May Memories

Boscastle, Cornwall

Boscastle, Cornwall

Facebook has a “memories” thing where it shows you a photo of something you posted x number of years ago. You can then share it if you think others will be interested. If the photo or status involves other people, they may very well enjoy the memory! I don’t repost/share these too often but I do enjoy seeing the ones that pop up in May because a lot of my travels over the past 10 years have been in the month of May. I prefer to travel in the spring and the fall/autumn because the air fares can be a bit cheaper than high summer tourist season. That also goes for hotel prices and if visiting tourist hot spots, spring and fall crowds are a bit lighter (but avoid Easter holidays!)

My husband and I met online and carried on a long distance relationship for 11 years before we married last year and then one more before he moved here this year. We generally tried to visit twice a year, one trip each, and would try to do some traveling on each of those visits, or at least fit in some day trips/road trips. Many of the visits I made to the UK involved a stopover of a day or two in London and we always do a few day trips out of Manchester, Wales, the Lake District, the Peak District, Yorkshire, all are destinations that are easy to visit for a day out.

One year in May, we did a 5 night road trip down to Cornwall with a stop over in the cities of Wells and Bath on either end. Probably the most jam-packed May holiday was the year we flew to Amsterdam, did a day trip from there to Arnhem, visited Brussels and took a day trip from there to Bruges and stopped overnight in London on the way back. I think that was a bit too rushed because we really didn’t get a chance to really see Brussels aside from an abbreviated bus tour and a look around the city centre. It’s a bit of a blur, really, though Bruges was lovely.

New York buildings have ads painted right on the brick.

New York buildings have ads painted right on the brick.

Other memorable trips in the spring were to Copenhagen, New York City and Quebec City. Below are links to various travelogues. I must write up my Quebec City journey as well. North American May holidays included a few days in New York and another journey to Quebec City by train. I would definitely go to Quebec again but I think we’ll get there by some other means than by train or we’ll avoid the rock hard bunks in the sleeper. (Oh my aching back!)

Copenhagen, Day 1 and 2
Copenhagen, Day 3 and 4
Copenhagen, Day 5 and 6
New York City Impressions
New York City Days 1 – 3
New York City Day 4
Leaving New York City
Cornwall Part 1
Cornwall Part 2

Travel Theme: Neutral

When you take photos on your travels, your eye usually catches colour. You follow the road through green hills, purple heathered fields, vividly coloured gardens, some street photography with people and shops and buildings and markets, all with bright colours. But there are also softer, neutral colours. Stone, brick, plaster, trees in winter, cloudy skies, daytime city skylines with all the tall buildings made of concrete and glass. Where’s my Backpack’s weekly challenge this week is Neutral. Here’s a few travel photos from my archives on that theme:

Big Ben peeking through the trees

London in March. Peeking through bare trees to Westminster Tower aka Big Ben

Bankerat Window decos

Bankerat cafe in Copenhagen. A very eclectic decor.

Lincolnville Beach

Lincolnville beach, Maine. Low tide, grey skies, shrouds of mists all neutralize the view

Park behind Institut de France

November in Paris. Park behind the Institute de France, left bank

Skeleton longboat

Viking ship museum in Roskilde, Denmark.

Roman Baths Abbey from the terrace of statues

Bath abbey from the upper level around the Royal Baths.


A Photo A Week Challenge – Rain Drops

This week’s challenge at Nancy Merrill Photography is Rain Drops. Here are a few I’ve taken while on my travels where the sun doesn’t always shine. In fact, on many of our trips away from home base we have had far more rain than sun. I think the only exception was the trip to Rome, five days of clear blue skies and warm, sunny weather. Often we’ll get a nice day on the first or the last day. We’re hoping to add on a trip to Hawaii when we go to B.C. and I’m almost afraid to say that out loud for fear the weather gods hear and we’ll get the only rainy days in Hawaii all year!

Rainy evening in Manchester

Rainy Manchester, UK


Rainy New York

Rainy New York here and below.


Rain rain go away//

November rain

Another shot from Manchester, the faded November rose bushe after the rain.


WordPress challenge: Face

This week, the WordPress weekly challenge is “Face”. This was the first photo that came to mind from those in my archives. It’s a little out of focus, taken through an exhibit glass case. We were touring through the Tower of London in the main White Tower where the armory is. It’s really chock full of interesting things, beautifully detailed and decorative armour for knights, kings and horses, too. You’ll also see weapons, a big sculpture of a dragon made of various weapons and shields, cannon, and other items gleaned from centuries of the iconic fortress.

This was a particularly creepy item. It’s an executioner’s mask. I don’t know if all of them wore masks, but one of them certainly did and I can’t imagine seeing that looming over you as you were about to hang or have your head removed. That’s even worse than seeing a man with a hood over his face!

Executioner's Mask. Seen at the Tower of London

Executioner’s Mask. Seen at the Tower of London


A Photo a Week Challenge: Tower

Here’s a new photo challenge I discovered today, at Nancy Merrill Photography. This week’s challenge is Tower. Architecture is one of my most favourite things to photograph. Here are my entries.

BT Tower

BT Tower, London


Round Tower

Rundtower (“Round Tower”), Copenhagen


The "crumpled" building

A newish condo building in New York City designed by Frank Gehry, the tallest residential building in the USA


Tower WhiteTower

And finally, the notorious Tower of London


The First Time I Saw Paris

Under the Eiffel Tower, 1977

Under the Eiffel Tower, 1977

One of the blogs I follow isĀ Janaline’s world journey, and in her blog today was a posting about the first time she visited Paris. It has inspired me to write about my first visit to Paris which was much less traumatic than the first time I saw London.

In our high school, every year there was a tour offered by the French department that students could go on over the March break week. It always included time in Paris and sometimes other parts of France. The year before I went, it included Paris, plus some parts of Germany and I think also Vienna. (We’re going back to the mid 1970s, so you’ll have to forgive my memory!) Since anyone that went had to pay for it themselves (there were no such things as school fund raisers then at our school) the year I was able to go was during my last year in high school, in March 1977. I had a part time job and I saved up for it. My parents donated some spending money and I was ready to go.

That year the tour included arriving and departing from Rome, with a day in Rome for a quick tour around, then an overnight train to Paris for three days and another overnight train to Nice where we were based for another four days. I don’t think the last train ride to Rome was overnight which was a blessing! The “couchette” cars were not very comfortable.

The train to Paris was crazy. We had compartments which converted to sleeper cars for six people, three on a side. Crazy! I forget if it was the train to Paris or the one to Nice where one of the bunks wouldn’t fit into place and one of our group had to sleep on the floor between the two sides of bunks. Needless to say, a group of over exited 16 to 18 year olds didn’t get much sleep on that leg of the trip!

We arrived in Paris on a Sunday, under grey skies though it wasn’t very cold. By the time we got checked into our hotel on Rue LaFayette, it was early afternoon and we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves before an organized meal in the evening. Being the sophisticated children that we were, our first destination was to find some food for lunch and though I shudder at the thought now, we thought it was a very good idea to find the nearest McDonald’s. Yes. I know. But it was familiar, and it was Sunday and we were in a strange and foreign city. I recall that it was really awful, a very different taste than we were used to in Canada. Serves us right.

Our evening meal and where we would eat for the three nights we were in Paris was in a very nice restaurant. Except it was a German restaurant. In Paris. That’s right. You’d think the tour company might realize that you’d want a French restaurant in France wouldn’t you? I think we did manage to have a boeuf Bourguignon on our last night after much complaining.

Notre Dame, 1977

Notre Dame, 1977

Our Monday was taken up with a bus tour around the city and we hit all the hot spots…the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Les Invalides, Place de la Concorde and a drive down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. It was a chilly, windy day and I didn’t care to go up the Eiffel Tower so I sat below with two or three others that didn’t want to go up for various reasons. I can’t remember if we had to pay our own way up or if it was included. One of the things that made an impression that day was the Winged Victory in the Louvre. It fascinated me. I was also shocked that the Mona Lisa was so small compared to what I had imagined. (Google says it’s 2.5 feet (75 cm) high by 1.75 feet (53 cm) wide) In those days, it was on the wall of a larger room and wasn’t roped off or covered in bullet proof glass like it is now.

I found cashed traveler’s cheque receipts some years ago from that trip and I used $170 for spending money for lunches and souvenirs for the 9 or 10 day trip. Breakfast and the evening meal was always included. The exchange rate was about 5 Francs to the dollar, obviously long before the Euro was installed as common currency. The cost of the airfare and tour together was just under $500 though I may be wrong. If I am, it wasn’t a lot more, maybe another $100. You can’t get a flight to Paris for that these days, or if you do, they add on almost as much for fees and taxes! I think the airfare total was about $300.

Our Tuesday in Paris was a free day. A group of us decided to brave the Metro and go to Montmartre. I seem to recall we lost one fellow on the way, he didn’t make the change in trains in time. We poked our heads in some of the shops. One of the girls bought a long rabbit fur coat and I discovered that the European sizing was very different from North American. We climbed up the steps to Sacre Coeur, passing an older man feeding a flock of pigeons along the way. I couldn’t take as many photos as I would have liked, being a budding photographer even back then, because I still had to pay to get film developed and had only my part time job for resources. The photos were taken with a small pocket camera and haven’t proven up to the test of time though I salvaged some of them.

Hideous Parisian hotel wallpaper from the 1970s

Hideous Parisian hotel wallpaper from the 1970s

Other memories I have of those few days in Paris include the hideous brown and white patterned wallpaper in our hotel rooms and the surprise of a bidet, the first most of us had ever seen, heathens that we were! Our hotel was across the street from a little corner shop where you could buy beer. That was a surprise to us since you couldn’t do that back home (and still can’t in our province! No alcohol in corner shops or grocery stores for us!) Since the legal drinking age in France was much lower than it was at home, it was inevitable that most of us took full advantage of it. I think we cleaned out that shop in the three days we were there and had parties in the hotel rooms every night. Our chaperons, one of whom was a nun, looked the other way as long as we were not too loud and boisterous and were all accounted for when they came around to do a head count before bed. They even shared a glass of wine with us at dinner and one at least one of the train journeys as I recall.

My first trip to Paris didn’t make a lot of long lasting impressions aside from what I’ve described but I always hoped I’d go back. I did, finally, in November 2007, over 30 years later, when my partner and I went for his 50th birthday. That was also just a few days but the memories are clearer and I have loads more photos to remind me. We also planned to go in April of 2014 but that was cancelled due to family illness. I hope we get to go again but there are so many other places we also want to see, both new and repeat visits that Paris is now further down the priority list. I am glad I’ve had the chance to see it and renew those original memories on a second visit.

Daily Post – Music in travel

The Daily Post not only issues photo challenges, they also do a daily prompt to encourage writing and blogging. Today’s prompt is Music. When I go through my photo archives, I realize that music features quite a bit in my travels in many different ways. Mostly, I don’t travel specifically because of music but it seems to pop up frequently in one aspect or another. Maybe we have seen some musical instruments in shops, museums or other places. Sometimes, I’ve seen performances, both formal and by buskers and street musicians.

My husband is a musician so music is a big part of his life. I’m not quite so passionate about it but I do enjoy it. I have a memory of waiting for a bus on Tottenham Court Road in London one night and seeing him gazing into a music shop window at an array of guitars. We also visited a guitar shop in Montreal and in the window of another shop in London, spotted miniature replicas of guitars and drums where the originals were owned by famous rock stars.

From Steve’s Music store in Montreal

mask and strings

From the Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels

We found out that there’s a Musical Instrument Museum in Brussels. We have a very limited visit to Brussels but still squeezed in a visit to the museum even though it meant that our hop on hop off bus tour of the city was cut short so that we could make our train! It was in a beautiful old Art Deco building and had four floors of instruments of all sorts from hundreds of countries and eras in history. Fascinating, Captain!
Street musicians are found everywhere, maybe one person on a corner or a whole group. Some I recall include this group of string musicians on the Stroget in Copenhagen. The big triangular guitar type instrument was particularly interesting! When you go to Scotland, there are inevitably bagpipers all over the country, wherever there are tourists. On one particular visit while on a bus tour, we stopped at Loch Lomond and there was a piper there. We also stopped at the border between Scotland and England for a photo opportunity and yes, in the middle of the countryside, there was a piper there, too. I recall that vividly because the piper played Hava Nagila for a group of women on our bus who were from Israel and I turned around, hearing the unusual song coming from the pipes and saw them dancing by the piper. This was before digital cameras with video and I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo. There was a piper at the base of the castle on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, last year, too. Bagpipes are not a favourite for everyone but I do like them!

Stoget Band

Street performers in Copenhagen


Piping for the tourists

Piper on the island of Lindisfarne


I’ve only traveled specifically for a musical reason once (so far) when I traveled to Montreal in the summer a couple of years ago to see Queen and Adam Lambert perform at the Bell Centre. They’re a bucket list band for me, and I never had the chance to see them when Freddie Mercury was alive. I’m very glad I went and maybe we might do that again sometime.

Sign on the Bell Centre

Seeing Queen in Montreal


Music and musical references turn up in lots of places, whether it’s expected or not. In Liverpool, across from the replica of The Cavern Club where the Beatles started out, is a music wall, with the name of a famous artist or band in every brick. I thought that was way better than the club!

Matthew Street Brick Wall, Liverpool

The Wall of Fame in Matthew Street, Liverpool


I’ve gone to see musicals on stage in both London and New York. I’ve admired antique pianos, pipe organs, and other old instruments in musuems, stately homes, cathedrals, churches and sometimes you see an instrument as a work of art. There’s an old building in Manchester’s Northern Quarter that contains 4 floors of funky market shops and stalls. Outside is a sculpture of an enormous saxophone. There’s usually always music playing in cafes and restaurants, loudly or softly. The Edinburgh Tattoo has numerous pipe and drum bands as well as marching bands and the skirl of the pipes from the Lone Piper on the top of the castle at the end is haunting.

Some other random musical memories: A couple dancing the tango in Rome in Piazza Navona. While on a bus tour of Italy, I joined an “optional” dinner with two or three men who did dual duty of serving the dinner and singing Italian traditional songs, opera and “pop”. Guesting on the Copenhagen based Metal Breakfast Radio Show, playing metal music and having a few bevvies. Seeing Paul McCartney at the Manchester Evening News (it’s not called that now) arena in Manchester. Eating in Hard Rock Cafe restaurants in a few different cities, (Toronto, Boston, Rome, Manchester) and taking in all the rock music memorabilia. Late night in the residence bar in a hotel in Dublin listening to a jam session of artists, vocals by one of our group of travelers, Rose.

Locally, here in Halifax, there’s a busker festival every summer. There used to be a Scottish Highand Games day with pipe and drums, and dancing competitions and there still is a weekend of games and music in the town of Antigonish. There’s a Celtic Colours music festival in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia every October. We have several parades through the summer and there are outdoor free concerts. Halifax also has a Jazz Festival in July. Next weekend, we’re going to a guitar festival where there will be a small museum, a day long battle of the bands, and lots of interesting guitars for sale to look at. There’s a large track on the Halifax Commons where you can skate in the winter to piped in music.

Music is everywhere, home and away, and it always adds a layer, a dimension to places we visit. It might be a song you hear while you are away that will bring memories back to you. Music can give you insight into local traditions and culture and that makes music a very important aspect of travel. Chinese Opera, Spanish Flamenco dancing, African tribal music, Bollywood style music from India, Swiss yodeling, Italian opera, German “Oompah” music, Portuguese Fado, Appalachian blue grass. The list is far too long to list everything. Music is an intricate part of travel, more than you realize, I bet.