A peek at a few of the many castles in Scotland

Today, I came across a box I had set aside with trinkets and guides and photos from when my husband and I took a month-long trip to Scotland.  When we returned to Canada, his mother who had emigrated here in the sixties remarked that we had seen way more of Scotland than she had in her lifetime!

It was a fantastic trip even though it rained most of the time – a lot like Vancouver that way so we were kind of used to it.  Besides, a lot of the castles and museums and galleries and pubs were indoor; so when it started to rain heavily we just popped inside and when we came out – it was still raining, who am I trying to kid!  Never-the-less a great trip which we hope to repeat again in the future.

One of the many things I had been looking forward to were seeing some of the many castles in Scotland – after a few weeks however, I was complaining about turning a corner and wasn’t there another blasted castle in front of us.  Lesson in this, be careful what you wish for, Ha! Ha!

I am going to break down our trip for the moment and just concentrate on some of the Castles we did see and which ones were worth the price of admission – some were free!  In the future, I would like to re-visit some of these castles and take photos with a drone as they are spectacular seen from a height.  When we first visited all our photos were on film, can you imagine, so we didn’t have the luxury of taking 15 shots of a castle and then deleting all but that spectacular shot that you did get by having a digital camera.

I’ll start with one of the nicest – and more a beautiful country manor than a castle.  We headed out from Glasgow down to Ayr which is about 45 minutes depending on who is driving – so a nice day or afternoon excursion.   Please click on link below for synopsis of castles we visited.  I hope you enjoy and that you will plan your own excursion over there as it is a beautiful country and the people may appear standoffish to start but are very friendly when engaged  – especially about their history and culture!  If you incorporate a side visit to Wales and Ireland – even better!

Castles of Scotland booklet

A little slice of paradise!

Looking for an exotic oasis of freedom with crystal clear blue waters, white sandy beaches, warm weather all year round and authentic, friendly locals.  Look no further.  You can do as much or as little as you like in the Cook Islands.  Still largely undiscovered by North Americans, the Cook Islands are like Hawaii was 50+ years ago only with all the modern conveniences.  Made up of 15 islands, they are a mix of coral atolls and volcanic islands abundant with marine creatures, both big and small.

You will not find row upon row of high-rise beachfront hotels and apartments nor chain resorts as there are no buildings higher than a coconut tree.  You will not find chain stores or McDonald’s, even a stoplight is hard to find.

The Cook Islands are named after Captain James Cook who visited the islands in 1773 and 1777.  By 1900, the islands were annexed as British territory and included within the boundaries of the Colony of New Zealand.  The Cook Islands government is a parliamentary democracy with its own executive powers and laws (became independent in 1965) but carry New Zealand passports.  A seafaring people, Cook Islanders consider themselves descendants of Polynesians from nearby Tahiti, who first settled the area about 1400 years ago.

English is the official language and is taught in school.  The common vernacular is Cook Islands Maori, also called Rarotongan similar to New Zealand and Tahiti Maori.  Dialects vary, and in the north, some islands have their own languages.  Cook Island Tribal Tattoos These Meanings Of A Polynesian Tattoo Will Seriously Impress You

The Islands total 240 square kilometres or approx. one and a third times the size of Washington, D.C.  Rarotonga is the biggest Island but is only 11 kilometres in length.  The main road which goes all around the Island is 37 kiolometres so you can circumnavigate the Island in an afternoon.  Scooters and bikes are very popular modes of transportation but it was the buses that caught my eye.  They run in two directions:  Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise.  A simple and efficient means of getting around with some very entertaining drivers who will fill you in on the folklore and history for free!


Some interesting facts on the Cook Islands

  1.  The major industries are agriculture and tourism.  Rarotonga receives nearly fifty thousand tourists a year.
  2.   black-pearl-variation-600x400The Cook Islands are the world’s second largest producer of black pearls.  Although they were named for the colour of the shell they are found in, the pearls come in hues of blue, silver and deep green.
  3.   The Islands are known for their wood carving, and many young people who live there are taught by older generations of wood carvers how to perfect those skills.
  4.   Rugby is the most popular sport followed by cricket and soccer.
  5.   Polynesian healers have used noni fruits for thousands of years to help treat a variety of health problems.  A cure all for the ages it is an important export
    Noni pulp
  6.   On Sundays the Cook Islands are buttoned up tighter than a clergyman’s collar.  Businesses shutter, the buses do not run and if you want a drink you’ve got to stick to your hotel.  Virtually all the people are Christian with 70 percent belonging to the Protestant Cook Islands Christian Church (CICC) and 30 percent divided Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Mormon, or members of other denominations.  Everyone dresses up and wear intricate hats woven by hand.
  7. Though there are formal church cemeteries they are far outnumbered by private  burial plots on private land.  The spirits of ancestors live with everyone, are a fact of life, and nobody to be feared.  In some cultures, having a view on your parent’s grave from your living room window might be rather unsettling but it is commonplace here and treated with the utmost respect.  Family land runs from the coast to the inner hills of the island and cannot be bought or sold.  It stays with the family or is leased (one of the main reasons there is not so much outside development).  The large and sometimes opulent burial vaults found in front yards most often belong to the woman of the family who built the house.  Shoveling dirt onto a woman is a disgrace so the body is sealed entirely in concrete.  For sanitation reasons, this practice spread to everyone.

    burial plot in front yard.JPG

    Next time you are planning an exotic get away, give some thought to the Cook Islands – a little slice of paradise!  The Islands are renowned for its many snorkeling and scuba-diving sites

Is being Wealthy the same as being Rich?

Money symbolRecently I finished another book on financial planning and how to become wealthy that my boss passed on to me.  While it is a little late for me as I am now retired (working part-time) and far from wealthy – I consider myself to be very rich.  For those 25 years and under I’ll give you the gist of what I have read on the subject of making money at the end of this post…because while money is a factor it isn’t just money that makes one rich.

For instance, I love to travel and wish I had started much sooner in life because the experiences while travelling have been educational, entertaining and life sustaining – not always – sometimes it is a vacation after all where the purpose is to relax and get away from it all … and sometimes things happen that dampen the enjoyment, but that is life.

I had a discussion with some of my friends recently on the topic of what makes one rich and surprisingly most didn’t say money but things like health, family, having a child, creating art, being in a job/career they loved, being in love, and getting out.  Don’t get me wrong they all thought having more money would help but they aren’t obsessed with it and the societal pressures from advertising to buy, buy, buy – spend, spend, spend!  By the way when I said getting out I meant outside the house, either on some level of fitness, to take in an event, interacting with others in some form of sport or recreation, just getting fresh air or watching a beautiful sunset.

 

Many people, usually ones that realize late in life their aches and pains are going to be a constant part of their lives are happy they are still able to do things and have their health so they consider themselves rich.  Others get together often with their families not just for Christmas and Thanksgiving but for summer barbecues, winter “games nights” and think that family is very important and that they are richer because of the number and quality of their friends and siblings or daughters and sons, etc.  And some people are interested in art and architecture, creating something, music and history and get out to have another shared experience and feel richer for it!  just like Scotia Bank says … you are richer than you think!

And now for that little nugget of info I promised at the beginning!  Pay yourself first, put that money into an investment and through the miracle of compound interest – watch it grow!  In other words, have your employer deduct a certain amount from your pay check at source – that way you will never miss it and put into a separate investment and leave it alone for twenty years – you’ll be surprised what you have at the end of that time period!  Easy, peasy! Lemon squeezy!  Right!!!


 

Everything you need to know about Bagpipes and Bands

If you are a fan of bagpipes then the Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle has to be on your bucket list!

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

3 to 25 August 2018

If you have never experienced bagpipes it can give you goosebumps and cause your eyes to tear up with its mournful sound or it can sound like someone stepped on your cat’s tail and it is screeching for you to get the hell off it.  The bagpipes are one of those instruments you either love or hate.

bagpipe parts

The parts of a bagpipe are listed to the left but the main parts are the bag which you fill with air and then squeeze with your arm while blowing in the mouthpiece and covering the holes in the chanter (like a flute) to give you the notes and maintaining a hum through the drones while standing in a kilt*.

You do not start by playing the bagpipes as you will need to build up the stamina slowly in order to play more than a few minutes.

You will start with a practice chanter, which is a small oboe-like double reed woodwind instrument that is very affordable and quiet. You will begin by learning the fingering and grace-noting system required to play Highland Bagpipe tunes. This will take several months.  You can learn on your own but it is better to join a pipeband so that you can learn from others and improve.

Pipe bands consist of pipers and drummers, the number isn’t so important but you should have at least six pipers and a minimum of  two drummers and a bass to carry the sound you want.  You can have as many as 20 pipers or more and a solid line of tenor drummers and snare drummers but only one bass – that is the drum that usually has the band logo imprinted on it and the person is walking crablike sideways so they can see where they are going.

Cambridge Highland games

At competition level pipe bands are judged from Grade 5 through to Grade 1.   Moving to a higher grade requires a bagpipe band to consistently dominate their current grade, sometimes over several seasons. At present day, hundreds of competitions occur all over the world each summer as Grade 5 (the most amateur bands) through Grade 1 (professional-grade bands) compete in their respective categories for trophies, bragging rights, prize money, and prestige.

The World Pipe Band Championships is the most prestigious contest in the world. Every second weekend in August over 250 bands from a dozen or more countries gather on the Glasgow Green in the east side of Scotland’s second largest city. Combined with the other events the week proceeding, it is one of the largest annual Celtic festivals in the world.  Note:  When my husband and I were there, there was a band from Simon Fraser University in B.C. Canada that won.  It was pretty great!


 

Tartan samples

*A kilt is a garment resembling a knee-length skirt of pleated tartan cloth, traditionally worn by men as part of Scottish Highland dress and now also worn by women and girls. Tartan (Scottish Gaelic: breacan [ˈbɾʲɛxkən]) is a pattern consisting of criss-crossed horizontal and vertical bands in multiple colours. Tartans originated in woven wool, but now they are made in many other materials. Tartan is particularly associated with Scotland. Scottish kilts almost always have tartan patterns which represent the different clans (groups of kinship) under a chieftain.

You won’t be an expert on bagpipes after reading this but it should help you take your first gingerly step into the world of bagpipes and if you want to try out something a little less traditional there is the Red Hot Chili Peppers to listen to!

Impressions of Claude Monet

The paintings and sculptures of Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cassatt, Morisot, Pissarro and their contemporaries exemplify the Impressionist movement which began to flourish in the Paris of the 1880’s.  Likened to the glimpse out the window of a moving locomotive, these artists strived to convey light and movement and its effects on gardens, landscapes and vignettes of people; to get out of the studios and paint in the open air capturing the natural beauty of its subject.  For Monet this was key; it was the excitement of painting as directly as possible the visible, contemporary world that fired his imagination.

Though their paintings sell for millions of dollars now, when they had their first show in Paris the staid art society of the time scoffed and ridiculed them.  It is one of the ironies of history that their paintings were received with incomprehension and derision by many of the same sort of people who today find them so appealing.  Though Edouard Manet is regarded as “the father of impressionism” it is Claude Monet whose works are more familiar today.  His water lilies series alone are more renowned but Manet was also a master of the style and Degas’ ballerinas are superb.  You would be hard-pressed to say that Renoir was any less a painter than any of the others.  They all deserved and still do the accolades bestowed upon them then and now.

Since I have been following in the footsteps of my extremely lucky sister-in-law while she travels through Europe, I am focusing on Monet as she recently visited one of the towns in which he lived.

Less than 2 hours by train from Paris, Giverny is a village in the region of Normandy in northern France.  Impressionist painter Claude Monet lived and worked here from 1883 until his death in 1926. The artist’s former home and elaborate gardens, where he produced his famed water lily series, are now the Fondation Claude Monet museum. Below is a link to the organization.

http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htm

If you are in France and have the opportunity to visit this quaint little village, I would recommend you go and see the inspiration for many of Monet’s masterpieces.  A great day trip from Paris.  C’est marvielleux!!

The Magical World of Jules Verne

If you are lucky enough to travel through France and have time to visit other cities as well as Paris and Versailles then I recommend Nantes, birthplace of the renowned author Jules Verne and Amiens where the “House with the Tower” is located and where he wrote many of his works.

Jules Verne is often described as the “father of science fiction,” and among all writers, only Agatha Christie’s works have been translated more. He is such a successful and popular author worldwide that many people forget that he was French.  Verne wrote numerous plays, essays, books of nonfiction, and short stories, but he was best known for his novels.

Part travelogue, part adventure, part natural history, his novels remain popular to this day.  You might even say that he was one of the first travel bloggers of his time.

Many of his novels have been made into movies, television series, radio shows, animated children’s cartoons, computer games and graphic novels.  

Jules VerneJules Gabriel Verne was born February 8, 1828 in the seaport of Nantes, where he was trained to follow in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer but quit the profession when he visited Amiens to be the best man at his friend’s wedding, he fell in love with the bride’s sister (and the city). And as the story goes, the rest was history – he died in Amiens on March 24th, 1905 of diabetes mellitus). Verne rests in the serene Cimetière de la Madeleine, beneath Albert Roze’s sculpture of him, which is titled “Towards immortality and eternal youth”.

After major renovation works, the “House with the Tower” in Amiens, where Jules Verne lived from 1882 to 1900, turned into a museum once again offers visitors a space where the imaginary world and the daily life of the author mix. This luxe 19th century mansion witnessed the success of the writer, who wrote most of his “Extraordinary Voyages” there.  The house reveals the personality, sources of inspiration and memories of Jules Verne and is well worth a visit if only for a small glimpse into the fertile machinations of his brain . Verne’s most famous and enduring novels were written in the 1860’s and 1870’s, at a time when Europeans were still exploring, and in many cases exploiting, new areas of the globe.  Exploiting cultures and land is still a popular pastime for many today!  Pity!

 


 

The first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus was named after Captain Nemo’s submarine in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Just a few years after the publication of Around the World in Eight Days, two women who were inspired by the novel successfully raced around the world.  Nellie Bly would win the race against Elizabeth Bisland, completing the journey in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes.

Today, astronauts in the International Space Station circle the globe in 92 minutes. Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon presents Florida as the most logical place to launch a vehicle into space, yet this is 85 years before the first rocket would launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Again and again, we find the scientific visions of Verne becoming realities.


 

In 2007 a combined art installation and steampunk amusement park on the site of a former shipyard opened.  Île de Nantes is a 337-hectare island in the centre of the city of Nantes, on Brittany’s western edge.   Les Machines de L’île is a 21st century mechanical wonderland where visitors can catch rides on twirling sea creatures – Participants can choose to ride on three levels of mechanical creatures: squid and crab on the lowest level, suspended fish on the second and boats and jellyfish at the top – a breathtaking juxtaposition of old, new – and weird.

The island’s biggest showstopper, however, is a 48-tonne mechanical elephant. The creature, which carries 50 riders, stomps the entire length of the park – from the entrance, across the shipyard and past an old warehouse to the carousel, before looping back to discharge passengers and wait for new ones. The wild ride takes a half hour.  When this majestic beast emerges from its steel cathedral, it is a moving piece of architecture that sets off for a walk. The passengers on board can see what makes the engine and moving feet tick. A machinist will welcome you on board, tell you about its life and set off its trumpeting. As part of the crew, this is an invite for timeless travel in the birthplace of Jules Verne.

Mechanical elephant in Nantes

Quotes from Jules Verne

I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through.

Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.

We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.

The sea is everything.  It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial globe.  It’s breath is pure and healthy.  It is an immense desert where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.

The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence.

Either of these cities would be worth a visit but both would be fantastic.  Happy Trails!

The best selling author of all time

Who is the greatest selling author in the world?  If you said William Shakespeare you wouldn’t be wrong as he is tied with Agatha Christie for that distinctive honour according to Google.  This forty years after her death in 1976.  Of course, William has been dead a few centuries longer than that (1616).

Why do I bring this up at all – because my sister-in-law has been gadding about Europe for the past two years mostly in France, Spain and Italy but with a few exotics thrown in for good measure like Morocco.  To say that I am livid with envy would be an understatement.  Naturally I comment positively on all the photos she posts on Facebook but the whole time I’m wishing it were me.  I am very proud of her for leaving the rat race, storing all her stuff and taking off to see all the places she’s read about for years… unlike her fine arts family member she is a history and literature buff so some of the places she has chosen to visit might not have occurred to me.  For instance, visiting the summer home of Agatha Christie as mentioned.  After seeing the pictures I decided to do a little research and thought I’d share with you.

Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15 1890 in Ashfield on the northern edge of Torquay, a seaside town in Devon, England. The Victorian villa was demolished in the Sixties – a blue plaque marks the spot – but the town is replete with sites associated with the author’s life. Educated at home by her mother, Christie began writing detective fiction while working as a nurse during World War I.  It was due to this avocation that she developed a knowledge of poisons which she used quite liberally in a lot of her novels.  She did not like violence – a side effect I’m sure of seeing it first hand during the war.  When she married Lieutenant Archibald Christie, they honeymooned at the Grand Hotel.   Her marriage to Archibald did not last, perhaps yet another casualty of that devastating war. In 1930, Christie married noted archaeologist Max Mallowen.

She travelled extensively with both her husbands, and owned many houses during the course of her long life – including several in London, important homes in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and even one in Baghdad.

QuoteHer first novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), introduced Hercule Poirot, her eccentric and egotistic Belgian detective;  Poirot is one of Christie’s most famous and long-lived characters, appearing in 33 novels, one play, and more than 50 short stories published between 1920 and 1975 before returning to Styles, where, in Curtain (1975), he died.  Believe it or not, this fictional character had his obit published in the New York Times, that’s how popular he was.  The Nicaraguan government put Poirot’s face on a postage stamp.

The elderly spinster  Miss Jane Marple, her other principal detective figure, first appeared in Murder at the Vicarage (1930).  She featured in 12 of Agatha Christie’s crime novels and in 20 short stories.

Dame Agatha Christie is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World’s Bestselling Author.  Her books have sold over 2 billion copies in 44 languages.  Royalties are about $4 million per year.  Agatha Christie is also one of the world’s most prolific writers, or authoress (as she called herself).  She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1971.

Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap has the longest theatrical run, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London on November 25, 1952. It moved next door to the St. Martin’s Theatre on March 25, 1974, not missing a single performance. It continues to this day.

3,000,000 copies of Murder on the Orient Express (published in 1934) were sold in 1974 alone when the Albert Finney film adaptation opened!  Recently, Sir Kenneth Branagh brought the fussy detective Poirot back to life in his movie adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express which also starred Johnny Depp and a certain other grand Dame — Judi Dench and an all star cast.

Later on I will post some of my sister-in-laws photos of Agatha’s summer home with information on where and how it came to be on the National Historic register.  Right now I will leave you with a few quotes from the great authoress herself.

An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.

Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it.

It is a curious thought, but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them.

I’d go the whole wild world

Recently one morning on Facebook they had one of those quizzes where they listed about 50 places and then asked how many you had been to and people were saying 11, 15 etc and I don’t pay much attention to these because they then tailor ads to you based on your answers and I feel they know enough about me as it is.  But it did get me wondering, so I added up the places mentioned and I had been to 30 of them which I didn’t think was that bad (I didn’t put this answer down however).  This of course led me to wonder how many places I haven’t been to and would like to go which eventually led to me trying to figure out how many countries and continents there were in the world.  I’m sure your day starts the same way, right?

You don’t have to google this as I will provide the necessary facts.

There are seven continents:  North America, South America, Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Antartica though there is debate on whether Europe and Asia should be listed as one (Eurasia) as it is one large land mass.  There are also proponents of Oceania and New Zealand (Zelandia) but generally speaking just the seven.  Naturally, I was curious to see how many countries there were and unexpectedly opened a can of worms here!

For instance, my husband is from Scotland and they have been trying to become independent for centuries, the same applies to Ireland but they are not really countries but part of the U.K.  Taiwan, Tibet and Kosovo are similarly independent but tied to a sovereign country and not recognized by the UN – Greenland is not a country but a part of Denmark – who knew?  Geography is fascinating for me now but when I was in school I used to think what’s the point of studying this when I likely won’t ever leave Canada.  How wrong I was!

Below is a list of other places that lots of people consider countries but all belong to an actual sovereign member state.

  • Hong Kong (rightly or wrongly, China)
  • Macau (China)
  • Tibet (China)
  • Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales (the UK)
  • French Guiana (France)
  • Puerto Rica (US)
  • Lots of the Caribbean (BVI, Guadelope, Aruba, USVI, Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, Anguilla, Saint Martin and more)
  • Reunion Island (France)
  • French Polynesia (France)
  • American Samoa (US)
  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Madeira (Portugal)
  • Faroe Islands (part of Denmark)
  • Gibraltar (part of the UK)
  • Greenland (part of Denmark)
  • The Arctic (belongs partly to Norway, Denmark, Canada, the US and Russia)
  • The Falklands (part of the UK)
  • French Polynesia (part of France)
  • Guam (US)
  • Tahiti (French Polynesia, and therefore France. Same for Bora Bora!)

To keep things simple though, you can generally say there are about 200 countries (including territories) in the world depending upon your source of information.

According to the UN there are 195 but the chart below shows other governing bodies with different criteria.   To see full explanations please click on link below
Countries in the World

 

How Many Countries Are There in the World?

After pondering on this for awhile, I realized I haven’t really been anywhere in the larger scheme of things but I intend to keep on travelling as long as I’m able and discovering the beauty, culture and peoples of other places different from myself in order to gain a better understanding of them and me.  If you are lucky in life you never stop growing or being curious.  As much as I may dislike change ( I prefer being comfortable and safe), it is ultimately more rewarding to take risks and embrace change.  I think that now I would get far better grades in Geography than I did in school.  To those who love travel – Happy Trails!  Good luck on working your way through this list!

Five days on the Cote D’Azur

The following notes are taken from a trip I took some years ago……

I decide to locate my base of operations in Nice which is somewhat in the middle of the French Riviera (or the Cote D’Azur) and then take day trips on the train to Cannes, Monaco, Antibes, and Villefranche.

In Nice, I find a cozy little room near the station with bath and shower for 100 francs per night.  I have a shower, do a little hand laundry and then map in hand I walk to the top of Colline du Chateau where you can get a panoramic view of Nice, which does not disappoint.  It is a beautiful, sunny day and the walk itself is pleasurable with most people you meet nodding or smiling as you pass by.

Colline du Chateau in NiceCastle Hill, or Colline du Château as it’s called in French, is more “hill” than “castle.” Most of it has crumbled away, but travelers and travel experts alike recommend climbing the nearly 300 feet of stairs to the top of the hill for the sweeping panorama of Nice and the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels).

After lunch, I buy some fruit and water on the way home and decide to have a relaxing night with a good book before an early start in the morning; not sure where to begin first but will let the train schedule decide.  The Nice Carnival runs from Feb 13 to March 1st but I have just missed it.

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Monte Carlo

I am off to Monaco as this is the train leaving at the time.  I walked all day.  Went to the exotic gardens high above the town of Monte Carlo (like a suburb) of Monaco.  I am super stoked as this place has been high on my bucket list for years and I am now finally drinking it all in – and majestic it is – not to mention tres expensive!  I walked through the underground caves, had an orange, then walked along the harbour to a Musee National where they have the world’s largest collection of dolls, mechanical and otherwise.  I did not check out the casino but walked past the Palace.

Monaco is a constitutional monarchy run by the Grimaldi family.  Prince Albert II, son of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace who were married on April 18, 1956 (the original Prince and the Showgirl) is the current head of state.  Monaco is the second smallest country in the world, after the Vatican.  It is approximately 77 square miles or 1/2 the size of New York’s Central Park.

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The next day I take the train to Beaulieu sur Mer at 9:30 am and walk around there for an hour and then take a 10 minute train ride to Villefranche sur Mer just down the road.  Villefranche-sur-Mer is a very picturesque Medieval fishing village on the beach just a few km east of Nice.  If you enjoy walking it’s an easy 30 minute walk to or from Beaulieu sur Mer and the Kerylos villa or else to Cap Ferrat, allow about 2 hours to get to the tip of the peninsula and the spectacular lighthouse.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer.12

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When I reached Cannes I headed directly to the beach.  It was another glorious sunny day and I was prepared  I had my bikini on under my slacks and I walked along the boardwalk till I found a likely place; some people were playing what amounted to table tennis or paddle ball without the net and I parked my derriere for the day.  I enjoyed the warmth that spread through my limbs immensely.  I soaked it up while watching people and trying valiantly to understand their conversations.  My grasp of French is pretty pathetic though I can manage to make myself understood in it for the important things….like the toilet, restaurant, glass of wine, etc.  I had packed a picnic lunch of cheese, fruit, salami and bread so around 4:30 I sat out on the rocks and ate dinner while I watched this old fisherman prepare to fish.  It took him forever, especially since people kept coming down to the dock to talk to him.

Cannes

Note:  Every year the population of Cannes triples from 70,000 to 200,000 during its annual film festival, and in exclusive hotels such as the Hotel Martinez, rates typically double.  The penthouse suite at the hotel is one of the largest in Europe at 1,000 square feet, and rates rise to $52,000 (£31,000) a night during the event.  The hotel was sold in 2012 and joined the Hyatt chain on April 9, 2013 and was renamed the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hotel Martinez.

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As I sit here getting bombed on Spritzers I shall attempt to describe my day’s activities.  I slept in till almost 10 am.  Not usual for this trip but it is my vacation after all.  It was cloudy and dreary so I decided to stay in Nice for the day and visit museums.

I started with the Marc Chagall Musee which is definitely worth seeing.  The stained glass windows at one end and the mosaic at the other are worth the price of admission alone. If you are there on the first Sunday of the month you can get in for free!  The Matisse Museum is just a 15 minute walk further uphill.  You can also see Roman Bath ruins, a 2000 year old olive grove and a Franciscan Monastery with fabulous Italian-style gardens which are open to the public.

Chagall mosaic

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Antibes is another coastal gem where I happened upon kindergarten children all dressed in fancy hats having a parade outside the chateau where Picasso spent a year painting and drawing and making ceramics.  Antibes children

This has been turned into a museum and I can see why he would have been so productive when you look out over the water and take in the beauty of the surroundings.  I am not a big fan of Picasso as I tend to favour his drawings over his paintings but the ceramics on display here are beautiful.  He was certainly a prominent artist of his time.

Museum Picasso in Antibes

It helps that I have an Eurail pass so that I can hop off and on trains at will.  You can purchase them for different periods of time.  The one I had was good for three months and was guarded much like my passport – neither of which I wanted to lose.  Five days wasn’t nearly long enough to absorb all that is the French Riviera but as a tapas it was delectable!

The WOW Museum in Nelson, New Zealand

While my husband and I were travelling through New Zealand in 2012 we happened upon this world where the lines of fashion and art blur and merge as one… the WOW museum which stands for the World of Wearable Art.

For a peek into this imaginative cirque du solheil of choreographed human art, please go to                                          www.worldofwearableart.com 

The museum provides visitors with the opportunity to view the permanent collection of past winners of the awards show (held in Wellington in September each year and celebrating 30 years in 2018) in a unique setting.  We were not allowed to photograph the garment displays but there was a travelling show in Christchurch where we were able to take a few photos.

 

Wed. 28th March, 2018 Step 1 (intention to enter) closes
Step 2 entries close for ALL international entrants
Sun 9 Sept Second Judging (provisional)
Mon 24 Sept Final Judging
Fri 28 Sept 2018 Awards announced
Sat 29 Sept Entries open for 2019 WOW Competition

Unless you are particularly motivated to show your own creative talents, you might possibly have to wait till this September to come up with a proper theatrical spectacle worthy of consideration as you only have till the end of March for entry to 2018 Awards show.  A kaleidoscope of dance, colour, movement, art and drama, the WOW awards show in Wellington ‘takes art off the wall and onto the moving body’.

If you are planning a trip to New Zealand and can attend the show in September in Wellington or going to Nelson anytime of the year, you have to stop in to see the WOW.  An added bonus is the world-class Classic Car Gallery in an adjacent building.  Over 50 cars and motorbikes on display.  My favourite was the Excalibur parked out front though the 1937 Cord was none too shabby.