Archive for the ‘adventures in Europe’ Category


P1040854, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

We were walking by the front of the National Gallery and this madman – unmoving until Maggie passed by, did this.

Well aside from the shock and obligation of dropping a pound in the box, our visit to the National Gallery was amazing.

In London, most museums and galleries are free (as it should be). Sadly I missed the “dead Italian guy” who was said to be on display in a museum near St. Pancreas. The security guard at the national library sent us in that direction as I declined to unpack my backpack for a search; he said it was nothing to be embarrassed about. I said I just could not be bothered to lay out my underwear and whiskey bottles to see the medieval manuscripts they had -honestly, the hassle vs. reward didn’t justify the effort (but I understand their need for security and they were very courteous as they were everywhere in London).

At the National Gallery we were immediately immersed in the fantastic paintings of Caravaggio, Van Gogh, Cezanne and others of their fame. there was nothing posted about not taking pictures, but I thought it safest to not try anything like that in case I got arrested. There are over 2300 paintings which are said to be one of the greatest collections of Western European paintings in the world. It was kind of odd standing about 2 feet from what I only usually see in books.

The National Gallery in London sits at one end of Trafalgar Square. You can get there quite easily from Charing Cross or Leicester Square – just walk toward the statue of Nelson, which rises up atop a column. If the gallery is not your thing, then people watching might be. I got some great photos of tourists posing with the lions.

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Don’t Mess with the Queen

In addition to the regular guards foot soldiers outside Buckingham Palace, the uninvited guest would be dealing with this. I’m not sure exactly what he’s carrying but it brings to mind a less security conscious time when I was sent on an exercise during a potential officer course (Sandhurst). My task was to obtain the signature of the officer of the guard at Buckingham Palace – others had all sorts of odd and diverse tasks. The idea was to show what could be done with initiative.

I had no free entry into the palace but managed to talk my way into the guard room where I learned that the officer of the guard had left for his residence at St. James Palace. I managed to intercept him en-route – he wouldn’t talk but his bat man who followed along behind carrying the squash shoes of the marching, sword-bearing anachronism explained that I could see him later.

Later, in St. James Palace I got an imperious note (with signature) “Please desist from disturbing my afternoon slumbers”. Mission accomplished.

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Life Guards – London

No visit to London is complete without some pomp and ceremony. I took this picture outside the building known as “Horse Guards”. These fellows in red are the life Guards – not the swimming kind (their cuirasses would drag them down). As one tourist in the know explained, “They stand there facing each other (blues and Royals vs Life Guards) for about half an hour and then they have changed the guard.”

As you can see it was a good picture taking opportunity.

The life Guards (in red and the blues and Royals in blue) both comprise regiments in the Household Cavalry, an actual functioning light armored formation of the British Army. When not on ceremonial duty, the Household Cavalry performs a reconnaissance function in a combat brigade; dress uniform is replaced by camouflage, swords by assault rifles.

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All we had left!

When you’re real tired and you need a shower, some food and a good sleep you really look forward to your hotel.

Maggie and I had traveled some distance out of London by tube to a suburb called Kenton. Not a bad place I suppose and the Premier Inn that we were to stay in was 76 pounds a night which was also not a bad price. We were relieved to discover that the Inn was a rather quaint looking building about 2 minutes walk from the station. Lugging our backpacks up to the receptionist’s counter I offered my VISA ony to be told “Your card has been declined.”

“Try it again.” I instructed slightly panicked.


“Phone the number on the back” I suggested to Maggie.

“It’s not working.”

We counted out our cash, every last pence – about 114 pounds. This would cover us for just a third of the time remaining in the UK

Well that’s a situation that just wasn’t what either of us wanted to deal with. Options were a park bench for at least 2 of the next 3 nights or sleeping on the station platform. I wonder if that guy with the Ferrari would mind if we crashed in his front hallway?

To cut a long story short we phoned one of Maggie’s relatives in Chester and they helped us by phoning in their VISA number to the hotel. The lesson here is to make sure you remember to phone VISA and let them know when you are going out of the country. My question is why could we not reach them by the phone numbers on the back of the card and also why does it take several days to reactivate your VISA and why when my brother in law phoned them from Canada could they not have been a little more helpful? WHY? WHY? WHY?

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Essouria1 – Morocco

So much has been said of Hendrix’s song “Castles in the Sand” – undoubtably one of the more lyrical of pieces ever written.

In the ocean not far from here there is an island that had an ancient fort of some type on it. As you could see it some 15 years after Hendrix’s visit, it is crumbling into the ocean, its foundations eaten away by the waves. Behind Bev and I are the more sturdy walls of Essaouira – a nearby town.

Well several relevant thoughts can evolve from the appearance of the crumbling structure in the ocean, but none that might be all that applicable to Hendrix as his song was supposedly written 2 years prior to his visit to Essaouira.

Hendrix was hesitant to speak of his past and his difficult upbringing. The common interpretation of “Castles in the Sand is that nothing lasts forever and in his song most speculate that he is applying the impermanence to his family. If you were to hear the song/verse and look around the town you would certainly be tempted to suggest that he was here when he wrote it.

There are verses like, “Drew her wheel chair to the edge of shore” and “A golden winged ship is passing my way” which are seen quite vividly as images, though undoubtedly interpreted together in the context of the song as a young girl, bound to her wheel chair drowning herself. There is some talk of the golden winged ship being inspired by Moroccan sunsets. And a sun-set at the edge of the Atlas Range, looking out across the ocean is an unforgettable thing. It is as though you are transported away from that Aladdin’s land into somewhere else even more mysterious and exotic. And as night comes on there is the cry from the Mosque, the groaning of a camel and the burnt-tire smell of red Moroccan hash that is transported shore-ward from the mountains.

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Training in Portugal – NBCW

My father had always said that sleeping in a hole was comfortable and warm. I beg to differ!

This is Bev, a friend of mine an incidentally also my section commander while were were serving together. This picture was taken in Portugal somewhere. (It was either a place called Santa Margarita or Pucarica)

This picture brings to mind the hideousness of “digging in” while wearing NBC equipment and then experiencing some kind of air burst attack with less than lethal gas.

Above Bev you can see the roof is caving in – there was dirt above and then the unpleasantness of sleeping in an NBC suit with dirt and sweat in every crease in your body. To top the experience off we had these primitive field telephones and in the middle of the gas attack where the stuff was streaming down from these big concussions above us the phone rang. I really hate the phone, but something unexplainable made me lift my mask to answer it. Well I soon wished that I hadn’t done that.

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Urban exploration

It would seem that I get a lot of hits for people looking for tunnels under the University of Guelph. I cant say that I have any experience there, but my wandering has taken me here.

I took this picture while knee deep in water in the middle of winter. I believe this must be somewhere under the railway line as it passes through town (Guelph). I am not alone, greasy furred creatures of some kind had initially plopped into the morass and disappeared from view. I think they must have been rats.

There’s lots of history beneath foundations. Look at Rome and the explorations that have been done in those ancient Roman sewers – “Cloaca Maxima” I think the main one’s called – fascinating. I’m off to London in about a month. Hopefully I can see a little of the forgotten side of the city.

Too bad that we only have a century or two to play with here in North America. I like the feeling underground. It’s like you touch the past. I believe this was once above ground. It was part of an old River system.

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M Company 3 RCR Hohenfels West Germany

Another picture from the past. I was with the Canadian Army before I joined the British Army. I took this picture in Hohenfels West Germany. These are M company’s APCs lined up in the parking lot before heading out on Exercise Reforger.

M company was one of the 5 mechanized companies that comprised the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment – one of the infantry battalions that formed in conjunction with other elements, 4CMBG (Canadian Mechanized Brigade Grouping).

The vehicles that you are seeing here are the old M113s, each has a .50 cal mounted on top and each carries an 8 man infantry section. Reforger was quite a pleasant experience as we drove round Southern Germany. We would set up our ‘Leiger’ at night around small towns generally with easy access to the pub in mind. A leiger is a kind of defensive formation where both APCs and tanks would be holed up to rest, refuel and recover. I believe the word ‘lieger’ comes from some kind of Dutch or Afrikaans word that implies a defensive position of circled wagons. The problem is that a Leopard tank despite its armor can be quite vulknerable, but conversely it has massive hitting power under the right conditions.

I had a grand old time – officially rehearsing our role of repelling a Russian advance through CENTAG. Fortunately the Russian never came.

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Maggie atop the Chester Wall.

Michael17, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Some years ago Maggie and I went back to England to visit my parents and her various relatives. Maggie’s family comes from the area around Chester. In this particular picture Maggie is atop the wall that runs around that old city – we spent the day hiking around and visiting the tourist sites. Chester is an old Roman city on the edge of Wales with much of the Welsh character. I remember we went to this pub in the middle of the town and several drunken gents were singing Eric Clapton’s “Layla” – did it very well and went on to sing something in Welsh after that.

Anyway this is where Chester – the rockhound – got his name.

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free climbing cliffs above the ocean – when sitting on the beach and drinking wine became boring.

old pics 122, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is a post from my other site – “thetravelnet.org”, it is rock related …

“Here I am one sunny afternoon climbing the cliffs at the edge of Camp Bay in Gibraltar. The peninsula is a 6 kilometer long block of Jurassic age limestone, faced at it’s north end by massive cliffs – rising to around 1200 feet above the ocean level runway of the airport. Cliffs also skirt much of the southern edge of the rock where it meets the ocean.

This was an especially popular spot (Camp Bay) for easy little climbs and for cliff jumping. The ocean was generally deep enough to handle a falling human body and the rocks – stable enough for climbing. On some days when there were large waves it was important to time your jumps to coincide with the the inwash of the swell. This prevented a cliffside battering and 5 or 6 feet less water than you were expecting. I only misjudged the swell once and on a nearby beach I had to surgically remove a rounded pebble from my palm with a can opener.

There is a spectacular path that runs along Gibraltar’s eastern face and in following it you will wander through a unique cliffside ecosystem and be in close proximity to the wildlife and unusual vegetation of the region.

There are many unique plant and animal species that grow on Gibraltar’s cliffs and the climber has to be especially wary. At Little Bay scientists have found the only known occurance of the plant species – “Aeonium Haworthii” outside of the Canary Islands. They speculate that the tiny seed was likely carried there on the eastward blowing winds.

Bats inhabit the many cliffside caves and at Gorham’s Cave – an impressive water-level sea cave – archeologists have found evidence of the last known colony of Neanderthals. The Neanderthal was a stocky hunter of the European plains and with the spread of modern man into his domain he all but disappeared around 30 000 years ago. The Gibraltan Neanderthals survived on this isolated peninsula for at least 2000 years longer than was previously suspected.

Rife with history and spectacular vistas a visit to Gibraltar and its amazing cliffs is a worthy travel venture”.

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