Thursday, July 26, 2012

North-West Ontario Drive : Midland

While in Midland to see the giant Trumpeter Swan, we stopped by  "Sainte-Marie among the Hurons", where French Jesuits settled in the mid 1600s on a mission to convert the native Huron Wendat tribe to their faith.  The site has been reconstructed to illustrate what life was like back then for both the French and the Native people.  The outer walls are fortified by spiked logs, while inside are found both European and Indian styled buildings and dwellings as well as a "waterway" thought to be used as a lock system for traversing canoes.

The compound includes several churches and chapels (for Christians and non-Christians), soldiers quarters, a cookhouse and garden, blacksmith, carpenter shop, shoe maker, apothecary, farm areas and more.   Summer students are hired to dress up like former inhabitants, providing tourists with historic information and demonstrating trades or crafts related to their roles.  I felt sorry for the girl who's job it was to chop logs in the blazing heat, as opposed to another, who got to sit in the shade embroidering.  Two fellows were working on constructing a birch-bark canoe, as well as weaving baskets.  In the cookhouse, the cook used ground corn to make bread, which she described as tasteless because in those days, there was no sugar or other usual ingredients to add to it.

There were several examples of Wendat-styled "Long Houses", made from wooden slabs tied onto an arching frame, which could span over 50 feet and acted as homes for multiple families within a clan.  Holes in the ceiling let in rays of light and provided an outlet for smoke from the fires that are burned inside the dwelling.

Outside the compound, a museum contains archealogical and historic artifacts, displays and videos that provide further details about the period in history when Sainte-Marie Amongst the Hurons was active.  Rich liked an excerpt from a pamphlet which indicated that "a husband should keep his wife in fear ... while a wife should not reply to him at all when he is angry.".  Too bad for Rich that he was born in the wrong era where women no longer hold their spouses in such high reverence.

In downtown Midland is a beautiful building that used to be the public library in the early 1900s.  Changing hands several times, it is now an elegant restaurant called "The Library Restaurant" in honour of its origins.  It seemed out of place to see a sign in front advertising "Texas Hold'Em Poker Night" on Sundays of all nights (the night that we were there).  We didn't see signs of any poker matches though.

Not sure if we would be able to catch much fish at our cottage this year, we are determined to eat as much fresh local fish as we can find en route.  We had a lovely pickerel dinner at The Library Restaurant, which consisted of two plump, sweet slabs of fish in a vegetable gazpacho sauce, served with grilled vegetables and roasted potato.  For dessert, the pecan pie had a light flakey crust and was bursting with pecans, although a bit light on syrupy filling.

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