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US: Portsmouth, NH – FREE Weekly Open House at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses hosts open houses at Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse in New Castle every Sunday from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October (Columbus Day weekend).

No reservations are necessary as tours are on a first come, first served basis. Children must be 42 inches tall to climb to the top, and adults are not permitted to carry children up the stairs. Portsmouth-Harbor-Lighthouse

Visitors get to climb to the lantern room to enjoy the magnificent view and to see the fourth-order Fresnel lens up close. Volunteers will tell visitors about the history of the light station, and there will be souvenirs for sale.

There are 44 stairs to the watch room and a 7-rung ladder to the lantern room. Flat shoes (not sandals or flip-flops) are required to climb the ladder into the lantern room.Lighthouse TourIMG_1886small-620x250

Location: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse Coast Guard Station,
25 Wentworth Rd
, New Castle, NH 03854
Date:  Every Sun, starting June 3 ’til Oct 14th 2018
Time: 1 – 5pm
Tel: 603-534-0537
portsmouthharborlighthouse.org
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: portsmouthnh.com

US: Mystic, CT – Mystic Sharkfest Swim

The 3rd Annual Mystic Sharkfest will be a 1500 meter swim from Middle Wharf at Mystic Seaport, down the Mystic River and under the famous Bascule drawbridge to finish at Dock A at Seaport Marine next to Red 36 Restaurant.Mystic Sharkfest - ParticipantsIMG_7483

This swim will give you the perfect excuse to visit a classic New England seaport on Long Island Sound. The swim course will take you past the fully restored whaling ship, Charles Morgan and around the Mystic Harbor lighthouse and down river through the picturesque village.

Mystic Sharkfest SwimDon’t miss the opportunity to explore this small town that is steeped in shipbuilding history.  Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Its collections and exhibits include over 500 historic watercraft, a major research library, a large gallery of maritime art, a unique diorama displaying the town of Mystic as it was in the 19th century, a ship restoration shipyard, the Treworgy Planetarium, and a re-creation of a 19th-century seafaring village. You will also want to visit the Mystic Aquarium where you can actually pet the sharks…the perfect conclusion to your Sharkfest weekend.

PLEASE NOTE: This swim is not for novices. This event is for experienced open-water swimmers only. You should be able to swim one mile comfortably in a pool in under 40 minutes.

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Location:Downtown Mystic, Mystic Seaport, Main Street,  Mystic, CT 06355
Date: Sun, July 16, 2017
Time: 8:30am – 12:00pm
Tel: 415-868-1829
raceroster.com/events/2017/9524/2017-mystic-sharkfest-swim
For Regional Accommodations, Restaurants & Attractions: thisismystic.com
mysticdowntown.org

US: Virginia – Cirque du Soleil coming to Virginia Beach

This summer is your moment to finally get to see Cirque du Soleil AND enjoy a beach vacation at the same time. The show KOOZA  will be performing under their iconic blue and yellow tent from July 17 to August 16. If Patrick John Ross is playing Trickster, say hello from us.
kooza

However, Virginia Beach is way more than a beach and a circus full of fun:

Zip through the trees at The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium
– Fly in a vintage airplane at the Virginia Military Aviation Museum
– Share the water with dolphins on an ocean kayaking excursion
– Eat a fresh oyster dinner, on a table in the middle of the water where you just caught them
–  Have a paragliding adventure
– Learn to hang ten – go surfing
– Take a selfie in the sky in the Cape Henry Lighthouse
Pick fresh crab and then eat it fresh – on newspaper with the tide rolling in

www.visitvirginiabeach.com

 

South Africa: Visiting Robben Island, UNESCO World Heritage Site

By Adele Shapiro – March 2012.

As a child I used to visit Robben Island with my grandmother. Her son, my uncle, was a warder in the prison services there. The name “Robben”, despite sounding very English – is in fact the Dutch for “Seal” – and the name derives from the extensive seal colony that was found on the Island by the first Dutch settlers.

We would go to the Cape Town docks and from there, take a boat ride to the island, where we would spend the day with family. I was vaguely aware that there were bad people on the island, and that it was a prison…. but little did I know then of the role it was to play in South Africa’s later history. Years passed and now as an adrobben1ult, I found myself revisiting the place where “the bad people” were kept, only now I realized that some were not so bad after all.

I bought a ticket for the tour some days before the trip, (advisable, as they fill up quickly) and took time out to examine the display at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

There were many photographs of the political dissidents, the calls for boycotts, the anti-apartheid marches and there was also a prison cell that had been reconstructed for the purposes of the exhibit. I strongly recommend a visit to this exhibit before going to the island as it helps to contextualize the experience.

The trip began, as in times of old, with a boat ride from Cape Town docks, but this time instead of my uncle meeting us, we had a pleasant tour guide who told us jokes on our bus trip, whilst pointing out various sights on the island. Our bus was parked under a sign that said: “Welcome. We serve with pride.” I wondered if that sign had been there when Robben Island had been a prison as it was so sharply incongruous to the environment. I hoped not.

robben2Robben Island has had a long history. First as a lighthouse to warn ships of the VOC, the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie), of the rocks that surround the island. But since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used for the isolation of (mainly) political prisoners. The island was also used at various times as an animal quarantine station, a home for slaves, a leper colony, a hospital for the mentally ill and as a prison for French Vichy prisoners of war.

First we saw the Leper Graveyard and then house where Robert Sobukwe (Founder of the Pan Africanist Congress) had been kept separate from the other political dissidents.

It seems that Robert Sobukwe had special status in the prison. He was kept in solitary confinement at all times, but allowed certain privileges including access to books, being permitted to study, being permitted to wear civilian clothes, and being permitted bread. His children were allowed to visit him and they had their own bedroom in his “house”. Robert Sobukwe was convicted of incitement for demonstrating against and defying the Pass Laws, and in particular, for his connection to the PAC demonstration (although he was not present) which became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

The notorious Pass Laws required black people to carry a pass book at all times when outside their compounds or designated areas, and were designed to limit severely the movements of the non-white population. This legislation was one of the dominant features of the country’s apartheid system.

Sobukwe was sentenced to three years in prison. After serving his sentence, he was moved to Robben Island for internment, as a new law called the General Law Amendment Act had been passed, which permitted his imprisonment to be renewed annually at the discretion of the Minister of Justice. This procedure became known as the “Sobukwe clause” and Robert Sobukwe was the only person whose imprisonment was extended under this clause. Imagine how special one has to be in order for parliament to pass a law just for you!

We also learned from our tour guide that the American politician and Pastor, Andrew Young, had fostered Sobukwe’s children in the USA, while Sobukwe had been in prison.

Our tour continued to the lime quarry where the political prisoners had worked. At the entrance to the quarry we saw a small cairn, and learned its history. In February 1995, (the landmark change of government was in 1994), about one thousand former political prisoners gathered again on Robben Island, but this time as free men, and to mark the occasion, each one placed a small stone from the quarry in a pile, making a small memorial to their years of hardship and struggle.

As we continued on our bus ride, we were shown a church, a hospital, a school and a mosque, and realized that far beyond our expectations, the island had supported a whole community. We duly arrived at the prison and tumbled out of the bus for our tour of “the real thing”. We were excited and filled with high spirits and I wondered for a moment where my heart would have been had I not been a tourist.

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Inside we found grey walls. It was cool at midday; it was clear that at midnight it would be very cold. The communal cells were large and each had a bathroom attached.

Here we met our prison tour guide, Derrick Basson, a former political prisoner who served time on Robben Island for sabotage.

Derrick was very patient, humble and remarkably, not bitter. He answered all the insensitive questions calmly and without anger. In addition he explained the grading of the prisoners by race and also the diets that varied due to the racial classification of each prisoner. One of the curious facts he told us was that black prisoners were not given bread. As they were Africans their “natural” food was considered to be maize meal. The mixed race prisoners were allowed bread as they were considered to be more western or European and less African. The black Africans were also not allowed jam or syrup. I suppose you do not need jam if you have no bread.

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Then I remembered that Robert Sobukwe, in spite of being black, was allowed to have bread, and it struck me that this must have been because he had been a university professor, and since this is a very “European” and non-tribal job, maybe he was considered eligible to receive bread.

Derrick further explained how prisoners slept on mats on the floor and how 5 blankets had not been enough to keep them warm at night. I suddenly remembered an interview with a former Alcatraz inmate who spoke of the extreme cold and of how prisoners had learned to sleep with only their elbows and knees touching the floor, hands locked behind the head. I became very grateful for my duvet.

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We were told that in the beginning the political prisoners had been kept with the ordinary criminals, but later on, they were, thankfully, given their own “wing” and kept together. They came to call this place “The University” as they learned many things from each other and many of them also obtained degrees while in prison.

Derrick then took us to a yard where the prisoners had chopped rocks and turned them into stones, day after day in the sun. They were told that these rocks were used for roads built on the island, but no one seemed to know if this was true or not.

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We were then taken to Nelson Mandela’s cell. Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, as well as the co-founder and leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC), Umkhonto we Sizwe or “Spear of the Nation”. He was arrested in 1962 and convicted of sabotage, (amongst other charges), after he admitted to manufacturing explosives and acts of public violence, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela served 27 years in prison, 18 of these on Robben Island. After his release, he served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.

My very first impression was of how small the cell was. No, not small, tiny. And then I thought that at least he could stand up and lie down in it, but not much more than that. At least it was larger than the dreadful box that I had heard was used in China. But there was no toilet. Just a metal bucket with a lid. At least a lid. And no tap, so no water. And if you are thirsty during the night, what should you do? And of course there was no electrical socket and no radio nor TV. And all I could think of was 27 years. TWENTY SEVEN YEARS! There was no door handle on the inside. The door was only operational from the outside, not unlike a cage. I remembered that Nelson Mandela had once remarked that the hardest and most traumatic experience he endured whilst on Robben Island for all those years was that he never ever saw, or even heard, a child. Can you imagine that? Now he insists on being photographed with children, whenever possible.

robben10And then it was all over. We walked out to the yard, Derrick took us to the exit, and we said our goodbyes.I felt an odd mixture of elation and depression. Very happy that I had been to a UNESCO World Heritage Site of such importance, happier still that it was no longer a prison, and most happy that I was leaving. Yet also depressed and ashamed because of the suffering this place represented.

Duly subdued, we gratefully returned to our boat to ponder our feelings of inspiration and shock, enjoy the beautiful sunset cruise back to Cape Town, and watch a school of dolphins at play in the sea.

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Remember when planning a visit to Robben Island, that the tours don’t always run on time. There was no snack bar on the boat. Our boat was 1 hour late in leaving Cape Town harbour and then we were rushed through our tour, which was a pity as there was too little time for questions.

A suggestion would be to make no appointments after the visit as the timing can vary, and also, take a snack pack. A sun hat and sun block are also good ideas.

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Ferries depart (supposedly) at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, weather permitting, from Nelson Mandela Gateway, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Tickets costs are R230 for adults and R120 for children (U/18). Telephone: +27 (0)21 413 4200
Fax: +27 (0)21 419 1057