A word a week and the WordPress weekly photo challenge

I’m going to have to apologetically copy what Travels and Trifles did by combining both the Word AWeek challenge, “Smile”, and WordPress’s weekly photo challenge “Love” . I say “apologetically” because Travels and Trifles also used a photo of elephants and I knew I had similar photos and really couldn’t resist using mine since they do show both Smiles and Love!

Elephants are amazing creatures and their creased faces do show so much expression. These photos were taken at Chester Zoo in England on a chilly November day. There were two young elephants “wrestling” on a slippery, muddy bank and a mother and her baby were rolling a log around. You don’t think of animals having affection but when you watch many of the species, it’s clear that they must. It goes beyond instinct, I think.

Smiles on any living creature warm your heart.

Having a laugh

You wonder what they’re smiling about

Mother and child

Traveling via the movies – French Kiss

8778028_origThis is another movie that I really like, partly for the story itself and partly because it features some wonderful footage of Paris and the south of France. It was filmed in Paris including some scenes in the reknowned five star George V hotel and Cannes in the south. There are lovely views of vineyards in Vaucluse in Provence as well.

French Kiss was released in 1995 and starred Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline. Both were at the height of their movie heyday and had enjoyed a string of successes. Along with Timothy Hutton and Jean Reno, the cast just sparkled for me, creating really great characters.

Champs Elysee, Paris

The action takes place in Paris and in the south of France and follows Kate, an American about to marry a Canadian, Charlie, who goes to Paris for a medical convention and meets a French woman there and falls in love. Poor Kate’s perfectly planned world blows sky high and, although terrified of flying, gets on a plane to Paris determined to win Charlie back. On the plane she meets Luc, an arrogant and slightly distasteful Frenchman who is also be a jewel thief.  He smuggles a stolen necklace and a grape vine cutting in Kate’s carry on bag, knowing she would never be checked by customs but when her bag is stolen, he has to stick by her to try to help her get it back.

Their story takes them through the streets of Paris in daytime as well as at night, as Kate is in pursuit of Charlie and then to Nice where Charlie and his new girlfriend go for a holiday. Kate and Luc follow them and are in turn followed by a French detective who has a long complicated history with Luc. Luc promises to help Kate get Charlie back in return for the necklace.

As with most RomComs, you can predict how it will end but the personalities and chemistry of the actors makes it worth watching, as is the amazing scenery. The streets of Paris, at night especially, that we see are enchanting and the vineyards and little towns of southern France certainly make me want to wander the narrow cobbled streets of the villages and try the local wines at the sidewalk cafes and then drive through the hilly vineyards. The soundtrack of the movie is really atmospheric as well, one of my favourites.

Fab Photo Friday – Harrogate


Betty's Tea Room, Harrogate

Betty’s Tea Room, Harrogate

HHarrogate, in Yorkshire, U.K. is known as a “spa” city. Although it’s mineral rich waters were discovered in the 16th century, it boomed in Georgian times as a destination where people could take the waters and obtain all manner of cures. Today, the city is a popular destination and has lovely, elegant architecture and lots of nice pubs and restaurants and shops, many with the original storefronts. We saw several with windows that curved around the corner of the shop rather than being fit into a frame for the front and sides.

Betty’s Tea Room was established nearly a century ago. They serve a very civilized tea with scrumptious cakes and pastries and they do a very nice lunch as well. It’s not cheap but it’s one of those nice touristy things to do. There are other Betty’s establishments including one in the city of York but this one is the original one though not the original location in Harrogate.

The Royal Pump Room is early Victorian and is famed for the sulfur waters over which it sits. It was hugely popular in it’s day with up to 200,000 visitors or more during it’s height in the 1920s. It is now a museum showing some interesting artifacts of various medical “cures” and methods as well as Victorian items on display.

Harrogate Pump Room Museum

The Royal Pump Room Museum, Harrogate

Harrogate Pump Room Sign

Detail on the Royal Pump room building

Detail on the Royal Pump room building

Travel Be’s

Wow, what a great blog post on travel is this. International Travel Chick has some very true throughs on travel and the “The Travelling Be’s”. Be Flexible and Be Patient seem to be the ones that strike the most chords with me. Travel is about seeing new things and making memories and even if things don’t go to plan, you’ve got a great story to tell!

International Travel Chick

quote-i-havent-been-everywhereEach month, Oprah writes a column titled “What I Know For Sure” for her O Magazine.  After recent events, I am inspired to write my own article on “What I Know For Sure” about travel.  For me, travel is all about “The Travelling Be’s”…

Be Flexible
Travelling is like gambling…sometimes you win, other times you crap out. I would love to say ‘always bet on black’ but you might get caught in a blackout and I can’t have that on my conscience :)  Not every trip will go as planned…and that is the beauty of travel.  The adventure you experience along the way.  You may have a bad experience or 2, but hopefully the good travel memories blot out the bad.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Remember this…you are somewhere AMAZING (hopefully…sorry if you aren’t…that does suck for you…and if that is the case, get a ticket and go somewhere amazing…

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A Word a Week Photo Challenge – Weather

A rainy night in Manchester

Sue’s photo challenge this week is “Weather”.

Everyone loves to talk about the weather and when we travel, weather can make a big impact on how much we enjoy a destination. Some of us can make the best of bad weather and try not to let it get in the way of our enjoyment. Of course we always want the sun to shine when we’re on a vacation but it doesn’t always work out that way, even when you go to sunny and warm locations like a tropical island resort.

Most of my European vacations have been to the U.K. and Ireland with a smaller number of continental visits.  I’ve also been to  various Canadian destinations at various times of year. In a vast majority of my holidays, the weather seems to be similar. It’s overcast, a smattering of rain, and the very occasional sunny day. It does get depressing sometimes. My photos tend to look dull because there is no blue sky. I’ve not been above photoshopping it in now and then but mostly I don’t because the light in the sky doesn’t match the light in the photo anyway if you do that.

This most recent vacation to Rome was an exception. The sun shone out of a nearly cloudless sky the whole week!

Roman skies over the Colosseum

I’m writing to you now from Manchester in January and right from the start, the odds are against good weather but then, I haven’t come here for the weather this time.  Weather Gods, I would appreciate a little more sun on my UK holidays, especially when we’re road tripping. Keep it in mind for the future, could you please?

Here’s a few more weather related photos from my archives.

Canadian winter

Halifax fog

Radhuis Plads before the storm, Copenhagen

Long term effect of the Cornish wind on trees, permanently bent

Weather Gods – Bad; Travel Gods – acceptable; Luggage Gods – Rock my world!

Waiting patiently to travel

Waiting patiently to travel

Here I sit in the Toronto airport. I’m not supposed to be here. I should be home snuggling up in my bed, or at least relaxing in front of my PC instead of typing this on my laptop. Thank you Travel Gods for free WiFi at the Toronto Airport.

I’m not religious but I do have a few superstitions when it comes to travel. And anyway, griping about the Luggage Gods is better than whining and it makes people smile when you’re waiting for your bag to come sailing around the conveyor belt. They understand. And up to now, a quick prayer to the Luggage Gods en route and again while waiting for the luggage has always done me in good stead.

Let me back track a bit to this morning. We had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to get to Manchester airport for a 7:20 British Airways flight to Heathrow where I would then catch my Air Canada connection to Halifax. The weather in the UK over the past week has been a bit precarious with snow clogging up a few of the airports and causing havoc at Heathrow and Gatwick over the weekend before I left. Manchester had barely a few flakes. We were worried all week while I was here because the forecast kept changing and Friday was the Corrie event, which I’ve blogged about previously here. The weather gods were complacent and everyone got to the city for it, a good time was had by all.

Would the law of averages hold or sink? Well, you wouldn’t think it from looking at the rather limp wristed snow that was falling in Manchester this morning,  limp wristed by Canadian standards anyway. No, it shouldn’t be a problem. Except it was.

We boarded before 7 and already there were delays because we were in a queue to be de-iced. That sounds reasonable no matter what. It’s winter and it’s cold and frosty. An hour later we were headed to the runway. We’re leaving, Oh, Yes, We Are! The Weather Gods kicked us all in the collective nuts and cackled “Oh, No, You’re Not!”

The wings had to be inspected before takeoff and the snow was still caking them a bit which was unacceptable so we had to go back to the terminal and to the back of the de-icing queue. It took a while to get a spot at the terminal but when we got there, about 10 minutes later, the bad news was broadcast. The airport was being shut down for 90 minutes!!! Looking out the window and seeing what little snow was coming down would ordinarily make me scoff but here, they don’t have the equipment or personell to deal with it like we do in Canada. It’s a safe bet I won’t make my connection now.

During the course of the next hour, they got permission for anyone that wanted to, to be able to leave the plane. This mostly covered people that were heading to London for the day for work or meetings but a few others took the opportunity as well. That caused a further delay. By this time, the snow had stopped and the temperature had gone up a little. It took care of the snow melting off the plane but now we had to wait for the luggage to be rooted out of the holds to accompany their owners. By the time the plane finally got off the ground, we’d been sitting in it for 5 hours!

Here’s where the Travel Gods smoothed things over a bit. It was a relatively easy transfer to Terminal 3 once in London Heathrow and the Air Canada ticket staff got me rebooked on a flight to Toronto at 3:00. The time just then was a little past 1:30. They already had a gate assigned and there really wasn’t time to peruse the duty free shops so it saved me money at least. I walked to the gate and even got my seat changed to one with an empty beside me.

The flight to Toronto was comfortable enough. I may have dozed off a little after watching an old classic movie. (One had nothing to do with the other)  We landed in Toronto about 5:30 local time, that’s about 10:30 p.m. my body clock time. Yeesh! Now comes the part that always stresses me. Well, not a huge stress but you know what kind of a pain in the ass it is when your luggage doesn’t arrive with you? Actually, I don’t. So far, the luggage gods have been on my side. Will they continue with their stellar reputation where my bags are concnerned? I didn’t even need to check my bag as it is a rolling carry on but I thought it would be more aggravation dragging it around. I only had the tote bag I had the laptop in plus my handbag (purse) while the carry on case was checked.

The immigration queue went quickly and off I trotted to the baggage carrousels. I waited. And waited. It’s amazing how many bags go round and round with nobody claiming them yet there are always some people still waiting and some bags never show up. I was becoming convinced mine had not made the flight when there it was! Hoo Yuss! Thank you Luggage Gods!

Even though my bags were supposed to be checked through to Halifax, I still have to take them off the flight to go through customs in case they want to inspect them and you’re supposed to then put them back on a ramp to be re-checked into the baggage holds. I decided to ask to see if I had to re-check them because it would take less time if I arrived in Halifax and had it all with me. The man, he say YES so I just had to go to the connections staff so they could change the system. They would have been expecting a checked bag and security would probably have a hissy fit if it wasn’t where it was supposed to be.

Through security and down to the gate which was already on the board. A decaf latte and free wifi. The onward flight to Halifax is at 9 o’clock, boarding at 8:20. By the time I get home it will be past midnight local time with my body hitting the 24 hours awake mark. I don’t expect to get home until after 1 and I’m not messing around, I’m taking a taxi.

I wonder if the trip cancellation and interruption insurance I bought will cover it?

Memories of Copenhagen – Day 5 and 6

Botanic Gardens, Copenhagen

Continuing on, our last day and a half in Copenhagen…

Day five is again overcast and cool. This is getting boring! We had the Sunday brunch at Bankerat today and that was very good. They had an English style one with beans and bacon and sausage that Graham had and I had one with cold meats, cheese, yogurt, eggs and bacon. I’ve given up trying to get a decent cup of tea and am sticking with coffee for the duration.

Rather than take another bus tour, we walked through the Botanic Gardens and then over to Rosenborg Castle. That was really good! There are a couple of floors of rooms chock full of antiques and art and collections that took ages. There was a lot to see there including the crown jewels in the vaults. It’s a 17th century brick castle built as a summer home for Christian IV but only used as a residence for about 100 years. The Royal Collections have been housed here and open to the public from the middle of the 19th century. The treasury and jewels are dazzling. I particularly liked the ivory collection with some exquisite carvings and there was a collection of gold toy soldiers that was something to see as well. And yes, the jewels and crowns and jewelled books were stunning, too. This was definitely an interesting place to visit.

We went over to Tivoli Gardens where we’re meeting the others later on. Tivoli was founded in 1843 and is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. There are gardens, a little lake with boating, a pavilion, a concert hall, a pantomime theatre and an outdoor stage. There are lots of rides for kids and adults, one or two that looked terrifying and which, judging from the screams coming from them, certainly had that effect on some of the people! There are arcade and game booths, a fish tank with some small sharks and a stingray and lots of other fish. One area is done up in a Chinese theme and other seems very like you walked into a storybook. We saw a parade of the Tivoli Boys’ band looking like red toy soldiers and at the end of the parade were two children in a horse drawn carriage.

Pantomime in Tivoli gardens

Naturally there are lots of restaurants as well for fine dining right down to general family friendly places. The down side is that it is a bit on the expensive side. In addition to the lofty entrance fee you pay, you also have to pay extra for the rides. None of us did that aside from one that Dave’s little “nipper” wanted to go on. The others weren’t planning to eat there so we stayed on ourselves and walked around some more and saw the end of a pantomime though couldn’t understand it as it was in Danish! We ate in a Viking theme place which was a bit touristy but the food wasn’t bad. We decided not to stay until it got dark to see if there were fireworks because it was still a few hours until the sun went down and we’d seen everything we wanted to and it looked like rain. Indeed as we went back for the bus it did rain a bit but it didn’t come down too hard until overnight.

On our last day in Copenhagen THE SUN CAME OUT!!!! Doesn’t that just figure? After breakfast back at Klimt, we realized we wouldn’t have time to go through the Copenhagen city museum if we were meeting Dave at 12:30 so we just walked through the city centre and went to Trille’s shop to wait for Dave and Matt. The four of us wandered the sunny squares and streets and just enjoyed the sunshine and scenery. I found a little private courtyard lined with some ofthe oldest wooden buildings in the city. It was something I’d seen on a Rick Steves Travel show so I was glad I’d found it! The old quarter is so much prettier under a blue sky! Pity we didn’t have more time to lounge on a sidewalk cafe or explore more.

View to the Round Tower and BLUE SKY!

We had to grab sandwiches for lunch and we’d booked a taxi to the airport mid afternoon. With a little last minute shopping at the duty free stores, we boarded a plane and landed back in Manchester which was…. grey and gloomy as per usual. Nothing new there, then.

We have a rental car for the next week so we can do some driving around. We spent one day up in the Lake District, in Grasmere and Keswick and visited the Castlerigg Stone Circle. We also went to the Trentham estate near Stoke and saw some lovely gardens and a macaque monkey sanctuary. Our weekend in Manchester was a group get together with a lot of Coronation Street fans, gathered to celebrate the iconic tv show’s 50th birthday this year (2010). With a visit to the television studios, and a few get togethers, a good time was had by all!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Beyond

This is in reply to WordPress’s Weekly Challenge. “Beyond” is this week’s word.

I know they say to just post one photo but I will have to post several. First, though, my take on “Beyond”. I have traveled this week to the U.K. for a specific reason and it truly is a look beyond. When you watch your favourite show on television, you know it’s filmed on a studio set, or it could be filmed on a set constructed outdoors specifically for that show. They may also add in real locations from a city or other area. You don’t really see what’s beyond your screen, though, what it really looks like.

This week, I get to see beyond the screen with a special tour of the television studios where my favourite tv show is filmed in Manchester. It’s Coronation Street and it’s filmed at Granada Studios (now ITV). The show has been on the air for 52 years and holds the record for longest current television show. I was part of a group who got to visit both the constructed set of the neighbourhood used for outside filming as well as some of the studio sets for the interior filming.

The iconic pub of Coronation Street, the Rovers Return. on the outdoor set.

The iconic pub of Coronation Street, the Rovers Return. on the outdoor set.

Inside the open door, but from the inside set you wouldn't walk into a wall like this.

Inside the open door, but from the inside set you wouldn’t walk into a wall like this.

What's inside the building.

What’s inside the building.

What the actual pub set looks like

What the actual pub set looks like. You can see the door in the back and can compare it to what we saw through the door above on the outdoor building. You don’t usually see in through the door from the outside on film, anyway.

The “Street” is 2/3 the size of a real street due to size constraints so they use creative camera angles to give the impression of a full size street and buildings. The actors have to walk slower, too, to give the impression of a longer street. The buildings are mere shells, with very little inside aside from storage and a few props so that filming from the outside through doors and windows will be consistent with what you might see on the inside set.

The studio sets are amazing. There is so much detail that you never really notice watching on screen because you mostly focus on the actors rather than the background but it’s all designed to give you the whole story of the character that owns that room. They also do little things like when there has been a house or business that has had a fire, when they redecorate it, something is painted orange. It might be a staircase in a factory or a sign on a door but it’s there.

The Kabin, which is the corner shop, "dressed" and ready for filming.

The Kabin, which is the corner shop, “dressed” and ready for filming.

Another set ready and lit for filming

Another set ready and lit for filming

This is the "Barlow" set. There is a piece of furniture in this room that's been part of this room since 1960, from the very first episode.

This is the “Barlow” set. There is a piece of furniture in this room that’s been part of this room since 1960, from the very first episode.

We were escorted by the studio liason officer who had so much behind the scenes information that there is too much to write here but one other insight is that the boss/owner of the local underwear factory, which is called Underworld, is always a baddie or at least, not very sympathetic. Thus the business name. The devil comes from the Underworld.

It’s a fan dream come true to see behind the scenes and beyond the screens we watch every episode and I will be watching for all these little touches that much closer.

For all you Coronation Street fans, a bit more about the day here, with a link to more photos.

From behind the camera

From behind the camera

A view of the studio with two of the sets at the back of the shot

A view of the studio with two of the sets at the back of the shot

Memories of Copenhagen – Day 3 and 4

Gundestrup Caldron – National Museum, Copenhagen Largest known sample of European Iron Age silverwork dating 200 BC – 300 AD

Continuing on with my Copenhagen memories…

Another cold and damp day! We are going to the National Museum but first, brunch at Cafe Klimt and we were not disappointed! We bought “clip cards” for the busses and hopped on one to the town hall square, Radhuspladsen. The famed Tivoli Gardens amusement park is next to the square and the central train station is nearby as well. We walked around the building taking pics and then to the museum which isn’t far from there.

It’s a natural history type museum of the area, from prehistoric times to the present. There are some wonderful old artifacts and treasures including some gold and silver, paintings, even burial treasure. It’s a really big museum with free entry but a lot to see in one go. We went around to the bits we most wanted to see, had a coffee in the cafe and later headed back out into the historic centre to browse the shops along the narrow cobbled streets.

Stroget – Actually five adjoining streets, pedestrianized for shoppers in Copenhagen. Starts at the Town Hall square and ends in Kongens Nytorv square.

The Stroget is a long series of 5 streets back to back that has been pedestrianized and set up for shopping. It’s been so well received that other similar shopping areas like it have been implemented in many other European cities.

The shops range from high end department stores and designer shops to low end souvenir kiosks and everything in between. Side and parallel streets have good stores as well including antiques. There’s a flagship Lego store on the Stroget and there are usually buskers and entertainers scattered through the throngs of people. We were mainly after a few souvenirs so didn’t go into the department stores or posh places like the Royal Copenhagen china store though I did drool at the window for a few minutes.

We had trouble again trying to get a place to eat because, it being Friday night, you pretty much needed a reservation anywhere and we didn’t think to do that. We blagged our way into the restaurant next to the hotel, an Italian place called La Rocca but got the distinct feeling we were putting them out. It was a posher place than we anticipated and we really weren’t dressed for it as we usually prefer more casual surroundings but I did catch the waiter off guard when I ordered *in* Italian and said “Grazie”. The service improved every so slightly after that.

As usual with the more upscale restaurants, and something we should have remembered, the portions are small. We had looked at ordering the pizza and didn’t, favouring the ravioli which, when it came, barely covered half the plate but what really annoyed us was seeing someone at the next table be served with a pizza. It was huge and the person ordering it didn’t even eat half of it! The food was good, but we were not happy with the attitude of the staff and the portions and the price which was not cheap. Live and learn!

We were supposed to go to the airport tonight with Dave because his brother was arriving for a visit, and then for drinks but I was still chilled from the day so I opted out and they had a boys’ night out instead. I got a cup of tea from the hotel lobby and busied myself with my journal and the free wifi in the room!


Day four in Copenhagen dawned, yes you guessed it, overcast and chilly. Omelets for breakfast at Klimt and off to catch a bus for the hop on hop off tour to get an overview of the city. The ticket is good for two days if we want to do more tomorrow, though in the end, we didn’t. We caught it at the town hall and went around the main route.

We got round to where the other ubiquitous Copenhagen tourist icon is, the Little Mermaid. Normally this small statue sits on a rock out in the harbour about 10 feet from shore. Copenhagen is Hans Christian Andersen country and this is one of those stops that most of the tourists make to take photos. We wouldn’t have bothered going at all but the bus stopped there.

Guard at Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen

The thing is, the Mermaid statue was actually not there! She was off on a tour of China so she wasn’t sitting on her rock. There’s a large video screen erected in front of it showing a live feed from China where you can see the Mermaid on her/a rock with Chinese tourists looking at her. Bizarre. And the weird thing is, people actually get off the bus and go look and take photos. Of the video screen. *shakes head*

One place we got off was the square at the Amalienborg palaces, a cobbled area that has four nearly identical palaces surrounding it where some of the royal family live. There’s a museum in one of them as well. It’s also a traffic roundabout normally so you would want to be careful. As luck would have it, it was nearly midday and the traffic was all stopped for the daily changing of the palace guard so we got to stand in the centre of the square and watch it. It’s quite nice to watch, not a huge production like the Buckingham Palace one.

Marble Church (Marmorkirken, officially known as Frederik’s Church, for King Frederik V)

We also had a look in the huge Marble Church or Marmorkirken with it’s Baroque dome on top. That’s just a block away and a block to the other direction, on the harbour front is a little park with a big fountain that looks across the harbour to the new Opera house. We walked towards Nyhavn from there, with a coffee stop, By the time the next tour bus came, we just took it back to the start and decided that was enough for one day. We walked down into Stroget to find somewhere to eat though weren’t overly impressed with our lunch. We went back to the hotel before going out again for an early dinner with Dave, his wife and son and his brother. It was nice to meet his wife finally! She owns a shop selling goth and club gear near the university which we also got to see en route to a buffet restaurant called RizRaz. Good food, mostly vegetarian on the buffet but you can also order some meat as an add on.

The evening was another quiet one for me as the men were off to record another radio show. I could have gone but it was a squash with four of us the other night so a fifth would have been too uncomfortable. I left them to it, bought some snacks and curled up with the telly.

A Word a Week Challenge – Round

This week, Sue’s Word a Week challenge is Round. A geomtric shape, the circle, and we find it everywhere we look. We eat off (usually) round plates and drink out of (usually) round vessels. A circle is the symbol of eternity with no beginning or end. There are too many round things to list but the more you think of it, the more you’ll see just from where you’re sitting. Right in front of me is a webcam, with a round eye. There are dvds on the desk. There are two round mugs and a round jar of hand cream and a little crystal vase. Batteries, buttons on remote controls…

Here then are some well rounded photos:

Roundness in the TARDIS

Daleks are full of roundness

Gauges on a steam engine.
Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester UK

Flea market finds

The Atomium, Brussels

It was a bumpty ride before the wheel

Double helix staircase
Vatican Museums, Rome

The round interior and dome of the Pantheon, Rome

Camden Stables market, London