The Mighty Hercules

This post is about the incredible C-130 Hercules military aircraft- but don’t worry, it’s not going to be a flavourless list of specifications and figures. Although I’d probably find such a list interesting, I’ll restrain myself! Instead, this post will focus on a fortuitous day in June 2012; when I saw a Hercules up close, and most unexpectedly!

I’d just landed at London International Airport (located in Ontario’s London), where I was picked up by my grandparents. It’s about a half-hour drive through verdant countryside to my grandparents’ house, and as we drove my eyes (as usual) kept wandering to the sky. I’m always on the lookout for airplanes… well, my attention was rewarded that day by the sight of a mammoth military plane in the sky! At once, I recognized it to be a C-130 Hercules; the transport mainstay of the Royal Canadian Air Force for the past fifty years! The Hercules really is an amazing and versatile aircraft, and it’s been one of my favourite planes ever since I learned of its existence.

Herc St Thomas

The most common planes I see are Cessnas, or the occasional Learjet or Pilatus. Seeing a Hercules is a rarity!

I watched the Hercules from the car for awhile, but before long it was out of sight. Fortunately, my grandpa loves planes just as much as I do, so we continued on to the local municipal airport- just in time to see the Hercules finish up its landing and taxi towards us!

Herc

What a sight this was!

Herc

There was an entire field between us and the Hercules at this point- but it was loud nonetheless!

I could honestly not believe my luck! I’ve seen so many fantastic aircraft in completely random places that I think they must follow me around… from a pair of B-52s while camping in New York to F-15s in the UK, I keep seeing unusual aircraft wherever I go.

Herc

The Hercules eventually parked on the tarmac, and I saw its crew exit and walk around. One of the crew was a woman, and I was very envious- I kept thinking that that should be me!

Herc

The Herc is a big aircraft! It has a wingspan of 132 feet, and a payload of 45,000 pounds. That equates to 64 paratroopers, 6 pallets, or even two armoured personnel carriers!

Herc

Although the Hercules first flew in 1954, it’s been continually upgraded since then. This model is an older variant; and Canada now operates seventeen newer C-130Js

Seeing this wonderful aircraft made for an afternoon of awe for me. It’s a dream of mine to one day fly in a Hercules, and I’m totally awestruck every time I see one. However, since then I’ve never seen one quite so unexpectedly, and this was a day I will always remember!

Exploring Conwy

One of the coolest things to do in the United Kingdom is explore castles; and really, truly explore them. Forget the audioguides and interpreters- sometimes the best experience comes from walking around with no real direction, and seeing what one discovers. My brother and I embraced this approach when we were at Conwy Castle in north Wales in May 2011, and it resulted in an amazing time in what is surely one of the most impressive castles in all of Wales.

Conwy Castle

Castell Conwy (as it’s known in Wales) proudly flies the Welsh flag on its major towers

Conwy Sign

I’m used to seeing bilingual signs in Canada- our official languages are English and French- but here, the signs were all in English and Welsh!

Conwy Castle is a very imposing structure. It’s built on a sort of rocky outcropping right beside the River Conwy, and as we approached it from below it looked as if the castle walls were an extension of the rock itself. Edward I, who built the castle in the late 1200s to support his conquest of Wales, certainly chose an appropriate location!

Conwy

The castle must have been a very formidable sight to the various forces that besieged it over the course of its history!

Conwy Harbour

Conwy Castle affords wonderful views of the river and harbour…

Conwy Environs

…and of the inland hills, which are dotted with sheep. It is Wales, after all

As soon as we were inside the castle walls, my brother and I abandoned our parents and decided to go round the castle by ourselves. The castle was so well-preserved and so impressive that we just wanted to get lost in it! We picked one tower in particular that we wanted to reach, and then we made our way to it as best we could without the help of any castle map. We were also without the help of my sense of direction, since I essentially don’t have one!

Conwy

Conwy has multiple towers; and as I remember, most of them were accessible to visitors

Conwy Chapel

I don’t remember a great deal of Conwy’s interior, except that it was beautifully constructed and fairly well-preserved, as this photo shows

Conwy Stairs

One of the many constricted and treacherous circular staircases of Conwy; worn down by 700 years of footsteps

At a few points, we did feel slightly lost- Conwy is not an insubstantial fortification! But that added to the fun of the exploration, and we reached our chosen tower while our parents were still touring the ground level! We were quite proud, and enjoyed a few moments of jubilation as the wind whipped around and the Welsh flag flew above our heads.

Welsh Flag Conwy

At the top of that tower, I suddenly felt very aware and proud of my Welsh background

Conwy View

The glorious view from the top!

Conwy View

A view of the entire castle, seen from the wall which attaches to the castle and surrounds the medieval town of Conwy

Exploring Conwy Castle was so fun- even though I had no idea where I was most of the time or what purpose a given room had, I have better memories of Conwy than I do of other castles where I paid attention and carried a guidebook! Of course, I would love to return and take time to learn more about the history of the castle. But based on experience alone, this couldn’t be beat!

 

An Evening at the Academy

Tomorrow evening the 87th Academy Awards will be held in Hollywood, so of course it’s only appropriate for me to create a vintage-inspired Oscar-worthy outfit to share with you! I’m endlessly inspired by the glamour of Old Hollywood and the classy, elegant fashions of the 1930s and ’40s; and I really think there’s no better way to dress (especially for such a prestigious event as the Oscars) than by referencing these decades!An Evening at the Academy
An ivory dress from the 1930s has a timeless silhouette and detailing that’s eye-catching yet not overwhelming; and dramatic contrast is introduced through the black fur capelet and black handbag. Peep-toe sandals in a ravishing gold colour add glitz and a further touch of vintage style. Finally, dashes of rich red in the nail polish and amazing ruby jewellery give a luxurious feel which truly befits an event with the history and repute of the Academy Awards!

The Guardians of Borden

Whenever I write about the UK, I invariably seem to mention just how many military installations, airfields, and museums are located there. The UK is quite a small place, and the concentration of military sights is staggering- it’s very different from what I’m used to in Canada! But Canada isn’t without its own places of military interest, and one of them is located only half an hour from my house.

CFB Borden has been around for a century; and although it’s not as busy as it might have been during WWII for example, there’s still plenty going on. A couple weeks ago I visited the base to take some pictures of the many vehicles displayed around the area, and I also saw plenty of activity and some troops marching along the roadways. A CH-146 Griffon helicopter (basically equivalent to a Huey) even flew overhead as I was leaving!

Borden F-5

An old F-5 Freedom Fighter stands in the pristine snow outside the Borden Military Museum

Borden M4A2 Sherman

As far as I could tell, this is an M4A2 Sherman tank- distinguishable from the side skirts on the tracks

Borden AVGP

I can’t ascertain precisely what this is, but it seems to be some kind of AVGP (Armoured Vehicle General Purpose)

Borden Churchill

I love how this Churchill tank is standing resolutely among the trees

Borden T-34-85

My favourite Base Borden vehicle, a Soviet T-34/85

Borden T-34-85

Tanks like the T-34, which saw action on the Eastern Front, are no doubt used to being covered in snow!

Borden Tank Thing

Another unidentifiable vehicle…

Borden Crab Flail

One of “Hobart’s Funnies”… a Sherman tank fitted with a flail for detonating mines

Borden Hangar

CFB Borden is still alive, but parts of it are decaying- like this Royal Flying Corps hangar, one of eight that have been designated a National Historic Site of Canada. You certainly wouldn’t know of the hangars’ prestigious honour by looking at them.

Borden Hangar Window

Base Borden has been around since 1916, and these hangars were built just one year after.

Borden Hangar

While about half a dozen new buildings are being constructed around the base, these historic jewels are being neglected. It’s such a shame.

On my visit, it was easy to see that while Borden is still in use and is even perhaps growing, parts of it are dying. The runways are no longer used- aircraft flying in the biannual air show always take off from an airport about 40 kilometres away- and there are many disused buildings as well. But all the vehicles displayed are in respectable shape, and all memorials are religiously maintained; although there had just been a large snowfall, each memorial had been shovelled out and cleared of snow. CFB Borden is a fascinating place to visit and I always discover something new each time I go. Although it has its modern sections, it’s also a window into the past; a window which I hope won’t be soon forgotten!

 

 

Vintage Valentine

While I am no lover of pastel colours and excessively frilly things, today is Valentine’s Day nonetheless and I figured I should probably create a Valentine’s outfit to share with you. Fortunately, ’40s style utilized lots of deep pinks and reds which are festive but also appealing to my taste for the dramatic!Vintage Valentine
I started with a period-appropriate cable-knit jumper, and added a sombre black coat- the ’40s were a dark decade, after all. A gorgeous raspberry-coloured skirt and elaborate vintage jewellery introduce some spirit to the ensemble, however, and the pearl-embellished clutch softens the boxy cut of the coat. Oxford-esque shoes, a fur scarf, and red lipstick are wonderfully ’40s; and result in an outfit that is romantic and feminine without straying from my beloved 1940s aesthetic!

A Proper English Saturday…

I always feel fabulous on Saturday mornings. Usually I get to sleep in at least slightly, and once I do wake up, it’s straight to the TV to watch some Barclay’s Premier League football! Plus, I don’t have to think about my diet on Saturdays- since I play a strenuous game of hockey every Saturday night, I allow myself to enjoy food other than salad and fish on weekends!

This past Saturday morning was especially enjoyable, since my dad cooked a full English breakfast for me! The classic full English is one of my favourite meals, and although I don’t have it often, it always reminds me of England.

Full English Drinks

Some relevant reading accompanied my morning tea and orange juice

A full English can sometimes rival the size and calorie count of a twelve-course Victorian meal- but my full English is usually more selective. Last Saturday, it consisted of fried bread, toast, scrambled eggs, tinned beans, and lovely crispy bacon.

Full English

There’s really no meal more comforting- or filling- than a full English breakfast!

Full English Remnants

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I always have trouble finishing my plate!

This delicious breakfast was accompanied by tea (naturally!) and a game of football- my favourite Premier League team, Arsenal, was playing. For a wistful Brit like me, there could be no better way to spend a Saturday morning!

Full English Football

Arsenal lost, but I still enjoyed the match and had a proper English Saturday!

The Streets of England

England is a country of many wonderful things- including wonderful automobiles! I am a bit of a petrolhead (to use an expression from the classic British program Top Gear), so I always look out for beautiful and exotic cars whenever I’m travelling. And while I have travelled elsewhere, the most amazing cars I’ve ever seen have been in England! Here’s a collection of photos of some of those amazing cars- I hope you enjoy them!

Lambo

A chrome Lamborghini, straight from Dubai. Definitely the flashiest car I’ve ever seen!

Painted London Cab

A traditional London cab painted in a very unique livery

Maserati Earls Court

Maseratis like this one are unusual in Canada, but commonplace on the streets of London

Kew Car

I wish I remember what type of car this was- it’s adorable!

Land Rover

Land Rovers are a true British classic… even driven by Her Majesty herself!

Defender Shrewsbury

An example of an older Land Rover, seen here in Shrewsbury

E-Type Ironbridge

The Jaguar E-Type has to be one of the most attractive vehicles ever designed

Caterham

Caterhams are usually seen at track days, but this one was driving round the cobbled back streets of Shrewsbury!

Aston Shrewsbury

An Aston Martin DB9- Astons have been used in multiple James Bond films

Rolls

What a fantastic- and enormous!- car this vintage Rolls-Royce is

Car Fountains Abbey

This unique motor is a Morris Minor Traveller, which originated in the 1950s

TVR Greenwich

This Rotherhithe home is completed by a TVR sportscar in the driveway!

I never know just what kind of cars I’ll see when I travel to England- but I can always be sure I won’t be disappointed! The roads there are full of people carriers, transit vans, and compact hatchbacks, but it seems that there’s also a supercar around every corner! For me, that makes any trip to England an utterly awesome and complete experience.