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Outback History

Western Queensland Road Trip #7 Charleville

The small town of Charleville, established when the first hotel was built in 1865, now has a population of around 3,500 people. Despite its isolated location in outback Queensland, Charleville has a rich history full of intriguing personalities and interesting places.

The building now known as the Charleville Historic House Museum has stood on Alfred Street since 1887. Originally the town’s first bank, it was also a boarding house before being purchased by the local Historical Society in the 1970s.

In the main room, the vault once used by the bank to store money now holds precious documents and records. The museum is full to the brim with dozens of items once used in everyday life, while outside is a collection of vehicles and machines from bygone times.

Two more relics of the past stand proudly at the Graham Andrews Parklands on the Mitchell Highway.

The Steiger Vortex Guns are two of six built in 1902 in Brisbane on the orders of the Government Meteorologist Clement Wragge. He’d heard about the guns being used in Austria to prevent hailstorms in wine growing areas. By firing ammunition into clouds, storms were dispersed. Vibrations in the clouds also caused rain to fall and Clement hoped similar guns might be used to break a long running drought in outback Queensland. He brought his guns to Charleville and, on 26 September 1902, ten shots from each cannon were fired into the sky. Sadly the experiment was a failure – no rain fell in Charleville that day.

The Charleville base of the Royal Flying Doctor Service is located further along the Mitchell Highway at the airport. Founded by the Reverend John Flynn, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has provided medical care to those living in outback Australia since 1928.

At the Visitor Centre, videos explain the history of the service and dramatic recordings bring to life the first hand experiences of patients and their families. Displays of historic medical equipment and radio technology are compared with 21st century methods of health care in the outback.

The hangar used by the Royal Flying Doctor Service dates from 1943. It was built as part of the occupation of Charleville Airport by the United States 45th Air Base Group, 43rd Bombardment Group, 63rd and 65th Bomb Squadrons and the 8th Material Squadron during the Second World War. From 1942 to 1943 more than 3,500 US servicemen lived at the top secret site, which was used to store and maintain American B-17 Bombers. Most of the structures built to cater for the servicemen are long gone, but the foundations of mess halls and shower blocks remain as evidence of the war time activities in this remote posting.

Many of those American servicemen would have enjoyed themselves at the Saturday night dances at the Hotel Corones. Built by Greek migrant Harry Corones in the 1920s, the hotel was famous for its luxurious interiors – marble floors, beautiful furniture and a grand staircase leading to the first floor where the accommodation included ensuite bathrooms, a rare luxury otherwise not seen outside of Brisbane.

An afternoon tour of the hotel tells the story of Harry’s rise from penniless immigrant to successful business man and visionary. Visitors can order a drink at the bar, once the biggest in the southern hemisphere, and climb the silky oak staircase to the rooms where dignitaries including Princess Alexandra, performer Gracie Fields and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam have stayed. The tour ends in the dining room with an afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream.

A stroll along the Wadyanana Pathway on the banks of the Warrego River soon works off that delicious afternoon tea. Charleville is located on traditional Bidjara lands and the pathway, designed by local Bidjara residents, tells the story of Mundagudda, the Rainbow Serpent.

It’s also a timely reminder that this land was occupied long before that first hotel was built in 1865.

Join Jo for Monday Walks

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Staring Into Space

Western Queensland Road Trip #6 Charleville

Have you ever stared into the night sky and wondered what’s out there, or imagined what life would be like as an astronaut? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more at the Charleville Cosmos Centre and Observatory.

Charleville is more than 750 km from the coast and, with a population of less than 3,500 and very little light pollution, it’s the perfect site for a space observatory. Appropriately located on Milky Way Road, the Cosmos Centre comprises an indoor exhibition and café and an outdoor observatory, where telescopes operate during the day and at night.

Enter the Cosmos shuttle and you are instantly transported to the world of an astronaut, where eating, drinking and even using the bathroom are challenges in a weightless environment. Videos show footage of astronauts working in space, from the first moon landing to recent residents of the International Space Station.

During an astronomy talk, a Cosmos guide passes round pieces of a billion year old meteorite and explains how space junk falls back to Earth after passing through its atmosphere.

Quirky facts make the idea of living in outer space seem very attractive.

At the outdoor observatory a daytime visit starts with a talk about the sun, detailing fascinating facts about its small stature compared with more distant stars, its composition and life span.

The sliding roof of the observatory is pushed back just enough to give the solar telescope a clear view of the sun. It appears in the telescope’s eyepiece as a huge red ball, and what look like fine red hairs sticking out from the edge are massive solar flares. A tiny black dot in the middle is a sunspot ten times larger than Earth.

For more amazing celestial views, return to the Cosmos Centre after dark for an evening presentation. Guides with a passion for astronomy lead you on a journey through the Milky Way and beyond, using large Meade telescopes to see distant diamond star clusters and planets. Any constellations visible above the horizon are identified and described.

While the thought of stars being many light years distant is hard to comprehend, our nearest neighbour the Moon seems relatively close. Viewed through one of the powerful telescopes, the detail on the Moon’s surface is so clear you can almost imagine yourself as one of those astronauts you’ve learned about earlier in the day.

After spending a few hours at the Cosmos Centre, a visit to the International Space Station might well be added to your bucket list.

 

Canada’s Best

Canada #45

“What was the best thing about your trip?”

We’re often asked this question when we return from a holiday and it’s always difficult to give just one answer. After five weeks in Canada, here are the things we loved best.

The Best Party 

The Best Airbnb View

Vancouver, from our 21st floor apartment – by day,

at night,

and early in the morning as the cruise ships arrived at Canada Place.

The Best Water View

Pitt River

The Best Mountain Views

Sky Pilot and Co-Pilot, Coast Ranges, Squamish BC

Fitzsimmons Range, Whistler BC

The Best Wildlife Encounters

chipmunk, Whistler BC

raccoon family, Mount Royal, Montréal QC

and the squirrels, who were everywhere!

The Best Food

20 flavours of hot chocolate, enormous ice cream sundaes, chocolate pizza! Even the ceiling was all about chocolate at Chocolato, Montréal QC

The Best Garden

Jardins Gamelin, Place Émilie-Gamelin, Montréal QC

a free community garden with a cafe, space for games, music and family activities

and several themed gardens, educational for both adults and children

The Best Adventures

For me, a birthday trip to Niagara Falls

For Glen, EdgeWalk – 356 metres above the ground at CN Tower, Toronto ON

So many wonderful experiences in a truly amazing country. Canada, we’ll be back!

A Loo With a View – The Canadian Edition

Canada #44

Canadian loos have wonderful views

of mountains, sea and sky.

Coast to coast, from west to east,

these views will satisfy!

~

In summer at Butchart Gardens

where flowers are celebrated,

they are blooming everywhere –

even the loos are decorated!

Butchart Gardens, Vancouver Island, BC

~

A gentleman in his bathroom

could always sit and ponder

the view from his bathroom window

of the mountains over yonder.

Craigdorrach Castle, Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC

~

At beautiful Deep Cove

you’ll find this deluxe facility.

Pitt River is very scenic

but the toilets aren’t so pretty.

Deep Cove, BC

Pitt River, BC

~

Before you take a gondola ride

have a toilet stop.

There are no handy bathrooms

on the mountain top!

Sea to Sky Gondola, Squamish, BC

~

A toilet block amidst the trees –

its location is quite practical.

With running water everywhere,

you might need to be tactical.

Brandywine Falls, BC

~

Old buildings at the village

tell tales of long ago.

This outhouse has seen better days.

It’s only there for show.

Black Creek Pioneer Village, Toronto, ON

~

A long walk around the islands

might leave you feeling needy.

With a bathroom halfway round the track

you won’t have to be speedy.

Toronto Island Park, Toronto, ON

~

When the Blue Jays are in town

and you go to see the game,

learn about baseball history

in the Washroom Hall of Fame.

Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON

~

This pretty little restroom

is very well disguised.

It’s only when you walk around

that you can see the signs.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec City, QC

~

So when you visit Canada

and you need to use the loo,

it’s highly likely it will have

an amazing view!

 

Revisit other loos with fabulous views:

A Loo With a View – The Kevtoberfest Edition

A Loo With a View – The English Edition

A Loo With a View – The Cruise Edition

A Loo With a View – The Hawaiian Edition

or search #looswithviews

Two Buildings in One Day

Canada #43 Montréal

Two buildings – one we plan to visit, one we find by chance; one religious, the other administrative; both located in Old Montréal.

Notre-Dame Basilica, with its twin towers named Perseverance and Temperance, dominates Place d’Armes square. It’s only mid-morning but already there’s a noisy crowd outside, indicative of the 11 million people who visit every year.

Once inside, everyone is silenced by their surroundings, their gaze drawn upwards. The vaulted ceilings and sanctuary glow, richly ornamented in jewel colours and gold leaf.

Wooden carvings, paintings and statues fill every space. The stained glass windows portray people and events from Montréal’s religious history.

Not far away on Notre-Dame Street is Montréal City Hall.

Here there is no crowd. The doors are open and visitors are warmly welcomed. A free guided tour starts in the Hall of Honour where portraits of the city’s Mayors are proudly hung. In the Council Chambers, walnut panels line the walls and more stained glass windows depict scenes of Montréal.

Outside, on the sunny deck where staffers gather in their lunch break, there are raised garden beds. Meant to provide a relaxing pastime for council workers and also to encourage bees and insects, they’re overflowing with summer crops ready to be donated to food banks.

Two buildings – both designated National Historic Sites of Canada; both keepers of stories of the city and people they serve; both worth a visit.

Built on Faith

Canada #42 Montréal

By definition, an oratory is a small roadside chapel open to travellers for private worship. Brother André Bessette and his colleagues founded an oratory fitting this description on Mount Royal in Montréal in 1904. The chapel still stands today and the small rooms occupied by Brother André have been left as they were when he lived there as caretaker.

Nearby is a much larger building, also called an oratory and founded by Brother André. Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal is a Roman Catholic basilica and the largest church in Canada.

Brother André was well-known as a healer and, as stories of miraculous recovery spread, devotees flocked to his chapel. He attributed these miracles to Saint Joseph and a larger crypt church dedicated to the saint was completed in 1917.  Construction then began on the basilica in 1924 and it opened in 1967. Today Saint Joseph’s Oratory is visited each year by more than two million people.

After Brother André died in 1937 at the age of 91 the miracles continued. In 2010, he was formally canonised as Saint André of Montréal. A display in the entrance to the church depicts the story of his life of dedication, while his black marble tomb stands in the Votive Chapel where pilgrims and visitors may pay their respects.

Outside the basilica, the Garden of the Way of the Cross provides another opportunity for quiet contemplation. The 14 Stations of the Cross depicting the last day of Jesus Christ are represented by beautiful sculptures located throughout the garden.

While the oratory has become much more than that simple wayside chapel, its purpose as a peaceful place of worship remains the same.

 

Into the Blue

Canada #41 Montréal

A ferris wheel is always a fun way to get a different perspective on a city and La Grande Roue de Montréal is no exception. At a height of 60 metres it is the tallest observation wheel in Canada, with 360° views – on a clear day up to a distance of 28 kilometres.

Centrally located in the Old Port of Montréal on Bonsecours Basin, the wheel is perfectly positioned. On one side passengers see the mighty St Lawrence River flowing towards the Jacques-Cartier Bridge.

On the opposite side, they look down on playgrounds for both children and adults at Voiles en Voiles, a pirate themed high ropes course, and the Tyrolienne zipline, where adventurers soar over the calm waters of the basin.

The Bonsecours Market building, surrounded by the stately buildings of the old city, is distinguished by its tall silver dome. Beyond it, the city of Montréal is a seamless blend of old and modern architecture.

On a warm summer’s day, a ride on La Grande Roue is the perfect way to see the city of Montréal.

 

Joining in Becky’s Blue Squares in July