Saturday, July 30, 2011

Canada’s World Heritage Sites


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So much to see – so little time…

Canada has fifteen national treasures that the world has officially recognized—and plenty of others. UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has named 15 Canadian national treasures World Heritage Sites. Personally, I haven’t seen any of them, and I’m probably never going to see more than one or two if I’m lucky. However, you may have more money, or more luck than me so for the record, here is the list. What are you waiting for? Get crackin’!

At SGang Gwaay, an island in the southern portion of Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands) in British Columbia, you can still walk among the remains of the Haida First Nations cedar longhouses and carved mortuary poles crumbling under hairdos of day-glo green moss.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, is aptly named. It’s the place where, as far back as 5,500 years ago, Aboriginal peoples chased herds of bison over a cliff, killing the animals so they could use the buffalo meat, dried skins, hair and other parts for their survival.

If you are after a more urban experience, the Historic District of Old Québec is a 400-year-old portion of Québec City, QC, bursting with European flair.

In Old Town Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (a British colonial settlement, established in 1753), the colourful wooden houses and buildings have been well-preserved or restored by past and present residents of the town.

L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, situated on a northern point of the island of Newfoundland, uncovers the remains of an 11th-century Viking settlement, the earliest known European steps and establishment in the New World.
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There are 10 more Canadian World Heritage Sites, including:
  • Nahanni National Park
  • Dinosaur Provincial Park
  • Kluane/Wrangell-St Elias/Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek national parks
  • Wood Buffalo National Park
  • Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
  • Gros Morne National Park
  • Waterton Glacier International Peace Park
  • Miguasha National Park
  • Rideau Canal
  • Joggins Fossil Cliffs
Click links below to see video footage on YouTube of some of Canada’s great attractions:
Québec, ville inscrite au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO...
L'Anse aux Meadows...
Wood Buffalo National Park...
Parc National Wood Buffalo...

More Information: www.travelmanitoba.com
Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission. Text has been modified from the original.

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Lonely Planet Canada (Country Travel Guide) A Short History of Canada: Sixth Edition Canada (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Foto – Giant Kouroi of Samos

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The human figure in this image helps puts the giant male sculpture into some sort of perspective, although nothing prepares you for the stunning craftsmanship, the perfectly proportioned figure or the size and beauty of this work.

The figure stands a small archaeological museum on the island of Samos, in the Eastern Aegean.

Located in Vathi, the capital of Samos, the museum occupies two buildings: one known as the ‘storehouse of ancient objects’, built in 1912, and a modern building financed by the German auto manufacturer Volkswagen in 1987.

The museum houses exhibits found in excavations all around Samos, the most impressive of which is the gigantic kouros (male) statue which towers above all other exhibits and visitors alike. There are also other statues and friezes depicting scenes from mythology or daily life, pieces of pottery, small statues, tools, pieces fashioned out of bronze and ivory, weaponry and much more to fascinate and delight the interested visitor.

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 08.30-15.00
Monday: closed

Entrance fee:
Full admission, 3 Euro
Reduced admission, 2 Euro
Telephone: +30 22730 27469
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Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times (Yale Nota Bene) Ancient Greece (DK Eyewitness Books) Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History

Monday, July 25, 2011

In Review: Sean and David’s Long Drive

Sean Condon is a master of the quick quip, an eye-catching headline, and a connoisseur of the finest pomades*. As a young copywriter in an unnamed Australian advertising agency, Sean was bored, disillusioned, and desperate for a change in his environment, and his life. His answer? To undertake a long drive around Australia with his mate David O’Brien.

The result of their 6-7 week odyssey is what constitutes Sean + David’s Long Drive (Lonely Planet Publications, 1996. Republished 2009). In fact, the book is essentially a reproduction of the daily diary Sean kept throughout the trip.

To be precise, their trip didn’t take them around Australia per se, but through the centre of the continent. Roughly, the route they followed went thus (see map): [E]Melbourne to Adelaide (via the Great Ocean Road), then Alice Springs, Uluru (Ayers Rock), Tennant Creek, [B]Darwin, Tennant Creek (again), Mount Isa, Townsville, [C]Cairns, Townsville (again), then down the east coast of Australia taking in Surfers Paradise, Brisbane, [D]Sydney, Canberra, and finally back to [E]Melbourne. Whew! If that seems like a long way – it is. Over eleven thousand kilometres in fact.

Incredibly, Sean Condon didn’t drive even one kilometre of that total distance. It seems he doesn’t drive (or at least he didn’t at the time he and David undertook their journey), which meant that David O’Brien had to drive every one of those eleven thousand plus kilometres.

Sean Condon is a graduate of the Bill Bryson School of Travel Writing. (Actually, I just made that up. To my knowledge there is no actual BBSoTW, but if there was, Sean would surely have been a graduate of the Class of ‘96).

Sean, like Bryson has an acerbic wit, a talent for focusing on the odd, the banal, and the ridiculous as they travel across continents, and a talent too for writing about them with humor and occasionally something bordering on compassion and empathy.

Condon, I guess would be labelled a Generation X-er (he was born in 1965), and presumably he reflects the thinking – and lives the lifestyle – of that generation of thirty-something’s that are lumped within that catch-all label. Sean and David spend much of their down time (when not actually on the road), boozing, smoking, eating junk food, womanising, and boozing some more.

Come to think of it, they spend much of their driving time indulging in the same practices as well.

The book is not a travelogue in the usual sense of the word. If you are looking for specific information and advice about say, Alice Springs, or Darwin, or Charters Towers, you are only going to get the briefest glimpse from Sean + David’s Long Drive. A peak behind the curtain, so to speak. Partly this is because Australia – especially the interior, or ‘outback’ – is so vast, flat, and featureless, that the landscape seemingly never changes for hundreds of miles.

To break the monotony and boredom of the trip, Sean and David engage in small talk – lots of it – that covers their favourite music and bands, women they have known, and television shows that Gen X-ers grew up on. Shows such as the Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo, and other such fare.

I don’t think I learned anything new about Australia that I didn’t already know, and I learned a lot about Sean that I didn’t need to know. While the book is entertaining enough and easily digested, Sean’s humor and jaundiced view of the journey began to grate on me after a while, and it was all I could do to finish the book. Having said that, I must admit that Bill Bryson’s writing can have the same effect on me, so maybe the problem lies with me, and not with Sean Condon – or Bill Bryson.

I suppose that’s a roundabout way of saying, if you like Bill Bryson’s writing, you will like Sean + David’s Long Drive as well.

Details:
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: Lonely Planet; 2nd edition (February 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 9781741795226
ISBN-13: 978-1741795226
ASIN: 1741795222

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*Pomade
— n
1. a perfumed oil or ointment put on the hair, as to make it smooth and shiny
[http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Pomade]

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Purchase Sean + David's Long Drive from Amazon.Com as well as other books written by Sean Condon via the links below.
Lonely Planet Sean & David's Long Drive (Travel Literature) Drive Thru America The Secret of Success is a Secret: & Other Wise Words from Sean Condon

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Foto – Tradesmen’s Entrance


I spotted this sign on the gate of a large property as I wandered through the streets of the London suburb of Kensington, one spring day in March 2008. I hope this sign, and the class society it represents, is a relic of a distant past, and that tradespeople and servants are now able to enter the building in question via the front door, rather than be required to enter through a rear entrance.

The building in question, Cromwell Mansions, and the sign itself (at lower right) can be seen below in this screen shot taken from Google Maps. The address is 217-239, Cromwell Road, Kensington, London.

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London: The Biography London: A Life in Maps Historic London: An Explorer's Companion

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Web of The Week - Shakespeare and Company


Screenshot of Shakespeare and Company website
Shakespeare and Company is an independent bookstore located opposite Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris's Left Bank. Originally established in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, the store became a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, William S. Burroughs, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. So great is the list of great writers who have passed through its doors or spent time living on its upper floors, that Shakespeare and Company has grown from a bookstore into an institution.

During the pre-war years the store was considered the centre of Anglo-American literary culture in Paris, which saw writers and artists of the "Lost Generation," spending a great deal of time at Shakespeare and Company. In fact, it was Sylvia Beach who initially published James Joyce's book Ulysses in 1922, which was subsequently banned in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Shakespeare and Company has always been more than just a bookstore. From the beginning the shop included kitchen and sleeping facilities, and even today, volunteer workers are able to stay in the store, working, reading, writing and discussing literary ideas, theories, and more. After Sylvia Beach’s death the store was taken over by George Whitman, and following his passing, the store is now run by his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman.

The home page for the website has the very unusual characteristic of loading something different every time you press the F5 (or Refresh) key. In deed, the scrapbook nature of the layout, featuring multiple images and scraps of writing, leads to a cornucopia of other images that seem to lead off in an endless and haphazard way into the bowels of the site. It is impossible to know how many layers deep the site goes, which makes exploring Shakespeare and Company either endlessly frustrating, or infinitely fascinating. It all depends on how you approach it.

More Information
A 2005, fifty-two minute documentary film about Shakespeare and Company, Portrait of a Bookstore as an Old Man, can be seen here in its entirety...

Shakespeare and Company on Wikipedia…

The shop was featured in the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Fotos: Nap Time


I caught this villager taking a break (i.e., nodding off), from her crochet work one warm summers afternoon, while visiting the village of Artmenistis on the Aegean island island of Ikaria. I love how Greece have adopted this particular shade of blue the national colour.

In a previous post (Grecian Blues) I have posted more images using this blue as an ongoing theme in some of my Greek photography.

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Lonely Planet Greek Islands (Regional Travel Guide) Top 10 Greek Islands (EYEWITNESS TOP 10 TRAVEL GUIDE) Dk Eyewitness Travel Guide: the Greek Islands (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Newark Bay, Hidden Harbor Tour

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It is with a real sense of déjà vu that I write this today, because it is almost exactly a year ago that I took part in one of the New York Working Harbor Committee’s ‘Hidden Harbor’ tours along the Brooklyn waterfront. I wrote about this trip in a previous post so I won’t repeat myself too much here.

With regard to New York City’s harbor, the Working Harbor Committee (WHC) exists to “…strengthen awareness of the working harbor's history and vitality today, and its opportunities for the future, by:
· Involving people in learning how the harbor works and what it does;
· Educating people in the rich and challenging history of the harbor;
· Making people aware of the need to build and sustain the working harbor.”
(Source: Working Harbor Committee…)

To this end, the WHC arranges a series of tours, dubbed ‘Hidden Harbor Tours’ throughout the warmer months of the year – typically from May to October. Tours always have guest speakers and commentary from knowledgeable experts who have worked extensively on New York harbor, all of whom are able to shed extra insights into the history and hidden secrets of the areas you cruise through.

As I am on the WHC’s mailing list, I get regular monthly updates and reminders about upcoming tours and events. Reminders that only serve to make me miss New York City and its magnificent harbor even more, now that I am ten thousand miles away in Australia. Even more so, as I shiver through a freezing Adelaide winter, and think about the heat and humidity of a New York summer.

Although the next Hidden Harbor Tour is tomorrow (July 12), and therefore almost certainly too late for anyone reading this to take advantage of, there are several more tours scheduled for the remainder of the year, and I thought they were worth bringing to your attention if you were going to be in New York City between now and the end of October.

Tuesday, 12 July - Newark Bay Tour
Special Guest Speaker: Lucy Ambrosino-Marchak, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Lucy Ambrosino is the Manager of Outreach for the Port Commerce Department of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, where she has been since 1990.

Departs from Pier 16 at 6:15pm (at the end of Fulton Street, South Street Seaport).

This tour passes by the Red Hook Container Terminal and visits Erie Basin, home of Hughes Brothers Barges and Reinauer Tugs before crossing the harbor toward Staten Island. It then enters Kill Van Kull, the area's busiest waterway dividing Staten Island and Bayonne, passing tug yards, oil docks and marine repair facilities. It then passes under the Bayonne Bridge and visits the giant container ports of Newark Bay, Port Newark and Port Elizabeth where the world's largest container ships tie up. On the way back, we pass by Military Ocean Terminal, the 9/11 Teardrop Memorial, the Robbin's Reef Lighthouse and another container port, ending up at sunset at the Statue of Liberty for a moment before returning to Pier 16.

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Tuesday, 26 July - Brooklyn Tour
Special Guest Speaker: Dan Wiley. Dan is a Community Coordinator to Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez in southwest Brooklyn. Working in the Congressional office since 2000, he has coordinated planning projects and initiatives spanning waterfront communities from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and downtown Brooklyn southwest to Red Hook, Gowanus and Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

Departs from Pier 16 at 6:15pm (at the end of Fulton Street, South Street Seaport).

This tours goes north (actually east) on the East River to the former Brooklyn Navy Yard, passing under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. The Navy Yard has three large graving docks and an active shipyard, as well as the home port of FDNY's fireboat division. We then travel south along the Brooklyn waterfront, passing the new Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Red Hook Container Terminal, Atlantic Basin, and Erie Basin, home of Hughes Brothers Barges and Reinauer Tugs. We continue into Gowanus Bay and along the Sunset Park waterfront, home of the former large Bush Terminals. We then cross over to the Statue of Liberty at sunset for a moment before returning to Pier 16.

Click Here to book for both tours… 

Price for both tours:
Adult; $29.00
Child: $15.00
Senior: $22.00
WHC Member: $22.00 (Working Harbor Committee members)
Intrepid Member: $22.00 (Intrepid Sea*Air*Space Museum members)

There are many more tours in August, September and October, so make sure you check the full list at the Working Harbor Committee (WHC) website.

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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Manhattanhenge, New York City

Manhattanhenge – sometimes referred to as the Manhattan Solstice – is a semi-annual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid in Manhattan, New York City.

The term, as you might have already worked out, is derived from Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire.

Manhattanhenge was popularized in 2002 by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History. During Manhattanhenge, an observer on one of the gridded east-west streets will see the sun setting over New Jersey directly opposite from the street, along its centerline.

The dates of Manhattanhenge are usually around May 28 and July 12 or July 13 – spaced evenly around Summer Solstice. In 2011, Manhattanhenge occurred on May 31 at 8:17 p.m., and will occur again on July 11 at 8:25 p.m. The two corresponding mornings of sunrise right on the center lines of the Manhattan grid are approximately December 5 and January 8 – spaced evenly around Winter Solstice. As with the solstices and equinoxes, the dates vary somewhat from year to year.

Manhattanhenge in Popular Culture
Not surprisingly, the Manhattanhenge phenomenon has made it into popular culture, with the event appearing in an episode of CSI: NY that aired on November 25, 2009. Also, the closing scene from the 2010 film Morning Glory features Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford), and Becky Fuller (Rachel McAdams), walking off into the Manhattanhenge sunset.

Here’s a very brief 16 second time-lapse YouTube video of the Manhattanhenge event from 2008.
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The same phenomenon occurs in other cities with a uniform street grid. In Chicago, Illinois, for instance, the setting sun lines up with the grid system on September 25, a phenomenon known similarly as Chicagohenge. In Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the setting sun lines up with the east–west streets on October 25 and February 16, a phenomenon known locally as Torontohenge.

If any reader knows of similar phenomena happening around the world, please let us know via the Comments section below.

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Web of The Week: Planning Fun Road Trips

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Depending on where you are accessing this blog from, you are either half way through summer or half way through winter, with varying shades of the seasons in between. Wherever you are though, you can still hit the road for an extended road trip in pursuit of better weather or the long awaited break you have been looking forward to for many months. With that in mind, this week’s Web of The Week could be just what you need.

Tara Waechter started Planning Fun Road Trips back in 2009, to share her love of the open road. As Tara writes on her site: “What I love most about road trips is how accessible they are... There's nothing like the freedom of being able to just jump in your car and drive off down the road in search of adventure!”

In addition to her love of travel, Tara is a great believer in the power of planning – and she has incorporated lots of great planning aids and tips in her website, where you will find a Road Trip Calculator that helps you work out how much to budget for your road trip. You will also find suggestions for North American road trip routes, and tips on healthy eating, keeping the kids occupied and happy, and much more.

Planning Fun Road Trips is a good place to start your research if you are going to hit the highway before the end of the northern summer, or in preparation for summer in the southern hemisphere. There is much to be gained from a thorough look through Tara’s site, and I am more than happy to recommend it as my Web of The Week.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday Foto: Angkor Thom, Cambodia

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Angkor Thom (literally, "Great City"), is located in Cambodia, and was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. Established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII, it covers an area of nine square kilometres.

I visited Angkor Thom during my month long stay in Cambodia during February 2011, and was left overwhelmed by the scale and beauty of this great complex. Like the other stunning temples around Siem Reap – Angkor Wat being probably the most famous – Angkor Thom has suffered from weathering, wars, and from the stupidity and vandalism of the Khmer Rouge during their murderous reign.

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Thankfully though, much remains to be admired (and photographed), by the hordes of visitors that swarm over the great temple sites and ancient cities of Cambodia.

Most of the great Angkor ruins have vast displays of bas-relief depicting the various gods, goddesses, and other-worldly beings from the mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism (modified by centuries of Buddhism). Mingled with these images are actual known animals, like elephants, snakes, fish, and monkeys, in addition to dragon-like creatures that look like the stylized, elongated serpents (with feet and claws) found in Chinese art. [Source: Wikipedia…]
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One can only marvel at the size and scope of the thousands of bas reliefs carved into the laterite from which the buildings of Angkor Thom are constructed. How many artisans and sculptors worked – though slaved may be a better word – for how many years to build, carve and shape these ancient cities and temples? And in an age when the average life expectancy of most Khmer people would have been less than 50 years, how many spent their whole working lives on these monumental construction projects – living, working and dying within the shadows of these buildings?

Definitely, worth a visit, and should be in the Top 10 of any travellers ‘bucket list’.

Angkor Thom in popular culture
The film Lara Croft: Tomb Raider features several characters visiting Angkor Thom during their trip to Cambodia to recover the first piece of the Triangle of Light.

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Click on each image to purchase or view excerpts from the books displayed below via Amazon.Com...
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Lonely Planet Angkor Wat & Siem Reap Encounter Angkor: Celestial Temples of the Khmer Moon Spotlight Angkor Wat
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places) Sacred Angkor: The Carved Reliefs of Angkor Wat Vietnam and Angkor Wat (Eyewitness Travel Guides)

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