Let’s Take A Ride ….

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On a recent trip to Montreal, Canada I came across what looked like a nearly-assembled ferris wheel at the Old Port Harbor.  The large wheel had a few seats at the top but none around the sides or bottom.  I snapped a few photos and went on my merry way.

Then on researching Montreal Ferris Wheel for this blog I learned that when completed the wheel won’t be a standard ferris wheel, but an Observation Wheel.  At 60 meters tall, this wheel offers panoramic views of the St. Lawrence River, the harbor, Old Montreal, and the Laurentian Mountains.

Named La Grande Roue de Montreal, this new attraction will have enclosed compartments instead of the standard open-air ferris wheel seats.  The compartments will be air-conditioned in summer and heated in winter.  Each glass-enclosed gondola can seat up to eight people and take passengers on a magical 15-minute, three-turn rotation.

For added enjoyment, one can purchase a glass of wine or other beverage from the bistro at the base of the wheel and take it onto the gondola.

Scheduled to be finished in late summer of 2017, this structure is among the tallest of its kind in North America.  Looking forward to my next trip to Montreal!!

Old Port Observation Wheel, Old Montreal Canada copy

Montreal’s Observation Wheel

Side view Montreal's Observation Wheel copy

Tourists pedal boating in Montreal harbour near Old Port Observation Wheel copy

Out With The Old … In With The New

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An old brick and mortar church steeple juxtaposed against modern glass buildings is a scene one would not expect to happenstance upon.  Little did I realize as I gazed at this architectural oxymoron that I was looking at North America’s largest healthcare facility. Or it will be when it is finished in 2021.

But let’s get back to the steeple. Like many churches in Montreal Canada, Saint Sauveur has suffered from declining attendance in recent decades. Built in 1852, its Gothic facade and tin steeple were a testament to the architectural fashion of the era, and to the prominent position the church once held within the community. Empty and abandoned, the church was slated for demolition against protestors who wished to preserve the old building.

Land was needed for a new large hospital, and the land the church stood upon was chosen as the construction site. Incorporating the church’s beautiful facade and steeple into the new hospital was meant to appease those who protested the project.

CHUM (Centre Hospitalier de l’Universite de Montreal) occupies two full blocks in downtown Montreal.  With more than 3 million square feet, this facility combines teaching, research, and healthcare.  CHUM supports 772 single patient rooms designed to accommodate family members.

Entrance to old churchwith modern office towers built around it, Montreal Canada copy

CHUM Healthcare Facility, Montreal

Front part of old church remains while modern office buildings are built around it, Montreal, Canada copy

Confederation Bridge … The World’s Longest

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In 1873 a tiny island off the east coast of Canada became Canada’s newest province. At the time Prince Edward Island was promised a continuous link to New Brunswick, its nearest province neighbour some 13 km (8 miles) distant.

For more than 100 years ferry service and other water transportation carried Islanders across Northumberland Strait. However, harsh winters and stormy seas often made boat crossings dangerous and sometimes impossible. Ice would trap vessels, disrupting service for days.

Discussion of building a bridge, and the necessary funding for its construction began in Parliament in the 1960s. But cost estimates for this enormous project skyrocketed to such a price that the enterprise was put on hold for a few decades. Then in the late 1980s the “bridge” idea re-emerged.

In 1993 a private entity began construction of the bridge, taking four years to complete. Its official opening on May 31, 1997 deemed Canada’s Confederation Bridge the world’s longest bridge, an engineering feat, to be sure!


Julie at Confederation Bridge

Julie, my traveling companion at Confederation Bridge

Confederation Bridge spans Northumberland Strait, Canada

Confederation Bridge spans Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island, Canada

Victoria Park’s Boathouse … An Unusual Twist

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Named after England’s Queen Victoria, Kitchener Ontario Canada’s namesake park sprawls over some 59 acres in the downtown core.  Victoria Park has seen many changes over its more than a century history.

A man-made lake on the edge of the Park has a much different purpose today than in the past.  In the summers of the 1950s and ’60s, one could pay a nominal fee to rent a canoe and paddle around the small lake.  A rental of more than 1/2 hour would be wasteful because there are not many places to paddle on a little bitty lake. Canoes were stored in an old frame building after hours and off season.

In the winter the lake became a wonderful outdoor skating rink.  Children of all ages would skate and twirl on the ice, music blaring from outdoor speakers.  People could go into the old boat storage building to warm fingers and toes, and re-lace loosened skates.

The nostalgic days of skating and canoeing on Victoria Park Lake are long past.  The canoes are gone and there is no ice rink anymore.  But … one piece of history remains … the old boat house.

Today The Boathouse, with its same creaky old floorboards is a live music venue for blues bands.  The former canoe platform now serves diners lakeside.

Victoria Park Lake copy

Victoria Park Lake

Gravensteen Castle … Saved From Demolition

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In the 12th century a castle was built in Flanders, west Belgium in the city now known as Ghent. Gravensteen Castle (Castle of the Counts, Flemish translation), initially served as the seat of government for the Counts of Flanders.

The Counts abandoned their castle after a few hundred years and Gravensteen was turned over for use as a courthouse, a prison, and even a factory. Structures were built up against its walls and stones from the castle walls were used in their construction. The Castle itself fell into disrepair and it was scheduled for demolition by the end of the 19th century.

Fortunately for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who now visit annually, Gravensteen was saved from demolition by a major renovation project  The main floor is now a museum with some of the torture devices that were applied on prisoners.

But my favourite area of the Castle is the roof, where one can see the beautiful skyline of Ghent, with its medieval flavor.

Gravensteen Castle, Ghent Belgium

Skyline of beautiful Ghent, Belgium

Flowing Rivers

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Like most large European cities, a river flows through Brussels, Belgium. But the Zenne River in Brussels has a history that stands a little apart from other rivers.

In the early 19th century The Zenne was a major waterway, used for transporting goods, people and livestock to and from the City. But by the second half of the 19th century as Brussels was growing into a metropolis the Zenne became polluted and posed serious health hazards. Government officials decided the best remedy to the pollution problem was to cover over the river with a series of grand boulevards and public buildings.

Now fast forward to the 1930s. It was decided that the course of the Zenne should be changed, and the river was diverted to the City’s downtown periphery. It took many years and many attempts at water purification until the Zenne River once again became clean and safe.

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River View

 

 

 

Bruges, Belgium … Interesting Gables And Other Blurbs

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One develops an appreciation for the varied architectural styles by traveling to far-off lands.

It was in Bruges Belgium the first time I came into contact with the stepped gable at a building’s roof line. Also referred to as a crow-stepped gable, the step pattern gives easy access to the roof ridge when repairs are needed. During construction it is easier to fit a square or rectangular brick or stone into a perpendicular space rather than to cut each stone at an angle to match the roof’s pitch.

The City of Bruges (Brugge in Dutch)  was largely destroyed during World War II. After the war it was rebuilt to match the charming medieval style of its pre-war days. And the “rebuilders” did a beautiful job.

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Crow-Stepped Gable Roof Design

 

Residential District, Bruges Belgium

Residential District, Bruges Belgium

Weather … The Wet Kind

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After wintering in the sunny south for eight years, my husband and I decided to take a year off and catch up on a few home repair and renovation projects. Summer provides too many outdoor distractions, and interior work seems to get delayed another week or another month. How can one stay inside and work when the gorgeous outdoors beckons?

I shot the first image from my deck during our stay-at-home winter. A fresh snowfall followed by freezing rain crusted the trees with a beautiful white blanket. Not great driving conditions but pretty to look at.

The second image was taken four months earlier in August during a severe rainstorm. I used a tripod and slow shutter speed to capture the heavy streaks of rain and the force with which it pelted down.

It’s no wonder Canadians love to talk about the weather!

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Ice Crusted Trees

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Cloudburst

John’s Pass ..Where The Sun Always Shines

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Of all the excursions we take while wintering in Florida, John’s Pass is one of my favourite haunts. Located about 3 miles up Gulf Boulevard in Madeira Beach, it’s a nice morning walk from our condo in St. Pete Beach.

One can stroll along the boardwalk, pick up a coffee or hot chocolate and be entertained by dolphins as they dive for fish. You can take one of several “dolphin watch” boat tours on the calm bay waters. Fish are tossed into the water from the tour boats to attract dolphins swimming nearby. As the tour finishes and the boats come into dock, scores of pelicans are ready to snatch any remaining tidbits of fish.

Two floors of shops and restaurants will delight both shopaholics and seafood lovers.

John’s Pass … a great day trip … just make sure you visit on a sunny day.

 

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John’s Pass, Florida

 

 

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Gathering of Pelicans at John’s Pass

 

 

Water, Water .. Everywhere …..

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One Canadian Snowbird has decided to stay put this winter and try to muster the courage to see my way through to the delicious fragrances and colours of spring.

While typing this blog I’m sipping hot chocolate by a cozy fireplace and sorting through thousands of images of past winter vacations in sunny Florida. I can almost hear the surf lapping onto one of Florida’s hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and breathe in the saltiness in the air from the gulf waters. Then reality serves a blow as I look out my window and see yet another bleak day and another snowfall beginning.  Ah … back to my Florida Fantasy World!

Something I miss about vacationing in Florida are the beach walks. Morning power walks along nearly deserted beaches are great for the cardio system. Then on late afternoon and evening strolls with a camera I captured all sorts of outdoor fun activities.  And the glorious gulf sea breeze …  that’s what I miss most of all.

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beached