Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grenadian Rum will knock your socks off

Spice up the holiday season this year with a visit to Grenada, ‘The Spice of the Caribbean.’ Trade in the mittens and hot chocolate for a pinch of Caribbean spice, rum punch and warm, sunny days.

Seen from my room with a view
A part of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the Island of Grenada is a little piece of paradise and the perfect destination to ring in the New Year. Whether you’re solo, or travelling with family or friends, spending the holidays in Grenada will certainly be memorable.

 The tiny island offers a change of pace and a different way to celebrate the holidays. For those visitors looking for rest and relaxation, the island has over 40 white sand and black sand beaches, including the famed Grand Anse Beach. Grenada is also home to a tropical rainforest, perfect for hiking opportunities. For those looking to get out on the water, Grenada is a popular yachting destination and offers some of the Caribbean’s best diving. Whatever type of holiday you’re after, it can be found in Grenada, ‘The Spice of the Caribbean.’

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Corfe Castle; a place of haunting

From the mysterious apparitions of a marching Roman legion to the ghostly recollections of a much-loved Prime Minister, a day out in a hauntingly atmospheric house will give everyone a fright. During Halloween, the haunting season, enjoy eerie tours and creepy tales in some of Britain’s oldest homes, where the floorboards creek and the faces of the past stare out from every wall.

Royal cruelty and a headless Lady at Corfe Castle, Dorset
Believed to have been first settled 6,000 years ago, Corfe Castle is a majestic, brooding ruin and with many years of turbulent history that includes Civil War, torture, treachery and imprisonment.

Legend tells of the 18 year old Anglo-Saxon heir to the throne, murdered in the grounds of the castle at the orders of his stepmother, Queen Elfrida. She was determined to bring about the succession of her son, Ethelred, later known as ‘The Unready’. While in the 14th century, Edward II was imprisoned at Corfe prior to his own horrific murder.

During the Civil War, Corfe belonged to a family supportive of the Royalists, and was overrun by Cromwell’s Roundhead’s and eventually blown up. The sound of a child weeping can occasionally be heard nearby and it is believed that the headless body of a woman in white who stalks the battlements and walls of the ruins is the one who betrayed the besieged Royalists, bringing about the ruin of both the family and their formidable fortress.

A murderous past at Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire
Given Baddesley Clinton’s history (it was a haven for persecuted Catholics in the Elizabethan era) it isn’t a surprise that there are a number of ghost stories associated with the house.

Many people claim to have heard ghostly footsteps along corridors and have had the unnerving experience of seeing door handles turned by an unseen hand. In the 19th century, a house guest wrote, “I once heard that solemn tread. It had an awful and mournful sound…and affected me deeply.”

The library at Baddesley Clinton is particularly known for its dramatic history. In Tudor times, this was a first-floor chamber. It was here that, according to legend, Nicholas Broome, who had inherited the house in 1483, returned home unexpectedly and “slew ye minister of Baddesley Church finding him in his plor (parlour) chockinge (choking) his wife under ye chinne…” The slaughtered priest’s bloodstain made an indelible mark in front of the library fireplace, but scientific analysis has since proved that the stain was actually pig’s blood. Nevertheless the murder was documented as having occurred at Baddesley Clinton, in one of the older parts of the house.

The hard-up Duchess of Ham House, Surrey
Set on the banks on the River Thames, Ham House, near Richmond, is said to be one of the National Trust’s most prolifically haunted houses. Once home to the tenacious and strong-willed Duchess of Lauderdale, a highly ambitious aristocrat, it is her ghost which is believed to roam the house to this day.

After ignoring public outrage about the unseemly haste of her match to the 1st Earl of Lauderdale, whom she married after the convenient death of both her husband and the Earl’s wife, they set about living at Ham in luxurious style. However, when the Earl fell out of Royal favour and died in 1682, he left the Duchess increasingly hard-up; forced to sell many of her prized possessions she ended her days at Ham, writing “I am a prisoner now in my beloved Ham House, and I will never leave.”

The ground-floor room to which she retreated, the Duchess’s Bedchamber, now has a strangely oppressive atmosphere. The room emits sounds of footsteps and wafts of the Duchess’s favourite rose scent, while her looking glass with its slightly clouded appearance is often home to the reflection of a malevolent looking figure. So powerful is the atmosphere in this room that some of the staff take the precaution of murmuring “Good afternoon, your ladyship” before entering.

A lifeless legion march at Treasurer’s House, York York is the leading contender for the title of the most haunted city in Britain, with at least 140 ghosts, and the Treasurer’s House, built over the main Roman thoroughfare leading into York, was featured in the Guinness Book of Records for having ‘Ghosts of the greatest longevity’.

Many people have reported seeing the ghosts of a Roman army in the cellars of Treasurer’s House. The best known account is of an engineer who was installing central heating in cellars of the house, when he heard the sound of a trumpet and saw the top of a soldier’s helmet apparently emerging from the wall against which he had just been working. He leapt from his ladder, watching in disbelief as behind the trumpet player plodded a horse and about twenty soldiers walking two abreast, carrying lances, round shields and short swords.
The engineer was not alone in his Roman vision. While the house was in private hands in the 1920s, a fancy dress party was held and one guest was amused to find herself in the cellars with a man dressed as a Roman soldier who barred her passage by placing a spear across the corridor… she was less amused to discover subsequently that not one of the guests had come dressed as a Roman soldier.

More to follow ...

Post from Ted Flett

Photograph copyright Anne Gordon

Friday, October 7, 2011

So I’d meant to visit the Heart Machine. It seemed to be a nifty concept, the idea of taking control of your city, instead of passively waiting for the city to happen and you just being an observer. As the artist had written, the interaction between citizen and city was meant to be symbiotic.

Long before you saw the exhibit you could see the orange flicker of the Heart Machine on the upper walls of nearby buildings. I was especially interested as the Heart Machine had been featured last year at the counter-cultural Burning Man Festival in Nevada. The whole idea is that these 4 big severed arteries or maybe it was the Vena Cava, would belch huge roiling puffs of flame into the sky when triggered to do so by some good citizen who was beating at the heart. Well it certainly was a spectacle and it drew a crowd of citizens who chose to interact with the exhibit.

Carl, Jeff, Maggie and I were standing around the Heart Machine somewhat passively watching this fire twirling girl toss a flaming stick around when this Mohawk’d fellow climbed up onto a reddish mound that I took to be the heart. Immediately the heart seemed to be picking up the pace. The pulse was increasing and the night above was lit by great roars and exhalations of fire.  Then the citizens arrived – planned or not they certainly added to the atmosphere and if it had not been for the chill in the air I could well have imagined that I was at the Burning man Festival myself.

I felt it first – this primitive vibration in my gut, a pounding beat explained as “Step-Dub” by Jeff who is familiar with the rave scene. The street was packed and a mob was moving toward us – the smell of weed (cannabis) preceding their arrival. It was a mobile rave where the police were conspicuous in their absence, several hundred youths in varying degrees of stonedness, one fellow near me puffing a joint so large it lit the crowd up all around him. There was this guy who looked like Renfield from Dracula, faeries, various pseudo Manga characters, kids in masks, costumes, fancy gowns and tons of neon glow sticks. And of course a couple of rave queens in a pickup and another vehicle behind that was like a float. “Water, anybody got water?” a young fellow cried out to nobody in particular.

The music was pounding out so loud that I could barely hear Maggie saying “Lets get out of here, this is getting out of control”. As though in reaction to the new arrivals, the heart was now spewing flame as though it had just ruptured. A fire engine was caught up in the mess and its siren added to the chaos.

You might say that these citizens of Toronto had come to interact with the heart, and interact they did!!! It was a symbiosis that seemed symbolic of recent interactions – read into it what you will.

Photograph copyright Michael Gordon

Post from guest blogger Michael Gordon.  For more on the Nuit Blanche Toronto 2011 visit Michael's website http://www.rockwatching.wordpress.com/

Udaipur's Romantic Lake Palace

Built in 1746 as a romantic tryst for Udaipur’s royal prince Maharana Jagat Singh II to entertain his paramours, the Lake Palace to this day, weaves a spell of enchantment around all who visit it.

Resembling a Venetian palace and built entirely of marble, this stark white confection of cupolas, tranquil gardens with lily ponds, fountains and sprays of crimson Bougainvillea covers every inch of a four acre rock in the middle of Lake Pichola.

Like another world, part of its charm for us was that it was cut off from the bustle of city life just a ten minute boat ride away. We were blessedly free from the roar of car and bus engines. There were no pigs foraging in garbage at the roadside, no sacred cows lying in the middle of the road disrupting the traffic.

Water Hyacinth
As I sat at the window of our suite the ancient chant of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, and the passionate, tremulous notes of an Indian gazal drifted across the water. Close-by a grey cormorant perched on the bow of a fishing boat with wings spread wide to catch cool breezes, whilst clumps of water hyacinth splashed with blue swayed sensuously at each passing of the water taxi.

Lake Palace, room with a view
Life was not always as tranquil in the Palace, though. There was a time during the rule of the British Raj when tensions ran high between the British authorities and the head of India’s premier royal family. Called upon to enlist men for the British army during the First World War, Maharana Fateh Singh, a feisty old fellow, exerted his royal privilege and declined. To him the British rulers were upstarts. Nevertheless, after the war he was awarded a military medal which he brushed aside with a disdainful “Put it on my horse. This is the sort of thing my messengers wear”.

More to follow ...

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon
Posted on Friday, October 7th, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The program is based in the heart of the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone’s quiet northeast corner and features YAI’s signature combination of classroom learning and in-field observation led by Institute naturalists and guest speakers. These programs are offered when the park hotels are not open so guests practically have the park to themselves.

“Ever since wolves were reintroduced to the park in 1995 and 1996 after an absence of 60 years, they have captured the public’s fascination,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of the Yellowstone Association. “We offer a variety of wolf-oriented programs, and these full weeks bring together people who share a common curiosity and desire to know more.”

Lamar Valley Wolf Week will be held Nov. 27 - Dec. 1 and Dec. 12-16, 2011 and March 6-10, 12-16 and 18-22, 2012. The programs are limited to 19 participants, and the minimum age is 12. Rates are $610 for members of the Yellowstone Association. Catered meals, use of snowshoes, instruction and in-park transportation are included.

Participants can rent a sleeping bag and pillow for $20. Shared cabins are $30 per person per night. Subject to availability, participants may also book the cabins privately for $75 per night for one or two people.

The program begins with dinner followed by an orientation on the first night. Participants will then begin each morning by searching for wolves in Lamar Valley – the world’s premier location for observing wolves in the wild. As the sun rises and the wolves settle down for the day, participants will switch gears with snow excursions into wolf habitat under the guidance of an Institute instructor. Afternoons will be unstructured, allowing for participants to peruse the Ranch’s library, relax in small groups or nap in preparation for the early mornings. Dinner each evening is followed by a presentation, guest speaker or the opportunity to head out into the night with the group to listen for wolf howls under the stars.

The program also features hikes on snow-packed trails, or snowshoe trips of up to three miles per day with climbs up to 250 feet. This program includes instruction, snowshoes and three catered meals a day. Meals begin with dinner on Monday and end with breakfast on Friday.

Reservations for the Lamar Valley Wolf Week and Private Tours can be made by calling 1-406-848-2400. Reservations for the Winter Wolf Discovery can be made by calling 1-866-439-7375.

Posted on Thursday, 6th October, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New Year fireworks at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Light Up the New Year in Edinburgh
VisitScotland gives one lucky person the chance to start the world famous Edinburgh's Hogmany 2011/12 midnight fireworks.

In what is a first, Scotland’s national tourism organisation, VisitScotland, along with Edinburgh’s Hogmanay and Festivals Edinburgh, is offering the chance to kick off 2012 in style by starting the Edinburgh’s Hogmanay fireworks this New Year.

Not only does this money-can’t buy prize give someone the chance to launch one of the world’s biggest parties, it also includes travel to and from Edinburgh, an exclusive three-night stay in a four-star hotel and three-day Edinburgh Pass.

To enter the competition, visit http://www.edinburghsfireworks.ca/

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay has long been considered the world’s original and best New Year Party. Three days of incredible cultural highlights and celebratory events: theatre, music, dance and Street Party extravaganzas attract massive crowds from across the globe. The world famous Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations are the only way to bring in the New Year.

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Artistic Director, Pete Irvine said: ‘The opportunity for someone to travel to the ‘Home of Hogmanay’ to start our world famous fireworks is incredibly exciting and will be an experience they will never forget. The Midnight Fireworks is broadcast globally to an audience of over 1 billion people and to say that you ‘pushed the button’ that started celebrations around the world will be unforgettable.

Mike Cantlay, Chairman of VisitScotland, said: “This really is the chance of a lifetime. The Hogmanay celebrations are a vitally important time for Scotland with the world’s eyes cast on Edinburgh for that big moment at midnight. For someone to say that they started the world’s biggest party off, it really doesn’t get any better than that.”

The night will also herald the beginning of the Year of Creative Scotland. The third in a series of focus years following Homecoming 2009, will see the start of a year-long celebration of Scottish culture and creativity through events around the country.

Photo copyright VisitScotland

Posted on Wednesday, 5th October, 2011