Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘vacation’ 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.

Read Full Post »

 

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.

“Declined”

“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?

Read Full Post »

 

 

Maggie and the Ferrari

In case you are wondering where I’ve been for the last week it has been in the UK visiting Maggie’s relatives.

I took this picture in downtown London somewhere around Lester Square. Second hand a Ferrari is worth somewhere between $150,000 (Canadian) and $250,000. Over the last decade sales have risen from 4000 to 6500/year. I’d be scared to drive one – especially in London. Check out what they’re selling in Canada right now – used Ferraris. I think this particular Ferrari is of the 458 Italia Variety – top speed 325 km/hr.

It becomes increasingly apparent that there are two kinds of people in London – those that are incredibly rich and those that are struggling to survive. I suspect people stratify themselves in concentric rings outward from the city core, those with the largest disposable incomes live at the center of the city and then as you move outward a compromise between what you are willing to spend on lifestyle and what you are wanting to save or spend on others occurs. Some people, who are too young to have already made their fortune are obviously living on the earnings of someone else – how else could they live here?

As London was once the center of the British Empire I suspect that there is still a lot of residual cash that will likely last a couple more generations – each generation being less capable than the last. It is hunger that drives a person to be successful, not a lifestyle of ease, nightclubs, restaurants and cocktail parties.

Anyway, London was a fascinating place – more to follow (including the “cash crunch” as my next post. Who would ever have imagined that my VISA would not work over there?)

Bet the guy who owns this car (A Ferrari) never has a problem with his VISA.

Read Full Post »

 

Cuban Farm – Beyond the Playa

This picture appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of “Atmosphere” – Air Transat’s inflight magazine. My article was “Beyond the Playa” though initially I had called it “Mario and the Crocodile”. Mario was not one of the fellows in this picture, he was our host and a very decent and generous Cuban at that! My visit with Mario was on the same trip that I visited the Cuevas de Bellamar with Jesus (pronounced hay-zeus).

Before dinner we went on a tour of Mario’s farm – he had an alligator on a chain that he goaded for our entertainment. It lived in a scum covered cement pool behind the shed where he kept his Lada. I wondered if I could keep a pet like that, but come to think of it, we have some kind of exotic pet law back in Guelph.

Here is a little bit of how the article had initially appeared (though in “Beyond the Playa”, the editor had coaxed it into something more about the dinner than the crocodile) …

““My he looks like a nasty fellow” I commented to my host. The creature eyed me coldly. “How long have you had him?” “9 years” “ And I suppose you are going to take his belly skin? Use it for handbags? Gangster shoes?” “Si, my pet, I feed”.  Still no reaction from the beast, it seemed indifferent to its fate. I doubt that it understood me, but then again, neither did my host.

Life never fails to amaze, I wondered at the bond that must have developed over those 9 years. Master gazing fondly over his ill-tempered charge; a rusty chain fastened around its armoured neck. Reaching over in provocation the farmer yanked it’s tether and the beast went absolutely beserk, snapping and thrashing it let loose a fetid hiss from its gaping mouth. Whereas a dog bites at 300 pounds per inch this killer pulverizes bone at a crushing 5000 pounds pressure.

I wondered what it was that had bought me here. My resort offered a perfectly suitable meal – rice and beans – typical Cuban fare, and chicken or some kind of fish. “What kind of fish?” I would ask. “Cuban fish” they would invariably reply.

Well here I was in the banana grove of a farm near Varedero; overlooked by the various creatures who lived there, my host’s Cocker Spaniel, Hootie, the hootia and of course the angry beast. “Nombre?” I asked my beaming host. “Crocodillo” he told me. The “Tinyosa” – great flapping black vultures watched from a tree nearby. I am sure they hoped that I might get to close.”

As for the piggies in the picture, sweet and snuffling as they were, I believe we derived a significant amount of guilt. I hadn’t realized that one of their brethren would serve as dinner until a part of him/her appeared with our meal. I believe we would have paid for his freedom if we’d realized the consequence of our visit, but then again, a wild pig soon grows ferule and even uglier, so freedom for these creatures might be good in theory, but in practicality Mario’s family would go hungry and so would we – “Circle of Life”.

Read Full Post »

Quartz seam in which the gold was found is pushed up against the rock face.

 

Abandoned Ontario Gold Mine

Looking in from the entrance of the mine, this tunnel leads on for a short distance. The granite headwall against which the quartz seam seems pushed appears on the right. Further back in the valley outside the mine, the surface extension of this granite face hangs out over the valley and then bends around to appear as the face of a smooth polished cliff that can be seen from a nearby meadow.

The air is dead in this tunnel – thus it would be reasonable to assume that it ends quite shortly, however the downward leading hole as seen in a previous post blows cold air and possibly contributes to the growth of a large, jagged lump of ice. I am reminded of an iceberg as the ice is all scalloped and smooth with nothing like the drip deposited features seen in the typical cave ice stalactites and stalagmites seen in Southern Ontario.

Read Full Post »

Abandoned Gold Mine in Ontario

Algoma region

You might imagine that I have lost interest in the mineral world, but it is not the case – work just becomes all-consuming some times and I need to set my personal life aside, but summer holidays are here again and its time to re-establish interest.

This past week took me north of the “Soo”, Sault Ste. Marie for those who are not familiar with the expression “Soo”. Up there, past Batchewana Bay, the shield is absolutely ancient, high hills, possibly more rugged than down around Bancroft, but no less dotted with old abandoned mines and rock hounding sites. Sadly, there is little in the way of karst as I am used to seeing it – so no caves, or none that I saw.

This picture is of an deserted house at an abandoned gold mine that I explored (more to come on that).

Read Full Post »

Broadview hotel – Wichita – Kansas (who is in control?)

P1020556, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

If you are dealing with demons “you gotta be authorative”, or thats what Jim said on that day up in the Muskokas. Patrick Cross, Jim, Bev and I had gone up to Cooper’s Falls to exorcise a house of whatever was living there. I was just a spectator – observer for reasons that I am not willing to divulge at this time.

As far as authority goes, this lady had it all – no messing with her. Most of the people on the tour were a little tipsy by now – they needed discipline. This fellow standing next to the guide was told he was now called Al, last man in the group, his job to ensure that the tour stayed together. We were issued maps so that nobody got lost in the rooms beneath the floor.

Apparenttly Al Capone had a favorite drinking spot, “Al’s Room” and the speak -easy that operated down there was joined to other areas of the city by tunnels. Six hundred at a time packed the space beneath the Broadview Hotel. And of course Clarence was sometimes seen down there (the ghost). “Keep snapping away, someone always finds orbs on their camera”.

Though Patrick and Jim say they now refuse to have anything to do with demons, “Way to dangerous”, I felt safe going down there with this lady. I am sure she would quickly whip a malevolent presence into line.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »