Monday, March 31, 2014

Postcard from...New York City, USA

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City was founded in 1870 by a group of American businessmen, financiers, artists and thinkers of the day who wanted to bring art education to the American people. It's the largest art museum in the United States, and one of the ten largest in the world, with its permanent collection containing more than two million works in as many square feet.

On my visit I focused on the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts collection and the Greek and Roman Art but there are many other collections to view such as Arms and Armor, Asian Art, Islamic Art, Egyptian Art, and American Art just to name a few.

Photo take March 16, 2013.
Sunday, March 30, 2014

History of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery in Reviers, France

A very important part of the trip L and I took recently to Normandy and Ypres were the military cemeteries we visited to take some moments to reflect and pay our respects to the soldiers that fought and died during WWI and WWII. In France we visited an American, a German, a Canadian, and two Commonwealth cemeteries and then in Ypres we visited several more Commonwealth cemeteries.  Eventually I'd like to feature each one we visited but today I'd like to start with the history behind the Commonwealth War Graves Commission that created and continues to maintain the Commonwealth cemeteries and memorials.

As we slowly wandered through each one we noticed the similarities between them, wondered about the layout of some that seemed odd (in that they weren't all laid out in straight and tidy rows), and noted the higher proportion of unknown soldiers in WWI cemeteries in Ypres and the surrounding areas than in the WWII cemeteries in France. I picked up some pamphlets along the way and studied information at the Tyne Cot visitors center describing the story behind how these cemeteries and memorials came to be and the common symbols in each and this is what has led to today's post.

The story begins in 1914 when a former teacher, Fabian Ware, arrived in France. He wanted to enlist in the British army but was told he was too old so he joined, and later commanded, a British Red Cross Unit. His task was to lead a mobile unit that recovered injured soldiers and, all too often, bodies of fallen soldiers that need burial. During the war soldiers were typically buried near hospitals or battlefields and it was their comrades responsibility to mark their graves. Many of these records were lost or the simple crosses erected were damaged during the continued fighting. Fabian noticed the problems with this system and was very concerned that the graves would be lost forever. He and his unit took it upon themselves to start registering and caring for all the graves they could find.

Tyne Cot War Cemetery in Zonnebeke, Belgium
In 1915 the War Office recognized the work of Ware's unit and they officially became the Graves Registration Commission. During this time they received hundreds of letters from the soldier's relatives looking for information and photographs of their loved ones' graves. By 1917, 12,000 photographs had been sent to relatives around the world. Later in 1917, Ware grew further concerned about the fate of the graves once the war was over and became convinced an official organization was needed. With the support of the Prince of Wales, he submitted a request for this to the Imperial War Conference and unanimously his request was granted and the Imperial War Graves Commission was established on May 21, 1917. Later in 1960, the name was changed to the current name, "Commonwealth War Graves Commission", a decision made when the Commission recognized the name "Imperial" in the title was not in tune with post war strengthening of national and regional feelings.

From Bayeux War Cemetery in France
In addition to recording the details of each soldier the IWGC began creating lasting memorials and cemeteries to commemorate the fallen soldiers. Debates and disagreements then ensued over how they should be created but in the end four principals were agreed upon:

  • Each of the dead should be commemorated by name on the headstone or memorial
  • Headstones and memorials should be permanent
  • Headstones should be uniform
  • There should be no distinction made on account of military or civil rank, race or creed

By 1938 the building work for hundreds of memorials and cemeteries was complete but then only one year later WWII began and with it also began more burials. From WWII another 600,000 men and women were commemorated.

 In addition to the soldiers the Commission also recognized in WWII that casualties were no longer only military personnel and Ware insisted on the commemoration of the civilian deaths as well. Their over 66,000 names have been recorded on a roll of honour that was placed near St. George's Chapel at Westminster Abbey in 1956.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission cares for cemeteries and memorials in 23,000 locations, in 153 countries. In all 1.7 million men and women from the Commonwealth forces from WWI and WWII have been honoured and commemorated in perpetuity.

Ranville War Cemetery in Ranville, France
To learn more about the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, find a cemetery or a fallen soldier please visit their very informative website. 

Working alongside the CWGC is the War Graves Photographic Project that have undertaken the huge task of recording, archiving and making available to descendants the images of the graves or memorial listings of every service casualty since the outbreak of WWI. As of 2013, with the help of a dedicated group of volunteers, they have been able to record over 1.7 million named graves and memorials and the task continues.


"I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war."
 - King George V, Flanders, 1922
Monday, March 24, 2014

Postcard from...Honfleur, France

Honfleur, a town of painters and impressionism, was the perfect stop for an afternoon stroll after a morning of driving from London to France. It's well known for its picturesque cobblestone streets, timber-framed house fronts, charming little shops, and restaurants surrrounding the Vieux-Bassin {old dock}. It has preserved remnants from its rich historical past with relics of an old fortification, the Lieutenance {Lieutenancy} and the Porte de Caen {Caen Gate}, along with the Greniers à sel {salt granaries} found in narrow backstreets.

This photo comes from my second visit to this charming little town but with other things to explore and discover here I have a feeling this won't be my last visit.

Photo taken March 10, 2014.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Travel Goal

If you follow this blog for awhile you'll start to see that I have many travel goals that I'd like to accomplish in my lifetime and along with these goals comes another favourite of mine to keep up with these goals...lots and lots of lists!

I've been tossing around a goal to visit a certain number of UNESCO sites for awhile but wasn't really sure how many there were all together {981} or just how many I have visited to date {only 16!} so this weekend I decided to find the official list, set my goal and start tracking it. Please visit my permanent UNESCO Sites page to stay up-to-date on my progress.

So now, along with my goals to visit 100 countries, all the castles of England, and various other travel & adventure goals I've also set a goal to visit 500 UNESCO sites in my lifetime. As sites are added each year if I've already visited them, before their inclusion, I'll still allow myself to consider them one of the 500 because let's face it, if I'm starting at 16 I'm going to need all the help I can get to reach 500! Really though, in the end, if I reach 462 or 534 the ultimate reward will be that I have visited and experienced some awesome natural and cultural sites all around our world. 

The official UNESCO World Heritage Centre website can be found here and there is tons of information on their site. Also for those that are curious, like me, UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site is 

...a place (such as a forest, mountain, lake, desert, monument, building, complex, or city) that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance. As of January 2014, 981 sites are listed: 759 cultural, 193 natural, and 29 mixed properties. While each World Heritage Site remains part of the legal territory of the state wherein the site is located, UNESCO considers it in the interest of the international community to preserve each site.
To be included on the list a site must be of "outstanding universal value" and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. The list of criteria can be found here.  Only countries that have signed the World Heritage Convention, pledging to protect their own natural and cultural heritage, can submit nominations for sites to be included on the list. Each year the World Heritage Committee meets to decide which sites will be added to the list. For more information on the nomination process visit here.

For the full list and an interactive map you can visit the World Heritage Sites List. Each site on the list is also linked to further information about that site giving a description, photos, and the criteria/criterion it met to be included. It is very informative and if you're like me I'm sure you'll spend way too long reading about all the places you've been and the ones you know you'll see. I even found a few places that I was very surprised to see made the list. Have fun checking it out!

To keep this list on this page at a reasonable length I'm only going to include the places I've been. Eventually that might get divided up by continent but for now my list includes:



STATS {Last Updated March 2014}

Number of Sites Visited: 16

% of Total Sites Visited: 1.6%

% of Sites Visited to Meet my Goal of 500:  3.2%
Saturday, March 22, 2014

{France} Musée du Louvre in Paris

I've debated with myself long and hard about how I was going to start this blog. Do I start by telling you a little bit more about myself? Or how about a little post about the places I've been able to visit so far and then what's on my ever-growing travel list? Or the fact that I just love a good list... period? Any kind of list but especially travel lists. Or what kinds of things I think I'll end up writing about and sharing on this little blog o'mine? In the end I decided to just jump right in instead. Eventually all the rest of those things will come out right? Let's get to the good stuff!

So without further ado let's start with my favourite ....errr maybe I should say 2nd favourite city? { more to come on this dilemma in time. Ooh a teaser already! :-) } in the whole world. Well at least so far. I've got a lot of world left yet to see.

Today we are off to the City of Lights or the City of Love. Ahhh Paris. I'll have to report back at a later date if the second name is indeed true. I have a sneaking suspicion it is.

Paris was the first city I visited outside of North America and was really what started my love affair with all things French, European, historical, and royal. It began on a cold day in February 2005 {nope, not Paris in the spring or summer. No I go in February! Brrrr!) and has only grown since. I've been to Europe a few times since that trip and almost every one has included a stop in Paris. I can't get enough of it and every trip includes new things I didn't see the time before and it always, inevitably, includes a trip to the Louvre. Honestly this blows my mind sometimes. If you'd asked me even 10 years ago if I'd see the Louvre in my lifetime I would have probably said yes. But to have seen it several times. To actually have favourite pieces and know my way around. No, I never would have said that. But I feel so,so lucky that I can.

Today I'd like to share a few of my favourite photos of the Musée du Louvre taken in 2011 when I was able to share it with my Mom. She came over to visit me when I was in France on work assignment and this topped her "must see" list so off we went one beautiful July morning.

The Musée du Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and historical monuments and with 9.7 million visitors per year {15,000 per day!} it is the world's most visited museum. It is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement and is a central landmark of Paris.

The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace {Palais du Louvre} which was originally built in the late 12th century {12th century! I just love these old buildings!} by Philip II as a fortress. The building was extended many times to what we see today and was used as a palace until 1692 when Louis XIV decided to choose the Palace of Versailles for his residence instead. During the French Revolution it was decreed that the museum be used to display France's masterpieces and it officially opened on August 10, 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings and 184 art objects. Today the museum is home to over 380,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century, with some 35,000 of those on display. In some later posts I'll share some of my favourite pieces, surprisingly {or maybe not surprisingly for those that have seen her} the Mona Lisa did not make the cut.

By 1874, the Louvre Palace had achieved it's present form with the Sully, Richelieu, and Denon Wings but in 1983 French President François Mitterand proposed the Grand Louvre plan to renovate the building. The architect I.M.Pei was given the project and proposed a glass pyramid to stand over the new entrance to the main court, the Cour Napoléon. The pyramid was completed in 1989 and the Inverted Pyramid {La Pyramide Inversée}was then completed in 1993. Whether you love it or hate it I think all can agree it is a pretty impressive addition to an already stunning building. Personally, I quite like it.

For more information if you'd like to visit the Musée du Louvre ...

  • Louvre Museum Official Website
  • What are fellow travelers saying about the Louvre on TripAdvisor? Click here to find out.
  • Address: 99 rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
  • Arriving by the métro? Stop at Louvre Rivoli and Palais Royal Musée du Louvre, both on Line 1 (yellow)