Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Napoleon Never Slept Here

On Monday I flew the redeye back from Portland. Bill met me at the public dock in Sackets Harbor, New York; then we set out onto Lake Ontario, headed north for Cape Vincent.

The day was overcast and gray, but the forecast was for light winds and low waves, and we found calm conditions on the lake.  About an hour from our destination, we noticed a chunk of shoreline that seemed to be drifting.  Closer examination revealed a container ship roughly the size of the Titanic. 

At Cape Vincent we found the public dock and strolled into town.  Cape Vincent is “where Lake and River meet”—where Lake Ontario flows into the Saint Lawrence River.  The site was first settled by French missionaries in the 1600s and occupied by the British in 1757.  American soldiers were quartered here during the war of 1812.  But the town continued to have a significant population with connections to France, and there was a plan to have Napoleon himself settle here,  after his Waterloo. (Though a house was built for him, history shows that the move never happened).

What caught our attention was the number of businesses in Cape Vincent called “Aubrey’s,” including a restaurant.  Of course we had to go there for dinner. The hero of the Patrick O’Brien historical novels that we like so much is named Jack Aubrey.  He’s a captain in the British Royal Navy, during the Napoleonic Wars, and the commander of a square-rigged "ship of the line."

We wondered whether an entrepreneur chose the name assuming that boating tourists would also be Patrick O’Brien fans (like us)  and make the association: British history, Napoleonic Wars, sailing ships . . . Aubrey's is the perfect name for a restaurant in this town.  

But no--it’s just a local family name.

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