Amazing Banqueting House
Can you imagine yourself in London, England not far from Trafalgar Square in the Banqueting Hall sitting in a comfortable beanbag chair staring at the ceiling where an amazing masterpiece by Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens spreads out over your head?
It was Charles I of England who requested to have this artwork placed on the ceiling which at the time was part of Whitehall Palace, the main royal residence. He wanted to honor his father, James I. In this impressive painting, the three main canvasses pay homage to the monarchy and the divine rights of kings. It depicts the unification of England and Scotland, the reign of James I, and the King rising up to Heaven upon the back of an eagle.
Architect Inigo Jones designed the ceiling so that it would be just the right frame for the artwork. This ceiling was the last thing that Charles I saw just before his death. It was after losing the Civil War to the Parliamentarians, that Charles stepped out of a nearby window (which no longer exists) and then stepped onto a scaffold upon which he was then beheaded.
Following a Bridge to Nowhere
I wonder how it would be to walk or drive along a bridge that suddenly just stops and goes nowhere. Well. I am sure you could tell that the bridge was incomplete before you got on it but an interesting thought anyway. In East Falkland, you can find just such a bridge. It is called the Bodie Creek Suspension Bridge which was constructed in 1925 to make it easier for farmers to bring their sheep into the village for shearing.
Since there were no facilities in the Falkland Islands to build a bridge they ordered one from London and the bridge-making kit arrived on the SS Ballena. The bridge had to be put together by the sheep farmers, a stonemason, and an engineer. Amazing as it might seem the bridge was mostly built by hand except for two machines a cement mixer and a stone breaker to help the builders.
Once the bridge was completed the sheep farmers could start moving their sheep over it and the occasional Land Rovers later on made their way over the bridge. Unfortunately, as time went on the bridge’s infrastructure started to become weaker. It had been connected to dirt roads on either end and those roads were long gone. Then the support beams gave way and finally, it had become a bridge to nowhere but was never completely destroyed.
Going Down the Rabbit Hole
Most everyone knows the story of Alice who followed the White Rabbit down into a wonderland. Today you can follow along with Alice and do some shopping as well. In Tokyo, Japan you can go shopping in a store called Alice On Wednesday.
You’ll start feeling like Alice the moment you step into the building. First of all, before you can enter the store you have to try a whole group of doors and only one will lead you into the shop. Upon entering you’ll find yourself on the first of the store’s themed floors known as The White Room.
In the White Room, you will find food and drinks among which are unusual “Drink Me” bottles. On the second floor is the Mad Hatter room selling Alice-themed clothing and merchandise. The third floor is the Queen of Hearts room offering accessories and here you can purchase a White Rabbit style pocket watch.
The store is decorated with things from both the book and the animated film. There are keyholes you can peep into to discover things like a picture of the Cheshire Cat. Many of the accessories in the shop also feature illustrations by John Tenniel from the original 1865 book.
The choice of the name of the store came from the fact that they considered Wednesday to be the most boring day of the week. A day just to get over that hump heading for the weekend again so they thought people might appreciate having some magic mid-week even if they don’t visit the store on a Wednesday.
Looking At the World Upside Down
As a child, I had a game I loved to play. With a mirror held in my hands, I walked about looking down into it. Then I would walk around the apartment as if I were walking on the ceiling. Now you can visit a house that is upside down. Upside-down houses can be found in Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia, China, and Japan.
An upside-down house called The Rumah Terbalik is located in Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia. It has become a popular tourist attraction. The house has a prominent place in the Malaysian Book of Records as the only structure of its kind in the country. As you take a tour it appears that you are walking on the ceiling. Above your head, you can see household furniture and different kinds of appliances hanging above your head. A car parked upside down is in the garage. Perhaps there is no specific reason to visit this house except that it is there and it is unusual.
Stop and Sit with Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde was a well-known Irish poet and playwright. He died in Paris, France in 1900. For writers seeking inspiration from this great man, it is now possible to visit his statue in London, England, and sit beside Wilde for a while.
The statue on Adelaide Street in London is the first public monument to Oscar Wilde that is located outside of Ireland. It is cleverly called “A Conversation With Oscar Wilde” and was created by Maggi Hambling and set up in 1998.
Wilde’s head emerges from a base and his hand clutched a cigarette but for some odd reason this cigarette kept getting stolen so presently he is holding nothing. There is a bench so you can sit and chat with Wilde.
“We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars” is a most poignant quote by Wilde which can be found on the bench. I just love this saying. Are you looking at the stars? I know I am no matter what happens they will guide me.
The York Watergate
Walking in London, England in the Victoria Embankment Gardens you can come upon the York Watergate. This is a unique Italianate water gate that sits on top of a base and greenery.
Unless they knew that the gate was there people might not specifically look for it and people who live in London most likely just pass it by. At one time before the Victoria Embankment was constructed in 1862, changing the course of the river to modernize the sewage system in the city and to reduce traffic along the Strand, this gate sat on the northern edge of the Thames River for over 200 years.
It was once the waterfront entrance to the York House Mansion which was one of the fancier homes here at this time. Boats could pull up to the stairs and passengers could step out right into the back gardens of the property. All that is left of this enchanting time is the gate which is now in the gardens. It is a reminder of the old path and a reminder of the mansion that it was once a part of. When the Thames Embankment and the Victoria Embankment Gardens were built in the 19th century the gate got separated from the river.
Titanic Memorial Garden
Titanic Memorial Garden opened in Belfast, Ireland on April 15, 2012, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.
The garden has been designed on two levels with the upper level having a nine-meter-long plinth that has been inscribed with the names of all who died on the RMS Titanic. The lower level is a grassed terrace, surrounding the monument.
There are fifteen bronze plaques listing the names of the 1,512 people who perished. It was interesting to discover that at first there were existing lists of the First Class, Second Class, and Steerage but didn’t include all of the members of the crew, the Guarantee Group, the postal workers, and the musicians. Finally, all of the names have been recorded, and “The Belfast List” is now the main feature of this memorial garden.
Here visitors can see plants specially chosen for this garden that would have grown in the springtime around the period when the tragic Titanic disaster occurred. The main color theme is white, silver, blue, and green. These were the chosen colors because they reflected the colors of the water and the ice. Hopefully, they will give moments of contemplative peace to all who visit.
On either side of the memorial plinth, two multi-stem Himalayan birches have been planted. They have stark-white barks and have matured into elegant and graceful trees. Among the plants are the lovely tulip magnolia and a selection of white shrub roses.
In remembrance of those lost on the Titanic, there are blue Forget-me-nots, rosemary which symbolizes remembrance, the lovely magnolia which blossoms in white star-shaped flowers between March and April, and the birches, symbolizing renewal.