Travelling through the movies – Ireland (Leap Year)

leap_year_poster2Today’s blog is another in an occasional series of moves that feature places that make you want to travel.  The movie is called Leap Year and the location featured is the Republic of Ireland. A blog review of the movie over here on Tranquil Dreams reminded me of the movie and how it would suit one of these Locations blog posts.

Anna Brady (Amy Adams) is a stager, she sets up empty houses or condos for the realtors to show to their potential buyers. She makes it look inviting and she’s very exact. She and her doctor boyfriend are hoping to be accepted to an exclusive condo. They’ve been together some time and have a very professional and yuppie life together.

Her fiance must go to Dublin for a conference and before he goes, he takes her for a “very special dinner”. She hears he has been to a jewellery store and combined with the potential meal, she thinks he’s going to propose. When he doesn’t, she’s crushed. He jets off to Dublin and she realizes that it’s coming up to February 29, a traditional day that women can propose to men, just like her grandparents did.
So she follows him to Ireland except things do not go as planned. Everything goes wrong and it turns her perfectly ordered life upside down. She meets a handsome, rascally Irishman who owns a failing pub who drives her to Dublin in an old Renault 4 because he needs the money and en route they get to know each other for better or worse, usually worse. How does it end? Does she get the man she thinks she loves or does she end up with the rowdyman? Take a guess! But it doesn’t quite go how you might expect.
The film didn’t get good reviews overall but I really liked it. I like Amy Adams, I really do. She’s very versatile and in romantic comedies, she really brings a sparkle to the screen. Matthew Goode who plays Declan is gorgeous and if his put-on accent is all over the place, who cares! One particularly big clunker has her landing in Wales due to bad turbulence and taking a boat around to the west coast of Ireland to Dingle in a few hours. That wouldn’t happen in real life and would take a much longer time. Why not just have them cross the Irish Sea and land on the East Coast of Ireland (where, incidentally, the scene of her on the beach was shot)? Because then the cross country journey she has to make to Dublin would take about 30 minutes! ;) Never mind.

Don’t go to Dingle or the Dingle Peninsula or Tipperary expecting to see familiar scenes or villages from the movie. It wasn’t shot in those areas but the movie was indeed filmed in the Republic of Ireland.  There’s a scene where they climb up to the ruins of an abbey and that’s somewhat CGI enhanced but again, it doesn’t really matter. There are ruined abbeys on hills in more than a few places around the country. The scenery is authentic even if it’s not the parts of Ireland that the story takes place in. The narrow roads lined by rock walls and blocked by sheep (yes, they do have highways but where would the fun in that be?). Sweeping low mountains. Friendly inhabitants.

It’s definitely a film you have to take with a grain of salt as far as locations and events go but let that slide and have fun with it. Enjoy the scenery and plan a driving tour around Ireland!
Here’s a bit more detail about the filming locations:

Leap Year: Where was if filmed?

Ten Myths about the filming locations in Leap Year

IMDB’s location page for the film.

Traveling through the Movies – The Talented Mr. Ripley (Italy)

index Let’s go back to Italy with Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley. It’s the story of Tom Ripley, the classic hanger-on, who is hired by the father of a rich young man to go to Italy and talk him into returning to the United States and the family business. Father and Son are estranged and the son, Dickie Greenleaf, played by Jude Law, does not speak to his father. Tom sees this opportunity to belong, to be part of the in crowd and latches on to Dickie and his girlfriend, Marge (Gwynneth Paltrow) after pretending he was an old college friend of Dickie’s though Dickie doesn’t remember him. He accepts him anyway because it suits him at the time but Marge is uncomfortable with this clingy intruder. Tom soon tries to take over Dickie’s life, manipulating and covering his tracks. Matt Damon plays the creepy Tom with hair raising accuracy.


Bagno Antonio, Ischia, Italy
The Talented Mr. Ripley

The action starts in a little village in Sicily called Mongibello. The real life island of Ischia and a nearby smaller island are the locations used for this part of the movie. The villa, the beaches the water are all drenched in Mediterranean sunshine. Later the action moves to Rome and there are great location shots of the squares, narrow streets and sometimes more famous sights like the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona or a glimpse of the dome of St. Peter’s.  Tom soon finds things closing in on him and he runs off to Venice. There we get views of the Grand Canal, Piazza San Marco and the faded but elegant palazzos.


Philip Seymour Hoffman in Piazza Navona, Rome.
The Talented Mr. Ripley

This is another of my favourite films, one I haven’t seen in awhile so I was delighted to catch the last half of it recently on television  (even thought I do own the DVD). I like the cast and the story and the locations are very alluring. I’ve not been to Sicily or to any similar small rural coastal villages in Italy but they make it look so inviting in this film! The views of Rome are, of course, familiar due to my most recent trip and I have been to Venice in the past.

There are more photos and descriptions of all the locations here.

A Word a Week Challenge – Vibrant

The Word in Your Ear weekly word challenge this week is vibrant, inspired by a tropical sunset! Here then, are a few of my more vibrant photos:

Saris in Bury Market, Manchester

Zwicker’s Woodwork, LaHave, Nova Scotia

Dahlias are some of nature’s more vibrant offerings

The neon lights of New York City at Port Authority

Lost mitten

The local Pride parade brings out all the vibrant colours of the rainbow


A winter sunrise

Weekly Photo Challenge – Curves

This week’s WordPress challenge is Curves. I have lots of curvy photos. I couldn’t decide on what to choose or post a scattered random selection.  This was one of the photos I was definitely going to include and I think I’ll just post the photo and blog about where to find it.

Morin Centre library, Quebec City, Canada

The Morin Centre was the first English library in Quebec City, in the province of Quebec, Canada. Quebec is very much a French city in contrast to nearby Montreal which has a larger English population. I have a friend who lives in Quebec, she is the minister for the only English church inside the old walls of Quebec City (St. Andrew’s, Presbyterian, itself a very historic church). She lives in the Victorian manse which is next to the Morin Centre and took us over there when we visited last year.

It was originally a defensive area, next to the city walls. They used it as a military barracks and also to house prisoners of war.  (This would be during the 18th century).

From 1813 to 1868, the building housed a jail. The interesting thing about it is that it was the first house of correction rather than just detention, with prison reforms giving the prisoners the opportunity for education rather than regular physical punishment though that still did occur on occasion as did the occasional public hanging.

The prison grew and needed a larger space so it was moved out and an English college founded by a Scotsman was opened. It was the first English college in the city and gave out arts degrees and was also used to train Presbyterian ministers. They were also one of the first colleges to admit women in the late 1800s.

Also during the same time as its life as a college, the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec shared some of the building, setting up a library and research centre.  You can visit the library but you have to be a member to borrow books. The library is filled with artifacts and posters and the upper gallery has these wonderful curved staircases. They have some rare books and papers on display in various cases and there’s also a childrens’ story area.  They do guided tours where you can see the old jail cells as you find out about the history of the building and the city itself.

I like the stairs in particular because they’re also reminiscent of the staircases in Montreal outside the houses in the older neighbourhoods of the city. They’re built with outside steps to the upper flats to maximize the living space inside the buildings, I would imagine. I like that they’re a bit of a curve/spiral instead of just a plain staircase because it’s a little unusual, a bit of flair and style though they’re probably a bitch in the winter, covered in snow and ice and Quebec and Montreal are not short of that! I don’t know if these curved staircases are used in other cities but when I think of Montreal, they’re one of the “icons” that stand out in my mind like all the fire escape staircases cladding the sides of the buildings in New York City.

Fab Photo Friday – Bricks and mortar

One of my favourite things to photograph when I travel is architectural detail. Doors, windows, carvings, shapes and curves and lines, it all fascinates me. Some stonework is so intricate that it looks as delicate and fragile as lace. I’m always looking up when I’m walking through a town or city, looking for details.

In the historic city of York in England, in the medeival narrow streets around the Minster, if you look up you’ll see all sorts of neat things. There’s one little street where there’s a little red devil up on the corner of a building! These photos today are from the city of Roskilde, near Copenhagen. There are a lot of buildings and houses in Denmark that are plastered and painted lovely colours but there are a lot of brick buildings too and the brickwork can be really intricate. They put a lot into the patterns and trimmings. These photos here are of some of the buildings in central Roskilde and of the cathedral, the Domkirk where most of the past Monarchs are buried. It was the seat of the Royal Family until Copenhagen became more popular.

Look at the patterns, see where the brick has been repaired and replaced. It’s all very neat, isn’t it?


This used to be an Apothocary

Roskilde Town Hall Medieval Tower

This is the clock tower of the Town Hall

Domkirk Side

One side of the Domkirk

Visiting Manchester

Manchester city centre

Manchester city centre

London is one of the greatest cities in the world and is one of the top tourist destinations. All roads may lead to Rome but there are a lot of flights that go directly to London from major airports world wide so getting there is fairly easy. There is a lot to do and see in London and a lot of tourists don’t go anywhere else in the UK from there unless they have specific interests. Of course lots of people also visit other locations and attractions, cities and regions in the UK but it’s always London you hear about.

I’ve been to London a lot. It’s one of my favourite cities, due to the history initially, and all the other reasons why people visit. But I’ve also been to the second largest city in the UK, Manchester, nearly as many times. The reason I went there for the first time, in 2000 was related to Coronation Street, my favourite television show which is filmed there. I have a lot of friends I’ve made via the internet over the years who are Corrie fans and several of them live in the Manchester area. My first visit was as a part of a large group of Corrie internet friends who headed there for a week long get together to meet, greet and celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary. My next couple of visits were also related in a way, visiting those same friends.

Then I met my now-fiance who, coincidentally, also lived in the Manchester area, in the next-door city of Salford. We met online through a mutual Corrie friend who knew him online through the heavy metal music forums and boards. Things clicked and here we are, still conducting our relationship between two continents for the time being. Since 2004, I’ve been to Manchester yearly and have grown to know the city a bit better. We have visited museums, attended theatre, shopped, and dined out, all in the Manchester area. Manchester has lots of similar attractions to London though on a smaller scale. I didn’t mention football as we aren’t fans but the two football clubs there, Manchester United and Manchester City, are also big draws.

Manchester is a little over 2 hours by train from London Euston. It’s a city with a strong industrial history with a strong Victorian architecture presence. I find it’s similar to Glasgow in many ways as far as the look and feel goes. There’s a thriving university presence and therefore, plenty of pubs and clubs, especially around the Gay Village quarter. The city centre shopping is very good and there’s a huge shopping mall/centre in Trafford. There’s a natural history museum at the university, a National Football Museum near the cathedral, and a great Science in Industry museum in the city centre though there are rumours that it may be closed to redirect funding to London museums. A crime if ever there was one! There are a couple of good sized galleries as well as quite a few smaller ones scattered about.

There are several theatres that produce some very good productions at prices greatly cheaper than London West End prices and you can find restaurants from a great number of ethnic choices. Nearby in Rusholme is the “curry mile”, a stretch of road lined with Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants and there are dozens of good places to eat in the Chinatown area of Manchester. The Greater Manchester area towns and villages also have some good places to visit, a short bus or drive away such as the huge Bury market. There is also an interesting Jewish Museum in Salford, an old Tudor mansion (Ordsall Hall), also in Salford and a transportation museum in Salford as well. Salford Quays has outlet shopping, the Imperial War Museum North and the Lowry theatre and gallery. The MEN arena puts on top class concerts and other events. Manchester has a nice catheral as does Salford and there’s even an observation wheel, though it’s much smaller than the London Eye (and cheaper!).

Rochdale Canal, home of the Gay Village in Manchester

Manchester’s gay scene is hopping and it’s Pride events are reknowned. The Christmas markets in the city centre from mid-November to Christmas attract thousands. The Northern Quarter is where you’ll find the funkier side of Manchester. There are some lovely museums and galleries as well as some off the beaten track places to visit such as the medieval Chetham’s library, the Victorian John Rylands Library and the Hatworks museum in Stockport.

Manchester is also a good base camp for day trips to the Lake District, Liverpool, Chester, York, Blackpool, North Wales and the Peak District, all of which are a short train journey away or under two hours by car at the most.

Coronation Street is still filmed in Manchester, soon to be produced out of the new BBC Media City in Salford Quays (the BBC is sharing the space with ITV studios who produce Corrie), moving out of the old Granada Studios buildings this year. You never know when you’re going to bump into an actor from the show and with more BBC productions moving to the northern studios, star spotting will be more productive if you’re into that sort of thing.

Manchester might not be as exciting as London on the surface but it’s a friendly city, compact, pretty good transportation system around the city. If you’re looking to see more of the UK, the North is a good place to start and Manchester is a good starting point.

Photos I’ve taken in the Greater Manchester region
Photos I’ve taken at Granada Studios on the Coronation Street set
The Lake District
North Wales

The Next Time I See London

Sarastro, Covent Garden. A very theatrical restaurant

Sarastro, Covent Garden. A very theatrical restaurant

We haven’t visited London for awhile. Well, it’s not really been that long, I guess, but it feels like it. The last time we were there was in the spring of 2011. We saw Wicked, went to the Doctor Who exhibit, the Zoo, Camden, National Gallery, flew the London Eye and caught up with friends. That was two and a half full days.

We are doing a road trip in Scotland in October but we’re also thinking of a weekend in London, probably the weekend before I leave. I can go to the airport from the city rather than doing the Manchester – Heathrow transfer. It is a bit less hassle that way.

Providing that’s where we end up, I’m already scouting for hotels and making lists. Naturally.

I am pretty sure the Tower of London will be on the to-do list. G. hasn’t been there, or not since he was a kid. I’ve been but I know I haven’t seen all there is to see. I know I’ve missed the main White Tower and armouries museum, for instance. I’ve seen the Crown Jewels and I couldn’t care if I don’t see them again. They are impressive, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t change, do they? You see them once, that’s all you need. I’ve seen them twice!

I’d also like to get tickets for a new show, Book of Mormon. We would have done that in New York but the prices were sky high and tickets hard to get. I’ve seen the London prices and though still not cheap, are more reasonable.

Now … what else? I’d like to go to Hampton Court again because I only saw a few of the highlights while on a walking tour over ten years ago. That walking tour encompassed Richmond as well as a boat ride to HC which was neat, but then by the time the guide took us around to a few highlights and we could finish on our own, it was closeish to closeing time and after a rest with a cuppa, there wasn’t really time to see much more inside the palace so I walked around in the gardens for a bit as they’re open later than the palace. So yes, that might be an option.

I was also looking at the tours offered by London Walks. That is an excellent walking tour company. I’ve taken walks with them in the past, including the all day Richmond and Hampton Court one, and I can very much recommend any of their tours. There’s a few that interest me but all of them are on Sunday morning. How to choose!!? We’ll put our heads together and try to figure out the logistics. One of them is a guided tour *of* the Tower of London with a discount on the entrance fee which is considerable. Even if we don’t do that one, and do one of the others, we could still go straight from the walking tour to the train station to get to Hampton Court and have a few hours there in the afternoon.

I was also considering Churchill’s War Rooms as somewhere that neither of us have been before. My fella is pretty pragmatic, he’ll go along with pretty much most things I suggest as well as adding his own. We like a lot of the same things so it’s not too difficult to choose things to do and see. I’m very lucky to have a partner who likes history and art and enjoys museums and galleries.

It sounds like a pricey weekend but there’s a good way to save a bit of money. I think I might have mentioned the 2for1 website before. You need a valid rail ticket and a voucher from the website and you can get into most of the main London attractions at 2 for 1 which is, of course, half price. Only certain kinds of rail tickets, however. You can’t use Oyster cards, and if you have a day travel card it has to be issued by National Rail at a train station, not the kind you would get at a tube station or out of a machine. There’s a list of what you can and can’t use here.  You can also use the links there to find out which attractions are available. They include other things like restaurants and some of the West End shows, the older ones generally,  as well. Too bad they didn’t offer half price hotels!

Anyway, that’s the list for London as it stands today. As always, it’s a moving target and we could change our minds a number of times before we firm up our plans. That’s part of the fun of travel, though, isn’t it!?


Peekpockets in Paris

Tuilleriesgardens, Paris

Tuilleriesgardens, Paris

A random photo from the archives finds us in Paris in the Jardins Tuilleries, between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde. There used to be a palace here but it’s long gone. Shortly after this photo was taken, we encountered a tourist scam.

We were walking just off to the left of this photo towards the Seine when a woman stopped us and held out what appeared to be a heavy wide gold ring. She spoke French but from what I understood, she seemed to think we had dropped it. No, I told her, not ours. Ah but she then seemed to be saying that by finding it and giving it to us, it would bring us good luck. Now, I’m only catching every fourth or fifth word, so I’m making an uneducated guess. She wouldn’t go away until we took it so we did. She walked away.

Then she turned around and came back and seemed to be asking for more good luck, for herself, in the form of cold, hard cash. Oh, I see. Well, to get rid of her, I reached into my pocket and handed her a handful of change, probably less than a euro in total. She wasn’t too happy with that and asked for more. Nope, Sorry, and we walked away firmly and that was the end of that.

I wasn’t sure what that was all about, frankly. Later, we were in a cafe and I pulled out this ring and could tell then that it wasn’t real gold. The waiter spotted it and though I didn’t understand most of what he said, I did pick out the word “Pickpocket” or… “peekpocket”. We looked at each other and it dawned on us. She was probably watching to see where we took out wallets from. There was nobody else around so she wasn’t trying a distraction for someone else to slip in and rob us, but she must have been hoping to spot an opportunity. She didn’t get one, thankfully.

An hour or so later, as we walked across Place de la Concorde, I heard Graham chuckle behind me. He said someone just came up to him with a gold ring, trying to give it to him. He said he’d laughed at the guy and said “No, thanks, mate, we’ve already got one of those!”


A Word a Week Challenge – Old Metal

Sue’s Word a Week challenge this week is Metallic. I’ve gone with “Old Metal” and found some photos from my collection that show some older pieces made of metal, some of them centuries or even millennia old.

This is the Gundestrup Cauldron. It was found in a bog in Denmark but it’s not likely it was made there. From the type of silverwork, archaeologists think it could be Thracean or from central Europe and it’s dated from between 200 B.C. to about 300 A.D.

Gundestrup Cauldron, National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen

Some more artifacts from northern Europe, these are from the Yorvik Viking Centre in York, England and show off some of the old jewelry found in excavations in York of the Viking settlement areas.

Viking artifacts and jewellry, Yorvik Viking Centre, York, UK

Flipping ahead a thousand or so years and we’re in medieval England. This is a dog collar, one of many found at the small Dog Collar Museum in Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent in England.

Medieval dog collar from the Dog Collar Museum in Leeds Castle.

Let’s jump forward to the Tudor era in London on Lombard Street where the early banks and moneylenders set up shop. Symbols like these took the place of proper signs since most of the common folk could not read.

Lombard Street, London

From a century or two later, we find this torture contraption used to try to force a confession from someone accused of being a witch. Ghastly! This is from the small but mosts excellent Museum of Witchcraft in the Cornish fishing village of Boscastle, England.

Which witch? torture devices from the Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle, UK

The early 19th century saw the rise and fall of the Emperor Napoleon. This is his leather writing desk and a silver spoon from an exhibit in the Musee des Beaux Arts in Montreal, Canada.

Napoleon’s writing desk and a silver spoon that he may have used. From a private collection on display in Montreal at the Musee des Beaux Arts.

Early 20th century comes next, with the more recent metallic items. First up is a detail from a door in the John Ryalnds Library in Manchester, UK

Door detail, John Rylands Library, Manchester

And finally, a very precious piece of metal, the Victoria Cross, awarded in World War I to a member of the Royal 22nd Regiment based out of the Citadel in the City of Quebec, Canada.

WWI Victoria Cross, Royal 22nd Regiment collection.  La Citadelle de Quebec, Canada

Weekly Photo Challenge – The Sign Says

Daily Post’s weekly challenge is about signs.

This is my favourite sign, one I spied on the door of a restaurant in Paris. It translates as “The dog is nice. The owner is crazy”

The London borough of Camden is filled with local colour. That goes for the locals as well as the signs.

This last one was spotted on the edge of a building here in Halifax. Most Canadians know that it means though it’s uaually misquoted as this. There used to be a series of Canadian Heritage videos that would play on television, just short little films picking out anecdotes in Canadian History. Basketball was invented by a Canadian who used peach baskets as the basket for the ball. This video reenacts it. The line in the photo is actually not quoted in the film, the actual words are “I need these baskets back”.