Mailboxes in all the odd places

Inspired by a post at Travel Words, where a number of unusual UK mail boxes were posted there today. I knew I had a few photos of some that were a bit different than the run of the mill red pillar box. Actually, most of these photos are not UK red post boxes but you can see that. The first was one we’d walked by in the small town of Cobh, Ireland, on the Cork harbour. The next is from Roskilde, Denmark and the little green one was outside of a little, dusty antique shop in Dublin. I think it must be Victorian era.

Victorian mailbox in Cobh

Yellow house

Victorian letterbox outside an antique shop in Dublin

And two from my visits to the old set of Coronation Street. When we visited during the 2 years that the tour was open recently, you could get your postcards stamped in the shop with an actual Coronation Street post mark and then mail them in the mailbox on the street and they’d be delivered. Naturally, I mailed a few to myself!
Postbox on the Street
The Word from the street

20 best cities in Europe: Countdown #20 – #11

I recently saw a link to an article on Conde Nast Traveler’s website with a slide show of the 20 Best Cities in Europe. Curious, I went to look. How many of the cities had I visited? I anticipated some of the most obvious choices but kind of figured they would make some obscure choices. Turns out, of the 20, I’ve visited nine. Several of the others are cities I would really like to see some day. Whether I will or not is anyone’s guess.

Now. Do I blog them all at once, with notes, and a montage of the photos I’ve taken in the cities I’ve been to? Or do I blog them one a day or half and half in two posts?

I think I’ll post the bottom 10 first, then in another post I’ll do the top 10, so here goes, counting backwards from 20 to 11:

Prague at sunset (photo from erhansasmaz.deviantart.com)

20 –  Prague, Czech Republic
Conde Nast says “Picturesque Prague beats with a bohemian heart”. Everyone I know that has been there says it’s a really beautiful city and it’s definitely one that I’d love to see someday.

19 – Copenhagen, Denmark
Conde Nast calls it “a capital of Nordic cool, expensive but free to walk around and soak in the atmosphere.”. I’ve been to Copenhagen and I liked it quite a lot. I didn’t really expect much of it and it surprised me. The historic city centre is beautiful, flat, cobbled and there are loads of shopping, cafes, and historic sites with some lovely galleries as well. Transportation seems pretty good and easy to use. There’s a theme park in the middle of the city, too! (Tivoli). Yes, it’s definitely expensive but I’d go back anytime. We were there for 5 days and barely scratched the surface.

18 – Edinburgh, Scotland
I’ve been here, a couple of times. Edinburgh is an elegant old city steeped in history. The Old Town, higher up and cobbled, with touristy shops, galleries, cathedral, narrow streets, and the castle on the cliff with awesome views are part of the attraction and the Georgian New Town with more shopping and restaurants and beautiful architecture and a public garden below the castle cliffs are more reasons to go.

View of Zurich. Photo from http://podroze.onet.pl

View of Zurich. Photo from http://podroze.onet.pl

17 – Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich is on a river and surrounded by dramatic mountains, what’s not to love? I haven’t been here but have been told that Switzerland is a gorgeous and very clean country. Apparently it’s also close enough to Alsace or Venice for day trips by train as well.

16 – Madrid, Spain
Madrid is the capital of Spain and though I think I’d prefer Barcelona, Madrid does have one major bonus that could sway me, the Prado museum, one of the world’s best.

15 – Bruges, Belgium
Another place I’ve visited and liked a lot. There are a few small cities in Belgium with canals and cobbles. Bruges is probably one of the best known and most visited. We took a nice canal cruise which I would definitely recommend and admired the gorgeous architecture in the main squares. There are lots of little places to investigate on and off the beaten track. The old historic city centre is very well preserved and full of really old buildings.

14 – Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Conde Naste says “Windmills, cycling, Van Gogh, and canals are all part of Amsterdam’s storied charm”. Amsterdam *is* charming though it is also a larger city and it can be crowded. It’s very pretty, with the canals and the stately gabled houses lining them, with bridges and houseboats, and bicycles. Oh yes. You need to be aware because they sneak up on you without warning! We spent a few days here and saw a bit though there were a lot of things we didn’t have the time to get to see.

A view of Istanbul (photo from www.thestregisistanbul.com)

A view of Istanbul (photo from http://www.thestregisistanbul.com)

13 – Istanbul, Turkey
I haven’t been here, this enormous city on the border of Europe and Asia. It’s a very old city, known in Roman days as Constantinople for the Emperor Constantine who was fundamental in bringing Christianity to the wider Roman Empire. It has also been called Byzantium which dates back to ancient Greek days. The Istanbul we know is from the Ottoman empire and is now a Muslim based city. There are some spectactular religious buildings and famous markets. I think it would be a very interesting city to visit.

Lovely BudaPest (photo from www.inyourpocket.com)

Lovely BudaPest (photo from http://www.inyourpocket.com)

12 – Budapest, Hungary
Another city I would love to see and which I’ve been told is really beautiful, with old buildings and a lovely cathedral. There are actually two cities, Buda and Pest, one on either side of the Danube river. Best known for Art Nouveau architecture and a plethora of spas.

Stockholm at sunset (photo bestbarseurope.com)

Stockholm at sunset (photo bestbarseurope.com)

11 – Stockholm, Sweden
Yet another city built on islands and canals, this one in the north of Europe. Stockholm has become very hip and has long been known for it’s sleek designs. Since the release of the Millenium Trilogy books (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo et. al.), a lot of Swedish crime thrillers have become popular and Sweden seems to be even more of a destination. Definitely one I’d like to see though it’s even more expensive than Copenhagen!

Below is a gallery of a few photos I’ve taken of Edinburgh, Copenhagen, Bruges, and Amsterdam


If you can’t wait to find out the rest, then the slide show is here.

Daily Post challenge: Ornate

This week’s Daily Post challenge is “Ornate”. Castles and stately homes are particularly good places to find ornate items or decor. These photos were taken in Rosenborg Castle, in Copenhagen, most from the treasures in the

Emerald Crown, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Emerald Crown, from the Emerald Set. Emeralds from the 18th century, jewelry created in 1840. Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Prayer book. Rosenborg Castle "treasures", Copenhagen

Prayer book. Rosenborg Castle “treasures”, Copenhagen

Clock in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Clock in Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Christian IV crown, dates from 1595, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

King’s Chamber, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Travel Theme: Below

This week’s travel theme from Where’s My Backpack is Below.

First, looking below me from a hotel window in Copenhagen:

 

Then, looking below me from the CN Tower in Toronto towards Toronto’s City airport

And looking up at the CN Tower from below! (not taken on the same day)

Weekly Photo Challenge – Treasure

For this week’s WordPress challenge, I thought I would show some of the treasures in Copenhagen’s Rosenborg Castle.

Danish royal crown choked with jewels

Danish royal crown choked with jewels

Prayer book. Rosenborg Castle "treasures", Copenhagen

Prayer book. Rosenborg Castle “treasures”, Copenhagen

Gold and  jewels, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Gold and jewels, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Yet another jeweled crown, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Yet another jeweled crown, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Emerald Crown, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

Emerald Crown, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen

One of a kind set of Colt pistols made for one of the Danish kings

One of a kind set of Colt pistols made for one of the Danish kings

Travel Theme – Stone

This week, Ailsa wants to challenge us with Stone.  The earth is covered with stones and rocks of every kind. If it isn’t cover in water that is, and beneath the water, you’ll find it too. Third Rock from the Sun, right? Stone has been used to create weapons, tools, shelter, fences,  and artistically for statues and sculptures.

There’s a little fishing village about an hour and a half from where I live, called Blue Rocks. The geological composition of the rocks there in layers is quite unusual apparently.  I was approached by a company that publishes geology textbooks and this next photo was published in it.

Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

In the far north of Canada, the inhabitants there have been known to make little piles of rocks, often resembling a human. They call them Inukshuks.  We used to have an “info” type ad about them. The grandson of the Elder woman that built one translated her explanation: “Now the people will know we were here”. This little one was spotted at Blue Rocks during our visit.

Now the people will know we were here. Inukshuk, Blue Rocks, Nova Scotia

Rune Stones from Scandinavia. Seen at the Royal Danish Museum, Copenhagen

Stone marker at the border of Exmoor, Somerset

Stone Circles are mystical and nobody really knows what they were for. Most of them are smaller or thinner stones than the best known, Stonehenge.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, near Keswick, England

Ruins of Rieveaulx Abbey, Yorkshire

Stone fences criss cross the English countryside. This one overlooks Lake Windemere and Ambleside.

The famed stones of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Indian Harbour, Nova Scotia

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.

trafalgarlions

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!

 

Travel Theme: Hidden

Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack Has a weekly photo theme and this week’s is Hidden. When I travel, I often steer my fella down lanes and alleys, into courtyards and following little signs for something that might be interesting. You never know what you’re going to find hidden off the beaten track.

I spent a morning wandering the City of London once, which, you might think, is mainly tall buildings, office workers and the occasional church but around a corner and through a stone gate I found the remains of a bombed out Wren church, just the clock tower remaining, with the space landscaped with grass and trees and benches. A little oasis of calm in the middle of a very busy city. My photos didn’t really turn out sadly, the film got exposed.

In Amsterdam there’s a little courtyard called the Bejginhof where women used to live in seclusion. They were not nuns but lived in a similar way. This too is a peaceful closed off spot in a busy neighbourhood.

Many cathedrals have cloisters around which the grand walls rise. Cloisters sometimes have little cemeteries in them, too.

Here are a couple of hidden delights that I discovered on my travels.

First. The Lake District in England. This is Keswick, a market town near the north end of the district. We walked along the pedestrianized town centre square, lined with shops and pubs. There was this very narrow alley between two stores:

Keswick. Remember that blue shop on the left.

Through that alley, you find yourself in a parking lot. This bright sweet shop is not the same shop as on the other side.

Cafe this way! Ambleside, The Lake District

 

When we were planning a trip to Copenhagen, I watched a Rick Steves travel program on the city. In it, he walked with a guide to a little hidden courtyard where some of the oldest wooden houses in Copenhagen were. They didn’t say where it was, probably because it was a private residential place but I hoped to find it and, walking through the old Latin Quarter, I recognized this street:

Latin Quarter, Copenhagen

You see that reddish building with a doorway? Go through that doorway and this is what you find:

A Word a Week Challenge – Ornate

This week, Susie’s word challenge is Ornate. You don’t see as many ornate details these days. I guess it costs too much to really put the flourish into things. But go back, even less than a hundred years to the Art Deco period and you see wonderful detail. Go back even further and you will see ornamentation everywhere. The Victorians and Georgians were over the top. Baroque’s middle name is “Ornate”. The rich details in the Renaissance era are astounding.

One place you can always find lots of ornate details is in a cathedral when more was better, and all to the glory of God. The architecture, the decoration, the stained glass, the altar. Statues and tapestries. Everywhere you look you’ll find intricacy. Architecture is a great place to spot it, even just a little swirl on a window frame or door.  The Vatican Museums are lined with intensely detailed paintings and moldings along the walls and ceilings of the hallways. Whole rooms have every inch of wall space covered in murals and frescos.

Palaces and old manor houses, the owners all seemed to want to out-do each other but not many can match places like Versailles but there are a lot who gave it the old college try including Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.

Below are a few photos I’ve taken of ornate bits of architecture, decorative items and interiors, including a door from Georgian Dublin, details from both Wells and Canterbury Cathedral exterior, Galleries Lafayette (a Parisian department store), some Belgian lace examples, and a few shots from Rosenborg Castle.

 

Word a Week Challenge – Castle

Oooh, this week’s Word a Week Challenge is Castle!  Castles are one of my favourite things to visit, whether still intact or whether there are just ruins left to ramble through.  Many castles started off as pure fortifications but turned into more of a palace, a residence as the need for defence died down. Since palaces are not the traditional “castle”, for this post, I’ll just show photos of the more “industrial” versions with one or two exceptions.

Most of my castle experiences have been in the U.K. where castles are littered all over the countries that make up the United Kingdom. Welsh castles built by Edward I are huge and looming and forbidding. Often these and other castles were attached to walls that would surround a town/city to keep it safe from invasion. These castles were built to intimidate and you can see that they certainly would be.

Inside Beaumaris Castle, Isle of Anglesey, Wales

Conwy Castle, North Wales

There are still a few examples of even older castles. This one, Restormel in Cornwall, dates to the Norman period though became disused and fell into ruins after the English Civil War in the 17th century.

Restormel Castle, Lostwithiel, Cornwall

Edinburgh Castle is perched on top of volcanic cliffs. The old city ran from it’s gates down to the Royal palace of Holyrood. The newer part of the city lies across a loch which was drained and is now the park you see in this photo.

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Irish Castles seem to mainly be boxy looking, one large squared tower.  Blarney Castle is fairly typical.

Blarney Castle, Ireland

Leeds Castle was defensive but remained a residential home through the centuries, into the 20th century. It’s surrounded by a moat which was a fairly common means of defense for castles.

Leeds Castle, Kent

Outside of the U.K., there are also many castles. The Rhine is a popular river for castle spotting from a riverboat. This castle, in the middle of the city of Rome, was the Pope’s stronghold for both security for himself and as a prison.

Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome

Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome

The Tower of London is arguably one of the most famous castles in the world. It started as a Normal fortification built by William the Conqueror after the 1066 invasion. It’s grown quite a lot since the erection of the square middle “White” Tower. It’s been a royal palace, a zoo and a prison.

The Tower of London, contrasting with the new London City Hall across the Thames

This one, in Copenhagen, was more of a palace though is still called a castle.

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark