Blame it on the Casa Loma (Part 2)

Continuing my post from yesterday on our visit to Casa Loma… without further ado, some photos from the interior of the castle.

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Inside the great room. This organ connects to a massive set of pipes set into one of the adjacent walls.

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Looking out of the library

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Peeking in on wedding photos in progress inside of the conservatory

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Ceiling in the library

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The space between the dining room and the room for musicians to play in during dinner

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Inside the study

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Secret passageway inside the study. Each side of the fireplace had a door disguised as a wall panel which lead to a set of stairs, to the left you could go upstairs to the bedrooms and to the right brought you downstairs to the basement.

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Since Casa Loma was built after the advent of the ‘modern’ bathroom, the castle has many of them (I think over 30)

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Mike and Uncle Scott listening to their audio tours in one of the bedrooms (which now contains military artifacts on display)

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Drawing of a chandelier

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The sitting room inside Sir Henry’s wife’s bedroom

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The Windsor Room – Sir Henry always hoped he’d host royalty at Casa Loma, but alas he did not

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Uncle Scott, Aunt Kelli and Mike listening to their audio tours while looking out on the lawn

 

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Blame it on the Casa Loma (Part 1)

Now that you have ‘Blame it on the Bossa Nova’ stuck in your head… I’ll continue 😉

I’m sure that Sir Henry Pellatt and his wife were definitely blaming their fate on the Casa Loma. The cliff notes version of their tale is that in the early 1900’s Sir Henry had a bunch of money and decided that he wanted to have a castle built for him in Toronto. Some unfortunate business happenings + the cost of maintaining/living in a castle drove Sir Henry and his wife deep into debt, so much so, that after 10 years of living in Casa Loma they were forced to move and most of their belongings found their way onto the auction block (many of which were outed as fakes). Eventually Casa Loma was finished and now is a historical spot for tourists to explore, many films to be shot and weddings to be had.

Mike, Aunt Kelli, Uncle Scott and I wandered the grounds with self-guided tours – sometimes running into each other and other times exploring on our own. Eventually we all found each other in a room atop one of the towers – but we didn’t mingle there long – Casa Loma is without air conditioning (obviously) and it took many flights of stairs to make it up to the top (5 or 6 flights I think).

Part 1 of this post consists of exterior (or views to the exterior) photos.

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Mike and myself in the gardens

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View looking up at Casa Loma from the street-level gardens

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Looking out of one of the tower windows at the stables across the street. Sir Henry tried to get the city of Toronto to close the street to make it easier for crossing, but when the city refused Sir Henry resorted to building an 800 foot tunnel under the street, connecting the stables and the castle.

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View of the Toronto skyline from the tower inside the castle

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Looking down into the gardens from one of the bedrooms

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Mike listening to the self-guided audio tour

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Roaming the ROM Part 2

After spending a portion of our visit viewing the insides of dinosaurs – we transitioned to viewing the outsides of taxidermic animals. For those of you who know me, I thoroughly enjoy taxidermy and find birds to be absolutely fascinating. So a whole room of taxidermic birds ‘caught’ in flight, stunning.

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The bird room transitioned into a combination of mammals and under-the-sea creatures. The ‘Bat Cave’ was overrated – but everything else was really well done. We stayed until the museum started ushering everyone out at the end of the day.

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“Bye Buddy, Hope you find your dad!” – Mr. Narwhale from Elf

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Roaming the ROM Part 1

The absolute number 1 thing to do in the Top 10 Things To Do in Toronto guidebook suggested a visit to the Royal Ontario Museum (otherwise known as the ROM). I suppose you could equate it to Chicago’s Field Museum – but if memory serves correctly (I haven’t been to the Field Museum in quite some time), the ROM is much, much bigger. After viewing a fantastic exhibit on Mesopotamia (no photos allowed, boo!) detailing the various civilizations that inhabited that region, we found ourselves upstairs in THE BIGGEST DINOSAUR EXHIBIT I’VE EVER SEEN! While I’m no dino-fanatic (like my good friend Meg happens to be), I can appreciate a good skeletal re-creation. The ROM’s dinosaur exhibit blew me away – it just. kept. going…. I appreciated the sheer quantity of dinosaurs on display as well as the quality of the overall exhibit. The majority of the skeletal structures were labeled in a way to show the viewer which bones were legit, and which ones were re-created to complete the overall picture. Below are some of my favorite photos that I took while touring the dinosaur exhibit (photos were allowed in this part of the museum).

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Pre-historic Moose *I think*

Pre-historic Moose *I think*

Pre-historic sloth. The overall species seems to have become increasingly laid back looking over the centuries...

Pre-historic sloth. The overall species seems to have become increasingly laid back looking over the centuries…

"Ah yes, the little known pre-historic species, the Dasani" – Mike

“Ah yes, the little known pre-historic species, the Dasani” – Mike

 

 

4 Great Men in a Rock

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A couple days ago, Mike and I ventured over to the town of Keystone to see Mount Rushmore. We were quite impressed on a number of levels:

1) The craftsmanship that went into such a masterpiece. Sculptures produced by chipping stone away never cease to amaze me.

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photo of a photo - shows the scale compared to a human

2) The scale. See the above photo. Enough said.

3) The fact that it is probably the least touristy tourist spot that I’ve ever been to. There are no outside vendors hawking cheap souvenirs. When you reach the summit of the hike, there is no one offering to take your photo and then sell it back to you. No sponsor logos plastered on anything. The entrance fee was a modest $11 total for the car and good through the end of the year. There is a discreet bookstore inside the museum and a souvenir shop by the entrance, that’s it.

4) The museum is just enough information to be informative and answer any questions that you may have, but not overwhelming.

5) The fact that the design for Mount Rushmore changed majorly twice after production had already begun!

I 100% recommend a visit at some point. The sight and accompanying information really provide you with more of an appreciation for this National Monument.

The Badlands… More Like The Awesomelands

I’ve been wanting to experience the Badlands for a few years now. I’ve seen several photos and heard nothing but good reviews, but that didn’t make the view upon entry into the park any less awe-inspiring. They are absolutely breathtaking. And they’re so much more than that first viewpoint when you enter the park that you usually see photos of.

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a viewpoint closer to the Sage Creek campsite

Sometimes they appear to be carved down into the earth, and other times they tower up like mountains. Some are graced with dusty pink stripes, others are a rich yellow and still others seem almost white.

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the yellow mounds

They are jagged and rocky, smooth and rounded, flat topped and grassy. Some are dotted with animals while others are barren alien lands. Sometimes it’s so quiet that the only noises that you hear are your own footsteps, there are times when the wind is so violent that it’s all you can hear, and at dusk and dawn the silence is punctuated with the songs of the coyotes.

As a photographer this range frustrated and inspired me. I love to tell the story of a place, journey or person to my audience, but here there is no definitive view and what you can get into the viewfinder on your camera is never enough to give the full picture. It’s a land that needs to be experienced. It cannot be contained in a single image.

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along the Castle trail

The national park is filled with opportunities to immerse yourself, if you take them. Driving all the way out to the campsite at Sage Creek takes you through a range of landscapes and hiking the 15+ miles of trails allows you deep into their heart. Mike and I took every one of those opportunities so we could learn, explore and enjoy the Badlands.

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A Morning Jaunt in Palisades State Park

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Right across the border from Minnesota into South Dakota is a charming state park called Palisades. Definitely worth a visit on your way to the western portion of the state.
Mike and I really enjoyed our morning hike traversing most of the park. The trails are of moderate difficulty, with some hopping from rock to rock, small hills, interesting landscapes and beautiful views. Oh, and a pack of wild turkeys (the mystery birds from the other night revealed themselves to us while we were hiking).