Traveling through the movies: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

The full title of the movie is The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, released in 1994. For those in the know, “Priscilla” is a bus. Yes, a bus. Well, see, there’s two drag queens and a transexual traveling across the Australian outback in a big bus they paint purple and they name it Priscilla. What else would you call it?

This is a great movie and very colourful in many senses of the term. The performers are drag queens with very imaginative and colourful costumes put and the characters themselves, along with those they meet on the way are equally colourful. It was a low budget film when it was made and they found all sorts of odds and ends to make the costumes, including one memorable dress made of beach flip flops! The characters themselves would not have a lot of money and would have to be creative with their costumes so it all works well.

They head out across the Australian Outback from Sydney to a resort in Alice Springs to do a cabaret act for an old friend of “Tick”, an old friend that turns out to be his ex-wife. Tick, played by the awesome Hugo Weaving, persuades Bernadette, played by the equally amazing Terence Stamp, to come along. She used to be Ralph and is grieving the death of her lover. They are saddled with Adam, played by a young Guy Pearce, a drama queen in every sense of the word,  but Adam is very good at what he does.

Along the way, Priscilla lets them down and they meet up with a miner and his mail order bride, they surprise the heck out of the rough and ready inhabitants of more than one town and find some kindred spirits in a band of Aboriginal people late one night.

Australia is a continent that I’d love to see. A road trip through the wild outback would be amazing. The scenery you see here really shows off the majesty of the country. It might look like miles and miles of not very much but then you see the stars at night or the sun rise and you want to phone and book a ticket right away. Australia is a very diverse place, with tropics, desert, beautiful coastlines and valleys stocked with wineries.

The movie is a lot of fun and if you can’t get to Australia, you can visit through this film. There is a musical stage production as well but without the scenery to drop your jaw, it’s going to be fun, but it won’t make you want to pack your bags.

I Heart Her City

New York Public Library

New York Public Library (Photograph by Wally Gobetz, Flickr)

I’ve been browsing a blog on the National Geographic Traveler magazine’s website by Annie Fitzsimmons, the Urban Insider. I thought she might have some interesting articles on New  York, with the view to our visit there in May.  I am really happy I did! This post in particular of all the ones she’s got tagged with New York City has probably added 4 or 5 things to the list of places to see and things to do. She loves her city and after reading that post, I just might as well!

At least one item she listed was already on my Radar, the Frick Collection.

She describes her neighbourhood, Greenwich Village so well that I think a wander around there is definitely called for.

And what about this? The Transit Museum where the store has unique souvenirs except that seems to be an online shop not a real one. Will have to investigate further.

We probably won’t get as far north on Manhattan as The Cloisters but you never know. I have seen the Unicorn tapestries. On my one visit to NYC I was lucky enough to see them at the main Metropolitan Musuem.

I really would like to see the New York Public Library interior and the Rose Reading Room. It looks amazing.

G. wants to go up in the Empire State Building and we decided we are probably going to take a bus tour around the city. Those usually include several routes, a night tour and one to see Brooklyn which is apparently not that interesting though you get to stop and take a photo across at the skyline.  One advantage of these tours is using them as transportation. You can get off at various locations and explore the areas and neighbourhoods.  There are also television/movie locations tours that might be interesting too.

Now that G. has his ticket to Canada, I will sort out the NYC tickets. I’m going to use Aeroplan points for those and I’m still trying to decide on a hotel. So many to choose from! Saving money on the flights will help with the hotel budget.

National Geographic magazine is one of, if not my favourite travel magazine. I get a few but this one has the best photography of all. Some years ago I flew to Toronto for a photography seminar they gave. I must blog about that sometime!

A Word a Week Challenge – Zoom

Sue’s Word a Week Challenge for this week is Zoom.  Zoom for photography is to use a long lens to bring an object in closer. Zoom in, that’s what we say. Focus in closer. Zoom also means fast. “Zoom Zoom!” is the tag line for a well known car manufacturer.  I’ve got a few photos here that illustrate both meanings of the word.

Pont des Arts, Paris, and Notre Dame. Zoom factor 20x

And this is the same view from where I was standing. No zoom involved.

This is photoshopped but imitates a technique where you can take a photo at the same time as employing the zoom lens to give a feel of motion.

Watching an underground train zoom by. London.

Zooming in on Westminster tower on the London Houses of Parliament. I was in the London Eye at the time

Debbie Harry on stage. Obviously I was not standing right in front of her. Zoom Zoom!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

WordPress’s weekly photo challenge this week is “Forward”. There were two ways I thought about illustrating this word, three if you consider I could have just posted photos of roads leading off into the distance but that would be too easy. One of the ideas I had was a bit more political than the other and I think I’ll take the safer route and take you back into the past.

But that’s not “forward”, you say! Stay with me… We’re going back to England, 1665. Another bout of the Plague was sweeping through the country. A bundle of cloth was delivered to a tailor by the name of George Viccars.  The cloth was infested with fleas and as we know now, they were the beasties that carried the infection. Viccars died in days. In the coming months a lot of people died but by the spring, the local ministers started to think what was, for the time, very outside of the box and forward thinking. They decided they ought to isolate the village from the rest of the countryside.

They arranged to have supplies brought to the edge of the village where they kept a pool of vinegar in order to disinfect the money changing hands. They kept church worship separated from the general population to try to keep people from gathering and spreading the disease.  Only about 25 or 30% of the village survived by the time the plague had played itself out, over a year later. The forward thinking of the village authorities kept the plague from spreading through the immediate district and county.

Today the lovely stone village is accessed via a small road through a wooded area and surrounded by open hills and countryside making the village feel just as isolated. There’s a little museum there that is of interest and tells the story and the old church has graves of many of the victims buried in the churchyard.

One of the “Plague Cottages”, Eyam, Derbyshire

The cottage where the first victim of the plague died, Eyam, Derbyshire

The first time I saw London

stpaulsoutsideReading the first part of The Habitual Runaway’s visit to London has inspired me to write about the first time I went there. Like her, I have since visited many times but that first one, for me, was most definitely memorable. I have always been interested in British history and culture and always knew that the first time I could afford to take a proper trip, it would be to London and the U.K. In 1993, I was ready.

I planned a trip with a woman I was friendly with at work. She’d been there once or twice and she’d traveled a bit so at least one of us would know where to go and what to do and how to navigate Heathrow Airport! We decided to take a bus tour around England, Wales and Scotland with a couple of days in London at the beginning and at the end. I had not undertaken a big trip like this since high school when I went on the French department trip to Rome and Paris. This was big. This was an adult dream come true. We planned, and decided on a tour and booked it. We were going near the end of August and we were both quite excited. Maybe a little too excited? Add on to that, some work stress in the weeks leading up to it and we were more than ready to get away.

The overnight flight felt very long and there was a child near where we were sitting who wouldn’t settle down, poor kid so we didn’t get any sleep at all. On top of the excitement and recent job stress, can we add sheer exhaustion to the mix? Right. We met with the tour director and with many others on the tour, were bussed to the hotel. We had vouchers for the theatre which had to be exchanged for tickets so we decided to go to Covent Garden to the agent office and do that. My friend was anxious about getting that sorted out.

After that was done, we stopped for lunch but she wasn’t very hungry. She was quiet, but I put that down to being tired. I was excited and buzzed and past tired by this point. She wanted to go back to the hotel for a nap so we did but she was restless and finally sat up and announced she was homesick.


Yes, she said she was homesick and wanted to go home. She explained that she’d had that sort of feeling in the past while traveling but it hadn’t happened until later in a trip and if she sat in the bar with her book and a beer for a couple of hours, she’d soon be ok. (Why can’t you do that now? was my first thought). She had never had this feeling on arrival and was worried. What if the feeling didn’t go away and we were out in the middle of the country on the bus tour? What would she do? And what will she do if she can’t get home tomorrow? But she also worried because she didn’t want to ruin my trip. The more she talked, the more I realized it wasn’t “homesick”, but she was probably having “nerves” or something out of her control because it didn’t really sound rational.


I told her that if she stayed and couldn’t shake whatever this was, it *would* ruin my trip more than if she left. I was in an English-speaking country, I’d be on a bus tour with others, I’d be fine. I suggested that even if she couldn’t fly back to our city, she could probably get a flight to Toronto or Montreal and she thought that would be ok, she could get home from there. She’d not thought of that, which convinced me even more that there was something not right. You don’t spend that kind of money on a holiday to dump it 24 hours after you get there. Travel insurance isn’t going to cover you for this kind of interruption. She called Air Canada and got a flight for the next day without a problem (which costs her even more!) and she actually started to settle a bit but she was still intent on leaving.

Me? I’m freaking out a bit. Yes, I knew I would be ok, but it’s still a bit overwhelming and the exhaustion and jet lag are kicking in hard. We tried to have a meal in the hotel restaurant but it was my turn to have no appetite. She was fine, I was feeling very off.  I think I was also dehydrated because this half-ill feeling hung on for a couple of days past getting a few nights’ sleep. Later in the evening, she did go to the bar with her book and I tried to sleep. I tossed and turned, I found it too warm, then cold, and my skin felt like it was crawling. I think that was probably wayyyy over-tired on top of the anxiety.

Then, around 11 or 12 o’clock, I heard a deep resonant sound, the sound of a bell sounding the hour. A kind of thrill went through me. Big Ben!!!! I’m in LONDON! Oh. My. God. My dream come true! That realization calmed me down a bit. I got excited again but eventually I was able to fall asleep.

I realized much later, it couldn’t possibly have been Big Ben that I heard because we were far west of Westminster near Islington and the Angel tube stop. It might, however, have been St. Paul’s which wasn’t all that far from there. It was a bloody big bell, that’s all I know.

She left the next day after breakfast. I walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral that morning for a look round and took a taxi back to the hotel, had a quick lunch and joined the bus tour I’d signed up for that drove around the City and herded us through the Tower of London.

The day after that, I met up with the tour group and told them my friend had a family emergency and had to go home. I really enjoyed the tour and hung out with a number of other singles and a few couples. Lovely people and the tour was amazing! I saw so much that I’d always read about and I knew I’d find a way to return.

bromptonroadAfter the tour, I had another couple of days in London. I changed hotels and there was a bit of trouble because my friend had left with the voucher but it was sorted out. I met up with one couple from the tour and we walked around and down to Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. I had given my friend’s theatre ticket to another lady from the tour who was traveling on her own. I didn’t pay for it, why would I sell it to her? We saw Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

The other day that I had on my own found me back down by Westminster Abbey for another look. Later, I wandered through the National Gallery, gazing at famous paintings and saw some really wonderful Turners and Constables. I even took the tube over to Harrods to see the fantastic food halls and buy some teabags so that I could say I purchased something there!

My first visit to London started off with a big hiccup but, to use today’s vernacular, I wore my big girl panties and just got on with it.  My friend felt very bad for leaving but she did what she had to do and I never held it against her. She later discovered that what she had was an anxiety attack and learned that it would have settled itself down had she stayed. Live and learn.

I’ve been back to London a lot since then, both alone and with a traveling partner and have had adventures, and enjoyed so much of the city. I’ve made friends who live there and try to touch base with them when we stay over. My partner and I have been revisiting some of London’s sights, things he’s never seen and most of which I haven’t for quite awhile so it’s nice to see them again with a fresh perspective and get updated photos. We may try to get to London again this fall.

The photos here are scans of the ones I took on that first visit so they aren’t as good as more recent photos.  To read more about that trip and the tour, go here.


The White Tower, Tower of London


Self explanatory. Inside the Tower of London compound


Traitor’s Gate, Tower of London, they would bring the prisoners in through here from river boats

Traveling through the movies – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


This is another in an occasional series of movies that feature interesting locations.

Recently, I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s a movie with an ensemble cast of well known British film stars and takes place mostly in a city in India. It is about a group of senior citizens who, through various financial misfortunes, discover a retirement home in India aimed at British citizens and they decide to move there. The residence is an old hotel that is still in some disrepair and is run by a young man whose mother wants him to give up the hotel, formerly run by her late husband, move back home and marry a nice girl, someone she approves of and has picked out for him. He is in love with a pretty young woman who works in a nearby call centre where one of the retirees finds employment. The rest of the retirees have various reactions to the culture shock they find themselves experiencing, some end up loving their new surroundings and adapting to them, and some not.

The movie was filmed around the cities of state of Jaipur and Udaipur and the general area as the various residents explore their new surroundings. We have actors Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson as the most well known internationally. You’ll spot other familiar faces as well. The cities and countryside are beautiful. The city scenes feature beautiful, rich colours of markets, street life, even the clothes that people wear. The countryside is peaceful and open. It features interesting aspects of modern Indian culture interposed with still-alive traditions.

One way the cross culture is depicted is the staff working in Call centre where they have to pretend to be American or British and they don’t have the culture references right, either so are not believed by their customers when questioned. The question of arranged marraiges vs marrying for love is explored.

India as a travel destination has always been a bit intimidating to me in the past. There is so much poverty and crowding in the larger cities and movies like Slumdog Millionaire depict more of that. For me, a Canadian, the culture is *very* different. Watching this movie does make it seem worth looking into. It may get added to the list but with so many places that are easier to get to, I can’t say if I will ever get there but in the meantime, I can watch movies like this.

Walk on the bottom of the sea

In the Canadian province of New Brunswick there’s a park on the edge of the province that runs along the Bay of Fundy, home of the highest tides in the world. The park contains the Hopewell Rocks, high rock formations that stand alone away from the rest of the cliffs. When the tide is out, you can see the formations much better.  The tide and elements over centuries, probably millennia, have caused the erosion.

When the tide is in, it just looks like small “islands”, or rocks peeking out of the sea, rocks that may have small trees and brush on the top. You can see an example of the water at high tide here.

I visited a couple of years ago and saw them at low tide. There is a large park here, with an upper and lower section. They have a shuttle running between the two. There are hiking trails and an interpretive centre (and a gift shop and cafe, of course!). They do charge entry during tourist season but I believe we were just outside that and parked at the lower end. We could view the beach and rocks from a viewing platform for free. You can go down to the beach as well and explore around the rocks and cliffs but you must watch out for the incoming tides. They wait for nobody!

The park is about 45 minutes outside the city of Moncton. The rest of my photos are here on Flickr.

Hopewell Rocks. The high tide reaches just about the top of the under-arch/hole.

Staircase to the beach

For scale, you can just see someone standing by the outer rock.

A Word a Week Challenge – Garden

Skinnywench’s weekly challenge this week is Garden.  I sometimes visit gardens when I travel. They may be formal, they may be botanic. Engish classic gardens seem haphazard and random but can be planned for form, colour and scent combinations. Hedges and trees can be clipped into shapes and forms like topiary trees are. You might find gazebos, reflecting pools, , little bridges, arches, fountains, gnomes and lots and lots of flowers of all kinds. Gardens are usually very pleasant places to stroll.

Rather than focus on closeups of things in gardens, which I also shoot, here are some photos (mostly) of overall views.


The house was abandoned but the garden seems to be thriving. Prince Edward Island, Canada

Knot Garden, Historic Gardens, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

B&B garden, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia

Rosenborg Castle gardens, Copenhagen

Albertine Square Gardens, Brussels

Culpepper Garden, Leeds Castle, UK

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, nr. Stratford-on-Avon, UK

Open Air Museum topiary garden, Arnhem, The Netherlands

Open Air Museum topiary garden, Arnhem, The Netherlands

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

Butchart Gardens, Victoria, British Columbia

And here in my own city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, We have a historic Victorian formal garden in the middle of the city.  It’s a lovely place to go and sit or walk. There are lots of rare types of trees, there are gardens, roses, flowers, fountains. There’s a big pond, geese and a couple of white swans in residence. There’s an old bandstand where you might hear music played in summer, and there’s a cafe where you can buy an ice cream and sit in the sun, or the shade if you want.

Halifax Public Gardens

A little oasis in the city centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Weekly writing challenge: Mind the gap – ereader or paper?

Bookstore Bounty

Bookstore Bounty

The WordPress challenge this week for writing is a discussion on ereaders vs “real” paper books.  Where this is a travel blog, I’m going to take a little different slant on it and gear it to travel resources. I do love my ereader, by the way and now read 95% or more of my books electronically.

When I go on a trip, I have a folder for things like ticket confirmations, printed pages of Google maps, reservations, etc. I also bring guide books and sometimes full size maps. In this electronic age, most of this is available electronically and you can get a lot of apps for smart phones, laptops and tablets as well. It only makes sense that taking a small electronic device instead of paper and books would take up far less room and weight.

I don’t have a smart phone or a tablet though I do have an iPod touch and a small laptop now. I still take the folder with itineraries and ticket/hotel confirmations printed out but I’m trying to bring guidebooks that are electronic. I used a city app for the iPod touch for Copenhagen and for Rome though didn’t find it overly helpful. My iPod is older now and many of the new apps I’ve tried to download won’t work on it. My other issue is that the screen is quite small. I imagine if I had a tablet, it would be far more efficient to use these apps and mapps.

But on the other hand, it’s more difficult to flip through a book electronically to find something than it is if it’s a paper book. I know they both have tables of contents and some of the ebooks may have an index which can take you to the page but I think it’s still easier to hand-flip the pages to find what you were looking for, or even put a sticky note on the exact location. You can’ t do that electronically.

I can carry things on my laptop for reference and that helps. I can check it in the hotel room prior to going out for the day. But you don’t generally carry that around with you all day. I have created eDocuments and put them on my eReader (itinerary, phone numbers, document of a list of bus numbers and destinations which is also useful) but overall, I’m still kind of betwixt and between the old and new.

I opted for a laptop over a tablet because i wanted to be able to upload my photos and type up my travelogues daily while on a trip, in addition to web surfing and email etc. to keep in touch with people. I’m glad went that route but I do realize for things like the guide books and maps, a tablet might work much better as far as readability for the colourful books and maps. But let’s not forget, using on-the-spot maps via an app  will cost you if you don’t have a free wifi connection. Then you have roaming charges or you’re paying for a 3 or 4G connection. Paper books and maps are free to use anywhere!

So what’s the best way? Electronic or paper? For me, it’s a combination of the two. As much as I love my ereader for reading, I do love to browse through the shiny pages of a guide book. Since I don’t have a smartphone, itinerary and reservation confirmations need to be printed. The pdf documents for these can be loaded electronically for backup on the laptop or cloud drive.

Another memory of Iona

Looking towards Mull from Iona

I reread yesterday’s post about Islands, specifically the paragraph about Iona, and it brought back my absolute favourite memory of that visit.

We had disembarked from the ferry and were walking along a little road heading to the abbey. It is lined on one side with houses and in yesterday’s photo of the beach, you can see those houses. So we were walking along there and on the right, was the view of the ocean and further, to the Isle of Mull where we’d caught the ferry.

Along the road on the right were walled off gardens and yards, belonging to the houses opposite, across the road on the left so the view as we walked was actually across these gardens to the sea. In the enclosures we saw garden implements, sheds, childrens’ toys, bikes, flowers, shrubs, the usual sort of things you see in people’s back yards and gardens.

Then I noticed a group of women sitting together in one of the gardens. What really struck me so much is that they were all sitting together on the ground, with warm coats, scarves and hats on (it was a cool, windy day in April) and they had a full tea set on a tray nearby. Teapot, milk, sugar, spoons, the lot. They didn’t just make a cuppa in their own kitchens and bring it with them. They made an occasion of it. They made tea properly in a pot, poured it and sorted out their preferences for milk and sugar and there they sat, cradling cups of hot tea against the chilly air, chatting, laughing, and enjoying more or less the view in the photo above, and, I imagined, celebrating the end of winter.

Who cared if it was  a bit chilly to sit outside? Winter was no more and spring was struggling to establish itself on an island that probably seemed very desolate in the winter. They were sheltered from the breeze by the stone walls and the sun had a bit of early spring warmth to it. I was enchanted with the scene. It just felt so right, women friends sharing their lives over a cup of tea. I was too shy to ask if I could take a photo of them and too close to do it without them noticing because I had a large SLR at the time, not a discreet, smaller digital camera.

The moment passed as did I, en route to the Abbey. The memory stays with me.