiag has had over 3,000 years of continuous settlements right to the present day.

Artifacts uncovered at the Augustine Mound and Oxbow show that for the past three millennia, aboriginal people have repeatedly come to this oxbow in the Miramichi River to fish, hunt and gather plants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Constructed about 2500 years ago, the circular Augustine Mound is a rare example in the Maratimes of the elaborate burial tradition associated with the Adena culture, which originated in the Ohio River Valley and then spread throughout eastern North America. The rich archaeological record found at the site includes well-preserved textiles and basketry, ornaments of Lake Superior native copper, Ohio fireclay pipes, and distinctive Adena-type stone tools dating back 7000 years.

The types of objects retrieved from the Augustine Mound are exceptional for this area of Canada – copper beads on leather, small pieces of baskets, textiles, animal hides, moose-hair work, porcupine quills, feathers and wooden-handled tools. The salts from thousands of copper beads helped save the raw natural fibers from decomposing.

Artifacts uncovered at the Augustine Mound and Oxbow show that for the past three millennia, aboriginal people have repeatedly come to this oxbow in the Miramichi River to fish, hunt and gather plants © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The earth mound, the types of burials and the artifacts suggest that the Mi’kmaq of Metepenagiag probably carried on complex trading and cultural relations with other Aboriginal societies as distant as central Ohio.

Oxbow is one of the largest pre-contact archeological sites in the Maritimes and remarkable for its rich and deeply stratified record of almost continuous human occupation. The artifacts uncovered show that for the past three millennia, aboriginal people have repeatedly come to this oxbow in the Miramichi River to fish, hunt and gather plants. Seasonal flooding covered their camps with silt, preserving evidence of their everyday life, including stone tools, ceramics, and fire pits.

Archaeological research is actively underway at Metepenagiag Heritage Center, Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

Known today as the Mi’kmaq (from the word nikmaq, meaning my kin-friend), in ancient times they called themselves Lnu’k, The People. The Mi’kmaq are an Eastern Algonkian-speaking people closely related to the Wolastoqiyik, Passamaquoddy, Penobscot and the Eastern and Western Abenaki. Together, these nations formed the Wabanaki Confederacy.

“The findings of these two archeological sites scientifically prove the ancient oral history we have always known, passed down through many generations. This is our legacy and how two national historic sites came to be.”

“Elder Joseph (Joe Mike) Michael Augustine (1911-1995) left an important legacy: the rediscovery of the Mi’kmaq identity and culture as a people and as a nation.” Joe Mike served two terms each as Chief and as a Band Councillor.

Metepenagiag Heritage Center guide Marcus Alexander LaViolette poses with a photo of his great grandfather, Mi’kmaq Elder Joe Augustine discovered the Augustine Mound and Oxbow archaeological sites that proved Mi’kmaq habitation for 3,000 years © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“This is archaeological proof of living here 3000 years,” says our guide,  Marcus Alexander LaViolette, heritage interpreter, a 20-something fellow who turns out to be the great grandson of Joe Augustine, making his remarks all the more poignant.  

One room displays how the Mi’kmaq would have lived, season by season (they lived along the river in warm seasons, and moved to the forest in cold).

Mi’kmaq ancestors lived in wikuoms (wigwams), not tipis. Some cone- shaped wigwams could hold up to 30 people; A or V-type usually held large groups, which typically would have been built by women.

Marcus shows us a re-created canoe and the skin of an Atlantic sturgeon, which grew to a size “as long as a canoe.” A main food source for generations, the sturgeon, which could grow over 3 meters long and weigh 400 kilos, are now exceptionally rare – the last one was caught 30 years ago. “Sturgeon are an ancient fish in an ancient river; they haven’t evolved,” Marcus tells us.

Metepenagiag Heritage Center guide Marcus Alexander LaViolette with a canoe and skin of a sturgeon that once provided sustenance to Mi’kmaq, but now is virtually extinct © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The birchbark canoe “was likely the most remarkable Mi’kmaq construction.” It ranged from 3 to 8 meters long; with high ends and raised sides, a uniquely Mi’kmaq design, that kept the canoe from taking on water. Using this type of canoe, the Mi’kmaq ancestors traveled out to sea, up streams and down rapids. The canoe could transport large loads but was light enough so one or two people could easily carry it.

“We lost the tradition of canoe making,” Marcus tells us, “so this is a generic style for birch bark canoe.”

The exhibit hall is a portal to ancient history, he tells us, stressing that it is a point of pride that all the notes are equally translated in English, French, and Mi’kmaq, especially since only 5% of Mi’kmaq people can understand their native language. There are about 200,000 Mi’kmaq in Canada and in Maine.

Marcus notes that there the pots do not have a flat bottom but would be designed to wedge into the ground. They would boil or cook using superheated sand – which would form a crust around bread and not get into the bread. When it was done, they would pat it like a drum so the sand comes off, leaving the bread. “That they can recreate the process shows proof of concept – shows can do it, re-creatable.” (In the “Taste of Metepenagiag” package, guests learn how to make traditional bread.)

Metepenagiag Heritage Center displays how the Mi’kmaq would have lived, season by season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

The ancient Oxbow village was next to one of the best salmon fishing pools. For centuries the Miramichi River was a river of fish – so many salmon swam up the river that they would keep villagers awake at night as they fell on the water after leaping into the air. The ancestors smoke-dried a lot of the salmon catch for winter or to use in trade.

The Mi’kmaq ancesters knew the names and uses of trees, plants, flowers and herbs. Foods included fiddleheads, cat-tail roots, raspberries and blueberries. The bloodroot plant provided dye. Balsam fir helped to cure wounds. Canoes and containers were made from birchbark, wood and root, and mats from reeds and rushes. Sweetgrass and tobacco are still used in ceremonies.

Metepenagiag Heritage Center displays how the Mi’kmaq would have lived, season by season © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

“We slowed down First Contact,” Marcus says, then adds, “The Mi’kmaq way of life did not last. With the first Europeans came dramatic changes. The ancestors began to spend more time gathering furs to trade for the prized European goods. They became dependent on Europeans for food. European diseases killed whole Mi’kmaq villages. With few people left to pass on tradition, much knowledge and history was lost.” In fact, the British barred them from hunting or fishing.

This place had always been important for trade – there is even evidence of the Vikings having come. European merchant traders set up a commercial fishery on the Miramichi River in the 1760s that destroyed much of the traditional salmon fishery. “The few Mi’kmaq living at Metepenagiag struggled to survive.”

Local women made this re-creation of the magnificent embroidered, beaded coat made in 1841 for British sea captain Henry O’Halloran who was made an honorary chief of the Mi’kmaq, on view at the Metepenagiag Heritage Center © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

This is what made a magnificent embroidered, beaded coat that is on exhibit all the more significant, and treasured by the community: it is a re-creation of a fabulous coat, meticulously crafted by local women for a British sea captain, Henry O’Halloran. At a time when the Mi’kmaq were forced onto a reserve and weren’t allowed to hunt or fish, Captain O’Halloran traded with the indigenous people, provided food and formed a close relationship. The coat was made in 1841on the occasion of making him an honorary chief. This one is an exact replica, made by the local women, which if sold, would be valued at $300,000. (Marcus proudly says he got to model it.)

Marcus points to the Treaties of Peace and Friendship, saying, “When our ancestors signed treaties with the British Crown, such as in 1779, they did not give up ownership of our traditional lands. They also kept our rights to fish, hunt, gather and trade.” But these rights were not honored.

In 1994 Metepenagiag signed a historic “loss of land-use” agreement with the government of Canada. But it did not include all of the lands and access to resources that have been taken from our community. Negotiations are continuing in an effort to obtain a fair settlement.” Only recently, each tribal member received $20,000 from the Canadian government as compensation for land.

It is important to note that First Nations people – there are about 2 million in Canada – only received the right to vote without losing their native Indian status in 1960; the last residential school closed as recently as 1995. In 2014, Canada passed the Truth & Reconciliation Act, apologizing for the harm in trying to eradicate indigenous heritage, prompting a policy toward promoting indigenous rights and heritage. Indigenous tourism, a key tool for both economic development and preservation of indigenous heritage and culture, is now Canada’s the fastest growing industry, Amanda says.

At the end of our visit, Marcus says, “First Nations people don’t believe in goodbye – everything is a circle, comes back – even if in next life.”

Metepenagiag Heritage Park has 1800 meters of groomed trails (30 minutes walking time) that let you “walk in the footsteps of our ancestors” to the water.

You can overnight at the Metepenagiag Heritage Center in a tipi, lodge or cabin and be immersed in Mi’kmaq experience © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

What is more, you can overnight in a tipi (glamping), cabin or lodge, have a First Nations dining experience, storytelling and be immersed in the 3,000-year heritage around a campfire. Or take part in “A Taste of Metepenagiag” and learn about foods and cooking techniques. New experiences are also being developed.

The Mi’kmaq operate SP First Nations Outdoor Tours, authentic indigenous experiences that begin with a traditional welcome, a river tour by canoe or kayak, storytelling; and authentic First Nations dining and accommodations (56 Shore Road, Red Bank NB, Metepenagiag, 506-626-2718).

Metepenagiag Heritage Park, 2156 Micmac Road, Red Bank NB, 506-836-6118, [email protected] 1-888-380-3555, metpark.ca.

To get to the Metepenagiag Heritage Center, you go through a Mi’kmaq residential community of about 600 people, where you have to be a community member to own the home (but do not own the land). It looks like a typical suburban neighborhood. with its own school (the federal government subsidizes the public school but teachers are paid less than regular school teachers) and shopping center. After the museum was built, the community opened a woman’s shelter, health center. The community also owns Riverside Entertainment (gaming room, restaurant), downtown.

Sportsman’s Paradise

Miramichi is world renowned as a sportsman’s paradise for fishing, hunting, hiking, kayaking, tubing down the rivers, and the longest zipline in New Brunswick (1200 feet). Indeed, the rivers, filled with salmon, and lush wilderness that provided the food and shelter to sustain the Mi’kmaq even 3,000 years ago, continues to sustain Miramichi today.

Miramichi is so prominent for salmon fishing (baseball star Ted Williams used to invite major celebrities including Marilyn Monroe to his family cottage in Blackville), that there is actually an Atlantic Salmon Museum, founded by the local historical society in 1982, that displays 5,000 artifacts “celebrating the artistry of fly tying, the beauty of a well-crafted rod and, above all, the nobility of that ‘king of fish’ the Atlantic salmon.”

One of John William Keith-King collection of 150 plates on view at the Atlantic Salmon Museum in Doaktown, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Most notably, the museum is the repository for the internationally revered John William Keith-King collection of 150 plates that feature exquisite flies combined with stunning artwork and historic photos, plus artwork, reels, fishing rods, fishing tackle, fish replicas and antique outboard motors. The collection is valued at $500,000 (the plates alone valued at $5,000 each), Believe me, I never thought such a museum could be so fascinating even to someone who has never fished for salmon. This place is pure bliss for fishing enthusiasts. (Admission is free. Check hours. 263 Main St, Doaktown NB, 506-365-7787, www.atlanticsalmonmuseum.com

The Ledges Inn, a sportsman’s retreat, Doaktown, New Brunswick © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

People come from all over for the opportunity to fish and hunt, staying in upscale places like The Ledges Inn,  a 4.5-star outfitter with 10-room lodge, picturesquely set on the bank of the Miramichi River, where you can enjoy salmon fishing, upland bird-hunting, four-wheeling, snowmobiling (30 Ledges Inn lane, Doaktown NB, 1-506-365-1820, Ledgesinn.com); and the historic Wilson’s Sporting Camps, family-owned hunting lodge, offering sportsmen retreats since 1855(23 Big Murphy Lane, McNamee NB, 1-877-365-7962, Wilsoncamps.nb.ca).

Another local attraction is the Priceville Footbridge, which, local lore has it, was built in 1938 to unite two lovers who lived in villages separated by the river. At 656 feet, it’s the longest suspension bridge in New Brunswick, was damaged and rebuilt in 1939, then replaced in 1988 (McNamee Road. https://tourismnewbrunswick.ca/listing/priceville-suspension-footbridge).

Enjoying a plate of mussels at Vera’s at Richie Wharf, Miramichi, as the sun sets © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Back in Miramichi, I spend a pleasant evening at Richie Wharf, a charming waterfront park and historic site, where on Friday nights locals come out for music and dancing, After enjoying this scene, I have a delightful dinner (mussels!) at Vera’s patio with a gorgeous view of the sunset on the river. (84 Norton’s Lane, Miramichi, 506-625-2300)

Other Miramichi highlights: There are loads of historic sites we didn’t have time to visit but sound so interesting: Doak House commemorates Scottish entrepreneur Robert Doak who settled here in the early 1820s (386 Main St. Doaktown, 506-365-2026); Wilson’s Point Historic Site, a provincial historic site, contains the Scottish ancestry of Miramichi, but has archaeological significance for the Mi’kmaq people as well as the French Acadians and Loyalists (8 Enclosure Rd., Derby Junction, www.wilsonspoint.com, 506-627-0162); Miramichi History Museum (182 Wellington St., 506-778-4050); Tabusintac Library & Museum (4490 Rte 11, Tabusintac); and W.S. Loggie House & Cultural Centre, a Victorian home with artifacts from 1850 to 2000 (222 Wellington St., Miramichi, 506-775-4996).

Also: Miramichi River Interpretive Trail (1.4 km long, 158 main Street, Blackville; 90-min, Miramichi River Boat Tours out of Richie Wharf; Gallan’s Miramichi River Tubing (Doyles Brook, miramichirivertubing.com); Escuminac Beach (escuminacbeach.com); Historical Beaverbrook House Haunted Tour.

Rodd Miramichi River Hotel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I overnight at the Rodd Miramichi River Hotel, picturesquely set in the waterfront village (1809 Water Street, 506-773-3111).

The next morning, I meet up with David and Laini at the Calico Café; they have been exploring Prince Edward Island and Shediac, where they had a fabulous dinner at Le Mogue Tortue, a restaurant with an Alice-in-Wonderland like setting (tea cups,clocks!), and we continue on our roadtrip to French Acadia, where we will bike on the new Veloroute (bikeway) along the coast, through French fishing villages.

Miramichi Tourism, 800-459-3131, discovermiramichi.com.

Travel planning assistance from Tourism New Brunswick, 800-561-0123www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

See also:

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP BEGINS IN ST. ANDREWS

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA ROADTRIP: SAINT JOHN, CITY OF FIRSTS, OLDESTS, AMAZEMENTS

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: DISCOVERING FUNDY TRAIL PARKWAY, FUNDY NATIONAL PARK, CAPE ENRAGE

NEW BRUNSWICK ROADTRIP: MESMERIZING HOPEWELL ROCKS

Next: Exploring French Acadia’s culture and heritage by bike!

____________________________

© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Trail to Discover British Columbia’s Indigenous Heritage Weaves Through Whistler-Blackcomb

Audain Art Museum, Whistler, is a world-class art museum with one of finest collections of indigenous masks going back to mid-1800s and British Columbia artists © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

My whirlwind odyssey to learn about the renaissance of British Columbia’s indigenous heritage takes me to Whistler-Blackcomb, the world-famous ski resort. The mountain resort, one of the largest in North America, is on First Nations land and is where a cultural center, a joint endeavor of the Lil’wat and the Squamash nations, has opened.

I hop the Skylynx shuttle bus, packed with skiers, that leaves from the Hyatt Regency Vancouver downtown (also close to the Bill Reid Gallery and the Fairmont Hotel) for a pleasant, scenic two-hour ride to Whistler Village Centre.

The skiing even this late in the season looks fantastic but I am here to continue my study of the indigenous heritage – past and present – that permeates this place. The spirit is very strong here in Whistler. While the skiers all head to the gondola, I find my way to a trail that leads to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

The idea for a world-class cultural center originated with the Resort Municipality of Whistler in 1997, which met with the Lil’wat Nation to discuss its participation and presence in Whistler. Mindful of its historic collaboration and shared interest in land stewardship with the Squamish Nation, in 2001, the two nations signed a historic Protocol Agreement, the only one of its kind in Canada. The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre opened in 2008. In 2020, a framework Agreement was signed between the Nations and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, providing for collaborations on economic development, tourism and promotion of cultural awareness.

Dalilah conducts a “What We Treasure” tour of Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The building is a beautiful space with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the woods. I join nine others for the center’s signature tour, “What We Treasure,” which are led by cultural ambassadors who share their own stories and first-hand cultural experiences. The tour begins with an excellent 15-minute orientation film.

Our guide is Dalilah, whose Lil’wat name is T’ac T’ac , or “sweet sweet” like sweetie or sweatheart. She is a 17-year old high school student interning on her spring break. She begins by singing in her native language, “We belong to the land, the land is our people, we belong to the land.” We view artifacts and hear stories that give us a sense of the past and present way of life of the Squamish and Lil’wat peoples. 

It is fascinating to seen the differences in clothes at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As we go through the center, I am struck by how different the clothes, foods and therefore the traditions and daily habits are for these two peoples who live “where rivers and mountains meet.”  It is starkly clear how culture and lifestyle is linked to the ecology and topography of their land and the materials and resources at hand. The Squamash are coastal, the Lil’wat live on the mountain.  Culture is a manifestation of the ecosystem we inhabit – even and especially today.

It is fascinating to seen the differences in clothes at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is these traditions and lessons of living in close harmony with nature (Mother Earth), to the point of spiritual devotion, that the indigenous people impart today, all the more relevant in light of the climate disasters of a planet out of sync with nature.

The displays are less historic artifacts and more contemporary examples of the traditional arts and crafts being revived; often these are not just re-creations of centuries-old design and form, but with modern twists.

We learn how their societies were so careful to live in harmony with their environment – their canoes are made from red cedar bark, but they only harvest a precise section of the tree – hugging the tree so that there are two hand-widths.

“We make sure to only take a piece of the tree so we don’t kill it. We are connected to the cedar through the things we make with it,” notes Joy Joseph-McCullough, a Squamish weaver.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is an element of mythology, mysticism, handed down from the ancients, that continues to underpin their worldview, reflected in the urgency to save language, and the oral tradition, and resurrect traditional arts and crafts.

It is reflected in Joy McCullough-Joseph’s notes about the traditional Coast Salish Blanket she named “The Message.” “I twilled and twined on a Traditional Coast Salish Loom. I named my blanket, “The Message’ because the design for the blanket came to me in a dream. In my dream our Ancestors told me to weave in Mother Earth to remind us of our responsibility to the Earth. The second message is to honour and remember the sixteen families that amalgamated to form the Squamish Nation. The last message is to honour our Ancestors who were weavers.”

Another note reads “when you wear the blankets, you feel the protection of all who have been called to protect you… We feel the prayers offered by the weaver and our ancestors, when we wear the robes.”

You have to wait a year before you can weave cedar bark and it can three apprentices six months to weave a cedar mat, Dalilah tells us. “When we are sad, we don’t weave, otherwise it would transfer negative thoughts.”

Dalilah the importance of weaving at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We learn how mountain goat wool was used in Salish weaving, an ancient art form that dates back to the ice age. A mountain goat wool blanket in those times could mean the difference between surviving or succumbing to the elements. The inner wool of the mountain goat was gathered during spring molt, collected off of bushes from wool shed by the goat or from harvested animals. “It takes 5 to 10 years to collect enough for a blanket,” she tells us.

The wool was mixed with hair from a specially bred dog. Natural dyes were derived from plants, berries and clays. Intricate geometric designs reflected elements of nature and families held the rights to use those designs.

I am lucky to see a special photography exhibit on view: “Unceded – Photographic Journey into Belonging”. This temporary exhibit makes graphic the meaning of “unceded” – land that was considered stolen, taken by force, without a legal treaty. The photos show contemporary indigenous people in places like downtown Vancouver. But it is actually speaking more to the First Nations people, prodding them to see themselves in this modern world, but retaining their connection to their heritage. Unceded “doesn’t mean our people aren’t still there.”

“As urban cities, farmland, towns, and recreation parks built up around us, our Ancestors are still here, living in the blood of the people of this land. While pop culture, fashion trends and global connection are influencing how people move through society, people residing on and off reserve are living deeply in their culture, engaged socially and politically with the world around them, reviving ancient traditions, re-enforcing a stewardship that guides their climate and lands safely through the first 50 thousand years before contact.”

I have a delightful lunch at Thunderbird Café, and survey a marvelous gift shop at the center before heading off to do a bit of sightseeing on Whistler’s famous Peak 2 Peak Gondola.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, 4584 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, 1 866 441 SLCC (7522), https://slcc.ca/.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola

Considering how vast Whistler-Blackcomb is, it is actually surprisingly easy to get around (once I figure it out).

Whistler-Blackcomb, the site of 2010 Winter Olympics events, is a world-class ski resort and one of the biggest in North America © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I take the Blackcomb Gondola from the base of Blackcomb Mountain for the ride to the top of Blackcomb Mountain. From here it is a short walk – skirting the skiers and snowboarders – to the Peak 2 Peak Gondola which links Blackcomb Mountain to Whistler Mountain. I’m feeling jealous of the skiers but I am sightseeing today and this is an absolutely gorgeous ride. A man I ride up the Blackcomb Gondola with tells me to look for special sightseeing gondolas that have a plexiglass bottom you can look through – we sightseers stand on a separate line so we get first dibs when the car comes around.

Sightseeing on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountains © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After opening on December 12, 2008, the massive gondola revolutionized the way skiers, riders and hikers experienced the mountains. The Peak 2 Peak Gondola, as part of the world’s longest continuous lift system, isn’t just to move skiers, it also gives summer guests access to Whistler Blackcomb’s high alpine for sightseeing, hiking and mountain-top dining.

The Peak 2 Peak Gondola travels a span of 2.73 miles giving sightseers and hikers a serene aerial flight showcasing flora and fauna (even black bears in their protected habitats), Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains; the Coast Mountain Range’s many glaciers and peaks; and Whistler Village, surrounded by lakes.

Sightseeing on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountains © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is notable that Whistler Blackcomb (now part of Vail Resorts, which means the resort is part of the Epic Pass) is consistently ranked one of the top ski resorts in North America. With more than 8,100 acres of terrain, variety is an understatement: there are steeps, deeps, chutes, bowls, glades, long cruisers, and high alpine and gentle rollers. And the numbers speak for themselves: one vertical mile drop; two side-by-side mountains connected by a pedestrian village, more than 200 trails, three glaciers, 37 lifts, and 16 alpine bowls – all of it top quality.

Sightseeing on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola linking Whistler and Blackcomb mountains © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even this late in the season, the snow looks great and the trails look gorgeous– plenty of easy, intermediate runs!

Riding the Peak 2 Peak Gondola is such fun and the view so beautiful, that I actually ride it back and forth and back again for an hour before downloading via Whistler Village Gondola into Skiers Plaza in Whistler Village. (Whistler Blackcomb, https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/)

Audain Art Museum

Audain Art Museum, Whistler, is a world-class art museum with one of finest collections of indigenous masks going back to mid-1800s and British Columbia artists © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Back down in the charming village, I pass lovely shops and eateries on my way to the Audain Art Museum. Outside is the invitation to see the “Masters of Print: Rembrandt and Beyond”- a clue that this is a world-class museum. I did not expect to see Rembrandt prints at Whistler. Nor did I expect to see what is arguably the world’s finest collection of First Nations masks, dating from the mid 1800s.

Sure enough, the Audain Art Museum delivers on its promise of a transformative experience for appreciating the art of British Columbia as well as exhibitions from around Canada and around the world. It’s in this part of the world but very much of the world. It is as local as local can be but brings the reaches of the globe into this small section of it.

The Audain Art Museum’s Permanent Collection of some 200 works  – nearly all of it from the collection of Michael Audain and his wife, Yoshiko Karasawa, or purchased with their funding – is a visual journey through the history of art from coastal British Columbia.

Audain Art Museum, Whistler, showcases one of finest collections of indigenous masks going back to mid-1800s © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Audain Art Museum, Whistler, showcases one of finest collections of indigenous masks going back to mid-1800s © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Most astonishing is the room housing Audain’s collection of Northwest Coast First Nations masks. They are extraordinary because you see the individualism of the artist as well as the subject (many seem to be representations of actual people rather than mythic figures) and different techniques. I wonder if this reflects changes over time (spanning the mid 1800s to the present), regional differences and styles or perhaps just the artist’s own creativity.

Audain Art Museum, Whistler, showcases one of finest collections of indigenous masks going back to mid-1800s © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Audain Art Museum, Whistler, showcases one of finest collections of indigenous masks going back to mid-1800s © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

A truly monumental piece, an exquisitely carved red cedar “Dance Screen” (2010-2013) by Haida Chief 7idansuu (James Hart) who was a friend and collaborator of Bill Reid, takes up an entire wall of this room.

James Hart’s striking ‘The Dance Screen (The Scream Too)’, 2010-2013, red cedar panel takes up an entire wall at the Audain Art Museum Collection, gift of Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The next room has a huge collection of a beloved British Columbia artist, Emily Carr. You see her in her Impressionist phase, when she studied in France in 1911; how she incorporated First Nations elements into her landscapes when she returned in 1912. There are also post-war modernists including E.J. Hughes, Gordon Smith and Jack Shadbolt as well as works by internationally renowned, contemporary British Columbia artists including Jeff Wall, Dana Claxton, Marianne Nicolson, Rodney Graham and Stan Douglas.

Emily Carr is a beloved British Columbia artist who studied impressionism in France, then integrated indigenous subjects into her landscapes when she returned © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Audain Art Museum, Whistler, showcases a stunning collection of Emily Carr’s work © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I’m told that Audain had never even been to Whistler before, but his friend, who designed Whistler Village in the 1980s, encouraged him that he could build a museum in Whistler which would connect to nature, where people could quietly contemplate art. They worked with award-winning architects John and Patricia Patkau. The museum opened in 2016. (Open Thursday to Monday 11am – 6pm).

It is fascinating to see traditional symbols, subjects reflected in contemporary indigenous British Columbia artists work, on view at the Audain Art Museum, Whistler © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
It is fascinating to see traditional symbols, subjects reflected in contemporary indigenous British Columbia artists work, on view at the Audain Art Museum, Whistler © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The website includes this statement:  “Audain Art Museum is grateful to be on the shared, unceded territory of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation and Lil̓wat7úl (Lil’wat) Nation.”

Audain Art Museum, 4350 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, V8E 1N3,  [email protected]  604-962-0413, https://audainartmuseum.com/

The stunning design of the Audain Art Museum, Whistler, provides an exquisite ambiance to experience art © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I have a rushed dinner at Caramba! Restaurant (#12 4314 Main Street (Town Plaza), Whistler, BC V0N 1B0 Phone: 604.938.1879 www.carambarestaurant.com/), a fun, casual place before I get back on the Skylynx shuttle for the 7 pm departure back to Vancouver (get there early because the bus fills up), arriving back to downtown Vancouver at 9:30 pm.

Indigenous Tourism BC offers travel ideas, things to do, places to go, places to stay, and suggested itineraries and a trip planning app (https://www.indigenousbc.com/)

Next: GRANVILLE ISLAND, VANCOUVER’S NEARBY GETAWAY, IS CORNUCOPIA OF ART, CULTURE

See also: 

ON THE TRAIL TO DISCOVER VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

WALKING TOURS, DINING EXPERIENCES REVEAL VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

Walking Tours, Dining Experiences Reveal Vancouver’s Revived Indigenous Heritage

Totem poles at Brockton Point in Stanley Park are the most visited attraction in British Columbia, but few visitors realize they tell the personal stories of First Nations families © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Vancouver’s Stanley Park is much like Central Park in New York or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco – an incredibly vast (1001-acre) green oasis in a metropolis. It is absolutely stunning, on a point that juts into the Burrard Inlet and English Bay, with scenic views of water, mountains, sky, the natural West Coast rainforest, and the Park’s famous Seawall.. You can ride a miniature train, rent bikes, go to the Teahouse, take a ride on a horse-drawn carriage, visit the Vancouver Aquarium (65,000 animals, 120 world-class exhibits), walk the many marvelous trails and paths. Most of the manmade structures present in the park– like the lighthouse – were built between 1911 and 1937 by then superintendent W.S. Rawlings. Additional attractions, such as a polar bear exhibit, aquarium, and a miniature train, were added in the post-war period.

A horse-drawn carriage tour is one of the many ways to enjoy Stanley Park, Vancouver’s oasis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

But the tranquility of Stanley Park belies its history. The park occupies land that had been used by indigenous peoples for thousands of years – it was one of the most important salmon fisheries in the region and was rich in other resources, including beaver and lumber. British colonizers came in force to British Columbia during the 1858 Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, and extract other resources including lumber. The British then set up military fortifications at Hallelujah Point to guard the entrance to Vancouver harbor (there is still a Navy outpost and the city’s marina).

(A federation of colonies in British North America – New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario – joined together to become the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867; Canada only became wholly independent of Great Britain in 1982.)

In 1886, the city incorporated the land and turned it into Vancouver’s first park. It was named for Lord Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, a British politician who had recently been appointed Canada’s Governor General. Lord Stanley (better known today for hockey’s Stanley Cup) became the first Governor General to visit Vancouver when he came in 1888 to officially open the park.

And that is what brings me together with Patrick, an indigenous guide from Talaysay Tours, who leads me and a woman with her two daughters on a “Spoken Treasures” walking tour of the park.

Talaysay Tours guide Patrick explains the significance of the totem poles and gateway portals at Brockton Point during a Spoken Treasures” walking tour of Stanley Park © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Patrick says that Indigenous peoples have occupied this area for 8,000 years and there is still a 4,000-year old shell midden within the park. Where Lord Stanley gave his speech was an indigenous burial ground.

Indigenous people who had already been pushed out of their villages in the north had migrated here to the point they outnumbered the settlers, so there was a campaign to force them out or decimate the population. Smallpox was intentionally spread, Patrick says. One way was to inoculate, but not vaccinate people (those who were inoculated could still spread the disease). One cartographer alerted the indigenous people to what was happening.

The park – in fact all of Vancouver – is on “unceded land” – Canada never signed a treaty to acquire it, which means that under Crown and Canadian law, the land is still illegally occupied.

(By way of mitigation, if not restitution, on various websites including Stanley Park, you find a note like this, “The City of Vancouver acknowledges that it is situated on the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam Indian Band), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish Nation), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation.”)

The view from the seawall at Stanley Park across Burrard Inlet to West Vancouver, where indigenous peoples had lived for thousands of years taking advantage of rich fishing and hunting before being forced out of land considered “unceded.” Expression of indigenous culture was banned in Canada for more than 100 years © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a marker at Hallelujah Point that describes this place as a thriving settlement which for several millennia was inhabited by the Coast Salish people. From the 1860s, Europeans, Chinese and others built houses and lived along the shoreline. After Stanley Park opened in 1888, the Chinese, who were brought in as laborers and built the park road and the yacht club, were removed; others lived here until evicted in 1931, with the last person leaving in 1957.

Hallelujah Point was taken over as a military fortification to protect Vancouver Harbor and the Canadian Navy still has a small outpost. Patrick says that this was the site of a battlefield with war canoes and was a burial site.

Beaver Lake, one of the park’s major attractions and a place of urban tranquility, “was a sacred site where they brought in beavers,” Patrick said.

Patrick brings us to a grouping of nine Totem Poles, set near Brockton Point and the Brockton Point Lighthouse – considered British Columbia’s most visited tourist attraction.

Totem poles at Brockton Point in Stanley Park are the most visited attraction in British Columbia, but few visitors realize they tell the personal stories of First Nations families © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The collection started at Lumberman’s Arch in the 1920s (originally the village of X’ay’x’ay, which would have had long houses and in 1885, held a great potlatch ceremony attended by 2000 First Nations and European residents of Burrard Inlet), when the Park Board bought four totems from Vancouver Island’s Alert Bay. More purchased totems came from Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) and the BC central coast Rivers Inlet, to celebrate the 1936 Golden Jubilee. In the mid 1960s, the totem poles were moved to Brockton Point. Several of the poles are re-creations, replicas or replacements.

Totem poles at Brockton Point in Stanley Park are the most visited attraction in British Columbia, but few visitors realize they tell the personal stories of First Nations families © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Each has a story.

The Ga’akstalas was carved by Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick in 1991 based on a design by Russell Smith. “We wanted this pole to be a beacon of strength of our young people and show respect for our elders. It is to all our people who have made contributions to our culture,” Beau Dick wrote.

The Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole was carved by Bill Reid with assistant Werner True in 1964 to replace an older version that was raised in the Haida village of Skidegate about 1870, to honor the Raven Chief. The pole has two tiny figures in the bear’s ears to represent the chief’s daughter and son-in-law who erected the pole and gave a potlatch for the chief’s memorial. A rectangular board at the top of the original pole covered a cavity that would have held the chief’s remains.

Patrick isn’t exactly happy with the totem poles being here, which he considers appropriation (exploitation? a balm to soothe a guilty conscience?) rather than a way of raising awareness, respect and honor for indigenous heritage.

A totem pole, he explains, was like legal title to property, marking the land as yours, and would be carved with symbols that basically tell the story of that family.  

The Rose Cole Yelton Memorial Pole, erected in front of the house site where the Cole family lived until 1935 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Only one of the totem poles is legitimately where it should be, he says: the Rose Cole Yelton Memorial Pole of the Squamish Nation, raised in 2009, to honor Yelton, her family and all those who lived in Stanley Park. It was erected in front of the home site where the Cole family lived until 1935. She was the last surviving resident of the Brockton community when she passed away in 2002.

“The Totem was the British Columbia Indians coat of arms,” a bronze plaque reads, using language that might be considered inappropriate today. I had not realized that these poles are unique to the northwest coast of B.C. and lower Alaska. Carved from western red cedar, each carving tells of a real or mythical event. “They were not idols, nor were they worshipped. Each carving on each pole has a meaning. The eagle represents the kingdom of the air; the whale, the lordship of the sea; the wolf, the genius of the land, and the front, the transitional link between the land and sea.”

Totem poles at Brockton Point in Stanley Park are the most visited attraction in British Columbia, but few visitors realize they tell the personal stories of First Nations families © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Such skills, though, had to be resurrected because the government criminalized indigenous art, language and culture, with the intention of eradicating indigenous culture and assimilating the people into Christian society. Because art – the shapes, line and symbols – took the place of written language, the practical effect was cultural genocide.  

“Art was criminalized – it is hard to relearn it, but people found other ways to preserve their art,” Patrick tells us. For example, people would make bentwood boxes but weren’t allowed to give them away (that would be considered an illegal potlatch), but could sell them.

“For 100 years, indigenous people were forced into residential schools,” Patrick says. “Oral history made it easy to eradicate. Potlatch, language was criminalized, but people practiced in secret. We have to relearn history.” These house poles, he says, tell the story of that family.

One of the three carved red cedar portals created by Coast Salish artist Susan Point, installed in 2008 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Three beautifully carved, red cedar portals welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people. Installed in 2008, the gateways were created by Coast Salish artist Susan Point, in collaboration with Coast Salish Arts; Vancouver Storyscapes (a City of Vancouver Social Planning project to encourage Indigenous people to share their stories through a variety of media); the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations; and the Vancouver Park Board.

“Shore to Shore” carved in cedar then cast in bronze by Stz’uminus Master Carver Luke Marston, is a tribute to the ancestral connection between the area’s aboriginal and Portuguese communities. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Shore to Shore” carved in cedar then cast in bronze by Stz’uminus Master Carver Luke Marston, is a tribute to the ancestral connection between the area’s aboriginal and Portuguese communities. Joe Silvey came to BC from the Azores around 1860 and married Pqaltanat, a high-born matriarch of Musqueam and Squamish descent, who died; Silvey then married Kwatleematt a Sechelt matriarch who is depicted in the sculpture. The Silvey family lived at Brockton Point in a community of First Nations, Portuguese and Hawaiian people.

Founded in 2002, Talaysay Tours is owned and operated by Candace and Larry Campo, Shíshálh (Sechelt) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation members. “Our goal is to support culture revitalization, education and reclamation.”

Talaysay Tours, 334 Skawshen Rd, West Vancouver, V7P 3T1, [email protected], 1 (800) 605-4643, 1 (604) 628-8555, www.talaysay.com.

Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro

Celebrating a birthday at Salmon n’Bannock, Vancouver’s original indigenous restaurant © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

From Stanley Park, I take an Uber across a bridge to a neighborhood that reminds me of going to Brooklyn from Manhattan.

Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro is (so far) the only indigenous restaurant in Vancouver (though Inez Cook, the owner, has just opened a second location at the international departure terminal at Vancouver International Airport).

“It was always a dream,” she tells me – not just to have a restaurant, but to revive and share indigenous culture.

Inez says that like so many of her generation, she was not raised with native heritage.

She shows me a children’s book, “Sixties Scoop,” she has written which describes how she is Nuxalk, born in Bella Coola, BC, but was taken away when she was one year old and adopted by a Caucasian family in Vancouver.

“I am part of what’s called Sixties Scoop, when the government took native kids and adopted them out to non-native families. Our native status was given up and we were supposed to grow up without our culture, without our heritage,” she writes. The “Sixties Scoop” began in the 1950s and lasted until the 1980s.

As an adult, she went to find her native roots and discovered she had a younger sister who was also given up for adoption.

That has made her all the more purposeful in showcasing her heritage with pride. (Inez also serves on the board of the Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia.)

Cook says she was inspired after seeing the Kekuli Café in Kellown, a Canadian Aboriginal bannock restaurant with contemporary twist – bannock, burgers, Indian Tacos, and espresso. (Kekuli Café, which also has restaurants in West Kelowna, Kamloops, and Merritt, BC, has decidedly 21st century marketing techniques including franchising, apps, rewards points and clever slogan, “Don’t panic, we have bannock” https://www.kekulicafe.com).

Cook was raised with the foods of her adoptive mother’s family who were Dutch Mennonite, so when she decided to open an indigenous restaurant, she needed to research native ingredients and First Nations cooking techniques.

“I wanted the restaurant to showcase food from the land and sea that the Indigenous people had traditionally hunted, harvested and eaten – everything from fiddlehead ferns to bison and sock-eye salmon,” she told the BBC. “I wanted to incorporate their traditional methods too: how they smoked food or preserved it over the long winters. I did a lot of asking and learning, then began to improvise.”

“The Olympics was coming. I dove in.” She opened Salmon n’ Bannock in 2010 to offer native cuisine with a modern twist.

Her team is indigenous, the menu based on what’s in season and available. She would ask them, “What’s your favorite dish?” and bring modern inspiration.

Inez Cook opened her indigenous restaurant Salmon n’Bannock to revive and share First Nations culture, which she had to discover for herself © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some of the more interesting items on the menu this evening: pemmican mousse with bannock crackers; game sausage (this evening it is elk and huckleberry which is sensational); bison bone marrow served with sage rub and bannock crostini; bison pot roast with mash; smoked sablefish on Haudenosaunee corn polento,. I have the Fish n’ Rice” – wild sockeye with Anishinaabe wild rice.

She will take a native ingredient like soapberries or kelp, or a traditional recipe, and turn it into something new.

Her twist on pemmican, a staple for her ancestors, is an example.  The traditional way of serving pemmican was as a mixture of dried meat and berries, which were buried to provide food on a journey. Instead, here the pemmican is made of bison meat, smoked, dried and ground before blending it with cream cheese and sage-infused berries.

Cook worked for airlines for 33 years which enabled her to experience other cultures around the world including Saudi Arabia, India,Egypt, Chad, Nigeria, Indonesia and England, returning to Vancouver in time to open her second  2nd location, at Vancouver airport.

“I’ve lived all over the world- I wanted to take people on a journey to experience the culture of land…Food and culture bring people together,”

She doesn’t miss an opportunity to share the experience and educate. Even the menu features these interesting facts:

  • Present day Canada is set on land of 600 indigenous nations, over 200 of them in present day British Columbia. “There’s a cousin behind every corner and a Cree behind every tree.”
  • “Indigenous” is an umbrella term that represents First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples –distinct groups with distinct cultures.
  • There are more than 70 indigenous languages, coast to coast in Canada, “many of them endangered due to systemic efforts to separate indigenous people from their culture.”

(I subsequently learn that 1,807,250 Canadians identify as Indigenous, according to the 2021 Census, accounting for 5% of the country’s total population, of which 290,210 live in British Columbia. The population that identifies as Indigenous is the fastest growing demographic group in Canada, increasing by 42.5% between 2006 and 2016.)

For Inez, the restaurant is a chance to show indigenous culture and real people in a contemporary setting, rather than as displays in a museum or separated on a reserve. “We could be your doctor, lawyer, your neighbor,”

It’s an intimate bistro setting – only about eight tables (24 guests) – but its reputation is going global. Time, Elle Magazine have raved and on this evening, seven media people from France have arrived, and Inez greets them in French.

Salmon n’ Bannock Address: 1128 W Broadway #7, Vancouver, BC, 604-568-8971, [email protected], www.salmonandbannock.net

The famous steam clock in Gastown © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I leave the restaurant and have Uber take me to Gastown – with its famous steam clock – to enjoy that nighttime vibe and then take the 15 minute walk back to the Skwachays Lodge just after dark. (Skwàchays Lodge 31 W Pender St Vancouver, BC V6B 1R3 604.687.3589,   1 888 998 0797,   [email protected], https://skwachays.com/)

Indigenous Tourism BC offers travel ideas, things to do, places to go, places to stay, and suggested itineraries and a trip planning app (https://www.indigenousbc.com/)

Next: Trail to Discover British Columbia’s Indigenous Heritage Goes Through Whistler-Blackcomb

See also: ON THE TRAIL TO DISCOVER VANCOUVER’S REVIVED INDIGENOUS HERITAGE

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

On the Trail to Discover Vancouver’s Revived Indigenous Heritage

The view from the seawall at Stanley Park across Burrard Inlet to West Vancouver, where indigenous peoples had lived for thousands of years taking advantage of rich fishing and hunting before being forced out of land considered “unceded.” Expression of indigenous culture was banned in Canada for more than 100 years © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Who could have imagined such an immersive experience into British Columbia’s indigenous culture revival in the heart of a bustling, modern metropolis like Vancouver?

I come to Vancouver intent to see how indigenous heritage culture is being resurrected, revived, and coming to the forefront of national consciousness and respect.

My trip is very much a voyage of discovery, in so many ways so surprising, illuminating and enriching, especially once I am sensitized to look.

My itinerary is arranged by Indigenous Tourism BC, one of Canada’s oldest (at 25 years) provincial entities to promote the economic and social benefits tourism brings to revive and sustain a heritage that had been relegated to shadows.

These efforts have accelerated after Canada signed its historic Truth and Reconciliation Act, in 2014, acknowledging the harm of 140 federally run residential schools that operated from 1867 up until 1996, and other laws, like the Indian Act, banning the practice of indigenous culture that amounted to cultural genocide.

It was only in 1951 that amendments to the Indian Act removed restrictions on rituals, customs and culture. Canada’s indigenous peoples – who account for five percent of the population – could not vote until the 1960s.

Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s First Aboriginal Art Hotel

Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s first aboriginal art hotel, affords the nearest thing to staying in a First Nations community you might find in a major modern city © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My voyage of discovery starts as soon as I check in to my hotel, Skwachays Lodge, the nearest thing to staying in a First Nations community you might find in a major modern city.

Skwachays Lodge, Canada’s first aboriginal art hotel, opened in 2012 as a social enterprise that turned a derelict building into a boutique hotel combined with an artist-in-residence program supporting indigenous artists with housing and studio space.

Skwachays Lodge, a social enterprise, provides housing and studio space for 24 indigenous artists © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even though it is late, Rick, the night manager, is eager to show me around to the art studios and introduces me to two of the 24 artists in residence who live for up to three-years in apartments on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors. The hotel also has a gallery and a superb shop.

The 18 guest rooms and suites, which occupy the 5th and 6th floors, have been individually designed by six indigenous artists – there is the Water Room (502), the Sea Kingdom Suite, Northern Lights Room, Forest Spirits Room, Earth Room, King Salmon Suite.

The gold-painted ceiling in the Moon Room. Each of the 18 Skwachays Lodge rooms and suites has been designed by an indigenous artist © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mine is the Moon Room (505), designed by Sabina Hill and Mark Preston, equipped with a kitchenette, desk/workspace, and a giant round bed on a platform. The ceiling is decorated with the moon’s radiance in gold, and the wall, in gold calligraphy, tells the legend of the trickster god Raven who stole the sun, the moon and the stars, and released them into the sky. “Delivered to its heavenly perch by the daring Raven, the Golden Moon watches over the world below.” It’s almost like finding yourself in a painting, in the story.

The gallery and shop at Skwachays Lodge © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The hotel also offers opportunities to do a Sweat Lodge ceremony in the rooftop garden; a Smudging Ceremony in the traditional Smudge Room; as well as studio visits with the artists in residence. Its Kayachtn (“Welcome”) room, where breakfast is served, also provides a traditional community gathering place as well as a gallery.

Atop the hotel is a totem, a marvelous counterpoint to the arch that marks the entrance to Vancouver’s Chinatown, a half-block away.

The Kayachtn (“Welcome”) room at Skwachays Lodge, where breakfast is served, also provides a traditional community gathering place © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It should be noted that the hotel is one block over from East Hastings, considered Canada’s “Bowery” – but I had no problem walking everywhere, including to the marvelous Gastown district – the historic district offering boutique shopping and dining famous for its gas-spewing clock – just 10 minutes walk away. Actually, I was able to walk everywhere.

Skwàchays Lodge 31 W Pender St Vancouver, BC V6B 1R3 604.687.3589, 1 888 998 0797, [email protected], https://skwachays.com/.

Bill Reid Gallery

My first morning, after a marvelous breakfast (served 8-10 am in the Kayachtn “Welcome” room), I walk over to the Bill Reid Gallery, which is just around a corner from the Vancouver Art Gallery and the historic, grand Fairmont Hotel.  

The Bill Reid Gallery opened in 2008 to celebrate Haida cultural heritage, diverse living artists of the Northwest Coast, and the life and work of master artist Bill Reid (1920-1998). Reid arguably was responsible for bringing indigenous art from the shadows (after having been suppressed for 150 years) into the national consciousness, awareness and respect.

The Bill Reid Gallery celebrates Haida cultural heritage, diverse living artists of the Northwest Coast, and the life and work of master artist Bill Reid © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bill Reid, I learn, is a national treasure. Two of Reid’s most popular works depict a canoe filled with human and animal figures: one black, “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii,” is at the Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C.; and one green, “The Jade Canoe,” is at Vancouver International Airport (and was featured on the Canadian $20 bill).

Here at the gallery, you not only trace his own artistic evolution and self-discovery, but see his most famous works, including “Mythic Messengers” (1984), a multi-ton, 8.5 meter long frieze referencing folk stories that is the gallery’s piece de resistance.

Bill Reid’sMythic Messengers” (1984), a multi-ton, 8.5 meter long frieze referencing folk stories,  is the gallery’s piece de resistance © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is an artist’s proof in white onyx of another famous work, “Raven and First Men” that depicts the Haida creation myth – how the Raven discovers a massive clamshell on the beach with humans protruding from it and coaxes the humans out, unleashing civilization. (The full-sized, cedar wood version is at the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus; Reid depicted this myth in many forms and sizes throughout his career.)

Another famous Bill Reid work, “Raven and First Men” that depicts the Haida creation myth, in white onyx © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Bill Reid, probably more than anyone, is responsible for resurrecting indigenous art, raising awareness, appreciation and respect, and bringing this heritage that had so long been subject to cultural genocide, into Canada’s cultural mainstream. His story is remarkable and I soon come to appreciate why he was uniquely able to achieve this.

Bill Reid represented “Raven and First Men” myth in many versions and genres © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As I look at a miniature (I mean really tiny) tea set that Reid carved from chalk in 1932 when he was 12, my guide, Wayne Louie, explains that Reid’s father was of German-Scottish descent and his mother was born to the Haida nation. She was part of the residential school system which took First Nations children from their families and put them in prison-like boarding schools designed to “kill the Indian inside the man” (as I learned at the Buffalo Nations Luxton Museum in Banff).

“His mother didn’t reveal her ancestral roots – that was the effect of residential schools, aimed to culturally cleanse the indigenous side,” Louie tells me. “He didn’t discover his ancestral roots until his teens.”

He began exploring his Haida roots at the age of 23. He visited grandparents and slowly and deliberately rediscovered and incorporated his heritage into his art. This journey of discovery lasted a lifetime and shaped Reid’s artistic career.

Glass artist John Nutter, whose studio is the site of Bill Reid’s studio on Granville Island, shows a $20 bill featuring Bill Reid’s famous “The Spirit of Haida Gwaii” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Reid became a pivotal force in building bridges between Indigenous people and other peoples. Through his mother, he was a member of the Raven clan from T’aanuu with the wolf as one of his family crests. In 1986, Reid was presented with the Haida name Yaahl Sgwansung, meaning The Only Raven. Many of his works incorporate the raven.

“Reid’s quest for understanding the essence and the roots of a unique art form led him to discover his own ‘Haidaness’ and, in the process, restored much of the dynamic power, magic, and possibility to the art. In doing so he became the catalyst to empower a whole Nation,” the gallery notes say.

Reid’s story also shows how an artistic spirit cannot be suppressed. Even later in his life, when he contracted Parkinson’s, he created wire sculptures, some of which are on view –art is irrepressible, it must be expressed.

Bill Reid carved this tiny tea set out of blackboard chalk when he was 12 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“Somewhere along the line, I developed a unique art: blackboard chalk carving,” he reflected in 1982. “I started it in school because I was very bored. Round chalk was such a fine medium that I made little tea sets, cup and saucers, and finished them with nail polish…It showed me I could do fine work. The first totem pole I ever made was out of blackboard chalk.”

But the reason he was able to spur a renaissance in indigenous art is that Reid had become a popular CBC announcer with a national audience. He got his first job in radio in 1939 and became a radio broadcaster for the CBC in Toronto in 1948. As a CBC announcer he had a platform, was known and accepted, and connected to more people.  I imagine promoting his indigenous identity was almost like “coming out.”

Bill Reid was perhaps uniquely positioned to revive indigenous art and bring it into mainstream of Canadian culture because of his celebrity as a CBC broadcaster © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

His interest in making art had already been ignited. In 1943, he made his first visit to the Haida Gaiia since his early childhood. “He was a goldsmith at heart and hoped to build a career focused on modernist jewelry,” the notes say. “He was fascinated by the simple engravings his grandfather made and bracelets by John Cross his aunts wore. When he later saw the deeply carved bracelets by his great, great uncle Charles Edenshaw, he said, ‘Life was not the same after that’.”

Bill Reid was a goldsmith who incorporated French repousse technique to gold bracelets with traditional Haida elements he learned from his relatives © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

He set up a studio in his basement, and then on Granville Island (which I later come upon almost by accident). He combined traditional Haida forms and figures with contemporary innovations, notably the European technique of repousse – pushing the metal out from behind, to bring a three-dimensional quality to his Haida-inspired work.

“Well, I don’t consider myself Haida or non-Haida or white or non-white,” Reid wrote. “I am a citizen of the West Coast of North America and I have availed myself of all the inheritance I got from all directions.”

Bill Reid infused Haida traditions with his own modernist aesthetic to create both exquisite small as well as monumental works that captured the public’s imagination.

“Reid was biracial,” Louie tells me. “He had to learn who he was – observe art of his ancestors, reinterpreted into his art. He started with jewelry, small pieces, then large, monumental works.”

Reid was in the vanguard of the revival of indigenous art, Louie tells me. “During the time these pieces created no other indigenous artist was doing this – now there are many.”

Throughout Reid’s life, he encouraged young artists as he was encouraged, and that is reflected in this gallery, which features exhibits of a dozen contemporary artists.

James Hart’s totem pole is the centerpiece of the Bill Reid Gallery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The centerpiece of the gallery is a full-scale totem pole carved by James Hart of Haida Gwaii, featuring the Wasgo (Haida Sea-Wolf).

What strikes me as interesting is how some of the artists seem intent on reproducing the traditional symbols and techniques (like weaving), while others veer off into modern forms, like graffiti. But when you think about it, for these First Nations artists who live on lands that were never officially ceded to Canada (there was never a treaty so technically, according to Canadian law, the land is illegally occupied), the essence of street art is a form of rebellion, a means for people who feel displaced and disempowered to mark territory and establish identity, so it seems like a very appropriate form.

“Raven Who Kept Walking” (2021) by Corey Bulpitt, one of the contemporary British Columbia indigenous artists  on exhibit at the Bill Reid Gallery © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Monthly workshops, artist talks; guided tours are offered June-August. There is an excellent shop. Summer hours, open daily 10-5.

Bill Reid Gallery, 639 Hornby St, Vancouver 604-682-3455, https://www.billreidgallery.ca/, [email protected]

Indigenous Tourism BC offers travel ideas, things to do, places to go, places to stay, and suggested itineraries and a trip planning app (https://www.indigenousbc.com/)

Next: Walking Tours, Dining Experiences Reveal Vancouver’s Revived Indigenous Heritage

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© 2023 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/KarenBRubin 

New-York Historical’s ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’ Examines How Jewish Delicatessens Became a Cornerstone of American Food Culture

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli exhibit at New-York Historical Society tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

New-York Historical Society’s exhibition “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, is a fascinating exploration of the rich history of the Jewish immigrant experience that made the delicatessen so integral to New York and American culture. On view through April 2, 2023, the mouth-watering and culturally significant exhibition, organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles (where it is on view through September 18), examines how Jewish immigrants, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, imported and adapted traditions to create a cuisine that became a cornerstone of popular culture with worldwide influence.

The exhibition explores the food of immigrants; the heyday of the deli in the interwar period; delis in the New York Theater District; stories of Holocaust survivors and war refugees who found community in delis; the shifting and shrinking landscapes of delis across the country; and delis in popular culture. You get to see iconic neon signs, menus, advertisements, and deli workers’ uniforms alongside film clips depicting delis in popular culture and video documentaries.

Laura Mart, co-curator of I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish Deli, now at the New-York Historical Society, explains the transition from pushcart to delicatessen, along with the fortunes of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Some 2 million Jews came from Eastern and Central Europe to the United States between 1880 and 1924, when nativist anti-immigrant furor shut down immigration (there is a display showing some of the anti-immigrant propaganda). New York was a stopover but also a destination for millions and they brought with them their food culture, which, of necessity, was adapted.

“Why make a museum show out of the Jewish deli – which is a specific and unusual topic? The ‘deli’ allowed us to explore themes of how people of different backgrounds relate to one another” in such a melting pot as New York, said Laura Mart, one of the curators. “It shows how Jewish-American culture was created and maintained through generations. And it is also about joy, more important than ever. Museums are a place for joyful learning.”

“It’s a story of tradition and change, adaptation and resilience,” said Lara Rabinovitch.

“It’s our great pleasure to present an exhibition on a topic so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical, herself waxing nostalgic. I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“It’s our great pleasure to present an exhibition on a topic so near and dear to the hearts of New Yorkers of all backgrounds,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of New-York Historical. ‘I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli tells a deeply moving story about the American experience of immigration—how immigrants adapted their cuisine to create a new culture that both retained and transcended their own traditions. I hope visitors come away with a newfound appreciation for the Jewish deli, and, with it, the story of the United States.”

“Whether you grew up eating matzo ball soup or are learning about lox for the first time, this exhibition demonstrates how Jewish food became a cultural touchstone, familiar to Americans across ethnic backgrounds,” said co-curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart. “This exhibition reveals facets of the lives of Central and Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that echo in contemporary immigrant experiences. It shows how people adapt and transform their own cultural traditions over time, resulting in a living style of cooking, eating, and sharing community that is at once deeply rooted in their own heritage and continuously changing.”

I’ll Have What She’s Having is co-curated by Skirball curators Cate Thurston and Laura Mart along with Lara Rabinovitch, renowned writer, producer, and specialist in immigrant food cultures. It is coordinated at New-York Historical by Cristian Petru Panaite, curator of exhibitions. The exhibition explores topics including deli culture, the proliferation of delis alongside the expansion of New York’s Jewish communities, kosher meat manufacturing, shortages during World War II, and advertising campaigns that helped popularize Jewish foods throughout the city.

As is typical of New-York Historical’s exhibits, expanded presentation from its own collection and local twist includes additional artwork, artifacts, photographs of local establishments, and objects from deli owners, as well as costumes from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a mouthwatering interactive, and a Bloomberg Connects audio tour.

A soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writes to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent, a confirmation of the success of the “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Highlights include a letter in New-York Historical’s Patricia D. Klingenstein Library collection from a soldier fighting in Italy during World War II writing to his fiancée that he “had some tasty Jewish dishes just like home” thanks to the salami his mother had sent—confirmation of the success of a famous “Send a Salami to Your Boy in the Army” campaign. (Panaite painstakingly poured over a huge collection of World War II letters, one by one, to find it.) 

There are photos of politicians and other notable figures eating and campaigning in delis, including then-US Senate candidate Hillary Clinton at Ben’s delicatessen in Greenvale, Long Island. Movie clips and film stills include the iconic scene in Nora Ephron’s romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally…, which inspired the exhibition title. This and other movie scenes underscore the prominent role of Jewish delis in American popular culture.

Special to New-York Historical’s presentation is a closer look at the expansion of Jewish communities at the turn of the 20th century, not just on the Lower East Side but also in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. In the 1930s, some 3,000 delis operated in the city; today, only about a dozen remain. 

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society will evoke nostalgia in native New Yorkers, as well as a craving for a pastrami sandwich on rye © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibition gives special attention to dairy restaurants, which offered a safe meatless eating experience; a portion of the neon sign from the Famous Dairy Restaurant on the Upper West Side is on display. Salvaged artifacts, like the 2nd Avenue Delicatessen storefront sign and vintage meat slicers and scales from other delis, are also on view, along with costumes by Emmy Award-winning costume designer Donna Zakowska from the popular Prime Video series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Visitors are invited to build their own sandwiches named after celebrities, such as Milton Berle, Sophie Tucker, Frank Sinatra,  Ethel Merman, and Sammy Davis Jr., in a digital interactive inspired by menu items from Reuben’s Deli and Stage Deli (the menus are on display). 

On the Bloomberg Connects app, exhibition goers can enjoy popular songs like “Hot Dogs and Knishes” from the 1920s, along with clips of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia discussing kosher meat pricing, 1950s radio ads, and interviews with deli owners forced  to close during the pandemic lockdown.  

It’s a trip down memory lane for so many of us native New Yorkers – with the neon signs from popular delis and suppliers (Hebrew National), menus (there is one from Reubens, the home of the Reubens sandwich, which was a very popular venue for my family).

The roots for Jewish Deli cuisine were the fermentation, the types of foods, the technology of food, that originated in Europe, but the hallmarks of the Jewish Deli culture go beyond the food – to the booths, the waiters, the zeitgeist of the deli. We learn that that ambiance evolved – first from pushcarts on the streets of the Lower East Side (street food), to stools, to counter-style take-away shops, to finally having seating in full-fledged restaurants.

Case in point: Joel Russ founded his appetizing store out of a barrel in 1907 in Manhattan. He moved up to selling herring and other salt-cured and smoked fish out of a pushcart and finally opened a brick-and-mortar store in 1914.His daughters, Hattie, Ida, and Anne, worked in the store from the time they were 11 and 12. In 1935, he renamed the store Russ & Daughters, and are known as the “Sturgeon Queens.”

The delis introduced Americans to borscht (Slavic), gefilte fish, kishke (Slavic), vereniki (Ukrainian), kasha varnishkes (Russian), herring and chopped liver (“What am I, chopped liver?”). Also latkes (Ashkenazi), blintzes, knishes, rugelach and babka. Cheesecake is actually an American innovation.

The industrialization of beef production and processing actually made Kosher beef more desirable, hence Hebrew National’s slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Interestingly, the rise of industrial food processing and cattle production (which mass produced beef and discouraged pork consumption) actually increased the desirability of Kosher food – certified as meeting religious standards, hence the Hebrew National slogan, “We answer to a higher authority.”

Jewish entrepreneurs in Chicago capitalized on the opportunity to produce kosher beef, but ultimately, what became the Jewish Delicatessen was American.

I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society traces how Jewish cuisine was assimilated into American culture © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
 

“Meat was expensive in Europe. Jews couldn’t own land and meat was a luxury. But in the United States, meat became central to deli food.” At first, there was strict separation between deli restaurants like Katz’ and dairy restaurants, like Ratner’s – because Koshruth forbids the mixing of meat and milk – but over time, and with assimilation, even delis would offer items like cheesecake as dessert after a corned beef sandwich.

We learn about the Vienna Beef factory, founded in 1893 by Jewish Austro-Hungarian immigrants Emil Reichel and Sam Ladany. They first sold frankfurters at the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, then expanded to include Vienna sausages, pastrami, corned beef and salami.

A photo of Katz’ Delicatessen, circa 1900, one of the artifacts on view at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli at the New-York Historical Society tracing how Jewish cuisine was assimilated into American culture © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Katz’s Delicatessen, likely the oldest continuously operating deli in the US, was founded in 1888 by two brothers named Iceland. The Katz family became business partners and by 1917, bought out the brothers. At a time when most deli food was being sold from carts and barrels on the street, Katz’s was a brick-and-mortar delicatessen.

In 1916 on Coney Island, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker began building his empire by selling franks for five cents and undercutting his competition, Feltman’s.

And then there is this intrigue: fraud and corruption became pervasive in the kosher meat industry. In 1925, an estimated 40 percent of meat sold as “kosher” was non-kosher. In 1933, the NYC Department of Health and US Department of Agriculture raided Jacob Branfman & Son, one of the city’s main kosher delicatessen manufacturers, and seized over 1,400 pounds of nonkosher beef briskets. The owner was sentenced to 30 days in the infamous city workhouse.

A sign from Katz Delicatessen from the World War II-era campaign © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During World War II, Jewish delis promoted a campaign to “Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army” (the slogan was developed by Sixth Avenue Delicatessen waiter Louis Schwartz) and used by delis including Katz’s. The slogan became so popular that comedian Jerry Lewis used it in the film, “At War with the Army” (1950).

Louis G. Schwartz, aka “Louie the Waiter,” helped raise more than $9 million in war bonds – that paid for 66 P-47 Thunderbolt fighter planes, each which bore the moniker, “Louie the Waiter.” Schwartz developed a rhyme to inspire patrons to buy the bonds, “you’ll buy war bonds sooner or later, so get them from Louis the Waiter!”

Al Hirschfeld’s caricature of Sixth Avenue Deli’s Louis G. Schwartz, aka “Louie the Waiter,” helped raise more than $9 million in war bonds and created the slogan, “Senda Salami to Your Boy in the Army”.

Most interesting is to learn about some of the people who found refuge in the delis – as owners or workers. Paula Weissman, born in present-day Ukraine, survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps. She arrived in New York in 1948 with two dollars. After working in a Brooklyn girdle factory, she was hired as a temporary waitress at Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen on West 72nd Street. The 7-day temp job turned into 30 years.”In her black uniform and white shoes, Paula took the orders of Zero Mostel, Molly Picon, Rita Moreno and many other Broadway stars.”

Rena Drexler was liberated from Auschwitz in 1945 and moved to Munich, Germany, where she and her husband, Harry, began their new lives working in a deli. The couple moved to Los Angeles in 1951 and opened Drexler’s Deli on Burbank Boulevard in 1957, selling kosher meals and products for the Orthodox Jews who settled in the neighborhood.

Paula Weissman, one of the Holocaust survivors who made a new life at Jewish delicatessens © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The original owner of the Second Avenue Deli, Abe Lebewohl, was a Holocaust refugee. Upon arriving in America and not even speaking the language, he took his first job in a Coney Island deli as a soda jerk, graduating to counterman and over the next few years, learning the secrets of superb pastrami and other traditional Jewish delicacies. In 1954, with a few thousand dollars he managed to set aside, Abe took over a tiny 10-seat luncheonette on East Tenth Street—the nucleus of the 2nd Ave Deli. Working around the clock for years—often filling in as cook, counterman, waiter, and even busboy—he put all his time and energy into making a success of his tiny establishment. “He never turned anyone away for lack of funds, he fed striking workers, homeless.” In 1996, he was robbed and murdered when making a bank deposit; the case unsolved.

In a nostalgic tribute to departed delis that continue to hold a place in the hearts of many New Yorkers, photographs show restaurants that closed in recent years. Eateries include the Upper West Side’s Fine & Schapiro Kosher Delicatessen, Jay & Lloyd’s Kosher Delicatessen in Brooklyn, and Loeser’s Kosher Deli in the Bronx. An exuberant hot dog-shaped sign from Jay & Lloyds Delicatessen, which closed in May 2020, and folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens, also pay tribute to beloved establishments. The exhibition concludes on a hopeful note, highlighting new delis that have opened their doors in the past decade, such as Mile End and Frankel’s, both in Brooklyn, and USA Brooklyn Delicatessen, located steps from the site of the former Carnegie and Stage Delis in Manhattan.

Ben’s, still a force on Long Island and Manhattan is illustrative of the changes in the Jewish Deli that followed changes in the lives of American Jews. To be blunt, in the mid-20th century, restrictive covenants that barred Jews (and Blacks) from living in certain neighborhoods were lifted, and American Jews were flocking to the suburbs. The delis followed.

What I found fascinating was that the Jewish deli grew up as the American industrialized cattle industry grew – displacing home-grown pork – making beef plentiful and giving rise to the sky-high thick pastrami and corned beef sandwiches that would never have been available to Jews in their European shtetls, where meat would have been a cherished rarity.

Folk artist Harry Glaubach’s monumental carved and painted signage for Ben’s Best Kosher Delicatessen in Queens is on view at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deliat the New-York Historical Society © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The exhibit ponders how it was, why it was that Jewish deli became so much a part of American pop culture.

“There is no definitive answer as to why the deli has inspired generations of Jewish filmmakers, comedians, musicians and writers. Perhaps it is because so many Jewish creatives got their start in New York City, where they frequented Jewish delis and later infused these experiences into their work. Or maybe it is because the Jewish deli is one of the most public secular environments in Jewish American life. It is a place where characters can demonstrate or celebrate their Jewish identity outside of private or religious spheres. Whatever the reason, the deli continues to have significant influence on Jewish artists.”

The fifth generation “Katz,” Jake Dell, alongside a model of his family’s delicatessen and a video of the famous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” movie which provides the title for the New-York Historical Society’s exhibit, at I’ll Have What She’s Having’: The Jewish Deli. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The better question has to do with how Jewish cuisine has become as integrated into in American culture as bagels (with or without lox). And that’s because so many of the creatives – in Broadway theater, film – were Jewish.

But Jewish delis, themselves, are struggling today, particularly after the coronavirus pandemic, but also because of changing economics – the cost of that two-inch high pastrami on rye, the rent. The sandwich that used to cost $1.95 (see the Reubens menu), now costs $25. The fifth generation “Katz,” Jake Dell, on hand at the press preview, spoke of the changing economics, he said that they don’t even make a profit on a $25 pastrami sandwich. “The profit is in the soup.”

Programming: Private group tours can be arranged throughout the run of “I’ll Have What She’s Having”: The Jewish DeliFamily programming includes a food-focused family day celebrating foodways brought to New York City by immigrants from around the world. Living History programs bring to life the stories of proprietors, patrons, and staff of New York City’s Jewish delis. Visit nyhistory.org for dates and details.

“Confronting Hate 1937-1952”

“Confronting Hate 1937-1952” exhibit at New-York Historical Society documents the American Jewish Committee’s groundbreaking campaign to combat anti-Semitism and ultimately to fight all forms of hate and bigotry © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After enjoying the joyful “I’ll Have What She’s Having,” go up to the second floor of the historical society for another, more serious, exhibition that is so timely in the here and now: “Confronting Hate 1937-1952” about the American Jewish Committee’s groundbreaking campaign to combat anti-Semitism and ultimately to fight all forms of hate and bigotry. To reach as many Americans as possible in the period leading up to the Holocaust, World War II and the aftermath, the agency embraced new mass communication technologies and partnered with talented allies – artists, writers, political leaders, church groups, politicians, magazine and newspaper editors. They produced comic books, ads, articles. Among the celebrities who joined a “Speaking for America” poster campaign in 1946: Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Danny Kaye, plus President Harry Truman and Admiral Chester Nimitz.

New-York Historical Society, New York’s First Museum

At the New-York Historical Society, New York’s first museum, you experience 400 years of history through groundbreaking exhibitions, immersive films, and thought-provoking conversations among renowned historians and public figures. A great destination for history since 1804, the Museum and the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library convey the stories of the city and nation’s diverse populations, expanding our understanding of who we are as Americans and how we came to be. Ever-rising to the challenge of bringing little or unknown histories to light, New-York Historical will soon inaugurate a new annex housing its Academy for American Democracy as well as the American LGBTQ+ Museum. These latest efforts to help forge the future by documenting the past join New-York Historical’s DiMenna Children’s History Museum and Center for Women’s History.

Digital exhibitions, apps, and For the Ages podcast make it possible for visitors everywhere to dive more deeply into history. Connect at nyhistory.org or at @nyhistory on FacebookTwitterInstagramYouTube, and Tumblr.

The New-York Historical Society is located at 170 Central Park West at Richard Gilder Way (77th Street), New York, NY 10024, 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.

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© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling Through Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter

The Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam Hotel is set in the heart of Amsterdam’s historic district, a short walk to the Jewish Quarter, and walking distance to Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam, I pick up a sheet detailing a walking tour through the Jewish Cultural Quarter which features 37 points (Rembrandthuis and the Waterlooplein flea market are included) and 12 museums, monuments and memorials. It is supposed to take about 90 minutes.

I go off to follow much of the list – which is most interesting because you go into this historic neighborhood where you almost hear the voices of the people who lived there, certainly feel their presence. It feels a bit like time travel.

Across the street from the Jewish Museum, which is housed in four former synagogues including the Great Synagogue, is one of the most beautiful and grandest synagogues of the world, the Portuguese Synagogue. Dating from 1675 (just four years after the Great Synagogue which is across the street), this Sephardic synagogue is in fact a whole religious complex with the synagogue, archives, a mortuary, and a library.

Known as The Esnoga, the Portuguese Synagogue was designed by Elias Bouman, who had also helped design the Great Synagogue of the Ashkenazim across the road. Elias Bouman later became the city’s chief architect. The colossal building dominated its surroundings then, as it still does today. When finished, it was the largest synagogue in the world. And even centuries ago, was a tourist attraction. (Mr. Visserplein 3, jck.nl/en/longread/portuguese-synagogue

Entrance to the Portuguese Synagogue, the world’s largest and most ornate synagogue and a tourist attraction since it was first built in the 17th century, still conducts religious service so was closed to visitors on Saturday © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Portuguese Synagogue is still used for religious services (it’s Saturday so I don’t get to go inside), but on most days you can buy a ticket to see inside. It is renowned for its exquisite 17th century interior.  There are also smaller buildings in the complex where there are “treasure chambers” displaying ceremonial objects of silver, gold, brocade and silk. The synagogue also hosts frequent candlelight concerts. (I experienced an extraordinary concert at the Spanish Synagogue in Prague at the start of my European odyssey.)

The Great Synagogue was destroyed in the Holocaust (it was restored and turned into a museum in 1961), but the Portuguese Synagogue was saved apparently because Hitler wanted to leave a trace of the vanished nation (I was told much the same about how Prague’s Jewish Quarter managed to survive.)

The world’s oldest functioning Jewish library, Ets Haim Livraria Montezinos, which is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, is also here in the Portuguese Synagogue (Mr. Visserplein 3). The library has more than 25.000 books and 560 manuscripts in Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Latin, Greek, Arabic and Yiddish in its collection. Some of the manuscripts date to13th C. (An appointment is required to visit: for a guided tour phone: +31 20 531 03 80; researchers call +31 20 531 03 98).

Outside the Portuguese Synagogue is the Jonas Daniel Meijerplain, a square named for Jonas Daniel Meijer who in 1796 became the first Dutch Jew to receive a doctoral degree. He was a leader in the Jewish struggle for emancipation and equal rights (which was won in 1796). There are Stolpersteine (small memorial plaques) in front of houses that are along the square (nos. 13, 15, 19) that bear the names of Jews who lived there and were murdered by the Nazis. (I saw these Stolpersteines in Dordrecht, as well.)

In the square is the February Protest Monument commemorating the strike of the Amsterdam dock workers on February 24, 1941, to protest persecution of Jews. The strike has been followed by protest actions all over the city: in public transport, schools and in some companies. Strike actions also took place in several cities around Amsterdam and in Utrecht. Although the Nazi administration, which invaded the Netherlands in 1940, managed to suppress the strike within just a few days, killing nine of the protesters, injuring many and perpetuating several other ruthless actions, the open protest against the Nazis had the symbolic importance for all people in the Netherlands. The monument represents a striking worker called “De Dokwerker”. The sculpture is by Mari Andriessen, a sculptor who during the war refused membership of the Nazi-led artist union and hid Jewish friends at his home to save them from death.

A walking tour through Amsterdam’s Jewish District makes you look closely at structure to see their Jewish origins © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My walking tour takes me to what was the Ashkenazi Jewish Girls Orphanage, which from 1863-1943 was where these orphaned girls received religious education. In the Holocaust, 80 were deported to concentration camps.

The Plancius/Resistance museum, was where the Jewish choral society, Oxfening Baart Kunst (Practice Makes Perfect) was established in 1876; it has been the site of the Dutch Resistance Museum since 1999.

The De Castro Pharmacy is Amsterdam’s oldest apothecary (1832). Daniel Henriques de Castro was not only an apothecary but also an administrator of the Portuguese Synagogue and a glass engraver.

The Pinto House (Sint Antoniebreestraat 69), was built in 1603, bought by the wealthy Jewish merchant Isaac de Pinto in 1651 and rebuilt by his son David Emanuel in 1686 with the broad classical facade. Devastated in 20th C. and saved from a demolition, it is a public library today.

I go to the Walter Suskind Bridge – fairly nondescript – named for Walter Suskind (1906-1945) who was the head of Jewish staff of the Hollandsche Schauwburg and in this capacity saved hundreds of Jewish children from deportation and murder.

(Gassan Diamonds is also here in the Jewish Quarter and had an important role in the Jewish community. I book a free tour for the next morning at its website, https://www.gassan.com/en/tours/gassan-historical-tour)

A walking tour through Amsterdam’s Jewish District makes you look closely at structure to see their Jewish origins © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I visit as many of the sites as I can, and finally come to the National Holocaust Memorial, which only opened in September 2021. It’s the first in the Netherlands to name all 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis during World War II.  Designed by Polish-American architect Daniel Liebeskind, the 102,000 bricks, each bearing the name of a victim, form the shape of four Hebrew letters meaning “in memory of.” 

The National Holocaust Memorial, Amsterdam, keeps alive the memory of the 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I estimate there are 32 rows of 50 bricks just named DeVries. I note some of the names: Frouwkevn Mandenburg Gosschalk, Rooje van Maagdenburg-Frank, Maas, Magtige, Maij – very Dutch, with some of these families I would bet having lived in Amsterdam for hundreds of years. The name plaques seem to go on forever.

Of the 107,000 deported to concentration camps, only 5200 Jews and 30 Santi and Roma survived.

“A warning for all generations, all over the world and in the future,” a plaque reads.

The National Holocaust Memorial, Amsterdam, keeps alive the memory of the 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

According to reporting of the event, the memorial was unveiled by King Willem-Alexander and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“Last year marked the first time an official in the Netherlands publicly apologized on behalf of the government for the war-time persecution of Jews, after Rutte admitted little was done to protect them from the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany.” (https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-holocaust-memorial-opens-after-years-long-legal-deadlock/a-59231217)

The National Holocaust Memorial, Amsterdam, keeps alive the memory of the 102,000 Dutch Jews, Sinti and Roma who were killed by the Nazis © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tickets to all the Jewish Cultural Quarter exhibits may be purchased at any of the participating institutions. Adults – € 12 ; young people age 13 -17, students, Stadspas – € 6 ; children age up to 13; free admission is provided with the Amsterdam Holland Pass, iAmsterdam Pass, Museum Card, Friends of The Jewish Historical Museum, ICOM, Rembrandt Association. Tickets to the Jewish Historical Quarter are valid 1 month for a multiple access to all exhibits. Tickets to concerts at the Portuguese Synagogue: € 13.50.

You can also sign up for a walking tour with a knowledgeable, personal guide (see www.amsterdam.info/jewish/).

“Night Watch” at Rijksmuseum

By now, it is time for me to walk over to the Rijksmuseum for my timed ticket, which brings me through more of the neighborhoods that seem so far removed in time and place from what I had just experienced.

Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” can be seen through glass where it is undergoing conservation at the Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The big attraction at the Rijksmuseum (I only have two hours before closing) is Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” painting (I hadn’t realized it is the size of an entire wall), and you get to see it as it is being conserved, behind a glass-enclosed studio.  A docent is there to answer questions about it.

Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” can be seen through glass where it is undergoing conservation at the Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the Rembrandthuis, I was told that this painting was one of the reasons that Rembrandt went bankrupt – the three benefactors who paid the most for the painting are not shown prominently, and they conveyed their discontent so that Rembrandt lost commissions. The docent disputes this and points out that was a decade between the painting and his bankruptcy.

Rembrandt’s famous “Night Watch” can be seen through glass where it is undergoing conservation at the Rijksmuseum © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By now, I have to get to my COVID19 test that I scheduled, so I get to discover more neighborhoods. As it turns out, the clinic is across the way from Amsterdam’s science museum, along the boulevard that would go to the Central Station. The process is extremely efficient (shortly after, the United States halted requiring COVID tests within 24 hours of entering the country.)

On the way back to Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam Hotel, I find myself walking through the Red Light District, jam-packed with people. Here you can also visit museums to Erotica, Prostitution, assorted peep shows and museums devoted to  Hash, Marijuana and Hemp . Even the public toilet is titillatingly called the “Sexy Loo.”

Here you find posters on the bridges warning of fines for peeing in the canal or taking alcohol out of the district, and as the evening grows later, more and more police presence.

Amsterdam’s Red Light District is legendary © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Amsterdam’s Red Light District is legendary © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Diamonds!

The next morning, before I have to get to the airport (and after enjoying a terrific breakfast at the Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam Hotel), I tour the Gassan Diamonds, a historic place which had great importance in the Jewish Quarter. 

Gassan Diamonds is housed in a diamond factory that was built in 1879 by the Boas brothers, and at the time was the largest diamond factory in Europe. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com 

Initially, Jews were not permitted into Amsterdam’s guilds, so the only occupations that were open to them were street trading (hence the giant flea market at Waterlooplein), financing, book printing and diamond cutting. In the 19th century many Jews worked in the flourishing diamond trade and industry.

Amsterdam has been famous for its diamonds since the 16th century, and after 400 years, the city is still regarded as a diamond trading center of the world. The popular brilliant-cut with 57 facets which was developed in Amsterdam is known as the “Amsterdam-cut”.

There are about a dozen diamond factories in Amsterdam left, five which offer guided tours.

Gassan Diamonds has played a pivotal role in Amsterdam’s diamond history, as well as in Jewish life in Amsterdam. The diamond factory was built in 1879 by the Boas brothers, and at the time was the largest diamond factory in Europe. It was shut down during World War II, and resurrected by Samuel Gassan, whose father actually worked there as a diamond cutter.

Samuel Gassan stayed in Switzerland until the end of the war, became a captain in the British Army. Working in the repatriation service, he helped children of diamond workers who had lost their parents and who had been held captive in Bergen-Belsen, return to the Netherlands.

In October 1945, having returned to Amsterdam, Samuel, now 35, opened his own diamond trading company, Firma Gassan, in the Diamond Exchange on the Wesperplein. He traveled all over Europe selling his diamonds. Five years later he owned his own diamond cutting factory on the Zwanenburgerstraat.

You can sign up for a free tour of Gassan Diamonds to see diamond polishers at work © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the tour, we get to see the diamond polishers at their craft, while a guide explains how they turn rough diamonds into dazzling brilliants. And Gassan has taken the “Amsterdam cut” to a new level, patenting the technique of the Gassan 121 diamond – a diamond cut with 121 facets to dazzling effect.

I am taken into a room where, even though it is Sunday morning, there are a couple of people polishing diamonds. My guide explains the three-step process: cutting (phosphorous blade, rotates 6400/min,  coated with olive oil and diamond dust because only a diamond can cut diamond; shaping and elevating sharp edges (not sparkling yet); and third, polishing with olive oil and diamond dust to make facet. Facets are what make the diamond clear and sparkling.

It takes 3 to 4 working days to prepare one diamond.

A brilliant cut has 57 facets (33 on top, 24 on bottom), which originated in Amsterdam and is known as the “Amsterdam cut.” But, she explains, Gassan (pioneered and patented) a 121-facet diamond with exponentially more refraction (no one else can sell 121 facets)

Luna, diamond polisher for three years, is able to work on half-carat diamonds as she works up to becoming a master. It takes 3-4 days to finish a diamond, but you can order one, have it set and have it within 30-60 minutes of your visit to Gassan Diamonds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Luna, who I watch polishing a diamond, has had 3 years experience (it takes two years to learn basics, 10-20 years to perfect, and by the time you are ready to retire, you are a master). A half carat is the biggest diamond she has worked on, she tells me.

All the rough diamonds that come to the Antwerp bourse must have a certificate that they are not conflict diamonds. Diamonds come from all over the world and are found everywhere but Australia, Canada, India, and China, she tells me.

This 1879 building is long and narrow because it was built before electricity, so the workers were dependent upon natural light, and used steam system (you can see the pipes).

Names of Jewish diamond workers etched with diamond in glass are preserved at Gassan Diamonds © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In a display case are old pieces of glass with names etched with diamond into it. “This was a Jewish neighborhood and a Jewish company,” she tells me. “A lot of Jews worked here. During World War II, most were killed, so we keep the glass with their names. Gassan’s own father was a diamond worker in the factory here. After the war, Samuel acquired the old factory.

My guide takes me into a small room to explains the different elements that go into the quality (and price) of a diamond – carats, colors, clarity, cuts and, of course, the ultimate Gassan 121- and fortunately, you can buy here at factory price (and get the 16% tax refunded at airport). ”You can choose a diamond today, choose setting and it will be ready within 30 to 60 minutes – ring, necklace, earrings.” You can also peruse the jewelry store, filled with luxury items.

Gassan also offers a VIP tour through the diamond factory and the in-house Rolex boutique which includes a glass of champagne, a goodie bag and the chance to chat with a certified Rolex watchmaker. Or you can take a seat behind the grinder yourself with the Diamond Polishing Experience, where you can apply the final facets to your own diamond! 

Gassan Diamonds, Nieuwe Uilenburgerstraat 173-175, www.gassan.com/en/tours/gassan-historical-tour

I time it so I get back to the Sofitel Legend Grand Amsterdam hotel so I can take the tour of this fascinating place that played such an important role in Holland’s history, and still have time for one last walk through the historic district to Amsterdam’s Central Station. It’s a hop-skip-jump on the train to Schiphol Airport (2nd class ticket does just fine), all of about 15 minutes ride.

Amsterdam’s Central Station. It’s just about 15-20 minutes and very inexpensive ticket to get to Schiphol Airport on the train © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Pre-purchase the I AmsterdamCity Card, which provides access to the city’s major highlights and more than 70 museums, city-wide public transport, a canal cruise and bicycle rental. You also get discounts at restaurants, attractions and concerts. https://www.iamsterdam.com/en/i-am/i-amsterdam-city-card iamsterdam.com.

Plan your visit at www.iamsterdam.com/en.

See also:

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam: Historic Hotel that Played Major Role in History

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling in the Jewish Quarter

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling Through Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter

__________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling in the Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Museum shows how the community lived for 350 years in Amsterdam with very vivid and detailed personal stories that still resonate today © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I have cleverly arranged an extra day in Amsterdam after the eight-day BoatBikeTours Bruges-to Amsterdam bike trip, and I can’t afford to miss a minute. So after checking into my five-star luxury historic hotel, Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam Hotel, marveling at my room (actually a suite), and having the concierge help purchase a timed ticket to the Rijksmuseum, I immediately set out.

In fact, I realize too late that it was necessary to pre-purchase timed tickets to major sites in Amsterdam – Anne Frank House is booked (you have to purchase weeks in advance). So I set out myself to see as much as I could – and in the course of the day, wind up exploring on foot just about all Amsterdam’s historic district neighborhoods. And since I can’t get into the Anne Frank House, I head to the Jewish Quarter (the Anne Frank House is not actually in the Jewish Quarter), which proves a wonderful and satisfying adventure in many ways.

Rembrandt van Rijn’s was doing well when he bought this townhouse, which may surprise people to learn is on a street that used to be in the center of Jewish life in Amsterdam © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

My first stop is most remarkable: The Rembrandt House. This is Rembrandt van Rijn’s actual townhouse, which may surprise people to learn is on a street that used to be in the center of Jewish life in Amsterdam. Although Rembrandt was not Jewish, his paintings often reflect his life among the Jews in the city – scenes from the Old Testament and many portraits of the Jewish people who lived around him. But what is most remarkable are the insights into this master’s life and work and even his creative process as you go around the house, essentially restored and furnished in the way it was, when he lived here. The Rembrandthuis presents Rembrandt’s life, his epoch, an interesting collection of paintings by his contemporaries and his prints.

Rembrandt captured scenes of neighborhood life. His townhouse was in the Jewish Quarter © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rembrandt was doing well when he bought this townhouse, but when his fortunes turned and the house was sold, his possessions were inventoried – the museum recreates the house from that inventory as well as Rembrandt’s drawings, so they knew what was in specific rooms; the audio tour notes the objects (and you can get even more detail on many of the objects). 

It is utterly fascinating to be in this space – his bedroom, his printing room (where you can lift leather coverings and see original etchings), his studio, his salon (actually a sales room). I learned that Rembrandt was an art dealer, and would have entertained clients in this parlor where there are a number of paintings on the wall as there would have been.

Rembrandt’s salon where he would have entertained art clients. As an art dealer, he sold works by his pupils, Flemish and Italian artists and Dutch masters © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rembrandt “would receive his clients with a glass of chilled wine from a marble wine cooler. On the walls hung dozens of paintings from which the client could choose. Rembrandt sold his own works and works by his many pupils. He also dealt in paintings by other masters. This was common practice among artists at this time. Rembrandt had Flemish and Italian works in stock, but most of the paintings were by Dutch masters.”

You walk through with your own audio device which gives a really excellent tour (allocate at least an hour), and notes the personal aspects, and you can point the sensor to a number and hear more details, like about the painting of an old man with bears, which was by one of his students).

Rembrandt’s bed chamber. Rembrandt House recreates how he would have lived based on an inventory and his paintings © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“We know from paintings his wife was lying on the bed – she died at 29 giving birth to their son.”

As a display of Rembrandt’s affluence, his townhouse had a stove, which was an innovation of the time © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the kitchen, we see a stove which would have been an innovation in his day.

Rembrandt was “a ground-breaking etcher” as we see in the printing room at Rembrandt House © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rembrandt was ‘a ground-breaking etcher” and my favorite room is his print shop where we can see original etchings (they are put under leather covers in a darkened room to best preserve them, and are rotated every three months ). It is absolutely thrilling to see.

Rembrandt was “a ground-breaking etcher” as we see in the printing room at Rembrandt House © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We go into a studio where Rembrandt taught art students – you could have been a Rembrandt pupil for 50 guilders a month (he had 40 students). “They would already have had a basis in art.”  

Visit Rembrandt’s studio at the Rembrandt House © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rembrandt had two mistresses after his wife, Saskia van Uylenburgh, died at the age of 29, giving birth to their son.

Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait with Saskia,” his wife © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The first was his housekeeper and nanny to his son and they developed an intimate relationship. She wanted to marry; Rembrandt couldn’t because under the terms of his (wealthier, noble) wife’s will, his inheritance would have reverted to her other relatives. So when he couldn’t marry, she sued him for a very large amount of alimony. He had her committed to a madhouse for five years.

Then he met Hendrickje Stoffels, very much younger than Rembrandt. They had a loving relationship, had children, and were together for 15 years until she died at the age of 38.

Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Rembrandt had 16 children but only three  – a son and two daughters – survived to adulthood. His son became an art dealer, and after Rembrandt’s bankruptcy, rented a house for himself and father and his mistress, Hendrickje Stoffels. His son died one year before Rembrandt.

I ask how Rembrandt went bankrupt. “He spent too much. Also, ‘Nightwatch’ – the three people who paid the most for the painting were not well represented in the painting; it went around that Rembrandt wasn’t a good portrait painter and he lost commissions (100G, equivalent to yearly salary). With commissions down, he went bankrupt.” [Later, I get to ask the docent at the Rijksmuseum when I visit “Nightwatch” who disputes this account.]

The Rembrandt House museum has a broad collection of Rembrandt’s works, but only a small portion is on view at any one time (they rotate to preserve the art).

Small Studio, which Rembrandt used as a workplace for his students. There were partitions bere four to five pupils could work with good light © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In the modern building that is attached, there are exhibitions of modern artists reinterpreting Rembrandt’s concept of painting people as they are, not idealized. (I don’t care for them at all).

I realize that though I so admired Rembrandt, I actually knew very little about who he was. You come away seeing, understanding Rembrandt in such a different light as you tour his house.

Rembrandt House, Jodenbreestraat 4, 1011 NK Amsterdam, +31 (0)20 520 0400, [email protected], www.rembrandthuis.nl/en/.

It’s Saturday and just near the Rembrandthuis there is a regular – and massive – Waterlooplein (Waterloo square) flea market, started ages ago by Jewish peddlers (one of the few occupations allowed to Jews) and today is the largest flea market in Amsterdam. It’s definitely fun to visit (www.amsterdam.info/markets/waterlooplein/)

Waterlooplein flea market, started ages ago by Jewish peddlers (one of the few occupations allowed to Jews) is the largest flea market in Amsterdam today © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even this early in the tourist season, Amsterdam seems pretty crowded with visitor s (especially in the Red Light District), but I set out to explore more of the historic Jewish Quarter where I find myself on a sort of hunt to locate sites. It seems more the “real Amsterdam” – less impacted by tourists – where I can time travel.

Peering Back at 350 Years in the Jewish Quarter

The Jodenbuurt (Jewish Quarter) was inhabited by the Jewish community for 350 years, from the late 16th century up to the Holocaust.

Jewish people, culture and religion became an important element of life in Amsterdam from the early 1600s. Several countries in Europe guided by the Catholic Church, starting from the 13th C, had laws aimed at expelling Jews. During the counter-reformation in the 16th C, persecutions of Jews increased. While subject to many restrictions, Jews were permitted to settle in Amsterdam and peacefully observe their religion.

In 1593, a century after the Spanish Inquisition, Sephardic Jews from Portugal and Spain settled in this neighborhood of Amsterdam. In the course of the 17th century Ashkenazi Jews from Central, Eastern, and parts of Western Europe also moved into the district. By 1602, the Jews started to build their first synagogues. And in the centuries that followed, many more synagogues opened.

The absolutely best place to start my odyssey is the Jewish Museum (previously known as the Jewish Historical Museum) 

The Jewish Museum is the only museum in the Netherlands that focuses on Jewish history, religion and culture. The museum is set in a group of four 17th and 18th century Ashkenazi synagogues at the heart of the former Jewish quarter in the centre of Amsterdam. The permanent exhibition follows several themes: the role of religion and tradition, the links with Israel, the persecution of Jews during the Second World War, personal life stories and the mutual influence of Jewish and Dutch culture.

The main part of the museum is housed in the stunning Great Synagogue, the Ashkenazi “Gathering Place” that dates from 1671. The exhibits here are enlightening and inspiring.

Jewish Museum is more focused on the 350-year long history of Jews in Amsterdam. it’s about their migration and integration into Holland, though the period from 1900 to present is also on display in a very moving way, how they integrated into Dutch society, and how they thrived and contributed to the community when restrictions were lifted.

It’s a museum of stories and surprises – it’s uncanny how much personal information they have to connect with the portraits and personal effects on view – so much more meaningful than looking at paintings and artifacts. I especially loved seeing these gorgeous portraits of Jewish Amsterdamers from the 17th and 18th centuries, – how they looked like any other Amsterdamer of the time, a testament to how secular and assimilated people can come when they are free to interact in the broader society.

Some of Rembrandt’s etchings of his Jewish neighbors are on display at the Jewish Museum with amazing personal detail © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Here you see Rembrandt etchings of his Jewish neighbors but with canny personal detail. So attached to Rembrandt’s etching of a distinguished looking man, we learn, “This is the Sephardi doctor Ephraim Bueno (1599-1665). When he was a child, he and his parents fled Portugal to Bordeaux where studied medicine, then later settled in Amsterdam. Father and son gained a good reputation as doctors, both in Jewish and non-Jewish circles. Ephraim Bueno lived near Rembrandt, who etched his likeness.”

“This is the Sephardi doctor Ephraim Bueno (1599-1665). When he was a child, he and his parents fled Portugal to Bordeaux where studied medicine, then later settled in Amsterdam. Father and son gained a good reputation as doctors, both in Jewish and non-Jewish circles. Ephraim Bueno lived near Rembrandt, who etched his likeness.”

Amsterdam, a legendarily liberal city for sex, drugs (as today), was also comparatively liberal for Jews back in the day. William of Orange fought a revolution for religious freedom from Catholic Spain. Jews won comparative emancipation in the Netherlands in 1796.

The combination of economic success and a relatively tolerant religious environment – unusual in Europe – made Amsterdam attractive to foreigners.

Portuguese “New Christians” – descendents from the Jews from Spain and Portugal who were forced to convert but practiced secretly – found that here in Amsterdam, Jews could practice without having to wear distinguishing marks or live in ghetto. We meet several (in portraits) who took up again their Jewish lives once they settled in Amsterdam.

“Sephardi nobility: Antonio Lopes Suasso was one of the Republic’s richest merchants. He was born in Bordeaux and, as a son of New Christians, was baptized a roman Catholic. He moved to Amsterdam in 1654, where he began to live as a Jew. He continued trading with various countries, including with Catholic Spain, and provided important financial services to the Spanish king, Charles II. After the king elevated him to the nobility in 1676, Antonio was awarded the title Baron d’Avernas-le-Gras (c. 1700)”

Amsterdam at the start of 18th C developed into the biggest, most important Jewish city in world. No other city had the synagogues of the size and majesty of the Great Synagogue and Portuguese Synagogue (the largest synagogue in the world) – which served as a symbol of liberation enjoyed by Jews here.

“Two historical synagogues: the Majestic Askenazi Great Synagogue (left) and the Portuguese Synagogue were consecrated in 1671 and 1675 respectively. The two buildings symbolized the permanent establishment of the Jewish communities in Amsterdam. Gerrit Berckheyde (1638-1698), c. 1675-1680.

You walk through to another building, also a former synagogue, where the exhibit basically tells the “modern” story of Jews here, from 1900 to the present, and especially, the horrifying history of what happened to real people before, during and after the Holocaust.

When Nazi Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, there were 80,000 Jews living in Amsterdam (- approximately 10% of the city population. Throughout the years of German occupation not many survived. Almost all were deported and exterminated in Nazi concentration camps.

When the Nazis came, Jews tried to hide in basements, attics, secret rooms. Anne Frank is best known because of her diary.

Some 25,000 Jews went into hiding, of whom 18,000 survived, the rest were discovered or betrayed. ”Those in hiding often received help from non-Jewish acquaintances. Later on, resistance organizations set up a system: besides hiding places, they supplied ration cards and forged identity papers and arranged means of transport.

Sign: ‘Voor joden verboden’: Almost immediately after the Germans occupied the Netherlands in May 1940, they began taking anti-Jewish measures. Their goal was to isolate the Jewish population. In January 1941, all Jews were required to register. The first razzias (raids) took place soon after and were intended to instill fear. Other measures followed in rapid succession: Jews were barred from many occupations; they had to turn over their savings; Jewish children could no longer attend state schools; Jews were not allowed to make telephone calls, visit non-Jews, drive cars… From 15 September 1941, Jews could no longer enter parks, zoos, cafes, restaurants, hotels, theatres and museums. Signs reading ‘Voor joden verboden’ (No Jews allowed) appeared all over the country., This one was posted in the Haagse Bos, a park in the Hague.” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hiding places ranged from back rooms and converted cupboards to sheds and ditches and carefully concealed holes in the ground. Jewish children were sometimes given new identities and assimilated into non-Jewish foster families.” Some were successful, most found out, betrayed, or gave up. On average, Jews in hiding paid 100 guilders a month for protection.

Some 30,000 Dutch Jews out of 140,000 survived the war, most of them by going into hiding. After the war ended only 5,200 Jews returned to Amsterdam from the camps, and the life of the city changed forever.

“Their repatriation to the Netherlands was a laborious process and they met with a cold and bureaucratic reception in their home country. Jews who returned were… scarcely received any support in trying to rebuild their lives. Survivors often had nothing left – their relatives and friends had been murdered and their possessions stolen. The government declined to take any measures to address the specific problems of the Jewish population, arguing that they did not wish to discriminate as the German occupying forces had done…. There was little interest in or understanding for the plight of survivors among the Dutch population, which was coping with its own poverty and distress.”

The perspective you get at the Jewish Museum is unusual – to see how the community lived for 350 years in Amsterdam and then the aftermath holds lessons for today. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The perspective you get at the Jewish Museum is unusual – to see how the community lived for 350 years and then the aftermath holds lessons for today.

Today Jewish Amsterdam community numbers 20,000 persons, is well organized, has a rich religious and cultural life, nevertheless the old Jewish Amsterdam belongs to history.

The Jewish Museum also manages the Hollandsche Schouwburg, the Holocaust Memorial. The former theater was used during the Nazi occupation as a deportation center for Jews. Today it is a monument to the memory of those who died, with a special exhibition for school children. (It is being renovated with reopening expected beginning 2023). https://www.amsterdam.info/jewish/hollandsche_schouwburg/

At the Jewish Museum, I pick up a sheet describing a walking tour through the Jewish Cultural Quarter. I go off to follow much of the list. It is like a mystery tour, peeking back in time to people’s lives.

Jewish Museum, Nieuwe Amstelstraat 1, www.amsterdam.info/museums/jewish_historical_museum/. More information and to purchase tickets online, at www.jck.nl/en.

See also:

Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam: Historic Hotel that Played Major Role in History

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling in the Jewish Quarter

36 Hours in Amsterdam: Time-Traveling Through Amsterdam’s Jewish Quarter

__________________

© 2022 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com, www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin, and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures