July 6 – Singer and Boldt Castles

We took a boat trip on the St. Lawrence Seaway through the Thousand Islands … actually; there are 1,864 islands in the river north of Lake Ontario.  There are three conditions to be classified as an island: (a) it must be at least 3’ x 3’ in size, (b) it must have at least one tree or bush growing on it and (c) it must remain above water 365 days a year.

We picked up our tour boat


a quaint, tourist town which booms in summer and is knee-deep in snow with few residents in the winter.

The nine mile trip “down” river … the St. Lawrence flows north from the Great Lakes … provided a great opportunity to observe some spectacular homes

Each appraised for tax purposes at no less than 10% if its fair market value


Mating Pair with Nestlings

lighthouses, large and small.

Several “go-fast” boats

and a pop-up camper on an island with no road access.

Our first stop was on Dark Island and Singer Castle.

Singer Castle is the only castle on the river to be completed, fully furnished and resided in during the heyday of the ‘great builders’ and industrialists in New York.

Boathouse with a slip 18′ by 125′ was built for the 100′ steam yacht. The boathouse also contains the original powerhouse with generator room, battery room, water and fire pumps and screw jacks to raise the yacht from the water for winter storage.

Mr. Frederick Gilbert Bourne

who became the 4th president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company at age 36, was a self-made millionaire wanted to surprise his wife Emma

and their children with an island ‘hunting’ retreat.  He purchased the 7 acre Dark Island and had designed and built the castle originally known as “The Towers” for a cost of $500,000.

He engaged Ernest Flagg, one of America’s leading architects, designed the Castle after inspiration from Sir Walter Scott’s 1832 novel about Woodstock Castle in Scotland.

Tons of granite quarried from nearby Oak Island were brought over ice and water in 1902-1904 to construct Singer Castle.  Italian stonecutters were engaged to shape the granite for the 4-story, 28-room castle, 4-story Tower, and an elaborate boathouse (one of three) which housed a workshop and powerhouse and one of Bourne’s steam-powered vessels, the tunnels, turrets and other curious architectural details including a 2-story ice house – essential for fine entertaining at the turn of the century, dungeons and underground passageways.  As a testament to their skill, none of the stones carved at the quarry needed to be reworked once they arrived on Dark Island.

Jutting up behind the southern boathouse stands the now 5-story Clock Tower with four 6′ diameter clock faces.  This functioning timepiece has Westminster Chimes that sound every 15 minutes.

Moreover, over 2,000 loads of topsoil were brought from Canada to cover the eight acres of rock.

“The Towers”, served as the perfect setting for entertaining Bourne’s contemporaries, personalities no less famous as Cornelius Vanderbilt and Vincent Astor.

If the outside was imposing, the interior was equally as impressive.   The interior furnishings include Italian hand-carved ornate tables and chairs, wrought-iron chandelier, brass lamps, oak cabinets, bronze work, lithographs, paintings.

Entrance Room with a Medieval Theme … Including several suits of armor

Formal Dining Room

Library with its walnut-paneled walls has a secret panel to the left of the fireplace connecting to passages inside the walls.  The room also contains many old and original books, including a second edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven”

Loggia (A place to which the ladies can retire while the men are in the Smoking Room) Room

Men’s Smoking Room with items important to Mr. Bourne’s life and interests

Including hunting trophies

Sun Room

Simple Master Suite

Master Bathroom

Addition of a  new Suite built by the Bourne’s DaughterAnd … dozens of secret passageways threading throughout the castle

Grates for spying on guests are built into the walls in many rooms.

There are many artifacts which were reflective of the late 19th and early 20th century lifestyles and preferences of the Bournes.

Phones throughout but for internal use only

As well as some very unique appliances:

Early electric light sauna

Combination Light and Horizontal Fan

Lastly, as a testament to the source of his vast wealth, there are dozens of Singer sewing machines throughout … many added after the deaths of the Bournes.

The Castle remained in the possession of the original Bourne family from its construction in 1905 until the mid-1960’s.

For a mere $750 per night, one can rent the “Royal Suite” plus $60/per person for up to 6 additional guests.  This gives them the privilege of not only staying overnight but also indulging in a catered dinner followed by a private tour of the castle, including rooms and passageways not open to the general public and a continental breakfast the following morning.  Sounds like a great time if you’ve some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket and don’t believe in ghosts!

Leaving Dark Island, we headed south toward our next stop, Boldt Castle on Heart Island.

At the turn-of-the-century, George C. Boldt, millionaire proprietor of the world famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, set out to build a full size Rhineland castle in Alexandria Bay, on picturesque Heart Island.  The grandiose structure was to be a display of his love for his wife, Louise.

Beginning in 1900, the Boldt family spent summers in the 1000 Islands at the nearby Boldt family’s Wellesley House while 300 workers including stonemasons, carpenters, and artists fashioned the 6-story, 120-room castle,

Reception AreaMain Hall from Second Floor

Staircase looking up from Main Hall

Domed Skylight over Main HallBilliard Room


Formal Dining Room

George Boldt’s Office


George Boldt’s Bedroom

Louise Bolt’s Bedroom

Clover (daughter) Boldt’s Bedroom

Clover’s Reception Room

complete with tunnels, a powerhouse, which was built to electrify the island.  It housed both gasoline and diesel fuel-fired steam generators.

An arched stone bridge connects the Powerhouse to the Island.

and the highest of its towers provided river traffic with illuminated clock faces and the music of chimes.

A Gazebo is currently a favorite wedding site.

Throughout, a heart motif can be found, right down to some of the door locks.

Italian gardens, including one specifically dedicated to Louise.

The Arch, modeled after Roman monuments, this water gate was to be the formal entry for launches.  It stones were cut and delivered for double rows of columns which would enclose a covered walkway extending from each side.

Alster tower (children’s playhouse), generally thought to be suggested by an old defense tower on the Alster River flowing through Hamburg, Germany.

and a Dove Cote, the first structure on the island built by the Boldts.  The stone tower was topped with a pigeon house where they collected fancy fowl.

Not a single detail or expense was spared.

Bourne was fond of fast automobiles and speed boats and like to travel at a very fast pace; he was once arrested for driving 25 mph in New York in his 1906 Mercedes!  He commissioned designs for a number of steam vessels, some of which can be seen at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton located just ½ mile across the water from the castle.

In January 1904, tragedy struck. Boldt telegraphed the island and commanded the workers to immediately “stop all construction.”  Louise had died suddenly.  A broken hearted Boldt could not imagine his dream castle without his beloved.   He never returned to the island, leaving behind the structure as a monument of his love.

For some 73 years the island and its spectacular structures remained vacant, left to the mercy of the wind, rain, snow, ice and vandals.

In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired ownership of Heart Island and has plowed millions of dollars into the rehabilitation of the facility … an endeavor which continues to the present.

Returning to our campground, we were greeted by hundreds of bothersome Mayflies (only about 1/16” to 1/8” in length)

which, while they silently buzz around you and seem to find endless ways into your RV, they do not bite and generally live for only a day or so.  Thus, in the morning, we’ll find their corpses in the window tracks, table and shower stall.

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July 5 – Grand Isle, VT to Henderson harbor, NY

Leaving Grand Isle, we opted to take the ferry across Lake Champlain to Plattsburgh.

Enroute, it gave us a chance to look back at the jetty where we’d had coffee each of the past three mornings  … watching the ferries … and from which we’d watched the fireworks each evening.Leaving the Ferry, we passed by the residence of one of New York City’s “finest” … David Berkowitz.

New York ‘s Clinton State Prison

Heading west, we decided on a route which would take us through the northern Adirondacks

where some of the were like roller coasters …

and then down. Leaving the mountains, in Malone, we picked-up Route 11 which we took all the way to Watertown, the snow capital of the US.  Along the way, we passed


Wind Farms

Oversize loads delivering more wind turbines

A surprisingly large number of sheep ranches

Houses badly in need to repainting

Old Barns

Decaying vehicles

The inevitable roadwork  (our record is still intact, having seen roadwork every day we’ve been on the road with our motor home)

A man either very forgetful or one who has come up with a novel way of taking his kitty litter home

And, in Philadelphia … New York that is … a replica of the Statue of Liberty

We finally arrived at our campground, an island in Lake Ontario … where we had yet another sunset (they’re still not boring).

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July 4 – Happy 236th Birthday America … Local – Storm – Fireworks

After several days of trying we found Hyde Log Cabin, only a few miles from our campground on Grand isle.  It is documented as one of the oldest log cabin homes in the nation.

Built (circa) 1783 by Jedediah Hyde, Jr., it consists of one room heated by a stone fireplace and has a loft above.  It served as a home for members of the Hyde family for more than 150 years.

Located on the same property (moved there in1954) stands the Grand Isle Schoolhouse #4, otherwise known as the Block School. It is a one room school built in 1814.

Note the arched ceiling

From there it was off to Wal-Mart … passing more bikers (with full packs in their saddle bags)and a small herd of Alpacas enroute.

After stopping as a state park on the water to eat the lunch we’d packed, we returned to our campground early afternoon.  We proceeded to “veg out”, read and watch many sailboats running with their colorful jibs or spinnakers running before the wind.

All in all, it was once again a rough afternoon which we had to endure!

However, the warm sunny weather took a turn for the worse around 5:30 PM when a storm, packing 60-70 mile an hour winds, lightening and torrential rains swept in from the north and directly across our campground.

The visibility a times was down to less than 50’and our motor home was buffeted as gusts of wind were unrelenting for more than one half hour.An hour after the storm departed we were again treated to a glorious sunset.

After dinner we watch PBS special on the nation’s birthday party in Washington DC … pretty cool!

While less spectacular, we stepped out of our motor home, walked 200’ down to the shore and watched another fireworks display from Plattsburgh, NY, just across the Lake.

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July 3 – Grand Isle – Northwestern Vermont

I did a little research on Lake Champlain today.  Occasionally referred to by locals as the “sixth” Great Lake, Lake Champlain was “discovered” by Samuel Champlain in 1609.  It is 125 miles long, by an average of 14 miles wide and has a maximum depth of ~400’.

Perhaps even more interesting, certain exposed formations on its most northerly island, Isle La Motte, indicate it is the earliest ancestor of the of today’s coral reefs … dating.  The Chazy Reef, formed during the Ordovician carbonate formation some 450 million years ago, contains fossils of long extinct plants and animals.

Driving north from our campground, Isle La Motte became our first major destination for the day.  Soon after arriving on the island, we stopped at Saint Anne’s Shrine

Outdoor Nave with covered but open Apse and Altar

15’, gold leafed statue of “Our Lady of Lourdes”

The Shrine is located on the site where it is claimed that Samuel de Champlain landed in 1609, an event memorialized by a majestic granite statue of Champlain and a native Indian.

In 1666, the French built a fort on the site.

While the story cannot be positively confirmed, there is good reason to believe that John Philip Sousa, after seeing a flag flapping in the breeze while visiting the Isle La Motte was inspired to write his most well-known march, “The Stars and Stripes Forever”.

We continued to circle the island and passed a 1954 Ford pick-up truck which had been repainted in colors Henry Ford could never have imagined.A short distance down the gravel road

we passed the Fisk Homestead

where Vice President Theodore Roosevelt was visiting when word reached him that President McKinley had been shot; days later elevating him to the presidency.

We saw any number of decaying, and overgrown houses …

and other than the tourist attraction of Saint Anne’s Shrine and a couple of B&Bs, it was hard to determine what, other than haying operations supports the local population.

We next headed north and then east through the small blue collar farming community

of Swanton where the most in interesting things were a rainbow series of mailboxes.

Fairfield was our next objective.  This is an even smaller and more remote farming community

where ice fishing houses sit in their owners’ fields hoping for a colder winter than in 2012.

However, the town’s claim to fame is that it is the birth place of our 21st president, Chester A. Arthur.

The parsonage the Arthur family moved into in 1830

Who, like Teddy Roosevelt and Vermont’s other native son who became president, Calvin Coolidge, was serving as the nation’s vice president when the sitting president died.

Our odyssey continued as we drove south along Vermont Route 118 where we visited nine historic covered bridges.

Longley (built 1863)

Fuller (built 1890)

Hopkins (built 1875)

Kissing Bridge

Montgomery Road


Comstock (built 1883)

Codding Hollow

Unnamed Bridge in Waterville, VT

Debbie bravely drove over all but one of these structures.Enroute back “home” we made a needed grocery run and still got back in time for wine, dinner and fireworks on the New York shore across the Lake from our campground.

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July 2 – Lake Champlain – Relaxing

After getting up, we took our coffee down to the water and sat until around 10:30 chatting with one of our campground neighbors, watching a mother duck and her brood swim by

and the auto ferries shuttling back and forth between Grand Isle and Plattsburgh, New York.

Totally exhausted form this mornings workout, we trudged the 200’ back to our RV site where I worked on editing some photos and updating our blog entries for the past several days while Debbie settled in with a good book.

After lunch, we ventured across the causeway

to Vermont proper and found a Shaw’s Supermarket  where  we replenished our stock of food and wine.  Our trip took us past several farms, some with deteriorating  barns and silos

others with the hay already cut and baled,

Returning to our motor home we unloaded our groceries just in time for “wine time” … where we sat, overlooking the lake under a mostly sunny sky and a delightful westerly breeze.  It is a tough life but, as the saying goes … some has to do it!

After dinner, we “forced” ourselves to sit through yet another breathtaking sunset.

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July 1 – Back to the USA

The relative short drive from the Montreal area south to Vermont passed through miles of scenic farm lands, mostly dedicated to corn.

However, we did spot some “cattle” which when we got closer turned out to be buffalo.

Pardon the fuzzy picture … we thought these were cattle until the last minute while driving

There was a back-up at the US border entering New York, where we were asked for our vehicles registration for the first time.

On our short, 13 mile, trip through extreme northeast New York state took us through the small, but charming town of Rouses Point where an antique car show was in progress.

And some beautiful sailboats lay at anchor in this far northern section of Lake ChamplainCrossing a bridge we passed an old fort sitting on an island

As we crossed the state line into Vermont and the community of Alburg, which bills itself as the location of the 45 parallel, the line of latitude halfway between the equator and the north pole.  Although it has a few industrial buildings along Route 11, it is mostly farm land accented with a few old barns,

abandoned campers

and a boat repair shop.

We were a bit surprised at the steady stream of bikers hugging both sides of the fairly narrow road leading to Grand Isle.

Arriving at our campground where we’ll be staying through the 4th,

and, NO, it’s not that type of “adult” campground … it just means, “No Children”

we were delighted with our incredible campsite (#17) which looks out over Lake Champlain toward the New York shoreline.

We took full advantage of the view just during the afternoon

and watched nature put on a spectacular sunset show.

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June 30 – Montreal – Notre Dame Basilica and Mount Royal

The Metro took us within one block of our first stop, and one of the highlights of any Montreal visit was the Notre-Dame Basilica.  Its initial construction began in 1672 but its major renovations and bell towers were not completed until 1843.

During its latter construction period (1824-1829), its architect was an Irish Protestant named James O’Donnell.   As he was dying, he expressed a wish to be buried in the church.  This request was rejected as he was not a Catholic.  However … not a problem … on his deathbed in 1830, he converted to Catholicism and is the only person buried in the church.

While the eastern (left) bell tower (Temperance)  houses a ten-bell carillion, in the western tower (Perseverance), a great, 5,000 bell which is rung only once a year or once on very special occasions, as it is feared its reverberations could damage the structure of the basilica.

The interior, while slightly less spectacular at Ste. Anne’s Basilica du Beaupre which we’d seen during our time in the Quebec City area, it can seat over 1,800 worshipers and is incredibly dramatic.


Apse (inspired and copied to some degree by the Vatican)

Carving of Jesus crowning Mary at the top of the Apse

Organ Pipes (the organ has4 keyboards, 99 stops and approximately 7,000 pipes)

Side Pulpit (so the Priest can be heard throughout the church)

Carving of the Last Supper under the Tabernacle

One of Many Stained Glass Windows (which depict Montreal’s social and religious history)

Carving on the center aisle end of each pew … and each one is different

Cross from the Original Church

Leaving the Basilica, we wandered the Rue Notre Dame where we passed numerous sidewalk cafes



Admiral Lord Nelson

and old homes.

Lo and behold, there was another church

Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours

Its construction was complete in 1771.

Although you have to walk around to the rear of the building to see the towering statue on its rear dome.Continuing our meanderings, we found ourselves in Chinatown.

with its busy side street markets

and unique churches.

Chinese Catholic Mission Holy Spirit Church

Our next stop was St. Patrick’s Basilica, one of the purest and grandest examples of 14th and 15th century Gothic architecture in Canada was completed in 1843, its steeple soars 233’ high.  The interior height of the dome under the Apse is 85 and its walls are 4’ thick.

Façade looking up from entrance steps


Apse and Altar

Stain Glass Windows (measuring 40’ in height)

Back to the Metro for a train and bus trip to Mount Royal which rises up to three summits overlooking the metropolitan area of Montreal.  Named by Jacques Cartier in 1535, it is affectionately known as “the Mountain” to the locals.  The park which encompasses much of Mount Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York City’s Central Park.

At the station where we changed from the underground transit to a surface bus, there were some great chairs in which to relax,

some folks who obviously had a bad hair day.

and others who are far less fortunate than many of us.

On its slops are two of the oldest cemeteries

Just a few of the some 900,000 graves on Mount Royal

in the city, the campuses of two universities, any number biking and foot paths, and a variety of plant and wildlife.

We visited two of the more well-known landmarks; the Chalet du Mont-Royal

and Saint Joseph’s Oratory, an immensely popular destination for Catholic and other Christian pilgrims who come to mediate and pray.

Beautifully landscaped gardens help frame the entrance to the Basilica

Reaching a height of 406’, it is taller than Notre-Dame de Paris (295’), St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York (330’) and even Sainte Anne de Beaupre (300’).  With architecture reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance, its construction was begun in 1924 and completed in 1955.  The Basilica has a seating capacity of 2,200 and can hold up to 10,000 people.

To reach the main level of the Basilica from the street takes you up 283 steps (don’t try to county them … just trust me).Interestingly, for all it’s dramatic exterior and setting, the inside of the Oratory is remarkably understated as compared with most of the other churches we’ve visited in both Montreal and Quebec City on this trip.



Organ Pipes

Stained Glass Windows

Stone Relief of Joseph, Mary and Jesus

Reflecting back on the past six days, we have clearly visited more churches than we’ve probably been in in the last six years!

And, in case you’re wondering how they mow the steep lawns on either side of the stairs leading up to the Oratory …

Rope and Manpower

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June 29 – Olympic Park, Botanical Gardens and Biodome – Montreal

We caught a mid-morning Metro to Olympic Park where both Debbie and I searched in vain for the cheering throngs as we stepped up on the platform.

In fact, there were no medals or bouquets of flowers for us!

Although slighted, we decided to visit the adjacent Botanical Gardens with its fountains

Chinese garden lakes,


Crown Cactus

Golden Barrel Cactus

Dragon Flies,


Begonia Rex

Persian Shield

Oyster Plant

gorgeous flowersAlways Afternoon Daylily

Captain Blood Daylily

Embreea Rodigasiana AM Orchid

Maid of Honor Hybrid Tea Rose

Menzle’s Larkspur

Scarlett Daylily

And enormous Koy.

From there it was a short 1.5 km (just under a mile for you metrically-challenged folks) … which in the 90o+ heat seemed like 5 miles … to the Biodome; four ecosystems (Tropical Rain Forest), Laurentian Maple Forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sub-Polar) under one roof … where 4,500 animals from 230 different species and 750 plant types co-exist.





Scarlett Ibis

Northern Rockhopper Penguin

Golden Lion Tamarin



just to name a few …

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June 28 – Quebec City to Montreal

The 130 mile drive from just outside Quebec City to the outskirts of Montreal was uneventful.  As we neared Montreal, we seemed to see more farms

and churches or church spires seemingly looming from every town along the route.

Arriving at our campground, the entrance was flanked with creative topiaries.

Once checked in and hooked-up, we struck out for the much touted Metro where we each got 3-day passes giving us unlimited use of the system for the time we’d be in the area.

I found it interesting that their underground subway system does not run on rails.  Rather, their trains ride on rubber tires on a smooth wooden or metal (couldn’t determine) together with a set of horizontally-oriented tires used to keep the vehicles from moving side-to-side or off the track.

Further, the system runs both frequently and on-time!

Once in downtown Montreal, we decided to simply wander around, hopefully to see some of the old and/or unique architecture and other interesting sites.  We were not disappointed!

Curved stairways which seem to be common in Quebec cities

Spinning wheel in second-story loft apartment

Canadian Postal Drop Boxes are not Hard to Miss

A number of the streets feature outside cafes.  On this day, Italy was playing [and beating] Germany in the European 2102 Soccer Championships … and there is great interest in the sport in Canada.  Therefore, all of these indoor/outdoor eateries seemed to have large-screen televisions set up for patrons and passers-by, alike.

There are statues throughout the city.

Sir John Macdonald

Wilfred Laurier

We also got a chance to tour one of the city’s most famous landmarks, Mary Queen of the World Cathedral and Basilica.


Apse and Altar during a Service

Dome over the Altar

While not overly obvious, there are some homeless people, many of those in local parks.

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June 27 – Back to Québec City

We again woke to intermittent light rain and downpours.

Still, we decided to head back in to Québec City to wander around as many of the streets we’d missed.  Before we got to start our adventure, it took us over an hour to find a parking place … the Old City is little more than one square Kilometer (less than 0.4 square miles). Surface lots were full and in two of the underground garages (on which our antenna of our Jeep scrapped the ceilings), we had to retreat despite the fact we’d had to run our credit card on the way in, there were no available spaces.

By noon, however, we finally found a lot with a few empty spaces … and even the $14.00 fee seemed like a great deal.  Meantime, I think we’d driven up and down every one-way street in the Old City, many of which not much wider than our Jeep.

We trudged up the steep hill to the Old City, passing through the old ramparts with many old British cannons still standing a silent sentinel.

As the weather slowly improved and the skies brightened from dark to light gray … and even brief periods of sunshine, we enjoyed the architecture, flowers and hustle-and-bustle of the people.

It is also a city of contrasts … with old rampart gates providing a porthole into the newer part of the city with its high rises

and modern glass buildings just across the street from structures hundreds of years old.

The boardwalk which tops the escarpment on the river side of the Old City is also an enjoyable place for a stroll and views of the St. Lawrence, small hotels and the Citadel.

We also had no problems discovering more sculptures and statues

François de Laval de Montmorency

France’s King, Louis XIV

Tributes to Canada’s First Nation’s People

and, more modern artwork

and Crosses everywhere in this very Catholic city.

Finally, there were more churches … many of which were open.  The most magnificent is the Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral.

Construction began in 1647

Mass Ceremony


Side Pulpit in Nave

Altar at the rear of the Apse

Yet, others were equally fascinating in their own rights.

St. Andrews

St. Patrick

Notre Dame de la Victoires

Its Nave and Apse

A replica of La Brézé, which brought French soldiers to the New World in 1664

We then descended below the escarpment on which most of the Old City is located to the “Lower City” which consists of half-dozen narrow streets lined with the typical jewelry, craft, T-shirt and post card stores as well as several dozen small cafes and two beautiful wall murals.

We finally stopped for some “refreshment and fries” at Spag & Tini Restaurant.

Before heading back to our rig, where it started raining again … and continues as I write this journal.

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