The Vindolanda Charitable Trust will be my first stop of the summer, June 2-13. Though it would not be correct to say this museum is the cause of the Wandering Museum Consultant project, it is most definitely the catalyst, which brought it to life. Friends at Vindolanda, whom I know through my position as Learning Coordinator at the Museum of Ontario Archaeology(MOA), invited me to come and spend two weeks for a professional exchange. The main reason being the relative similarity between the two museums; both Vindolanda and MOA are archaeological sites combined with interpretive museums.
Our feet hurt, and our coats are still a bit damp from the surprise rain shower, as we walk the last few steps along Paris, Ontario’s main street towards our destination. The Brown Dog, Coffee Shoppe and Apple Frittery.
I’d set off 2. 5 hours earlier with my sister and her friend, who was staying with our family over the Thanksgiving long weekend, on a fall foliage walk. Our plan was to hike from Brantford, my hometown, along the 10 km SC Johnson Rail Trail to Paris.
Decades ago you could travel throughout Southern Ontario by train, but not any longer; most of the tracks were taken up in the 1980s. Now these paths are for walking, forming the 16,800 km of the current Trans Canada Trail. It had been a goal of mine for quite sometime to walk this particular portion.
I had walked the trail in sections, but never the full distance, and today I was going to complete it. We had set off from behind the Brantford Golf and Country Club, one of the oldest in the country, walking through a cornfield heading towards the Grand River.
The Brantford to Paris trail winds through a unique assortment of environments and landscapes not normally found in Ontario; there is an unusually northern Savannah, a large expanse of prairie grass lands, and a wetland fen – which contain plant and wildlife not found elsewhere in the province. There is even a footbridge over the provincial highway after the trail turns a corner and takes you through a lovely industrial park.
Hundreds of years ago this land saw settlements of longhouses along the river with fields of the Three Sisters, corn, squash and beans; then battles were fought between the Americans and the soon to be Canadians. However, today this area is a quaint, but vibrant town built along the Grand River. We can see the back of the businesses lining the main street, their balconies overhanging the water, as we leave the trail and head over the bridge toward the downtown. This is our destination, downtown Paris; the town named, not directly for he French capital, but for the gypsum mined in the area, also known as plaster-of-Paris.
We trudge into the café, and settle in with our hot chocolates and our deliciously cinnamon coated apple fritter rewards. There is a chill in the early autumn air as we warm our hands on our mugs and my sister and I both proclaim, ‘everything is better in Paris!’
Then we sit back and wait to be picked up and driven back to where we started three hours earlier. It’s a trip that will take a mere 10 minutes by car, but the slow road is always the best, you see more and you can truly appreciate the trip through your own backyard.
This story took place in April of 2007, on the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Although I understand that it is not the safest place to travel at the present, 5 years ago it was a popular destination. The main tourist hub was around the boardwalk town of Dahab on the gulf of Aqaba. While there most people chose to climb nearby Mt. Sinai; the mountain scaled by Moses in the Old Testament.
It was suggested to us that we choose to climb the mountain at night, as it was much cooler than the day. And so, after procuring the necessary flashlights, we did.
“Only 750 steps to go,” my Bedouin guide informs me, as I stare up the seemingly vertical surface of Mount Sinai. This morning the idea of making this legendary climb seemed like a fun idea. I figured it would be nothing more than a nocturnal hike up a mountain to watch the sunrise, what could be nicer? A trail and stairs have been added since Moses made this climb, so how hard could it be?
At 11:00pm my friends and I catch the bus that will take us to meet our guide at the base of Mount Sinai and start the two and a half hour climb.
Excitement level – high.
‘This was not the leisurely hike that I had anticipated;’ I think, an hour into my climb, as I trudge up the mountain. I am turning down the constant offers of “Camel? Camel?” In my basic knowledge of Arabic I answer, “La, Shukran.” – “No, Thank You”
Excitement level – waning.
“Only 750 steps to go.” I look up. ‘These are not steps!’ I’m slightly panicky. ‘These are boulders arranged by giants to vaguely resemble what we mere mortals refer to as steps.’ I groan; it’s roughly 3:00 in the morning.
Excitement level – gone.
About 400 ‘steps’ up I narrowly avoid being knocked back down the mountain by a rampaging donkey.
Excitement level – In pain.
I made it! I’m at the top, the sunrise is beautiful, but I’m freezing cold, wrapped in a heavy wool blanket; my Bedouin guide answers my complaints with, “Cold is a state of mind.” I look him in the eye and reply, “I’m from Canada, No it’s not.”
It was worth it.
I had written this narrative of my climb a few years ago, but it is missing the best part. When we arrived at the top, our bedouin guide led us to his spot – the place on the mountain he has claimed exclusively for his climbers to rest and wait for the sun to rise. His spot was circular, approx. 8 feet in diameter and completely convex, with nothing between you and a 2285 metre drop to the jagged rocks below. So, of course, he tells us to have a nap… better not roll in your sleep.
In 2007 I completed an internship at the Roman Baths (Bath, UK) as part of my MA programme. The Baths, and the city itself are amazing places, and I fell in love with both immediately. I hope some day soon I will get back there.
On Jan. 26th the Roman Baths were lit up by some alumni of Bath Spa University to celebrate the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. The results add an ethereal effect to an already magical setting.
Click the image below to see more really cool photos of a really beautiful place.
In 2004, while on field school in Jordan, we would spend most Saturdays traveling to many of the countries rich archaeological sites – in other words – It-Was-Awesome!
On one particular Saturday we drove north to the area around the 2nd century CE Roman city of Jerash. It’s amazingly preserved, complete with an hippodrome (racetrack) and a theatre, adjacent to the modern city (click here for more info on Jerash).
The morning of our trip to Jerash, in my half asleep stupor as I got ready for the bus, I put on my flip flops instead of running shoes. Now, flip flops are pretty much my default foot attire, but really not appropriate for climbing around archaeological ruins.
When I arrived at the Nymphaeum, a fountain dedicated to the Nymphs, I stubbed my toe on part of the foundation. Leaving behind a nice blood offering to the city. I then spent the next half an hour asking around for a band-aid.
The moral of this story?
Always carry your own band-aids when visiting archaeological sites!
….What? Was I supposed to learn something else? 😛