London – Day 6 – Westminster Cathedral vs Westminster Abbey

…..I had no idea that they were two different churches

The main difference is that the cathedral is Roman Catholic and the Abbey is part of the Church of England. Also the cathedral is much newer. It was built in 1903 and is the largest Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. One of the things that struck us as odd about the interior of the cathedral is how dark the ceiling in the main part of the church is. According to the guide at the entrance, the ceiling is almost black because the main lighting source when it was first built consisted of candles and the soot from the them has darkened the interior. I thought that was odd, considering how wealthy the Catholic Church is but according to history churches built in the early 1900s had to be debt free before they could be consecrated. The interior of the cathedral was never completed but it was consecrated none the less in 1910.

The cathedral is built in the Byzantine style.

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The Abbey on the other hand is much older. It was first constructed in 1245 and was originally Catholic. Henry VIII changed that when the Catholic Church wouldn’t grant him a divorce and he formed the Church of England. In 1560 Queen Elizabeth I re-established Westminster as a “Royal Peculiar” – a church of the Church of England responsible directly to the Sovereign, rather than to a diocesan bishop.

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We didn’t get in line to see the inside of the Abbey but my cousin in Germany has convinced me that when we go back we need to take the tour. It sounds fascinating and worth the money. It is certainly rich in history.

In the next post I will continue with day 6 and describe our walk along the Thames River.

 

London – Day Three – Part 2

…..after Highgate Cemetery

Down the hill from Highgate Cemetery we were directed to look for a pub that came highly recommended. Unfortunately when we got there the pub was being completely renovated and wasn’t open for business. We didn’t have to walk far before we found another place with a lovely patio. It was a little chilly to be sitting outside so we opted to go inside The Vine. Only one other table was occupied but the bartender greeted us and directed us to a table for four and handed us menus.

Normally an empty pub doesn’t bode well for good service or food but in this case it was completely the opposite. Our waiter was delightful and the food was delicious.

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After a pint of larger or cider and a few sharing plates we headed off towards Camden Market.

With hundreds of stalls selling clothing, crafts, and food, Camden Market is one of Europe’s largest markets. It is divided into different markets. We started in the Camden Lock Market which is on the street level and next to the locks. There were lots of food vendors here and a variety of stalls selling anything from books, music and flowers to vintage clothes.IMG-8642
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At first glance I thought the market was actually quite small but then we walked through a hole in the brick wall and we experienced a whole new world. There are literally hundreds of vendors in the Stables Market.

The Stables Market is located in historic former stables and the Grade II horse hospital which served the horses pulling Pickford’s distribution vans and barges along the canal. Many of the stalls and shops are set in large arches in railway viaducts.IMG-8651
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It is very easy to get lost in this place. If you like this kind of market give yourself a couple of hours to really see this place and check out all the vendors.

London – Day 3 – Part One

…one of my favourite days

One of my colleagues from bread making suggested that while we were in London we might want to check out the Highgate Cemetery where numerous famous authors, actors and politicians were laid to rest. It sounded interesting and it was an opportunity to take our first double decker bus ride.

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We sat at the front of the bus for the best views of the neighbourhoods as we ascended the uphill climb to Waterlow Park.IMG-8238
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It was a short walk through the park along paved pathways and over small footbridges to get to Highgate Cemetery.IMG-8242
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Highgate Cemetery is divided into two separate areas: the East Cemetery is open daily to the public for a small entrance fee and one is able to roam through the grounds freely; the West Cemetery is only open to guided tours (unfortunately no tours were available on the day we went).

The eastern part of Highgate is a fascinating place to visit. The tombstones and gravesites along the paved pathways are very well cared for while deeper into the woods many stones are overgrown with ivy and falling over. In some ways the latter sites are the more interesting ones to look at. Many of the inscriptions have been worn away with time but some are still legible and give some insight into the lives of the families buried there.P1070101
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One of the most famous ‘residents’ of Highgate is Karl Marx and most visitors who go there specifically look for his tombstone. He was originally buried in his wife’s grave on a small side path, but in 1956 a new monument featuring a gigantic bust by the socialist sculptor Laurence Bradshaw was installed in a more prominent location. Funds were raised by the Marx Memorial Fund, set up by the Communist Party in 1955.P1070089
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It would take me too long to list all the famous people who are buried at Highgate. Many soldiers who died in both world wars are also buried here and the cemetery continues to serve the residents of north London to this day. George Michael, the English singer and songwriter who died in 2016 is buried in the west cemetery at Highgate.

Here are a few more gravesites that you may or may not recognize.P1070098
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….to be continued.

Thursday Doors – May 24, 2018

….Montgomery’s Inn

At the intersection of Dundas and Islington in the west end of Toronto sits the heritage site of Montgomery’s Inn. The inn was built in 1830 by Thomas and Margaret Montgomery, both immigrants from Ireland. It served as a meeting place for the community and a place for travellers to rest and enjoy a drink and a meal. The original property covered 400 acres of land and was used primarily for farming.

Today the building has been restored and serves as a historical museum and hosts various groups and exhibitions. Momentarily the building is undergoing more restoration but remains open to the public. For more information about the history go here.IMG_1991
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Thanks to Norm for hosting Thursday Doors

Celebrating the Cherry Blossoms

…..the cherry blossoms in High Park have bloomed but won’t last much longer

The blooming of the cherry blossoms in High Park is a big deal. Every year hundreds of thousands flock to the west end of Toronto to take in the cherry blossoms. In 1959 the  Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura trees to the citizens of Toronto on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo. The trees were planted in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War.

Sakura is the Japanese name for flowering cherry trees and their flowers – often referred to as cherry blossoms. The Japanese traditional custom of hanami or “flower viewing” dates back to 710-794 when the Chinese Tang Dynasty influenced Japan with their custom of enjoying flowers. Today when the Sakura trees bloom, Japanese people and people from all walks of life and cultures continue the tradition of hanami, gathering in great numbers along the pathways on the eastern shore of Grenadier Pond in High Park.

Thanks to the High Park Nature Centre for the information about the history of the Cherry Blossoms in High Park. If you get out in the next couple of days you can still catch some of the blossoms before they fall to the ground.

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Thursday Doors – A Peak into Dundurn’s Questionable Past

…..thanks to Norm for hosting Thursday Doors

Yesterday my granddaughter and I walked over to the park at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton. She no longer calls it the dinosaur park but now uses its actual name ‘Dundurn Castle’.

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On the grounds there sits a beautiful small white building with large columns at the entrance. I never gave much thought to what the building was originally used for but when I found out what it might have been potentially used for I was quite shocked. It is referred to as the Cockpit Theatre but according to Wikipedia there is no proof that it was ever used for cockfighting. It is also referred to as a folly, which I had to look up.

fol·ly

[ˈfälē]

NOUN
  1. lack of good sense; foolishness:
    “an act of sheer folly”
  2. a costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.
  3. a theatrical revue, typically with glamorous female performers:
    “the Ziegfeld Follies”

According the Tourism Hamilton, “The Cockpit Theatre is the small Neo-classical building overlooking Burlington Bay on the edge of the escarpment estate. It was built by Sir Allan MacNab as a place to entertain business and political friends in an era two hundred years before action films and reality television.  No archaeological evidence has actually shown that the building was ever used for the activity its name suggests.”

Another source gives this description of its original purpose: One of Dundurn Castle’s favored buildings it is actually a folly as its true purpose will forever remain unknown. Most locals refer to it as housing MacNab’s cockfighting ring as he was an avid participant in this long since banned sport. Local lore has underground tunnels leading from it to the main mansion.

Other uses being designated to it include:

  • A Theatre
  • A boathouse
  • A laundry house
  • An Office
  • A chapel for his wife

 It is confusing to me that all accounts try to deny the use of this beautiful building as a cockfighting pit yet its official name is The Cockpit Theatre and as I peaked inside there were placards describing ‘cockfighting’. In fairness to Dundurn Castle I wasn’t able to read the information through the window so maybe they were debunking the myth. Anyway it makes for an interesting story.

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Rome’s Top 10 – Part 3

….as promised here is my account of Trastevere, the Roman Forum and the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum is a rectangular plaza surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. At the height of the Roman Empire the forum served as the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches and the centre of commercial affairs.

After the fall of the Roman Empire the forum fell into disrepair and in the Middle Ages it was used as a cow pasture. During that time the buildings were plundered for their marble and stone. Excavation of the area began in the 18th and 19th centuries and continues today. It seems as though every time the city undergoes a new construction project it comes across a new archeological find and construction is halted while a new dig takes place. Today the ruins attract 4.5 million tourists a year.

National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II.

This national monument was one of the first impressive buildings that we saw as we were driving to our apartment in the outskirts of Rome. Our taxi driver described it as a war memorial but it was much more than that.  Il Vittoriano was built in 1925 to honor Italy’s first king, who is credited with creating a single Italian kingdom in 1861. It has come under much criticism for being too showy with its thick, gleaming white marble that stands 230 feet (70 meters) tall and is visible from several points across the city. Again we only saw this building from the outside but its immense size and opulent sculptures are a feast for the eyes.

The Trastevere

The Trastevere is a neighbourhood that literally translates to “across the Tiber,” and was once considered the outskirts of Rome. In the three days that we were in Rome we spent two evenings in this Bohemian gem. On our first night we enjoyed authentic Italian pizza in a popular, crowded restaurant close to the Piazza Santa Maria. The cobblestone streets are narrow and windy and one can easily get lost in this quaint medieval neighbourhood. I was glad that my girls had their GPS devises with them. On our way back to the apartment that evening we happened to come across a parade of local residents celebrating one of their Catholic saints.

On our last day in Rome, my son and I ended our whirlwind tour of Vatican city back in Trastevere. After walking over 23 000 steps I needed to take a break and we stopped at a small outdoor bistro where I enjoyed a glass of Proseco while my son walked to the tram to pick up his sister, her daughter and his father. There was no way that they would have found the location on their own. B’s wife joined us as well and we had a lovely final evening together on our last day in Italy.

There are many other wonderful sites to see in Rome. I have mentioned only a handful of interesting places to visit that I experienced first hand. Many of these places I would go back to and spend more time exploring the interiors. Do you have any favourite places to visit in Rome? I’d love to hear about them for my next adventure to to this great historic city.

Ciao!