Daily Post Challenge: Photographic Muse

This week’s Daily Post challenge asks what subject to you return to over and over to photograph. I don’t really have a specific thing that appears in my photos consistently but I do have a topic that draws me – architecture. Specifically, architectural details. I look for the little flourishes around doors and windows and corners of buildings. I love the decoration carved into stone and brick or etched into glass. The style of the building makes it unique but it’s the extras that add the imagination.

Ordsall Hall, Salford

Centraal Station, Brussels

Manchester City Centre

Detail from some ruins in the Roman Forum. This gorgeous carving has weathered a milenium and more and still looks crisp. I’m sure it’s had some restoration work done to keep it clean but the intricate detail that still remains is spectacular.

Road Trips: Northumberland

Northumberland, the northeast part of England, is an area that’s not all that familiar to me and my husband. My only experience with this region is driving through it en route down from Scotland on a long-ago bus tour, and a brief overnight visit to Sunderland a couple of years ago. We’re going to do some day trips and road trips in September out of the Manchester area and invited a friend to come along on one of them. He suggested Northumberland to my husband and they even found a nice inn in a small coastal town called Seahouses that we could use as our base. I started to surf the net.

There are a number of castles in the area including Bamburgh and Alnwick and I realized this is also the spot where the Holy Island is located, just off the coast. Holy Island is or was the home of a very old abbey, Lindisfarne where some famed illuminated Gospels were created. There’s a castle ruin as well and it’s also famous for being raided by Vikings! I have heard of this place through another friend that has been here and I always thought it would be very interesting to see. So … that’s on the list!

Picture of Holy Island Causeway which is also known as Lindisfarne causeway. The island is linked to the mainland by a three mile long causeway, built in 1954. Twice each day the tide still renders the road impassable for 2 hours before high tide and 3 hours after.

Picture of Holy Island Causeway which is also known as Lindisfarne causeway. The island is linked to the mainland by a three mile long causeway, built in 1954. Twice each day the tide still renders the road impassable for 2 hours before high tide and 3 hours after.

You access the island by a causeway and have to watch for the tides so it’s only accessible for part of each day. Visits have to be timed around that. We can see that perhaps in the morning and go to one of the castles in the afternoon or vice versa depending on the tides. There may also be a quick stop in Sunderland to see friends on the way home.

On the way to Northumberland we have to cross from one side of the country to the other and if we drive north then east, we can follow the route A62 that follows generally the line of Hadrian’s Wall, the old Roman fortification built to keep out the Scots. There are several excavation spots with museums and visitor centres along the way and I think we’d all find that really interesting, too. English Heritage owns most of them so I may buy an online overseas visitor pass which you can purchase for a 9 day or 15 day range (single, or more people up to a family size pass)  as long as you have your passport or other ID that shows you live outside of the UK. Check. (as long as they don’t look at my husband’s ID, too!)

There are so many interesting and historical places to visit in the UK and in Europe that day trips and road trips are a real delight.

WPC and Travel theme

This week’s Travel Theme from Where’s My Backpack is Old Fashioned and the weekly theme for WordPress’s Challenge is the rainbow colours, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet or ROY G. BIV

So here’s a post that covers both of those topics from one of my favourite things, classic cars. These are all from car shows here in various part of Nova Scotia, mostly here in the Halifax area.


1927 Bugatti



Mustang Cobra


ClassicCars Studebaker




Austin Healy


ClassicCars 007




Hot Rod

Day Trips: The Snake Pass

SnakePassRouteWhen I travel to see my fiance, now my husband, in the UK, we usually take a few day trips by car. There are lots of nice places out of the Manchester area that make for a good road trip. We’ve often gone to  York, into the Peak District or up to the Lake District, among other places, and we’ve also gone across the border into Wales as well. My next visit is in September so we’re starting to decide where we might go.

One scenic route I’d heard was really nice was through the north of the Peak District National Park across the Snake Pass. G. loves driving along twisty, turny roads so he won’t mind at all. There is a particularly pretty stop off at the Ladybower Reservoir and there is sure to be a country pub or two along the way to choose for lunch. I always say Google is my friend so I’ve learned this about the pass. It’s got an elevation of 1680 feet at it’s highest point. It is the main connector road between Manchester and Sheffield but can be closed in the winter if the weather is bad. It’s actually been closed as I write this for road works and repairs so I will expect it to be in top form in September.

The Ladybower Reservoir was built in the Upper Derwent Valley in the Peaks in the mid 20th century and two local villages were “drowned”. One was demolished completely but apparently you can see the remains of the other one if the reservoir is low. It’s a very picturesque spot and an interesting place to visit so maybe we’ll stop there to stretch our legs.

As we circle back up north of the area into Yorkshire, we thought we might stop in the village of Holmfirth, famed for the filming location of The Last of the Summer Wine, which is one of the longest running sitcoms ever. It aired from the 70s for just over 30 years. I have seen the occasional episode but I haven’t watched it much. It was very popular in the U.K. and the village is a tourist attraction now. It’s got lovely stone cottages and shops and is surrounded by beautiful scenery. We may stop off there on our return leg.

Driving the pass without stopping really shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours or so but with stop offs, it will make for a grand day out!

WPC Challenge – Off Season


Niagara Falls in March

Most of the traveling we do is not in “high season”, summer. We are usually on our adventures in the spring, April or May, or the fall, October or November. That’s generally known as “shoulder” season rather than “off” season though November would be the beginning, flowing through to March in our North of the Equator winter.

It’s trickier in those months if you’re flying in and out of most of Canada due to the weather. Both of us have had flights cancelled or seriously delayed because of winter storms so we try to avoid it. Even November is tempting fate but sometimes our schedules were such that it was the only time I could fly to see my now-husband in the UK. Once in the UK, weather was a lot more stable with delays the exception. He was delayed once in Heathrow because a flight from Toronto was grounded (in March) due to a major winter snow storm. That plane would have changed crew in London and loaded up again for the trip back to Canada but it never made it.

Anyway, off season for us does happen. We went to Rome in November which was actually pretty awesome. The weather was clear and sunny and warm all week. I’ve been to London in January and March, Toronto and Montreal in various winter months (November, February and March), and I visited Vancouver in November once. Vancouver weather is fairly mild and wet so there’s no worries about the snow.

TorontoNiagaraFallsbothI think the most glaringly obvious off-season destination I’ve been was to Niagara Falls one year in March. It was a chilly day, overcast and a little rainy at times. There were very few of the throngs of tourists you usually find there. The really interesting part is seeing the river iced up. The mists from the falls freeze and there are huge ice boulders along the edges and at the base of the falls even as the water thunders down the cliffs.

It’s one of the natural wonders of the world, though there are higher falls elsewhere. When you look at it from above by the visitor area, you think “Is that it?”. My other half was not overly impressed. But it’s a lot higher than it looks and when you see the boats on the river below, you get a much better perspective and I’m fascinated by the power of the water endlessly crashing down.

The Maid of the Mist boats don’t run in winter and are dry docked for the duration but you can still see the falls from the visitor centres above. The rails of the fencing is often coated in ice, again from the mists that the falls generate.

This past winter was a particularly cold one and the falls nearly froze altogether. There are some wonderful photos on the CBS news website here.  The river below can ice up but the falls themselves have only ever stopped completely, one time. According to the Niagara Parks website, it was 1848 and ice further up the river stopped the water for 30 hours until it broke through again.

More Off Season photos from WordPress challengers here.


Travel Theme – Off-centre

Ailsa’s travel theme this week is “Off-Centre” where the focus of your photo is not dead centre.  A general rule of  thumb for composing photos is to avoid dead centre when framing a subject. The “Rule of Thirds” is one of the general photography rules that will give you a fairly well composed photo most of the time. A lot of digital cameras even have the guidelines on the screen as an option you can turn on. Sometimes, of course, dead centre works very well. Rules are made to be broken. But in this post, here are some of my “off centre” photos from my travels.

The Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls

Viking ship replicas in Roskilde Harbour, near the Viking Ship Museum

Mawgan Porth beach, Cornwall, England

On the job in New York City

The world’s our lobster

Mount Fuji, Japan and the springtime cherry blossoms

Mount Fuji, Japan and the springtime cherry blossoms

I know I’ve not been travel blogging a lot lately. It’s mainly been the photo challenges though the photos are nearly always from my travels at least. The main reason is that I haven’t been planning a trip so I’m not really in “the zone”. There is a visit to the UK coming up in September but we aren’t planning any other travel aside from some day trips, possibly an overnight somewhere, I don’t know yet. Destinations that have been mentioned include Blackpool and Liverpool. It’ll be nice in September so the countryside will be very pretty. Makes for nice days out.

In the meantime, I booked my ticket the other day at FlightCentre, a Canadian no-frills travel agency which good staff and good prices. Yes, that’s a plug for them. I’ve been quite happy using their services over the last couple of years. I could book online but sometimes I can’t get the flights I want or I have a few things to book and it’s worth letting an agent have a go at it all and you’re paying for it all in one place.

Today, two days after I booked, I got a promotional email, which is fairly typical isn’t it? Never mind. The content was about a contest they’re running for their 20th anniversary. You can fill out a quiz to enter to win $10,000 CAD credit at FlightCentre. Nice! The quiz results generate a few suggestions of where they think I should travel next depending on my choices. Ok. Let’s see what they can come up with.

Many of the choices weren’t applicable but I picked the closest one and lo and behold, the results actually surprised me. One was New York City. We have been there once and have said it would be a good place to go back to. We didn’t even scratch the surface! The second was Japan. My husband would dearly love to go to Japan and it would be a very interesting destination. The third vacation spot they offered up was Hawaii. That again surprised me. None of the choices in the quiz that I picked really had anything to do with beaches or tropical related places but heres’ the thing; we’re planning our belated honeymoon sometime next year for a visit to the west coast of Canada and a trip to Oahu, Hawaii! How did they know!? That’s a pretty cool coincidence.

The quiz is here if you want to have a go but I think it’s only applicable to residents of Canada (excluding Quebec). The other small print is that it is indeed a credit to be used at the travel agency and if you don’t use the whole of it, you lose the remainder. You have to book it all at once. So let’s see, two tickets to Vancouver, two tickets to Hawaii, a *nice* hotel on the beach, a rental car, another good hotel downtown Vancouver for part of our visit (also going to Vancouver Island to visit family and friends), another rental car there.  If you can book hotels that are not our usual semi-budget versions, that can really add up and all of it will put a decent dent into it and if flying business class doesn’t put us over the top of the credit, we can do that, as well!

If we really want to go crazy, let’s get ourselves to Vancouver, see our friends and family, fly to Japan for at least a week, stopping over in Hawaii on the way home for a few days! That would work, too! Go big or go home, right?

Dreaming costs nothing!

WordPress weekly challenge – Vivid

The Daily Post issues a photo challenge every week with a word. Vivid is this week’s theme and I’ve decided to focus on stained glass. The main places you see it is in churches and cathedrals (following on from the last post about architecture) but you sometimes find it elsewhere too. The colours used in stained glass are always very bright and vivid so that when the sun shines through they glow and cast colourful reflections.

St Jean de Montmartre, Paris

St. Jean de Montmartre, Paris

from the church in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia

St Andrew’s Presbyterian, Quebec City

In a pub in Manchester, Moon Under Water. The building used to be a theatre and then cinema and there are still little details like this Art Deco window




Travel theme: Handmade

This week’s travel theme at Where’s My Backpack is Handmade. Your first train of thought probably goes to handcrafted goods, perhaps ceramics or handpainted items, exquisite jewellry,  woolen knitted items or other fabric creations. I admit my first instinct was to post a few photos of markets where you can get locally made items. Then, as I was browsing my photos, I came upon my collections of two very different types of things though related in one aspect.

I remember the first time I went into a cathedral. St. Paul’s in London was my first, and then to Salisbury Cathedral after that.  Besides being cathdrals, though built in different eras, they have something else in common. They were built by hand. The stone was cut by hand. The most advanced technology for putting them together was rope and pulley, scaffolding and sweat. Both of these buildings and many other medieval cathedrals and churches that I’ve visited  amaze me. They are decorated with hand carving, gilding and exquisite stained glass. The size of the buildings, the soaring towers and spires, and the technology invented to keep them up is astonishing.

Every cathedral and basilica that I’ve visited has a different feel. While almost all of them are very nice in side, some have left me underwhelmed and others have left me with a real connection. The one in Glasgow is one of my favourites. It’s not really very big compared to many of the others but it has a very inviting interior. The photos below of Canterbury cathedral really did inspire awe from the soaring vaulted ceilings to the dark, blue lit chapel in the back. All built by hand.

I really don’t think something like this could be built today.  The cost alone would be prohibitive and that’s what seems to matter these days. These buildings took generations to complete. Lives were lost. Money was found from somewhere. Sometimes they were left unfinished until more could be found but eventually they stood whole.

I’ve only really had the opportunity to visit Christian churches and cathdrals but I have seen photos of buildings like Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and others and I would dearly love to  see them some day.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

St. Augustine's Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

St. Augustine’s Chair, Canterbury Cathedral