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.

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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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Let’s Go Cottage Hunting ….

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As one travels into mid and southern Florida the Key West architectural style becomes increasingly prominent. I am referring to the design in the pretty cottage in this blog image. Sometimes the stucco exterior is painted in bright, bold colors, but more often you will observe these cottages are painted in softer pastels. This style usually has a wide covered front verandah loaded down with many flower pots and hanging planters. Some wicker chairs, perhaps a rocker, offer comfy relaxation.  A cute little white picket fence, usually not very high, completes the scene.

Now contrast the Key West style to the Spanish/Mexican “adobe” architecture which is  often seen in the south western states such as Arizona and New Mexico. The adobe design makes use of decorative wrought iron, an inner courtyard and arched windows and doorways. See the image “Adobe Welcome” in my blog entry of January 1, 2016 for an example of the Mexican architectural design.

Both architectural styles are distinctly different and have their own appeal.  Your preference?key-west-charm-copy

Key West Charm

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Hey Man … How’s It Goin’?

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I couldn’t resist taking a shot of this whimsical wooden African face in Florida last year. A long piece of lumber securely fastened it into the ground in front of a restaurant.  A cement post and other clutter around the restaurant distracted from its unique appeal. So I decided to place him against a soft, wispy sky near a beach. Now he almost needs a name!

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African Face Art

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Kiss … Kiss … Kissing Bridge …

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In the 19th century when horse and buggy were the common mode of transportation, many covered bridges dotted the landscape. There were a couple theories behind the idea of enclosing a bridge with a roof and high sides. Horse travel was treacherous in the winter;  a cover on a bridge decelerated the process of ice formation, making it safer for horses to cross a bridge.  Also, high water levels during spring runoff would spook a horse that sees the fast flowing river beneath. The high wooden sides on a bridge conceal the water from a horse’s view.

One remaining covered bridge in Ontario, Canada is located deep in the heart of Mennonite and Amish country and is still used by local horse and buggy traffic. Built in 1881, the initial structure was made only of wood. It has undergone several transformations over the years to strengthen and preserve its integrity using stone, asphalt, concrete, and steel.

Legend has it that when courting, young couples would take the opportunity to steal a kiss in private, away from watchful eyes, under cover of the dimly lit bridge. It became fondly known as the “Kissing Bridge”.

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Kissing Bridge

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