Thursday, September 21, 2017

Archive for the ‘Places’ Category

Moravian Tile Works & Fonthill Castle

Posted by Stu On March - 13 - 2016

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Photos from 3/13

I drove by this a few times on the way to New Hope and was curious what exactly it was.  After being assigned a paper for a Museum Studies class and randomly choosing Fonthill Castle from a list of local museums, I got my answer.  Henry Chapman Mercer, who owned both Fonthill Castle and the adjacent Moravian Tile Works (as well as the Mercer Museum elsewhere in Doylestown) was a wealthy archaeologist, anthropologist, and lover of history.  Fonthill Castle was his home and now serves as a museum.  Unfortunately, it was closed the day we stopped by, but the Moravian Tile Works were open.  The Tile Works are a living history site, with workers making products as they were made nearly 200 years ago.  I was intrigued by the architecture of the place, which consists of a mix of several styles from previous civilizations.

I’m aware I’m not really providing all that much information or history here.  Again, I didn’t get to tour the castle, and I really don’t know much about Moravians.  I just thought the place looked cool and was interested in the living history aspect of it.  I encourage you to research Mr. Mercer on your own and perhaps visit the 3 places related to him.

The tile works are closest to the road and what originally caught my eye.

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Fonthill Castle is found behind the tile works.

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Popularity: 7% [?]

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Posted by Stu On March - 13 - 2016

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Photos from 6/14 – Revisited 5/15

We have long been vacationing in the Ocean Isle Beach/Sunset Beach area of North Carolina, and I’m hoping to live in the area in the near future.  Sunset Beach is our favorite beach; it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and parking is free.  This is a far cry from the Jersey beaches I used to live near.

A few years back I heard things here and there about a hidden mailbox somewhere on Sunset Beach.  A mailbox on a beach sounds odd enough, but then throw in the fact that it’s a good 1.5 mile hike to get to it.  Needless to say, my curiosity had been piqued.  Why was it there and what was its purpose?  So one morning I decided to attempt to find this reclusive mailbox, armed with little more than “walk down the beach til you’re almost in South Carolina” (Sunset Beach is right by the state line).

So I walked and I walked.  For some reason, 1.5 miles seems significantly longer on the beach than in the woods, probably because the scenery doesn’t change all that much… and you can see very, very far ahead of you, and it never looks like it’s getting any closer.  Eventually I saw a flagpole behind a sand dune and knew my goal had to be nearby.

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I walked around the dune and found my prize.

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So what’s inside?  Not a geocache, surprisingly, but letters.  Lots of letters.  A few notebooks filled with people’s reflections – joy, woe, anger, and everything in between – are what’s inside.  For decades, people have been walking to this remote, uninhabited part of the beach to write of their triumphs, regrets, and fears, and leaving them in the mailbox to share with others.  I wrote a letter to my wife and then 7-month old daughter.

My wife and I decided to renew our vows at the mailbox the following year.  Just a few days before we walked out to it, we saw the mailbox on the front page of the local paper.  It had been damaged by a hurricane just days earlier, but people had already gone out and repaired it.

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CBS News has an excellent article and video that shine more light on the history of the Kindred Spirit Mailbox.

Popularity: 3% [?]

Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson Ruins

Posted by Stu On April - 10 - 2015

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Photos from June 2013

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Old Brunswick Town predates the American Revolution and was once an important port along the Cape Fear River.  The growing size and importance of nearby Wilmington chipped away at Brunswick’s significance and population.  In 1776, the British attacked the town and scattered its few remaining residents, and the town was never rebuilt.  During the Civil War, the site was used to construct Fort Anderson.  Once nearby Fort Fisher fell, the Union then set its sights on Fort Anderson, ultimately pushing out the Confederates and claiming the fort.

Many of the foundations of the town have been excavated and restored.  Walls from the St. Philips church still stand.  A trail runs through the site with signs describing the businesses and dwellings of the town and even runs along and on the mounds of Fort Anderson.  The visitor’s center offers a small museum with artifacts found on the site.

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For more information, check out Brunswick Town & Fort Anderson’s official site.

Popularity: 12% [?]

Profile Rock

Posted by Stu On March - 15 - 2014

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Photos from June 2013

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I was told of a rock not too far from me that resembled a Native American face, appropriately named Profile Rock.  The stone face is found on Route 42 between Catawissa and Bloomsburg.  Unfortunately, it’s also located right at a bend in the road, so if you go looking for it, be careful not to get hit by cars; they’re quite fast here.

When I first found the rock, I wasn’t that impressed.  This is because I was looking at it from the wrong side.  But that’s not enough; you also have to be looking at it from the correct point.  If you ever played Arkham Asylum or Arkham City, think of the Riddler’s question mark puzzles.  So after some experimenting and avoiding speeding cars, I figured it out.

From the pulloff (and the ‘wrong’ side):

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Now from the correct side, but wrong angle.  Kind of looks like a face, but not what I saw in other pictures:

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Annnnnd got it:

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So there.  A rock face.  But only if you look at it a certain way.

Popularity: 21% [?]

Thousand Islands & Boldt Castle

Posted by Stu On January - 15 - 2014

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Photos Taken October 2011

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From my experience, few people are aware that The Thousand Islands refers to an actual place and not just salad dressing.  The area in question is between Ontario and New York, along the St. Lawrence River and the uppermost section of Lake Ontario.  The name The Thousand Islands is also a little off; there are actually closer to two thousand of them.

Several companies offer boat tours of the islands.  Many tours allow you to visit one of two castles, either Boldt Castle on Heart Island or Singer Castle on Dark Island.  This time, we opted for Boldt Castle.  Someday we’ll return and check out the other one.

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If you are coming from the US side, you do not need a passport for these tours since the boats do not land in Canada.  The two islands with castles are also entirely within the United States.

The tour itself consists of a boat ride with a guide giving short histories and random facts about many of the islands, houses, and owners.  At the end, if you want (and why wouldn’t you), the boat drops you off on Heart Island, and for a small fee you are allowed to roam the island and its buildings.

One story I found fascinating involved some statues on the US side.  During Prohibition, according to our guide, whether or not the statues’ eyes were lit up let bootleggers on the Canadian side of the river know whether or not it was safe to bring over their booze.

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The following is a somewhat blurry photo of the smallest official island, known as Tom Thumb.  Our guide said to qualify as an “official” island, it must be bigger than a square foot, has to be above water year round, and must have at least one tree.

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So those are some of the sights to be seen during the boat tour.  It’s amazing how some of the houses have virtually no yard between them and the water.

After going up and down the river a bit, the boat then pulls into Heart Island.  A quick history – in 1900, multimillionaire George Boldt ordered the construction of Boldt Castle for his wife.  She died four years later.  Heartbroken, George halted all work on the island and never returned.  The castle and its surrounding buildings remained abandoned until 1977, when the Thousand Islands Bridge Commission  paid one dollar for Heart Island.

All money made on the island goes toward restoring and preserving the castle and grounds.

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You are allowed to roam most of the castle.  There are two other buildings on the island as well.  The powerhouse is at the back of the island and now serves as a museum.  Alster Tower, at the front of the island, was closed for repairs when we visited.

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Popularity: 10% [?]

Biodome de Montreal

Posted by Stu On November - 16 - 2013

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Photos taken October 2011

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Waaaaaaay back in high school, some of us took a 4-day trip to Quebec, with sightseeing in both Montreal and Quebec City, and I always wanted to go back.  So for our 2011 fall trip, we decided to combine two of our proposed vacation spots – Quebec and the Thousand Islands.

One of the places visited during my original trip was the Biodome in Montreal, and I decided to return to see if it was as cool now as it was when I was 16.  Somewhat like an indoor zoo, the Biodome attempts to completely recreate five different climate areas found in North and South America – tropical rainforest, Laurentian maple forest, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Labrador coast, and sub-Antarctic islands.  Each area is climate controlled, so when you walk into the rainforest, it feels like you’re in an actual rainforest; our camera lenses fogged up when we first entered.  This is a very different zoo than most, almost an exact opposite; instead of walking past animals in cages, you’re forced into their habitat.

The Biodome was originally one of the buildings used in the 1976 World Olympics and is right next to the Montreal Olympic Stadium and the an observation tower, which just so happens to be the world’s tallest inclined structure.  You can pay to take a ride up.  I did on my original visit, but we skipped it this time because the weather was pretty bad and the view wouldn’t have been worth it.

Fun fact:  the final scenes of Warm Bodies were shot outside the tower.

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Flash photography is not permitted in the Biodome, so some of the pictures are admittedly blurry.  It was hard taking pictures of moving animals, many with some sort of barrier between us, without flash.

The first biome is the tropical rainforest.  Again, it’s hot and humid, and there are monkeys and birds scampering over your head.  Maybe.  Usually they just chill in one spot.  Of course, any dangerous animals are not accessible.

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These guys were walking around, untying people’s shoes.

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The next area was the Laurentian Maple Forest (aka North Woods).  Like the rainforest area, this forest mimics the weather of its real counterpart, so it was a bit chilly when we walked in.  It was quite dramatic going from a hot jungle to October-temperature woods.

The landscapes are amazing.  It really looks and feels like you’re outside.

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The next area is the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  There are several tanks of sea life, including the obligatory touch tank.  Pseudo-cliffs and rocks make the seabirds feel at home.  They have free range of the area, so watch out for poop.  The temperature in here was pretty chilly, but the Biodome does not match the actual temperature of the gulf, probably because most people wouldn’t want to walk through it.

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The Labrador Coast/Arctic and Sub-Antarctic share the same room but on opposite sides.  Both are contained, so no, you aren’t walking through freezing temperatures.  But much to my wife’s dismay, the puffins and penguins aren’t roaming around freely.

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You can check out the Biodome’s site (in English) here.

I had more stops planned for Montreal, but again, the weather was pretty gloomy. The forecast was looking nicer for Quebec City, so we headed there instead.

Popularity: 10% [?]

Newest/Updated Places

Kindred Spirit Mailbox

Posted by Stu
Mar-13-2016 I ADD COMMENTS

Profile Rock

Posted by Stu
Mar-15-2014 I 1 COMMENT