Signing, Skating, & Champlain

Three highlights of my February vacation week!

I signed books and met some fantastic readers at Barnes and Noble in South Burlington, Vermont yesterday afternoon.  Thanks to everyone who came out to pick up copies of Spitfire and say hello.  I was especially happy to meet Marje VanOlsen from the South Burlington Community Library in person. We’ve been emailing for a few weeks, and I’ll be presenting a summer program at her library in July. 

Earlier in the vacation week, my family enjoyed the last weekend of Winterlude in Ottawa.  It’s a fantastic winter festival with outdoor entertainment, ice sculptures, and best of all — skating!

As soon as Ottawa’s Rideau Canal freezes, it turns into the world’s longest skating rink — literally.  Those world record folks at Guinness made it official this year. 

We had a beautiful day and enjoyed the full 7.8 km.  Of course, we did make a few stops along the way — most notably to indulge in a Beaver Tail or two.

If  you’re ever in Ottawa, this decadent delicacy is a must-have.  A beaver tail pastry is a very thin strip of fried dough shaped like, well, the flat tail of a beaver.  It’s dusted with cinnamon and sugar or drizzled with maple syrup (my favorite). 

I even managed to get some work done in between skating and scarfing down pastries.  I’ve been asked to do a couple presentations this spring, talking about my upcoming book Champlain & the Silent One, which comes out next fall.  That means going back to the places where I did some of my research to gather photographs and other resources for my school visits.

Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Civilization is featuring Samuel de Champlain in an exhibit about people who shaped Canada’s history.

This was especially fun to see…

It’s a navigational tool called an astrolabe, and historians believe it might have belonged to Champlain himself.  According to documents, Champlain lost his astrolabe near a place called Green Lake when he was traveling up the Ottawa River in 1613.  In 1867, a boy named Edward Lee was helping his father clear trees in that area and came upon the instrument pictured above, right where Champlain supposedly dropped it 254 years earlier.

And here’s a quiz for particularly astute blog readers.  Look at this statue of Champlain with his astrolabe at Ottawa’s Nepean point.

There’s something wrong.  Do you know what it is? 

12 Replies on “Signing, Skating, & Champlain

  1. That is a cool picture of an astrolabe and Champlain. I’ve never used an astroblame and I’m not especially astute so I probably shouldnt even try to guess here. But I will. Should the device not be held slanted, but flat, so that sun should shine through?

  2. My guess: Champlain was left-handed and they are depicting a rightie sword. 🙂

    Fun pics – will have to get over to Ottawa someday, but maybe in warmer weather. I think me on ice skates might “crack” me up (as in multiple bone fractures). KYM

  3. I don’t know how you manage the cold. I’m getting frostbite, just looking at your pictures.

    (Like postcards, they’re really fun to look at, but I don’t wish I were there.)

  4. Nope, Champlain was right-handed as far as I know.

    I didn’t break any bones, but I did take a rather spectacular spill when I hit a crack in the ice. My right knee has turned several lovely shades of purple and blue.

  5. Yes! You got it, Kelly!

    Champlain is holding the astrolabe upside down in the sculpture. In reality, he knew how to work the thing just fine. Turns out it was the sculptor who didn’t have much experience with navigation.

  6. hi Kate!
    We have many of the same tromping grounds. 🙂 The last time I skated the Rideau I pulled a small child on a sled behind me. I had told this small child it would get warmer as the day progressed – it might even get above zero F if we were lucky! It never did. But it is such a cool place to visit and we started out early enough in the day to see people in business suits skating to work. Ice skating to work with their briefcases! I soooo loved that. If I ever have to go back to a job that requires suits and briefcases, it would make it so much less depressing if I could ice skate to work. 🙂
    Enjoy the rest of winter!