Travel Theme: Stillness

Where’s My Backpack has a weekly travel theme and this week’s is Stillness. Many of the posts I’ve seen so far show still waters and reflections. I tried to find a few different ideas on the theme.

Cemetery at a Salford church

Cemeteries always invoke an atmosphere of peace and stillness. Salford, UK

Sunrise over the highlands from Skye

Sunrise is a very quiet time of day as a rule. Mainland Scotland from Broadford, Isle of Skye.

Inside Trinity church, York

There is always stillness inside a church, especially the older ones. Even with people inside looking around or sitting and thinking, I find that quietness pervades. Trinity Church, York, UK


Ruins of castles and churches and abbeys always seem still and quiet, dignified even when the tourists are busy walking around but even better without. Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire


Black and White Monday – Amsterdam

I don’t know who decides these things (Black and White Monday, Wordless Wednesday, Throwback Thursday etc) but what the heck…

Niewkirke, Dam Square. Amsterdam

Niewkirke, Dam Square. Amsterdam

Montreal, In and Out

This week, I had the chance to revisit one of my favourite Canadian cities, Montreal. It’s one of the older cities in Canada and has lots of history. It’s also a modern city with a great arts scene, impressive shopping, loads of multicultural neighbourhoods and food, sports and tourism. I find the atmosphere and vibe of Montreal to be far more exciting than, say, Toronto.

I had a specific reason for spending a couple of days in Montreal in the middle of July. Otherwise, I would have avoided it because the summers there can be stinking hot! That’s the one drawback of Montreal, it can be very hot and humid in summer and very, very cold in winter. We got really lucky this time, weather-wise. It was showery and overcast when we arrived and it was humid! The day we flew out, two days later, was the same but the one full day we spent there was gorgeous! Sunny, warm, a nice breeze and no humidity at all. It was perfect for walking the streets and we did!

We arrived on Sunday evening and purchased a three day transit pass at Trudeau airport. It cost $18 for the three days and includes the “747” bus to and from the airport which is a 10 dollar ticket each way. Just using the smart card based pass for the airport run makes it worth while. They have some really good transit passes including a weekend one and one that gives you unlimited transit in the evenings only. (more transit information here ) The bus has a direct route through the main core of the downtown area (along Blvd Rene Levesque) to a major transit hub, the Berri-UCAM station.

We stayed at the Novotel Montreal, located one block from the Bell Centre one way and Rue St. Catherine the other way. The Bell Centre was the reason for the visit. I and two friends had tickets to see Queen + Adam Lambert!!! I won’t gush too much. Queen is my all time favourite band and this is a bucket list concert. But first, we have some free time in the city.

Sunday evening we found an Indian restaurant (Devi)  to enjoy and a bright cafe for breakfast the next morning (Vasco de Gama), a short walk away, near the Peel Metro station. We had a full sunny day to fill before the concert so we headed out first to Place des Arts, in hopes of seeing the Museum of Contemporary Arts there.

Coming out of the Metro station there are many cool art installations inside and outside the station and underground connector tunnels which are part of the whole underground “city” in Montreal. Normally, you’d come out onto Rue St. Catherine but a long block was closed off to traffic for the Just for Laughs festival that’s on this month. There were food and drink booths and stages set up for the evening performances though nothing was going on in the daytime, unfortunately. We had a look around, posed for photos with the little green creature that’s the JFL logo/mascot and pulled on the door of the Museum. Stuck. Locked. Ah, Monday is the day they’re closed. Rats!

We wandered over to Blvd. St. Laurent and into nearby Chinatown, having a look at some of the neat shops chock full of Oriental tat, dishes and such.  We tried Dragon Beard candy which really was a power hit of sugar but interesting. It’s got kind of a cotton candy outside with something chewy inside, nutty. Unfortunately, we’d carried the rest of it around all day and it melted together into one lump. Doh.

We were going to find a place for coffee but decided to head over towards Old Montreal, the historic district by the St. Lawrence River. We walked along Rue St. Urbain and stopped at Starbucks for a drink and a sit down in the shade outside. Off into the historic district and the first stop, just at the top of the little hill was Notre Dame Basilica. We decided to pay the $5.00 and go in. I’d been there a few years ago but Kelly had not been in it and it had been some time since Shirley had visited. It really is a beautiful place, subdued lighting with blue and gold everywhere. There’s a light and airy newer chapel in the back as well.

There was actually an exhibition on Napoleonic items but we didn’t take part in that. We browsed in some of the really unique shops that were along the street beside the Basilica on our way down to the cobbled streets lined with stone buildings. Shirley wanted to browse the art galleries and Rue St. Paul has a couple of blocks that have almost nothing else but galleries. We went into a few of those and saw some really gorgeous art and paintings. Oh, to have the Lottery win in the bank and a lovely loft type apartment or condo to put them in!

Old Montreal is quaint and picturesque with old French style buildings but it’s also quite a tourist attraction so it’s always busy. There are lots of places to eat and drink in addition to the shopping and galleries. The main square is Place Jacques Cartier which flows below the grand City Hall at the top down to Rue. St. Paul. It too is lined with the patios of the restaurants with a few little shops. There are artists set up in the square and there are buskers performing for the crowds. We picked a restaurant and settled in for lunch and people watching. We ended up having a long conversation with an elderly man who had walked by, too. Good times!

From there, the time was starting to move on closer to the evening hour so we thought we should probably go back to the hotel to change and freshen up for the concert. We walked up and over to the nearest Metro stop and zipped back. Shirley did a slice of power shopping along the way, so as not to waste any time! We were anticipating meeting up with some of Kelly’s friends, all Adam Lambert fans, at what we thought would be the restaurant/bar at the Bell Centre but we couldn’t find them there and she had some trouble finding a way to contact them. In the end it turned out they were in a pub around the corner. Kelly went to find them and we stayed at the Bell to get a look at the concert merchandise booths, a successful quest.

The concert was everything I had hoped for and was probably the best thing I’ve ever seen. I guess it’s hard to beat when it’s your favourite band ever and they put on a spectacular show. Queen used to be fronted by Freddie Mercury but he passed away in 1991. They have brought 31 year old Adam Lambert along now to sing for them and he has done a fine old job. The show was everything I wanted it to be and more. My full review is here and there’s a link to photos at the end. Kelly met her friends afterwards, Shirley and I bought some snacks and drinks to have at the hotel since we’d missed dinner. We listened to Queen on the iPod while I uploaded my photos to my laptop and relived the night, far too wired to go to bed just yet.

The next morning, the weather was grey and threatening again. We had a late start. My feet and legs were killing me from the nearly three hours standing on the cement floor by the stage last night! Kelly and I and hobbled up to Rue St. Catherine to find breakfast while Shirley went shopping. (Well, I hobbled, Kelly was fine!) We ate some wonderful omelets at a deli called Reuben’s which specializes in Montreal smoked meat though that wasn’t on the breakfast menu. It did look like anything on their menu would be good and very filling.

We checked out of the hotel, put our bags in the luggage room. I stayed in the lobby lounge and read while Shirley ran back up to a couple shops and Kelly headed out to another hotel. She is staying another night to attend a Katy Perry concert. Shirley and I went down to where the airport bus stopped, just at the end of the block where the hotel is and returned to the airport. We ate the rest of the sandwiches from last night with a coffee before our flight and finally got back to Halifax by 7 p.m.

It was a quick visit, but thoroughly enjoyable. It might have worn me out, but I’d do it again! It wasn’t even all the walking that did my legs in, it was standing for three hours in one place! Never mind, floor seats close to the stage were more than worth it! I really would like to go back to Montreal for another visit again soon. Maybe Queen will tour again!

Fab Photos – Lostwithiel

I know it’s been quiet around this blog lately. I’m just waiting on pins and needles for our New York Trip, 2 weeks from today! In the meantime, I browsed my folders to find a “fab photo” and found this first one taken from the car window as we were driving cross country to the east side of Cornwall.

Cornwall isn’t all about beaches and coves. The inland parts have rolling hills and desolate moors (Devon), farms and some nice little villages.

North Devon, England

North Devon, England

We were heading from where we were staying near Camelford to Lanhydrock House and then to the east coast to see the little fishing village of Fowey. Our host at the Inn told us about Lostwithiel and said it was a lovely little place for a stop. After we left Lanhydrock, which, by the way, is superb if you like old houses filled with lots and lots of interesting things, we went to Lostwithiel which is only a stone’s throw from there.

We found a place to park and walked along the High street and saw this old church. Looked interesting and as we came into the church yard we noticed the path was lined with shoes filled with flowers. That’s odd…

Lostwithiel Floral shoe walk

Shoes along the path at St. Bartholomew’s, Lostwithiel

We went inside the church, St. Bartholomew’s (dating to the 13th to 14th century), and discovered it was the first day of a flower festival. The church was filled with flowers and elaborate displays of flowers. Local businesses and groups each had sponsored a display of flowers which was also accompanied by various items associated with the group/business. For example, one sponsored by a pharmacy had antique microscopes and old prescription and tonic bottles.
St Bartholemews arches
The church smelled amazing, not overpowering at all. We spent a good 3/4 hour looking at all the displays. This was one of my favourites though I don’t remember who sponsored it now. The displays would be auctioned off at the end of the long weekend for charity, benefiting a hospice and also the church itself.
Lostwithiel Floral stained glass window

Lostwithiel Graham

My fella enjoying his cuppa

Outside the church in the yard, they had a table set up with coffee, tea and cakes that you could purchase, funds going towards the festival and church. The sun had come out by then so, though it was still a tad chilly, we bought some refreshments to help support the cause.
Lostwithiel church lady

Lostwithiel is in the Fowey River valley and isn’t far from the coastal town of Fowey. Just outside the town is Restormel Castle which we also visited. There is an old arched stone bridge as well, crossing the river. They believe it dates to the 13th century. There’s a detailed history of the bridge here though the web page is a bit difficult to read due to poor single spaced text.

Fab Photo – Bath Abbey and Bath

Bath Abbey is more formally known as the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul and is in the city of Bath, in England. The Benedictine Abbey was founded in the 7th century. The present church dates to the 12th century with major restoration in the 16th and, later, the 19th centuries. There is beautiful fan vaulting in the nave and really nice stained glass.

Bath Abbey from next to the Georgian Pump Rooms

Bath Abbey from next to the Georgian Pump Rooms

Looking toward Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths Museum

Looking toward Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths Museum

The Abbey is well known as the location where King Edgar was crowned by Dunstan (later St. Dunstan) in 973, the first in the unified Kingdom of England to be formally crowned in this manner. He had actually been king for many years by this time and died 2 years later. He was acknowledged as the king and liege lord over any minor regional kinds and the coronation marked that. This window below is Victorian and commemorates the coronation.

Bath Abbey stained glass window

Bath Abbey stained glass window

Bath as a city was originally Roman who found hot mineral springs there and created baths and temples and named it Aquae Sullis. The City was not abandoned or in disrepair as is most commonly thought but during Georgian times, it became popular as a spa destination and architects John Wood the Elder and the Younger, along with businessman Ralph Allen, built up the city and it became THE place to be and be seen in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Today, the elegant Georgian architecture sweeps up the gentle hills and surrounds the leafy squares. Many of the buildings from that era are constructed with a honey coloured Bath Stone from nearby quarries. The two most famous places are the Circus, three curved sets of houses around a round square and the Royal Crescent, a long curve of very elegant houses overlooking a sloped field of grass. The fronts of these houses are all similar but the owner would purchase a house or two and finish the inside and back individually so they are all different behind the facade. Those houses now sell for over a million pounds!

The Royal Circus, Bath

The Royal Circus, Bath

The Roman Baths have been excavated and there’s a very good museum where you can explore the ruins. There’s also the fancy Georgian Pump Rooms which were used by the social set to take the waters of the baths and have sophisticated cups of tea after.

Elsewhere in the city there are a number of good museums and there are festivals held through the year celebrating music, books, arts and beer! It’s also famed as one of the locations where author Jane Austen spent some time and she based several of her books or parts of them in Bath. There is a Jane Austen centre for fans. The Fashion Museum, located in the Assembly Rooms building is one of my favourite places.

Bringing films into it, there are a few that I enjoy that have been filmed here, including Persuasion, Vanity Fair, and The Duchess. One of the last covered bridges in the U.K. crosses the River Avon, the Pulteney Bridge and has shops inside it.

Bath is one of my favourite cities though it can be *very* crowded especially during school holidays and bus tour season.  I love the architecture and the lovely shops and museums. It’s a busy city and outside of the Georgian centre, looks much like any other city but it’s still one of the places that inspires me.

Down with York, Up with Rievaulx

Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire

The beautiful and historic city of York is one of our favourites so we thought we might enjoy a day trip. We headed out from Salford under iffy skies, it could clear up, it could rain. But that’s typical of  Greater Manchester weather. We often liken it to Mordor, the grim and depressing location from Lord of the Rings. Weather-wise it’s not often really nice when I’m here but otherwise, the comparison isn’t really fair. Manchester is a nice place. Really! (The cities of Salford and Manchester are right next to each other, only separated at the city centre by a narrow strip of the River Irwell.)

It’s a little over an hour across to York. We parked in a Park and Ride lot and took the bus into the city center stop closest to the mighty York Minster. That is one awesome cathedral in the literal sense of the word. It is the seat of the Archbishop of York who is the most important church leader next to the Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Minster is very large and very old with beautiful stained glass windows, soaring high and dramtacially into the vaulted ceilings.

Sadly, the Minster was closed to the public today because it was being used for university graduation. Bummer! We had a look in St. Michael le Belfry, the parish church next to the Minster. It was charming, with some interesting points. It was also the church where Guy Fawkes was christened. He’s the guy that was the scapegoat of the Gunpowder Plot and his death and the triumph over the anarchists is celebrated with fireworks and bonfires every year in Britain on November 5.

We walked through the narrow streets and found a nice pub for lunch. That’s a great thing about York, there are lots of historic old pubs and all of the ones I’ve been in are atmospheric and all have served very good food and ales and beers. This one was called the Golden Lion.

I wanted to go to the Yorvik Viking Centre as i’d never been there and had heard good things about it in the past. They have a lot of exhibits, some gruesome and some rather smelly (depicting the actual smells of a medieval Viking village). The north and northeast were prime targets for raiding Vikings in the 9th and 10th centuries and lots of the names in this area have Viking origins. Anyway, we paid nearly 10 pounds each as an entry fee. There’s a bit of an exhibit and a glass floor over a model of the area of York where a lot of Viking artifacts and remnants of a village were discovered. The museum is near that site now. There’s a little cart that you sit in and ride around a recreated village with an audio track describing what everyday life was like in the villages. No gruesome. No smells. But with animatronic figures that speak in ancient languages while the audio track translates. It’s all a bit simple and sanitized and “Disneyfied” and we weren’t very impressed. There’s also a few rooms of exhibits of artifacts found and that’s it. Overpriced and underimpressive.

We walked around a bit more but decided we’d had enough disappointment for one day. Oh yes, and my camera, only a few months old, packed it in! Not happy over that either.

East transept of Rievaulx Abbey

Our overnight trip to Sunderland in the northeast was far more successful. We drove up and across the Yorkshire Dales National Park through some lovely scenic areas. High hills and bare bleak moors dotted with farms and lots of sheep. We stopped in a market town called Hawes for lunch. We didn’t have the time to properly explore the town because we still had a ways to go but it would definitely be worth visiting again. It’s in the heart of the area that produces Wensleydale cheese and they have a creamery where you can watch them make the cheese. There is also a ropeworks and a country museum and the town has a lot of nice little shops and a few very nice pubs.

We stayed with friends in Sunderland which is on the coast just south of Newcastle. We dined out and spent an enjoyable evening with them. The next day we decided to visit the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey in the North York Moors National Park. It was really good! In addition, the sun was shining! We used a provided audio guide and wandered around the grounds. Rievaulx is a Cistercian Abbey and was founded in 1138 and was an important Abbey in the north until the Dissolution of the Monasteries closed it down in 1538. The audio guide was very interesting and they also had a little exhibit on the life styles of the monks and how the abbey was run. We tramped around there for well over an hour listening to the information and taking photos. We also had lunch in the cafe and that was excellent as well.

All in all a very good road trip! Much more enjoyable than our visit to York yesterday. York will still be there, though and we’ll go back again.

We arrived back home just as it got dark, about 5:30. Tomorrow’s my last day here! It always comes too soon!

St. Augustine’s Chair

St. Augustine's Chair

St. Augustine’s Chair, Canterbury Cathedral

Just testing the photo posting, it wasn’t working for me before but I searched around the help forums and there it was! I was using the page url not the photo url. Doh! I’m still finding my way around WordPress.

Shrine of Thomas Beckett

Canterbury Cathedral is a beautiful cathedral, one of the loveliest I’ve been to even without the Thomas a Beckett connection. If you’ve read Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, you may remember that near the end of the book, he takes Prior Philip to Canterbury to meet with Beckett and Philip ends up witnessing the murder in the cathedral. Now I’ve seen the cathedral and the spot where the murder happened, it makes it all the more vivid.  The shrine, left, is modern and is just to the left of the quire and down a few steps near the entrance to the crypt.

There used to be a large shrine up in the quire and pilgrims would stream to it,  but Henry VIII had that torn apart in the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s. (My other main interest is history, especially British and the Tudor era in particular)

The other memory this photo evokes is that it was during the trip I made to London in 2008, when my mother traveled to England for her first ever visit. She wasn’t sure at first she wanted to go and didn’t think there would be all that much that would interest her. I lent her a guide book and she came back to me with a list as long as my arm! We saw a couple of shows, did some shopping, and though she didn’t think she would find churches or cathedrals interesting, I insisted that she see St. Paul’s in London. She was duly amazed.

Canterbury Catherdal nave

We also booked a day tour with a tour company that stopped at Leeds Castle because that was on her list, to see a castle and another stop was in Canterbury. When she walked into this medieval cathedral with the vaulted arches soaring above her, her jaw dropped. She talks about it to this day and I think this was the highlight of her trip.

My mother will probably  never go overseas again but we made some wonderful memories.

I love cathedrals. My first proper medieval one was Salisbury though I had seen St. Paul’s first. Salisbury is lovely but I think Canterbury tops it and another of my favourites is the old cathedral, St. Mungo’s in Glasgow. It’s smaller, square, dark and kind of gloomy inside (maybe that’s because both visits were on rainy days) but for some reason, I felt very comfortable in it and really loved the atmosphere.

The basilicas and cathedrals in Rome and elsewhere in Italy are quite something to see, many are gloriously grandiose, many others are more sparse. Montreal’s Notre Dame is a blue glow! Most of the cathedrals and basilicas I’ve seen are in the U.K. or in Italy for the most part and I prefer the older ones, rather than those built in the last 100 to 150 years. It’s amazing how each one seems to have it’s own personality and ambience. I can’t say I haven’t met a cathedral that I haven’t liked because I have been in a small number that left me cold but mostly they are one of my favourite things to visit where time permits, mainly for the art and architecture as I’m not particularly religious.

We’re visiting Rome in a month or so and I look forward to seeing some. In Rome there’s a danger of over-churching ourselves so we’ll have to pick and choose, aside from St. Peter’s of course. That’s a must-see since my partner has never been to Rome before. Stay tuned!