Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: The Benbow Historic Inn on the Old Redwood Highway

Wherever you decide to stay, a drive along the northern California coast is visually breathtaking, and if you find a comfortable inn to lay your head, so much the better. The Benbow Historic Inn is just such a place. It is also as interesting an auberge as you will find anywhere along the great and scenic Redwood Highway.

We reached exit 636 on highway 101 at 3pm and at the onset of a downpour. The Inn appeared within seconds of leaving the freeway. It was a welcome sight, sitting on a hillside surrounded by a crown of the deepest green trees. If we didn’t know we were in California, we could be convinced we were in England.

First open to the public in July 1926, this historic Tudor style hotel elicits old world charm inside and out.

In a place where private bi-planes parked to disembark the elite of Hollywood’s past there’s now an extensive parking area for guests and visitors to the Inn.

The list of Golden Age screen icons that frequented the Inn includes Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Charles Laughton, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, Joan Fontaine (honeymooned twice), and Basil Rathbone. Dignitaries included Eleanor Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and more recently the King of Jordan, as well as entertainers Danny Glover, Matt Leblanc, and Cher.

The renovation

The lobby is new and part of an extensive renovation and improvement project completed in 2018, but it has a sense of place that fits well into the original structure.

Note for those who have not visited the Benbow of late: Further to adding space and upgrades, the new addition has made the Inn ADA compliant. Also, an elevator has been installed – blissfully ending 9 decades of hand carrying luggage up several flights of stairs.

Walking to our sleeping room we felt a sensation of leaving the present and being drawn into a nostalgic journey back to a more reserved 1930s and 40s. After a long drive in the rain, it was a welcome adjustment.

The haunting

We had been assigned the Burtis Benbow Suite. A beautiful room well decorated with period antique furnishings, tasteful décor, and a fireplace. We loved the room, but there were two problems.

The thermostat was set at 70 degrees, but the room was 82 degrees. Wayne clicked on the bathroom lights, but nothing happened. He tried several times to no avail. Judy tried once, and voila, there was light.

We called the front desk, and the clerk immediately assigned us another room. Wayne clicked off the bathroom light, but it remained on. Judy clicked, and the light went out. Surely, there was a reasonable explanation. Consider that Burtis Benbow was the 4th Benbow child and considered a mechanical genius. Perhaps his genius extended to apparitional mechanical pranks?

During our stay at the Benbow, we learned of numerous ghostly incidents experienced by other guests and employees. Small anomalies like unexplained changes in room temperatures, pillows relocated, sherry decanter tops missing, furniture moved, office paperwork shuffled, and phone calls from empty rooms. No reports of any guest possessions being moved, only manor property.

By all reports, people experiencing these oddities seemed genuinely thrilled at the thought of being part of a friendly ghost encounter. We concluded that for the first time in our many years of staying at supposedly haunted lodgings, perhaps we had finally experienced our first paranormal event.

Outdoor activities

It’s easy to see why the old Hollywood crowd, and the motoring public traveling on the new Redwood Highway in 1926, enjoyed the Inn – the relaxation. Originally, 1290 acres of pristine wilderness provided opportunities to horseback ride, hike, bicycle, swim, boat, fish, lounge in a garden setting, and commune with nature. Almost 100 years later, much of the attraction remains.

There’s now a 9-hole golf course; the lake is gone, but the Eel River still flows gently along the Inn and under the old stone bridge. The scene is still peaceful and serene.

The outdoor patio is inviting. Our visit took place in winter, but it’s easy to imagine relaxing on the Parisian style patio with book in hand, enjoying the sound of birds and the delicate scent of flowers. We are anxious to return when everything is in bloom.

A short 20 mile scenic drive north from the Inn puts you at the gateway of the 31 mile long Avenue of the Giants 101 bypass near Humboldt Redwood State Park. We took the Avenue road, but it was raining hard, and not enjoyable. We look forward to the drive in better weather.

Indoor amenities

The main gathering room of the Inn is called the upper lobby. It is a large space and can easily accommodate a sizable crowd.

A cozy fireplace warms the room, which is conducive to a friendly conversation, reading, game of chess, cards, or just relaxing.

The library is yet another comfortable space for guest enjoyment.

The bar

The bar was part of the renovation, and completed with painstaking care to give it an appropriate stance in the overall atmosphere of the Inn.

The bar menu is inviting and Wayne’s special request for a grilled cheese sandwich and Caesar salad rendered an appetizing meal, artfully presented.

Judy delighted in a kale and farro salad embellished with, butternut squash, candied figs, caramelized onion, cotija cheese, toasted pepitas, and topped with a maple vinaigrette.

The Inn’s deep and diverse wine list of over 450 selections has earned the Inn several years of Wine Spectator Excellence Awards.

The dining room

Delicious foods are enhanced by scene and spirits.” Surrounded by elegant wooden muntin framed windows, the dining room at the Benbow Historic Inn has a decidedly British panache that demonstrates the designer’s refined taste in old-world décor.  The experience is like dining in a fashionable English country house.

Our morning meal consisted of eggs, delicious sausage, and the absolutely best crushed potatoes imaginable. The chef revealed, “The secret is to boil the full skin potatoes, fry them crisp, lightly pepper and gently crush.” Delightful!

A country lodging

If you enjoy being in a place with history, step across the threshold of time to a golden age where luxury was expected, and attention to fine dining and personal details was always the order of the day.

The erstwhile glamour and sophistication are still there in the northern California forest – at the Benbow Inn. In 1983, the Inn was placed on the National Register of Historic Places – kudos to the selection committee.

Other things to consider

In 2018, Historic Hotels of America bestowed the Best Small Historic Inns Award (under 75 guestrooms) on the Benbow Inn.

The Inn is an excellent venue for a corporate retreat or wedding for up to 225 guests.

Electric car aficionados: In these parts, it’s a long way between charges, and Benbow Inn has charging stations!

Our recommendation

In our fast-paced world, any opportunity to get away from it all, even for a short while, can do wonders to re-energize our lives. The Benbow Historic Inn offers its own special magic from another time and place.

So, choose from a range of guestroom types to suit your taste, soak in the refined ambiance, and enjoy a getaway at the Inn.

For more information

The Benbow Historic Inn has an excellent website that provides everything you need to know.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff – Vintage photos courtesy of Benbow Historic Inn. Fake ghost image by Wayne Bayliff

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Princess Cruise Ships: Why They Sparkle

We recently took a Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Grand Princess. This was our third sailing on the Grand since she was commissioned in 1998. You might wonder, after 20 years of service and tens of thousands of passengers, how does Princess keep her looking fresh and appealing to prospective guests.

We interviewed the Captain and Hotel General Manager, and along with inquiring about their work we asked some questions about the age of the Grand Princess.

Meet the Captain

The present Master of the Grand Princess is Captain John Harry Smith. Captain Smith started his career at sea as a deck hand on an oil tanker. He worked his way up the ranks and has been with the Princess Cruise Line since 2007.

In our years as travel photojournalists we have interviewed many ship’s Masters. Captain Smith manifests the same professionalism and confidence that we have learned to expect from all the members of his highly trained and respected vocation.

On the subject of maintaining older ships in the Princess fleet, Captain Smith commented, “Having an inspired crew, and paying attention to details when it comes to cleanliness and appearance gives any ship vitality. Constant and vigilant maintenance allows older ships to remain seaworthy and popular among new and repeat guests.” To that end, each Princess ship is removed from service every three years, and the Grand Princess is next in line.

In March 2019, the Grand Princess will enter dry dock in Portland, Oregon for repairs, maintenance, improvements, and inspections. She will be worked over from stem to stern, top to bottom, inside and out, by 1000 contractors from around the world. The work will be performed 24-hours per day, and the workers will live aboard the ship. Service will be provided by the ship’s regular hospitality crew during the entire process. All the work and numerous inspections will take just 13 days. Now that’s precision planning!

We asked the Hotel General Manager

While the Captain is responsible for literally everything, his primary areas of concentration are guest and ship safety, navigation, operations, and the environment. The Captain puts great trust in the person who is directly charged with keeping the passengers happy, i.e., the Hotel General Manager. The HGM is responsible for all guest services, including dining, entertainment, and housekeeping. Helmut Leikauf is the Hotel General Manager aboard the Grand Princess.

There’s a ratio of about 2 guests to 1 crewmember on board a Princess ship. Approximately 900 of the 1100 hundred crew aboard the Grand Princess are guest-centric and report to the hotel organization. The HGM is an important officer indeed.

Mr. Leikauf fits the profile of his job, perfectly. He hails from Austria, a country noted for its prestigious hotel schools. Helmut is the epitome of what one expects at the top echelon of a first class hotel – on land or sea.  He is gracious, gregarious, and exacting, and his leadership by example is evident throughout the ship. He offered, “A happy crew makes for happy guests.”

We asked Mr. Leikauf about how long a ship might expect to be part of the Princess fleet. His answer was that such decisions are way above his pay grade, but he did offer that the Princess’ head office is highly focused on an excellent guest cruise experience. In his opinion, “There will be a place for any ship that continues to uphold and perform to Princess high standards, and remains popular with the guests.”

We recommend this cruise 

Our ten day cruise to Mexico exceeded our expectations. The Grand Princess performed like the great ship she is, and the attentive officers and crew made it an exceptional vacation.

We will write about other aspects of our Princess cruise to the Mexican Riviera in future articles.

Our next cruise will be to Hawaii or Alaska, and since it will depart from San Francisco, it will be on the renovated Grand Princess. We look forward to being aboard one of our favorite ships once again, and seeing her new “sparkle.”

For more information

Contact your favorite travel agent or Princess Cruises directly.

Happy travels.

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff

Best Places to Stay Along the Northern California Coast: Scopa at the Sea

Preface

Lodging preferences are so personal. With the advent of the internet, travel magazine advertisements have given way to lodging websites and individual reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Of course, lodging websites are no more objective than print ads – which leaves us to depend on personal reviews to help us decide on the best places to stay. Unfortunately, personal reviews run the gamut of “wonderful,” to “horrible” for the same property. So what’s a traveler to do? One suggestion is to single out reviews written by dependable travel writers.

Luxury travel writers’ goal 

As travel journalists specializing in luxury travel, our mission is always to find, photograph, and write about a unique lodging where discriminating travelers would enjoy a stay. In addition to cleanliness, we look for something unusual, historic, or really special. If we happen to pick a place that turns out not to meet those standards, we don’t write about it. We may have wasted our time, but we won’t waste yours.

How we found Scopa at the Sea Bed and Breakfast

We were heading down the picturesque Oregon and California coasts along highways 1 and 101 to the port of San Francisco. We were scheduled to write about a Princess Cruise to the popular Mexican Riviera.

We thought the drive would be an excellent opportunity to point out some genuinely special places to stay along the route.

The northern Pacific coastal drive is a breathtaking adventure, and we wanted to find lodgings that would complement the excitement of the trip. We found three properties to write about. The first is Scopa at the Sea.

Scopa at the Sea’s location in Crescent City, California fit perfectly into our self-imposed daily drive limits. It turned out to be a stellar choice! We rate it as one of the top boutique B&Bs of the hundreds we have reviewed.

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The weather was not cooperating and it had been blustery and raining all day. In spite of the bad driving weather, we felt fortunate to see some super-exciting ocean scenes along the way.

The Scopa is in a residential neighborhood, and on an oceanside street with amazing panoramic views. We arrived at the 3 p.m. check-in hour.

The house has been recently remodeled and redesigned for the purpose of becoming a B&B for discerning guests seeking a special haven apart from the ordinary.

The public rooms include a cozy living room with a creative mantel made from parts of a vintage organ that had been played in that same room years ago.

Following on, there is a spacious gathering room, dining room, and kitchen. A perfect layout for socializing or finding a private corner to enjoy the exclusive company of your roommate.

Deborah, the gracious innkeeper is a delight and an excellent baker and cook. Waiting for us was a home-baked banana cake with banana walnut frosting – all made from scratch. Yummy! Other guests arrived at approximately the same time, and dove into the cake before we could tempt you with a fresh close-up photo.

Around seven, Deborah laid out a selection of local cheeses and we did a little wine and cheesing along with a bit of friendly conversation before retiring.

The ambiance

It’s difficult to explain why this house has the aura of a lighthouse keeper’s cottage. Certainly, the tasteful nautical décor and paintings are part of the reason, as is the restless and magnificent ocean view from so many windows, but there’s something more.  If you stay at the Scopa, we invite your input.

Views

Our second level sleeping room is named the Whale Horizon Spa Suite. It is a nicely appointed, spacious room with an inviting bath.

Its stunning views entice you to gaze at the marvelous ocean and rugged outcroppings that make up the rocky northern California coastline. The beach below our window, and just across the street is known for agates and is appropriately named Pebble Beach.

Our fellow guests were a congenial and interesting couple from Miami, Florida. We had planned a quick getaway after breakfast, but ended up staying right up to the 11 o’clock check-out time.

Our new friends were pleased to have stayed in the suite next to our own. It’s named the Seal Song Suite, aka the Hugh Jackman Suite. It’s probably unusual to have a celebrity stay in the little town of Crescent City, so we applaud the Scopa folks for unofficially promoting it. A photo of Hugh Jackman in the living room is available in the guest photo gallery on the Scopa website.

Call to breakfast

We woke from a sound sleep in a luxurious king-sized bed to the wafting aroma of freshly ground brewed coffee and sizzling bacon. We thought this was a great way to entice all guests to the communal morning table.

Breakfast consisted of apple waffles with homemade apple syrup, pecan topping, eggs, bacon, and baked sausage.

After the morning feast, we bid farewell to Deborah, who by now felt more like family than an innkeeper.

For more details about the finer points and reservations look at the website www.Scopaproperties.com. Scopa at the Sea prices are very competitive considering what you get in indelible vistas, luxurious furnishings, conveniences, an exquisite breakfast – and other foodie treats. There are only three guestrooms on property, so it’s best to reserve early to avoid disappointment.

By the way, don’t be confused by the Scopa properties website. There are actually two buildings on one property, and one more at a different location. Scopa at the Sea is the three guestroom bed and breakfast inn where we stayed (above right), while the building to the left is called the Seaview Beach House and has three spotless and lovely housing units, Agate – Fern – and Pebble.

Two units have mini-kitchens, and one has a full-size kitchen. These are fitting homes for any duration.

The local lighthouse

On the short drive back to Hwy 101 to continue our trek south, we passed the picturesque Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City. It was a windy day with sweeping punctuated rain. Fortunately, the stormy weather added to the kaleidoscopic colors that showcased this remarkable landmark.

Next stop, the Inn at Newport Ranch in Fort Bragg, but that’s a story for another time.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Travel  insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2019 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2019 Judy Bayliff

A Great Christmas Drive Destination: Gillette State Park in Connecticut

gc 2©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it.

Prelude to Christmas

At the turn of the 20th century, William Gillette was a renowned American actor and playwright. In 1914 he purchased a scenic 184-acre plot of land that overlooked the majestic Connecticut River in East Haddam, Connecticut.

gc 1On a ridge at the site, Gillette constructed a magnificent hand-tooled stone castle where he hoped to enjoy his retirement in the solitude of his estate.

Through the years, the strange-looking edifice on the high bluff became known as Gillette’s Castle. Today the castle is a Connecticut State Park and is open to the public.

Join us on a special tour, at a particularly wonderful time of year — the holiday season in New England.

Christmas in Connecticut

gc 4We arrived at Gillette’s Castle just before it was to open to the public for Christmas. We made arrangements with the state to have the privilege of photographing the castle just after the staff had put the final touches on the holiday trimmings.

gc 6With the exception of a ranger, we were alone in the vast 24-room castle. As we photographed the rooms, we sensed an inexplicable aura of peace and tranquility about the place, possibly actuated by some manifestation of gentle ghosts of bygone Christmases.

Past reasons to decorate

John Gillette had entertained many theater and important holiday guests during his nearly 20-years of residence at the castle.  He passed away while living at the castle three months after the Christmas of 1936. He was 83.

gc 5A most unusual home

There is much to discover here that is not immediately obvious. It is reputed that no nails were used in the construction of Gillette’s Castle – ingenious if true. Beams are held into place with large iron rods, stone is used as an art form as well as an engineering necessity.

gc 7Each room in the castle is like a character in one of Gillette’s plays. Light streams through the fretted windows of every chamber, illuminating each to a warm yuletide mood.

gc 8One curious mystery is why Gillette used hospital style white metal beds throughout his castle. 

gc 59A visit to Gillette Castle during the winter holiday season is a step across the threshold of Christmas past. It’s an introspective experience that we highly recommend.

If you go

gcc 2The park is at 67 River Road in East Haddam, Connecticut. Check out the website *here*

gc 1aFor more ideas about what to see and do in Connecticut check out www.ctvisit.com

For more of our joyous holiday experiences in Connecticut, click here.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Travel  travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2018 Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © Judy Bayliff

 

 

It’s a Short and Scenic Road Trip from Dublin to Ireland’s Famous Powerscourt House and Gardens

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Ireland is referred to as The Emerald Isle because of its seemingly endless expanses of verdant trees, deep woods, and rolling green hills. County Wicklow is called the Garden of Ireland, and 47 of the county’s best acres are home to the Powerscourt House and Gardens.

A long and noble history

The Powerscourt site was first settled in the 12th century, but it was not until 1299 that a castle was finally erected by the namesake Power family.

The castle and lands changed hands numerous times over the next four centuries. The Wingfield family was in possession in 1731 and built a magnificent mansion around the earlier castle structure.

The existing manor evolved through several major modifications up through the late 1800s when the house was celebrated as one of the finest in all of Ireland.

In 1974, a fire tragically destroyed the famous house. The ruins of the mansion were the only structures to be seen at the site for the next 22 years.

In 1996, the owners of the Powerscourt House began the monumental task of rebuilding the old mansion to its current state of renewed grandeur.

Artisans positioned new windows exactly in pre-fire locations. The entire structure was painstakingly and lovingly restored. Every effort was made to preserve the remarkable old building’s earlier epoch.

Today, tourists visiting Ireland can enjoy the authentic and historic Powerscourt House and Gardens, a true Irish country estate that is simply awe-inspiring. The magnificent house was recently recognized as one of the top ten important houses in the world, and the gardens were voted number 3 best in the world by National Geographic.

The elegant main house overlooks kingly Italian terraced gardens, the serene Triton Lake fountain and grotto, and numerous old statuary – many dating back to the early 18th century.

An easy walk on estate grounds will take you to a Japanese garden, a horse pasture, and a centuries old pet cemetery as well as an exquisite walled flower garden.

The River Walk

Just beyond the Powerscourt house is the River Walk. A private sloping wooded trail constructed in 1867 so the landowner and his family could enjoy a carriage ride to a waterfall and the Dargle River. The waterfall is the tallest in Ireland and cascades down almost 400 feet to the river.

The road is complete with a dense forest of varietal trees originally planted for the pleasure of the 7th Viscount of Powerscourt in the 1870s. In more recent times, the woodlands have provided scenic backdrops for such popular films as Braveheart, Far and Away, Excalibur, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Village of Enniskerry

Just a few minutes’ walk outside the Powerscourt Estate lies the charming little Victorian village of Enniskerry.

Built in the 18th century to house the tenants and caretakers who worked the estate, this classically Irish community offers tourists an opportunity to dine in local restaurants and browse a half-dozen boutique shops that line the main street.

Bring your camera for shots of picturesque cottages and a historic clock tower in the village center.

If you are seeking the perfect holiday escape, this is a place of Irish magic. 

If you go

The Powerscourt estate is in Eastern Ireland and nary 12 miles south of the Dublin International Airport and the city center of Dublin.

Click here for more information about the Powerscourt House and Gardens.

Happy travels, and — Happy Halloween!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Travel  travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

A Pleasant Drive: View the Annual Monarch Butterfly Visit to Pismo Beach

Thousands of radiant winged orange and black Monarch Butterflies will soon be en route to California from as far away as southern Canada.  Lucky are those individuals who get a glimpse of these winged beauties as they make their way down and across the Golden State.

Escaping from the coming northern winter, the butterflies’ planned destination is the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach, California.  This is the state’s largest populated monarch butterfly grove, and the annual fly in visitors will begin to congregate in the grove in late October, and remain there until early spring.

These beautiful velvet-winged tourists will cluster like leaves on the branches of sweet-smelling Eucalyptus trees.  Others will clump together like bananas, each butterfly’s wings covering the one below. The clumping helps keep the colony warm and holds it together during the central California coast’s chilly bouts of rain and wind.

Once comfortably settled into their winter haven, the butterflies will wait for daylight temperatures to approach sixty degrees before they will venture away from the group to search for nourishment from flower nectar and water.

As evening approaches and the temperature begins to drop, the butterflies will once again return to the grove and form their protective masses.

Increasing life span

The monarch butterfly has a summer lifespan of little more than six weeks, but at the Pismo Beach Monarch Grove in winter, they can live for several months.

Great time to visit

Pismo Beach is a popular family destination in the summer months, but in October, the hotels, streets, and restaurants are pleasantly uncrowded.  Everything becomes easily accessible to the curious ‘butterfly peepers’ who come from far and wide to see the monarchs.

If you plan to be in California in late October and beyond, consider a side-trip to Pismo Beach.  Everyone we talk to that visited the butterfly grove enjoyed the fascinating antics and beauty of these amazing little creatures. We certainly did.

If you go

The Monarch Butterfly Grove is on State Highway 1, and on the south side of Pismo Beach, near the city limits.  During the Monarch season, the Grove is staffed daily between 10am and 4pm.  There are docent walks and talks, weather permitting.  If you want to overnight, there are plenty of comfortable accommodations offering off-season rates, just minutes from the Grove.

Where we stayed 

We made our reservations at the Sea Venture Resort (www.SeaVenture.com) because it is located right on the beach, and close to the Pismo Beach Pier, and the Butterfly Grove.

Enjoy your autumn, and happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by AllianzTravel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff

©Travel Photo Interact – Place your cursor over any photo to enhance it

A Rewarding Drive in Quebec to the National Historic Landmark at Pointe-au-Pere

Visiting Québec this summer? Consider a stop at the Canadian national historic landmark Pointe-au-Pére. It deserves a spot on your itinerary.

Favoring all destinations that involve water, we were drawn to Pointe-au-Pére’s nautical attractions –  the Empress of Ireland Pavilion, Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse, and the HMCS Onondaga – a Royal Canadian Navy submarine. We were particularly moved by the story and exhibit of the Empress of Ireland.

The tragic fate of the Empress of Ireland

The Empress of Ireland Pavilion houses a museum that opened in 2000 and contains a creative recounting of the history of Canada’s worst maritime disaster that took place just off the nearby headlands.

In heavy fog, in the early hours of May 29, 1914 the luxury liner RMS Empress of Ireland was struck amidships by a steamship hauling coal up the St. Lawrence River. The steamer was fixed with an icebreaker bow that tore a 14-foot hole in the Empress. She sank in just 14 minutes. There were 1,477 passengers aboard the ill-fated liner – only 465 survived the frigid waters of the St. Lawrence.

Lost in history

Even though the loss of life on the Empress of Ireland was in a league with that of the Titanic and Lusitania, the sinking of the Empress remains relatively unknown. Here are some reasons.

The Titanic was a celebrity ship on her maiden voyage on the prestigious route between New York and London. There were many famous people aboard and her builders had bragged that the Titanic was unsinkable. After hitting an iceberg, she sank on April 15, 1912.

The Lusitania had the distinction of being torpedoed by a German submarine on May 7, 1915, just under a year after the Empress tragedy. The Lusitania incident eventually led to the United States entering World War I.

The Empress of Ireland was on a routine run across the Atlantic from Québec City to Liverpool – not a particularly prestigious route. There were no famous millionaires aboard, and apparently the loss of 1,012 ordinary lives was not remarkable at a time when tens of thousands were dying on the battlefields of Europe. The Empress tragedy was literally pushed from the front pages of every newspaper.

Notwithstanding the lack of notoriety at the time, the Empress sinking was one of the world’s biggest civilian losses of life at sea.

To this very day, there are over 600 bodies entombed in the twisted wreck of the Empress – just 130 feet below the surface of the icy cold waters of the swift St. Lawrence River.

The detailed exhibits in the Pavilion are full of artifacts recovered from the ship. In addition, a dramatic film presentation documents the events leading up to the sinking.

Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse

Had it not been for the early dark hour and fog, the Empress of Ireland accident could have been visible from the Pointe-au-Pére Lighthouse. Built in 1909, at 108 feet the lighthouse is the second tallest in Canada.

The lighthouse is constructed of concrete with eight buttresses that support a central tower with 128 steps to the top.

The light was deactivated in 1975, and it, along with the adjoining lighthouse keeper’s house, is now open to the public.

The keeper’s lodge is a “Museum of the Sea,” in which there are several interesting exhibits about navigation on the St. Lawrence River.

Visit the submarine

The HMCS Onondaga Attack Submarine was part of the Canadian Navy’s prestigious Atlantic Maritime Forces for over 30 years. She was decommissioned in 2000, and is now permanently docked at Pointe-au-Pére. The Onondaga is the only military submarine on public display in Canada.

Visiting the Onondaga is an excellent opportunity to tour a modern submarine, which is quite different from the mostly WWII vintage boats that are open to the public in other parts of the world.

If you go

Pointe-au-Pére is located in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region of the Québec Maritime. It is the traditional starting point for the scenic Gaspésie Tour known for outstanding landscapes, charming inns, and delicious foods including succulent lamb, artisan cheeses, and maple victuals.

This national historic site lies three and one half hours northeast of Québec City. Drive along the south shore of the St. Lawrence on Route 132. Your destination is just 15 minutes east of Rimouski.

We recommend vacationing in the Quebec Maritime

Lucky is the family that gets to vacation in Québec and explore its history and many natural wonders. This beautiful eco-friendly province of Canada is a photographer’s dream that has adventures around every turn in the road. We like spending quality-time in The Maritime, and we think you will too. For more information about what the Québec Maritime has to offer, check out their website: http://quebecmaritime.ca. Take special note of their unique self-guided tours.

Happy travels!

*************************************

“Get out there, but be prepared.”

Whenever we travel, we are protected by Allianz Global Assist travel insurance.

You can plan your trips with Google Maps.

The opinions expressed in our articles are the journalists’ alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any entity.

Copyright © 2018 Visit great vacation destinations with Wayne and Judy Bayliff

Photos Copyright © 2018 Judy Bayliff