Day 108 Montreal, Quebec: Back to 1860 - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

August 16, 2011

Day 108 Montreal, Quebec: Back to 1860

When the St. Lawrence Seaway was created (and opened in 1959) a number of villages were flooded out. Coincident with that buildings were saved (from flooding and otherwise) and moved to a site near Morrisburg. This became Upper Canada Village, which opened in 1961. A lot of thought went in to it and something of real quality was created:

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Upper Canada Village is set to replicate a village in 1860. It includes buildings such as a woolen mill, saw mill, flour mill, and cheese factory etc., as well as artisan shops like that of a printer, tinsmith, dressmaker, etc. There is also the "doctor's house", the leading family's house, a church, etc.

Each of the places where something was being produced (flour, lumber, cheese, bread, etc.) still produces those items, with production being done by people in period costumes. These people will explain what they are doing, and usually manage to stay in character. For example, if you ask the miller what they do with the flour, the answer should be that it goes to the village bakery (which is true, plus is shipped in barrels to England.

As we bicycled from West to East we ran into villages that were having or that recently had their centennials. The dates of course moved backwards as we moved eastward. Upper Canada Village gave me a useful benchmark for where technology and the settlement of the continent were at in Ontario in 1860, and allowed me to imagine what it might have been like in, say, Havre Montana in 1920, etc.

The main reason we love Upper Canada Village, though, is the sense of peace that you can get walking its streets. Here are no cars, not even Model T's. No engines, not even steam engines. Power for the mills comes from the mill pond, energy for cooking and heating comes from wood, transportation is by horse and cart. It is quiet. It is safe. And it is beautiful - with carefully replicated gardens and farm fields, plus the river nearby. You should see that our feeling on this accords well with our enthusiasm for cycling.

Here, we think, is one of the best shots to be found on this blog.

The mill pond
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And here are some others that portray the spirit of the place:

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The artisans are also interesting and worthwhile:

This gizmo grabs the oat stalks and pushes them across a sickle bar. The cut stalks end up in a bin that can be emptied at a spot where they can be threshed.
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I think these people in period costume were actually part of some program.
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Neat whiskers!
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Sabrina paid close attention to what the dressmaker was saying
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The dressmaker displays a plate that portrays the latest style in a dress you could have made up
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Dodie knows a lot about spinning and was impressed by this lady's explanations and work
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A back bedroom in the spinner's house. It looks spare for 2011 but great to a cyclist!
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The cabinet maker. The chairs will go into the village pub.
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Bags of flour in the mill.
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So why all this material about Upper Canada Village? When we passed through it on our way to Montreal, we merely stopped and peered through the gate. This was because we knew Sabrina wanted to go with us. Today we drove back west, which was freaky. Places like Cornwall and South Lancaster, the Fifth Wheel truck stop, etc. that we had pedaled so hard to reach now popped up again. It was a scary preview of our upcoming dreaded return journey to the coast.

However it was great now actually entering Upper Canada Village:

Dodie and Amelia in "Willard's Hotel"
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Steve takes over the baby holding as we wait for our hotel meals to come.
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This 1860's bike needs more gears and a place for the panniers. I guess some things in 2011 have merit!
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Tomorrow we will repack our stuff and cycle out of Montreal for Quebec City and back at dawn Thursday. It's been really great being here, but the next stage is waiting. There are crazy guy blogs written just about Montreal to Quebec one way, so our next planned route (out on the north shore and back via Sherbrooke) is not "totally" trivial. We are gearing up for it, and soon, we'll be outta here!

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