Tag Archives: museum

USA 2016 – 20 Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego (2016-07-18) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 12 MAY 2018

One of the best views of San Diego’s harbour and skyline can be found at the Cabrillo National Monument – in fact, a clear day will actually give you a good view over a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Tijuana, and even Mexico’s Coronado Islands!

Situated at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego, California, the Cabrillo National Monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542 – the first time a European expedition had ever set foot on what later became the West Coast of the United States.

The first thing that greets you as you drive up into the national park is the fantastic Cabrillo Visitor Center, which in addition to its useful outdoor signage, viewing deck spots and smorgasbord of visitor information on hand, also sports a fantastically well done museum section, containing a fascinating array of carefully preserved items, information and interactive exhibits.

Then of course there is the unmissable limestone heroic statue of Cabrillo himself, a present to the USA from the Portuguese government. The original statue which was handed over by the Portuguese ambassador in 1938 was executed by sculptor Alvaro de Bree, with it weighing in at 6,400 kg and measuring 4.3 m in height.

However, weathering as a result of its exposed position dictated that the original sandstone model needed to eventually be replaced, and so in 1988 the (still striking) limestone replica that you see on site today made its appearance.

Interesting fact: During World War II the original Cabrillo Monument site was completely off-limits to the public thanks to the Point Loma Peninsula’s reservation for military purposes (San Diego is strategically incredibly important to the United States Navy), but this worked out well in the end – following the war, the national monument’s area was significantly enlarged thanks to work by both presidents Eisenhower and Ford.

Standing at around 57 hectares in size, the Cabrillo National Monument is also home to a number of other fascinating points of interest, like the Old Point Loma Lighthouse – one of the oldest lighthouses to ever operate on the West Coast of the United States of America.

And while this particular lighthouse now operates as a walk-in museum attraction only, just down the hill is the still very much in operation New Point Loma Lighthouse as well. There there are also the old gun batteries and retired radio station that houses an interesting the military history of the area exhibition.

In terms of nature activities, there are a number of short trails throughout the Cabrillo National Monument, including the popular two-mile long Bayside Trail that takes you through one one of the last remaining remnants of coastal sage scrub habitat in the world. It also in the process gives you spectacular views of Sand Diego Bay and the city beyond, Ballast Point (where Cabrillo landed), sandstone cliffs, and if the season is right, even some snow on the tops of the mountains!

The Coastal Tidepool Trail on the other hand takes you along its winding path down to the rocky intertidal area of the monument – which is incidentally one one of the best-protected and most easily accessible of rocky intertidal areas in southern California. Given the incredibly diverse and thriving animal communities to be found in the tidal pool area, this section also then happens to be one  of the more interesting spots of the park to pay a visit to.

Oh, and as if all this wasn’t yet enough, given its high elevation, the Cabrillo National Monument is also a brilliant whale watching spot – the perfect place in fact to watch migrating Gray Whales pass by from December through February!

So pretty hard not to include this as one of the many tourist things to do here in San Diego then!

Related Link: Cabrillo National Monument | Wikipedia | San Diego | #USA2016

The Springbok Experience Rugby Museum in Cape Town (2017-05-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 APR 2018

As a treat to myself for my birthday, I paid a solo visit to the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum down in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town last year May. It was my first time visiting the rugby museum, and honestly, if you are a long time South African rugby fan then this place will blow you socks off.

First things first – this is a museum experience unlike any other that I’ve experienced before.

The concept is that of an interactive, audio-visual driven experience, with the museum building being split into essentially 3 major sections – the Springbok memorabilia/rugby shop, the skill games section (perfect for you and your kids to have some rugby themed fun), and the the main and most important bit – the actual self-guided museum walk, which forces you along a path that talks, lights up and seeks to inform you with every step of the way.

You start at the very beginning, learning about how the game reached our shores, how it grew into a club level activity, and from there how it progressed from amateur to professional, from local to world class along the way.

Pleasingly, the museum does not shy away from difficult topics like the black smudge of Apartheid and race relations in general, and in fact, forces you as  visitor to understand exactly just how ridiculous and hurtful this dark mark on our shared history really was.

Visually the museum is stunning, running its bold yellow and green motif throughout the displays, with important figures and moments highlighted with stunning monochromatic mannequin displays.

Trophies, uniforms, pamphlets and photos, the museum has a treasure trove of South African rugby memorabilia that stretches throughout South Africa’s rugby playing history on display.

Larger than life inspirational quotes aside, just about every information panel you encounter comes with either a voice over effect, button to press, screen to watch, or tactile experience to digest – meaning that if you really want to, you can easily make a walk through this museum last longer than what your wife would spend in a well-stocked Woolworths store on one of its 50% off everything sale days.

(Technically, my wife doesn’t do this, but from what I understand you could be sitting on a bench that entire day if she has her good credit card in hand).

The experience itself ends off with a video screening in a small, darkened amphitheater, the result of which is you exiting through the final door beaming with pride at being a South African rugby fan. (Or at least that is exactly how I felt after making my way through the experience).

Hats off to SARU and the team that set this experience up then – if you are a Springboks fan, and have yet to visit this remarkable ode to SA rugby, then this should definitely be on your list of things to do in Cape Town!

P.S. Handy Tip: That amphitheater is super dark, so beware the step up to the viewing bench. Otherwise you’ll repeat the swift tuck and roll maneuver that I performed once the final film credit had rolled…

Related Link: The Springbok Experience Rugby Museum | Cape Town

Model Trains and Old Dolls at the Toy and Miniature Museum in Stellenbosch (2017-09-16) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 03 NOV 2017

Tucked in among all the old period buildings that form the backbone of the Stellenbosch Museum complex is a rather fascinating little find – hidden around a corner and housed in a beautiful classic Cape Dutch style home is the Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature Museum, home to an eclectic mixture of vintage toys from days long past.

Inside the small museum you’ll find a large collection of antique toys and collectibles for both boys and girls, with some of the dolls on show for example being more than a century old!

The first thing that you’ll see on entry is a large doll house that is actually a replica of the neo-classical, double story, flat roofed Georgian style manor house of the Uitkyk Wine Estate on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.

The doll house is fully furnished with accurate, to scale dolls, furniture and household wares from the period, similar to the items that you would find in the old house museums that make up the Stellenbosch Village Museum.

Also, as you would expect given the amount of times these things show up in horror movies, a lot of the old dolls are pretty creepy looking – meaning that neither the girls nor I spent too much time looking at any of them!

There are loads of dinky toys, cuddly bears, tea sets, doll houses, room boxes, and model trains to browse through, though of course the most exciting of all is when you spot something that you yourself may have owned or played with when you were young – like this translucent brown United piggy bank that I fondly remember stashing all my coins into back when I was a young boy!

The small toy museum’s biggest attraction is however is its detailed model train build, depicting South Africa’s famous Blue Train and its journey from a miniature Stellenbosch through the Cape Winelands and over the mountains to the Karoo, passing Matjiesfontein before making its return back to the fertile grounds of Stellenbosch again.

(A simple R5 coin is all you need to set the train off, and without a doubt this was by far the best part – and probably only bit they liked – of our visit for the girls!)

The museum isn’t particularly large and you could easily breeze through it in a couple of minutes. However, if you take your time to work through some of the rather interesting exhibits, then you can most definitely while away a bit of time as you dip back into some fond memories of your own youth.

Honestly, the toy museum is not the greatest of activities when it comes to entertaining one’s kids, but as an adult I did rather enjoy the trip down memory lane.

(Oh, and if you are wondering about that last photo which appears to be a shot of a bowl of chocolate pudding with ice cream, well that is exactly what it is. Thanks Mom!)

Related Link: Stellenbosch Toy Museum

Tycho to the Moon at the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome in Cape Town (2017-08-20) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 OCT 2017

The Iziko Museums of Cape Town (Iziko is isiXhosa for “hearth”) is an amalgamation of 12 national museums located near the Cape Town city centre. The Natural History sphere consists of the venerable Iziko South African Museum (founded in 1825) and, most pertinent to this particular blog post, the Iziko Planetarium, a project technically launched in the late 1950s, but which only became relevant to the public after the 1987 installation of the Planetarium’s star machine.

Built as an extension to the aforementioned Iziko South African Museum, the Planetarium is a familiar fixture for any of Cape Town’s former schoolkids – I’m not aware of any scholar that didn’t experience an school outing to the planetarium at least once during their school career!

Of course, as it inevitable does, technical equipment becomes outdated, and as such, after investments totaling R28,5 million were poured into the upgrade project, May 2017 saw the reopening of the new Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome (the planetarium’s new, official moniker), now extensively updated and most important of all, featuring cutting edge fulldome digital technology.

The result is beyond spectacular. The new Planetarium is now what is known as a “world-class digital fulldome theatre”, allowing for multimedia image projection and data visualisation on a scale not previously seen in Africa.

Apart from now being able to present interactive teaching and visual learning across multiple disciplines (essentially, there is now no reason that the Planetarium is solely focused on the field of astronomy), the biggest takeaway for this state of art digital dome is the fact that the Planetarium is now also very much an scientific instrument – capable of crunching and displaying complex and important data visualizations, exactly like those produced by the exciting SKA (Square Kilometre Array) project for example!

That said, I have a 3 year old and 6 year old daughter – meaning that our first experience of this glorious new piece of technology was a viewing of Tycho to the Moon – a supposedly educational, Australian produced 21 minute long feature about a dog and his kids that travel to the moon.

Spoiler, while the girls did enjoy the experience as a whole, Tycho to the Moon itself isn’t very good and kids seem to get bored of it VERY quickly.

The adverts for the other science show offerings, not to mention the star/universe gazing segment tacked on by our operator at the end of the show, were on the other hand ENTHRALLING – so definitely a return trip to the Planetarium for both Chantelle and myself is now VERY much in order!

Given the fact that the planetarium stands as part of the museum, with the Company’s Garden right on its doorstep, there is no way that this shouldn’t be on your list of things to do with kids in Cape Town.

Related Link: Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome | Iziko Museums of Cape Town

Cape Dutch Architecture in the historic Church Street of Tulbagh (2016-12-10) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 30 JUL 2017

The Boland Earthquake of 1969 wreaked massive damage across the historic town of Tulbagh, but it was also thanks to this very disaster that the restoration and preservation of the town’s history became a reality.

The discovery of a photo taken in the 1860s allowed for the town to get together and restore every historic structure on Church Street to its original state, leading to 32 provincial heritage sites standing in one street alone, the largest concentration of National Monuments in South Africa!

I jumped at the opportunity to amble down Church street over the course of our weekend away at the African Tulip Guest House last December, taking my time to admire all these fantastic, well kept examples of Cape Dutch, Edwardian and Victorian architecture.

Other than those acting as museums, most of these historic houses are privately owned, with many operating as businesses, including the likes of restaurants, guest houses, art galleries, or quaint little shops.

Church street is also home to two churches (on either end of the street), a rugby field, a communal green space, and a organic community vegetable garden.

Outside of each house there stands an official, nifty little signboard, detailing the structure’s history and design style, not to mention the dispensing of some fascinating tidbits of local lore.

Naturally, plenty of photos were taken during the course of my stroll – I mean, who doesn’t love taking photos of classic whitewash and gables!

Well, well worth taking the time to amble down Church Street, and even better if you can organise to join one of the historic walking tours!

Related Link: Tulbagh | Cape Dutch Architecture

Things to See in Ukraine: The Motherland Monument in Kiev Travel Attractions 01 NOV 2016

One of Kiev’s most striking skyline elements is the massive Motherland Monument, also known as Rodina-Mat. Standing at a colossal 62 metres high and visible from just about all over Kiev, there is no surprise in it often being described as one of the capital of Ukraine’s most distinctive features.

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Referred to as “Brezhnev’s Daughter” by the locals, the Motherland Monument is a giant stainless steel statue modelled by Vasyl Borodai and built in celebration of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

The sculpture is a part of the Museum of The History of Ukraine in World War II, and as a whole, its structure measures 102 m in height, with it weighing in at around 560 tons.

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The sword in the statue’s right hand is 16 m long weighing 9 tons (interesting fact – it had to be shortened so that it no longer stood higher than the cross of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, aka the Kiev Monastery of the Caves), with the left hand holding up a 13 by 8 m (43 by 26 ft) shield emblazoned with the State Emblem of the Soviet Union.

The Memorial hall of the Museum displays marble plaques with carved names of more than 11,600 soldiers and over 200 workers of the home-front, honored during the war with the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the Hero of Socialist Labor respectively.

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The slightly controversial (mostly around cost and choice of premium building material) statue was opened in 1981 (following a short two years of construction) in a ceremony attended by Soviet president Leonid Brezhnev. Interestingly enough, April 2015 saw the parliament of Ukraine outlawing all Soviet and Communist symbols, street names and monuments as a decommunization attempt, but luckily for Mother Motherland, World War II monuments are excluded from these laws.

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The sheer scale of this statue makes it an interesting  attraction to seek out, and of course, for military history buffs, the associated museum is an absolute treasure trove of information, gear and machinery.

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(Also, check out Destinations if you are looking for a good Travel Guide about Ukraine)

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Related Link: Motherland Monument | Wikipedia | Kiev

Things to See in USA: The USS Midway Museum in San Diego Travel Attractions 28 JUN 2016

If you are down in California, paying a visit to San Diego, and perhaps have just the slightest of interest in all things military, then it would be particularly foolish to skip out on making a trip down to the USS Midway Museum!

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The massive decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Midway, previously America’s longest-serving aircraft carrier (1945-1992) is now a dedicated museum ship, housing an extensive collection of naval aircraft and over 60 ship exhibits brought to life by a self-guided audio tour.

Exhibits range from the crew’s sleeping quarters to a massive galley, engine room, the ship’s jail, officer’s country, post office, machine shops, and pilots’ ready rooms, as well as primary flight control and the bridge high in the island over the flight deck.

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Included in the ships restored aircraft inventory is a cornucopia of naval fighters stretching from World War II to Operation Desert Storm. Expect to view planes like the SBD Dauntless dive bomber, the TBM Avenger, F9F Panther, F-4 Phantom, A-6 Intruder and F/A-18 Hornet just to name but a few!

The museum is berthed at Navy Pier which has more than 300 parking spaces. It also is within walking distance of public transportation and other downtown San Diego waterfront attractions.

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Opened on 7 June 2004,d by 2012 the USS Midway Museum’s annual visitation exceeded 1 million visitors. As of 2015, Midway now also boasts the tag of being the most popular naval warship museum in the United States!

In other words, a massively popular attraction.

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Related Link: USS Midway Museum | Wikipedia

Japan 2014 – 41 Yoshinaka Yakata Museum in Miyanokoshi (2014-10-09) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 24 DEC 2015

Stomachs full following our soba noodles at Zcobo, the next stop on our day out with Yuko and the Brown family was a leisurely (more or less, thanks to some wrong turns and narrow town streets) drive through to the town of Miyanokoshi, where Yuko was very keen for us to visit the Yoshinaka Yakata Museum – important because of her ancestral link to the Minamoto clan.

(Ryan and I were just excited that at last we were going to encounter some samurai exhibits!)

IMG_20141009_150054 tomoe gozen with minamoto no yoshinaka at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi

The first thing that greets you as you enter the grounds of the museum is a striking bronze statue of the great Kiso Yoshinaka with the legendary Tomoe Gozen standing guard next to him.

IMG_20141009_151747 view of the grounds of the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

Popularised in the epic Tale of the Heike, Minamoto no Yoshinaka (better known as Kiso Yoshinaka) was a famous shogun and war hero that fought during the Genpei War (1180-1185) which was the culmination of the struggle between the Taira (aka Heike) and Minamoto (aka Genji) clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century.

His army defeated the Taira army on numerous occasions and eventually drove them out of Kyoto, only to finally perish at the hands of his own clan in battle, after his plotting to setup a separate government came to light.

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(Tomoe Gozen also features heavily in the displays, she being Japan’s most famous female samurai, with many legends proclaiming her brilliance in battle.)

The small museum does a great job at telling Kiso Yoshinaka’s tale through murals, reliefs, costumes and dolls – though luckily for us we had Yuko on hand for translation because this certainly isn’t intended as a museum for tourists!

IMG_20141009_151113 kiso yoshinaka story murals at the yoshinaka yakata museum in miyanokoshi, japan

Very much an interesting look into the samurai history of the area, and if you have a Japanese-speaking guide, then worth a recommendation.

Related Link: Minamoto no Yoshinaka | Tomoe Gozen

Japan 2014 – 32 Kyoto’s Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum (2014-10-07) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 19 DEC 2015

Umekoji Park is a large green space in rather crowded Kyoto, and thus quite popular with the locals. Of course, the newly built (2012) aquarium took quite a bite out of the space, but I have to say that as tourists, Ryan and I kind of enjoyed the new attraction.

Next up for us though was something a little less nature and a lot more man-made – Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was beckoning from literally next door!

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The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was opened in 1972 on the 100th anniversary of the start of railway operation in Japan.

At the center of the museum is a 20-track roundhouse built in 1914. It was built surrounding a turntable, and houses and exhibits the preserved locomotives. The roundhouse is an Important Cultural Property designated by the government of Japan as the oldest reinforced-concrete car shed extant in Japan.

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The former Nijo Station House is the oldest wooden railway station in Japan. The station house was built in 1904 and also served as the main office for the Kyoto Railway Company, a private railway in operation at that time. In 1997 the station house was relocated to the museum site as a railway cultural asset, where it is now used as the entrance way and display hall for the museum.

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Although Ryan and I didn’t hop on for the short 1 km trip in a steam locomotive, we thoroughly enjoyed browsing all the displays and artifacts in the station house museum, before moving on to the outside area to admire the 19 steam locomotives on display – all lovingly restored, cared for and in working order!

The beasts are pretty magnificent in their own right, and each with their own bit of history attached.

That said though, I kind of forgot that steam locomotives were generally all painted black. Which means that visually, this wasn’t the most exciting of things that we had come across in Japan!

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Note: Turns out that we were pretty lucky to see this after all. The museum has subsequently been closed, in the process of a major construction overhaul which will add a massive footprint and a whole lot more trains – including a couple of shinkansen (bullet trains).

From a Japanese  news article:

“The opening date for one of the largest train museums in Japan has been set for April 29 2016, West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) announced Wednesday.

The Kyoto Railway Museum, being developed on a 30,000-sq.-meter site, will exhibit a total of 53 locomotives and train cars it inherited from the former Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum, which was on the same site, and the Modern Transportation Museum in Osaka, which is also closed.”

Related Link: Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum