Vancouver: The Weird and the Wonderful

After our first full day in Vancouver, what next? Turned out, the weekend was full of weird and wonderful.

In addition to seeing a bit of the city, one of the things we did while in Vancouver was attend a Fan Expo, similar to the Science Fiction Comic Con (convention). Fans of SciFi, Fantasy, comics, super heros and their worlds and Japanese animation flock to these conventions. Many of them dress up as favourite characters. There are guests from popular televisions shows and artists of graphic novels and comics there to talk to fans. People can pay for autographs and photos with their favourites and sit in the audience and listen to the actors talk about their craft and the show.

There is usually a huge hall full of vendors where you can buy all manner of related items. It’s a great place to get swag, tshirts, memorabilia and related items to your favourite genres and programs. We bought a one day pass though the convention goes on all weekend. The Vancouver Convention Centre is enormous, covering two buildings on the waterfront. It was a rainy day so we decided to take a taxi to the centre. We still ended up trekking about between the two buildings because we weren’t sure where to go.

Vancouver Convention Centre from Stanley Park

The convention was in the main building that looks like a ship with full sails on it. It’s also where cruise ships dock. As you walk down the length of it, in the ground are inlaid plaques with various Canadian cities from the West to the East and then to the North as you walk along. We finally got in and got our entry bracelets and tried to figure out where everything was. My husband has a ticket to get a photo with one of his favourites and we wanted to sit in on two panel discussions and still have time to peruse the vendors. One section of vendors was Steampunk oriented which is something I really like.

The convention was hugely crowded so it took patience to work your way along the vendor stalls and through the hallways to find the various rooms. We have a similar convention here called Hal-con which, while crowded, seems a little more manageable.

We spent a great afternoon looking at all the items, listening to the panels  talk about the other actors and behind the scenes and people watching for all the great costumes. Lots of people go to such a great deal of trouble to represent characters in painstaking detail.

The second allocation of weird and wonderful was the Museum of Anthropology at University of British Columbia. One of the prime focuses of the museum is the indigenous art of the people of British Columbia which is absolutely gorgeous. It’s very distinctive and it’s different from the art of the First Nations people from the east coast of Canada where I’m from which is also lovely, don’t get me wrong.

The museum has totem poles and pieces of them, as well as other artifacts such as bent wood boxes, feast “bowls” and intriguing sculpture. It’s also got collections from a great many other cultures around the world, primarily Asiatic and from the South Seas and Oceana but also from Europe and Africa. There are treasures, and maps and papers.You could spend all day there and never see it all. It is very intriguing and you’ll learn a lot. I don’t think you could see it all in one go because there is just too much to take in. We spent a couple of hours wandering about and spent a few dollars in the gift shop, too.

We had gone there with friends who live locally and after the museum closed, we found a Chinese restaurant for a nice meal to top off the day and the weekend. This is pretty much the end of our visit to Vancouver as well. The next day, we used the coin laundry in the morning before we had to check out and transferred to a Ramada by the airport, thinking it would be easier to get to the airport the next day if we were already nearby. In retrospect, we probably should have just spent an extra night at the Rosedale and enjoyed that last full day in the city. Turns out even a taxi to the airport from downtown wasn’t all that expensive.

We checked into the Ramada which was a couple of blocks from a large shopping mall, the Richmond Centre. We plodded over there under cloudy, rather wet skies and had some lunch in the food court along with a bit of a wander through the mall. Both of  us are on pins now, excited to leave for Hawaii but we still have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. We did end up getting a shuttle to the airport a lot earlier than we needed to after checking out of the Ramada just so we didn’t have to sit around the hotel lobby. At least in an airport, your baggage is checked and you can walk around and look at the shops. Pretty soon it’s time to board….
MOA - Haida items

Fountain series June

Here’s a new challenge I discovered, with a different theme each month, and I believe all are to do with fountains. June’s theme is unusual details or unusual fountains. You can find fountains in most places, small and large. fountains can commemorate, they can be decorative, they can be very artistic, whether classical or modern. I’ve taken pictures of lots of fountains in places I’ve visited though most wouldn’t be classified as unusual.

In Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, UK, The gardens has an area called the Serpentine where trimmed hedges lead you through a series of fountains whose mechanics are based on physics. Here are a few of those fountains.

Alnwick Gardens Fountain

Alnwick Castle Gardens fountain

Alnwick Castle Gardens fountain

Alnwich Castle Garden fountain - works on centrifugal force. It drains slowly and then fills up again.

Alnwick Castle Garden fountain – works on centrifugal force. It drains slowly and then fills up again.

And a couple more:

Place des Arts Fountain

Place des Arts, Montreal

Victorian Jubilee fountain

The Victorian era Jubillee Fountain, Halifax Public Gardens, Nova Scotia

Pub traditions in Britain

I was reading the latest issue of Discover Britain and in it was a very interesting article on painted wooden pub signs as a tradition in the UK, a tradition that nearly died out but which seems to be gaining interest again. The article isn’t online but I can summarize it here for you.

The use of signs can be dated back to the Romans who used branches of evergreens to alert people that the establishment was a refreshment stop. Evergreens were the symbol of Bacchus, who, as we all know, is the god of wine! The branches, stuck to a stake evolved to twigs over time and by the 13th and 14th century, wooden painted signs started to appear. That became law, in order to easily identify a business that should be licensed (and taxed, of course!)

Often the picture on the sign would reflect the badge or symbol of whoever was the monarch at the time. The white hart was popular as it was the emblem of Richard II. The signs for inns also started to have religious overtones because of the numbers of pilgrims increasingly on the roads. You might see a bishop’s mitre or and angel. One of the most common pub names with a corresponding sign is the Red Lion. It was the emblem of James I but it was also popular on coats of arms and heraldic banners.

Signs also commemorated events and people or something relevant to the local area. A smugglers’ pub was called the Bucket of Blood, buildings that have been repurposed were called by their original use, such as Blacksmith’s Arms, and if a pub is near a guild or factory, you might see it reflecting that.

Obviously, there are various styles and types of signs and these days, wood is being replaced by vinyl signs with computer generated graphics but it doesn’t really have the same quality as a painted sign on wood. There has been a recent revival of interest in hand painted signs and that’s a good thing.  It was all very interesting and I’m going to be taking a closer look out for painted pub signs from here on in. There’s a society for sign painters called the Inn Sign Society and the man that was interviewed for the magazine was Andrew Grundon.

I searched through my photos to see if i had any pictures of pub signs and I found a few though mostly they aren’t that good or close up. I’ve included a gallery of the ones I did have. Now I wish I had taken more notice! Of the places I’ve been, the city of York probably had the most old pubs with signs but they’re all over the country. So many cities are making a point to preserve the historic older quarters, including restoring things like signs and windows and doors. I love browsing the narrow, often cobbled streets lined with old, crooked buildings, half beamed and slated roofs. In the countryside and in smaller villages these pubs and inns are often very, very old.

The White Hart was the heraldic emblem of Richard II. Credit: Inn Sign Society/Martin Norman

Also on the magazine website, there’s an article on the 10 most popular pub names and there are some great pictures of painted signs there as well. The Red Lion and the White Hart are two of the most popular, followed by the Royal Oak and the King’s Head (which, by the way, replaced an older tradition of calling a pub the Pope’s Head. After Henry VIII kicked off at the Catholic Church and became head of the Church of England, people decided they didn’t want to be associated with Catholocism and pandered to the King instead!)

Edited to add: A friend of mine, Rosalind Mitchell, sent me this note regarding pub names

I have long held that pub names should be able to have preservation orders slapped on them, because many have an interesting and quirky history. In my teens I was outraged by a pub in a village near me called The Tilbury (because it had a tilbury [carriage] on the grass outside) became the rather bland and twee Inn on the Green (I believe it is now the Tilbury once again). So outraged that I wrote a letter to the local paper, pointing out some other interesting local pub names – the Candlestick, so called because the guv’nor used to go down to the cellar to fetch the beer taking the pub’s only source of light with her and plunging the bar into darkness. The Baron of Beef was once a butcher’s shop with a sideline as an alehouse, run by a man called George Baron. The Steamer, at the top of a steep hill on the Great North Road, once had an innovative steam engine to haul carriages up the hill in order to spare the horses.


Go inside the British Museum with Google

Closeup of an Egyptian Sarcophegus, British Museum, London

Closeup of an Egyptian Sarcophegus, British Museum, London

Google has done it again. They’ve sent the Google camera inside the British Museum and now you can use the Street View feature in Google Maps to visit the museum without leaving your house. It’s pretty cool, too. You can “walk” through the rooms or jump from floor to floor.  I think it would help if you had a map from the British Museum’s website, though. You can drop the little gold “man” onto a place on the museum map and there’s a series of numbers on your right that says what level you are on. If you click a different level, you find your self in a different room or gallery but you might also find yourself in a hallway or in a staircase, in which case, that map might prove useful.

Google map of the British Museum, London

Google map of the British Museum, London

It’s also possible to read a lot of the large information signs on the walls by the various displays. I think this is a great thing. I hope a lot of the major museums and sites in the world will be mapped out like this. They’ve done Machu Picchu as well. I think a site like Pompeii would be another good one to do with Street View and please, Google, do some more of the major museums and galleries in the world like the Smithsonian, the Vatican, and the Louvre.

This first photo is a screen grab from Google Street view of the Egyptian gallery with the mummies and sarcophegi. Below that are a few photos I’ve taken in the museum on visits in the past. (The photo at the top of this post is also mine, a closup of one of a sarcophegus)

British Museum Egyptian Mummies, London

British Museum Egyptian Mummies, London

Neried Monument, British Museum, London

Neried Monument, British Museum, London

Greek Helmet, British Museum, London

Greek Helmet, British Museum, London

A Word a Week – Mural

While some people think graffiti is defacing a surface, and it certainly can be if it’s just random and pointless, others thing of it as a work of art and it certainly can be that as well. Graffiti is a way of expressing, usually, discontent with political slogans and warnings, territorial markings. Murals on public surfaces could be classed as graffiti but it’s also beautiful public art, street art as a rule. Some public murals are even commissioned. Some people do it to brighten up the neighbourhood, some to reflect the neighbourhood. Here’s a few I’ve seen on my travels:

First, two from London

Seen on Tottenham Court Road, London

Seen in SoHo, London

Two from Quebec City

Petit Champlain, Quebec City

The Cooperative Mural, Quebec City

Chinatown, Toronto

The next two are no longer. In the first, the building has been torn down, and in the second, renovations along the wall have removed the panel and mural.

This building was on Oldham Road, Manchester, UK

This was on a panel in the wall around and beneath the Grand Parade square in Halifax, along Barrington Street next to City Hall.

See more over at A Word in Your Ear.

A Word a Week – Create

Sue’s Word a Week challenge this week is “Create”. Here’s a couple of people in the process of creating crystal. The first is of one of the craftsmen from the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford, Ireland. These artists memorize all the different patterns that they etch into the blown crystal and it takes years to work up to being a master craftsman.

A Waterford Crystal master craftsman

A Waterford Crystal master craftsman

This man is blowing glass to make crystal. Nova Scotia Crystal (sadly, it’s closed now) employed glass blowers and craftspeople from Waterford.

Blowing glass by hand. Nova Scotia Crystal (now closed)

Blowing glass by hand. Nova Scotia Crystal (now closed)

On a different note, my partner creates these wonderful cartoons for my birthday each year, usually focusing on one of our travels from the previous 12 months. This commemorates a misguided GPS that led us into a very tight situation.

Cornwall (St. Ives) 2011

Cornwall (St. Ives) 2011

WordPress Weekly Challenge – A Work of Art

WordPress’s weekly challenge is A Work of Art. Art is very subjective. Everyone likes something different. What is art for one person isn’t for another. Sometimes interpretation of what art is can be mystifying but the same piece for someone else makes perfect sense.

I do like to visit galleries, museums and exhibits and I don’t always agree that it’s “art” but I don’t begrudge someone else loving what I think is rubbish. Here’s both sides of the coin for me.

From a classic, in the Sistine Chapel, artist Michaelangelo Buonarotti. Photo shot from the hip. Yes, I know. Photography in the chapel is not permitted but it’s so hard to resist. No flash, existing light, a bit of help from photoshop.

The Sistine Chapel

To “What????” This and another identical post were in an installation in the Guggenheim gallery in New York. Modern art mystifies me. I don’t get it.

Chatsworth House

Following on my previous post as we head deeper into the Peak District National Park, we arrived at Chatsworth House, nestled against the River Derwent, about noon. They’re about 10 minutes or so from the town of Bakewell. Chatsworth is the seat of the Cavendish family, the Dukes of Devonshire. The current Duke is the 12th in the line. There’s quite a lot of history about the family and the house, both on Wikipedia and on the website for Chatsworth itself so I won’t go into it a whole lot.

The estate as a whole covers over 100 acres and there is actually quite a lot to visit if you were to spend the whole day here. You can walk around the extensive gardens and trails where you will see various out buildings, statues and fountains. You can visit their working farm and see some animals, mainly geared towards children. The old stables buildings have a restaurant and shops in them and there’s a little shuttle that will take you up the little hill to it if you want but it’s not far and not steep.

The house, of course, is the jewel in the crown. There are various prices for entry, depending on what you are going to see. The house alone without the farm or charity gift donation is 18 pounds for an adult which is not that expensive compared to other similar attractions. It’s 12 pounds to just visit the gardens and 6 to just visit the farmyard. They also let you take photos for your own use.

The Painted Hall, Chatsworth

We arrived at midday, as I said, and the parking lot was very full so we had to park quite a bit away from the house. Never mind, we walked over to the house, passed through a pretty courtyard and entered to the ticket area. That done, we went up a few steps and turned into the Painted Hall, the very impressive entry area. It really is impressive, with every inch of the ceilings and much of the walls covered in murals and paintings. The floor is black and white checked tiles and the hall is ringed with antique furniture, sculpture and artifacts. You could probably spend a half hour just looking at everything there.

There’s a route you follow through the public rooms, about 25 or 30 out of a couple hundred, most of which are the private rooms for the family.

Another highlight on the ground floor is the elaborate chapel with a high white carved altar piece. The ceiling in here is painted as well. We come back around  to the Painted Hall then go up the big staircase to a landing, also with painted ceilings and also some more lovely statues and artwork. There are also come cases with old swords and pistols here. It’s a good vantage point for photos into the Painted Hall as well. Up some more stairs to the upper floor of the house.

The beautiful music room, Chatsworth

Here you have the state rooms, including an elaborate Baroque music room and a state bedroom with a tall canopied bed and walls lined with paintings. The music room is filled with silver and gold pieces and very fancy marble tables. At the very back, behind a slightly opened door, is another well known sight. It looks as if there’s a violin hanging on the wall behind the door, but in fact, it’s fake. It’s a tromp d’oeil painting. There are portraits of various members of the generations of Cavendishes scattered around the rooms and hallways and there’s another smaller room lined with Old Masters paintings and sketches including a large portrait painted by Rembrandt.

The house is filled with art and sculpture and antiques. There’s a model of the house in a glass case in the Oak Room, next to (I think) the chapel, so called because it’s lined in oak panelling and carving. Also in here, bracing the fireplace, are two long narwhal tusks which is one of the more unusual finds in the house. In one room there was a portrait of Henry VIII, which we didn’t expect! There’s so much to look at and the guides or curators in most of the rooms are really good. They know their stuff, about the family and the house and volunteer information if they see you curious about something and very willingly answer any questions you have. There are little information cards in most of the rooms but the guides are even better and filling in details.

Even the corridors are lined with things to look at or have good views out over the gardens and courtyards. There are some rooms you can’t go right into and can only look from the end or they are partly roped off, such as the bedrooms and the library which looks like it would be a fascinating place to delve into if you could get in there. I would imagine the priceless rare books make that impossible. The light in the library is also kept low but there are lamps lit on the tables. There’s an ante-library as well because one of the dukes, the 6th I believe, was such a book collector that he overflowed his library. There are apparently over 17,000 books. Just past the library and ante-library is the state dining room with it’s long table set with china, and lots and lots of silver!

The last room you go through on the route is the sculpture gallery and that leads to the inevitable gift shop, housed in what was the orangery. There used to be a huge glass conservatory in the gardens but that was torn down in the early 20th century as it was too difficult and costly to maintain. Another interesting fact was that the house was used as a girls’ school during World War II and there were several displays about that on as well.

The cascade was built around 1700 as a series of steps where the water from fountains at the top would flow. The house was built in 1703.

We took well over an hour to walk through the house looking at everything and taking photos. After, we got a drink at an outdoor take out stand and sat in the sun for a rest. We didn’t feel up to traipsing around too much of the garden but walked down past the end of the house and up near the Cascade fountain to have a look. We decided not to go up to the Stables since we’d already had a cuppa and thought, as we were getting hungry, we might as well head off. We had a country pub to go to and a beautiful big late lunch to enjoy.

The Royal Oak is an award winning pub between Buxton and Bakewell and not too far from Chatsworth. They have some rooms and camping facilities and though are a little off the beaten track, it is well worth making the drive. The atmosphere is very friendly. There are several small rooms, with open fires and copper artifacts on the stone walls. They have a very good beer selection including a really tasty Bakewell best Bitter and a cloudy cider on tap called Rosie the Pig!

Their menu has lots to pick from and includes traditional pub grub and excellent up to day items as well. The special we were offered was guinea fowl with savoy cabbage and leek mashed potatoes with red wine gravy. Too tempting to pass up for me though G. decided on a mixed grill which came on a large platter filled with various types of meat and lovely homemade chips.  The food was hot and absolutely mouth watering. Well deserved for the awards they’ve won and I told them, too!

Full and satisfied, we finally headed back to Salford after a long and very enjoyable day.

New York birthday memories

A few weeks ago, I posted a few cartoons that my fella does for me as my annual birthday card. Often they are based on where we’d traveled in the previous year. This year’s card was based on our trip to New York City last May. One of the things he really was looking forward to was going up to the top of the Empire State Building, and mentioned several times King Kong. Now, See, I would have been more romantic, with thoughts of Sleepless in Seattle and An Affair to Remember.

I expected the cartoon to have some sort of NYC theme but I didn’t expect this:


You can also see that I have a camera in my hand, which is pretty typical of me. No matter what’s going on, I’ll be likely to take a photo before running off to safety! He joked “Oh, let’s go to New York, she said. It’ll be nice this time of year, she said. The view from the top of the Empire State Building would be great, she said”

He wanted to make sure the cartoon looked authentic so looked around the net for photos of the building in the 1930s when the original King Kong movie was made and wanted the Chrysler building in it as well so you knew for sure it was NYC. Utterly brilliant!

Travel Theme: Romance

Given that we’ve sailed through Valentine’s Day, Where’s My Backpack has a travel theme of Romance this week. I had to think how I would relate this to travel. We do go to some romantic locations like Paris and Rome and we really enjoy exploring new places and making new memories. Our road trip to Cornwall was brilliant and we were going to do a road trip to Scotland last year but it got side lined.

What’s really romantic, though, is that my fella is an artist and for my birthday every year, he draws me a cariacature/cartoon and often it features our travel location from that past year.

Here’s a few of them:

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And the other romantic thing that he does is write and record me a song every year for Christmas. You can hear the “Lurve” album here.  Some of those mention travel and flights because ours is a long distance relationship.