Thursday 31 August 2023 – We’ve had a day to decompress after the long walk yesterday and so despite yesterday’s exertions we went for a walk. Obviously.
Jane had mapped out a few Things To See and so after a very ordinary hotel breakfast (after probably the least comfortable bed of our time on this particular junket) we headed out into the streets of Burgos, which is a very handsome city.
The first stop was the cathedral, Santa Maria, which is brain-bogglingly big, and inside so extraordinarily sumptuous that I actually felt a bit offended on behalf of all of the people to whose benefit the money involved in creating this edifice did not go. But it may be that my jaundiced view was as a result of a poor night’s sleep.
Catholic cathedrals are intended, designed, to inspire awe. I found that the completely over-the-top Sagrada Familia in Barcelona did inspire that in me to some extent. Santa Maria, not. But it was still interesting to look round – and the infrastructure to guide tourists (signage, app for audio guide, etc) is very well designed and implemented.
The thing has over 12 chapels, for God’s sake! (see what I did there?), amazing stone working and other fascinating aspects. Rather than bore you with the many, many photographs I took, I have put some of them in a Flickr album; click the image below if you would like to look through them.
Here are a couple of photos to give you a taster.
Wandering around outside gives a few views of the place and surrounding items of interest.
The Santa Maria Cathedral is on Santa Maria Plaza, and access to that is through Santa Maria Gate. Looking at it from the square, you see something substantial.
Walk through it and look back, though…
From there, one can walk along the Paseo, a pleasantly shaded green space
with a bandstand
and lots of statuary,
including that of four kings, who can also be seen on a bridge at the far end of the Paseo.
For the record, these are (in alphabetical order) Alfonsos VIII (1155-1214) and X (1221-1284), Fernando III (1199-1252) and Enrique II (1334-1379). Just so you know for the quiz later.
There’s another significant figure enstatuated round the corner – El Cid, the honorific for Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, a Castilian knight and warlord in 11th-century Spain.
There’s a huge amount to see wandering around Burgos, as befits somewhere that was once the capital of the Kingdom of Castile. Much statuary both modern and ancient
varied street art,
imposing gateways and churches,
St. Stephen’s Gate
St. Stephen’s Church
a tourist train,
and ancient city walls.
There is also a castle; we tried to get in, but it was closed. That exercised me sufficiently that I walked the 200 steps back down to the hotel to get my drone to walk back up the 200 steps to take a photo of it,
so you can now understand why it was closed. On the way, though, one passes a fantastic viewpoint over the city.
which I think is the best way to leave it – too much to see to do a splendid city justice.
We’re back to the walking thing tomorrow – 21km to Hornillos del Camino, on the first trek across the second third of the Camino – the Meseta. The forecast is for a chilly start but a warm finish and it will be interesting to see the how different the landscape is. To find out, check back in at some stage, won’t you?
Saturday 1 October 2022 – Warning – lots of photos for you to wade through today!
Pinch, punch, first of the munch. (I hate assonance.) One week to go before we head back to the UK and we start our penultimate adventure, our time in Nova Scotia. As expected, yesterday, spent as it was in travelling two time zones eastwards from Winnipeg to Halifax, was entirely devoid of anything worth telling you about with the possible exception of the taxi ride from Halifax airport to our hotel. The (somewhat elderly) taxi driver started out being courteous and interesting and ended up ranting about the incompetence of government and the unfairness of taxes. He also delivered us to the wrong hotel, but was good enough to apologise and drive us to the right one.
So, today we found ourselves in the capital city of Nova Scotia with reasonable weather in prospect, so there was only one thing for it, which was to go for a walk. Obviously.
We had a chat with a very nice chap at the concierge desk, Tim. One thing we wanted to understand was whether there was a tall building which would give us a view over the city. Our thought was that it would be nice to be able to look down over the Citadel, which is a star-shaped fortress, to appreciate its shape. Tim suggested we go with him; he took us to the top floor of the hotel and unlocked the banqueting suite there, proudly telling us that this was the banqueting facility with the best view in the city. To be fair, it was not at all bad.
It didn’t however, give us the view over the citadel that we’d really have liked, but it did have an interesting ceiling with some great chandeliers.
The other nugget that we learned from Tim was that Halifax has its own (modest) equivalent of Toronto’s underground city, although here it’s overhead rather than underground. It’s called the Pedway, and you can see one of its aerial corridors crossing the road in the second of the view photos above. Of course we had to go and explore it. As with Toronto and Montreal, it’s linkways between halls, with some stores and eateries,
but is still in development – there are many hoardings promising a bright future with more stores to be opened.
It also gave us a view back to our hotel – you can see the inward-sloping windows of the banqueting suite at the top of it.
We also had a chat with Tim about the hotel, which is a curious mix of modern and dowdy, more old-fashioned areas (e.g. the wing where we have our room). It turns out that a complex set of circumstances involving mergers, takeovers, divestitures and pandemics means that planned improvements have not yet started.
Anyhow, we had more of the city to explore, so we headed out to wander about according to the plan that Jane had formulated. We passed City Hall
which overlooks the Grand Parade.
As you might infer from the picture above, an event was brewing in the Grand Parade, involving people of African-Canadian extraction, dressed in their finery and setting up a sound deck. Their mood was jolly and we hope they had a good time, but we had a city to explore so had to move on. Before we did, though, I took a picture of a mural that overlooked a building site
and the City Clock.
Behind the clock above, you can see a hill, atop which is the historic Halifax Citadel (climbing it also gives a nice view over the city’s impressive – but closed for maintenance – Angus L. Macdonald Bridge and the Clock).
We decided to visit the Citadel, as they offered a decently low entry price for us two old people, and so began to appreciate that Halifax has a great historical richness. The Citadel was first established in 1749, and the present citadel, built starting in 1828, is actually the fourth fortification built on the site.
The citadel’s fortifications were built and rebuilt to defend the town from various enemies – the indigenous Mi’kmaq and Acadians, for example, raided the capital region (Halifax and Dartmouth) 12 times, four times against Halifax itself. While never attacked, the Citadel was long the keystone to defence of the strategically important Halifax Harbour and its Royal Navy Dockyard.
The present citadel took thirty years to build and the general introduction of rifled artillery (with greater range and accuracy than earlier guns) shortly after its completion rendered the costly installation obsolescent. It was partially rearmed in the 1860s and 1870s, and continued in use as a barracks into the 20th century.
It is easy to understand its superb strategic location, overlooking the original town and harbour. It’s a very well-maintained institution, staffed with people dressed in period costumes who can tell you about various facets of life there in the 18th Century.
The central courtyard
is littered with cannons
as are the ramparts,
including a 12-pounder
which is still active and which is fired every day at noon – apparently a really loud bang. After our visit, we walked along to the Public Gardens, a very pleasant environment.
Items of interest included a weeping beech tree
and a beautifully-coloured Blue Jay.
After the gardens, we passed the statue of Winston Churchill
were checked out by a starling
and then visited St. Mary’s Basilica,
a cathedral with a very handsome interior.
I was particularly struck by the stained glass half-dome above the altar. It being in the competitive nature of these things, the cathedral has, close by, the Anglican Church of St. David and
St. Matthew’s United Church.
Our rambling then took us in the general direction of the harbour, but en route we noticed that among all the modern high-rise constructions there are plenty of handsome old buildings in the city.
The downtown area has some interesting buildings, too;
and we were pleased to note that there is street art among the attempts to make the city look attractive.
We reached the harbour clock
which marks the start of a boardwalk stretching a couple of kilometres south, from the ferry terminal to the seaport. A lot of effort has gone into making this an attractive and pleasant area to walk, with artworks both mysterious and quirky along its length
(the tower structure is covered with plastic flaps, which flutter in the breeze – it’s rather lovely)
(the above street-light diptych is called “Get Drunk, Fall Down”)
as well as eating and drinking establishments. One of them, the BG (Halifax Beer Garden), was obviously paying its local tribute to Germany’s Oktoberfest, it being October first and that.
There is a life-size replica of the flagship of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage of circumnavigation, 1519-1522 – the Trinidad
which in its day would have had 45 crew on board. I know people were smaller in those days, but I reckon it would still have been pretty cosy.
The rest of the walk down to the seaport passes many items of statuary – The Émigré, A tribute to Women in History, Samuel Cunard and three of the many examples of what might be figureheads that line the boardwalk here.
One significant statue is of Ruth Goldbloom, who fought for Pier 21 in the seaport to be restored and commemorated in recognition of the nearly one million immigrants who were processed through it between 1928 and 1971.
The plan was to get to Pier 22 which we thought might have some nice eateries and/or drinkeries. We were wrong. It turns out to be a tourist tat haven only open on cruise ship days intended, I imagine, to attract people who are boarding and who need to find just that one more special something for a special someone. Since there was a cruise ship in, only slightly larger than the substantial buildings of Pier 22,
it was open.
By this time, we were feeling somewhat sharp set, so we made our way back along the boardwalk with the idea of eating at a place that we’d seen earlier on, called Sea Smoke. There was a diversion en route in the form of a 1968 Routemaster London Bus,
used for hop-on-hop-off tours and, unsurprisingly, somewhat modified from the original,
because getting off the way we UK folk might consider would probably precipitate a traffic accident and lot of attendant paperwork. So an alternative exit is needed for the passengers
and an alternative entry for the driver.
As we ate our (very fine) meal at Sea Smoke, the cruise ship which had been at Pier 22 came by on its way out;
I’ve never seen so many radar aerials on a boat before.
We watched the ship do a graceful pirouette before exiting the harbour and then we ourselves exited the restaurant, which is distinguished by having many fire tables outside – very pleasant as the evening was chilly.
By this time, the light was fading (possibly matching your interest level in this post).
We passed a final, mystery piece of art
and then, as the evening light flared and then died,
we made our way back to the hotel.
Again, sorry for a long post with lots of photos, but I hope you found the read worthwhile. We had a really enjoyable day discovering the historical, arty and eat-y sides of Halifax, which comes across as being a very pleasant place to be.
Tomorrow has a planned excursion, if all goes well – a 10 mile hike. If we survive, I will be sure to document our progress here, but for now it’s time for bed. See you tomorrow!
Thursday 22 September 2022 – The only thing we had to do today was to get ourselves from Québec to Montréal; all else would be (a) bunce and (b) unplanned. It involved a rather early start, since our train departed at 0810; however, we were business class, obvs, and would thus get breakfast on the train, which gave us back a little time. Québec Station’s main entrance is rather grander in appearance than the windswept construction site that houses the taxi rank of unhappy memory from our arrival.
Nonetheless, if you look closely, you can see that the whole place is suffering from not having been well looked after recently. It’s sadly in need of a lick of paint; also, the coffee machine in the business class lounge wasn’t able to dispense actual coffee. However, we were only there for about five minutes before it was time to board the train, so our souls didn’t suffer too badly. Our carriage was similar to the one in which we travelled to Ottawa – indeed, we had the same seat allocation. It also meant that our baggage travelled with us (so often the case in life) and there was room in the overhead locker for all our bits including my ludicrously heavy backpack.
The journey was unremarkable and quite short – enough to serve us a palatable breakfast and some coffee – and so we arrived in Montréal before midday. Jane had done her research and so we knew that Montréal has an underground city similar to, although not so tightly networked as, that of Toronto; Montréal’s is called RÉSO and it looked like we could get from the station to our hotel, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, using its network. So it proved. Of course, arriving that early meant that our room wasn’t ready and we spurned the chance to spend an extra 100 dollars a night (minimum) on getting an upgraded room that was available.
The weather outlook was for heavy showers so we decided to use the time until our room became available to go back into the RÉSO and explore a bit, on the basis that this carried the minimum risk of getting soaked. Back underground we went, and found, to no real surprise, that it was very similar to Toronto’s PATH: corridors and walkways;
eateries in profusion;
occasional glimpses of the outside world;
shops and shopping centres;
some interesting architecture;
and some quirky touches.
These two escalators were unusual in that they were both working. In many other cases, one of the escalators was not. This seems so systematic across the bits of the city we’ve passed through that I can only assume it’s because of routine maintenance in preparation for the forthcoming winter, rather than the kind of tight-fisted neglect which leaves so many UK escalators nonfunctional.
Having found ourselves in the Eaton Centre, a temple to consumerism that was of no interest to us, we realised that we were quite close to the city’s Christ Church cathedral, so we popped in for a look.
There’s a nice almost-cloister round the back, too.
We decided to walk back towards the hotel – not one of Fairmont’s more sumptuous establishments –
and mooch around near it until we were alerted that our room was available. Our friend Ian Burley, whose Canadian recommendations have been very helpful as we work our way across the country, describes the area around the hotel as “charmless”. He’s right; but that doesn’t mean it’s uninteresting. Opposite the hotel, for example, is the newly installed 30m diameter steel Ring at the entrance to downtown’s Place Ville Marie
(sorry about the C2 crap in the way of a decent image); and next door to the hotel is the huge Basilica of Mary Queen of the World,
so we popped in there, too. It’s rather different from Christ Church….
…one can easily tell which is the Protestant and which is the Catholic church. Outside, this cathedral is architecturally complex in a similar manner to that of Sainte Anne de Beaupré.
Whilst walking around, we also saw this extraordinary building.
which looks like a bastion but is actually the Gare Windsor,
formerly the city’s Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) station, and which served as the headquarters of CPR from 1889 to 1996. It’s now mainly office space, and has a wonderful atrium.
We walked out into the courtyard outside, and spotted what we thought was our first piece of street art (something that’s very big in Montréal). Actually it wasn’t really; this was the Place des Canadiens who are
Montréal’s hockey team. There’s a kind of Hall of Fame by this big billboard.
Our room was by this time available, so we put our bags into it and then almost immediately headed out to see another of Ian’s recommendations and something that Jane particularly wanted to see –
the Leonard Cohen mural. I should point out that this takes up 13 storeys on the side of a 21-storey building. I have used image manipulation to straighten the photo above. To give you an idea of the context, this is how it looked:
The route we walked there took us through streets that weren’t all that pleasant, with many homeless and/or otherwise troubled people in evidence, and there was a powerful whiff of weed almost everywhere. We walked back a slightly different route, which was less oppressive and in doing so spotted our first piece of real street art,
a mural so big that it was not possible to fit it all into a single image, but I’ve done my best here. The general area around our hotel is pretty much a business district and so one wouldn’t expect it to have lots of charm. There are one or two odds and bits of interest
although I haven’t a clue what any of them are about; and there’s some interesting modern architecture, which I’ve attempted to convey in an arty shot here.
Many of the tall modern buildings hereabouts are quite interestingly architected, with modern takes on art deco and so forth, so it’s not without interest.
It was nice to have a chance to explore a little of the area in preparation for two days of currently unplanned wanderings. Apart from anything else, it made us realise that we would need to get equipped with ticket for the metro in order to get to the areas we want to explore – it would take too long to walk. I’m sure that by the time we get to tomorrow, Jane will have worked out what we should be getting up to, and I bet it involves looking for street art among other things. You’ll have to stay in touch with these pages to find out, won’t you? I hope you think this is a reasonable idea.