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

Fab Photo Friday – Bricks and mortar

One of my favourite things to photograph when I travel is architectural detail. Doors, windows, carvings, shapes and curves and lines, it all fascinates me. Some stonework is so intricate that it looks as delicate and fragile as lace. I’m always looking up when I’m walking through a town or city, looking for details.

In the historic city of York in England, in the medeival narrow streets around the Minster, if you look up you’ll see all sorts of neat things. There’s one little street where there’s a little red devil up on the corner of a building! These photos today are from the city of Roskilde, near Copenhagen. There are a lot of buildings and houses in Denmark that are plastered and painted lovely colours but there are a lot of brick buildings too and the brickwork can be really intricate. They put a lot into the patterns and trimmings. These photos here are of some of the buildings in central Roskilde and of the cathedral, the Domkirk where most of the past Monarchs are buried. It was the seat of the Royal Family until Copenhagen became more popular.

Look at the patterns, see where the brick has been repaired and replaced. It’s all very neat, isn’t it?


This used to be an Apothocary

Roskilde Town Hall Medieval Tower

This is the clock tower of the Town Hall

Domkirk Side

One side of the Domkirk

Memories of Copenhagen – Day 5 and 6

Botanic Gardens, Copenhagen

Continuing on, our last day and a half in Copenhagen…

Day five is again overcast and cool. This is getting boring! We had the Sunday brunch at Bankerat today and that was very good. They had an English style one with beans and bacon and sausage that Graham had and I had one with cold meats, cheese, yogurt, eggs and bacon. I’ve given up trying to get a decent cup of tea and am sticking with coffee for the duration.

Rather than take another bus tour, we walked through the Botanic Gardens and then over to Rosenborg Castle. That was really good! There are a couple of floors of rooms chock full of antiques and art and collections that took ages. There was a lot to see there including the crown jewels in the vaults. It’s a 17th century brick castle built as a summer home for Christian IV but only used as a residence for about 100 years. The Royal Collections have been housed here and open to the public from the middle of the 19th century. The treasury and jewels are dazzling. I particularly liked the ivory collection with some exquisite carvings and there was a collection of gold toy soldiers that was something to see as well. And yes, the jewels and crowns and jewelled books were stunning, too. This was definitely an interesting place to visit.

We went over to Tivoli Gardens where we’re meeting the others later on. Tivoli was founded in 1843 and is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks. There are gardens, a little lake with boating, a pavilion, a concert hall, a pantomime theatre and an outdoor stage. There are lots of rides for kids and adults, one or two that looked terrifying and which, judging from the screams coming from them, certainly had that effect on some of the people! There are arcade and game booths, a fish tank with some small sharks and a stingray and lots of other fish. One area is done up in a Chinese theme and other seems very like you walked into a storybook. We saw a parade of the Tivoli Boys’ band looking like red toy soldiers and at the end of the parade were two children in a horse drawn carriage.

Pantomime in Tivoli gardens

Naturally there are lots of restaurants as well for fine dining right down to general family friendly places. The down side is that it is a bit on the expensive side. In addition to the lofty entrance fee you pay, you also have to pay extra for the rides. None of us did that aside from one that Dave’s little “nipper” wanted to go on. The others weren’t planning to eat there so we stayed on ourselves and walked around some more and saw the end of a pantomime though couldn’t understand it as it was in Danish! We ate in a Viking theme place which was a bit touristy but the food wasn’t bad. We decided not to stay until it got dark to see if there were fireworks because it was still a few hours until the sun went down and we’d seen everything we wanted to and it looked like rain. Indeed as we went back for the bus it did rain a bit but it didn’t come down too hard until overnight.

On our last day in Copenhagen THE SUN CAME OUT!!!! Doesn’t that just figure? After breakfast back at Klimt, we realized we wouldn’t have time to go through the Copenhagen city museum if we were meeting Dave at 12:30 so we just walked through the city centre and went to Trille’s shop to wait for Dave and Matt. The four of us wandered the sunny squares and streets and just enjoyed the sunshine and scenery. I found a little private courtyard lined with some ofthe oldest wooden buildings in the city. It was something I’d seen on a Rick Steves Travel show so I was glad I’d found it! The old quarter is so much prettier under a blue sky! Pity we didn’t have more time to lounge on a sidewalk cafe or explore more.

View to the Round Tower and BLUE SKY!

We had to grab sandwiches for lunch and we’d booked a taxi to the airport mid afternoon. With a little last minute shopping at the duty free stores, we boarded a plane and landed back in Manchester which was…. grey and gloomy as per usual. Nothing new there, then.

We have a rental car for the next week so we can do some driving around. We spent one day up in the Lake District, in Grasmere and Keswick and visited the Castlerigg Stone Circle. We also went to the Trentham estate near Stoke and saw some lovely gardens and a macaque monkey sanctuary. Our weekend in Manchester was a group get together with a lot of Coronation Street fans, gathered to celebrate the iconic tv show’s 50th birthday this year (2010). With a visit to the television studios, and a few get togethers, a good time was had by all!

Memories of Copenhagen – Day 3 and 4

Gundestrup Caldron – National Museum, Copenhagen Largest known sample of European Iron Age silverwork dating 200 BC – 300 AD

Continuing on with my Copenhagen memories…

Another cold and damp day! We are going to the National Museum but first, brunch at Cafe Klimt and we were not disappointed! We bought “clip cards” for the busses and hopped on one to the town hall square, Radhuspladsen. The famed Tivoli Gardens amusement park is next to the square and the central train station is nearby as well. We walked around the building taking pics and then to the museum which isn’t far from there.

It’s a natural history type museum of the area, from prehistoric times to the present. There are some wonderful old artifacts and treasures including some gold and silver, paintings, even burial treasure. It’s a really big museum with free entry but a lot to see in one go. We went around to the bits we most wanted to see, had a coffee in the cafe and later headed back out into the historic centre to browse the shops along the narrow cobbled streets.

Stroget – Actually five adjoining streets, pedestrianized for shoppers in Copenhagen. Starts at the Town Hall square and ends in Kongens Nytorv square.

The Stroget is a long series of 5 streets back to back that has been pedestrianized and set up for shopping. It’s been so well received that other similar shopping areas like it have been implemented in many other European cities.

The shops range from high end department stores and designer shops to low end souvenir kiosks and everything in between. Side and parallel streets have good stores as well including antiques. There’s a flagship Lego store on the Stroget and there are usually buskers and entertainers scattered through the throngs of people. We were mainly after a few souvenirs so didn’t go into the department stores or posh places like the Royal Copenhagen china store though I did drool at the window for a few minutes.

We had trouble again trying to get a place to eat because, it being Friday night, you pretty much needed a reservation anywhere and we didn’t think to do that. We blagged our way into the restaurant next to the hotel, an Italian place called La Rocca but got the distinct feeling we were putting them out. It was a posher place than we anticipated and we really weren’t dressed for it as we usually prefer more casual surroundings but I did catch the waiter off guard when I ordered *in* Italian and said “Grazie”. The service improved every so slightly after that.

As usual with the more upscale restaurants, and something we should have remembered, the portions are small. We had looked at ordering the pizza and didn’t, favouring the ravioli which, when it came, barely covered half the plate but what really annoyed us was seeing someone at the next table be served with a pizza. It was huge and the person ordering it didn’t even eat half of it! The food was good, but we were not happy with the attitude of the staff and the portions and the price which was not cheap. Live and learn!

We were supposed to go to the airport tonight with Dave because his brother was arriving for a visit, and then for drinks but I was still chilled from the day so I opted out and they had a boys’ night out instead. I got a cup of tea from the hotel lobby and busied myself with my journal and the free wifi in the room!


Day four in Copenhagen dawned, yes you guessed it, overcast and chilly. Omelets for breakfast at Klimt and off to catch a bus for the hop on hop off tour to get an overview of the city. The ticket is good for two days if we want to do more tomorrow, though in the end, we didn’t. We caught it at the town hall and went around the main route.

We got round to where the other ubiquitous Copenhagen tourist icon is, the Little Mermaid. Normally this small statue sits on a rock out in the harbour about 10 feet from shore. Copenhagen is Hans Christian Andersen country and this is one of those stops that most of the tourists make to take photos. We wouldn’t have bothered going at all but the bus stopped there.

Guard at Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen

The thing is, the Mermaid statue was actually not there! She was off on a tour of China so she wasn’t sitting on her rock. There’s a large video screen erected in front of it showing a live feed from China where you can see the Mermaid on her/a rock with Chinese tourists looking at her. Bizarre. And the weird thing is, people actually get off the bus and go look and take photos. Of the video screen. *shakes head*

One place we got off was the square at the Amalienborg palaces, a cobbled area that has four nearly identical palaces surrounding it where some of the royal family live. There’s a museum in one of them as well. It’s also a traffic roundabout normally so you would want to be careful. As luck would have it, it was nearly midday and the traffic was all stopped for the daily changing of the palace guard so we got to stand in the centre of the square and watch it. It’s quite nice to watch, not a huge production like the Buckingham Palace one.

Marble Church (Marmorkirken, officially known as Frederik’s Church, for King Frederik V)

We also had a look in the huge Marble Church or Marmorkirken with it’s Baroque dome on top. That’s just a block away and a block to the other direction, on the harbour front is a little park with a big fountain that looks across the harbour to the new Opera house. We walked towards Nyhavn from there, with a coffee stop, By the time the next tour bus came, we just took it back to the start and decided that was enough for one day. We walked down into Stroget to find somewhere to eat though weren’t overly impressed with our lunch. We went back to the hotel before going out again for an early dinner with Dave, his wife and son and his brother. It was nice to meet his wife finally! She owns a shop selling goth and club gear near the university which we also got to see en route to a buffet restaurant called RizRaz. Good food, mostly vegetarian on the buffet but you can also order some meat as an add on.

The evening was another quiet one for me as the men were off to record another radio show. I could have gone but it was a squash with four of us the other night so a fifth would have been too uncomfortable. I left them to it, bought some snacks and curled up with the telly.

Memories of Copenhagen – Day 1 and 2

Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s “new harbour”

I promised to blog my travels in Copenhagen so this is part 1. The full detailed travelogue is here on my personal website.

We got very good priced tickets on SAS from Manchester to Copenhagen, a little less than $250 Canadian for two return tickets. Where to stay…. It was tough deciding and I knew it would be expensive as it’s not a cheap city. We settled on Hotel Ibsen which is close to the Norreport station and only a few blocks from the historic city centre. It’s an older hotel, a bit worn down and creaky but it was fine. Our room was a decent size and there was free wifi. We paid about $185 Canadian for our double room without breakfast and we ate in a couple of local restaurants instead.

Graham’s friend Dave met us at the airport and helped us settle in to the hotel. We struck out on our own as the sun was shining and the forecast for the week ahead was on the dismal and grey side. I was determined to see Nyhavn, the colourful harbour, in the sunshine. We walked, stopped at a small takeout style place for a quick bite to eat, and explored a large public square that opens onto the harbour, Kongens Nytorv, before walking down the harbour side.

Nyhavn means “New Harbour and was dug back from the main harbour in the 1600s to connect the harbour to the inner city at Nytorv. It was for shipping and fishing boats so it was all very industrial and disreputable. It wasn’t really a heritage tourist type thing until the last 25 years or so and now all the buildings have cafes and bars in them with outdoor seating all along the waterfront. Wooden ships and sailboats can moor at the docks and a floating theatre on one of the boats as well. It was indeed very pretty to see all the brightly painted buildings in the sunshine. It’s one of the quintessential views of the city.

We wandered some more and headed back in the general direction of the hotel, crossing canals and getting a bit turned around by Christianborg Palace where the parliament and government offices are but a friendly person stopped and pointed us on the right path, straight up a pedestrian street lined with shops and sunny squares. Later that evening we met up with Dave and his radio show cohort Donovan for a drink in a real English pub in the historic centre. Later Donovan took us to a “reasonable” restaurant with a very bizarre decor and it turned out to be on the end of the block by our hotel. It’s called Bankerat and the decor is very goth and bizarre. The food is really good and the Sunday brunch most tasty.

Skeleton of a Viking longboat, Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

On our second day, we decided to take the train out of Copenhagen and visit the city of Roskilde. This is the old capital city and it’s cathedral, the Domkirke is where Danish Royalty has been buried for generations. It’s also got a Viking Ship Museum which was our other destination for the day.

We had a bit of difficulty with the ticket machines in Norreport station but managed to get a day pass from a man in a newsagent kiosk on the train platform. Roskilde is a pretty place, again with buildings painted different colours. We walked down a cobbled street lined with shops towards a main market square where the cathedral is. The cathedral is made of brick as is a few other buildings around the square including the town hall. The interior of the church is clean and bright, painted white and it has a restored look though you can tell the woodworks, such as tables and pews are very old. The Royal chapel is modeled after Sainte Chapelle in Paris and it is really lovely.

Did you know that the word “Vik” means “shallow water”? Therefore the Vikings were people that lived along the bays and inlets. The ship museum contains replicas and the remains of some of the longboats. There’s a shed where they build boats using the old methods and they have at least one they’ve taken on a sea journey though it does have some modern safety features like radar. You can see a film that was made of that. They have artifacts and displays and a nice little gift shop. In good weather you can go out in a longboat and row with the other tourists around the sheltered bay.

We had a nice day even if the sun hid all day. When we got back to the city, we found a restaurant not far from our hotel called Cafe Klimt. It was a little worn down around the edges but the staff was really nice and the food was very good. The prices were reasonable by Copenhagen standards as well. They do breakfast though it starts at 10 a.m. but we decided to eat there the rest of the week and have leisurely starts to our days.

That evening we all went to the studio space to record a Metal Breakfast Radio with Dave and Donovan. That was good fun but by the time we got back to the hotel, it was too late to get into the restaurant in the hotel and anything else handy was far too full so we went to bed hungry! I think we’ll get some snacks to have on hand!

Copenhagen, Day 3 and 4

Copenhagen, Day 5 and 6

Impressions of Copenhagen

In 2010, we decided to go to Copenhagen because a friend of my partner lived there with his family. They were acquainted with each other because my fella and his friend both do an internet radio show, featuring music not for the faint of heart! It wasn’t a city we had thought about before but while doing research, it appealed more and more so we booked it and flew over from Manchester for 5 days.

Here then are my overall impressions of the city.

Bikes! Yes this is a city full of bicycles, like Amsterdam but the bikes here seem in better condition. We’ve been told that people in Amsterdam use old bikes for around the city in case they get stolen which is very common there. Maybe it isn’t as much here? Don’t know. They also have bikes with a carrier box in front for cargo and sometimes kids. Yet, we haven’t heard many people lay on the warning bells on the bikes like we did in Amsterdam though you still need to keep an eye out and remember the bike lanes will be occupied by two wheeled vehicles who have the right of way there.

I saw one bike parking garage at Norreport station and I’m sure there are probably others around the city but we didn’t see them, mainly being in the old section of the city most of the time. The streets are mainly wide other than in the old “Latin Quarter”. The bike lanes are also wide and, on many of the roads, the bus stops on the street side of the bike lane, not near the sidewalk. Good concept!

The people were really nice in the restaurants and shops. Language hasn’t been a problem either. Saying “Hi” is the same in both languages, more or less and we made sure to say “Tak” for Thank you even when spoken to in English.

I couldn’t  seem to get a good strong cup of hot tea. It’s definitely coffee culture there.  And they serve coffee and tea in glasses quite often. There’s no coffee or tea makings in the hotel room and I don’t know if that’s common or just this hotel. We can get it free in the hotel lounge if we want.

I notice people don’t queue politely for the bus, they just crowd through the door to get in.  A bit disconcerting if you try to get off though you are supposed to exit through the back door of the bus.

There are lots of big parks and green spaces even in the old part of the city. There are lots of towers and spires on buildings and churches, usually elaborately decorated. Many buildings are brightly painted in warm colours, yellows, oranges, golds, rusts, with some blues, pinks and greens thrown in. The buildings have a lot of large windows, too. Many of the older houses and buildings have clay tiled roofs. Many of the streetlights are hung off wires that are strung down the centre of the streets. Thus, the power wires tend to clutter up the photos!

There are a lot of really nice squares and piazzas in the old part of the city, all of them with outdoor cafes and bars. Many of them provide small blankets in case it is chilly outside. Novel concept! Most of the restaurants and bars are now non smoking so you do get the usual group of people outside the entrances having a cig.

Latin Quarter, Copenhagen

Most of the cafes/restaurants we went to, you would order at the bar and pay up front and they’ll bring the food to you. Posher places will bring you a bill but the tip/service charge is usually included already. It’s useful but not so great if you do get slow or lousy service.

The city is flat with a lot of cobblestones on the sidewalks and many of the older streets but there are rows of flat paving stones through the cobbles as “lanes” that you can walk on to save your ankles.

Everywhere we ate, the food was so nicely presented, almost works of art sometimes. Lots of greenery on the plates and food, not always to our taste but it was pretty anyway. We have had the occasional meal that wasn’t that good but mostly it’s been really excellent food.

There are three castles/palaces in the city centre. We went through one of them and saw the other two including a Changing of the Guard at the Amalienborg complex. They seem to be very conscious of their history and heritage and even newer buildings often reflect the style of the older ones nearby.

Doing research, it seems that many of the hotels have free Wi-Fi, ours included which is very modern and very handy. Our hotel has free wi-fi but has a computer in the lobby that they charge for use.

Copenhagen is definitely a lovely city, beautiful architecture, good food and nice people. It’s expensive, most definitely, but it’s definitely worth visiting and it’s a place I’d visit again should the opportunity arise.

A little later on, I’ll post some travelogues from our visit to Copenhagen.

Fab Favourite Photos – October 1


Lots of shiny things to attract little girls in a small shop in Venice

Here’s a few of my favourite photos to start off a new week and a new month.

Above you see a shop front in Venice. This was taken in 1996. My friend, D. and I arrived in Venice on a Sunday before we were to join a bus tour around Italy. We made our way into Venice and walked. And walked. The sun was out after a morning rain. We made our way from St. Mark’s square across the Grand Canal at one point, and wandered around the squares and islands on that side of the canal making our way back to the Termini for the bus back to the hotel.

The next day, the first day of the organized tour, the rain bucketed down and the walking tour of Venice was a bit damp! We were so glad we got to see it under sunny skies!

Some of the oldest houses in Copenhagen in a hidden courtyard

This photo was taken in Copenhagen. I had seen a Rick Steves travel show on tv about Copenhagen and at one point he and a guide went into a little private courtyard where you can see some of the oldest houses in the city. They are all timbered and painted bright colours. I didn’t think I’d be able to find it because they didn’t say where it was but on our last day in Copenhagen, under a miraculously bright and sunny sky (it had rained all week!) we went down a narrow cobbled street and I recognized it from the tv show. I found the courtyard, ducked in a took a few photos.

Ghostly tour guide in the Alexander Keith’s Brewery tour

This last photo  was a “Hail Mary” shot. Local to Halifax, there’s an old Brewery, Alexander Keith’s, and they have a brewery tour in the historic old building that the brewery used to live in. It’s on the Halifax Waterfront and the tour guides dress in 18th century costume. At the end of the tour, you walk through this tunnel to the inner courtyard of the brewery. As we followed the guide, I took a no-flash photo and this is what came out. It looks very ghostly and very, very cool!