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The Red Door

Canada #2 Chinatown, Victoria

If you’re walking along Pandora Avenue in downtown Victoria remember to look up, or you might miss the sign for Fan Tan Alley.

The entrance to Canada’s narrowest street is nondescript and you could easily walk past without noticing. Once inside though, you can’t help but look up. A thin strip of blue sky dotted with a line of bright red lanterns guides you through the alley to Chinatown.


Located on Fisgard Street, Victoria’s Chinatown is the oldest in Canada. Here you’ll find restaurants, grocers and medicinal shops side by side with those selling paper umbrellas and happy cats. In Fan Tan Alley, there are quirky stores where you can treat yourself to an ice cream, a vintage record or some handmade jewellery, soap or clothing.

At the top of Fisgard Street, the brightly decorated Gate of Harmonious Interest marks the main entrance to Chinatown.

Red and gold are favourite colours in Chinese culture, symbolising good luck, wealth and happiness, and we feel endowed with all three in this lively atmosphere. More strings of lanterns gaily crisscross the street while ornamental signs point the way to other narrow alleys.



It’s the colour red which catches our attention in Fan Tan Alley. This slender door, its red paint worn and patchy, has an air of mystery. There’s no number 23 or 24, just this door – halfway in between.


Perhaps Fan Tan Alley is too narrow to fit them all!

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Welcome to Canada!

Canada #1 Victoria BC

There’s something special about visiting a country for the first time. When we arrived in Victoria, British Columbia the feeling was extra special, with flags, music and colourful celebrations on every street. But we knew the party wasn’t in honour of our arrival. We were there in time to celebrate Canada Day!


This year, 1st of July was the 151st anniversary of Canada’s achievement of self-governance and we were excited to join the festivities in front of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Proud Canadians wearing red and white formed a living flag and, all around us, the national anthem was sung with patriotic fervour. With markets, concerts and cultural displays to enjoy, we were immersed in the emotion of the day.



At dusk we stood on the crowded Johnson St Bridge to watch as fireworks brightened the darkening sky. The city lights, with the illuminated Legislature at their centre, glowed on the blackened waters of the Inner Harbour.


Even though the party wasn’t meant for us, we felt welcomed in the most special way!

On the Beach

An Australian Point of View #4 The Gold Coast

It’s not surprising that more than 10 million people visit the Gold Coast every year. With its subtropical climate, nearby national parks and beautiful beaches, theme parks, wildlife sanctuaries and dozens of restaurants and cafes, Queensland’s second largest city is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.

For an overall view of the Gold Coast region, go straight to the top. At the Q1 Tower at Surfers Paradise there are observation decks on the 76th and 77th floor.  From a height of 230 metres it’s easy to see the 70 kilometres of beautiful beaches and 600 kilometres of canals which make waterfront living so desirable.

Back down at ground level head away from the popular tourist areas and you’ll find plenty of places where it’s not so busy. Go for a long walk, sit on the beach for a while or swim between the flags where vigilant lifeguards keep watch.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a surf class or do some windsurfing.

Or simply take some time to relax. That’s what everyone else will be doing!

 

Gold Fever

An Australian Point of View #3 Sovereign Hill

On the main street of Ballarat there’s a memorial commemorating the centenary of the discovery of gold in 1851. It is dedicated to the miners who toiled on the gold fields and has a replica of the second largest gold nugget ever found. The Welcome Nugget, weighing almost 70 kg and worth £10,500 at the time, was discovered at Bakery Hill in 1858.

More than 25,000 people flocked to the gold fields in western Victoria. Miners with hopes of riches came from around the world and others, who saw the money-making opportunities, provided the goods and services the miners needed. Another life-size replica, even bigger than that massive nugget, allows 21st century visitors to travel back in time to experience life on the gold fields in the 1850s.

Sovereign Hill is one of Australia’s most visited tourist attractions. History comes alive at the open-air museum located on the site of original gold workings.


Cobb & Co coaches once carried passengers and parcels of gold from Ballarat to Melbourne. At Sovereign Hill, teams of Clydesdales pull handcrafted replica coaches and drays through the streets.


On Main Street the grocer, apothecary and drapers sell traditional wares. A popular store is the confectionery, where raspberry drops, toffee apples and humbugs gleam like crystals on the shelves.

There are two hotels, a theatre and a school where today’s students can dress up in knickerbockers and braces, bonnets and pinafores for an 1850s school day. Those who work at Sovereign Hill dress up too; the streets are filled with redcoated soldiers, demure ladies and policemen ready to check for mining licences.

Closer to the gold mine, the blacksmith turns out horseshoes and mining tools. A boiler attendant works around the clock to keep up a constant supply of steam for the mine engines. At the smelting works, a three kilogram gold bar worth $100,000 is melted in the furnace before being poured into a mould to take shape again.


Down in Red Hill Gully, calico tents and bark huts like those the first miners lived in dot the hillside, and a makeshift store sells the necessary fossicking tools.



Modern treasure hunters pan for alluvial gold and, if they’re lucky enough to find some, they can take it home.


Like most of those hopeful miners of the 1850s, they won’t be retiring on their earnings!

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Cityscape

An Australian Point of View #1 Capital Cities

Australia is the sixth largest country in the world with a land mass of 7,692,014 square kilometres. Despite its size, Australia is composed of just six states and two territories, all with their own capital city. Every capital has its own distinctive architecture; some buildings are more well-known than others, but each plays a part in the story of its city.

Brisbane, Queensland

The heritage-listed Albert Street Uniting Church, completed in 1889, is dwarfed by the surrounding city tower blocks. By the early 1900s it was the main Methodist Church in the city and is now the home of Wesley Mission Queensland. With its Victorian Gothic architecture and its inner city position, the church is a popular wedding venue.

Melbourne, Victoria

The Arts Centre Melbourne is Australia’s busiest Performing Arts complex. Construction began in 1973 and the buildings were completed in stages, the last being finished in 1984. The steel spire is 162 metres high and is surrounded at the base by a ruffle of steel mesh reminiscent of a ballerina’s tutu.

Adelaide, South Australia

The scoreboard at the Adelaide Oval has been keeping track of cricket matches since 3 November, 1911. The heritage-listed Edwardian scoreboard is the only one of its type in the Southern Hemisphere and is still manually operated.  A tour of Adelaide Oval includes a visit inside the four storey scoreboard.

Perth, Western Australia

The Bell Tower in Barracks Square houses the Swan Bells, a collection of 18 change ringing bells. Twelve of the bells come from St Martin-in-the-Fields Church in London and date from the 13th century. They were gifted to the city of Perth during Australia’s Bicentenary, while the Bell Tower was completed in time for Millennium celebrations.

Hobart, Tasmania

The Shot Tower at Taroona, just outside Hobart, was built in 1879 and was, for four years, Australia’s tallest building. Lead shot was produced in the tower for 35 years. Next door is the home of Joseph Moir, who constructed the tower and other landmark buildings in Hobart. The shot tower is still the tallest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere.

Darwin, Northern Territory

Government House, on the Esplanade in Darwin, is the oldest European building in the Northern Territory. Completed in 1871, the house is the official residence of the Administrator of the Northern Territory. The Victorian Gothic design is complemented by wide verandas, which help to cool the house in Darwin’s tropical climate.

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory

Parliament House is the meeting place of the Parliament of Australia. This is the second Parliament House and replaced Old Parliament House, which was in use from 1927 to 1988. This new building was opened in 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II during Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations. The Commonwealth Coat of Arms adorns the front façade, and an Australian flag the size of a half tennis court flies at the top of the 81 metre high flagpole.


Sydney, New South Wales

The Sydney Opera House, opened in 1973, overlooks Sydney Harbour at Bennelong Point. Every year, more than eight million people visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site and it hosts more than 1,500 events and performances. The Opera House becomes a focal point during Sydney’s Vivid Festival each June.


Participating in Becky’s #RoofSquares Challenge

London Walking

Exploring England #42

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I do love London! On our second last day, we made the most of the fine weather with a walk in the city, where we found monuments, memorials and M&Ms!

After leaving the Jewel Tower, our destination was the Prince of Wales Theatre for a performance of  The Book Of Mormon. With a few hours to spare and not far to go, we had plenty of time for sightseeing on the way.

From Abingdon St, we turned into Great George St where we paused while the bells of Big Ben rang out on the hour.

At Westminster Bridge, we admired the mighty Boudicca on her chariot, charging into battle against Roman invaders.

Modern battles are also remembered along Victoria Embankment. The Royal Air Force Memorial is dedicated to Air Force members who were casualties of World War 1.

Further along, the dramatic Battle of Britain London Monument commemorates British airmen who took part in the Battle of Britain in World War 2. The monument also acknowledges those from 14 other countries who joined the Allied Forces.

Just before the Golden Jubilee Bridge, we turned onto Northumberland Avenue which leads to  Trafalgar Square and Admiralty Arch, commissioned by King Edward VII in memory of his mother, Queen Victoria.

Trafalgar Square is dominated by Nelson’s Column, dedicated to the memory of Admiral Horatio Nelson, who was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Four Barbary Lions surround the column while a statue of King George IV dressed in Roman regalia overlooks the square.

Leaving Trafalgar Square we walked around the National Gallery into Charing Cross Road. The small restaurants lining Irving Street reminded us it was time for lunch. After a break for pizza at Il Padrino, we walked into Leicester Square, the entertainment hub of London.

A kaleidoscope of colour greeted us at M&M’s World, where we stocked up on sweet treats for later.

Even after stopping at all these places we were still early for the theatre, so we continued on to Picadilly Circus and the Cool Britannia store where we bought some last minute souvenirs.

Finally it was show time, so we joined the crowd waiting to enter the Prince of Wales Theatre on Coventry Street.

That’s another thing I love about London – so many theatres, so many shows.

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Waiting in London

Exploring England #41

Waiting to board the special shuttle bus from Watford Junction to Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden…

Waiting for the traffic to move across Westminster Bridge before continuing on our walk…

Waiting in anticipation for the theatre to open…

All these were worth the wait!

Weekly Photo Challenge ~ Waiting