Tag Archives: travel

iBat’s USA Road Trip


Travelling with a favorite toy and photographing it in front of various landmarks, began as a totally off the wall idea known as the travelling gnome. It originated in Australia in the 1980’s, and is now firmly entrenched in popular culture. I first came across it in the quirky little french film Amélie, and I’ve been dying to do it ever since. Adults may have come up with this idea, but it has plenty of kid appeal. All you need is a toy and a camera.

Since garden gnomes are a bit cumbersome to lug around, we invited our temperamental little friend, iBat, to join us on our USA road trip, where we travelled from Toronto to Florida and back in just under three weeks. We stayed in ten different cities, with plenty of pit stops along the way, and a nice lengthy stay near Hogwarts. iBat was thrilled to come along, but returned home sulking because I forgot to photograph him at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Philadelphia. He was right there, hanging off the back of my purse, but I just plain forgot about the little guy, and snapped a ton of shots – without him.

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We’re off on our summer vacation, and by this time tomorrow, would have already been bossed around for several hours by our GPS – tolerable if you repeatedly tell it to shut up, and your final destination is the french countryside. I will find my way back to post early August, and wish you all an amazing summer!


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Museum Visits With Children

Making amends with ice cream in Paris.

A wonderful part of traveling involves visiting museums, art galleries, and historical sites. My children know that any whining to the contrary will only lead to one of my preachy, long winded explanations about how these places offer a way of delving into the history of another culture, and a myriad of other benefits. This is usually met with glazed eyes rolling about their little sockets, and eventual, grudging compliance. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not standing there with a whip and guide book expecting my kids to recite dates at the end of their visit, I’m just hoping for a positive attitude and an openness to experiencing something new. And while this happens more often because they are older, for many kids, places like museums are synonymous with slow motion walking through endless spaces looking at old artifacts that can’t be touched. Where’s the fun?

The solution? Change your expectations so your children won’t look at these visits with dread. I now allow my kids to set the pace and roam freely, hoping their self-directed tour will encourage a little more curiosity because it’s on their terms. They don’t have to look at every single thing in every single room. They don’t even have to read the information cards posted on the walls. If they want to walk around with us and are inspired to talk about what they see, they can. If they choose to go through at break-neck speed, ending up at the gift shop, that’s fine too. I know these visits will somehow inspire them and enrich their lives. Persevere I say, because despite the scowls and expressions of pain, there are breakthrough moments that put a smile on your face, and assure you that it’s all worthwhile.


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Travel Collages

I’m back from quite the adventure. Turkey is truly a visual feast, filled with warm, friendly people and breathtaking views. We’ve poured over our photographs and souvenirs (no mugs), and come to the conclusion that trip collages are a wonderful way for children to remember  special moments such as these.

Embarking on your journey with your collage in mind is the best plan. Have children collect things along the way which they can easily bring back. This can include boarding passes, ticket stubs from entrances to museums or historical sites, receipts from purchases, labels from products used, maps, newspapers and so on. Once home, you can even print up some of your favourite photos to include in your work.

Looking at my daughter’s collage above, you can get a sense of her experience in Turkey. It was extremely hot so she chose to include a weather report from a newspaper; maps showing places we stayed and streets we favoured; ticket stubs recording our visits to memorable sites and museums; colouful images of mosques, graffiti and  the Grand Bazaar  combined with cloudless skies and endless sea. And of course there is the ubiquitous blue amulet which is believed to protect against the evil eye, sold in every possible form imaginable. She has chosen to spare us images of the topless granny on the beach, or photos of the thousands of feral cats that roam the streets in the intense heat. Did I mention it was hot?

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Creative Travels

It’s officially summer today, and whether you’re staying local or traveling abroad, it’s a great time to explore the arts and get inspired by what others have created. While this typically  involves visits to museums and various festivals, there are also some highly unusual places to explore which are off the beaten path, with fascinating stories of dreams and perseverance. They all have kid appeal and are definitely worth putting on your travel wish list, or at the very least, your virtual trip list:

Italy: The Tarot Garden

The Tarot Garden. Photo: http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com

The Tarot Garden is located in the southern region of Tuscany, and is filled with sculptures of Tarot cards interpreted by the artist Niki de Saint Phalle and her collaborators. This magical looking sculpture park took almost 20 years to complete, and was a place the artist hoped would bring joy to children and adults alike. For more information visit: http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com

Poland: Wieliczka Salt Mines

The Wieliczka Salt Mine. Photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wieliczka_Salt_Mine

The Wieliczka Salt Mine in southern Poland produced table salt from the 13th century until 2007. Today, a visit to the mine takes you on an historical journey through the various mining techniques and tools used from the Middle Ages to modern times. But what really sounds amazing are the galleries and corridors filled with works of art sculpted in salt like in the photo above. For more information visit: www.kolpalnia.pl

France: Le Palais Idéal

Le Palais Idéal. Photo:www.naturepixel.com

This is an amazing story about Ferdinand Cheval, a postman living in Hauterives, who one day tripped over a stone and was inspired to build the palace of his dreams out of this material. He continued to collect stones while on his mail route, and worked on the building whenever he could. It took him 33 years to complete this incredible space, filled with inspirations from different civilizations, religions, and philosophies. It received recognition and admiration from the likes of Ernst and Picasso, and has been declared a cultural landmark by the French Minister of Culture. For more information visit: www.facteurcheval.com

India: The Rock Garden of Chandigarh

The Rock Garden in Chandigarh. Photo: http://www.nekchand.org

Here’s a similar story about a man with a dream. Nek Chand was a roads inspector, working for the Department of Public Works in Chandigarh. He had a dream of creating a magical place and when he had time, began building a rock garden filled with sculptures of animals, musicians, and dancing women, all made of recycled materials and stones. This secret place began in the middle of the jungle, and for 18 years remained undiscovered. Eventually, with the government’s full support, Chand’s garden was completed and is one of the most visited folk art sites in the world. For more information visit: www.nekchand.com and www.nekchand.org

Japan: The Hakone Open-Air Museum

Hakone Open-Air Museum. Photo: http://www.traveljapanblog.com/ wordpress/tag/museums/page/4/

This impressive looking museum is home to over 100 sculptures by modern and contemporary artists like Rodin and Moore, scattered throughout the exquisite grounds that only the Japanese could create. It also has 5 exhibition halls including a Picasso Pavilion, restaurants and shops and, get this, a foot bath spa nestled in the beautiful gardens. Who wouldn’t dream of that after a day of sightseeing. As their website says, it allows you to enjoy “the splendor of art in nature”. And for children, enjoying art while being able to run around freely in the gardens makes it more pleasant for all concerned. For more information visit: http://www.hakone-oam.or.jp/english


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