It was a weekend of family fun activities – Christmas present from one of my daughters and SIL for all of us to enjoy. First the shivery, yet delightful Lumina Borealis, then the following night we headed to Bellevue House to try our collective acuity at detective work in a game offered through Improbable Escapes, a local business that encourages interaction, fun and wearing of thinking caps for a fee. Fortunately this was an indoor activity!
A little about the Bellevue House Historic Site, which seems rather off the beaten path until the history of it is known. Built in the 1840’s, Bellevue House was the first non-traditional home built in the area, moving away from the familiar Georgian architecture of the time, to Italianate, and not greatly admired by the population of Kingston at the time.
There are, according to the floor plans, seventeen rooms, including the cellar, and seven levels! Of interest is how well situated the house is, the style includes an aesthetic that takes into account the lay of the land. I was there at night, in the winter, what I could see in the darkness of night, half moon and stars helped, were the darker shades of bare trees, a vast stretch of snow and vines in need of leaves and blooms.a good reason to visit when the weather is finer.
According to the Parks Canada website, “the Italianate style belongs to the Picturesque period in architectural history. Picturesque taste, besides advocating unusual architectural styles, valued the siting of a house to take advantage of scenic vistas. Bellevue House was built on a height of land with a southward orientation so that the principal rooms, the drawing room, dining room, master bedroom and study, would benefit from views of Lake Ontario. This orientation, co-incidentally, fulfilled another goal of Picturesque design: the rooms are pleasantly sunlit for a large part of the day.”
Sir John A. Macdonald , the first Prime Minister of Canada, and his wife, lived at Bellevue House (before his political life took off, and before he was a Sir) for about one year, 1848/49. The house is now a museum set up in the fashion of when Macdonald lived there. As such the house is an interesting look into the past as well as being a wonderful venue for the fun of trying to solve the Maple Syrup Heist.
Maple syrup, that golden, all natural sweet topping for pancakes, as Canadian as hockey. 71% of Maple Syrup in the world is produced in Canada, 91% of that in the province of Quebec. It takes 40 litres of maple tree sap to make one litre of pure Syrup. There was even a real, year long Maple Syrup heist between the summer of 2011 to summer 2012 – worth $18million! We take our maple syrup very seriously and culprits, once the theft was discovered, were arrested. Alas, only 70% of the stolen golden syrup was recovered.
Bellevue House Historic Site is a National Site, which, for 2017 means free entry! Improbable Escapes is not free and only runs through to February. A wonderful way to utilize a historical site that would otherwise remain empty until May.
“This will be something you’ve never experienced before. A jump from the traditional escape room. Imagine a series of puzzle rooms with a limit to solve each room.” An apt description of what we were about to encounter. We had one hour or so of chaotic fun searching for clues, running up and down hallways, stairs, into various rooms and being handcuffed. Silliness ensued, we were assisted by a maid who insisted she had not stolen the Maple Syrup and gave helpful hints whenever we appeared bogged down with too many clues and little time.
We had only eight minutes in each of the six rooms we had to search. I became enamoured by all that was not included in the clues which meant I was not very helpful. Observation was important, just not what I observed! Six of us should have resulted in coming up with at least one correct clue, alas, we became two camps and came up up with two sets of guilty party, where the Syrup was stolen from and how they escaped with it. We also had a marvellous last holiday evening.