Erie Canal Museum and Locks

Nineteenth Century Canal workers.

On our return journey from out frisbee golf outing we stopped for ice-creams (Mine was ‘London Fog’, allegedly Earl Grey Tea flavoured, I couldn’t tell, but probably a hangover from Covid wrecking my sense of taste.) and a visit to the Erie Canal Museum and a set of locks on the canal.

Erie Canal Museum.

Actually, there were two sets of locks, a narrower set which had been rapidly superseded by a much wider set alongside. The large naval vessels we’d seen in Buffalo apparently travelled along this canal from New York, although I couldn’t see how that could be possible.

A boat!
The older locks.
The larger locks.
A pleasure boat.

A fascinating place, but sadly our final outing during our American sojourn.

Erie Canal Museum and Locks

Niagara Whirpool, Niagara Power Plant, Fort Niagara, Lake Ontario

Niagara Whirlpool.

After a long drive to Buffalo, we were itching to get out and see what the area had to offer. The Whirlpool was really awe-inspiring – you perhaps have to see and hear it moving to get a proper impression of it’s massive power.

There were numerous large birds of prey circling overhead and, not for the first time, I regretted the lack of my superzoom camera.

Whirlpool Rapids.

Captain Matthew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel unaided, died here attempting to swim across the Whirlpool. Foolhardy doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Niagara pano.
Cable Car over the Niagara Whirlpool.
Hydro plant visitor centre.

The visitor centre at the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant had all sorts of interactive demonstrations, quizzes and games. It was a big hit with the younger members of the party. I enjoyed the history of power production in the area and of the rivalry between Edison and Teslar over AC and DC supply.

Two hydro plants – Canadian and American.

I think this was the day we ate lunch at an amazing cafe right by the river which served enormous sandwiches.

We were packing a lot in and by the time we got to Fort Niagara it was already quite late in the day. We did a whirlwind tour of the museum, but didn’t have time for the film, which young M assured us was a great loss.

Never mind, the fort itself was fascinating.

A Tower at Fort Niagara.

I’m always a sucker for any kind of battlements and was particularly taken with the top of these roofed towers.

Tower view.
Another view from the tower.
River Niagara flowing into Lake Ontario.

I assume the man on the left is dressed as a member of one of the local native American peoples. An Iroquois?

The man on the right was demonstrating the loading and firing of a musket. I think his uniform is French. His talk was entertaining and informative. The main thing I remember is the huge weight of wool he told us was in his uniform. He must have been sweltering. It was hot.

A Red Coat.
Inside the Trading Post.
A barrack.
The chapel.
Lake Ontario. If you squint, Toronto is just about visible behind the sailing dinghy.
Another tower.
More cannons.
Nesting swallows.
Another tower view.
Fort Niagara Lighthouse.

The fort was closing as we left. Just one last thing to squeeze in…

Lake Ontario paddle.
A huge Cricket in the Prof’s garden.
Niagara Whirpool, Niagara Power Plant, Fort Niagara, Lake Ontario

Truth, Knowledge, Vision.

New York Day 3

Small garden opposite our hotel.

Quiet and/or leafy places seem to be at a premium in Manhattan and we were very grateful for this little space opposite our hotel where we sometimes sat to eat a meal.

Antique shop on 6th Avenue…

I was very taken with this shop, perhaps because even though it’s a five floor building, it’s dwarfed by the buildings either side, and even more so by the skyscraper behind.

…with a towering skyscraper behind.

We were heading initially for Central Park for another, very hot, wander.

More tall buildings from Central Park.
Bethesda Fountain from Bethesda Terrace.
Bethesda Fountain.
Loeb Boathouse.
The San Remo apartment building, seen across The Lake.
The Belvedere Castle.
The English Garden.

We were heading for The American Natural History Museum which is situated on the western boundary of the park.

Museum of Natural History.

We had a timed entry, but even so it took quite a long while to get into the museum and then through the very crowded and noisy entrance hall.

Huge dinosaur skeleton – Tyrannosaurus Rex?

This is another one of the attractions available via the City Pass. We discovered that because we were using the City Pass, entry to the extra exhibits, which would normally cost extra, was included for free, so we booked times for the Planetarium, a film on the birds of the Prairie Wetlands, and a temporary exhibit on sharks.

Giant Sable Antelopes. I think.

The museum is enormous. We were there for many hours, but I suspect we barely scratched the surface.

Hup, two, three, four, Keep it up, two three four.

I think I took photographs of almost all of the dioramas in the Hall of African Wildlife, but calmed down a little after that.

African Wild Dogs.

The planetarium was great; perhaps a little too relaxing. Snore, me? No – that was someone else you heard.

Black Rhinoceros.

The film was fascinating. I hadn’t previously even heard of the Prairie Pothole wetlands.

The shark exhibition had some comfortable benches.

A stag at bay – in the North American Hall.

It was one of those modern exhibitions where the content is films and models and information boards, but there aren’t any actual exhibits.

Elsewhere, the museum was absolutely brimming-over with interesting stuff. For example, there were rooms upon rooms of artefacts from Indigenous American cultures, from across both continents.

Native American Garb.

It was amazing, if somewhat overwhelming. When I visit the British Museum, which, admittedly, I haven’t done for a very long time, I tend to wander about until I wash up somewhere which sparks my interest that day, then I have a really thorough look at that section. Then I leave.

But I suppose we weren’t sure when we might be back in the AMNH, if ever, so we greedily crammed in as much as we could. Even so, we must have missed huge swathes. I believe there’s a dinosaur hall, which we didn’t get to. We did tour an exhibition of macro photographs of endangered insects (obviously right up my street), but we didn’t find time for the nearby display about the Big Bang.

I took a lot of photographs, but have been for selective for this post. However, I do feel compelled to include this picture of Indonesian shadow-puppets…


So that I can mention the fact that TBH and I once holidayed in Indonesia…

Bhudda and TBH.

It was twenty years ago. Here’s TBH, at Borobudur, touching Buddha’s thumb, which reputedly brings good luck. We were treated to a shadow-puppet play whilst we were there, a part of the Mahabharata. It was good, so much so that TBH wanted a memento and decided to take some photos. It was dark in the room, so she switched on her flash, and then greeted the images with consternation when each showed….. the inevitable blank screen. Meanwhile, I was struggling to suppress a fit of giggles, not wanting to spoil the show for the other tourists present.


There were so many fascinating things to see from myriad cultures from around the world, that I decided to confine my photos to representations of faces.

I felt some sympathy with these two characters…


At the time, this fella put me in mind of Davros, leader of the Daleks. Now it makes me think of the short Bertolt Brecht poem, the Mask of Evil..

On my wall hangs a Japanese carving, 
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer. 
Sympathetically I observe 
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicating 
What a strain it is to be evil.

Later, the rest of the family went to the theatre to watch a production of the Musical version of Harry Potter. I'm much too grumpy for musicals. Or Harry Potter. With hindsight, I should have sought out the Blue Note or Birdland or something else more to my tastes. But I was well into Jonathon Franzen's 'Freedom' and was more than happy to have the hotel room to myself to relax with my book.
Truth, Knowledge, Vision.

Sweet Bird of Truth

Or New York Day 2, part 2.

USS Intrepid pano.

Hard-by where our boat trip docked at Pier 83, is the Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum at Pier 86. It’s another of the attractions available on the City Pass, and it made sense to combine a visit with our boat trip.

We had a pre-booked entry time, so we’d allowed ourselves some time to return to Hell’s Kitchen for a quesadilla lunch (very nice); passing people cooling off in a fountain on route (it was very hot)…

Playing in the fountain.

And also spotting this advertising board, which I appreciated…

Safe, secure, protected, with minimal charges. Just like Prince Andrew.” Does that count as heckling? I’ll probably get charged with a breach of the peace now.

The museum is housed on the decks of USS Intrepid, a former aircraft carrier. How do I feel about a museum stuffed full of military hardware? Well, this is not something I generally admit to, but as a kid I was obsessed, for quite a long time, with an ambition to enlist in the army. I loved all things military and would have adored a museum brimful of war-mongering gear. Fortunately, of course, I eventually realised that being short-sighted, asthmatic, overweight, over-opinionated, cowardly and bolshie, in both senses, I would make a woeful soldier. But some of my youthful interest remains and I’m not averse to some sleek de-commissioned jets, choppers, subs etc.

All hands on deck.

Sadly, unlike the rest of the family, whilst I liked looking at all the exhibits, and took loads of photos, I didn’t pay much attention to the accompanying information boards, so I’ve very little idea what the various bits of kit in the photos actually are.

Urgent warning plane?
Spotted Laternfly.

This on the other hand, is a Spotted Laternfly, a species which is native to China, but which has been spreading and has now arrived in the US, including New York. Apparently, it’s a bit of a nuisance. Nice to look at though, with very striking bright red underwings.

On the bridge.
Planes and choppers.
MiG planes.

I was quite surprised to see these two Russian built MiG planes in the museum, the like of which, I think I’m right in saying, were used against the US in the Korean War.

Space Shuttle Enterprise.

The most eagerly awaited exhibit, as far as I was concerned, was the Space Shuttle Enterprise, which is housed in a large structure on the Intrepid’s flight deck. Years ago, TBH and I visited the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida, so I’ve seen a shuttle before, but I was still thrilled. The rest of the exhibition with all sorts of related artefacts, models and information was very absorbing.


I never flew on Concorde, but I did once sit in the pilot’s seat during a visit to British Airways maintenance facility at Heathrow. That’s a completely different story, but if you know someone who can pull the right strings and arrange a visit, it’s an amazing experience.


There was a large area of hands-on exhibits and the boys were in their element – they were keen to try, sit-in or on everything, so we were there for a while. We even played draughts in a mocked-up submarine mess room.

Space Cadets.
You press the green thingummy, I’ll twiddle this knob.

We ended our visit with a tour of the former Nuclear submarine USS Growler.

USS Growler.

As expected, it was highly claustrophobic. I believe the crews could be away for months at a time, and submerged for several consecutive days. It must have been hard.

USS Growler interior pano.

All very fascinating, and our day wasn’t done yet.

Oh, and the title? It’s a song by The The, the only song I could think of that is unequivocally about flying a military plane, although I’ve often thought that R.E.M’s ‘Orange Crush’ might arguably also be on that theme.

Sweet Bird of Truth

Terracotta Warriors.


A few less photos in this post compared to the last (mammoth) one. Not that there wasn’t just as much of interest to see at the World Museum in Liverpool, in particular in their Terracotta Warriors exhibition, but it was quite dark in the exhibition, and extremely busy, so I didn’t take many photos and of those I took most are quite blurred.


The exhibition, which covered a substantial period of Chinese history and several generations of royal tomb burials, was absolutely fascinating. I was particularly struck by this huge bronze bowl, which weighs 212kg and was buried on top of a pit filled with terracotta strongmen and acrobats – apparently the bowl would have been lifted by strongmen as part of a performance.


We’ve been to the World Museum before, in fact this was Little S’s fourth visit, since we recommended the Egyptology section of the museum to the local primary school. On this occasion, we were joined by family fried X-Ray who’d expressed an interest in seeing the exhibition way back at the start of the year when we booked the tickets. The World Museum is always a great place to visit and we did the full tour again, including a planetarium show. We were hoping to have time to visit Liverpool’s Central Library again too, and/or the Walker Art Museum, but didn’t, partly due to the all too familiar incompetence of Northern Rail (I’ll spare you the details).


Terracotta Warriors.

Barrow Dock Museum


We’ve been intending to check out the Dock Museum in Barrow for quite some time and, last week, finally got around to it.


It’s a small museum, but it has model boats, which are pretty irresistible,


…and The Furness Hoard, found locally in 2011 and including Viking, Saxon and Arab coins plus fragments of arm-rings and bracelets, not dissimilar in fact from The Silverdale Hoard.


Having examined the area’s Viking treasures, you may want to dress the part…


There are also axe-heads and arrowheads of Langdale stone which were apparently brought to the Barrow area for finishing and polishing.


A big surprise for me, and a great discovery, was this furniture by the late Tim Stead.


I’ve not been aware of his work before, but shall be looking out for it in the future. He was one of the artists who built the Millennium Clock, now housed by the National Museum of Scotland, and definitely added to my ‘too see’ list.

Whilst the boys hared around the playground in the museum grounds, I took a quick look at the docks themselves.


Our trip to the museum was intended to be a precursor to a trip to the Wildlife Trust reserve at the southern end of Walney Island, somewhere I’ve long wanted to visit, much like Foulney Island in fact. But, having had my sutures removed early that morning, I now discovered that everything was not quite going to plan, and we spent the next three hours, or thereabouts, sitting around in A&E at Barrow Infirmary waiting to see what was to be done. Not much, it eventually transpired. Patience is the order of the day apparently. Ho-hum.

Barrow Dock Museum

The World Museum


The idea that we should visit The World Museum was a top-tip from a friend, who regularly takes primary school classes there and was extolling the virtues of the museum before we embarked on our trip. The weather was wild and windy, so it was good to get inside, and what treasures were in store! In the high entrance foyer you’re greeted by an enormous totem pole and a pterodactyl – which sort of gives you of an idea of what will follow.


There’s an aquarium and all sorts of other natural history stuff. B and I watched an extraordinary film of the mating dance of the beautiful peacock jumping spider from Australia. I’d never heard of them before, but after we came home found an article in the paper which said that 59 species of these tiny arachnids have been discovered to date. Fortunately the biologist who filmed the spiders, Jurgen Otto, has made the footage available on youtube.

We were all particularly taken by the ‘discovery room’ on that floor where there were lots of hands-on activities including an elephant’s tooth – the heft of which has really stuck with the kids – several large skulls and some microscopes for visitors to use. A very enthusiastic and knowledgeable member of the museum staff really brought the exhibits to life.

The next floor has lots of archaeological goodies, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Anglo-Saxon.


This is a bust of the Roman general, Caesar and stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, which I’ve included here for no better reason than that I’ve often tried to convince the kids that Marcus and Aurelius are my Christian names. They don’t believe me, but lots of my students have over the years.


Anglo-Saxon museum-goers.

The fourth floor has a planetarium and we managed to see three of the four shows available that day. Really, even though we were in the museum from shortly after opening time at ten until they kicked us out at five, there wasn’t nearly enough time to fit everything in.


The third floor holds various appealing items from around the world. And another discovery room – the kids found that there were games available there and were soon settling down to play Nine Men’s Morris, Fox and Geese and, my favourite, Mancala. Oh, and, in S’s case, to try some more costumes on…


..I think that’s Guatemalan national dress, but don’t hold me to that.

I was more keen to get around and see the exhibits.


..but it was all a bit of a rush.


I can easily see us heading back there at some point in the future. And little S, whose class have just begun a project on the Ancient Egyptians, has already recommended the museum to his teacher, so he may be back there somewhat sooner than the rest of us.

The World Museum