Big City Tales

Racing Through Indianapolis on Foot

February 28, 2018
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While it’s mostly known for the annual Indy 500 motorsport event, the city of Indianapolis, Indiana has some other interesting claims to fame that are best discovered racing around on foot versus fast cars.

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White River State Park

Encompassing 250 acres in the heart of downtown, White River State Park contains multiple attractions on both sides of the river. To the north is a scenic walkway and  White River Gardens that is part of the Indianapolis Zoo; to the south is the Central Canal and series of museums that stretch along 1.5 miles through the inner city.

Butterfly Bonanza

Featuring 40 species of butterflies flitting and floating about as they please, the indoor section of White River Gardens is the place to see the daily dispatch of hundreds of new butterflies.  The eye-catching exterior is just a hint of what to expect inside.

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NCAA Hall of Champions

There are 24 sports played at the collegiate level in the United States and the heroics of individual student athletes and teams are celebrated in the Hall of Champions. The main floor area is called Arena and includes team rankings and school artifacts. The second floor area is called Play and is an interactive area offering both virtual and hands-on opportunities to shoot some hoops in a gymnasium or hit the slopes on a ski simulator.

JW Marriott “Big Blue”

One of the most recognizable buildings in Indianapolis is the JW Marriott Hotel, also known as “Big Blue” for its bright, bold exterior of blue tinted glass. The hotel is connected to the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium via an enclosed sky-walk bridge, and is across the street from White River State Park making it one of the most desirable places to stay at in the city.

Lucas Oil Stadium

Fans of NFL football will want to check out Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to its retractable roof and stellar views of the city skyline, the stadium has an impressive Pro Shop and is also just minutes away from other downtown attractions.

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Monuments & Memorials

As state capitals go, Indianapolis has its fair share of government buildings and stoic statues of famed political leaders. What is interesting to note is that aside from Washington, DC, Indianapolis has more monuments and memorials than any other city.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument honors all veterans who served in wars prior to World War I. It stands 284 feet tall and is located in Monument Circle in the heart of downtown. An observation deck at 275 feet provides a 360 degree view of the skyline.

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Canada’s Gateway to the West Rolls Through Thunder Bay

February 27, 2018
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Situated on the banks of Lake Superior in Northwestern Ontario, the city of Thunder Bay has long been an important region and natural wonder in the heart of Central Canada. From its early beginnings as a First Nations gathering place to its emergence as a fur trading post and eventual shipping and railway transportation hub between Eastern and Western Canada, there is much to experience and enjoy in “Canada’s Gateway to the West.”

Mount McKay

Offering a gorgeous view of the city and western shore of  Lake Superior, what better way to begin exploring the city than a visit to the Mount McKay Scenic Lookout where the Thunder Bay eagle looms large and majestic. Located on the Fort William First Nation, the lookout includes a walkway and other tributes to the city’s indigenous people such as the Mountain Chapel and Memorial that honours those who died in the world wars.

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Chippewa Park 

After soaking up the views on high at Mount McKay, head on down and take a short drive along City Road to one of Thunder Bay’s grandest and oldest lakefront recreation spots.

Chippewa Park features an old-fashioned carousel and other rides along with a dance hall, picnic areas and long stretches of sand along Sandy Beach looking out toward the famous Sleeping Giant located on Sibley Peninsula.

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The Legend of the Sleeping Giant

While there are a few versions of how the Sleeping Giant land formation came to be, one of the most common centres around an old Ojibwa story.

Legend has it that the spirit figure, Nanabijou, was turned to stone and fell into his final resting place in the waters of Thunder Bay after the secret location of a silver mine known as ‘Silver Islet’ was revealed to white men.

The mine and its riches were intended to be a reward to the Ojibwa for their loyalty and peaceful way of life provided the mine’s whereabouts was safeguarded. Unfortunately, the consequences of its discovery meant instant peril for Nanabijou and the Ojibwa tribe; the great Spirit of the Deep Water was frozen in stone for all eternity and the silver treasure was lost forever.

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Prince Arthur’s Landing at Marina Park

From the winding shores of Sandy Beach at Chippewa Park a good spot to check out next is Prince Arthur’s Landing, a large waterfront complex located in Marina Park.

Whether you fancy a stroll along the boardwalk or a sail on the lake, there is plenty to keep you happily occupied. Public art installations are prominently featured along the pier area, as well as a splash pad/wading pool and skateboard/BMX park for all ages to utilize.

Marina Park is also home to The Anchorage Memorial that honours naval veterans from World War II and the old C.N. Station which was designed in the popular “Railroad Gothic” style of architecture that was popular from the 1880s to the 1930s.

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Fort William Historical Park

The early economic history of Thunder Bay comes to life at Fort William, the world’s largest fur trading post where employees of the North West Company alongside the Ojibwa conducted their business centuries ago.

A large native encampment on the fort’s perimeter showcases traditional wigwams and fur drying techniques along with other crafts and cooking.

Inside the fort over 30 historical buildings depict the day-to-day life of the fur trade industry representatives.

For its time the fort was a grand undertaking and reflected the wealth and success achieved by the North West Company. All necessities were provided including a hospital, apothecary, powder magazine, observatory and jail.

Finlandia

In addition to the intrepid French voyageurs and British settlers who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to participate in the fur trade, Thunder Bay also has a large Finnish population. Migrant workers from Finland were instrumental in fostering positive labour practices in the early part of the 20th Century.

The Finnish Labour Temple was built in 1910 and proudly flies the flag of its adopted homeland. Right next door you can get your fill of Finnish pancakes at Hoito Restaurant.

Kaministikwia River Heritage Park

More commonly referred to as Kam River Park, the area features a long walkway and scenic views of the Kaministikwia River.

Historical structures such as the 100-year-old James Whelan Tug boat and a vintage VIA Rail train can be found here along with newer public art installations such as the beautiful Animikii – Flies the Thunder sculpture.

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Thunder Bay Museum

Before it was a museum, the building was first known as the Donald Street Station, which was the police station and courthouse for the historic City of Fort William.

Covering the periods of early native life through to modern times, the museum features three floors and six galleries of permanent and rotating exhibits. It’s a wonderful place to get a sense of the local, regional and national influences that contributed to Thunder Bay’s development.

“Superior by Nature”

Thunder Bay’s “Superior by Nature” corporate tagline reflects two equally important aspects about the city: its location in proximity to Lake Superior; and its beautiful natural environment that can be enjoyed year-round.

From lakes and rivers to mountains and forests, the diverse terrain provides the perfect landscape to explore the great outdoors in myriad ways.

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Run for the Roses and River Views in Louisville

February 20, 2018
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Whether you’re coming to take in the spectacle of the annual Kentucky Derby or take in the splendor of the sprawling banks of the Ohio River, the city of Louisville, Kentucky will have you cheering loud and long for its famed “Run for the Roses” horse race and impressive river views.

Churchill Downs

Home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs covers 147 acres and is a designated National Historic Site. The derby, also known as the “Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sport,” takes place on the first Saturday in May and features the best three-year-old Thoroughbreds.

The twin spires on the grandstand and the Barbaro memorial statue are two of the most recognizable architectural features and symbols of Churchill Downs. While the grounds are mostly serene and empty during the year, come race day crowds can reach over 150,000 with 50,000 lucky enough to have seats to witness the first leg of the famed Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

Gateway to the South

Situated on the southern banks of the historic Ohio River (The Beautiful River), Louisville has the unique distinction of being influenced by both southern and mid-western cultures. One of the city’s nicknames is “Gateway to the South” due to its status as a major shipping port and transportation hub for both trains and airplanes.

The city boasts many outdoor recreation areas, including Waterfront Park that stretches for over a mile along the Ohio River. The park features playgrounds, historical statues and artistic landscaping, and offers stellar views of both the city’s downtown core and the river.

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Main Street USA

There’s nothing more American than baseball so it is fitting that Main Street is the home of the Louisville Slugger Museum and the world’s largest baseball bat. Some of the other quaint and quirky sights along Main Street include the 21c Museum Hotel that features a double-size replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David covered in gold paint, numerous “Horse on Barrel” painted statues, the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts, and the headquarters of the Sons of the American Revolution.

Center for Higher Learning

Louisville is proud of its numerous academic institutions and the acclaim the likes of the University of Louisville has achieved for its hand and artificial heart transplant efforts.

The university is also home to a bronze cast replica of Rodin’s The Thinker sculpture that was the first of its kind and was personally supervised by the artist.  The statue is situated in front of the university’s administration building, Grawemeyer Hall, which is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.


Sole to Soul in Seoul

February 19, 2018
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As the world’s best athletes converge on PyeongChang, South Korea to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the best of Korean culture is on display for the rest of the world to admire.

The road to the games runs through the capital city of Seoul, which coincidentally hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, and is a global dynamo. Seoul is a bustling metropolis that seamlessly merges ancient traditions with modern spectacles and its downtown core can be easily be enjoyed on foot.

Rest assured, with each step of your sole the beauty and grandeur of the city will surely touch your soul.

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Old Meets New

The heart of Seoul’s downtown area features the remnants of the Joseon Dynasty, a kingdom that lasted for five centuries before the establishment of the Korean Empire in 1897.

Grand palaces and elaborate temples from days of old hold their own against the glitz and glamour of Seoul’s sparkling waterfront and its epic shopping districts.

The Cheonggyecheon is a public recreation space built along the path of an ancient stream that flows east to west through the downtown. Jongno (known as Bell Street) contains many important historical landmarks such as the Bosingak belfry, Tapgol Park (Pagoda Park), and Dongdaemun (Great East Gate).  The Jongno Tower is a 33-floor modern office building with a restaurant/bar on the top floor that is known for its city views.

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Beyond Downtown Seoul

There are a total of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites located in the broader Seoul Capital Area that include: Changdeok Palace, Hwaseong Fortress, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong (a mountain fortress city), and the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty.

Modern landmarks such as N Seoul Tower, the 63 Building, Lotte World Tower, and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza demonstrate some of the city’s best architectural efforts in recent years.

Colourful City Collage

By day or by night, the bold and bright colours of Seoul reveal the gems of its rich cultural heritage that have paved the way for a new and equally charming modern aesthetic. In recent years the city has received numerous awards for its architectural design and general livability; little wonder that international visitors are attracted in droves to soak up the best that Seoul has to offer.


The Call of the Wild in Whitehorse

February 17, 2018
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In a region where critters actually outnumber humans, the Yukon Territory truly is where the wild things are but a quick trip to the capital city of Whitehorse revealed a highly civilized and very friendly environment as well.

For anyone who has been hearing the ‘call of the wild’ but has yet to answer and explore Canada’s north, Whitehorse and surrounding area is a good place to start. 

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Majestic Mountains

While much of Canada’s north is flat tundra, there are many majestic mountain ranges.

The Saint Elias mountains along the western border of the Yukon are noteworthy for being the home of Mount Logan, which is Canada’s highest peak, and for being snow-capped throughout the year.

On clear days, the mountains in all their glory are visible on flights into Whitehorse and certainly paint an inviting picture of the beautiful and epic northern landscape.

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MacBride Museum of Yukon History

If your preference is museum exhibitions over mountain expeditions, the MacBride Museum is a recommended venue that offers a taste of the ‘great outdoors’ in a controlled indoor environment.

From the early beginnings of its First Nations people to the intrepid northern explorers who sought to conquer the land and strike gold, the museum pays homage to many of the Yukon’s bravest and most colourful characters.

Located along Whitehorse’s quaint and picturesque Front Street, the museum houses close to 30,000 historical and cultural artifacts.

Gold, Gold and More Gold

The ‘Gold to Government’ exhibit winds along the Yukon River that is painted on the museum’s floor. The exhibit tells the story of early prospecting efforts that gave rise to the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890s and the eventual establishment of a formal government and capital city in Whitehorse some 50 years later.

As the gateway to the Klondike, prospectors stocked up with basic necessities in Whitehorse before heading out on the long haul journey to Dawson City. The General Store offered a wide array of goods and the Miner’s Saloon served as the local watering hole where some celebrated their success; while others drowned their sorrows. Other amenities included a hospital, barber shop, confectionery and road house.

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Critters, Critters and More Critters

Another main attraction of the MacBride Museum is the Wild World exhibit that showcases the most common mammals and birds found in the Yukon, depicting them in their natural habitats and all their life-size glory.

The standing grizzly bear is seven feet tall and the antler span of the grown male moose is up to six feet.

Population-wise, there are 170,000 majestic caribou in the Yukon, along with 70,000 moose and 17,000 bears.

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Indigenous People

With a total of 14 First Nations groups calling the Yukon home, native history, art and culture feature prominently in the MacBride Museum and in other Whitehorse venues.

The Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre, situated along the banks of the Yukon River, celebrates the traditions, language, values and practices of the Kwanlin Dun First Nations people. The centre is also a gathering place for all cultures to come and learn about the unique aspects of the Kwanlin Dun, participate in festive ceremonies and observe canoe carving techniques with traditional hand tools.

A True Local and National Treasure

Home of  largest sternwheeler vessel to travel the Canadian waters of the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson Creek, the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site pays tribute to the glory days of river transportation.

The S.S. Klondike was indeed a mighty vessel. Its sternwheel design gave it incredible power to haul silver-lead ore, as well as general goods and passengers.  Another notable distinction was that one of its pilots was the only First Nations man to ever obtain Master papers.

Building Art

One of the most interesting and unique aspects of Whitehorse is the large number of murals painted on building exteriors. Ranging from small to large and covering historical to contemporary subject matter, the murals definitely add a lot of colour and character to the city’s streets.

One of the largest murals (and the first to be painted) is found in the parking lot behind the Hougen’s retail complex on Main Street.  Painted to look like a frontier main street during the filming of a movie in 1993, old-fashioned storefronts and a vintage pick-up truck make up the main scenes.

Depictions of the Klondike Gold Rush are also prevalent, along with First Nation, riverboat and train transportation, and general wilderness exploration themes.

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Land of Midnight Sun 

During the summer months, the natural phenomenon of the ‘midnight sun’ is experienced in the Yukon offering extended daylight.

There’s no need for flashlights, headlights or reading lamps in the late evening/early morning hours, which makes for ample time to explore the wonderful wilderness that lies beyond Whitehorse.

Due west of the city along the historic Alaska Highway is Kluane National Park and Reserve that offers mountains, glaciers, forests and lakes in over 22,000 square kilometres of wide open space.

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From Destruction to Reconstruction in Dresden

February 12, 2018
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The year was 1945. World War II was raging across the globe. In the European Theatre, the Allied Forces were on the offensive and gaining ground against their dreaded Nazi foe. Boasting strong fire power from the air, the British Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force unleashed their collective might on strategic targets.

As the capital city of the German state of Saxony, Dresden was considered to be a transportation, communication and general war effort hub that warranted a significant and sustained bombing campaign. Following eight raids spread over three months (February to April), the Allied Forces declared a decisive victory but at what cost? The vast destruction of important landmarks in the city’s cultural centre would draw the ire of critics in the post-war era resulting in an intensive reconstruction effort.

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Out of the ruins of war, Dresden would eventually return to its former beauty. Yes, in some areas the city centre still shows the lingering aftermath of soot stained exteriors that hearken back to the darkest days of World War II, but slowly and surely Dresden’s grandest structures have been rebuilt and fully restored to the brighter days of their pre-war glory.

The Zwinger

Located in the historic heart of Dresden, the Zwinger Palace was originally constructed as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena for the ruling Kings of Saxony.  The palace is Dresden’s most famous landmark and the Crown Gate is its most impressive exterior feature. The series of statues in the gate’s nitches depict the four seasons.

Inside the palace, a series of pavilions and galleries showcase some of the finest European artists, notably the Old Masters Gallery where Raphael’s larger than life Sistine Madonna is on display. In addition to paintings, the Zwinger houses an impressive porcelain collection, as well as antique weapons and scientific instruments.

Given the historical and cultural value of the palace, the Zwinger was one of the first buildings to be restored following the Allied bombing raids. Parts of the complex were re-opened in 1951 and full public access followed in 1963.

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Semper Opera House / Theaterplatz

Prior to World War II, the Semper Opera House had already undergone two rebuilds: one the result of a neo-Renaissance “facelift” completed in 1841; the other the result of a catastrophic fire in 1869. The post-fire rebuild was completed in 1878 and revealed a new High Renaissance look. Following the Allied bombings in 1945, it would take 40 years to complete its third reconstruction. When the Semper Opera House reopened its doors in February 1985, the occasion was marked with a performance of the last opera played before the bombing campaign began.

The Semper Opera House is located in the Theaterplatz, a large open square that is also bordered by the Zwinger Palace and the Hofkirche Catholic Cathedral. At the center of the Theaterplatz stands a bronze equestrian statue of King John, Saxon ruler from 1854 until 1873. This statue was created by Johannes Schilling, a German sculptor who was also responsible for the chariot statue on top of the opera house.

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Dresden Cathedral (Hofkirche)

While Germany is the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation movement, Catholicism was the chosen religion of the Saxon royal family and a ‘battle of the churches’ in the 1700s produced two gems. The Hofkirche was built in an effort to create balance between the earlier constructed Frauenkirche, home of Dresden’s Protestant faithful.

Commissioned by Augustus III and completed in 1751, the Hofkirche was intended to be the largest church in all of Saxony and its grand design included a copper onion dome, Corinthian columns and a series of historical and biblical statues that look out over the city.

The Hofkirche is one of Dresden’s most beautiful buildings and has the added distinction of being the final resting place of Augustus the Strong’s heart.

Although badly damaged during WWII, the church wasn’t restored until the mid-1980s. Following the re-unification of Germany further restoration occurred, including the rebuilding of a bridge leading to the royal castle.

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Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche)

With its massive dome and exquisite interior, when the Frauenkirche opened its doors in 1743 it quickly gained renown around the world as an iconic symbol of Dresden.

At 95 metres in height and having a dome 23.5 metres in diameter, to this day the impressive Protestant church dominates the city centre landscape. That the dome became known as the ‘stone bell’ is not surprising considering its sheer mass and double shell construction for the inner and outer dome.

Fittingly, a reverent and stoic statue of Martin Luther, author of the Ninety-five Theses and a key figure in the Protestant Reformation, stands in the courtyard outside of the church beckoning true believers to draw nigh and enter in.

During the bombings in 1945, the Frauenkirche at first appeared to withstand the Allied onslaught but the sandstone eventually gave way and the building collapsed. Despite an immediate effort by church members to gather funds and reconstruct the Frauenkirche, the post-war situation in Germany stalled the initiative and wouldn’t be revisited until after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 1990s.

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“Florence on the Elbe”

Following the city’s mass destruction during World War II, Dresden was literally reduced to a pile of rubble.  Thanks to decades of intensive labour, the beauty of the city has  emerged from the ashes and it is once again deserving of its nickname “Florence on the Elbe.”

One of the best vantage points to take in the essence of Dresden’s splendor is along the Bruhl Terrace, often referred to as the “Balcony of Europe” owing to its gorgeous promenade and spectacular river views.

The Royal Art Academy is one of the most impressive landmarks along the terrace and is noteworthy for its neo-Renaissance design along with the towering glass dome crowned by a gilded gold statue of Nike, goddess of victory.

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