Monday, September 22, 2014

Archive for the ‘Other Areas’ Category

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: 4% [?]

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: 7% [?]

Fort Ticonderoga

Posted by Stu On August - 27 - 2013

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Photos taken October 2011

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Fort Ticonderoga, if even mentioned in any of your US History textbooks, was probably briefly brought up for a sentence or two in a chapter about the American Revolution.  The fort was actually built by the French during the French & Indian War (or The Seven Years’ War for you non-Americans) and was originally named Fort Carillon.  The French, outnumbered four to one, managed to repel an initial British attack, but then surrendered the fort later in the war.  I’d crack some joke about the French surrendering, but the French-Canadian part of me won’t permit me to do so.

The fort was significant during the American Revolution.  Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys (militiamen) managed to capture it from the British.  Some of the cannons and other weaponry from the fort were then brought to Patriots in Boston to help drive British troops out of Boston, ending their occupation and control of the city.

Fort Ticonderoga would switch hands again.  Not far away from it is a hill known as Mount Defiance.  The British dragged cannons to its top and aimed them at the fort.  The Americans retreated and once again the British controlled the fort.  After the American victory at Saratoga, however, the war began moving south, and Fort Ticonderoga had little importance.  Eventually it was abandoned and stripped.

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So…  French, then British, then American, then British.  Then… nobody cares anymore, so let’s abandon it.  Got it?

Much of the fort has been reconstructed.  Monuments to soldiers from both wars can be found on its grounds.

This monument honors the Marquis de Montcalm for defending the fort against the initial British invasion (the guy who was outnumbered 4 to 1):

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This is a monument dedicated to the Black Watch, or Scottish regiment, during the French & Indian War.  The Black Watch is sometimes referred to “The Ladies from Hell” due to their kilts and intense fighting.

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These and other monuments can be found on the road leading to the fort.  To walk the actual fort grounds costs a reasonable admission fee.

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The inside of the fort serves as a museum. Also on the grounds is The King’s Garden.

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Popularity: 19% [?]

East Village Rock n’ Roll Tour

Posted by Stu On January - 9 - 2013

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Photos from November 2011


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I laugh whenever anyone says history classes are boring, because I’ve taken some really cool and unusual ones, case in point The History of Rock n’ Roll.  Yes, I swear that was a real class, and an excellent one at that.  For a class trip, we took a guided “Rock n’ Roll Tour” of New York City’s East Village.  Unfortunately, after only a half hour or so, the batteries in my camera died, so I had to resort to my phone’s camera.  And THEN it started to rain.  Oh well.  Still had a fun time seeing places significant to rock history and roaming around the city a bit.

One thing I noticed right away was the way power lines and traffic signals were decorated:

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Most of the places visited fell under one of three categories:  they were old clubs, places photographed for album covers, or former residences of rock stars.  I know some of this doesn’t translate well into a write-up, especially pictures of apartment buildings, but I will do my best.

One of our first stops was this mural on the side of the Niagara bar.  Joe Strummer was the singer and rhythm guitarist for The Clash.

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We visited the sites of three influential clubs in the Village:  The Continental, Fillmore East, and CBGB.  The Continental is still a bar, but bands no longer play there.  The other two are no longer clubs.

The Continental was important during the beginnings of the punk and new wave scenes in NYC.  The Ramones, Iggy Pop, and many, many more played here.

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This place must have been crammed when bands were playing.

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The Fillmore East is now a bank.  Due to construction, I couldn’t get a good pic of the entire building front.  The Allman Brothers Band’s famous live album was recorded here.

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CBGB closed in 2006.  Countless bands played there over the years, but again this club was very important to the New York punk and new wave scenes.  Bands including Blondie, the B-52’s, The Talking Heads, and again the Ramones got their starts playing in this and other local clubs.  It is now a vintage clothing store.  Some remnants of its club days remain, such as the layers of band stickers stuck on the walls and even ceiling.  I tried to get a picture of some of these stickers, but a big bouncer dude came over, jammed his finger into my shoulder, and said, “You can’t take no pictures in here.”  I was then asked to leave.  Leave it to me to get kicked out of a club when it’s not even a club anymore.  So just an outside shot will have to suffice.

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The next batch of places are locations from various album covers.

The Gem Spa is a famous newsstand in the Village.  It’s also featured on the back cover of the New York Dolls’ first album.

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This may look familiar to Led Zeppelin fans:

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These buildings were used for the cover of Physical Graffiti, minus one floor:

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Unfortunately, the gate was closed, so I couldn’t get closer to this next one.

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OK, so what’s the significance of that wall?  It’s where the first Ramones cover was shot:

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The tour briefly stopped at a building where Charlie Parker, famous jazz musician, lived.  His home is actually on the National Register of Historic Places.  There’s a plaque on the front of the building, but the tour moved on before I could approach it and get a picture.  Right next to this building is an apartment where Iggy Pop stayed.

Charlie Parker Residence:

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Iggy Pop’s apartment building:

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One of our last stops was a building where Madonna stayed early in her career:

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All in all, this was a fun trip.  Again, I know it’s not much to look at; can’t really do much to make pictures of apartments interesting.

Popularity: 8% [?]

Mars Bluff Bomb Crater

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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Another find due to geocaching.  I wanted to make a day trip out of our visit to South of the Border, and I happened to notice this oddity was just outside Florence.

On March 11, 1958, an Air Force pilot heading to England accidentally dropped a bomb on the community of Mars Bluff.  Nobody was killed, but the home of Walter Gregg was leveled, and some of his family members were hurt in the blast.  Although often referred to as an “atomic” bomb blast, the nuclear core of this bomb was thankfully not in it when it was dropped.

Getting to the bomb crater site was rather tricky.  We had to park in an abandoned trailer park, which had several uncovered manholes on its “roads.”  An overgrown path first led to the foundation of the destroyed home and then to the bomb site.  We were surprised to see the site is somewhat maintained, complete with a wooden replica of the bomb and a board with information about the incident.

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The bomb crater itself was not exactly what I was expecting.  It’s only a few feet deep and looks more like a nearly empty pond than the site of a large explosion.  It has been more than 50 years, though, and nature is beginning to reclaim the blast site.

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Popularity: 22% [?]

Abandoned Family Inn

Posted by Stu On June - 28 - 2012

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Photos from June 2011

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While pulling into South of the Border, we noticed an abandoned motel literally up the road on the North Carolina side of the border.  Next to it was a vacated fast food place; in fact, the only place nearby that wasn’t abandoned was a Waffle House, which is where we stopped for a quick bite (not like we had other options).  We decided to explore the motel a bit before heading to SotB, which turned out to be a good idea, as this place was far more interesting.

The sign said Family Inns of America.  I found out the chain still exists but only in VA, TN, and LA.  I was unable to find out when this particular motel closed, but I did find out robberies took place there on at least two different occasions.

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Popularity: 21% [?]

Newest/Updated Places

Profile Rock

Posted by Stu
Mar-15-2014 I ADD COMMENTS

Biodome de Montreal

Posted by Stu
Nov-16-2013 I ADD COMMENTS

Fort Ticonderoga

Posted by Stu
Aug-27-2013 I ADD COMMENTS

Walt’s Filling Station

Posted by Stu
Aug-27-2013 I ADD COMMENTS