Travel Theme: Distance

Where’s My Backpack is heading out on a long distance journey and the weekly challenge, therefore, is “Distance”.

A lot of my photos of long views, distant views are taken from  high places. I really like to find high spots in a city, an observation tower or high building or hill to see an overview of the city. In the countryside, there are cliffs overlooking the ocean and landscapes.

Flying kites on the beach, Rainbow Haven beach, Halifax County, Nova Scotia

View from Blackpool Tower, UK

Lynmouth and Lynton are “sister” cities on the coast of Somerset, England. Lynmouth was the fishing village, a working class city where Lynton high above it on the cliff was a Victorian gentile place to live. There is a water-run Victorian tram car that still runs up the side of the cliff between the two.

Toronto looking west towards Mississauga from the CN Tower, 1999. See below for the same view in 2010

Looking west from the CN Tower, Toronto. 2010

Paris. View from Sacre Coeur, Montmartre

Thames bridges, London from the London Eye

Walkers in the Scottish Highlands near Glencoe

I’ve been nominated and so have you!

Thank you to Chronicles of a Public Transit User for these great awards!

best-moment-award1 reader-app-award_thumb


Rules are simple, I nominate 10 people, then so do you, put the Awards up like I did and thank the person who gave you the Awards, 3 Awards.

And my nominees are

Memories: Amsterdam

Canals and Bikes in Amsterdam

I promised to dig out some of the older travelogues. I hope nobody minds reading about a trip that was taken a few years ago. I have travelogues that go back a lot farther than 2009 when we took this trip. The full set of photos for Amsterdam is here and the photos from the Open Air museum are here.

I was going to the UK again, as usual, in the spring, early May. When we thought about where we would travel, I really liked the idea of going to Amsterdam to see the tulips. I didn’t realize that early May was too late to see the flowers in bloom, at their best! If I go again, I will know better and plan for an April visit.

Never mind. We didn’t know so we made plans. We flew into the madhouse that is Schipol on a Sunday afternoon, changing in Heathrow T5 en route. Yes, Schipol is insanely crowded. It’s not a large airport and thus, especially in the luggage hall, it’s way too crowded and there’s a huge bottleneck to get out of that area and into the main terminal. We had trouble with the ticket machines, as well, though in retrospect I may have had my PIN for my credit card wrong! It worked perfectly well when swiped by a ticket agent at the booth.

We arrived on a sunny Sunday and our hotel was only a few blocks from Centraal Station. It was recommended to us by a coworker of mine with the caveat of a very small room. It was indeed. But the bed was comfy and the room was clean. What more do you need? We decided straight off to go back to the station area and get on a 6 pm canal cruise. There are a lot of different companies but they all offer pretty much the same things and charge the same price. It was a lovely night for it, too! Amsterdam is so pretty from the water and they take you up the main canals and down a few side ones as well.

Right. Food. The main street from the station to the main public square, Dam Square is Damrak but we found it a bit tacky lined with fast food joints, tacky souvenir shops, theme restaurants and arcades. We also noticed a *lot* of litter all over the streets and in the canals but maybe that’s because it was the end of the weekend and the crews hadn’t cleaned up yet. From Monday onwards we never noticed a scrap on the ground. We did notice that there weren’t many if any public trash cans around so you can blame the City of Amsterdam for the somewhat less than stellar first impression we had.

We eventually found a little bar on one of the small pedestrian streets behind Damrak. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t sky high either and we enjoyed it. We walked a bit more, exploring in Dam Square as the sun went down and headed back to the hotel for the night.

Monday was a nice, bright, sunny day, yay! First order of business was to get transport tickets for the local trams and train tickets for Arnhem tomorrow. The Netherlands transport has a special kind of train pass, called a Lentetoer, that cost about 40 euros back in 2009 and covers two people all day (after 9:00) and you travel in first class. It isn’t always available but definitely check when you buy a day travel pass on the trains. That’s a pretty sweet deal but we discovered, when we bought the tickets, that those tickets must be paid for in cash! We also got our one way tickets for Brussels for Wednesday. The clerk worked it out that it was cheaper to get another one of those first class for two people tickets and then two second class singles from the Belgian border. It used up all our cash, however so we were going to have to find an ATM sooner than later. We tried to get tickets at the nearby tourist office for the local trams but the queues were way too long and we’d waste too much time so we ended up paying as we went when we needed a tram and since we didn’t use it a great deal, we wouldn’t have saved a whole lot anyway with the strip cards that they have for the transport system locally.

Our first stop was the Waterlooplein flea market which was interesting. It is in what was the Jewish quarter and the original market was set up for the Jewish merchants. This is a good place for souvenirs and crafts. We were handy Rembrandthuis but were disappointed because it was closed, setting up for a new exhibit.  We had a coffee break and then found an ATM, followed by a nice little walk along the quieter canals. It’s interesting that there are still streets for cars along side the canals though often only narrow enough for one lane. While there are thousands of bicycles, there are also cars but bikes are generally more used. You need to watch out though, they come up behind you quickly and don’t always warn you with their bells until it’s almost too late. You’re supposed to watch for them, not the other way around, it seems!

Another pretty square is Rembrandtplein with lots of cafes and restaurants. We stopped for another brew and shared our sitting area with a black and white cat who was curled up along the banquette seat near me. Our next stop was the floating flower market. I expected it to be an explosion of colour and a heady cloud of floral perfume. What I got was quite different. All the tulips I saw were either wooden or they were bulbs for sale. That’s when I discovered I had missed Tulip season and it was too early for the majority of other flowers though there were some. A lot of the canal boats and market stalls, at least half or more,  had souvenirs and crafts for sale, so it felt more like a tourist trap to me.

Classic Amsterdam bell shaped rooftops. The black house is the oldest in Amsterdam, found in the Begijnhof courtyard

We walked a bit more, trying to find an isolated quad called the Begijnhof, an area that used to be a religious retreat for women though not strictly a nunnery. Women could leave any time to get married and weren’t bound by vows of silence, chastity or poverty. You find the square through a narrow passage off a busy shopping street and you enter into a leafy green area, quiet and peaceful and lined with some of the oldest houses in Amsterdam. The last “Beguine” died in 1971 and since then, the houes are now occupied by senior citizens. There is a church and a chapel that you can go in to see there as well. This area, near the Spui tram stop, is quite nice, too with shopping and street performers and a student population I think.

We found a nice little cafe called de Rozenboom for a late lunch in an old canal house. It’s on three levels, with steep staircases between them  and the toilet is on the very top with a spiral staircase to get there. It’s a bit of a menace! Don’t leave it too late! By the time we finished our late lunch it was nearly 4 p.m. and with most museums closing at 5 or so, there really wasn’t time to see one of them. We headed to the main harbour front and decided to go up to the top floor of the new public library for a birds’ eye view of the city. That was kind of neat though a bit of a hike to get to it even though we’d taken a tram to the central station. It’s also near the Nemo science museum if you’re interested in that.

It was a long day with a lot of walking. We went back to the hotel for a rest and watched a war memorial service on telly that was taking place in Dam Square, not that far from the hotel, but between sore feet and a dislike for crowds, we stayed where we were. We headed out later to a pancake restaurant I’d heard about in a guide book. To get there, we walked past some canals behind the restaurant and discovered we were actually staying on the edge of the red light district! We walked past a couple of windows with women sitting in them, wearing not a lot and noticed other red lights over windows down some of the nearby lanes. We found the restaurant and had a nice meal. Pancakes in the Netherlands are not like North American ones. They are more like what we would call Crepes and can be filled with meat and cheese or they can be dessert and they can be enormous so don’t have a starter!

Example of a merchant’s house, Arnhem Open Air museum

The canals are pretty at night with the lighted lamps along them and some of the bridges lit up as well. We felt quite safe walking in the dark in this area.

The next day was grey and it threatened to rain for most of it. We were headed out of the city to meet someone I’d met through the Virtual Tourist travel site. The Arnhem Openluchtmusem (Open Air) is in the outskirts of the city of Arnhem which is about an hour away from Amsterdam by train. You then have to go to the nearby bus station and take a city bus to get to the museum if you aren’t driving.

This museum is a collection of about 80 houses, farmhouses and buildings that come from various parts of the country and from different eras. You can get a feel for how people lived in Holland at different points in time over the last couple of centuries here. It’s not set up like a historic village as such. Each building is kind of it’s own little museum. There are different kinds of buildings, farms, shops, gardens and businesses from various eras. Good think our friends were Dutch, because not all of the signs explaining what you were seeing had English. You could buy a guidebook in your language of choice, however. There’s also an old tram that you can get to travel around the vast park area. We spent all afternoon there, with a lunch stop in one of the cafes.

It was really interesting and I’d recommend it. The rain finally settled in however, so that cut our visit short, though it was getting close to closing time anyway. Our friends drove us into the city centre where we found a really nice restaurant for dinner, aided by them in translating the menu! The price was quite reasonable, just under 100 Euros for the four of us but alas, they didn’t take credit cards. Between the four of us we scraped together enough to pay the bill or we’d have ended up washing dishes! Time to find another ATM en route to the train station before our journey back.

We had one last morning and part of the afternoon in Amsterdam and,  under grey skies,  we went to our must-see museum, the Rijkesmuseum. Part of it was closed for renovations but we were anxious to see the Rembrandts. We checked out of the hotel and left our bags there, and found a cafe near the museum first for breakfast then queued for tickets. We didn’t get the museuem or iamsterdam pass because we rarely find those types of passes worth our while. The queues moved quickly and we were in before we knew it. Because of the renovations, they only had most of their top items on display but they actually have quite a lot more, apparently. We did get to see the best of Rembrandt which is G.’s favourite painter and I can see why. Even next to some of the other masters, his work knocks the spots off everyone else!

After leaving there, we wandered some more, poking into some of the souvenir shops before collecting the luggage and heading to the train station. We found the right platform and got on the right train and figured out we didn’t have to change trains when crossing the Belgian border, just change our cars from first to second class. We had sandwiches for lunch on the train and arrived in Brussels in late afternoon.

We really only had a taste of Brussels and and day trip to Bruges but that’s something for another travelogue.

A Word a Week Challenge – Bisect

Sue’s challenge this week is “Bisect” where we want something in the photo to divide it, preferably in halves or in distinct sections. I rarely take photos with a middle divide, preferring the “rule of thirds” but I came across some that suited the challenge this week:

Stadhuis (Town Hall), Grand Place, Brussels

A scene in Amsterdam, the tree bisecting nicely

A Cornet, seen in an exhibition in Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen

The view from Sacre Coeur, Paris
A bit more than bisecting in halves but I like it

Panmuir Island Lighthouse, Prince Edward Island, Canada Bisecting vertically and horizontally

Bath Abbey Quire, with the “vanishing point” giving the illusion of halves.

Travel Theme: Architecture

And another photo “challenge” from Where’s My Backpack featuring my very favourite theme, Architecture. It was a difficult thing to choose some photos because I have so many. I started at the end of my folders and since most of those are UK based, I ended up staying in the UK for the architecture. You’ll see a variety of full views and details, old buildings and new ones.

The first gallery photos are from outside the larger cities.

This gallery has photos from the greater Manchester area (including Salford) and from London.

You may notice there are not many cathedrals or castles. Let me tell you, it was tempting to use nothing but castles and cathedrals. I held my self to a small taste of them and tried for a variety.

On Flickr, here’s a link to the photos that are tagged with “architecture” and “architectural detail”

Black and White Photo Challenge: Windows and Doors

Sonel’s weekly black and white challenge this week is Windows and Doors, that’s two more of my favourite things to photograph! It goes along with my love of architecture, I would imagine. Someone once suggested to me that I like windows and doors because I wonder what’s behind them. I don’t really think about it that way, I think I just like the little details of them.

Katherine's Window

Katherine’s Window

Door on a cobbled street in Montmartre, Paris

Door on a cobbled street in Montmartre, Paris

 The house is actually bright yellow with a red postbox. Roskilde, Denmark

The house is actually bright yellow with a red postbox. Roskilde, Denmark

Crooked windows. Copenhagen

Shuttered windows near the Flower Market, Amsterdam

Shuttered windows near the Flower Market, Amsterdam


Windows near the Flower market, Amsterdam

Lost Mittens. Halifax, Nova Scotia

Shed. Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia

Duttons for Buttons. York, U.K.



Inside detail in the Colosseum. Rome.

Inside detail in the Colosseum. Rome.

I’ve just seen another weekly challenge on my WordPress Reader (where I can subscribe to and see lots of other blogs) that caught my interest. I’ve been picking up a few of these to the point where it seems like that’s all I’ve been blogging lately, one photo challenge or another. Nothing wrong with that of course and because this is a travel blog, I use my travel photos for the challenges wherever possible and slip in a few memories and observations from that location if it adds to the post. I had envisioned this blog as a place to post new travels, which I have done on recent trips to Rome and New York, or repost my past travels which I have done a little. I need to do that more. I do have my own website where I’ve put my detailed travelogues but for here, I’ll likely summarize them a bit more and post links to the full meal deal.

But the challenges… Let me count them now…
The first one was A Word A Week at A Word in Your Ear.
Wordpress themselves have a weekly photo challenge which was the next one.
Then recently I discovered this Black and White Photo Challenge by Sonel over on her blog.
Today I saw another one, a Travel Theme one from Where Is My Backpack. I think I’ve seen it before but this week’s is Architecture and that’s probably my favourite thing to photograph anywhere anytime, traveling or not! Excellent stuff. The difficulty for that one is choosing which photos to post! I usually just link to my Flickr photos but I may have to upload a bunch and create one of those collages. I’ll do that later in the week.

I’ve been taking photos since i was a kid. I got my first camera, a Polaroid, for Christmas when I turned 12. I don’t think my parents realized they’d created a monster! I continually upgraded until I bought my first SLR when I was about 19 I think. It was a Canon AE-1. I loved it! I also owned a Minolta for awhile and went back to Canon around the end of the 90s to get something a bit lighter to carry than the very solid Minolta.

Now, I’ve gone digital and have not gone to a  DSLR mainly because I just find them too large and heavy. When I travel, I want something I can fit in my (large-ish) handbag, something that isn’t going to make my neck ache. A point and shoot, a good one, of course, with a really long zoom is my camera of choice these days. I haven’t even graduated to the kind that look like mini-slr cameras though I suppose that will be next. I like the idea of the kind that are like an SLR but look like a point and shoot and have changeable lenses but the problem with that is that I’d have to keep changing back and forth from regular/wide to tele where the Point and Shoot kind have the zoom built right in.

I’ve changed cameras quite a lot in the past four or five years but not always out of choice. One was stolen, one got dropped in liquid, another one broke a few months after I bought it so that at least was replaced on waranty. All of those were Canon brand. I guess that’s my brand of choice for now. I’m used to it and they all have similar features and special effects. I do take a lot of photos! I’m also trying to take a bit more video as well because sometimes that is better. In Rome, in Piazza Navona one evening, there was a couple dancing. You can take photos but with video, you get the graceful movement and the music, too. And why take 4 or 5 shots to merge into a panorama when you can just take a few seconds of video to show the extra-wide shot, like standing in the middle of a castle keep and filming while I turn around! I can then edit all the clips together for a little longer video. And one of the things my camera can do is take a couple of seconds video with each shot all day. I haven’t tried that yet but I really should. It would be a neat way to do a “day in the life of” type video for a day when we’re sightseeing a lot of different things.

So, while the photo challenges aren’t strictly travel, by using photos from my travels, it keeps the blog on theme and serves my main interests:  photography and travel.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One shot, two ways

WordPress’s weekly photo challenge is here. This week it’s two shots, one each in portrait and landscape.


Gilbert Cove lighthouse, North shore of Nova Scotia.


Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Canada. At dusk

Black and White Photo Challenge – Textures

Sonel’s Black and White challenge this week is Texture. Black and White photos really pop textures in things because the shadows around the textures highlight them. Colour distracts from the texture.

Here then are some of  my B&W textures

Who put out the fire?


Seen in Cobh, Ireland

Weatherbeaten hillside near the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

In St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Annex to the Royal Ontario Musuem, Toronto

Coffee break






Plans are made to be changed

Rouen Cathedral

We were going to do a driving tour around Scotland in October, you may remember. But it turns out, I’m going to have to have surgery and I really won’t be in any shape to be slogging around airports and lugging suitcases quite so soon. Scotland will have to be put on the shelf for another time. Bummer!

What’s next, then? We have made plans to go somewhere in April. We thought about a river cruise but missed the window for the 2 for 1 sale. When we went to book a few days after we decided, the sale cabins were sold out and the only ones left were twice as expensive. Never mind. We are now discussing doing some of the same things on our own.

The river cruise was going to start and end in Paris, stopping at Giverny, a few more places, with an overnight stop in Rouen. It included a bus trip out through Normandy to the battlefields and cemeteries. I think we could very easily do that ourselves. We could spend a couple of nights in Paris. Go to Giverny on the train for a morning out. We could then take the train to Rouen and base there for a few nights. The city itself seems to have a lot of really interesting things, including a cathedral where the heart of Richard the Lionheart is entombed! I’m sure we can find a tour company that will do a day trip out through the countryside from there. On the way home, we could take the Eurostar back to London, have a couple of nights there as well.

In addition, it will probably cost half what the river cruise would have!  Maybe we’ll take a river cruise some other time, if we can book far enough ahead to get the 2 for 1 deal. I’m really surprised that booking for April back in June found the “cheap seats” all sold. It has a vague feeling of a rip off because… April? Doesn’t seem like high season. If it was the Netherlands and tulip time, I’d say yes. Friends of ours did that a couple of years ago in April. I would assume that would be high season for the tulips but Normandy? Seems odd. Never mind.

Plans are made to be changed. You gotta be flexible and think of something else that would be just as cool, right?