A Fantastic Football Museum for The Beautiful Game

Confession:  I have limited interest in football (soccer).  Scratch that.  I have zero interest in football.  I pretend to pay some interest when my son starts going on about Arsenal, his favourite team but, only because I am being polite.  Besides, I am good at maintaining eye contact and pretending to be not bored out of my gourd from my days as a corporate lawyer.

When Leo my Sao Paulo tourist guide from FlaviaLiz suggested we see Estado do Pacaembu and its Football Museum because Brasilians are crazy about football, I figured I would whizz in and out. It was such a great museum, I was actually in there for 2 hours.

football museum at Pacaembu in Brasil


Pacaembu Stadium

The Pacaembu Stadium was built in 1940. It is the only Sao Paulo football stadium not associated with a specific football team.

Football Museum Pacaembu
The city of Sao Paulo rises behind the stadium.

The Corinthians, a local team that either you love or hate (along the lines of Arsenal or Chelsea in London), used to play their games at Pacaembu.  The Corinthians have now moved to their own stadium, the former 2014 World Cup Stadium in the city.  No one should be surprised that there were allegations of corruption levelled at  FIFA as well as Brasilian government entities after this cozy little transfer occurred.

Brasil is the only country to ever have played in every World Cup.  I thought the British were gung-ho about football but Brasilians take it to a whole other level.

Football Museum Pacaembu
I want to be known simply as ‘Phenom’.

The Football Museum

The Football Museum is built under the bleachers of Pacaembu Stadium.

Football Museum Pacaembu

The game of football was only brought to the country in 1894.  The father of Brasilian football is a Charles Miller, an Anglo-Scottish-Brasilian who had been sent to boarding school in England and returned to Brasil with two footballs in his luggage and a copy of the rules.

Football Museum Pacaembu
Charles Miller, seated in the middle, with an enviable mustache.

You are welcomed to the museum by Pele, the Brasilian player many people credit as the best player of all time.

Football Museum Pacaembu
All about Pele

Reasons Why The Football Museum is Captivating

There is a room devoted to the 25 best Brasilian players referred to as the baroque angels and whose holograms appear in a display of light and sound. The players are described in religious terms as ‘angels whose wings transport them through space to the cathedral where their inventiveness, the poetry and the magic of the game is worshipped.” OK, then.

Pacaembu Brasil Football Stadium
The Baroque Angels

There is a cool room where you can listen to what a full stadium sounds like if you are a player on the pitch.

Football is all about stats.  The museum has lots of statistics which unhelpfully are in Portuguese.  However, with my limited knowledge of Spanish I could translate quite a few of them.

Football Museum Pacaembu
Football stats and more stats

Displays show how football has changed over the years from the shoes to the balls.

Football Museum Pacaembu
The changing football

My favourite exhibit was a room dedicated to all of the World Cups every played.  It shows the year, where it was played, who won, the highlights of the games and the historical, social and cultural context in which it was played.

Football Museum Pacaembu
The World Cup Room
Football Museum Pacaembu
John & Yoko, Nixon and the Moon Landing made the headlines as well as the 1970 World Cup

There are lots of football artefacts sprinkled throughout the Museum, such as this football shirt signed by all the players of the Brasilian 2014 world cup team.

Football Museum Pacaembu
Brasilian team for the 2014 World Cup

My Opinion of the Football Museum

There is a fair bit of explanation easily understood and geared towards children as well as interactive games.  Of course, it helps if your children speak Portuguese.

I found the biggest (and really only) issue with this museum is its complete lack of English translations.  This museum could have been so much better if it was more English-speaker friendly.  If this museum had some English translations, my children could have spent an entire day here.

Football Museum Pacaembu Stadium
For example, this diagram is easily understood but there is still no reason not to have an English translation.

I actually found the lack of English in tourist venues a problem throughout Sao Paulo.  Many of the visitor destinations are only in Portuguese (as well as the official tourist brochures).  For a city that wants to be a world-class destination (and has the capacity to be one), their sites really need to be more multilingual.



My Travel Monkey

Kid-Friendly Modern Art at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

My tour guide, Sunny, was an older woman with an infectious enthusiasm about Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, specifically.  Sunny by name, sunny by nature I thought. Too bad her name was definitely not reflected in the grey and hazy morning weather.  If it weren’t for the humidity I would have felt like I was back in London.

We meandered around the garden as I listened to Sunny’s anecdotes about the sculptures.  I was pleasantly struck by how family-friendly the sculpture garden is. You hear that people in Minnesota are friendly and welcoming but I was not expecting that openness to extend to their museum.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden kid-friendly Modern Art
Salute to Painting by Roy Lichtenstein

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden has gotten more than 7 million visitors since it opened in 1988.  Part of the renowned Walker Art Center, the garden combines two things Minneapolis is known for – arts and outdoor space.

The most famous sculpture in the garden is without a doubt Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  Oldenburg got the idea for a spoon based on the motif he saw inside the General Mills headquarters in Minneapolis.  The building featured their beloved Betty Crocker and her spoon.  The spoon itself is 52 feet long.

Spoonbridge and Cherry

The cherry, weighing in at 1200 pounds, is a fountain.  The stem sprays a fine mist in the summer onto a pond shaped like a leaf from the Linden trees found in the park.  In the winter, the snow piles up so high around the sculpture that only the cherry on top is visible. It looks like an ice cream sundae!

Beautifully landscaped with rows of Linden trees, clipped hedges and well-maintained grass,  the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden spreads out over 11 acres.  If it weren’t for the occasional piece by such notable sculptors as Henry Moore and Isamu Noguchi, the children playing in the grass and the couples out for a stroll along pebbled paths would make it look no different from any other public park.

minneapolis sculpture garden bench

The garden is sprinkled with benches for you to sit and appreciate the art.  It also makes a great space for people watching!  No one was precious about the many babies and children playing in the garden.  These pieces of art are made to withstand the harsh Minnesota winters as well as interaction by the occasional child.

There will be a mini-golf course called Walker on the Green with pieces of modern art opening soon.  Located next door to the sculpture garden, the mini golf will make the space even more family-friendly.  I know my kids will think it is a hoot to hit a golf ball through a urinal.  Just their sense of toilet humour.

Walker on the Green mini golf

My Three Favourite Pieces of Sculpture

With so many choices, I struggled with choosing just 3 favourite pieces from the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden to share with you.

Arikidea by Mark di Suvero seemed to be one of the most popular pieces in the garden. Weighing more than 3 tons, the platform on the bottom was a natural gathering place for people and photos. Both the platform and the piece swung gently with any movement even a light wind.

Arikidea Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

My other favourite piece was Standing Glass Fish by Canadian artist Frank Gehry.  The 22 foot high glass fish set into a lily pond is a nod to an abiding memory of his childhood in Toronto.  Gehry’s grandmother would buy a giant carp on Thursday which she would leave swimming in the bathtub until Friday.  On Friday, she would prepare gefilte fish for the Jewish sabbath.

Standing Glass Fish by Frank Gehry

My third choice has nothing to do with animals.  It is Two Way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth by Dan Graham.  You get mazes and labyrinths in gardens in the grand old houses of Europe such as Hever Castle.  This variation on the theme uses modern materials to look at the concept of transparency and reflection.

The photo below shows Sunny standing on the other side of the glass wall which also reflects back on me taking the photo.

Two Way Mirror Glass Steel Labryinth
It’s Sunny through the glass.

The material lets you see through but also reflects back your own image.  It really messes with your sense of perception in a cool way.  I loved the way that children interacted with the hedges and different facets of mirror and metal.

two way mirror labyrinth

Good to Know:

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is the home of 40+ pieces of modern art owned by the Walker Art Center. I took one of the free guided tours available from May through September on the weekends at 11:30.  The Garden is expected to close this September until next year for a complete revamp.  This sculpture garden is so great I can’t wait to see what the new and ‘improved’ version will be.

The Walker on the Green mini golf course is open daily and has 2 courses.  Fees range between $12 for adults and $9 for children.  Children under the age of 5 are free.  In addition, your mini golf course ticket entitles you to a free ticket to the main Walker Art Center (a $14 value).


How The Inquisition Made Friends and Influenced People

And, the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Although Thomas Hobbes was writing about the conditions of war in 1651 not much had changed since medieval times.  Life was even nastier and shorter if you caught the attention of the Inquisition.  The ecclesiastical body set up by the Catholic Church to weed out those people who did not conform to its teachings, the Inquisition, was ruthless.  They effectively had declared war on heretics, homosexuals and supposed witches. The Inquisition had the authority to question thoroughly (i.e., torture) its suspects.

The Inquisition in the Languedoc

On our recent trip to Carcassone in the Languedoc region of the South of France, we visited the Inquisition Museum.  Unfortunately, the Inquisition held a heavy grip on the area the mid-13th century to the early 18th century.  The region was a stronghold of the Cathars, a Christian sect which dared to defy some of the teachings of the Catholic Church.  The Inquisition showed no mercy to the Cathars as it swept through the area.

inquisition museum carcassone

The Inquisition Museum was truly disturbing.  I had no idea there were so many different ways to harm people.  I usually deal with discomfort with humour and so I got to wondering how the torture would stack up in the modern world.

When I think of torture in the present context, I can’t help but think of ex-Vice President Dick Cheney and Guantanamo Bay.  He, of course, would not understand why.  After all, Cheney has insisted water boarding is not torture.

The Instruments of the Inquisition

From a scale of 1-5 with with 1 not being torture to 5 being a grudging acceptance that it is, I bring you the Cheney torture scale for 7 medieval torture instruments.

The Judas Chair

The Judas Chair was used on witches.  They were sat down on a chair of nails and the boards were slowly tightened until it really hurt.  Death was slow because the nails would stem the flow of blood loss from the punctures.

Cheney Torture Scale:  2/5 It’s only a slightly uncomfortable seat.  High back wooden chairs are never as comfortable as say a La-Z Boy recliner.  Get over it.

Nail Chair Torture Inquisition Museum

The Hell Cage

These cages were usually found on crossroads to serve as a warning to others.  Suspects were left naked in the cages.  People would die from hunger or thirst if they were left in there long enough.

Cheney Torture Scale:  1/5 Naturists hang out in the fresh air all the time.  How is this torture?

hell cage torture instrument carcassone inquisition museum

The Axe

These were relatively easy deaths saved for important people.  You know how it works.

Cheney Torture Scale:  1/5 How is this even torture?  The person just dies with the briefest time of pain.

The Axe Torture Inquisition Museum Carcassone

The Stretching Ladder

This ladder was used to stretch limbs to extract a confession.  Usually the suspect would dislocate a shoulder.

Cheney Torture Scale:  1/5 It gives you a good stretch.  Much better than yoga.

The Ladder Inquisition Museum Carcassone

The Saw

The saw was a cheap and easy way to torture on the go because usually the Inquisitors travelled without their instruments.  Every village would have a saw.  Either people were sawed in half completely or only half-way so that they died of blood-loss and pain.

Cheney Torture Scale:  5/5 This method is pretty sick.  But somewhat pointless as two halves of a person will not divulge any information.

Saw Torture Inquisition Museum Carcassone

The Breaking Wheel

The person was tied to a wheel and beaten until the bones were broken.  Then the victim was left to be eaten by crows.

Cheney Torture Scale:  2/5 At least the person was lying down. Moreover, the nurturing of wildlife is an important government duty.

Breaking Wheel Inquisition Museum Carcassone

The Neck Violin

The neck violin was attached to a person’s neck and arms.  They had to march through the streets with a sign proclaiming their misdeed.

Cheney Torture Scale:  1/5 Exercise does a body good.

neck violin inquisition museum

Believe it or not, these methods are only a small sampling of the devices used by the Inquisition.  Their creativity and cruelty seemed to know no bounds.

Visiting the Inquisition Museum

The Inquisition Museum is located in the medieval walled Cite of Carcassone.  It is comprised of two parts located in two different houses- the museum and the jail.  The Museum has displays and detailed photos of torture instruments and their use.  The jail has waxed figures depicting how the accused would be accused and brought to questioning.  Draped in cloth, you walk through the dark house and listen to the whispers of accusers and the howl of the accused.  I thought it was completely creepy.  I would advise caution in visiting this museum with younger children.  Teenagers who have seen any number of horror movies will not be bothered by the implied violence and mutilation.



Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum With Kids

Sort of like the moon landings for a previous generation, I’m sure our generation will remember where they were when the 9/11 attacks occurred.  My husband and I had just returned from an amazing honeymoon.  September 11, 2001 was the first day back at work for us.  Morning in New York City meant we were just returning to our desks after lunch.

When our computer screens flashed up news of a plane crashing in Manhattan, it seemed surreal.  I worked in the London office of a New York law firm. Many of us were native New Yorkers.  We all gathered in the conference room to watch the unfolding horror on the big screen television.  Everyone was equally shocked.  Our office closed early that day.  No one would have been able to return to work after watching the tragic events happening in our home town.

One World Trade Center

We have talked to our children a bit about the events of 9/11 which occurred before they were born.  We have visited friends who lived in downtown Manhattan.  They had a birds eye view of the building of One World Trade Center.

The building designed by starchitect Daniel Libeskind is stunning visually.  Rising triumphantly over the skyline, the blue sky and sun reflect of the glass, a sparkling testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum with Kids_photo of One WTC

Now that my kids are 9 years old, I felt they were old enough to visit the 9/11 Memorial and Museum itself.

The 9/11 Memorial Plaza

The 9/11 Memorial is a plaza with twin reflecting pools.  Each pool is set in the footprint of one of the Twin Towers.  Needless to say, the waterfall pits are massive – about an acre each.

9/11 Memorial reflecting pool

Names of the victims are inscribed onto the sides of the pools.

9/11 memorial reflecting pool inscription

The plaza and other buildings are still a work in progress.

9/11 memorial construction

The 9/11 Museum

The 9/11 Museum is pretty much underground.  The original Twin Towers had foundations with retaining walls that kept the Hudson River from flooding into the building.  Despite the destruction aboveground, the retaining walls remained strong.  (A mercy or otherwise the flooding in Lower Manhattan would have caused even more destruction).    The Museum is housed within these remaining foundations.

9/11 Museum basement foundation

You descend down staircases and ramps into the basement.  The light from the beautiful atrium overlooking Freedom Tower is soon lost as you head down into the heart of darkness/depths of despair etc.  The symbolism is not subtle.

escalator to exhibits at 9/11 museum

Although the museum is sombre, my children did not find it creepy.  Everything is carefully curated so nothing feels overwhelming.  The museum is about 110,000 s.f. so there is definitely plenty of room to spread out.

9/11 museum twin towers foundations

The Virgil quote from The Aeneid is part of an art installation in Memorial Hall.  The letters are cut from steel taken from the fallen Twin Towers.  Someone (not a classicist) thought the quote was appropriate but many people have criticised the quote for being taken out of context.  In the Aeneid, the quote refers to murderous gay lovers who have hacked their enemies to death in their sleep.

Virgil quote 9/11 museum

Artist Spencer Finch created 2983 pages of water-colour for the installation.  The shades of blue represent the artist trying to remember what colour the sky was on that fateful day.  Surrounding the Virgil quote, I’m sure some bright spark thought the art could take attention away from the offending quote itself.  It doesn’t.

The 9/11 Museum Exhibits

You walk past the remains of the ‘Survivor Stairs’ where many people were able to escape the building onto Vesey Street.

9/11 museum vesey steps

The mangled remains of fire trucks, ambulances etc. are on display.  You can clearly see the force of the blast and the power of the heat.  All of it is testament to the courage of the people who did not flinch but ran towards the disaster to help.

9/11 museum fire truck

We looked at some of the portraits of the 3000 people who had died on the day.  They were from all walks of life, young and old. My son was struck by the story of one heroic worker who rescued 18 people but died himself when the building collapsed as he went to rescue another person.

My children were a little perturbed by the missing posters exhibition.  Someone can go into work one day just like any other day but then never come home.  It’s a lot to take on board.

9/11 museum missing posters

The Last Column was the last piece of structural steel to be removed from the Twin Towers in the spring of 2002.

9/11 Museum The Last Column

On this piece of steel, rescue workers and others had attached messages and missing posters.  The Last Column was brought back to the museum as a permanent exhibit.

9/11 Museum The Last Column messages

Personal exhibits are also on display of people who perished on the day.  This motorcycle was a wreck bought by one of the fireman who died. He had intended to restore it. His colleagues from the fire company restored it for him and placed it in memory of him at the museum.

9/11 musem firefighter motorcycle

One exhibition section goes into specific details on the events of the day itself.  It is not recommended for children under the age of 10.  My children insisted on going inside but I did whisk them through some of the materials.

There are eyewitness accounts, television broadcasts and lots of other multimedia materials.  I’m sure the newsreels showed some of the clips of people jumping from the Twin Towers which I did not want my children to see.  I am haunted by those images still to this day.  And, I am not ready to get into a discussion on when murder becomes suicide.

9/11 Museum quilt God Bless America

I’m sure a lot went over my children’s heads but it was a good introduction to the events of the day.  I think what happened on 9/11 is so tragic and overwhelming, it is best consumed in small doses.  I am sure we will return when they are older and we can discuss in more detail what happened.

Helpful Tips For Visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum:

The 9/11 Memorial does not require tickets. Both the memorial and museum are open daily.  The Museum is free on Tuesday nights after 5pm.  Otherwise, the museum costs $24 for adults and children from 7 to 17 are $15.  Other discounts apply as well.

You should get tickets for a timed entry to the 9/11 Museum online. There are lines for either the top of the hour or the bottom of the hour where you can wait.  Don’t bother!  You can waltz in a few minutes after your allocated time slot when the lines have cleared.  There’s plenty of room inside and being the last to go inside on your time slot has no impact on your visit to the museum.

Our visit took us a little over 2 hours.  You could easily have spent another 2 hours if you spent more time in the enclosed ‘for older visitors’ only area.

I thought my children at 9 years of age were ready for this museum.  They would not have understood as much if they were younger.  They did not see all of the exhibits because I managed to evade some parts of the museum. Adult discretion is definitely advised.

Family Fun at Hever Castle

Hever Castle is famous for being the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII.  More recently, Hever Castle is renowned for its gorgeous gardens and its family-friendly attractions.

History of Hever Castle

Hever Castle was built in the 13th Century and enlarged as the Boleyn family grew in power.  Anne Boleyn spent her childhood at this castle.  Upon the death of the Boleyns, the castle went to Henry VIII who gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.  It passed through various families before eventually being bought and restored by Wiliam Astor in the 20th century.

family fun at never castle

William Waldorf Astor was part of the wealthy New York Astor family.  He had left New York City in a huff when he lost an argument with his family on who was “the” Mrs Astor.  The official Mrs Astor was the controlling force of New York high society. In England he acquired a series of grand houses and an English peerage.  No word on if being a peer of the English realm was better than having a wife who was just another Mrs. Astor.

Hever Castle

Since the 1980’s, Hever Castle has been run by a company as a tourist attraction.

Hever Castle

The Gardens of Hever Castle

Hever Castle has one of the most important Edwardian gardens in the country according to the Royal Horticultural Society.

Hever Gardens

The Hever gardens were established by William Astor over the course of 4 years. Created from marshland, the various gardens are indeed stunning.

never castle gardens

They include a neo-Tudor garden with traditional pathways and clipped topiary.  When the roses at the walled Rose Garden is in season, it has 4000+ roses in full bloom.  The Italian garden contains the statues Astor collected as souvenirs during his European travels.

Hever Gardens

The 38-acre lake was hand-dug by 800 men in 2 years. Even though labor was much cheaper in those days, it did help that William Astor was very, very rich.

never castle lake

Children’s Activities at Hever Castle

There are plenty of activities for the children to do, such as rowboats for hire or the adventure playground.  The yew maze, planted in 1904, is fun to navigate as are the wisteria clad pergolas.

wisteria at hever castle

It was also the first time that I had seen a water maze. The goal is to reach the centre island but if you step on the wrong stone, water squirts up to soak you. My kids loved the water maze!

Hever water maze

Depending on when you go, Hever Castle puts on shows such as jousting tournaments or other activities such as Easter Egg Hunts.  We went on a May Bank holiday weekend and so there were lots of extra activities on offer. My children loved the archery and the painting activities.  Characters in historical outfits were milling around adding to the atmosphere.

Hever Drawbridge

Details on Visiting Hever Castle

Located only about 30 miles from London, Hever Castle is an easy day trip from the city.  The opening days and hours vary throughout the year so you should check their website before visiting.  You can get tickets to both the Castle and gardens or to the gardens only.  There is admission charged for adults and reduced admission for children between the ages of five and 15.  Children under the age of 5 are free.

Remembering Racism and War Hysteria At Heart Mountain

Turning off the highway, we drove up and down an isolated road trying to find the Heart Mountain Interpretative Center.  The land was flat with nothing around and the sun beat down on the parched earth.  It really felt like the middle of nowhere which I can imagine was exactly how the Japanese-Americans who arrived at this detention camp in 1942 would have felt.

Heart Mountain Relocation Center
Image: Nicholas Brown

We eventually located the black barrack style building which looked like nothing special.  We had repeatedly overlooked it as we were driving.  Although intentionally bleak and uninviting from the outside, the interpretive centre on the inside was really great.

The History of Japanese Immigration to the United States

Japanese immigration to the United States began in the late 19th Century when workers were needed for the sugar cane plantations in Hawaii.  Eventually the Japanese moved onto the mainland to work on railroads, farms, oil fields and mines.  Despite heavy racism, some of them owned their own businesses or farms.

The first generation (issei) who were Japan-born had never been allowed to become citizens because under American law at the time, only people of European and African descent could become naturalised citizens.  By 1940, the nisei (second generation) of Japanese americans were integrated into American society and even had children of their own, the sansei (third generation).

 The Executive Order Forcing Japanese-American Relocations

President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in 1942 as a result of the racism and hysteria prompted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour marking the American entry into World War II.  This law lead to the forcible internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the USA onto 10 camps located effectively in the middle of nowhere USA.

executive order 9066

The Japanese Americans were seen as a threat to national security because they could be conspiring with the enemy.  This sign was put on a store owned by a Japanese American born in California and educated at the University of California Berkeley.  He still felt the need to publicly state his loyalties.

Japanese American grocery sign
Sign reaffirming the owner’s loyalties

Japanese Americans were given one week to report to the collection centres which would send them onwards to the detention centres.  Their lives were uprooted and they didn’t have time to sell off their businesses or dispose of assets.  Many people left their personal possessions behind which were quickly stolen by remaining locals.

The Visitor’s Center has a movie by Academy-Award winner Steven Okazaki entitled “All We Could Carry” which is a really good introduction to the rest of the museum.  The title is a reference to what each person could bring to the centre – a suitcase.

Japanese American family with their belongings

The Heart Mountain Relocation Center

One of the relocations camp, Heart Mountain, located near Cody in Wyoming has been reopened as a museum and gallery to remember this unfortunate period in American history. Heart Mountain was open from 1942 until after the end of the war in 1945.

At its height, the camp held over 10,000 Japanese Americans making it the third largest town in Wyoming.  Approximately one-third of the occupants were Issei but the remainder were American citizens.  All were of Japanese descent except one woman who was Caucasian and refused to leave her Japanese-American husband.

Although the camp was supposed to be open-gated, the Wyoming governor warned the racism of the locals would make it dangerous for the Japanese.  The 46,000 acre camp was then surrounded by barbed wire, guard towers and searchlights.

guard tower at Heart Mountain
Guard Tower remaining at the camp

Conditions at Heart Mountain were basic. People were housed in barracks and even families were housed in single rooms.

heart mountain relocation centre
Image: @AndrewGHayes

Although there was a stove in the room for heat, the Japanese-Americans who were used to a more temperate climate in California must have been frozen in the Wyoming winters.  The wind would have whipped through the buildings which were timber-framed and wrapped in black-tar paper.

recreation of a family room at heart mountain
Recreation of a family’s room

The camps had communal bathrooms. With no doors for privacy, many women felt humiliated using the toilets.

Barracks toilets
Image: Bob Perry

Meals were served in a cafeteria setting.  Children were sent to schools that were created in the camp. Even a hospital was set up in the camp to take care of the internees needs.

Family life was disrupted in a major way.  For example, Japanese families have a tradition of respecting their elders.  In the camps, however, the Issei had less rights than their American-born children because they were not American citizens.  In another example, cafeteria-style eating meant that families no longer shared meals together.

The American government extended the drafting of soldiers to the Japanese living in the camps even though their constitutional rights as Americans were being trampled. Needless to say, a group of men resisted the draft, were put on trial and imprisoned for disobedience.  They were eventually pardoned by President Truman after the war ended.  The 800 men who did join the war were part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team which became the most decorated military unit in US history.

After the war ended, the Japanese Americans were told to disperse and given $25 and a train ticket.  They had lost all of their pre-war businesses and other assets so technically they had nowhere to go.  Wyoming passed laws that prevented them from staying.  The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center also has stories from people reintegrating back into mainstream American society.

Heart Mountain Japanese Relocation Center

Information for Visiting Heart Mountain Interpretive Center:

The Heart Mountain Interpretative Center is located between the towns of Powell and Cody in Wyoming at the intersection of Highway 19a and Road 19. Look for a barn-like low building which blends into the landscape fairly close to the intersection. Adults pay an admission fee but children under the age of 12 are free.

I think perhaps my 8 year old children were a bit young to understand what happened at Heart Mountain.  Even though they knew about World War II because we had visited the D-Day beaches at Normandy, they didn’t quite grasp the horror of having someone’s life uprooted in a week.  Even though my children thought it would be cool to live in a camp with all their friends, they did think it was unfair that they would have to lose all their possessions.

The Heart Mountain Interpretative Center is a useful reminder of a bleak period in American history where American citizens were illegally detained and their civil rights trampled.

Exploring Dublin’s Viking and Medieval Past at Dublinia

Isn’t it great when you accidentally discover something that makes your trip memorable?  We had that experience at Dublinia, a Viking and medieval heritage museum next door to Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.  When we got to Christ Church Cathedral, there was a Mass being conducted and so we had time to wander around.  Dublinia is located next door to the Cathedral and so, of course, we wandered in for a look.

There are 3 main exhibits in Dublinia which looks at the Viking and medieval history of the city of Dublin. The whole museum is very interactive and a lot of fun for kids.

Dublinia viking

Viking History at Dublinia

The Viking section has recreations of a long ship and a home.  There are Viking outfits to try on as well as lots of cool information that’s presented in a fun way.

Dublinia pinterest image

Did you know that the Vikings took lots of Irish women as captives to Iceland?  Studies have shown that at least of 50% of Icelandic women are of Irish descent.  The running joke in Iceland is that the Vikings took all the pretty Irish women with them.

Dublinia viking horn

Did you know that Viking helmets did not actually have horns? The myth that Viking helmets had horns comes from the 19th century when a costume designer put horns on the helmet for the Wagner opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelung based on the ancient Norse stories.dublinia viking helmet

Medieval History at Dublinia

The second exhibition is looks at medieval Dublin up to the 16th century with sets showing a rich merchant’s house, a medieval street and a medieval faire.  Coincidentally our kids were studying the Black Death at school and seeing reconstructions of what they were reading about was interesting.

My children loved the medieval faire reconstruction because they were so many interactive exhibits.  For example, they got to play medieval games, wear medieval outfits and try their hand at writing like a monk.

dublinia medieval faire game

A knight could not see much wearing this shield and it was very heavy. My kids decided that they would prefer wearing a Norse helmet.

Dublinia medieval helmet

The cures for random diseases was fascinating as well as the diseases themselves.  Thank goodness for modern-day antibiotics.

Dublinia medieval fair medicine

Learning Archaeology at Dublinia

The third part of Dublinia looks at how archaeology works and dovetails with history and science.  We can say the kids had never really thought about the mechanics of archaeology before.  You could also listen to what Dubliners sounded like through the ages.  We could hear how the language sounded similar and yet so different.

We loved the Viking & medieval history of Dublin displayed at Dublinia so much we stayed for a couple of hours.  By the time that we left Dublinia, Christ Church Cathedral had closed.  We’ll have to see it on another trip to Dublin.  I have heard that Dublin does a great Halloween festival based on the traditional pagan festival of Samhain!

Details for Visiting Dublinia:

Dublinia is located at St. Michaels Hill in Dublin and open every day.  You can buy discounted tickets to both Christ Church Cathedral and Dublinia together.  Single tickets for adults cost €8.50 for adults, €5.50 for children or €24 for a family of four.  When we went the museum wasn’t crowded but its site says that it gets about 125,000 visitors a year.

Not Even The Pretense of Separate But Equal

You can’t visit South Africa without delving into its recent past. Well, I guess you could but that would be missing a fairly integral part of what makes the country what it is today.

We had explained apartheid to our children but it didn’t really hit home until our guide from Green Apple Tours told us his story.

The guide, Mohammed, was of Cape Malay ancestry with an Indian father and a light-skinned mother who was considered Cape Coloured.  Mohammed was 6 years old when the government decided to make the neighbourhood where they lived (District 6) an area for whites only.

apartheid signs

Although the family was relocated to the Cape Flats area, they were divided according to their skin colour. His father was put in an Indian township and the mother and children were put into a separate township for Coloureds, both in Cape Flats. For Mohammed’s father to come see his family, the father had to apply for special permission to visit the coloured township. The family lived divided for years until the early 1980’s when the Apartheid regime fell apart. You can only imagine how hard maintaining any semblance of a family life must have been during that period.

We also took our children to see the District 6 Museum which explains the stories of many people similarly caught up in events beyond their control.  Although District 6 started off as a mixed area, in 1966 it was declared a whites-only area.  More than 60,000 people were forcibly evacuated to the Cape Flats townships.  The houses in District 6 were razed by bulldozers to prepare the area for white middle class homes.

street names for district 6
exhibit of street signs from former district 6

This map shows the streets of District 6 and the names and addresses of the inhabitants prior to forced relocation.

neighbourhood plan of district 6

I am struck by the effort it takes to separate people by colour. A lot of time and energy went into planning and maintaining division.

description of coloured persons

There were separate facilities for everything similar to the American Deep South during the times of segregation. Unlike the Deep South though, there wasn’t even the pretense of having things be separate but equal.

whites only bench

This little house is a reconstruction of a South African author’s township house from memory. Her family of five (parents, 2 siblings) lived in this shack. They had only primitive cooking facilities.

district 6 kitchen

My daughter wanted to know how 5 people could sleep on 2 beds. This shack is smaller than her bedroom at home.  Of course, there was no indoor plumbing.

district 6 home

What I found chilling though is that this reconstructed shack in a museum is the reality for many people who live in the townships still. Even though we were advised from visiting any townships with young children, you can see the townships chock full of bleak little shacks from the road.

The District 6 Museum captures the pain and chaos of lives disrupted and memories lost very effectively. It is definitely a worthwhile stop in Cape Town if you would like to understand some of what happened during the Apartheid years.  There is a commemorative sheet on which former residents have written messages (seen below). The wounds clearly run deep.

district 6 memorial cloth


The District 6 Museum is open Monday through Saturday.  It is located near the City Hall on Buitenkant Street.  You can buy tickets online through the website.

The Castle of Good Hope For the Lucky Few

You know I’m a sucker for castles right?  It’s the history buff in me as well as the die hard romantic.  So when I heard there was a castle in Cape Town, we had to go visit.


The Castle was built by the Dutch East India Company as a rest stop in their travels in the late 17th century.  In fact, it is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. When the castle was first built, the Castle went right to the edge of the water as this diorama shows.


The moat for the castle is still intact.


Once you got past the moat, you were met with these nasty looking doors with nails.


The Dutch, however, were experts into building on water.  They reclaimed the land in front the castle from the sea ad now the Castle is quite far in the centre of town.  Possibly the Dutch were just suckers for punishment because I don’t understand why they didn’t just build their settlement on the land side because there was an entire continent back there.

castle of good hope


Perhaps they were just bored of the sea after having sailed all around Africa and wanted some extra time on land.  This map shows the route the early explorers took to reach the Cape of Good Hope before they ventured further onwards to India.


The castle is shaped like a star for ease of defense in the old days.  Nowadays, its fabulous for children who like to explore!

castle of good hope

From the ramparts of the castle, there are fabulous views of Cape Town and Table Mountain.

table mountain seen from good hope castle

The Castle was the centre of the old Dutch and English settlement.  As such, it housed the governor and his family.  The governor’s house is very nice and they even had their own swimming pool.  Well, the Dutch had a swimming pool but the ever-practical English covered the pool up to use as a parade ground.  The original pool has now been restored.


On the other side of the social ladder were the prisoners who were brought to the Castle to be interrogated.  They were tortured until they confessed to their sins.  Under Dutch law, people couldn’t be sentenced until they confessed.  Checking out this nasty hook and the viewing window above it, I believe confessions did come about fairly readily.  Post-confession, prisoners were transferred to another garrison or the prison at Robben Island.  We were told no one made it more than 24 hours in the torture chamber.

torture chamber

Today the castle is the seat of the military in the Cape area as well as being used as a military museum.


The Castle of Good Hope is open 7 days a week except for Christmas and New Year’s Day.  There are guided tours in English, except on Sundays.  Admission is ZAR 30 for adults and ZAR 15 for children up to the age of 16 and under 5’s are free.

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Stepping Back In Time In Bayeux

Bayeux is a beautiful town in Normandy which we visited during our recent road trip around the Battle of Normandy sites.  It is famous for the Bayeux Tapestry which depicts the Norman conquest of England.  Having escaped relatively unscathed from World War II, the town is full of medieval buildings.  The River Aure flows through the centre of Bayeux and adds to its charm.

River Aure

Although the Bayeux Tapestry was supposedly woven by William the Conqueror’s wife, Matilda and her ladies-in-waiting at the end of 11th century, in all likelihood the needlework was done by monks in England.  William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Bishop Odo, commissioned it for the Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame de Bayeux which dominates the centre of town.

The Bayeux Tapestry would originally have been displayed in the town’s cathedral but now is in a museum in the centre of town.  Listed as a UNESCO world heritage item, the Bayeux tapestry is 70 meters long and 50 centimetres high with 58 separate scenes.  Its depictions of the battle scenes are understandably favourable towards the Normans.  It was almost destroyed during the French Revolution when it was used as a wagon cover!

I thought the tapestry was amazing.  The amount of detail is astounding.  It’s easy to tell that war in any century was a gruesome event.  The colours, moreover, are still vibrant, especially for embroidery that is over 900 years old.  You are given an audio guide which explains the scenes of the tapestry very well.  You are rushed through the visit, however, because the commentary is fairly speedy and there is no pause button on the audio guide.  Presumably, they need to keep people moving in periods of heavy visitor numbers.

bayeux tapestry copy

Consecrated in 1077, the Bayeux cathedral was meant as a place of worship for religious people, such as the priests and monks.  As such, the cathedral has very few stained glass windows.  In the Middle Ages, stained glass was used as a teaching mechanism for the masses to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church.  The religious, however, should presumably know their catechism and, therefore, stained glass was not needed.

This giant bell, named Therese-Benedict, was on display in the nave of the Bayeux Cathedral when I visited last month.  Being installed on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy, this bell has special significance because it has been 156 years since a bell has been replaced.  It will be run for the first time on the 14th of June during the height of the 70th anniversary celebrations.

bayeux bell

The town of Bayeux is very pretty with cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses and mellowed stone buildings. Its buildings survived the carnage inflicted on other towns during World War II because it was the first big town to be liberated by the Allied Forces on the morning of the 7th June 1944.  Bayeux served as the provisional capital of France in 1944.

The Bayeux war cemetery is the largest British Commonwealth cemetery from World War II in Europe.

bayeux war cemetery

Although there was little fighting in Bayeux itself, the cemetery is the resting place of many who died in the region.  Located just outside of the town, the cemetery has had a major facelift with brand new tombstones and landscaped grounds. It is a fitting tribute to the brave men who sacrificed their lives for the greater good.

We really enjoyed our visit to Bayeux and wished we had more time to wander its cobblestone streets. It’s definitely a city I would like to return and explore further.