Category Archives: Travel

Please Don’t

While skimming through my travel photos, I started noticing a trend: I have a tendency to photograph signs telling people what not to do…be it text, pictograms, the ever-recognizable “no sign” or some combination thereof, I apparently find it interesting and amusing how people are told not to do things.

For instance, in Bath, England it’s necessary to remind passersby not to dive into the murky brown waters of the River Avon…we’ve got a traditional no-sign and text (just in case the pictogram isn’t clear).

In Paris, however, they make due with universally understood pictograms crossed out by x’s…on the Arc de Triomphe, there’s no food, no public nudity (?!), no smoking, no camera tripods, and no mobile phones allowed. I think.

Whereas in Egypt, they just assume the universally understood language is English….there, each sign is unique, bold, and effectively placed, like this no entry sign (physically barring an entrance) at the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae.

When visiting Italy, I’d read that to gain entrance to many churches (and especially the Vatican), one had to dress respectfully…no bare legs and no bare shoulders…as explained in this sign posted regularly along the line-ups in St. Peter’s Square. I think it does a pretty good job demonstrating what is, and what isn’t, acceptable attire (though one might argue they’re advocating bare midriffs….or white belts):

….I also stumbled across an older version of the same sign. This one really just ought to be retired. Not only is it implying no bare legs and arms, but that no bare chests and bottoms are permitted either. Or is it?

And to make matters worse due to the signs’ age and wear, it now seems to indicate that one-legged women with no tops and short bottoms aren’t permitted either…nor are guys missing a piece of shoulder and wearing lederhosen.

Of all the photos I found, this one in Barbados takes the prize for “most complete”. It’s got both a danger sign and a pictogram of someone drowning, plus lots of text telling you what not to do, why, and what the consequences could be if you ignore the warning…to the sign-makers’ credit: it was a beautiful little cove that looked perfect for swimming…maybe there should have been more signs posted.

…Like in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where about every 10 feet you’re reminded not to hop any fences and plummet into the falls…they feature a custom pictogram (the fence depicted is an accurate representation of the fences all along the Niagara parkway), a standard no-sign, and the conveniently bilingual “danger”.

So now you know: my odd photo habit is that I take signs of what we’re not supposed to do. If you have any odd photo habits of your own, do tell!!

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Why I Play Video Games, Part 1

Because they’re a fun way to escape reality, in a much more participatory fashion than say, TV or movies. That’s the easy and obvious answer. What isn’t so easy to define is why do I play particular video games? …Because my gaming habits are kind of all over the place.

Let’s explore, shall we?

Let me start off by stating that I have never played, nor do I have any real interest in playing the first Assassin’s Creed game. What drew me to the second one had less to do with the overall concept (though I must admit once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty fun to climb walls, run across rooftops, and assassinate guards for no particular reason), and more to do with its setting.

Set in early Renaissance Italy, Assassin’s Creed II follows the story of Ezio as he avenges his father’s death, and learns the ways of the Assassin…oh, and becomes chums with Leonardo da Vinci, and flies experimental flying contraptions (and who wouldn’t get a kick out of that?).

The very best part of the game (what really drew me to it) was the amazing attention to detail of every aspect of the scenery. Yes. The scenery. Locations that I have been to and experienced first hand. The set and landscape of this game was so well done, it was like re-visiting Florence and Venice….and climbing all over them, and seeing them from angles I could never fathom in reality. It was extremely cool.

Florence

When I was in Florence, one of the best ways to orient yourself was to find a patch of sky, and look for the Duomo…if you could see it, you knew roughly where you were. This proved a useful tactic in the game, as well…only because you mostly traveled on rooftops, it was much easier to do.

But it wasn’t just the Duomo they got right. They got everything right. The meandering streets, the colours of the buildings and the rooftops, and the overall lack of green space north of the Arno. It was eerily accurate. Every brick, every clay tile, every tiny little detail.

Venice

In Venice, there seemed to be slightly more emphasis on the canals, and a little less on the ornamentation of some of the more spectacular buildings…I admit a little disappointment that the Triumphal Quadriga (or the horses of St. Mark) didn’t make it onto the basilica in the game (they were installed on the façade of the basilica in 1254, and only removed by Napoleon in 1797…they should have been there, no?).

But they sure got the canals right. What I particularly liked was the sense that everything was much newer in the game (you know…several hundred years newer)…for instance the Rialto Bridge was made of wood, rather than stone (a shame, really, because it would have been fun to find the spot where I ate “The Best Fish Ever” on its steps).

Generally, you really got the sense that the city built on top of a lagoon wasn’t showing as many signs of damp, cracking, and erosion from the water, as it does today…so there was a sense of stepping back in time to a very potentially real depiction of the city when it was booming, and was still Europe’s gateway to the East.

Lesson learned? I’ll play a video game if it has a connection to something I’ve experienced. In the case of Assassin’s Creed II, that connection was brought about by its realistic depiction of locations that I’d visited and where I created some fantastic memories.

[ The above stills from Assassin’s Creed II were gathered on a number of gaming sites, but were among the initial releases made by the games’ producers, Ubisoft…on a side note, the game was produced locally, in Montreal (yay!) ]

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Clifton Hill Signage

I’ve been to Niagara Falls, Ontario a few times now, and can’t understand the “been there, done that” attitude about them…maybe I indulged a little too much in the local wines, but I really do think the falls are beautiful and worth revisiting: both from afar, and from right up close on the Maid of the Mist.

That being said, there are elements of Niagara Falls that are a little much: like Clifton Hill. If you go there knowing it’s over the top, though, I found there was much to appreciate about it:

Like the many, many candy stores offering up not only real candy (and amazing fudge and peanut brittle), but loads of eye candy as well.

I couldn’t help notice that many of the candy stores featured pink very prominently, which immediately calls to mind cotton candy…what other traditionally pink candies are there? (besides bubble gum?)

But it wasn’t just the candy stores offering up delights…all down the street are wonderful, wonderful signs flashing, and blinking and accompanying a cacophony of sounds trying to grab your attention:

Even huge brand names have gotten into the spirit of Clifton Hill…which happens to abound in haunted houses, all claiming to be the world’s most frightening…so what to do if you’re attached to one? Burger King decided to embrace it:

Much to my boyfriend’s dismay, we didn’t visit the House of Frankenstein…I’m a big chicken and am consequently not too keen on haunted houses.

Maybe next time.

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