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Spiky silhouettes

The palm fronds are spiky seen against this sunset in Harlingen, Texas.

March’s square theme is Spiky Squares (spiky, jagged, pointy, bristly, serrated, prickly, spiny, and/or barbed)

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Stratford Walk 2: history and houses

Like my Stratford Walk 1: the lake, this walk begins at the County Court House. It was built in the Queen Anne Revival style in the late 1880s. The same architect was responsible for the nearby Stratford Jail — or Gaol, as it appears on the building itself.

Still serving its original purpose as a jail.

Between the court house and river lie the Shakespearean Gardens (I posted about them here). The gardens are dominated by the chimney of a mill destroyed by fire in 1910; the ornate chimney top is a giant bird house with 24 dwellings (“des res” indeed!). In the background is the spire of St Joseph’s church across the river.

St Joseph’s church and Dufton Mill chimney.

Still on the theme of tall pointy buildings, this is the City Hall peeking above the trees. Doesn’t it just radiate civic pride?

This is Stratford’s second City Hall, built in 1900. The first ws destroyed by fire.

The street in front of the court house and gardens leads to the Huron Street bridge (the feature image at top), which is the only double-arched aqueduct road bridge in North America still used for vehicle traffic. It gives a good view west along the river to part of the Shakespearean Gardens and an island linked with a bridge.

Turn west once you’ve crossed the bridge and meander along the bank for a different view of the Gardens.

Shakespearean Gardens

Farther along the river, a rail bridge appears between trees. “CN” stands for Canadian National [Railways].

“CN” is easier to see in the reflection.

Turn around and come back east, passing the stone bridge. From the river bank you can see the island bridge framed by an arch of the stone bridge.

Wander a bit farther and you’ll come to this white pergola at the west end of Lake Victoria (the lake was created by damming the river). The first pergola on this site was built in the early 1930s, and was swept away in 1937 when the Avon and Thames Rivers flooded. I think this one was built as recently as 2010.

Just past the pergola you can glimpse a sign telling you the lake path is “unavailable” at this point.

You are not welcome beyond this point.

Near the pergola is this plaque detailing the history of the city.

Much younger than its namesake in England, but with a solid Canadian history.

Time to cross the river again, past the court house and down the residential streets. It may seem strange to find a railway running behind the houses, but as you read in the founding plaque, the railways played an important part in Stratford’s economy and growth. They are less prominent now but you can still hear the long echoing note of an engine’s horn as the trains wind their ways past houses and across streets. I always get the train between Toronto and Stratford.

You’d never know this was the middle of a city of 30,000 people.

I have always loved old houses. To me, they have so much more character and charm than modern buildings. The notable houses in streets to the southwest of the court house were built in the second half of the 1800s, in a range of styles such as Queen Anne, Italianate, Gothic — even Ontario and something called Neo‐Classical Salt Box House. I followed two self-guided walks downloaded from the city’s tourism website (the source of my descriptions), and stood in front of houses trying to spot details such as “bay window with a neo‐classical pediment on the porch” and “stained glass transom window and sandstone lintels”, bargeboards and corbels and pilasters. Many of these beautiful houses are designated Heritage Homes.

Verandahs are a common feature, and these ones all look like lovely spots to while away an hour or two.


Doors and gateways offer glimpses of hidden gardens.

Statues are popular.

The sad-looking building below is known locally as the White House. In my younger years it was rundown and faded yet nonetheless retained traces of its former glory. Then a few years ago when I visited I was amazed to find it restored and gorgeous, operating as possibly a B&B. According to the walk notes, “Built in 1866 as a Regency Cottage; the second storey was added, as was the large portico, by the Walsh family. It remained in the family for several generations and was recently restored.” The text must date from the few years the building enjoyed its restoration, because it looks pretty grim right now.

A beautiful building in desperate need of love.

This Gothic triple‐gabled house (now a duplex) is clearly loved and well cared for. It dates to 1867.

And finally, an 1892 Queen Anne building made in buff brick.

No ice cream to finish off this walk, I’m afraid!

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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Skyscraper (The Bruges Whale)

I was inspired to post my own photos of Skyscraper (The Bruges Whale) actually in Bruges after seeing Debbie’s post of the whale in Utrecht. I didn’t know the whale is a travelling exhibit although I think that’s a marvellous idea — the more people who see this powerful reminder of the plastic clogging the world’s oceans, the better.

The whale is made from 5 tons of plastic waste pulled out of the Pacific Ocean, turned into a 4 story tall whale for the 2018 Bruges Triennial – a powerful reminder of the 150,000,000 tons of plastic waste still swimming in our waters. (source)

Here you get a better view of what’s in those 5 tons.


Interestingly, the photos on the creators’ kickstarter page show Skyscraper coming much higher (and more dramatically!) out of the water. I assume those photos are pre-installation generated images and the exhibit had to be lowered for safety and/or structural reasons. Regardless, Skyscraper is a dramatic, attention-grabbing call to action.

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Stratford Walk 1: the lake

Perth County Court House in Stratford

The walk begins at the Perth County Court House in Stratford

Are you confused? Do these photos look nothing like the Stratford you know, that lovely medieval English market town that gave the world William Shakespeare? That’s because this Stratford — and this Avon River — are in Canada, 130 km (80 miles) west of Toronto. And it also has a strong Shakespeare connection, which we’ll get to.

From the court house, the path around the lake is about 5km. I like to do this walk when I visit Stratford. My maternal grandparents moved to the town in the 1970s, and my parents in the 1990s, so I’ve made quite a few visits since I was a teenager.

This is a pretty, leafy, landscaped walk with not a hill in sight.

If you don’t fancy walking, there are watery alternatives.

Art in the Park has been a feature for years.

Amusing garbage cans, though I’m confused by the bee theme.

This lovely bridge has been the spot for many, many photos over the years.

Approaching the bridge

Looking back at the bridge

Here is the Shakespeare connection I mentioned. In the early 1950s, Stratford local Tom Patterson drove the establishment of a theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare. On July 13, 1953, English actor Alec Guinness spoke the first lines of the first play produced by the festival, a production of Richard III: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York.” For the first four seasons, performances took place in a concrete amphitheatre covered by a giant canvas tent on the banks of the River Avon. The permanent theatre that followed (photo below) deliberately echoed the look of a tent. (source)

The Festival Theatre

The festival now runs from April to October and in addition to Shakespeare it presents a variety of theatre including musicals and contemporary drama, in four theatres. (My mother and I saw “The Music Man” in August last year, when I took these photos.) Famous actors who appeared at Stratford include Maggie Smith (1976 to 1980) and William Shatner (seasons 2, 3 and 4). (This short interview with Shatner has some interesting photos of the festival’s early days).

This statue of Shakespeare is in the garden behind the theatre.

Back to the path now. Near the theatre is where you’ll find the largest numbers of swans and geese. They definitely have right of way.

At the east end of the lake you can look back to see the spire of the court house over the trees.

Time to cross over and head back on the other side. There are some inviting spots here for just sitting and watching the world or having a picnic.

This is the path opposite the theatre.

William Hutt was described as “Canada’s great classical actor” when he died in 2007. I remember seeing him as Falstaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor, 40 years ago. (I can’t believe I’m old enough to say that, but according to a review in the NY Times it was indeed 1978.) That’s more of the court house peeping over the trees, and you can see a number of bright orange pedalos on the lake by the shore (something else I remember from 40 years ago!).

At this point, you must walk across the bridge because the path that continues around the west end of the lake has been closed.

Here you can see why it’s “unavailable”: rich people not wanting riff raff walking in front of their houses. I certainly remember walking there in the past. Time for some “reclaim the ancient rights of way!” agitation by the people, I think!

I know Jo likes cake at the end of her walks, but as much as I like cake I do gravitate towards ice cream after a walk. 😉

“Stratford Walk 2: history and houses” is coming soon.

For more walks from all around the world, head to Jo’s Monday Walks.


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The view from the window: Moselle meets Rhine

 The Moselle River (darker water) flows into the Rhine River (beige-coloured water) at Koblenz.

The Moselle River (darker water) flows into the Rhine River (beige-coloured water) at Koblenz.

I took one look at Nancy’s photo for this week’s Unexpected Windows challenge and knew I had to post this photo. Nancy’s photo and mine are of the same thing — they both feature the confluence of the two rivers and the triangular-ish Deutsches Eck (“German Corner”) headland — but are taken from different places in Koblenz. My photo (dreadful quality, sorry, it’s a scan of a mediocre print from 1991) is from a window in the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress on the east bank of the Rhine, which is on top of the green hill you can see on the right in Nancy’s photo.


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Blue Foot Boogie

Blue-footed boobies Galápagos Islands

Check out my blue feet, babe!

According to National Geographic, “Blue-footed boobies are aptly named, and males take great pride in their fabulous feet. During mating rituals, male birds show off their feet to prospective mates with a high-stepping strut. The bluer the feet, the more attractive the mate.” I photographed these birds in the Galápagos Islands in 1999. The images are poor quality but you can see those blue feet.

Blue-footed boobies Galápagos Islands

Struttin’ my stuff.

Blue-footed boobies Galápagos Islands

So I’ve got blue feet. What’s it to ya?

Blue-footed boobies Galápagos Islands

Posted as part of One Word Sunday: Blue

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Around the bend

The Ghan at Manguri, South Australia

The Ghan at Manguri, South Australia

If you ride The Ghan the 2,977km (1,850 miles) from Darwin to Adelaide, as a friend and I did in August 2016, you will stop at Manguri in South Australia. There is nothing in Manguri. There isn’t even a train station. This enormous train, which on average is 774m (2,540ft) long but can be up to 1,096m (3,595ft), slowly — very slowly — sighs to a halt in the desert. Manguri is, however, the gateway to Coober Pedy, aka the opal capital of the world. And when passengers return from touring the mines, the underground houses, the underground church, and the desert golf course, they gather beside the train for drinks and nibbles as the sun sets (feature photo at top). Quite marvellous.

This stop also gives an unprecedented opportunity to get up close to the train without stations or fences or people getting in the way, although a rather belligerent guard did prevent me from walking across the track to take a photo that included the entire train stretching away into the distance around the bend. (It’s the middle of a desert, I hardly think that another train would have taken me unawares!!) So although The Ghan’s vanishing point is not quite as impressive as it should be, the train itself most assuredly is.

The Ghan at Manguri, South Australia

The Ghan at Manguri, South Australia