10 Tidbits on Mount Rushmore

Located near the Badlands of South Dakota sits a majestic monument to the progression of the U.S. from its formation as a country to the great nation it used to be circa 2016 represented by four of the most recognizable faces of past Presidents.

Mount RushmoreGeorge Washington (1789 – 1797) was chosen because he was the nation’s founding father and first President.  President Washington laid down the ground work for what  today is known as democracy. He led his countryman to the American Revolution to win freedom against Great Britain. For his accomplishments he is the most prominent face on Mount Rushmore.  (This may soon change with the face of Donald Trump being carved into the space by George Washington – just kidding, I hope).

Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was chosen to represent expansion, because he was the president who signed the Louisiana Purchase and authored the Declaration of Independence.  He put together and wrote the document that not only inspires democracy in the U.S., but around the world. Writing the declaration of independence is a pretty big accomplishment which definitely made the third President a strong candidate to have his face engraved on Mount Rushmore.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was chosen because he represented conservation and the industrial blossoming of the nation.  President Roosevelt, the 26th president brought the right kind of leadership to the country as the century turned. The U.S. experienced quick growth from an economic standpoint and President Roosevelt was there to guide it. He was one of the reasons the Panama Canal was built, connecting the east to west. He also helped eliminate corporate monopolies and was a strong advocate for the common working man.

Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) was chosen because he led the country through the Civil War and believed in preserving the nation at any cost.  President Lincoln was the glue that kept our nation together during one of it’s most trying periods, the Civil War. He was behind the abolishing of slavery which was probably his biggest accomplishment as the 16th president of the United States.


  1.   The construction of Mount Rushmore National Memorial took 14 years, from 1927 to 1941.
  2.   Historian Doane Robinson conceived the idea for Mount Rushmore in 1923 to promote tourism in South Dakota. In 1924, Robinson persuaded sculptor Gutzon Borglum to travel to the Black Hills region to ensure the carving could be accomplished.  The mountain that Borglum chose to carve was known to the local Lakota as the “Six Grandfathers.”  It had also been known as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs, depending who you asked.
  3.   The mountain itself, at an elevation of 5,725 feet (1,745 metres), was named in 1885 for Charles E. Rushmore, a New York lawyer. The memorial, which covers 2 square miles (5 square km), was designated in 1925 and dedicated in 1927.
  4.   Despite dangerous conditions, not one of the 400 men who worked to forge the monument died during the entire project.  The men who worked on the mountain were miners who had come to the Black Hills looking for gold.  Although they weren’t artists, they did know how to use dynamite and jackhammers.

    The average workers salary on Mount Rushmore was .45 to .75 cents an hour. Talk about some affordable labor. The chief carver Luigi Del Bianco was paid $1.50 an hour.

  5.   Construction on Mount Rushmore—consisting of 90% dynamite blasts—began in 1927. The four faces of the presidents were slowly finished between the years of 1934 and 1939. Borglum died in 1941, leaving his son, Lincoln, to head up the project. But that didn’t much matter—construction ended in October 1941 when the project ran out of money. (The U.S. entered World War II not long after, which likely would’ve ended construction on the site anyway.)
  6.   The head of George Washington is 60 feet tall with a nose that is 21 feet tall. Theodore Roosevelt’s head is slightly smaller, Abraham Lincoln’s is slightly taller. Each of the eyes on Mount Rushmore are about 11 feet wide. Each mouth is about 18 feet wide.  Imagine climbing 506 steps to reach the top of Mount Rushmore-this was how many steps the workers had to climb each day!   The height of a six-story building!
  7.  A cave called the ‘Hall of Records’ sits behind the monument and contains a vault of 16 porcelain enamel panels with text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, biographies of the 4 presidents and Borglum, and history of the U.S.

  8. The ‘Hall of Records’ played a role in the plot of the 2007 movie National Treasure: Book of Secrets, starring Nicolas Cage.  Mount Rushmore was also used as a key backdrop in the 1959 Cary Grant movie North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
  9.   The total cost of creating the Rushmore sculpture was $989,992.32, which included wages for 400 workers.  About 84% of it was paid for by the federal government.  Less than a million but irreplaceable!
  10.   Mount Rushmore National Memorial is open yearround with only the Sculptor’s Studio closed from October – April. Visitors in the winter will find it far less crowded –  roughly 5% of the visitors coming through the gates during December – March that would come through in July or August.  The day we were there it was very foggy and we were lucky to get a shot of it at all.

             This giant monument is celebrating its 78th anniversary in 2019

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Capilano BridgeOne of the attractions of the beautiful City of Vancouver, BC is the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

Vancouver is a beautiful city—whether you’re talking about the mountains, forests, and ocean or the glistening modern skyline of glass skyscrapers. There’s a reason so many films and TV shows are shot on location in and around Vancouver. If it’s scenery you want, this is the place.


Only 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver across the iconic Lions Gate Bridge to North Vancouver lies the  Capilano Suspension Bridge, originally built in 1889 hanging 450 feet (137m) across and 230 feet (70m) above Capilano River offering breathtaking views to the canyon floor below.

This is a popular tourist site so plan accordingly to avoid long lines.

The park offers more than just the bridge. Its surrounding 27 acres celebrate nature, history and culture in unique and thrilling ways.
On Treetops Adventure venture from one magnificent old growth Douglas-fir to another on a series of seven elevated suspension bridges, reaching as high as 110 feet (33m), for a squirrel’s eye view of the forest. Guides, signage and interactive exhibits throughout the park help you in your understanding of rain forest ecosystems and their sustainability.

The view from the bridge is spectacular, and while there is minor bounce, it’s relatively easy to navigate. The bridge is reminiscence of the one in Indiana Jones’ Temple of Doom “Hang on, lady. We going for a ride”. Equally, or even better, is the single-file walk on Cliffwalk, which follows a granite precipice along the river with a series of narrow cantilevered bridges, stairs and platforms offering views at every turn.
There are other trails on the other side of the suspension bridge.
  • There are 9 different types of trees in Capilano Suspension Bridge Park! There are 2,014 Douglas fir, 157 Western Red Cedar, and 144 Western Hemlock.
  • The suspension bridge can hold 97 elephants. That’s 203 moose, or 4520 beavers.
       HISTORY

CapilanoIn 1888, a Scottish civil engineer and real estate developer named George Grant Mackay purchased 24 square kilometres of old growth forest on both sides of the Capilano River just north of the city and built a cabin at the southern edge of the canyon. The 65-year-old engineer hired two local Coast Salish natives to help with the construction of the first bridge in 1889 that was made from hemp and cedar planks.  Ten years after Mackay’s death in 1903, the bridge was replaced with one made of wire cable.

Rae Mitchell, bought the bridge in 1953. In 1956, he rebuilt the bridge completely, strengthening the cables and the anchors.  In 1983, Mitchell sold the Capilano Suspension Bridge to his daughter, Nancy Stibbard who is still its present owner.

Tickets are rather pricey, a little under $50.00 but if you have young ones under 6, they can get in free.  I think this is worthwhile if you are going to do some hiking while you are there and maybe pack a picnic.  You definitely want to arrive early to avoid all the shuttles and crowds.

Note:  There is another similar bridge not far away, called the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge. In addition to being free and “just as nice as the Capilano bridge,” the Lynn Canyon bridge leads to some of the best walking trails in the area and is far less crowded.

Clipart Of A Leaf Inspirational Maple Leaf free graphics Flower Leaf Pinterest……………………………………………….the end!          Totems

Savannah, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia is one of those cities that’s worth visiting simply because it’s so beautiful.  When someone mentions Savannah the image that first pops into my mind is the sight of all the moss-covered oak trees that languidly shift ever so lovingly in the southern breeze.

The second might not be overly familiar to some … but it is the Daiquiris drive-throughs where you can pick up your favourite concoction at the window a la Tim Hortons.  When we first walked in through the doorway (there was one across the street from our hotel so we didn’t need a car) there was a row of giant slurpee like machines where you had to make the difficult decision of what flavour you wanted your alcoholic libation in.  Daiquiri Drive throughSweet mother of …..I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  What does MAAD think about all this?  One-eyed Lizzy’s on River Street also makes exceptional margaritas!  If you have time you should also make a trip to Tibee Island and have dinner at the Crab Shack.


A little background on Savannah – not that big, easy to navigate and very pretty squares.

The 22 squares in Savannah today provide locals and visitors alike with a little greenery amid all the businesses and historic houses. At one time there were 24 historic squares, but two were lost due to city development while others, such as Ellis Square, were redesigned and made even more appealing.

Savannah was established in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe and was the first colonial and state capital of Georgia.  Oglethorpe named the 13th and final American colony Georgia after England’s King George II.  Plus, Savannah is a port town so there’s also pirate history and … it’s haunted!   How much more can you ask for?

If you like architecture, you’ll really like Savannah, something visually noteworthy is pretty much everywhere you turn.  Forsyth Fountain.jpgThis is the fountain in Forsyth Park, which is definitely worth a stop.  You’ll enjoy a short walk to the fountain and those gorgeous live oaks along the way.

Forsyth Park in the historic district was laid out in the 1840’s. The land for the original space was donated by William Hodgson. In 1851 John Forsyth, the 33rd Governor of Georgia donated an additional 20 acres, bringing the total size of Forsyth Park to 30 acres. The Park was named after him and still retains his name today.

The Forsyth Park Fountain

Perhaps the most well known feature of Forsyth Park is the large fountain that sits at the north end. The fountain was built in 1858. It resembles a few other fountains found around the world, including fountains in Paris and Peru.  On any given day you can find many people, especially locals, lounging on the benches, taking in the scenery and people watching.

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day the city of Savannah dyes the water in the fountain green.  We just happened to be there at that time but it wasn’t planned.  The ceremony when the water is dyed is a popular event attended by hundreds, sometimes thousands of local ‘Savannahians’, many of whom are of Irish descent.


The Mercer Williams House

Thanks to the 1994 book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the Mercer Williams House has become one of those ‘must-see’ attractions for many people coming to Savannah. Even before the book came out the house was a beautiful fixture on Monterey Square.  The Mercer House was designed by New York architect John S. Norris for General Hugh W. Mercer, great grandfather of  the songwriter and co-founder of Capitol Records, Johnny Mercer. Construction of the house began in 1860, was interrupted by the Civil War and was later completed, circa 1868, by the new owner, John Wilder.

In 1969, Jim Williams bought the house and restored it. Williams was a noted antiquities dealer. He also enjoyed restoring old homes, the Mercer Williams House being one of them. It was in this house that Jim Williams allegedly shot Danny Hansford in 1981 killing him. Williams was tried four times, finally being found innocent of all crimes. Williams died in the house of a coronary brought on my pneumonia in the same room as Hansford.

Bird Girl
If you are looking for the statue of the Bird Girl from “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, you could have found it in Bonaventure Cemetery prior to Midnight’s fame.  Now you can find her in the Telfair Museum.

 

There is much to see and do in Savannah and should be enjoyed at a relaxed and leisurely pace.  Visit www.savannah.com for more information or www.visitsavannah.com and receive a free guide.  I would love to visit the City again in the future but for the time being I think I will make myself a daiquiri and relive the time I was there.  Enjoy and explore.  Bon Voyage!

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.