Where’s My Backpack’s travel theme this week week is Four. Mostly, my archives seem to contain threes, but there are a few fours I found.
The Daily Post at WordPress has a weekly challenge and this week’s is “Atop”. While browsing my archives and choosing things that are on top of tall things, I started to see a pattern that I thought would make a good theme. Clock towers! You will often see clocks fixed onto tall towers and places. It might be a building, a church tower/steeple, a freestanding clock tower. We in Halifax have a Town Clock high on Citadel Hill that was built so that the soldiers in the garrison would know the time and not be late reporting for duty. I don’t have a good photo of the town clock at hand
Here are some of my clock tower photos!
This is the latest in an ongoing series of posts about movies that make you want to travel somewhere. I’ve done Ireland before, with the movie Leap Year. This time, the movie is called The Boys and Girl from County Clare, released in 2003. The difference is that the movie hasn’t actually been filmed in Ireland for the most part, it was filmed mainly on the Isle of Man which is also a place I haven’t been and would like to go.
The year is 1965. The place is Ireland. The event is an annual Céili competition, traditional Irish music played in the traditional Irish manner on traditional Irish musical istruments. You get the picture. The competition is fierce and hotly contested. John Joe and his band have won the event the past three years but John Joe’s younger brother who’s been living in Liverpool and also has a Céili band, is determined to enter and win the competition this year. The brothers fell out years ago over a woman and each is determined to stop the other from attending. What follows is a comedy of errors with a family secret to be revealed at the end.
John Joe and Jimmy’s lives have taken very different paths, as has their third brother’s. Young and talented Anne in John Joe’s band has never been told the name of her father by her mother Maisie. You can kind of predict where this is going. Talented Teddy plays in Jimmy’s band and naturally, falls for Anne. While the brothers struggle to keep their bands traditional, the younger generation is beginning to be influenced by the 60s pop culture scene, Beatlemania and hippie culture being at their height. The Times they are a-Changing and all that.
Bernard Hill plays John Joe and Colm Meany plays Jimmy, two actors that will be familiar to you, I’m sure. Andrea Corr, who plays Anne, has a musical background, being a part of the Corrs. You may also have seen her in The Committments. The reviews have not been all that great and it’s fairly predictable, but I really enjoyed it. The antics made me laugh, the actors are ones I always like, the style of humour is dry and typically Irish, the traditional music is played with joy and enhances the movie perfectly, and the scenery as the bands make their way to the competition is a feast for the eyes.
As I said, the movie was filmed mainly on the Isle of Man and somewhat in Northern Ireland, both locations that are places I have never been and would like to go someday. As far as the Begorrathon tie in, well, even if the filming location wasn’t focussed in Ireland, the story and the music was.
Inspired by a post at Travel Words, where a number of unusual UK mail boxes were posted there today. I knew I had a few photos of some that were a bit different than the run of the mill red pillar box. Actually, most of these photos are not UK red post boxes but you can see that. The first was one we’d walked by in the small town of Cobh, Ireland, on the Cork harbour. The next is from Roskilde, Denmark and the little green one was outside of a little, dusty antique shop in Dublin. I think it must be Victorian era.
And two from my visits to the old set of Coronation Street. When we visited during the 2 years that the tour was open recently, you could get your postcards stamped in the shop with an actual Coronation Street post mark and then mail them in the mailbox on the street and they’d be delivered. Naturally, I mailed a few to myself!
This week’s travel theme from Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack is Path.
Something a little different for Ailsa’s travel theme. For me, it’s got to be either bark off a tree or dog-related. I do like chocolate/nut “bark” but I don’t have any photos of it so this is what I have for the challenge this week, alternating trees and dogs, which go together quite naturally, anyway, don’t you think?
This week’s Daily Post challenge is to find things that go well together. Cookies and milk. Beach and a book. Gardens and Butterflies. That sort of thing. My idea was to post some photos from three major cities in Europe, Rome, Paris and London, that contain things that I think of when I think of those cities, things that are an inherent part of the city without being the bleeding obvious, so you will not see photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum or Big Ben here.
First up: Rome.
Here’s some Parisian sights:
Then over to my favourite city, London:
This week, Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack is asking for photos featuring the colour turquoise.
(Last week) I posted the first 10 cities that Conde Naste Traveler considered the Best Cities in Europe (out of a list of 20). I’ve been to some and would love to go to some of the others. Heck, if I had the opportunity, I’d probably go to them all. Time and money, folks, time and money.
Here, then, are the top 10 in reverse order, with photos and notes:
10 – Venice, Italy
Conde Naste cites “meandering streets and romantic canals” in defence of choosing Venice as it’s number 10 best city. There’s a lot of argument out there against it. It’s crowded and expensive and there are a lot of cities with canals if that’s the attraction. I’ve been there once for a brief visit and it was lovely. The first day was sunny and we walked and walked. The second morning was bucketing rain and that wasn’t so much fun but it was interesting to see how St. Mark’s Square floods. They put up low tables all around so the tourists can stand on them while waiting in line to get into the basilica. It *is* very touristy but if you can go off season, it’s not too crowded.
9 – Nuremberg, Germany
Nurmemburg has a “distinct blend of old and new.” It’s an “early capital of science and invention” and now has a lot of museums and markets with some lovely medieval architecture. It’s modern claim to fame is the post-WWII war trials but there’s a lot of history here.
8 – Rome, Italy
Rome is famed for “La Dolce Vita”, the sweet life, and Rome is as much an attitude as it is an experience. Where Conde Naste cites Florence’s history as an attraction, and it is, I’d argue that Rome is far more historic than Florence. To me, Florence is the centre of art and culture, the cradle of the Rennaissance. There was power in Florence, of course, especially with the commanding Borgia family but Rome’s power reached across much of the known world at one time. It still does if you consider the reach of the Catholic Church even if that technically comes out of Vatican City, a separate country but still considered part of Rome for most of us.
I’ve been to Rome three times over my lifetime, with gaps of almost 20 years between the first and second visit, and about 15 years between the second and third. Tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain for a quick return to Rome didn’t quite work as swiftly as promised! We visited a few of the big name attractions and enjoyed walking the streets and taking in all the atmosphere. I don’t know as there’s any time to go where it’s less crowded though we did find the crowds tolerable when visiting in November.
I like Rome. It’s a very big city but it’s historic centre really isn’t that vast. The traffic and drivers are a bit manic, mind you, so keep a sharp eye out. I think, though, of the three Italian cities on this list, I do prefer Florence.
7 – London, England
My favourite city of all, for the history even more so than the architecture though the new modern architecture is exciting, too. A sprawling city with a massive transportation network that works ok, though a bit bottle-necky on the surface in the tourist centre. The underground can be stodgey too, with line closures. Just get out and walk! It’s full of neighbourhoods that are all different from each other and each has a totally different vibe. It really is true that you can never get tired of London. Everyone will find something they enjoy here. Another city that’s crowded most of the year but worse in summer and on holidays. We made the mistake of going to the Tower of London over an Easter one year. Even though the rain was heavy at times, the queues were long and people were wall to wall!
I’ve been to London more times than I can count on two hands and I still haven’t seen areas of it that are on my list. I’ll be back.
6 – Paris, France
For Paris to be fairly high on the top 10 list is pretty much self explanatory. Paris is a beautiful city, loaded with history, art, architecture and romance. It’s vast but the transportation network is pretty efficient. You will never run out of things to do or see and there are lots of day trips you can take as well to go further afield. I’ve been there twice and it’s a city definitely worth repeat visits because there’s way too much to take in. I have a bit of French vocabulary sticking around from my high school years and I got along more or less ok but in the tourist areas, it’s generally not a problem. Menus are usually bilingual and most staff seem to know English. It doesn’t hurt to brush up on Merci and Excusez-moi and S’il vous plait, though.
5 – Vienna, Austria
Conde Naste says it’s “Artistic, exquisite, and largely shaped by its musical and intellectual foundations”. I think that means it’s a cultural hotspot, and they have great coffee, pastry and chocolate, too! I always think of it as an elegant city and I’d like to visit to see if that’s true.
4 – Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona, by the account of quite a few people I know that have been here, is a hip and exciting city with fantastic architecture in the classic “fantasy” meaning of the term. Gaudi and other modern art, museums, beaches and mountains, it’s a hot spot and probably a bit overrun with tourists much of the time. I do think it would be a very cool place to visit.
3 – Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg’s claims to fame are Mozart and the Von Trapp family, It is a city with an older section on one side of a river and 19th c. newer bit on the other. A picture book city that would be a really charming place to visit.
2 – Lucerne, Switzerland
It was never really on my list of places to go but for one person. My cousin Eddie went on a cross-Europe tour with his mother about 10 years ago I think. He saw a lot of places but he told me that he loved Lucerne, with the old medieval wooden bridge and the cafes at the edge of the water overlooking it. I promised him that if I ever got there, I’d sit at the cafe and have a drink and remember him. He died about a week later.
Probably not what you expected to be the Number 1 city in Europe, right? I get it, though. The history, the charm, the cradle of the Renaissance. Florence is a much more manageable size of a city than London or Paris or Vienna. You can walk everywhere, it’s got a world class museum or three and a stunning cathedral or two. It’s in the heart of Tuscany and I found that it had a really welcoming and charming feel in the atmosphere. I only had a day to spend in Florence at the end of a bus tour. I was tired and ready to go home but I really wished we had started the tour here instead of ending it. I would have loved to have spent more time and really would like to go back again. Rome or Venice might be the big attractions of Italy, but Florence is where you’ll really end up leaving your heart, if that’s not too cliche to say.
Here’s a slideshow of some photos I’ve taken in London, Paris, Florence, and Venice.
I recently saw a link to an article on Conde Nast Traveler’s website with a slide show of the 20 Best Cities in Europe. Curious, I went to look. How many of the cities had I visited? I anticipated some of the most obvious choices but kind of figured they would make some obscure choices. Turns out, of the 20, I’ve visited nine. Several of the others are cities I would really like to see some day. Whether I will or not is anyone’s guess.
Now. Do I blog them all at once, with notes, and a montage of the photos I’ve taken in the cities I’ve been to? Or do I blog them one a day or half and half in two posts?
I think I’ll post the bottom 10 first, then in another post I’ll do the top 10, so here goes, counting backwards from 20 to 11:
20 – Prague, Czech Republic
Conde Nast says “Picturesque Prague beats with a bohemian heart”. Everyone I know that has been there says it’s a really beautiful city and it’s definitely one that I’d love to see someday.
19 – Copenhagen, Denmark
Conde Nast calls it “a capital of Nordic cool, expensive but free to walk around and soak in the atmosphere.”. I’ve been to Copenhagen and I liked it quite a lot. I didn’t really expect much of it and it surprised me. The historic city centre is beautiful, flat, cobbled and there are loads of shopping, cafes, and historic sites with some lovely galleries as well. Transportation seems pretty good and easy to use. There’s a theme park in the middle of the city, too! (Tivoli). Yes, it’s definitely expensive but I’d go back anytime. We were there for 5 days and barely scratched the surface.
18 – Edinburgh, Scotland
I’ve been here, a couple of times. Edinburgh is an elegant old city steeped in history. The Old Town, higher up and cobbled, with touristy shops, galleries, cathedral, narrow streets, and the castle on the cliff with awesome views are part of the attraction and the Georgian New Town with more shopping and restaurants and beautiful architecture and a public garden below the castle cliffs are more reasons to go.
17 – Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich is on a river and surrounded by dramatic mountains, what’s not to love? I haven’t been here but have been told that Switzerland is a gorgeous and very clean country. Apparently it’s also close enough to Alsace or Venice for day trips by train as well.
16 – Madrid, Spain
Madrid is the capital of Spain and though I think I’d prefer Barcelona, Madrid does have one major bonus that could sway me, the Prado museum, one of the world’s best.
15 – Bruges, Belgium
Another place I’ve visited and liked a lot. There are a few small cities in Belgium with canals and cobbles. Bruges is probably one of the best known and most visited. We took a nice canal cruise which I would definitely recommend and admired the gorgeous architecture in the main squares. There are lots of little places to investigate on and off the beaten track. The old historic city centre is very well preserved and full of really old buildings.
14 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Conde Naste says “Windmills, cycling, Van Gogh, and canals are all part of Amsterdam’s storied charm”. Amsterdam *is* charming though it is also a larger city and it can be crowded. It’s very pretty, with the canals and the stately gabled houses lining them, with bridges and houseboats, and bicycles. Oh yes. You need to be aware because they sneak up on you without warning! We spent a few days here and saw a bit though there were a lot of things we didn’t have the time to get to see.
13 – Istanbul, Turkey
I haven’t been here, this enormous city on the border of Europe and Asia. It’s a very old city, known in Roman days as Constantinople for the Emperor Constantine who was fundamental in bringing Christianity to the wider Roman Empire. It has also been called Byzantium which dates back to ancient Greek days. The Istanbul we know is from the Ottoman empire and is now a Muslim based city. There are some spectactular religious buildings and famous markets. I think it would be a very interesting city to visit.
12 – Budapest, Hungary
Another city I would love to see and which I’ve been told is really beautiful, with old buildings and a lovely cathedral. There are actually two cities, Buda and Pest, one on either side of the Danube river. Best known for Art Nouveau architecture and a plethora of spas.
11 – Stockholm, Sweden
Yet another city built on islands and canals, this one in the north of Europe. Stockholm has become very hip and has long been known for it’s sleek designs. Since the release of the Millenium Trilogy books (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo et. al.), a lot of Swedish crime thrillers have become popular and Sweden seems to be even more of a destination. Definitely one I’d like to see though it’s even more expensive than Copenhagen!
Below is a gallery of a few photos I’ve taken of Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Bruges, and Amsterdam
If you can’t wait to find out the rest, then the slide show is here.