Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving: Plimoth Plantation

First I was planning on writing about Yosemite, next it was going to be BSC in the USA, then someone suggested I write about Seattle. Then, Thanksgiving came around. And I figured I should probably write a little something about a place somewhat relevant to Thanksgiving. With that I give you this (relatively short I think) post on Plimoth Plantation.

I visited Plymouth, MA (and the plantation and the rock) eighteen years ago. Because of that, my memory is a little bit fuzzy. I do remember a few things about the visit. One, Plymouth Rock. I remember looking down on it and I think it was separated from visitors by some kind of net or fence. Many people try to drop coins on it, maybe they make wishes, I don't know. And I have a little trouble believing a rock can grant wishes. Maybe if there's a troll or something living under the rock... but I've never heard of that.

Moving on to Plimoth Plantation which is a museum/recreated village. I think. I remember wooden buildings, demonstrations about living/eating/cooking etc. during Pilgrim times. The space is "set" in the year 1627 (did you remember that the Mayflower arrived in 1620? That little bit of trivia once won me a free glass of juice at Denny's! Come on, you know you're jealous). My most vivid memory is, I think, learning about tomatoes. If I'm remembering correctly, people didn't eat them back then. I think people used to think tomatoes were poisonous (or just unfit for eating). I did actually just try to verify this which led me to this, uh, interesting website: Try the tomato shooting gallery, it's decent stress relief.

Quite honestly, I don't remember much else. I think I also visited the Ocean Spray factory or museum, or store, or whatever the hell that thing was. Not nearly as much fun as the Hershey Factory, that's for sure. But hey, cranberries are totally relevant to Thanksgiving. And that's all she wrote. Happy Thanksgiving!

Blogger is being extremely obnoxious (or maybe it's my computer...) Pictures to be added soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gulliver's Travels

While procrastinating recently, I decided to watch one of my favorite movies from childhood, the animated version (from 1939) of Gulliver's Travels. How I came to have and love this video I really don't know but it definitely is a classic. The movie was, I believe, the first American, non-Disney, animated movie. And it's pretty awesome. I actually found it on DVD pretty recently (for very cheap) and this was probably my first time watching the movie in about a decade.

Gulliver's Travels is based on the Jonathan Swift book of the same name, though it is, being a children's movie, not much like the book (although I must confess I haven't actually read it... yet).

The movie takes place entirely in Lilliput, a land of tiny people. Lemuel Gulliver (seriously? Lemuel?), the traveler, finds himself shipwrecked there and though the locals (Lilliputians, they're called) are scared of him at first, they all end up friends. And no one gets eaten. Of course, there's more to it than that including a big fight over a couple of songs, a king I always thought was the queen, and some very sneaky guys who help start a war and stuff. In the end, Gulliver pretty much fixes everything and everyone lives happily ever after. I am curious about how these things go in the book (I'll get to it someday!) because I know what Swift was like with his satires. I will mention one scene from the movie in which Gulliver helpfully puts out a raging fire with a little bit of water. Apparently this also happens in the book (I'm guessing in a similar scene) although he, well, doesn't use water. Just thought I'd mention that. My point is that the movie does seem to care about what happens in the book but totally overlooks the messages and/or social commentary presented. Well, it is meant for kids.

While I naturally thought a movie with the word "travels" in the title was appropriate for my blog, I can actually relate this in another way as well. When I went to Ireland, I decided that instead of flying, I would take the ferry from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin. Why am I mentioning this? Because the name of the ferry was the Jonathan Swift. See, here's where the ferry company decided to be cute. The Swift is the fast ferry so the name is quite appropriate, if slightly groan-inducing. And I say that as a great lover of all kinds of word play. I think they actually had a contest to name the boat and that was the winner. Clever.

I actually do have more to say about Jonathan Swift and his post as Dean of St. Patrick's in Dublin. That will have to wait for another day, like when I figure out which church pictures in Ireland are which. Or maybe around Christmas when it makes sense to write about Handel's Messiah which also has ties to St. Patrick's. We shall see. Meanwhile, here's some water in Ireland:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New Toy!

The day we've all been waiting for has arrived! I bought a slide scanner! See, back in the days before digital cameras, people had to use this stuff called "film" to take pictures. And people who wanted to be artistic took these things called "slides". Well, for a long time, my father was one of those wanting to be artistic people. And therefore, many of my family vacations are now documented with hundreds of (until now) useless slides. I should mention here that many of the pictures-from-slides I'll post were taken by my father. Credit where it's due, I guess.

So, since I'm here to write about the places I've been and include photographic evidence, it's fallen to me to get those slides into a useable format. Hence the slide scanner. Long story shorter, I'm in the process of converting old slides to digital files. They're fun to look at (for me anyway) and hopefully they'll um, illustrate my posts. Unfortunately, the quality isn't fantastic. I'm trying to edit and work with this scanner thing to make things better but no real success yet. And really, I don't know if the issue is the slides or the scanner. I do know that I've accidently scanned some slides backwards though I haven't decided yet if I'm going to rescan them in the name of accuracy or leave them as they are and call them "artistic". Thoughts? Anyone? Bueller?

Good news? BSC in the USA coming soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Hills Are Alive with The Sound of, Music

Set and (partly) filmed in Salzburg, Austria, The Sound of Music must be one of the most visually stunning movies ever. In my opinion. Since it also happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies, I naturally jumped at the chance to go to Salzburg and see the setting for myself. And it really is so beautiful that it has stood out as one of my favorite things places.

First, a test of my recapping abilities for the benefit of anyone who lives under a rock or really hates musicals and therefore hasn't seen The Sound of Music. TSOM is the fictionalized account of a real Austrian (turned Vermontian) family that fled Austria and the Nazis before World War II. Basically, an enthusiastic but hopeless nun becomes governess of seven at-first-obnoxious-but-eventually-lovable children and falls in love with their strict, naval captain father who falls in love back. Most of this is accomplished with singing. They escape from the Nazis. The end! Since I like accuracy, I'll just point out here that the movie is quite different from the real story. Okay, moving on.

As I mentioned, a lot of the movie actually was filmed in and around Salzburg. (Check this out for some recognizable city sights: I wish I knew how to just post the video.)

And even now, more than forty years later, you can still tell. Salzburg is both beautiful and well-preserved and, although the lack of Nazis was a clue, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Maria kicking her heels up and singing or the kids hopping up and down steps in Mirabell Gardens. Actually, that would have been pretty awesome. I wonder if they do reenactments.

I think I took this picture right from the bottom of the steps.

For those of us that love TSOM, there are Sound of Music tours that visit all the places featured in the movie. Sadly, I did not have time for one of those tours and I'm still upset about that! I'm determined to get back to Salzburg though, and next time I'll definitely do it. Even so, I got to see quite a few places featured in the movie. Some examples:

This is used as the back of the von Trapp house. Note the lake, look for a capsized boat and waterlogged children with their governess. Maria has confidence here.Last time I saw this, people were skipping through it...

And I do have one neat little fact about the von Trapp's great escape to Switzerland to share. Actually, several little facts:

First of all, as many people already know, it never happened. Yes, the family fled the Nazis. No, they did not walk to Switzerland. For one thing, it's much too far. For another, they didn't have the manufactured drama of a movie to deal with and were able to just leave. I believe they took the train to Italy. And on a related note, the other side of the mountain crossed in the movie is, in fact, in another country. Switzerland? No, remember? I already said it's not Switzerland. Could be Italy, right? Well, it could be but it isn't. Believe it or not, it's Germany. Yes, the von Trapps technically escaped the Nazis by running right to... the Nazis. Oops. Even more than that, one of Hitler's houses was just over on the German side of the mountain. Double oops.

Salzburg is "alive with the sound of music" in other ways as well. (I'm sorry I went there. Truly.) Mozart was born there and in fact, the Salzburg airport is named for him. I love that. Both houses Mozart lived in are now museums and nice places to visit. Many people know that Mozart's grave is unknown, though there are some myths surrounding his burial and grave. His sister Maria Anna, however (also a musician), is buried in Salzburg, in the cemetery of St. Peter's Abbey:

This cemetery is notable for other reasons, including the inspiration for the part of TSOM where the von Trapps literally hide from the Nazis in a cemetery. Yes, this really is a cemetery and it's actually really impressive--those openings are part of a cliff that borders the cemetery and (I think) houses the catacombs.

Well, if I didn't manage to convince anyone else that Salzburg is fabulous, I certainly convinced myself. Time to go back, I think.