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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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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!

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.

 

Let’s Go Shopping!

Canada #39 Montréal

With fresh produce of all sorts in bountiful supply in Canada, it’s no surprise to find wonderful markets everywhere. While St Lawrence Market in Toronto has been declared the world’s best food market, Jean-Talon Market in Montréal lays claim to being one of North America’s largest open air food markets.

Located since 1933 in the Little Italy district of Montréal, this market is open all year round. In summer the stalls are filled to capacity by more than 300 vendors. Fresh seasonal produce sold by local farmers is complemented by delicious treats from bakers, butchers and fishmongers and stallholders selling cheeses, spices and international foods.

With such a wide selection shoppers take their time, sometimes seeming almost perplexed by the choices on offer.

There is even a book shop dedicated to recipe books; when the decisions are finally made, there’s a good chance of enjoying a delicious meal later in the day.

Competition can be fierce among the vendors and samples of food are on offer at most stalls. Visitors can easily eat their way around the market, tasting everything from freshly harvested berries to aged salami.

At one stall, the farmer is happy to discuss the difference in sweetness in his two varieties of corn and shares a piece of each, hot and steaming straight from the pot.

Along with all the food sellers there are stalls packed with cut flowers and potted plants.

Flowers of all varieties are ready to take home to decorate the table or the garden, while other plants offer more edible options.

Some even boast of their ability to repel unwanted visitors. Mosquitos, squirrels and cats beware!

With an abundance of wonderful food at Jean-Talon Market, there’s no need to leave hungry.

 

Join Jo for Monday Walks

Behind the Walls

Canada #38 Montréal

What was behind those high white walls on Rue Saint-Catherine? With no signs to indicate what was inside and more people entering than leaving, we were curious to find out what the walls were hiding.

A few steps inside revealed a diverse display of art works in a unique minimalist setting. Galerie Blanc is an outdoor exhibition space, free and accessible all year round and open both day and night. The exhibition we saw included traditional paintings and sculpture, pop art and intriguing digital designs.

By day, the collection was wonderful. When we returned after dark the illuminated artwork glowed with an added vibrancy.

The characters in the old masters looked ready to walk out of their settings and the modern geometric patterns had an almost kaleidoscopic feel.

The detail in some works demanded close attention while others were better viewed from a distance.

On a warm summer evening and with the gallery open to the night sky we lingered inside the walls. Like the other visitors, we wanted to take our time at this wonderful exhibition.

Seeing Double

Canada #37 Montréal

As we walked through the centre of Montréal on our first afternoon, we met a small green creature with a very broad smile. He was everywhere, on flags and banners, street corners and pedestals. Who was this cute little guy?

We’d arrived in Montréal in time for the last weekend of the annual Just for laughs Festival and our new green friend was Victor, the festival mascot.

We wandered through the Quartier des spectacles where comedians, acrobats, magicians and musicians, surrounded by appreciative audiences, caught our attention.

Later we joined the crowd on Rue St Catherine for the 21st annual Twin Parade. The theme of the parade was A Voyage through Space and we were soon seeing double, with pairs of aliens, astronauts and outer space creatures filling the street.

The parade wasn’t limited to twins. Triplets and even quadruplets were there, and age was no barrier as little ones joined much older participants, all wearing elaborate space age costumes.

With this as our introduction to Montréal, we knew we were going to have a lot of fun.

A Day of Learning

Canada #34 Musée huron-wendat, Wendake

After exploring the banks of the Akiawenrahk River and wandering through the First Nations reserve of Wendake, we were curious about the history of the Huron-Wendat Nation. The Musée huron-wendat was the perfect place for us to learn about this matriarchal society.

The museum, opened in 2008, showcases the history and culture of the Huron-Wendat people. Exhibitions of indigenous arts and crafts, beautifully decorated with beads and feathers, tell stories of the ancestors. Clothing and jewellery, household items and hunting tools explain traditional ways of life. They are displayed with photographs and explanations in the words of the people who made and used them.

The Ekionkiestha’ longhouse, where as many as 60 people from one clan would have lived, stands behind a tall protective palisade. The longhouse is made from white birch and alder trees; the lengths of timber and wide strips of bark would all have been gathered when the site was first cleared.

While the men were builders, hunters and fishers, the women of the clan tended abundant gardens, providing up to 80% of their food supply.

The garden beds surrounding the longhouse were filled with crops. The “Three Sisters” combination of corn, beans and squash grew together, companion planting at its best. The corn stalks provided support for the climbing beans, the beans renewed nitrogen in the soil and the large leaves of the squash plants shaded the soil, keeping weeds to a minimum. Jerusalem artichokes and sunflowers also flourished in the garden.

Inside the longhouse it was cool and dim, with light only entering through the narrow doorway. Platform beds lined the walls, furs piled high ready for sleeping. Cooking fires glowed as tendrils of smoke drifted up to the high domed roof.

Standing in the longhouse, it was easy to imagine families gathering together at the end of the day, children playing while the evening meal was prepared. The Musée huron-wendat brought the culture of the Huron-Wendat Nation to life for us in a way that reading never could.