Weekly Photo Challenge: Saturated

Word Press’s weekly challenge this week is Saturated. That could be colour, it could be anything that makes a photo really stand out for you.

This first photo, taken this spring in New York City, was a day that was saturated with rain!

This is one of my favourite photos from London, Stables Market over a market stall. The light reflects late afternoon and it made the colours and shadows so crisp and clear!

This last photo is bright and sunny and was taken on an overcast day in Kensington Market, a funky neighbourhood in Toronto.

Traveling through the movies: Midnight in Paris

I’m not a Woody Allen fan overall but I went to see this movie because of the Parisian setting and the unusual premise.  A couple from California, Gil and Inez, (Owen Wilson, Rachel MacAdam) are vacationing in Paris with her parents. He writes screenplays but really wants to be a proper writer. Gil loves Paris,even in the rain, and would love to live there and write. He admires all the writers that lived there in what he considers Paris’ golden age, the 1920s. Life was better then.

Late one night, after drinking too much at a wine tasting, he stumbles around a corner in old Montmartre. An classic car comes around the corner and he’s invited to a party. Gil finds himself in the company of his idols, Hemmingway, Stein, Fitzgerald and other notaries from the era including painters (Dali, Picasso) and singers. He meets Adriana (Marion Cotillard) who feels as he does though she thinks Paris’ golden age was the Belle Epoque. He spends several nights like this, getting to know all the “celebs” of the time and falling in love with Adriana and with the era. It inspires his writing but alienates him from Inez whose shallowness and pretentiousness is emphasized by comparison.

The movie is about making the most of life, not wishing for a different life that probably would be no better. It’s about what you make of it and about being true to yourself.

The movie was shot all around Paris, day and night, in sunshine and rain,  with an awesome opening sequence showing a day in the life of Paris.  In addition, there are views of Monet’s Giverney and of Versailles.  Restaurants, shops, markets, streets, the Seine, the boulevards, the streets, the views. This movie has it all and you’ll be tempted to pack your bags and book a flight! Here’s some screen shots from the opening and a few other shots from the film.

A Word a Week Challenge – Mistake

This week’s challenge from A Word in Your Ear is all about mistakes, photos that don’t come out quite the way you expect them to. It’s not easy for me to dig up too many, not that I don’t make mistakes because I do, but because I either photoshop them away or delete the photo altogether. I did find a couple.

This is in the Lake District in the UK, Bassenthwaite is the name of the lake, I think. We came across it by accident, having taken the wrong road out of Keswick and ended up on the Whinlatter Pass. It’s a really beautiful vista, Lake. Mountains. Framed by an old stone fence. That had a big rusty steel bar sticking right up into the middle of it. Didn’t notice it until I’d looked at the photo later! For public consumption I removed it but I discovered that I still had the original.


Photo Faux Pas

I follow a fair number of blogs and a fair number follow mine. As a result, I get to see a lot of wonderful photos. I’ve always enjoyed looking at vacation photos which inspire my love of travel, even if where they went isn’t really somewhere I want to go. They went and they had a great time and they show off the pictures of the things they did and saw.  In the old days, you’d be invited round to see a slide show from your friends’ vacation. Some people shudder at the thought but not me, I’m SO there. These days people, me included,  display their digital photos online and send the links to their friends.

I post my vacation photos to albums on a couple of photo websites (Flickr, Shutterfly) and link to them in the travelogues I then write for my own personal website (and travel blog here). If people aren’t interested in looking at the photos, I’m not offended. It’s not everyone’s taste though if I do say so myself, I’m not too shabby at taking a snap! (Most of the time). Ok, not all of my photos are great but sometimes  you have one of something you’ve seen or done and it’s the only one so that gets included anyway.

There are a few things I do try to avoid when I post an album of my photos. Even if I’ve taken more than one picture of a view or item, I try to post only one or possibly two. This is a bit negative and please don’t take it personally if it’s something you, dear traveler, do. It’s only my opinion and I will defend your right to post photos of whatever you want because it was your trip and it’s your memories. Don’t be offended if I skip though a lot of the photos when there are 5 or even 10 of almost exactly the same scene or building or park. I understand taking multiple shots to get a good one, I do that. But the “deja vu” of clicking through a dozen shots, not even from vastly different angles, wears me out. I never understand why, just because the photo has been taken, that it ends up being part of the collection displayed.

Another thing that most people do, as do I, is have photos of themselves in various locations while on this holiday. Of course you would want to say “See? I was there! That’s the Eiffel Tower behind me” (or whatever). Having someone else take a photo of you is fraught with potential pitfalls. You’re at the mercy of the skill of the kind person that offered to take the photo. Out of focus, camera shake, chopped off heads, but it might be the only one you have of you (and your traveling companion) in front of the Colosseum so it stays in the displayed gallery.  I don’t like to be in too many photos so for me, I tend to be in a small number. The extreme opposite, though, always brings me back to some vacation photos I saw online once quite a few years ago.

My friend and I in Assissi. Yep. we're out of focus but it's the only one we have!

My friend and I in Assissi. Yep. we’re out of focus but it’s the only one we have!

There are lots of photo hosting sites and some of them come and go. This site has been long gone but you could browse a location and find albums that people had set up to show their photos from that location. My mom and I were browsing some that were taken in Island Paradise type settings, tropical resorts and beaches, that sort of thing. This one couple had 3 or 4 different locations and we clicked through many of their photos but I started to notice something and asked my Mom if she thought there was anything peculiar. It occurred to me that one or the other or both of the couple that had posted the pictures were in every one. EVERY one. Without fail, there was the grinning mug of Himself or Herself or Themselves. Lovely location but there they were, front and centre. You might catch a glimpse of beach and palm tree or pool but that was all. Once we mentioned it to each other, we continued to browse. Yep, there he/she is. And there. And we got the giggles after awhile. Please, people, don’t do this! You could stay home and just take pictures of each other for all you really showed of your vacation!

Artistically blurry can sometimes work but out of focus? Leave it on the hard drive. I have on rare occasions posted a photo that shows a bit of camera shake or slight out of focus mainly because it’s the only one I’ve got that even sort of turned out but I keep it for my own private viewing. Ok, yes sometimes I shake the camera on purpose when I try to be artistic. 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t work but once in awhile it does, or, at least, I like it. Too dark/too light? If you can’t really make it out, neither can I. And if it’s a photo with people in it and the heads are lopped off, it’s not very dignified for them is it? Thankfully in these digital days you can see if that’s happened right after you take the photo.

Rainbow in the Highlands, near Glencoe.  The "Hail Mary" lucky shot through the bus window

Rainbow in the Highlands, near Glencoe.
The “Hail Mary” lucky shot through the bus window

I’m probably coming across as a bit of a photo snob and I don’t really mean to. You see hints and tips all the time about how to take a better picture (rule of thirds, get up close, use different angles, try black and white etc.) but when you want to show the world your vacation photos, you also want keep people’s interest. I don’t care if the photo isn’t artsy or perfectly composed or if  you’ve used fancy editing or processing. A photo can be great even when it’s taken quickly as a “Hail Mary” lucky shot or drive by when you’ve only got that one second to aim and hit the shutter.

Keep ’em coming, gang, I love holiday snaps. Just not 12 of the same thing.

Travel Journey of the Week: Ireland


View at Glendalough, County Wicklow

View at Glendalough, County Wicklow

Liberated Travel’s weekly travel journey this week is Ireland.

I have been to Ireland a couple of times though once only for a weekend to attend a wedding in Cobh in 2004 which is just outside of Cork. The first time I traveled to Cobh in 2002 was to visit some friends I met online. Cobh is a small town on an island in Cork harbour and was the last departure point for the Titanic as she headed across the Atlantic and was also the departure point for thousands of Irish heading to North America during the Famine in the 19th century. It’s a nice town, with museums and a nice cathedral high on one of the many hills of the town.

On that occasion, we traveled up to Dublin to meet up with more internet friends for a weekend get together. We explored the city a bit and had evenings of food, beer and music. I liked Dublin, it’s a flat city and fairly compact for all the things you’d want to see and do. There are nice parks including St. Stephen’s Green and a large Botanic Garden.

Georgian Dublin doors

Georgian Dublin doors

A friend and I joined a bus tour that took us around the highlights of the Republic of Ireland. A bus tour might not be everyone’s idea of “travel” but it does give you an overview of a location and you can decide where you’d like to return to if you get the chance. Ireland really is many shades of green and the countryside is beautiful. The coastal drives are as dramatic as anywhere else and the narrow country roads really do get crowded with occasional flocks of sheep! We drove the Ring of Kerry, took a Jaunting car ride through the park in Killarney, saw the remains of a monastery in Glendalough, watched crystal being made in Waterford, visited a marble factory in Connemara, smelled the peat fires in a farm cottage near Galway, stood awestruck at the Cliffs of Moher, were blown away at the detail in the Book of Kells, and enjoyed many a pint in many a pub!

The Irish are a colourful people, right down to all the bright colours they paint their houses and buildings and business signs. There isn’t a lot of neon to be seen  here! They really are as friendly as advertised and always ready and willing for a conversation on pretty much any topic. They love their families and they love to laugh. We have another trip to Ireland somewhere in our future, this time, just hiring a car and driving around. My partner has friends on the west coast of the country while a visit with our friends in Cobh will also be another destination.  We just aren’t sure yet when, but it’s on the list and some time over the next little while I will blog my Irish tour memories.

Travel Journey of the week: Paris

I discovered yet another weekly challenge that a blog called Liberated Travel has started. Each week they will mention a particular place and you can blog your thoughts, photos, experiences from that location. It probably won’t be somewhere I have been each week but the first one is Paris!

The first time I saw Paris was in 1977 on a school trip. We started in Rome, then took the overnight train to Paris for three days. I’m ashamed to say that the first place we students headed once installed in the hotel was out to find food. At McDonald’s! Eek! It might have been a Sunday but surely there were other, more French places available for a casual lunch than that! And, I recall, it wasn’t very good even though, at the time, we all normally loved McD’s. We had a tour of the city including an inside visit to Notre Dame and the Louvre and a trip up the Eiffel Tower though I didn’t go. I stayed on the ground as it was mid-March, and was chilly and windy even without going up in the air on an open tower. I don’t know really why else I didn’t want to go, as I certainly don’t mind heights but there you are. We had a day on our own and a group of us traveled the Metro up to Montmartre.

I didn’t see Paris again until November 2007 when my fiance and I flew over from Manchester for three days. We got there around noon on a Monday and went out from our Left Bank hotel and found somewhere for lunch. Steak Frites! We even sat outside under a heat lamp just because we could and it was Paris and that’s what you do! We walked to the Seine, then over to see Notre Dame which was every bit as beautiful as you would expect. We walked over to Ile St. Louis and wandered around there after a coffee and cake stop. Eventually, as we’d had an early start that morning, we gathered some take out sandwiches and trudged back to the hotel which seemed like a very long walk away though I think we were just a bit disoriented as to which direction we were going. We didn’t get lost but we thought we were. Looking at the map we thought we were coming from one direction when we were atually headed from the opposite one.

Tuesday was a bit rainy and a number of museums are closed but we managed to find things to keep ourselves occupied. We had breakfast breakfast outdoors in another cafe, one with the outdoor tables surrounded by a plastic “wall” to keep the heat in. We knew the Louvre would be closed but we walked over there anyway to look at the building. It was a good idea, actually as there were not a lot of tourists around. Not like there would be if it had been open, anyway. We walked through the Tuilleries  where we experienced  the “Peekpocket” incident” and from there we went to the Musee D’Orsay. The queue was fairly long but before we got to the desk to pay, we discovered that the part of the gallery we particularly wanted to see was closed. There had been a transportation strike that week and today, apparently, some other unions were joining in sympathy and the museum workers were part of that. They must have had enough non-union workers to keep the museum open in general but not enough to staff all the galleries. I’m not really sure but we didn’t want to pay the entrance if we weren’t going to be able to see what we wanted to see.

From there, over to Place de la Concorde where I took a somewhat rainy ride on the Grande Boule (wheel). Good views. A bit damp. We window shopped our way over to the posh Place Vendome and stopped for lunch between there and the Opera house. We browsed, later, in Galleries Lafayettes which is a beautiful early 20th century department store with a centre court and enormous Christmas tree reaching up to a Deco dome.

It’s getting darker now and we hopped on a bus, (all the transport was free when you managed to get one because of the strike. Strangest strike I’ve ever seen!). First, we got off the bus by the Arc de Triomphe and later the Eiffel tower so we could watch it sparkle at the top of the hour! Beautiful! We hung around there awhile and again, didn’t go up. It was cold and there were a lot of people in the line ups even then. There’s probably no time when it isn’t crowded! It took us quite a wait when we found a Metro station but a train did finally come and we got back to the hotel. We ate in the restaurant below the hotel that night and it was very good! Better than we expected.

Our last full day turned out sunny! Finally! This was our excursion to Montmartre. The bus ride was a bit long but it was free and we could see lots of the city as we went along.  We didn’t find it as quaint as we expected, not at first but then the streets got narrower and cobbled and it felt more like the Montmartre you always hear about. We took the cable car up to Sacre Coeur for the view and walked behind to Place du Tertre where, even in November, there are still artists set up in the square though not nearly as many as in summer. Artists kept stopping us along the way, too, offering to draw our portraits (for a fee, of course). We resisted.

We found a really quaint little restaurant nearby called Le Poulbot which had an amusing little sign on the door and a tempting sounding price fixe menu. Sorted! It was a lovely little place with friendly staff and lots of atmosphere. Once done there, we went back around the corner to a Dali exhibit which we enjoyed. We then just started walking. We really weren’t sure where we were going because we were just off the top of the map we had but figured as long as we headed downhill we’d come to somewhere that was on the map! We actually did have to ask a passer by at one point if we  were more or less in the right direction to eventually arrive near the Moulin Rouge. He pointed us to a little staircase down to Rue Lepic, one of the oldest streets there lined with shops and bakeries and cafes. That came out near the big red windmill of the Moulin Rouge and we were back in a more modern Paris.

We weren’t done yet! We found our way to another bus and got off at the Louvre for the evening opening. In retrospect we probably did try to do too much in one day. I had blister on blister and was pretty worn out by now but we wanted to go in and in we went. It was about 5:00 or so by now and the queues weren’t that long. We did find the leaflet map of the museum confusing but found the famed Mona. That was a bit of a zoo but it’s a must see really. My favourite is actually the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a tall arm and headless statue that was probably a ship’s masthead. We saw a couple of galleries of paintings and the Venus as well but I had reached the end of my rope and needed a sit down and a drink. Even finding a cafe was a chore but we did manage. The Louvre really is somewhere you should tackle in the morning when you’re fresh, I think!

Gluttons for punishment as we were, though, we left there and I was determined to go on a night boat tour of the Seine, justifying it by reason that we would be sitting down and resting the whole way! The dock isn’t far from the Louvre so we trudged across Pont Neuf and down to the dock. Tickets were cash only at the gate so that used up our ready money and we had a 40 minute wait for the next boat but once on it, we spent a lovely hour looking at all the illuminated buildings along the river right around to the Eiffel Tower and back.

Whew! That was a long day. We passed a Chinese restaurant on the way back to the hotel and decided that would suit us very well. We were leaving the next morning via Eurostar to London. I’d like to go back to Paris again and at this point, a short visit is in the planning stage for next spring before also visiting Rouen.

More random photos posted on this blog post.

Daily Prompt – Service

Manchester's Chinatown

Manchester’s Chinatown

I’m sure i posted this but it seems to have disappeared….Trying again…

WordPress’s daily prompt to inspire bloggers to write is “service” for today’s word. Good service or bad service, you pick.

What instantly comes to mind is a group meal I attended at a Chinese restaurant in Manchester about 10 years ago or so.

We were a group of about 10 or 11 and headed into Manchester to Chinatown. I hesitate after all these years to name and shame the restaurant because it’s been a long time and they could have upped the game. Prior visits to them had always resulted in a good evening with good service. I don’t know if it was a one off but I don’t think any of us has dared try them again.

However, here’s the story:

We unsuspecting group gathered for a drink and to meet up with friends, old and new. What went wrong… the list is long! The drinks orders were very slow in coming and sometimes the wait staff forgot to ask everyone for re-orders through the meal. We were around a round table that seemed far too small for 10. They didn’t provide us with a circular movable platform for the center of the table to make passing around the dishes easier which many Chinese restaurants do provide, and when one of us finally complained loudly, we did get one. Which was broken. We had to gingerly turn the glass ourselves and hope it moved.

They brought two courses out at once instead of one at a time, further confusing and crowding the table as everyone tried to reach and pass. The one waitress kept elbowing one couple, leaning around them and at one point one of them received a beer right down his back! Another guest spilled another beer trying to move something else out of the way.

The music on the sound system was horrible, pan pipes playing every kind of music except Chinese. The piece de resistance was a lovely dish of prawns which suddenly acquired an extra bit…. a big blue bottle fly that was hovering landed in it, got stuck in the sauce and wiggled it’s little legs helplessly while the 10 of us collectively moaned loudly… ewwwwwwwww! The waitress seemed to find this amusing but took the dish back to replace it. Hopefully with something new but it took us 15 minutes of warily contemplating the fresh replacement before anyone had the nerve to try some!

To top it all off, yes it’s possible to further wreck this, they buggered up the bill! Two of the men were so incensed that they sought out the manager who had conveniently NOT managed his restaurant very well tonight, having found plenty to keep him busy behind the bar instead of being aware of the problems going on under his nose. They explained the events of the night which they *think* were confirmed by the staff but, not speaking any Chinese, they had to take that on faith. The manager offered them 30 pounds off the bar bill (which was about 50 pounds between the 10 of us). He wouldn’t extend that to the 50 so we took it and counted out the money to pay the 235 pound total bill to the penny! No tip. That’s quite a lot of money they ended up losing over all. We took the thirty pounds and, discovering that our favourite pub nearby was closed, spent it on a round or two of drinks at lovely Lass O’Gowrie pub instead.

A Word a Week Challenge – Arch

Sue’s challenge this week is “Arch”.  The arch is a very old architectural feature. It supports weight far better than a strict up and down base as well as being aesthetically nicer looking.  An arched window is prettier than a square one and the arches under a bridge look far more graceful as well as functional. The Romans and Greeks did arches very well and churches and cathedrals make extensive use of them to support the heavy stone walls and roof.  Pretty much all of the most beautiful buildings in the world, in all cultures and eras use arches, some with round tops and some with pointed tops.

There are also a lot of freestanding “monuments” that use arches through which majestic processions would march. The arches would be carved with scenes of the triumphs of whatever general or ruler they were meant to celebrate.

Here’s some photos of some of the better known, and maybe one or two lesser known arches and arched details I’ve visited:

Rieveaulx Abbey, Yorkshire

Iniside St. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec

Entry Hall of the Victoria and Albert museum, London

The River Thames, at Richmond


These are some photos I’ve used before but are good examples as well….

Eiffel tower at night

You all know this arch, the base of the Eiffel tower …at night

The Colosseum, Rome

More famouse arches
The Colosseum, Rome

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

The arch in Washington Square, New York City

The arch in Washington Square, New York City






Cee’s Black & White Challenge – Abandoned

Cee’s Photography blog issues weekly photo challenges, this one in black and white.

We were driving through the back roads of Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province. We’d arrived by ferry and were traveling along the east coastal route, heading for Georgetown (PEI’s original capital) where my cousin lives. As we drove along, I spied this little cottage that looked abandoned and indeed it does seem to be but the garden out front was lovingly tended.

East coastal route House

Prince Edward Island, along the eastern coastal route


A Word a Week Challenge – Square

This week’s challenge is “Square” but not in the geometric sense, or, well, it could be if you wanted I suppose but it’s meant in the sense of a public space. A Square, a Plaza, a Piazza. Most cities and towns have squares. They are usually in the centre, often in the older section of the city (town/village etc) where people would gather. They often have public buildings such as the Town Hall and churches or Cathedrals and many have war or other memorials or tributes to someone from the town’s past, a monarch or prominent citizen.  Some have a market set up once a week or at Christmas. Some, probably most these days, allow vehicle traffic but some are pedestrian only with traffic around the edges. They are used for public celebrations, markets, or just a place to sit and enjoy the sunshine.

Some squares aren’t really squares at all, just a major intersection. Times Square in New York actually encompasses about 10 city blocks around the main “square” which is a huge intersection but it’s still the heart of Manhattan these days. Lots of cities that I’ve been to have more than one large square, but also have lots and lots of little ones, both landscaped and green  or paved or cobbled and ringed with shops and cafes and they are lovely to discover when you’re wandering around exploring.

For this challenge, I’ve picked some famous squares and public spaces from the larger cities I’ve been to.

London is full of squares, large and small but probably the best known is Trafalgar Square in the heart of the West End of London. The fountains and massive lions guard Nelson’s Monument. The National Gallery lines the north side of the square, with the Canadian High Commission on the west side. The Mall leads off under a wide stone “gate” up to Buckingham Palace.


Trafalgar Square, London, Lions at the foot of Nelson’s Monument

Trafalgar Square, London, St. Patrick’s Day concert

Montmartre is the more artsy section of old Paris and this square, Place du Tertre has long been associated with artists who set up here to try to make a living.

Place du Tertre, Montmartre, Paris

While the new Georgian part of  Edinburgh has several lovely leafy squares, this one, the Grassmarket, is in old Edinburg and is seated beneath the cliff on top of which looms Edinburgh Castle.

Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Kongens Nytorv (“King’s New Square”) is one of the main squares in Copenhagen. It’s at the end of the long pedestrian shopping “mile”, the Strøget, and has the Danish Royal Theatre along one side and several buildings used to be palaces. One is now an embassy. Another part of it fronts the famous Nyhaven harbour with the brightly coloured buildings and restaurants. In the center is the statue of King Christiain V on a horse. This is the monarch that laid out the square in 1670. Students celebrate around the square when they get their exam results.

Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen

Relaxing in Kongens Nytorv, Copenhagen

Amsterdam’s main square is Dam Square, with the Royal Palace, a cathedral and other large state buildings surrounding it. It’s also got the National Monument in the centre and is used for holding public concerts, memorials, and celebrations.

Dam Square, Amsterdam. The National Monument

Rome… Impossible to pick just one. It’s filled with “squares” and piazzas, many of them very well known. The largest is probably St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City of course. Piazza Navona, a long, narrow square built on top of an old “circus” or race track, with the three large fountains, the most famed being the Four Rivers by Bernini. The Trevi Fountian square is very small and is basically just the fountain and surrounding are for the crowds. There are lots of other squares that are large intersections but always with a fountain or statue in the centre, such as Barbarini, Monte Citorio, Piazza Venezia in front of the Vittorio Emmanuelle II memorial monstrosity, and Piazza Repubblica. Then there’s the busy square in front of the Pantheon, the Piazza Rotunda. That’s probably my favourite even though it’s usually wall to wall with tourists. The square is not that big, and is closed in by buildings housing hotels and restaurants. There’s a fountain in the middle with the dome and pillars of the Pantheon on one end. There are narrow alleys leading into it and the square is cobbled.

The Pantheon, Rome

Tourists in the Piazza Rotunda at the Pantheon, Rome

Just to add a little Canadian Content..Toronto’s Dundas Square is the city’s attempt at a mini-Times Square I think. It’s ringed with large shopping malls and stores and close to the theatre district as well.

Dundas Square, Toronto, across from the Eaton Centre shopping mall

Dundas Square, a mini-Times Square wannabe?

Probably the grandest and most elaborate of squares I’ve ever been to so far is the Grand Place in Brussels. Narrow lanes lead to it from some of the more well-travelled streets. You come around a corner and see this  jaw dropping site, a cobbled central square lined with tall, thin guildhouses and several  palace type buildings. One is now the Town Hall and the tourist information office is in the ground floor of another. It’s all lit up at night, too. There are restaurants around the square, a chocolate museum (I think) and they use the square for exhibitions and markets and festivals as well.

GrandPlace guild corner houses

Grand Place, Brussels, some of the guildhouses in one corner of the square

GrandPlace 382 Duc MontTabor Rose ArbredOr Cygne

Grand Place, Brussels, more guildhouses and a palace.

GrandPlace gilded flag

Grand Place, Brussels. With details like this on every building, you’ll get a sore neck looking up everywhere!