Postcard love

It was about 1995 that I first touched base with the internet. It was only via work and all we had was the ability to email and we had usenet, aka “newsgroups”.  I became a fan of newsgroups, connecting with people that had similar interests, mainly American soap operas and Coronation Street. I made some very good friends through my Corrie connections over the years and it’s given me opportunities to travel. Also, when I have traveled, I’ve often had someone living in the area that I could hang out with for a meal and a drink at the very least.

But there was another interest I discovered. Postcards. I don’t remember now how I found the newsgroup for postcard trading, whether I specifically searched for it or whether I heard mention of it elsewhere. This particular newsgroup was monitored and moderated once you joined. They also had a trading aspect. They amassed a list of names and addresses and the types of postcards you were interested in. Everyone on the list got a copy, were mandated to keep it private, and you could then send postcards to anyone on the list if you had one that matched their interest. They were not obligated to send you one in return but most people did if they could.

I have always liked postcards. Any time someone traveled somewhere, I asked them to send me one or bring me back one. It felt like armchair traveling and I could live vicariously through the pictures of far off places. I think even as a teenager, I was collecting them though the collection didn’t get very large. I do recall sending cards home when I went on a school trip to Italy and France in my last year of high school. My mother kept the cards and I re-discovered them some years later. It was very interesting to read my tiny cramped handwriting, so anxious to fit in all that I was seeing and doing on that one small card!

I always bought postcards when I traveled to new places. They make a great souvenir and are a good complement to all the photos I take, as well. You can’t get an overview of a large building or area on the ground with your camera but a postcard can give you that perspective. Often you aren’t allowed to take photos inside a church or cathedral or other place and a postcard or two is the only way to bring back a visual memory. I would file them in the album with my trip pictures plus a few extra for the postcard collection.

I always sent a lot of postcards to friends and family, too. Often I’d arrive home before the card did but it didn’t matter. I was seeing new things and new places and wanted to pass on my impressions. In this day and age of emails and blog posts and social media, it’s not something I do much anymore and that’s a pity, really.  Everyone loves to find mail in their mailbox that isn’t a bill or an advertising flyer.

Prince's Lodge, Bedford, Nova Scotia

Prince’s Lodge, Bedford, Nova Scotia

Now I began trading cards and looking for them. I would find some antique cards of the city where I live to send to people that like that sort of thing and I began to find them very interesting as well. Messages written on the back so long ago could sometimes be fascinating. People used to send postcards frequently if they didn’t have time to write a whole letter. They’d send a quick card to let a loved one know what day they’d arrive by train, or that someone was recovering well from an illness, everyday living, not just travel related. It’s a slice of real life.

Trading postcards was a lot of fun and there was almost always one or two pieces of mail in my box a few times a week. Sometimes single cards, sometimes envelopes with several. I remember taking a bus tour around the UK and we tourists on the bus, the ones that became friends and hung out together promised to keep in touch. As you do. I suggested we all send each other postcards instead of Christmas cards that year of where we all lived. It was deemed a great idea.  Most everyone that agreed to do it did it and I received cards from New Zealand, Israel, Australia, Malaysia as well as various places in Canada and the U.S. We never really kept in touch after that, though. Our group holiday romance faded away as they usually do.

My favourite kinds featured the beautiful architectural buildings found all over the world. Castles,  churches, cathedrals and other buildings of religious significance, cottages,  town halls and squares, mansions, etc. I traded postcards from that list for several years in the 90s and into the early 2000s but as the price of stamps went up and up and up, it became quite expensive and people seemed to be trading less and less so it went by the wayside. I still have two good sized shoe boxes with my postcards stored though I haven’t looked through them in some time.

I keep thinking I will weed through and save my favourites and do something with the rest, perhaps find a second hand shop that will take them off my hands. There used to be a shop locally that sold stamps and they had postcards as well but I don’t think they’re in business anymore.  Yes, I suppose I could put them on eBay if  some are collectible, that’s an option. I wouldn’t likely get a lot for most of them and it might cost more to post them so would someone want to buy them only to add on 5 or 10 dollars postage for something they might only have paid less than $5.00? I don’t know how successful it would be but I could try.

Meanwhile, I see racks of postcards and they still make me feel nostalgic for my own heyday of collecting.

Travel Theme: Quiet

This week’s travel theme from Where’s My Backpack is Quiet.

We set out on a road trip around the southern tip of Nova Scotia last September. Our first day was overcast and then turned quite foggy in spots. It wasn’t late in the month but it being a weekday and the weather not really being bright and inviting must have kept the tourists home. One of our stops was the town of Shelburne, an old historic town that has a waterfront area of very old buildings that were restored and used in filming several movies and series. The buildings contain museums, shops, cafes and a B&B. There is a theatre space and the old warehouses near the shipyard and marina and the side streets have some lovely old houses as well. We walked around and enjoyed the area. I think it’s quite busy there in the summer months but we had the place almost to ourselves.
Historic building in Shelburne

Cox building, Shelburne

An old warehouse, now housing an artist’s studio on the ground floor

Bottle Glass Window

Old bottle glass window detail

Houses the Dory Museum and shop

Down the road a little from Shelburne is Shag Harbour. Its claim to fame is a UFO sighting there in October 1967. They often get tourists through there, stopping at the small museum and taking photos at the park that looks over the bay, the location where the mysterious lights first appeared. They also have a festival in October and get a very good turnout. This year is the 50th anniversary and they are planning on some extra events. It won’t be quiet then but it sure was when we were there, the fog thick and eerie only adding to the mystery of the village.
Shag Harbour Shoreline

Shag Harbour Pier
Foggy Shag Harbour
Shag Harbour Museum sign
Further information about the Shag Harbour Incident:
The Shag Harbour Incident Society
UFO Casebook
Wikipedia
Books:
Impact to Contact: The Shag Harbour Incident
Shag Harbour Incident 1967

The Travel Agent Kiss of Death

Greek Helmet, British Museum, London

Greek Helmet, British Museum, London

This is *not* a rant about travel agents. I’ve mostly always had very positive encounters with these knowlegable and lovely people that help me book trips and hotels. I do like to do my research online and I will often book things myself but if I have a larger combination of things to book, I will drop in to an agency and use their expert services. It’s done me well in the past, too. They have obtained some good hotel deals and can get flight bookings in combinations that the airline and booking sites don’t always present  after a search.

No, the “kiss of death” is me.

Over the past 25 years or so, I can tell you that nearly every travel agent I’ve ever used leaves me one way or another. They change branches, they retire, they just disappear and most recently, the whole agency closed down. I’m telling you, I’m getting paranoid.

Some people tell me they’ve used the same agent for decades. Lucky them! I never have managed to built up a rapport with a travel agent. I have a cousin that was a travel agent but I didn’t dare use her services for fear of her losing her job! I think the most I’ve ever used any individual agent was twice. The third time I went to book something, I hear “Oh they don’t work in this office anymore”. Of course they don’t.

I really don’t think it’s me that drives them away. Most of my bookings are straight forward. I’m not forceful, or pushy and I’m always polite. My credit card has never been declined (yet! knocking on wood just to keep the Travel Gods on my side).

I’ve been using the Flight Centre branch near my office over the last few years even when one of the agents I’ve used has moved on. I came into the shopping area at work one Monday morning a few weeks ago and the whole office was closed and the glass storefront papered up. There was no warning sign that I remembered seeing. I just shook my head, not really very surprised.

There’s still an agency in the shopping area and another one across the street. I’m going to be planning a trip for late this year. Do I dare? In fact, I probably won’t need flights booked because I’m going to be using Aeroplan points for one of the main flights and my best friend’s husband who works for another airline, offered to try to get us tickets on our other flight at a discount. All I need from there is deciding when I will need hotels and possibly a rental car for one or two days. Still, they can find good deals on hotels that may not be available online. That’s happened to me before.

We need a plan first. Then we will have to pick the hardiest looking agent, not one too near retirement age and not one too new. Someone tenatious, someone “hard”, someone with staying power. A Warrior.

The quest continues.

Now for something completely different

Cheatham's Library, Manchester UK

Cheatham’s Library, Manchester UK

I love to travel. That’s no news, of course, this is a travel blog. My other passion is reading, a lifelong love of words and stories. Books take me to other worlds, other lives, other destinations. I thought it was about time I started a blog focussed on reading and books. If you are interested, it’s called Reader at Large, here.

It’s early days but I hope to fill the screens with reviews, discussions, and other chat about the written word. Drop buy and join me!

 

Traveling through television: Sherlock

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square

Occasionally, I write a few lines about a movie or tv show that has great locations, shots that make me really want to visit somewhere. In today’s blog, it’s somewhere I’ve been quite a few times and it’s not so much a case of “I want to go there” but “I want to go back there” and that somewhere is London. I know I’ve featured London before in this series of posts but if you want a really good look at the city, not just the famous landmarks but the streets and neighbourhoods, the BBC series Sherlock is excellent.

We’ve been delving into a box set of Sherlock, the BBC series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock and Watson. It was filmed on location mostly in London with some locations in Wales that stand in for London. It was apparent right from the start that they were out and about in London itself because London has a distinctive look in spite of having a great many different neighbourhoods. You get a look at all the famous sites such as Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament (Westminster) and the Tower Bridge and Tower of London. You get to see the London skyline sometimes from a vantage point across the river to the Southbank. You watch Sherlock and Watson running through the streets of Covent Garden, Picadilly Circus and Soho at night.

Picadilly Circus from above

Picadilly Circus from above

We were part way through the second episode of Series 1 and both remarked at the same time that it was just like being back there. It’s always fun to watch for familiar views when you’ve been somewhere that a tv show or movie has used for filming and you can smugly point and say “I’ve been there”. We are enjoying the series as much for that as for the stories themselves.

Sherlock’s famous home, 221B Baker Street doesn’t actually exist in London. Standing in for it is 187 North Gower street, a bit further east, not far from the British Museum.

221B Baker Street (not really!)

221B Baker Street (not really!)

187 North Gower St.

187 North Gower St.

One of the scenes has Sherlock running through an antiquities museum. It seemed like a large place and I wondered why it wasn’t looking at all familiar. I’ve been in most of the big museums in London but it turns out that location is actually inside the Welsh National Museum in Cardiff. There are a few other spots and buildings in Cardiff they used as well including this one below, taken from the first series.

Actually a college in Cardiff

Actually a college in Cardiff

If you like London or want to go there, Sherlock is a great series to feast your eyes on the city’s streets and monuments. There are three series and only three 90 minute episodes in each. The stories are great, they’ve updated it really well. And then, there’s Benedict Cumberbatch! Arguments? Thought not.

Enjoy!

Sherlockology

Fangirlquest’s Sherlock location page

Britmovietours does a Sherlock location tour

There’s going to be a fourth series!

A Photo a Week Challenge – White

Nancy Merrill’s Photography’s weekly challenge is White. Rather than be boring and post snow pictures, because we all get too sick of the stuff by the time winter’s over and I would rather not think of what’s to come, I’m posting other white-themed pictures from my travels!

White linen, Arnhem Openluchtmuseum (Open Air Museum), The Netherlands

Hotel Le Guilleret, Old Montreal

Nimb window

Window of a restaurant in Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen

The building below is in London on the Thames Southbank and  sports a plaque that says Christopher Wren and Katherine of Aragon both stayed here, but apparently that’s actually not true. The house dates to 1710. That passes Katherine by 200 years but apparently Wren did stay a few doors down while rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedal. More on the history of the building here.

Wren house on the Southbank

Building is called Cardinal’s Wharf and is on the southbank of the Thames in London near the Tate Modern and Globe Theatre.

Tomcat cockpit

Tomcat cockpit. Intrepid Air, Sea and Space museum, New York City

A Photo A Week Challenge: Props

Nancy Merrill Photography’s blog has a weekly challenge and this week’s theme is Props. It’s often easier to take portraits of people if they have familiar items with them, especially for children to try to keep them focused. People like to show off their things, creations, anything that gives you an idea of who they are. In my post, I’ve decided to show some photos from a historical fort, Louisbourg, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia where the staff dress in 18th century period costume and portray what life was like in the French fortress in that era. To see more of my visit to Louisbourg, check out my Flickr album.

Declaration

He’s guilty! (Sentenced to having to stand in an iron collar for two hours a day for three days in a row. All for stealing a bottle of wine.)

Costumed "inhabitants"

Passing the time of day.

Louisbourg Drummer

The Drummer Boy

Basket Weaving

Basket Weaving 101

Amsterdam Windows

Yes, it has been awhile since I’ve posted anything and I do apologize. This post is in answer to “A Lingering Look at Windows”  As you may know by now, I love taking pictures of windows and doors. This time the photos are all from our trip to Amsterdam in 2009 (was it that long ago!?)

Streetlamps and windows

Near Rembrandt square

Window Shutter detail

Shutter detail near the Floating Flower Market

Canal houses

Along one of the many canals

Begijnhof roofs

The black building is one of the oldest surviving wooden buildings in Amsterdam and is in the Begijnhof area.

Pathe Tuschinski detail

The Art Deco Pathe Tuchinski cinema

New Amsterdam public library

And a touch of modern Amsterdam, the new public library

Travel Theme: Dark

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is Dark. It’s not always easy to take a night shot without a tripod though at times, a handheld shot that shows blur or camera shake can still work. Here are a few shots from my travels, hand held and with tripod.

Stadhuis, Grand Place, Brussels

Stadhuis, Grand Place, Brussels

Vatican St Peter Square night

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City

Manchester's Christmas decos around Town Hall

Manchester, near the Christmas markets, on a rainy night. Taken through the car window

Champs Elysee at night

Champs Elysee, Paris. From the Arc du Triomphe looking towards Place de la Concorde

Waiting for the bus, London

Waiting for the bus. London. A hand-held shot that works

Travel Theme: Hills

Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack has a weekly travel photo theme. This week it’s Hills. While I don’t go hiking or hill walking, we do encounter hills on our drives, train rides, etc.  and traversing through cities which almost always have hills. Some more than others. The steepest city I’ve ever been in was St. John’s, Newfoundland, the easternmost province in Canada. The streets soar up from the harbour, some so steep they actually have little staircases in parts of them. Here are a few photos featuring hills.

First, from one of my favourite parts of England, the Peak District National Park

Peak_1520
Next up is a view from another of my favourite regions, the Lake District.
Lake District
Here in Canada, you can’t beat the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia for dramatic scenery.
Cabot Trail MacKenzie Mountain
Then there are the rolling hills of the tiny province of Prince Edward Island.
Country Roads
And last, Sacre Coeur, high on the hill overlooking Paris
Sacre Coeur