Facer Street European Festival 2018

Facer Street European Festival 2018

Today I had the opportunity to visit the area, during the annual Facer Street European Festival. It was a hot day, but my wife and I, with hats and sun screen, braved the temperature and ventured out to the historic community. We weren’t sure what to expect, as we had never been to this festival before. We were pleasantly surprised.

The festival was a mixture of Polish, Ukrainian and Italian heritage and this was reflected in the music, food and festivities that ran the length of Facer street. Everything from Pirogies to Pizza and Ice Cream to Sour Kraut Soup could be found. There was an abundance of good food that left an abundance of full stomachs and broad smiles.

There were two stages set up for various forms of entertainment. There were a couple of venues that were licensed for the sale of alcohol, The event was well attended even in the stifling heat, nothing can prevent a great party.

For my wife it was a little walk down memory lane, it had been quite some time since she had walked the streets that she had lived on as a little girl. She showed me the “swear” corner, the place at the corner of a church no less, where as a child she got into trouble by her mother for using less than savoury language. She is still not really sure how her mother found out about it though. We strolled past where she used to live and she pointed out where here friends used to live, and then passed her old school. She showed me how she and some of her friends used to walk to school. It was a little look back into her past.

A place like Facer Street is a community unto itself. Even thought it is part of a larger city, it is the parts that make the whole. It is the small places that contain the stories and creat the memories that make the reality of the place.

Night at the Museum – Books and Brews

My wife went out on a limb and purchased tickets for the Books and Brews Book Club event as a Father’s Day gift.  As it turns out it was a perfect gift as I like to read and drink beer. I had never been part of a book club before so I didn’t know what to expect, I have to say that I was very pleased with my first experience.

As the name of the event suggests it was a combination of  some beer, wine and light snacks provided by Mahtay Cafe and Lounge located here in St Catharines , and books that have a consistent theme. This was the first event of this type that was put on by the St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canal Center and from my limited knowledge of book clubs, this event  appeared to be a wonderful success.

The first reading selection for this club was a great book written by Joseph Boyden called the Three Day Road. It is a story of war, tragedy, and in the end some redemption. It is a story of diversity and of the hardships faced by indigenous peoples of Northern Ontario in the early part of the last century.  Mr. Boyden does an excellent job in drawing the reader into the lives of the main characters Xavier and Elijah  as they enlist and head off to the First World War to fight fight as warriors for King and country.

Our first meeting took place on July 19th 2016 and the chosen location for this meeting couldn’t have been better.   The setting for this meeting, of our freshly minted book club, was in the museums exhibit entitled “Doing Our Bit: WWI from St. Catharines to the Western Front”.  For me, discussing this book surrounded by artifacts of the era in which this story takes place served to reinforce the enormity of the conflict and the hardship the main characters had to face. I have to thank the Museum Curator Kathleen Powell for an informative curators tour of the exhibit  prior to our book discussion, accompanied with some wonderful tasting craft beers. The exhibit itself gives a good cross-section of what life was like for those Canadians that went off to fight an empires war. If you haven’t seen this exhibit yet I highly recommend that you do so.

I found, as I’m  sure most in attendance did, the question and answer discussion very insightful specifically with the answers that were given by participants. I found that discussing this book was for some, a window into a history they had never known or knew even existed. I am not speaking of the history of the war itself but of the treatment of indigenous peoples, while in the service of Canada.

I am looking forward to the two follow on meetings in August and September where we will be discussing Emancipation Day written by Wayne Grady and The Danger Tree written by David Macfarlan. I think a book club in the museum is a great idea and whoever came up with the idea should get a pat on the back for a job well done.

Foot steps into the Wind: what we are all about!

To me traveling, or a better term to use would be “the traveling spirit” is more than just about going to see different places. Having the spirit of a traveler or adventurer, is about many different things rolled into a single package.

Being an adventurer does not always mean that you have to climb the tallest mountain, or swim to the bottom of the deepest ocean. The spirit that I speak of can be found right outside your front door.

Foot Steps int the Wind is about fostering that adventurous spirit. It about traveling for sure, however it is also about history, good food, its about people, art and culture. Its about enjoying life, learning a thing or two and staying safe while doing so.

My vision of a traveler is someone that is well rounded and conscientious of how and where they are traveling. It is of a person that is knowledgeable, about the current facts of where they are going as well as the historical context and why that is important. Foot Steps into the Wind is about enriching and enjoying life.

Why is Understanding History Important?

One of my passions is history. I love reading about it and learning about it. I love those old dusty things that are taken for granted in the modern world. I am always drawn to the old stories, I love speaking with people who have a different experiences than my own.

One of the best things that a traveler can do to improve their trip, is to educate themselves on the place that they are going to. I think this is especially important if it is a place that they have never been to before. When traveling I think that it is important to be a conscientious traveler when it comes to understanding the place that you’re going to see. Looking at historical items prior to your trip will give you insights into why things are the way they are in the places that you are going to visit. It will help you understand local customs, attitudes and points of view on various topics that may be different from your own.  After all when we travel it is to experience the place, the people, the life and customs of the location we are going to.

I believe, just like people, places have a soul and a spirit that is hidden from view and only the adept and knowledgeable traveler will be able to see it. The soul of a place becomes bare when we look beneath the surface of what is presented to us. Also like people, places change over time, and the historical context of a place or thing can be lost to the point where it is no longer relevant. To me, because a place or thing is old, doesn’t mean it has less value, or that it has diminished. In fact to me it holds more value because some time in the past someone gave the place or thing value by creating it in the first place. I have the same opinion of historical events.

Another item that I think travelers should keep in mind is that not knowing your history, could make the difference between a great holiday and a really bad holiday. For example if you find people being rude to you and you’re not sure why that is, it may be your attitude or your ignorance of local laws and costumes. Laws and local customs usually arise from events or conditions that existed in the past. To not understand societal norms in the place you’re traveling to is, to me, very disrespectful.

So my little piece of advice for the day is, if you are going to travel to some far away location, do yourself a favor and do a little bit of reading into the history of the place you are going to. Go to your local library and crack a book or two.

 

Alone at a Table for Two

What I like the most about being someone that travels are the little stories and little things that pass through our lives that make things memorable. Places have the ability to mark us in ways that nothing else can, they leave their imprint upon our minds and more importantly our very soul.

On our last trip to Paris my wife and I had dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Our birthdays are only a day apart so we thought we would celebrate in style and have dinner in one of the most Iconic places in the world. As we were enjoying our dinner my wife noticed a young lady around twenty five years old, sitting alone at a table for two. She was nicely attired in a brightly coloured sun dress. Her hair was nicely done, and the accents for her outfit were well thought out, and complimented her well. In short she was elegantly dressed for a warm April evening in Paris.

Her table was set, with two glasses of Champagne, white linens, shining silverware, and she was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a very busy restaurant.  The atmosphere was nice but somehow she seemed sad, and it was my wife that noticed why that might be.

Propped up on a little stand was her mobile phone and on it could be seen a photo. The photo was of an older man, he was smiling in a pleasant way. He had grey hair and looked like a pleasant fellow. We couldn’t help thinking that this little vignette that was playing out was the result of tragedy. That perhaps there was a plan that had not taken shape, or a promise that could not be kept. Perhaps she was saying goodbye, to a father or grandfather and marking the end of her grief. We could see that she had been crying a little, she held a linen napkin at the ready.

In a way we were eavesdropping on a moment in time, a private time in a very public place. It is a moment that now lives on the minds of others. The moment is now a part of the place, it will live on in the young woman’s mind as the place where she said good bye. Paris was created by moments like this, in one place there is happiness and at the very next table there is sadness. There isn’t a street or a cafe that does not have its own unique story to tell, a story that is sometimes hidden from view. However, all that is required to read the story is to take a closer look.

Names Etched in Stone

More than a couple of years ago I had the honour of going to a place that I consider to be sacred ground. I’m not sure how well known this place is in other countries, but for us Canadians it is a place that holds special significance. The place is now called the Canadian Vimy Ridge War Memorial. However 100 years ago it was called Hill 145. Some would argue that this is the place that Canada really became a country.

The opportunity to go to Vimy came up quit unexpectedly. it was a mater of 5 days from the time I received the call to having my butt parked on an aircraft bound for France.  I happened to have a passport already to go and the cash in hand so it was like the fates smiled upon me. I was amazed that I could get ten days off work on such short notice. The purpose for our visit to Europe was for my reserve Unit to take part in repatriations service for a pair of fallen comrades from the Second World War that had recently been recovered in Holland. While in Europe we were tasked with a number of parades and services. The Remembrance day service at Vimy on Remembrance Day was one of those tasks.

On the drive to the ridge the monument could be seen in the distance and it was a quite a site. The day was kind of cloudy, with sporadic drops of rain, however the temperature was climbing and I remember that I was surprised at the mild temperatures that we were experiencing considering it was early November.

Tomb of Unknown Soldier Vimy Ridge allrights reserved

Tomb of the unknown soldier Vimy Ridge

When we arrived, the first thing that struck me was the size of this grand and amazing structure. The second thing that struck me was the terrain and lay of the ground. The ground still bears the scars of that long ago conflict. The ground also still contains the dead from both sides, they are buried together under these rolling green hills.

We all formed up and conducted the service. The service was more poignant because just two months before to the day, the World Trade Center in New York had been destroyed by an act of war. We stood at attention while the piper and bugler played, remembering those that had gone on to fight before, while we thought about those that would soon be fighting in the war that came after. It was a very strange moment for me remembering those that gave their lives in a war that was meant to end war, and our nation was about to march off to war again.  Never in a million years did I ever think that I would be at Vimy Ridge on Remembrance Day, listening to last Post and a single Highland Piper play the lament. I would turn out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

After the service we were met by a guide that took us on a tour of the tunnels that run underneath the ridge. The tunnels that housed the 4 Canadian Divisions before they went into the line. It was amazing seeing the remnants of all of the left over items, tables, chairs and old damaged rifles.

There is an interpretive center at the ridge a short distance away from the monument itself. Small items like souvenirs can be purchased here, there is also the ability to read about the battle and how it was fought and by whom. I had an opportunity to walk around the monument on my own to read the names of those that had fought and died in this place so far from home. You cant help but think about who belonged to those names and what they may have done had they not gone off to war for King and country.

Vimy Ridge Memorial

Canadian First World War Vimy Ridge War Memorial

I spent some time just reading the names and running my hands over them, and standing before the tomb of the unknown soldier. To me it is a solemn place that has seen its share of sorrow, yet it has the ability to inspire thought and a feeling of pride. If you are Canadian and you ever have a chance to go see this place  strongly suggest that you go. You will be sad but your heart will also stir with pride, you will shed a tear for the fallen but you will also never forget them.  I do not believe that there is another place that I know of that has the ability to stir so many different emotions all at one time.