DP Challenge – Heritage

I love history and a lot of my travel adventures and explorations will relate to some historical aspect. It might be a museum in a city or it might be an old stone circle in a field. I enjoy visiting castles and cathedrals for the architecture and historical connections.

Where I live carries on historical traditions, too. There’s the 78th Highlander regiment at the Citadel. There’s the Freedom of the City ceremony giving the freedom of said city to said regiment. Halifax also hosts the majestic Tall Ships, echoing back to the golden age of sail with an accompanying waterfront festival. One year they celebrated the Acadian (French) heritage in the province. This summer, with the return of the ships, I think the First Nations are holding Mawio’mi throughout the weekend, with sunrise ceremonies, demonstrations, storytelling and more. (below is a photo I took at a Mawio’mi on the Halifax Commons a few years ago) There will be heritage programming put on at the Citadel and a few Pirate themed things going on for kids as well. Pirates, or, rather, Privateers ;) were common in the port of Halifax!

Schedule of events for the Tall Ships, July 29 – August 1, updated with more info closer to the dates.  (They will also be in a few other ports around the Maritimes through July and into August). All of my Tall Ships photos here. (includes waterfront events, people, etc)

Young Spirit drummers

Spirit Drummers, Mawio’mi, Halifax


Mawio’mi performance competition. Halifax


78th Highlanders. Freedom of the City. Halifax

Pipe & Drum Drill

78th Highlander pipe and drum drill. Halifax Citadel

Sagres (Portugal) and Unicorn (Holland)

Tall Ships Sagres (Portugal) and Unicorn (Holland), Halifax harbour

Waterfront at dusk

Halifax waterfront at dusk, Tall ships docked

Masts of the Cuauhtémoc

Masts of the Cuauhtémoc

WordPress’s Daily Post challenge. 

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.


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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.


bridges power stacks

Halifax harbour bridges: The “Old” Bridge in the foreground, the “New” bridge behind.

The WordPress weekly writing challenge wants to know about local or regional slang. For those of you planning to visit Halifax or the Maritime provinces of Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island…the Atlantic provinces are the same but include Newfoundland), here are a few expressions you may want to tuck away for future use.

Being Sociable

When drinking in the local pubs and listening to a band play on stage, you may hear one of the band members, while in between songs, call out to the crowd: “Sociable!!!!!!” You will probably sit and look around you, mystified, as the room full of assorted drinkers stops in mid-conversation, raises their glass and hollers back “Socialble!!!!!” and then takes a very sociable drink. I’m not sure if it’s to be found outside of Halifax though I suspect Cape Breton pubs are full of sociables.

Old vs New

In Halifax, the harbour is crossed by two suspension bridges, the Angus L. Macdonald bridge and the A. Murray MacKay bridge. Nobody local who has lived here a long time calls them that. the MacDonald bridge, opened in the mid 1950s is the “Old” bridge and the MacKay, opened in the early 1970s is the “New” bridge. So if someone gives you directions and suggests that the new bridge is the better route, you will know to go to the north end of the city and take that bridge rather than the one closer to the downtown core.

Which way was that?

There are a lot of people who were born and raised in Cape Breton Island who are now living and working in Halifax. Lots of them visit their home towns. They go “down home” to CB on the weekend but they are traveling “up” to Cape Breton. Hmmmm. We may travel “up” to Toronto or Ottawa or we can also go “out west”. Up seems to refer to the direction as looking on a map though Cape Breton is techincally east of Halifax and perhaps a little higher on the latitude grid. We also think of the south shore of the province of Nova Scotia as “down” as it does point a bit lower than the geographical point of Halifax on the map. The Annapolis Valley is “down” but you go “up” to Truro and Amherst, both north in the direction of New Brunswick and the rest of Canada.

And then Buddy said…

A common way to talk about someone you don’t know is to refer to them as “Buddy” but it’s always a man, never a woman. And you don’t call him Buddy to his face either, it’s only in the third person. You could be telling someone about “buddy driving the bus” or “and then buddy says (or does…)”. It’s all in how you use the word. If it isn’t used correctly, it sounds awkward. The narrative is generally in casual conversation, of course. You never ask “who’s Buddy” because, of course, we don’t know. That’s the point. It’s much nicer to call a stranger Buddy than to say “this guy”. This isn’t restricted to Halifax, you’ll hear this used all over the Maritimes and Newfoundland.

And the last thing that comes to mind is the Maritime reference to the province of Prince Edward Island. We almost never call it that. We nearly always go “over to the Island”. We *may* sometimes refer to it as PEI (pee-ee-eye). That’s as close to it’s proper name as we might get. Everyone knows what you mean and you don’t have to ask “which Island”?

A Word a Week Challenge – Hats

This week’s challenge is Hats.

Hats can be a fashion accessory. They can be functional to keep your head warm. They can be part of a uniform or costume or a traditional head covering from a costume from your heritage. Hats seem to finish off what you’re wearing.

There are expressions… Home is where you hang your hat. Someone that wears more than one had does multiple jobs. Hats off to someone is a nod in their favour. You can tip or doff your hat in greeting. Taking off your hat is a mark of respect at a funeral.

Here are a few hats and head-gear from my photo archives:

The Hat Museum, Stockport, UK

The British are Coming. Halifax Waterfront during the Tall Ships 2009 Festival

The British are Coming. Halifax Waterfront during the Tall Ships 2009 Festival

And the soldiers' uniforms from behind

And the soldiers’ uniforms from behind

Here’s an iconic hat.

Napoleon's Hat. Musee des Beaux Arts, Montreal.

Napoleon’s Hat. Musee des Beaux Arts, Montreal.

Kensington Market, “Exile”, Toronto, Ontario

Basket weaving, Fortress Louisbourg, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia

Cheap Trick in concert. Robin Zander

And finally, from the Mawio’mi of the east coast Mi’kmaq bands. The word means ‘gathering’ and is a celebration of the Mi’kmaq culture.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Detail

WordPress’s weekly photo challenge this week is about details. Getting up close when you take a photo, getting more than just an overall picture. The Big Picture is great but it’s the details that make it far more interesting. Fortunately I’ve got lots of examples because it’s something I do a lot.  In particular, I really enjoy taking photos of buildings. I love the structures, the lines and curves, the doors and windows, the flourishes and embellishments, the older the better, but modern architecture is interesting as well, sometimes.

There’s an expression: “God is in the details” and when it comes to cathedrals, it’s particularly appropriate. Modern cathedrals and the ones we have in North America in general are not very old and tend to be plainer. But in Europe, when I travel, I love to visit these old cathedrals and churches. I’m not religious but the architecture and the detail in these buildings is amazing. I’m awed by these massive structures, and can hardly imagine the resources and effort to build them when you think they were constructed from the 11th century onward with nothing but ropes, scaffolding and a lot of manpower and yet the towers and spires soar to the heavens.

I’ve been to a number of cathedrals in the U.K. and Italy and scattered ones elsewhere. My favourite is probably the Glasgow Cathedral dedicated to St. Mungo. I’m not sure why. It’s not very big and not all that elaborate, but there’s something in the quiet dimness that speaks to me. Another one that’s really beautiful and steeped with history is Canterbury Cathedral which soaring fan vaulting over the nave and a dim blue-lit quire.  I don’t love all of the ones I’ve seen, there are a few that left me cold but usually I enjoy exploring them.

A few years ago we visited the small Cathedral city of Wells in Somerset, the “west country” part of England. The catheral is stunning. It’s west front is covered in carved statues and inside, the fan vaulting is superb and it’s got a “scissor” arch to support the towers. Very unique. Here then, is a photo essay of the Wells Cathedral and some of the details.

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral, the west front. This will be the Big Picture

Wells Cathedral

A little closer. Wells Cathedral west front.

Wells Cathedral. Closer still, focussing in on some of the exterior detail

Wells Cathedral quire

Let’s go inside. This is the quire of the cathedral.

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

The scissor arch in Wells Cathedral.

Fan vaulting detail in Wells Cathedral

And finally, the sun creating shadows through a window that overlooks the catheral cloisters

A Word a Week Challenge – Dance

This week’s Word a Week challenge is “Dance”. Most of the photos I have of dance were taken here at home. One of the videos below was taken at a First Nations gathering on our Halifax Common, and they had dancing and drumming, some amazing traditional costumes and music. Even the smaller kids could dance and all generations participated.

My only nod to travel was a video I took while we spent some time in Piazza Navona in Rome just as the dusk was settling in. There are buskers and artists all over the square and after a delicious gelato, we were making our way out to the street when we heard music and spotted the couple dancing. So atmospheric!


Dancin’ the blues away

Fab Photo Friday – Christmas markets

Manchester Christmas Markets at Town Hall/Albert Square

The Christmas market tradition seems to have started in Germany and Austria and that area back in the 15th century. They can trace the Dresden markets to 1434. There are some markets that may be even older. They take place in the 4 or 5 weeks of Advent, before Christmas from late November through December.

They have become huge tourist attractions in recent decades and many countries now have them. While the goods can be somewhat expensive, you will also get lots of really well crafted items and can try foods that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to try. The crowds at most of them can be very claustrophobic and you’d want to watch your wallets! You could even make a strong case for them being tourist traps, I suppose.

While in Manchester, U.K. recently, I managed to catch the opening weekend of their Christmas market. It started life as a German style market but has grown though much of it is still in that theme. There’s little wooden huts across several squares and streets with the Town Hall square being the main area. The crowds got to be a bit oppressive at one point so we made our escape but we saw quite a bit of it.

Someday I would like to visit some of the ones in Europe, like the Dresden one or maybe Vienna. There’s something about the old squares surrounding the markets that’s appealing. I have a friend that has just got back from a river cruise and stops along the way for the markets. I can’t wait to hear her stories and see her photos!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

Graffiti and public art in Chinatown, Toronto

When most people think of the word “foreign”, they think of countries other than their own, countries where the language is not the same as they speak and the culture is different.  They travel to a foreign country or someone comes from a foreign country or they speak a foreign language. Foreign can also mean something that’s unknown to you, like a “foreign concept”.

Canada is a multi cultural country and there’s lots of “foreign” right within our own borders. Neighbourhoods where there were large immigrant settlements bear the names of the country of origin. Little Italy. Polish Town. And the ubiquitous Chinatown. There are a good number of them in Canada and in the U. S. and even in many other non-Asian cities. Vancouver, B.C. has the largest Chinatown in Canada, seconded by the one in Toronto. There are also small Chinese/Asian neighbourhoods in Montreal and Victoria and maybe more I don’t know about.

Chinatown, Toronto

I’ve been to all four as well as Chinatowns in London and Manchester and walking the streets you are surrounded by a culture that, for me at least, is most definitely foreign. Undecipherable signs, that may or may  not have English translations. Markets with unidentifiable foods, spices and goods. Even the graffiti is in Chinese! The neighbourhoods in Vancouver and Toronto in particular are almost like being in a different country because they are peopled by Asian residents where the others I’ve been to in Canada are mainly shops and an arch type gateway.

I don’t know what they are, but I bet they make food taste good!

I visit Manchester in the U.K. every year, staying in the sister city of Salford and there’s one area that we often drive through where there is a large Hasidic Jewish population. We often see men and boys in long black coats, tall hats and sporting the long curls at their sideburns walking together, with the conservatively dressed women behind them.  It seems “foreign” to me since I rarely see that here where I live.

In the office tower that I work in, there is an English Second Language school and the elevators are often filled with young people, students, of various “foreign” cultures chatting to each other in their own languages. I always think they should be practicing their English even on their lunch break! And speaking of lunch, the food court in my building has a number of different kiosks,  most of them are independent food sellers, not the usual chain type fast food you usually get, though there’s a few of those. We’ve also got Korean, Indian, Italian (well, pizza and kebabs), Lebanese, Japanese (sushi), Chinese and Turkish. That’s pretty cool!


Fab Photos – Irish traditions

A Galway Hooker

This, my friends, is a Galway Hooker. It’s a traditional fishing boat that you would have found in Galway Bay on the west of the Republic of Ireland. It has reddish sails and is black because it’s coated in pitch. These little boats are still being lovingly made or restored.  Here in Nova Scotia, Halifax sees a Tall Ships festival every few years and while many of the ships are converted from steel hulled boats, some are antique and restored and somehow have far more elegance than the big monsters that everyone gawps at. There’s a little town on the south shore of Nova Scotia called Mahone Bay and they have a wooden boat festival every year as well.

Killarney Jaunting Cart

Killarney in the south of Ireland is often the start or end point for the Ring of Kerry, a picturesque drive around the Kerry peninsula off the southwest coast of the island. Killarney is most definitely a tourist town, some might even say a tourist trap. It certainly wasn’t overly impressive to me. They also have a traditional form of transportation, however. It’s called a Jaunting car and it’s a kind of buggy or carraige  with little seats along the sides, enough for about 6 people.  Originally the seats were back to back with the passengers facing outwards, with little footrests over the wheels but this style in the photo here is much more conducive to tourists having a conversation. It’s pulled by a horse with a driver well versed in local lore for the tourists.  They do tours through the lovely natural Killarney National Park on the edge of the city.

A Waterford Crystal master craftsman

Another city in Ireland steeped in tradition is Waterford, home of Waterford Crystal. The crystal is still hand blown and etched by hand by masters who have to memorize hundreds of patterns.  It was founded in 1783 by brothers George and William Penrose.

The craftsmen have a minimum 5 years apprenticeship and normally 3 more for the masters in the various fields of glass blowing or cutting  and engravers do 3 years at a local cottage before training for 10 more.  Most of the blowers and cutters seem to be men when I toured the factory 10 years ago, and the guide said it wasn’t a reflection on women, it’s just that women rarely seem to choose this field. There are women that work in other support roles in the factory, quality control etc.

Ireland is full of traditions and appreciation for those traditions is enjoying a resurgence. Not long ago, the Irish language, a form of Gaelic, was dying out. Now children learn it in school and the country is proudly and officially biligual. All the public signage is in both languages.

There’s one tradition that the Irish wish would just go away, however. That little sprite, the Leprechaun! The word “Leprechaun” means “little people”. The origins are hazy but one theory goes that when the tall, dark, warlike and aggressive Celts invaded, the natives were small, peaceful folk who lived in ring forts which probably became the fairy rings of legend.

These people seemed to disappear at will through perhaps they just fled the intimidating invaders. The cute little leprechauns we see today were invented for the English tourists and it just got out of hand. Now they are out of fashion and considered tacky.  Ireland to me is not the cartoon pot of gold and frisky, naughty little men in green coats. It’s a place of history, and a people who are easy going, traditional, open and friendly.

And the beer ain’t bad either!