Tag Archives: travel

Advent: Hearth and Fire

While I love songs of praise to my God and remembrance of His birth, not all of my favorite holiday songs are religious.

This one is not even a Christmas song, specifically. Still, it has about it the air of wind, winter, the warmth of home, and love for those far away.  It is on the afore-mentioned “Home for Christmas” album, and therefore I associate it with Christmas. The warmth of Gordon Bok’s voice,  the theme of the song, and my childhood association with it make this piece very dear to my heart.

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Hearth and Fire,
By Gordon Bok

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Hearth and fire be ours tonight
And all the dark outside
Fair the night, and kind on you
Wherever you may bide.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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Wine and song be ours tonight
And all the cold outside.
Peace and warmth be yours tonight
Wherever you may bide.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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Hearth and fire be ours tonight,
And the wind in the birches, bare.
Oh, that the wind we hear tonight
Would find you well and fair.

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And I’ll be the sun upon your head,
The wind about your face.
My love upon the path you tread
And upon your wand’rings, peace.

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© 1980 Gordon Bok

You can learn more about “Home for Christmas,” and listen to most of it here: The Basement Rug

Requiescat in pace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, December 5, 2013.

May we never forget you or what you have done.

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Ballooning Part 2

It has certainly taken me long enough to post this. It has been months since my successful flight in a hot air balloon, but I have been dragging my feet in sorting through the pictures. Anyway, I wanted to give you guys some beautiful shots before I take an internet break (for those of you who talk to me through e-mail, I will still check it. I just may be slow in replying).

Every time I say I am going to take a hiatus, people seem to worry, so in advance, let me assure you that everything is fine. The coming month is going to be a busy one, and I need time to read, write, and do odds and ends around the house and with my family. I will probably be gone a month, maybe two.

When I come back, I promise to post pictures of more masks including the ones I am currently working on.

On to ballooning!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

For those who missed out on the first failed ballooning attempt, there are details here. We had one more failed attempt (making, I think, three for my dear friend) but finally, luck was with us! The basket was very large, made to hold at least eight normal-sized people.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Here is the balloon which was called, if I remember rightly, Spirit of Africa. The first stage of inflation is done with a fan.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Once the fan has blown up the balloon enough to where the flames won’t burn it, the spurting fire thing is used.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

I found the colors quite beautiful.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

My fear of heights made takeoff a bit nerve-wracking. There was someone on board with a worse fear of heights than I have, though, and that helped calm me down.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Once I was over how high we were, I found the flight soothing and I enjoyed the patterns I began to see below. Balloon flight is very smooth.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

This is some of the countryside relatively near where I live. There are some farms left, though not many, some large estates owned by people whose wealth is beyond my comprehension, some forest, and encroaching subdivisions.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

On the whole, it is pretty, though it makes me a little sad to see how it is changing.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

One of the real farms! Those red-ant things are cattle. We flew over horses and deer (who really did not like the roar of the balloon’s blowtorch thingy) and a blue heron in flight, but my shots of them did not come out well.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Looking up into the balloon!

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

And my best shot of that lovely flame. It is loud, and close, but really beautiful. I would not recommend a balloon flight in hot weather, though. It was cold when we flew, and that was the only reason I could bear the heat above me.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

We had some beautiful clouds that day.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Every time we went over water, we saw the balloon’s reflection.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Even with the blur, I find this shot lovely.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Sycamores are as dramatic from above as below.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

I think the trees below look almost like moss and lichen. Beautiful.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Even the horrible subdivisions with their monster houses and boring yards look nice from this height. Great patterns. Notice the interrupted sidewalk.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

The skyline, of course, was gorgeous. All those tree-covered hills fading in the distance to meet the sky, and echoed from above by the clouds.

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

Mmmmm

Photo by Jubilare

Photo by Jubilare

And so, in failing light, we landed. We landed in enemy territory (people who are hostile to balloons) out of necessity, but fortunately no one was home. The team and our pilot broke down the balloon quickly, and we called it a night.

I am very glad my friend gave me the opportunity to do this. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

Farewell for now. I’ll be back soon.


The Diefenbunker

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

As you can see, this post is not going to be as pretty as its preceding fellows, though it ought to be interesting to anyone who is curious about or remembers the Cold War. This post also suffers from the dreaded Jubilare-has-yet-to-learn-how-to-use-her-camera-indoors disorder. Apologies.

Personally, I do remember the tail-end of the Cold War, or at least the impact it had on the culture into which I was born. Nuclear warfare was the most present threat to humanity, as far as my developing mind was concerned.

Behold, the Diefenbunker, Nicknamed by combining the name of the Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker (under whose watch it was built, I assume) and the word “bunker” indicating its purpose as a refuge in case of nuclear war.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

This… is the tunnel that leads from the little building above ground down into the belly of the beast, so to speak. I have a mild phobia of corrugated metal (yes, I am aware how weird and stupid that is) so it took some self control for me to walk through this thing. It was also very cold. Luckily, I like cold.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

We have some spy-fail going on here, apparently. What we need are ninjas. Ninjas know how to keep their HQ under wraps.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Toys! Or at least, I thought they were toys as a child. I wonder how much our society has lost in forgetting (as most of us probably have) how to use these tools.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

The vault. This place was impressive and oppressive all at once (and freezing cold). The door looked like something from a heist-film, and the narrow space surrounding this room made me wonder what kinds of security measures they had in place. Water? Gas? I don’t know, and I am not sure I want to.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012
This one’s for you, Dad!

There was a lot of radio equipment, typewriters, old computers (from early desktop varieties to the kinds that take up whole rooms), teletype machines and many other fascinating gadgets. I particularly liked this setup and the Morse Code keys that were also in the room.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Take a long look at this picture and tell me what is amiss.

As one might expect from a Cold War museum, there was some disturbing stuff in this place. This pantry/morgue was one sober reminder of the very real threat of nuclear war, and war in general.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And here is the commissary in all of its period splendor! This, too, brings back childhood memories.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And in case you aren’t feeling peckish, there is a motivational sign! Apologies for the blur.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And what Cold War museum would be complete without entertainment? I think I can safely say that these games were collected and are displayed as examples from the culture, not as games that would be provided for the inhabitants of the bunker. That would have been cruel.

And that is it for my trip! Well, my friend and I did have a rough time on the way back. Due to storms we missed our connecting flight and literally spent the night in an airport being hounded from place to place by various staff-people. If I can help it, I will never fly into or out of LaGuardia airport in New York again. They were horrible to us! Rude, mean and… well, two people were nice to us, God bless them. Both were janitors.

I am generally thankful for the people who keep our public places clean. I am especially grateful to these two for taking pity on a pair of exhausted and harried strangers.


Ottawa

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

This is my catch-all post for the rest of our time in Ottawa. I will jump around quite a bit.

And no, Germany hasn’t annexed Canada. Our trip happened to coincide with a visit from Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The above horses and Shelob’s fascinatingly deformed little sister below are outside of the National Gallery of Canada.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

My friend and I pre-ordered tickets to view the Vincent van Gogh exhibit there, which was beautiful. The paintings were mostly landscapes and nature-studies, and as usual I had to clasp my fingers behind my back.  Vincent’s painting style makes me want to touch it the surface, but I also don’t want to get arrested, so…

There are, naturally, no pictures of the inside of the museum. We also saw a contemporary Inuit art exhibit including a beautifully hand-carved set of antlers.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

We visited the R.C.M.P. musical ride center, and got to see some of the horses! This is probably more exciting for me than for you.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

I apologize for the wretched quality of the following pictures. As I have said before, I need to figure out my camera’s settings. All of my training was with film cameras. Digital cameras intimidate me.

Anyway, this is the hostel where we stayed in Ottawa. It is an old jail. We took a tour to learn about the jail’s history. It is home to the last functioning (though long-since disused) gallows in Canada. The cells, in their original state are just long and wide enough for someone to stand or lay down. The conditions must have been horrible, and the experience for me was both sobering and fascinating.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

We were in “cell 5” on the 2nd from the ground floor. Walls between the two neighboring cells have been mostly removed, so we were in three-times the space of the original prisoners.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And we go from jails to cats. I told you I would jump around. So, there is a cat sanctuary beside Parliament. I have no idea why. The kitty below was very friendly. The kitty above didn’t think much of us, though. We do tend to look suspicious and we had no tuna.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And finally, the below picture represents a tradition my friend had from her previous sojourns into Canada. She counts her trips to Tim Hortons. I must say that I like this chain. Their coffee is reasonably priced and better tasting than Starbucks, they have decent tea (Starbucks, your tea is HORRIBLE, just fyi) and fantastic donuts. On the whole, it is probably better for me if we don’t get a Tim Hortons in my home town. I already have to resist the Donut Den.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

One more post and I will be finished inflicting my travels on you.


Ottawa around Parliament

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Round two of my pictures from Canada posts! This is going to focus on Ottawa, in the area around Parliament. Other sights of Ottawa will appear in the next post.

My first impression of Canada’s capitol city is that it is very beautiful. It has an open feel to it which I like.  I was constantly distracted by interesting architecture, only some of which I am able to share here.

The above photograph is my best shot of the locks of the Rideau Canal, next to the Bytown Museum. None of my pictures of that old building pleased me, therefore I give you a link to their website. I enjoyed the museum, but the best part was the interaction between my party and a staff member taking surveys.  I won’t bore you with the story (it was funnier in person) but my friend and I met up with an Australian couple we know (and later with another friend from the U.K. who lives in Canada), which caused some surprise and confusion throughout the rest of our trip.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012
I took this one for you, Mom. Be amused!

As one might expect, there are some royals around Parliament. Here is Queen Victoria in the most ornate statue arrangement I saw. There is a lion and a lady with garlands at her feet.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012
And this one’s for you too, Mom! ;)

The current monarch, Elizabeth II, has a more subtle (and awesome) representation. Does Queen E. II ride? I am fairly ignorant of the doings of current royalty.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

There are many statues of Canadian leaders as well. Here, we have Thomas D’Arcy McGee, one of the Fathers of Canadian Confederation, and a victim of assassination.  Gulls do not care about such things.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

The young lady below, however, is on the case. She is primly trying to inform McGee that he has something on his head.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Sadly, I have no idea what this delightfully round building behind Parliament (and facing McGee) is, but I love the colorful stonework, and am a sucker for anything that smacks of Gothic Architecture.  Pardon me while I drool over the arched windows and small flying buttresses.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Being Canada, there were members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police around, though few in formal attire. I felt a little bad for these gentlemen, as they were constantly stopped by tourists asking to have a picture taken with them. …and yes, I was one of those people. I am duly ashamed.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Parliament! The sky makes a gorgeous background, no? Again, Gothic arches and decorative stonework (though no flying buttresses).

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

I honestly did not notice the street performer until after I took this shot, but what a perfect touch! Luck of the camera, I guess. I was trying to capture the metalwork on the roof of this bit of the Parliament buildings. It is light and lacy, a strange contrast to the heavy stone structures.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And here is a poor shot of a gorgeous door. I need to sit down with my camera’s manual and figure out the settings. I know I am not using it to its full potential.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Now I will delve into the stonework on the Parliament buildings. Here, over the main entrance, we have the national animal of Canada, the beaver. Below him, on the posts of the door, are the lion and the unicorn. If it hadn’t been for another carving I will show, this would have been my favorite.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

This guy speaks for himself.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Almost every niche and nook had some interesting carvings. Being the plant-lover that I am, I was thrilled by the variety of flora depicted.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Weird, but great.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And this. This is the piece that transfixed me! I literally obsessed about getting the perfect shot of it. Just ask my bemused friend. This snail, so beautifully textured, was near the main entrance. I am so glad my friend was with me, because she allowed me to drop briefly out of the line for our tour in order to take this picture. Thank you, my friend, for putting up with me!

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

I took few good pictures inside. Again, I need to figure out the settings on my camera. I cut off the bottom of this picture because there are people in it. I like to avoid posting pictures of random strangers without their permission. This will give you an idea, though, of the beautiful architecture inside. There is also much stained glass.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Halberd window. Need I say more?

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Last and smallest but not least to me. Some stonecrop amid the stones. I took this at the tail end of the changing of the guard ceremony. It takes a ridiculously long time and a lot of formalities to change the guard before the Canadian Parliament; too long to hold my deficient attention, I fear. The tartans were great, though.


Niagara Falls

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Meet the cutest bit of graffiti I have ever seen and enjoy the first of what promises to be four posts on my Canada trip. I am sorry for the delay, but I had to sort through all of my pictures.

So, the story is that my friend, who has been to Canada before but never to Ottawa, wanted to make a trip this summer, and she invited me along. Her plan was to fly to Niagara on the U.S. side, take a taxi over the border, spend the day in Niagara Falls and take a train the next day to Ottawa.

Our taxi-driver was Kurdish, and when he learned that we came from Nashville, which has a large Kurdish community, he really opened up and we had a good long conversation with him. The border-crossing was much easier (and in consequence much less hilarious) than my last crossing into Canada.

We were dropped off near our hostel where we were greeted, interestingly enough, by a young and very friendly Irishman. The hostel was the most friendly of any I have encountered. The whole staff felt like a family, and were beyond helpful. Once, they even offered to share some chicken wings with me.

The area around our hostel was pretty run-down. I took many pictures of abandoned-looking buildings. There is something beautiful, as well as sad, in urban decay. Below is my favorite shot, with crumbling bricks like moth-holes in a tapestry, and wires like cobwebs.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Despite the ravages of economic stress, beauty of past prosperity endures.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And as I said above, the people at the hostel could not have been nicer to us. The friendly Irishman, in answer to our question about good lunching, pointed us to a Caribbean restaurant around the corner.  In my opinion, this Caribbean meal, suggested by an Irishman in Canada, was the best food we had on the whole trip. Behold!

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

After lunch, we walked to the falls. As we moved towards the center of tourism, of course, the apparent prosperity of the place increased. We passed many nice-looking bed-and-breakfasts, but I wouldn’t have traded our hostel for them. We also passed a bridge that caught my eye. Oh how I love perspective!

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Niagara Falls, which I had never seen before, are magnificent and beautiful. For those that don’t know, there are two falls, one on the U.S. side and one on the Canadian side. The U.S. side, pictured below, is smaller and lower, but also more natural in appearance. Of the two, it is my favorite.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

That is not to say that I do not also love the Canadian side. It is overwhelmingly powerful and beautiful in its own right. The two following pictures are of it.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

The stormy sky was a great gift for my camera. The rain was overkill, though, as we were wet enough from the “Maid of the Mist,” a short boat ride near the falls. We also walked behind the Canadian falls in tunnels, which allowed us to see them from a different angle.

Sadly, Niagara is also a huge tourist-trap. It reminds me more than a little of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge (don’t get me started unless you want a loooong rant). Look below to see what I mean.

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

Photograph by Jubilare, 2012

And no, that chap in the foreground isn’t an escaping ghost (though that would be fantastic!). I merely like to avoid posting pictures of random strangers without their permission.

Despite some frustrations with a bus-system in transition (the day after we left it was set to change) we had a good time. Being me, I grieve for the existence of a tourist trap next to such natural beauty, but tourist-trap culture is at least interesting to me. If you ever travel to this place, I suggest staying at this hostel. I did not take any pictures while on the train to Ottawa, but it was a pleasant trip. Next post will be set in Ottawa itself.


Ballooning Attempt #1

Not long before my trip to Canada, which I will expound on later, a friend asked me if I was afraid of heights. It seemed a strange question. I replied something along the lines of “Yes, but why do you ask?”

I was completely unprepared for her reply. She recently had a birthday, and apparently she has long wanted to fly in a hot air balloon. Yes, one of these:

What a dilemma! On one hand, great fear of heights. On the other hand… Hot Air Balloon.

I took a deep breath, explained to my fears that I wasn’t about to regret, for the rest of my life, saying “no” to a hot air balloon flight, and told my friend to count me in. It turns out that the flight was scheduled for the evening before my trip to Canada. This and a misplaced passport was the reason I had between 2 and 3 hours of sleep as I set out on my trip, but more on that anon.

The time arrived, and I drove my friend and two of her friends to the place where we would take off. Two more friends met us there, and we watched a few other balloons take off and our own prepare for flight. Ours was the largest balloon on the field that day.

That is ours in the bottom corner. The inflation of the balloon was beautiful, but as it began to rise up, some high wind blew in. For a while, we were afraid that the flight would be cancelled for safety.

But soon enough the balloon was up, and we were all told to get in! We rushed into the basket and held on. Briefly, we were about two feet off the ground.

And that was it. The pilot made his final checks and found that the high wind had bent an important piece of equipment. I guess we were special, as the pilot told us that he had only had that particular problem once before, when he was flying in Africa. The flight was cancelled.

We all got out, and watched as the balloon deflated.

Our pilot was more dejected than any of us, as shown in the photo below. He is the one lying on the folded balloon. Not to say that we were not disappointed, but we enjoyed seeing all the balloons and having some entertaining conversations. We made plans, then and there, to try again in early September, which fast approaches. Hopefully I will ride in a hot air balloon yet, and to heck with my acrophobia! Anyway, I enjoyed getting to meet some new people, and my friend and another of her friends and I went for dinner at a local restaurant. All was well. Until I got home and couldn’t find my passport.

Photo by Jubilare


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