Monday, October 27, 2014

Tourists in our hometown

The weather here has been just glorious for the past few days (though I think it's due to change tonight). My husband and I took advantage of the rare unscheduled Saturday afternoon to try something that had been on our list of things to do for a while, the Providence Metropark Canal Experience.

Actually, it was sort of an accident that we ended up doing this at all. We were thinking that it was such a nice day that we wanted to go for a hike, but there was a big organized bike ride from one of the Metroparks closest to us to another, and we didn't want to get mixed in the bike traffic. We decided to go to Providence, a less-traveled park, for our hike, and since we parked right near the canal boat dock, we thought we'd see if there was a trip leaving soon. We happened to get there about 20 minutes before the next tour, so we bought our tickets at the bargain price of $6 each. 

We had a little time before the launch so we checked out the restored mill for a little while and then looked out over the river while we waited. 

The tour has interpreters dressed in historical costumes, and this guide looked like Holly Hobbie to me when she turned her head.

We learned some "fun" historical facts on the 45-minute trip, like the fact that the droppings from the mules who pulled the canal boats were dumped into the canal, as were the contents of the chamber pots shared by passengers and crew members. They were dumped on one side of the boat, and water for drinking, cooking, and washing was dipped out from the "clean" side of the boat. Not surprisingly, cholera epidemics were common along the canals. The mules would not drink water from the canals, proving that they were smarter than their handlers. According to our guide, most of the town of Providence was burned down in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease. The canals were eventually made obsolete by railroads, which could move goods and passengers much more quickly and had the advantage of not freezing over every winter.

The trip was pleasant and there is a working lock on the canal so we got to see how it worked. The boat rose visibly as we locked in going one direction, and then fell going the other direction. The mules that pulled us were half Belgian draft horse, and they were quite impressive. I really was glad we stumbled on this on the last Saturday it will be available this year.  There was a haunted trip later that evening but unfortunately, it was sold out.

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