Category Archives: Europe

Animals in the Gun Tower: Haus des Meeres in Vienna

The shape of the building that houses Haus des Meeres (House of the Sea) in Vienna, Austria, looks like an odd choice for an aquarium and a zoo – a rectangular box of concrete with a tent-like green house on one side, no windows on the other three sides, and circular platforms sticking out on all sides from the roof deck.

Haus des Meeres from the outside
Haus des Meeres from the outside

That’s because the building was repurposed – it was originally an anti-aircraft and gun tower during WWII, with a radar that could be lowered into the concrete tower and protected. The round platforms on all four sides on the roof deck was where the aircraft guns stood.

The idea of turning the building into an aquarium came about in the 1960s, and now the top deck offers great views of Vienna and the surrounding hills, and the 4,000 square meters, or 43,000 square feet of floor space inside house aquaria, terraria, and an aviary. Continue reading Animals in the Gun Tower: Haus des Meeres in Vienna

Clam Chowder from Scratch: An Ode to Vacation Rentals

Digging for clams is hard.

First you look for the “clam shows” – the air holes in the sand that show where a clam might be. Once you find a nice, big hole, you dig the wet, heavy sand around it, pushing your shovel as deep as you can. Then you bend, squat, or kneel to look through the pile of sand you just turned over, or plunge your hand in the hole feeling for clam shells. And then you stand up again, and move to dig in another place.

Dig. Squat. Stand up. Repeat.

my sister-in-law and I, digging for clams in St. Mary's Bay on Prince Edward Island, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton
my sister-in-law and I, digging for clams in St. Mary’s Bay on Prince Edward Island, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law, Brian Sutton

Continue reading Clam Chowder from Scratch: An Ode to Vacation Rentals

Playgrounds around the World: Photo Essay

Wherever we travel, if we see a playground, my daughter always ask to stop and play, and we let her. She’s learned to be patient when when we drag her around museums, castles, and other “sightseeing” places we want to see, and we figure she deserves some fun time too.

In general, all playgrounds, event the smallest ones, have a slide, and possibly a swing or some other rocking structure. The bigger ones allow quite extensive climbing structures, and places to run around.

Some playgrounds are quite simple, but some, even small, are quite creative, like the insect-looking play structure in the featured photo above that we stumbled upon in Quebec City.

Here are a few examples of other playgrounds, from several places around the world, submitted by fellow travel bloggers. Continue reading Playgrounds around the World: Photo Essay

Have you ever seen the village of Lacock? You might have

Have you ever seen the village of Lacock in Wiltshire, UK?

Before you say “No,” let me ask you – Have you ever watched the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, Moll Flanders, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Cranford, Wolfman, Downton Abbey, or Harry Potter?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above, then you have seen Lacock. On screen.

Compare the image above with the shot below. Look familiar?

shot of the corner of East and High Streets in Lacock, during filming of the BBC Pride and Prejudice
shot of the corner of East and High Streets in Lacock, during filming of the BBC Pride and Prejudice

You can also see some great shots of the cast of Downton Abbey in “Downton Abbey filming held back by local tour guide.”

Continue reading Have you ever seen the village of Lacock? You might have

Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland = Fun for the whole family

Have you ever seen a fire tornado, experienced a simulated earthquake, or turned on a light bulb with a stair master?

You can do all that and more at the Copernicus Science Centre (Centrum Nauki Kopernika) in Warsaw, Poland, which opened in 2010, right on the bank of the Vistula river.

We’ve been there twice – once right after it opened, and the second time in January 2013. Both times not only the kids had a lot of fun, but the grown ups as well.

What can you see at the Copernicus Science Centre?

Well, looking at the Centre website I see that several of the exhibits that my kids loved, have been replaced by new, probably just as exciting exhibits, but a few of the old classics remained:

“Roots of Civilization”

The “Roots of Civilization” area, located on the ground floor, explains how some inventions, some quite ancient, changed the world and contributed to the development of the civilization.

At one of the exhibits, you can see what your name would look like when spelled in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

my name, Jolanta, in hieroglyphics
my name, Jolanta, in hieroglyphics

Continue reading Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, Poland = Fun for the whole family

Before Visiting Stonehenge, Learn a Bit of its History

The grey stones covered with greenish and orange lichen look like a giant child’s play area.

Some stones still stand upright, in a circle. Others are on the ground, as if knocked down in a moment of frustration. There are gaps in the circle as if some pieces were taken away, or have not been put in yet.

Bright green grass separates the stone circle from a rounded path along which people walk around the monument, their faces turned toward the stones.

Beyond the path a herd of sheep pays no attention to stones or humans, concentrating on finding the juiciest bits of grass.

sheep grazing in the field next to Stonehenge
sheep grazing in the field next to Stonehenge

This is Stonehenge.

An ancient place of … well, we don’t really know what.

Continue reading Before Visiting Stonehenge, Learn a Bit of its History