Posts Tagged With: history

On the trail of the Romans in Saintes – Part 1

The Arch of Germanicus in Saintes, Charente-Maritime, France

The town of Saintes in the Charente-Maritime of France is a delightful town with lots of history to explore and discover. It was built by the Romans who called it “Mediolanum Santonum”, as it was built on the territory of the Santons, a gallic people. Mediolanum Santonum became the capital of Aquitaine and was one of the largest cities in Roman Gaul.

Roman remains can be found all over Saintes, and in this post I will concentrate on the Arch of Germanicus and nearby remains.

The arch was built around 18-19 AD and stood originally at the front of the bridge that crossed the river Charente, the road linking the Atlantic Ocean to Lyon and onwards to Rome; the end of the famous Via Agrippa.

View over the river Charente

The arch was built to honour the Roman Emporer Tiberius, his son Drusus, and his adopted son Germanicus. Incidentally, Germanicus was Tiberius’ nephew and also brother to Emporer Claudius.

When the old bridge was demolished in the 19th century, the arch was dismantled, and then rebuilt and restored. It now stands along the river near the tourist office at the end of the Rue de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Arch of Germanicus

Speaking of the tourist office, right next to it you will find the Archaeological Museum with lots of Roman columns on display outside of the building. While we did not visit the museum, I have heard good things about it, and a cost of only 3 Euros (at time of writing) it hardly breaks the bank!

Roman remains outside of the Archaeological Museum next to Saintes’ tourist office

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The Neon Musem by day – Part 2

Some more photos from our time at the Neon Museum in Las Vegas.

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The Neon Museum by day – Part 1

I previously blogged about the Neon Museum in Las Vegas, at that time we visited during the evening via a guided tour. This time around we went during the day and wandered around on our own.

The biggest new addition to the collection is the Hard Rock Cafe Guitar Sign, which only went up the week prior to our visit and they were still working on the electrics when we visited. There is a cool time-lapse video of the guitar’s installation on their Instagram page, worth taking a look!

I love that during the day the colours of the signs are the star of the show and really give this place a different feel when compared to a night visit.

This post will be in two parts, as I have too many photos I want to share with you. I hope you enjoy the signs as much as we did!

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The Star Mine Suspension Bridge

The Star Mine Suspension Bridge in Rosedale, AB

Just 9.5km south east of Drumheller the Star Mine Suspension Bridge spans the Red Deer River in Rosedale. It is easily found by following the road signs. Although we have been to Drumheller and down this road a few times, we never even noticed the sign for the bridge, let alone stop here. So, this time around, Mr T, on the spur of the moment, followed the snow and ice-covered road down to the bridge, and I am glad he did.

The bridge is 117m (384ft) long and was used by miners to get from the town of Rosedale to the mine site. Originally, in 1919 this was an aerial cable car system, which transported buckets of coal from the east side of the Red Deer River to the tipple in the town on the west side, as well as taking the miners across the river.  From 1912, when the mine opened, and up until 1919, the men would use row boats to cross the river to the mine. In 1930 the Canadian Pacific Railway built a bridge and a spur line 1.6km up river and a tipple was built at the mine site, making the aerial cable car system surplus to requirements as far as the coal transportation was concerned. In 1931 the aerial cable car system was replaced by the suspension bridge, giving miners an easy way to access the mine site.

The view from the suspension bridge

The mine shut down in 1957, after which the bridge became increasingly popular with tourists and in 1958 the Government of Alberta rebuild the bridge and continues to maintain it for public use.

The views from the bridge are fantastic, and once on the other side you can take a hike up to the old mine site. As the ground was snow and ice-covered we gave that hike a miss, and enjoyed the views instead.

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Day 6 – Ketchikan – City of Salmon and Totem Poles

Our day in Ketchikan started with more wonderful weather; according to locals we were lucky to get so much sunshine in September!

Ketchikan is Alaska’s 4th largest city and is known for its commercial salmon fishing and its indigenous Haida and Tlingit heritage. If you want to see totem poles, Ketchikan is the best place in the US to see them; some of the region’s, and world’s, oldest totem poles are preserved in the small, but wonderful Totem Heritage Center (more about that further down). Ketchikan, like a lot of places in Alaska, is at its busiest during the cruise ship season (May to September), during which around one million visitors descend on this town (technically a city, but size wise more of a town). As we got there at the end of the season it did not feel as crowded as it might do during June/July/August. As is usual with cruise ports, there are a ton of tours you can book either through your cruise company or independently, but you can easily walk this town on your own. You can download and print maps from their town website, or collect one from their Visitor Bureau when you disembark the ship.

This pole stands at the ramp up to the Totem Heritage Center.

 

This post is all about the totem poles; I will cover Creek Street, salmon and some other bits and pieces in later posts.

As mentioned above, the Totem Heritage Center is a not to miss place in town. It is only a half hour walk from the cruise ship terminal and takes you past some wonderful streets and buildings and you can combine this with a loop walk that will take you down Creek Street.

The museum only cost US$6 per person, which is ridiculously cheap and it also allows photography. It is a smaller museum, but packed full of local indigenous history. We arrived well before lunch and there were just a few people visiting at that time. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we walked right past the master carver, who carved some of the outside totem poles, as well as the entry doors. He is a small, unassuming man and it made my day that we had crossed paths without us realizing the significance at the time! The following photos show some of the exhibits, as well as totem poles we saw around town. Enjoy!

These totem poles greet you as you enter the Totem Heritage Center, some of them are 200 years old we have been told.

Outside of the Totem Heritage Center, Ketchikan, AK

This is a carved red cedar panel entitled “Raven stealing the Sun” by Tlingit artists Nathan Jackson and Ernest Smeltzer. It is a representation of the story that tells of how the raven stole the sun and released it into the sky bringing light into the world.

 

A great and colourful display of local dancing masks.

This is the Thunderbird Dance Mask

Indigenous art on the side of a building

This one we found outside a shop specializing in local art pieces.

This eagle was sat alongside a busy road.

A “topper” if you will along the harbour

 

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Playa Larga – much more than we expected

When I started to plan our Cuba trip last year I wasn’t sure about going to Playa Larga, which is a 3-hour car ride south of Havana. Mr T wanted to go there due to the history (Bay of Pigs), so it was put on the plan. I was fairly sure that the accommodation I had booked would be fine, but was the rest worth this trip down?

Playa Larga’s bay

Oh yes! Not only was our accommodation fantastic (as per my previous post on this), but it was the most relaxing 5 days I have ever spent anywhere! As this is not really on the usual tourist path it was a fairly quiet place with a small beach; perfect for us.

The view for breakfast and dinner (dog visits cannot be guaranteed for all!)

So, if you are going down to Cienfuegos and/or Trinidad, make sure you stay at least one night in Playa Larga (message me if you need the details of the casa we used!).

The beginnings of a rain shower

The rugged, but beautiful coastline just outside of our casa in Playa Larga, Cuba

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Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) in Havana

In a previous post I gave some history on the Museum of the Revolution and I thought this warranted some further photos from inside this former presidential palace and some practical tips for a visit.

Museum of the revolution (Museo de la Revolución)

Tickets cost CUC 8 per person, at time of writing, and for a further CUC 2 you can get a guided tour (English tours are available), however, there really is no need to have a tour, as the majority of the exhibits have English translations (it does help however, to have a little knowledge of Cuba’s history). Once you have your ticket you are required to hand in your bags, as no bags are allowed, however, cameras are allowed. There may be a little wait at this point as the museum only has so many bag tickets, so you may have to wait until someone comes to pick theirs up before you can hand your bag in (we only waited a few minutes before a ticket was available).

The museum descents chronologically from top to bottom, with the top floor also housing some art and a gift shop. I suggest you follow the signs to go up the stairs and start at the top and work your way down.

Revolutionary art on the 3rd floor

It was Governor General Aubert who, in 1909 decided that a new venue for the Provincial Government was needed. The original design did not include the tiled cupola and was added to the design at a later date.

The tiled cupola

In 1918 the building became the Presidential Palace when President Mario García Menocal took possession of it while it was still under construction. Construction was finally completed in January 1920 and the building was officially inaugurated.

The Carrara marble main staircase is not open to the public, but is wonderful to view from the bottom steps or from the third floor. It dominates the lobby and leads up to the second floor.

The Carrara marble staircase

The Salón de los Espejos is a replica of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles and was under renovation when we visited, so although we were not able to enter the salon, we still had a great view looking into it from the top floor.

The Hall of Mirrors (Salón de los Espejos), a replica of the Versailles original

The wall detail in the Hall of Mirrors (Salón de los Espejos)

The presidential office is another part of the building that you can only view from behind a barrier, but the room does give you a good idea what it may have looked like during its heyday.

The Presidential Office

The other side of the Presidential Office

One wonderful room that was open to us was the Salón Dorado (Golden Hall), which is made of plated yellow marble with gold embossing on the walls. Four canvases mounted on 18-carat gold sheets grace the walls.

The Golden Hall (Salón Dorado)

The former palace is an important part of Cuban history. From 1959 to 1965, after the revolution, it housed both the Government and the Council of Ministers, and in 1965 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba was formed here. In 1974 the presidential palace transitioned to the museum to the Cuban Revolution, two years later witnessing the approval of the 1976 Constitution, and in 2010 it was declared a national monument.

The Cuban flag on the inside court

Note that there are not many opportunities to sit down, so if this is important to you, be prepared that you may not get the chance to rest. I did find a vacant chair on the upper floor in one of the exhibit rooms, as did some others, and we all took the chance to take a rest and cool down, as the upper rooms were very hot indeed.

As you walk downstairs make sure you take a close look at the walls and you will find some bullet holes, a leftover from an assassination attempt in 1957 on the then president Batista.

The 2nd floor of the museum

The ground floor also contains a little bar (with fantastic aircon!) where you can get a mojito or some bottled water. After cooling down venture to the outside part of the museum, which amongst other items contains Castro’s yacht the Granman, which is housed in a glass building and can only be viewed from the outside.

Despite the fact that some of the exhibits could do with some better English translations, we thought it was well worth visiting this museum. We visited on a weekday in early May this year and did not find it overly busy. All in all I think we spent about 3 hours here and you could easily spent more time here.

 

 

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Havana’s Buildings – Part 3

Havana is a city full of surprises, least of all its buildings; everything can be found here; newly renovated houses, crumbling colonial builds, public buildings, and old majestic stone mansions.

This next set is a mix of new and old, some of which we discovered during our classic car tour (more of this in a later post).

I have no idea where this building stands (I think it was somewhere in the Vedado district), but we passed it on our car tour. The gold decorative detail really drew me in; clearly it has been renovated and I’d like to think that this is how it originally looked. I would love to go inside and have a snoop around – maybe next time!

This building has been beautifully restored

This tall and colourful building stands near the Monte de las Banderas, a plaza directly opposite of the US Embassy on the Malecón. In the background you can see the Edificio López Serrano building, which was built in 1932 and was Cuba’s first skyscraper. It is a replica of the New York Empire State Building (just with the lower 70 floors chopped off). However, I was actually concentrating on photographing the red and yellow tower, and only realized later that the Edificio López Serrano building was in the photo!

Standing tall on the Malecón, Havana with the Edificio López Serrano in the background

This imposing building is Havana’s university, which moved here in 1902. The original university was in Havana Vieja and was founded in 1728 by Dominican monks. This neoclassical complex was built in the second quarter of the 20th century and, other than the university, also contains a natural history museum and an anthropology museum. Some 30,000 students study social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, and economics here.

Universidad de la Habana/University of Havana

Havana has a number of plazas throughout the city and each one is worth a visit. This baroque building, the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, stands in the northwest corner of Plaza de Armas, which is Havana’s oldest square, dating from the 1520s (it was originally known as Plaza de Iglesia). This building was constructed in 1772 as the headquarters of the Spanish vice-governor. Since then it has been a post office, the palace of the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the National Academy of Arts and Letters. It now houses a museum dedicated to Cuban-European cultural relations.

Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Plaza de Armas, Havana

For more buildings, please visit my previous Part 1 and Part 2 posts.

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El Morro – Guardian of Havana’s port

El Morro, guardian of Havana’s harbour

El Morro, or Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro to give it its full name, stands at the entrance of Havana’s port and has done so since 1630, when the building was finished; the famous lighthouse was not added until 1844. El Morro is one of 4 forts build along the water built by the Spanish.

The fort has an irregular polygonal shape, 3m thick walls and a deep protective moat, and is a classic example of Renaissance military architecture. For more than a century the fort withstood numerous attacks by French, Dutch and English privateers (including Sir Francis Drake), but in 1762 after a 44-day siege a 14,000-strong British force captured El Morro by attacking from the landward side.

El Morro hosts a maritime museum which includes an account of the fort’s siege and eventual surrender to the British in 1762 using paintings, artefacts, and narratives in English and Spanish.

Walking into El Morro

The fort sits opposite of Havana’s old town (Havana Vieja) and your best option to cross the water is via a taxi or take a bus (there is a ferry, but that stops at the Fort Casablanca, about a 20 minute walk further down). To enter El Morro you go down some steps to something that does not look like an entrance to a major attraction and once you have paid your 6 CUCs you walk down a narrow walkway to get into the fort.

The views from El Morro out to Havana are fantastic and the travel guides tell you to try to visit to take in a sunset over Havana from the fort; we decided to go during the morning and had El Morro almost to ourselves.

The view towards Havana’s port

The exhibits in the fort are really interesting and the cannons are truly spectacular to see despite some of them looking a little worse for wear.

One of many cannons at El Morro

This building contains the story of the fort as told through paintings, artefacts and narratives

A view down into the fort from its roof

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Old and New

I love the juxtaposition of the old and new in London. Here you have the All Hallows by the Tower church with the Walkie Talkie building in the background.

All Hallows is the oldest church in the City of London and was founded in 675 AD, 300 years before the Tower of London. The church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was extensively damaged in WWII, and only the tower and the walls remained, before it was rebuilt.

The Walkie Talkie building (officially called 20 Fenchurch Street) was completed in 2014 and is 37 storeys high. It contains the Sky Garden, a three-storey visitor attraction, including bars and restaurants.

All Hallows at the Tower and the Walkie Talkie building

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