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TRAVEL SLEUTH - GO FOR THE HISTORY
 
(2015 - Spring/Summer Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



Our craving to see and know more of the world is often linked to our longing to learn more about its history. Our getaways, after all, are golden opportunities to see and touch the past, to walk on sacred ground, to study museum treasures, and to ask questions in destinations brimming with age-old stories to tell. There is no shortage of human-history sagas in Canada and the United States.

New York City, New York

You’ve been to Broadway, shopped Madison Avenue, taken in the view from the top of the Empire State Building, marvelled at architecture, strolled Central Park, and dined at legendary Big Apple eateries. Now it’s time to discover the real Manhattan. Before your next visit, delve into Edward Rutherfurd’s historical fiction, New York, a four-century romance about those who shaped this iconic city, starting with the lives of the 17th-century Dutch families intertwined with indigenous peoples, British, Jewish refugees, Africans, Irish, Germans, Italians, Latin Americans, and more. Then return to the Big Apple and uncover this history yourself. While modern-day Manhattan has grown over many remnants of the past, the founding neighbourhoods are still stirring if you know what to look for: the old Dutch fort foundations at the southernmost tip where a bikeway now runs up the Hudson River; the cold beer in Fraunces Tavern, the city’s oldest building (1719) where George Washington directed the revolution; the Five Points neighbourhood, once a notorious slum and now at the heart of Chinatown and Little Italy; the greenery of Greenwich Village; the upscale Gramercy Park; the long walk along the Upper East Side of Central Park through the hip-hop haven, El Barrio, and north into Harlem at 125th; the stroll back south along the Upper West Side with a stop at 72nd and Strawberry Fields, the pretty parkette tribute to music legend, John Lennon.  True discovery of New York City takes a lifetime of visits. nycgo.com   

The Rideau Canal,Ontario

Pleasure boating is an apt way to describe the adventure of being able to navigate the 202-kilometre waterway from Ottawa to Kingston. Even if you’re not such an ambitious boater, it is fascinating to spend time on the Rideau Canal where 45 locks were engineered almost 200 years ago to lift or lower vessels on the steep inclines. The system links the natural waterways of the region with 19 kilometres of a man-made canal in which a thousand workers died on the job from illnesses such as malaria. The incentive was for military purposes in 1826 (which included possible war with the United States) but that subsided and instead the canal played a key role in building the economy of a future Canada. Today, many locks are still hand-operated and boat tours are available in the ports of Ottawa, Kingston and Merrickville. ontariotravel.net    

The Mississippi River

Picture the 17th-century missionary Jacques Marquette with navigator Louis Jolliet as they paddled westward on the St. Lawrence River in search of a fabled waterway. It was reputed to run southbound along the entire spine of the continent and into the Gulf of Mexico. In combination with the Great Lakes and portaging, these navigators did indeed find the rolling river with the help of a friendly Sioux band, but couldn’t complete the entire journey due to an ambush by rival tribes. Today, French place names still dot the entire shoreline of the Mississippi River, as do numerous ports named for Spain, which controlled it all by 1762. Who knew the Mississippi River is the main watershed for 31 American states plus two Canadian provinces? Experience the tranquility yourself, perhaps aboard a luxurious antebellum-style paddlewheeler (the American Queen Steamboat Company) or on other specialized vessels such as American Cruise Lines and Avalon Waterways Cruises, which are adapted to the river’s currents and serpentine shape. Steamboating in the 19th century was a formidable driver of the frontier economy, much of which was chronicled by Captain Samuel Longhorne Clemens, who adapted a river measurement term for his penname, Mark Twain. experiencemississippiriver.com

Droulers-Tsiionhiakwatha, Québec

Due to the authenticity of so many lifestyle items unearthed in this 15th-century Iroquois village, you are actually encouraged to sleep over. Located in what is now the municipality of Saint-Anicet (about 70 kilometres west of Montréal), the village of Tsiionhiakwatha is identified by historians as “the largest paleohistorical site discovered to date in Québec.”After a local farmer, François Droulers, reported strange-looking mounds a few decades ago, archaeologists found more than 150,000 artifacts belonging to an estimated 500 members of the Saint Lawrence Iroquois band. Today, their fascinating culture is shared with us through the insights of amiable guides. They teach flint knapping, campfire building and pottery making. Activities include watching lacrosse or bow-and-arrow matches. And if you sign up for it, you can sleep over (on cots) inside the central longhouse. A cosy sleeping bag and your own pillow are recommended. sitedroulers.ca

 
 
 
 
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