Airboats and Gators




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This article was previously published at Travelicious as Wild Florida. There may be slight variations in this article including an improved  map and travel guide as well as an additional photo gallery.

Alligators! When you think of Florida wilderness, you think alligators. Florida is famous for its Everglades, a vast tract of wetland at the southern tip of the state. It is an area heavily populated with alligators. But the whole state is dotted with lakes and swamps and you can find alligators in all 67 counties. There are, in fact, 1.3 million gators in the entire state.

After our Caribbean cruise, my wife, her sister and I spent a week in Orlando. On the last day of our visit we decided to visit Wild Florida, an airboat and gator park on Cypress Lake, about 45 miles from the city. When going there, you have to exit the Florida Turnpike (a toll highway) at St. Cloud exit #244) and take Highway 192 to the Old Canoe Creek Road. We missed the exit and figured we would just exit later but available exits were Sunpass only and do not accept cash or credit cards. (Passes available to regular commuters.) We had to double back. Wild Florida has handy detailed instructions for getting there. (Note – the map below shows exiting at Exit 240. That is wrong. Exit at 244 if you do not have a Sunpass and head east to and turn right on Vermont Avenue which later becomes Old Canoe Creek Road.)

Canoe Creek Road passes under the turnpike and you hang a right at Lake Cypress Road. Wild Florida advertises itself as being “in the middle of nowhere” and it truly is. It sits on the shore of Cypress Lake, a good size lake surrounded on three sides by nature preserves and on the fourth by farmland.

Wild Florida includes a zoo and nature walk as well as offering airboat rides. And if you’ve never been on one, it is a must-do experience. We booked an hour long excursion. The airboat dock is offshore aways and accessed by a long boardwalk.

The airboat dock is accessed by a long boardwalk over a field of reeds and rushes.
The airboat dock is accessed by a long boardwalk over a field of reeds and rushes.

Our guide Will steered his airboat to a berth and we got on. Lifejackets and ear protection was handed out. The airboats are fairly loud. Will gave us a spiel about the lake and its 800 alligators, the many cypress trees and the flora and fauna that abound there. He also explained that the airboat was invented and developed in Canada in 1905 by a team led by Alexander Graham Bell – yep – the telephone guy!

3 - skipper Will and our airboat
Will steers our airboat to the dock to load passengers.

After his chat, Will revved up the engine and we tore along the shoreline at a good clip. The airboat is a flat-bottomed boat propelled by a large air prop at the rear behind the pilot. It skims over reeds and vegetation and is perfect for the Everglades.


Our first foray took us along the shore where we could see many cypress trees, their branches seemingly dripping grey moss. But it was January and this would green up later in the year. Waterfowl took flight on our approach making a pretty picture. We stopped again as Will gave us some more interesting tidbits. Then the engine roared to life again and we sped across an area dense with reeds and rushes.

All of a sudden Will pointed and shouted “Alligator”, pulling the airboat around and towards a clump of vegetation. The alligators like to bask atop a bunch of reeds to catch the sun. We spotted a big old gator soaking up some rays. I stood up and moved to the edge of the boat to get a good picture. Just after I snapped my shot, the gator got wind of me and hustled into the water. It moved so suddenly and so quickly it scared the heck out of me.

One big ole gator!
One big ole gator!

We took off once more and spotted more gators and some large turtles as well. And then we came across a rather gross dead animal floating in the water. A wild boar, Will said. Probably shot by a framer. They are considered pests. Will told us that the alligators would strip the carcass as it decomposes.

Eeeoooh! The carcass of a wild boar floating in the reeds. The alligators will strip the carcass as it decomposes.
Eeeoooh! The carcass of a wild boar floating in the reeds. The alligators will strip the carcass as it decomposes.

We cruised along some more and Will took us up Dead Man’s Creek – a small inlet dense with vegetation along its shores. We stopped inside this peaceful setting, taking in the quiet and the beauty of the scenery. Cypress trees were everywhere and Will explained that the many woody shafts poking out of the water around the trees were called cypress knees. Since the entire root system of the cypress is below water, the roots can’t get air. The knees are like so many snorkels bringing life-enhancing air to the roots.

A cypress grove up Dead Man's Creek. Notice the cypress knees, natural snorkels that bring air to the tree roots.
A cypress grove up Dead Man’s Creek. Notice the cypress knees, natural snorkels that bring air to the tree roots.

After a spell, Will revved up the engine once again and we took off slowly at first through the winding waterway, and then full blast through waters and marshes along a fence line. At one point he pointed the craft directly into a vast tract of reeds and we plowed over them  and stopped in the middle. Clearly a boat with the typical below-water propeller would get seriously tangled here. But the airboat – no sweat!

We then headed out of the reeds and into open water charging at full speed across the kilometre or so of lake.  No gators here. They only hang out along the shoreline or in the marshes.

During our ride I got a great photo of my wife and her sister, wind blowing their hair out behind them. With the ear protection headset, it reminded me of a famous Maxell battery ad from the 1980s called Blown Away Guy.

Blown Away Gals!
Blown Away Gals!

Back at the dock we walked around Hawk Swamp, an area of cypress swamp with boardwalks letting you observe the swamp up close. A large sign warned not to touch the snakes!

Beware of snakes!
Beware of snakes!

After the swamp walk, we headed for the wildlife preserve where they had a variety of animals on display – a small zoo really. It had tropical birds, raccoons, lemurs, pythons and a giant tortoise among other things. But the big attraction, of course, were the gators. Lots of them. There were elevated walkways above the water and you could get baggies of tasty treats to throw to them.

Lots of gators!
Lots of gators!

In most zoos, the animals are fairly quiet and subdued. Not here. The pythons were on the move. The parrots were squawkers. And the alligators, when food was offered, were eager and energetic swimmers.

So if you’re ever in Orlando and looking for something more fun than Universal Studios or Disney World, check out Wild Florida. It was one of the highlights of our visit.

Click on Photo Gallery for additional pics or scroll on down if you are on the main page.




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Photo Gallery: Wild Florida




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Here are some additional pictures of our Wild Florida visit.

Our guide Will revs up the engines!
Our guide Will revs up the engines!
A flock of birds takes flight as we approach.
A flock of birds takes flight as we approach.
Large cypress tree up Dead Man's Creek
Large cypress tree up Dead Man’s Creek
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A haunting wilderness – the swamps of the upper Everglades – Dead Man’s Creek at Cypress Lake
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A giant cypress tree
Zipping along the open lake
Zipping along the open lake
Yours truly posing for a pic in the captain's chair. Would have been a blast to actually drive one of these airboats!
Yours truly posing for a pic in the captain’s chair. Would have been a blast to actually drive one of these airboats!
Large turtles are also residents of the lake.
Large turtles are also residents of the lake.
One honking big alligator!
One honking big alligator!
And another!
And another!
The zoo had a number of different species on display including these colorful parrots.
The zoo had a number of different species on display including these colourful parrots.
This African porcupine was out for a walk on the dock with a zoo keeper earlier.
This African porcupine was out for a walk on the dock with a zoo keeper earlier.
There were several long-tailed lemurs.
There were several long-tailed lemurs.
Say hello to this owl.
Say hello to this owl.
One last look at our Wild Flrida adventure - plowing through the reeds on our airboat.
One last look at our Wild Florida adventure – plowing through the reeds on our airboat.




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Kennedy Space Center: The Space Shuttle Atlantis




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This is the second of two parts on the Kennedy Space Center. Part 1 looked at the bus tour which takes you to the Apollo-Saturn V Center. Today we continue with a tour of the Visitor Complex.

The handy map of the Visitor Complex at the Kennedy Space Center notes some twenty attractions and lists some as must-see. These include an IMAX Theatre with several shows available, an Astronaut Encounters theatre where you can actually meet a real astronaut, an early space exploration museum, the impressive rocket plaza which feature eight different rockets on display, all but one standing on end as they would have been during launch, and the piece de resistance – the fabulous Space Shuttle Atlantis display.

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The map that comes with the visitor’s guide.

The Kennedy Space Center is still an active rocket launch site and on occasion you may be able to witness the actual launch of a rocket. Such happens to be the case tomorrow, May 26, 2016. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch at 5:40 PM EDT tomorrow. Regular visitors may be able to access viewing locations as part of their pass on a first come, first served basis. There is also premium seating at Launch Pad 39’s Observation Gantry.

The blurb on the KSC website says that “LC-39 Observation Gantry offers a premium, up-close view of the rocket on the launch pad and during lift off. You can feel the force of the launch and hear the roar of the engines from the launch pads at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This area features lawn and bleacher seating and live launch commentary. The package includes launch transportation, a light snack and souvenir t-shirt. Launch Viewing/Transportation Tickets to LC-39 Observation Gantry are available for $49 in addition to daily admission.” But at the time of writing, all tickets have been sold out.

The Rocket Plaza
The Rocket Plaza

While we enjoyed the various displays we took in, the big one, the one that is a must-must-see is the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Outside the building that houses the actual Space Shuttle Atlantis are the two large solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank that propelled the shuttles into space. Walking by them reminds you of the lines of that poem about a colossus bestriding the world. They are like two large legs.

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The giant rockets and fuel tank used for the Space Shuttle launches.
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Inside looking out at the two solid rocket boosters in front of the building.

Inside you attend a short film before going through the doors to see the shuttle itself. The Space Shuttle Atlantis flew 33 missions and was the last space shuttle launched before the Space Shuttle program was discontinued in 2011. It has been supplanted by the International Space Station program, the Orion project (which will see men land on Mars in the 2020s) and private agencies such as SpaceX which was founded by Elon Musk.

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The Space Shuttle Atlantis, an awesome sight!

Needless to say, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is enormous. There is a large viewing platform to experience the shuttle from different vantage points. From directly in front, you see the open cargo bay as well as its two Canadarms, the two robotic arms that Canada’s space agency supplied and which are used to manipulate materials in space. One of the arms is extended.

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The cargo bay with its two Canadarms.

Behind the viewing platform are various displays including a mock-up of the pilot’s seat which you can sit in.

My wife the astronaut! Janis takes the pilot seat in this cockpit mock-up.
My wife the astronaut! Janis takes the pilot seat in this cockpit mock-up.

Navigating down the stairs you find a variety of models and displays about the space shuttle and its history. And you get a good look at the underbelly of the beast with all its nicks and scorch marks from its many fiery re-entries.

The belly of the beast. Note the many nicks and scorch marks.
The belly of the beast. Note the many nicks and scorch marks.

It is on this lower level that you also get to experience another must-do experience. The Shuttle Launch Experience is a thrill ride designed by Bob Rogers and BRC Imagination Arts who have designed attractions for Disney, Universal Studios and many more clients. This one has to rank as one of the best. It simulates what it is like to be an astronaut blasting off into space.

Before going in, you have your picture taken. Then you enter the ride itself where you are seated and strapped in. A large screen in front of you shows the exterior of the space shuttle launch pad. You have the sensation of being tilted back in your seats so you are facing up as you would be in a real space shuttle. The count down begins. The tension mounts as launch approaches. Then – blast off!

The screen shows huge flares of flame bursting from the booster rockets. And I have no idea how they create this effect, but damn if you don’t actually feel G forces pulling you back into the seat. You feel the rumble and the shaking, the intense vibrations. And after the boosters and external tank have fallen away, you feel like you are floating in space. This ride has to be experienced to be believed. Simply amazing.

After leaving the ride, you find out that that picture they took of you earlier is now available – with a twist. Yep!  It’s you in full astronaut gear.

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 Janis and I in full astronaut gear. 

After the Space Shuttle Experience we wandered over to the gift shop which is extensive and worth a visit. Heading out we passed a wall with a mural of the International Space Station and flags of all the participating countries.

The International Space Station mural and flags of participant countries.
The International Space Station mural and flags of participant countries.

The sun was starting to set as we left. A very enjoyable day. And we still did not see everything. We will return some day! I have a few unused photos left but not enough for a separate page, so I’ll just close off with a few extra pics.

Sunset over the Rocket Plaza
Sunset over the Rocket Plaza
The front end of the Atlantis Space Shuttle
The front end of the Atlantis Space Shuttle
The back end of Atlantis Space Shuttle
The back end of Atlantis Space Shuttle
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The open cargo bay of the Space Shuttle with the extended Canadarm
The rockets of Atlantis
The rockets of Atlantis
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Sunset over Rocket Plaza




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Kennedy Space Center: The Apollo Moon Missions




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While the closest attractions to Orlando are Disney World and Universal Studios, the most interesting attractions we visited were an hour’s drive away. One of them was the Kennedy Space Center. In fact, it was the main reason I wanted to visit Orlando. So on a sunny Sunday afternoon we headed east for Cape Canaveral.

The center covers 144,000 acres on the northern half of Merritt Island and is across a bay from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. We arrived at the Visitor Center and decided to start with a bus tour of the area. This is a must-see part of the visit as it brings to life the size and scope of the complex as well as bringing you to the Apollo-Saturn V Visitor Complex, something you do not want to miss.

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Janis and Betty at the Kennedy Space Center

The bus tour took us along a number of launch sites and other areas of interest as the tour guide explained what were were seeing. Early in the tour we passed the Vehicle Assembly Building. This is the largest one story building in the world. It stands 526 feet high but it is essentially one very large room.

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The Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center. The large flared extensions on the right are doors – very tall doors – so the assembled rockets can be taken out. The flag is the largest American flag on the outside of a building in the world.

The giant Saturn V rockets were assembled here and then moved to the launch site on a very large heavy duty tractor, called a Crawler-Transporter. They were hauled upright along a crushed gravel pathway called the Crawlerway.

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The Crawlerway’s two parallel paths run from the Vehicle Assembly Building in the distance to the launch pad near by. The Crawler-Transporter is sitting idle on the left waiting for its next mission.

The Crawler-Transporter is massive. It had to be as the Saturn V rocket, fully assembled, stood over 350 feet tall. To haul such a large piece of hardware without it toppling, the transporter inched along at a breathtaking one mile per hour. And it was a gas guzzler, using 296 liters of fuel to travel a kilometre.

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The Crawler-Transporter

The final destination for the Transporter-Crawler was Launch Pad 39. This is where all the Apollo moon missions were launched from. The launch pad is surrounded by high fences with curved tops and barbed wire. This is not, as you may think, to keep people out. It is to keep alligators out! The Kennedy Space Center shares its space with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the second largest wilderness preservation area in Florida.

Launch Pad 39
Launch Pad 39

After that we passed several displays of the current project, the Orion program, an international cooperative effort that will eventually see humans landing on Mars.

Launch tower for the Orion program.
Launch tower for the Orion program.

And then we came to the piece de resistance of the trip – the Apollo-Saturn V Center. We got off the bus here to explore this giant display. First stop, the actual control room used for the Apollo Moon Missions. It was a thrill to see where those historic missions actually took place. Three large screens above the control room showed movies from various angles of the Apollo 8 moon launch, the first mission to propel men around the moon and back. As the film referenced different people in the control room, the chairs at which they sat lit up. I filmed the launch which was awesome to say the least.

Three screens showed the Apollo 8 Moon Launch above the actual control room used for the launch.
Three screens showed the Apollo 8 Moon Launch above the actual control room used for the launch.

After the presentation, the doors opened and we went into a cavernous vault of a room housing a restored Saturn V launch vehicle in all its massive glory. It is huge! Fully assembled, the Saturn V stood 363 feet high. The rocket was displayed horizontally in sections with separate displays of the lunar modules.

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The Saturn V rocketship that propelled men to the moon.
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How big are these rockets? Here they are with Janis and I standing underneath them.

After some time exploring this exhibit, we checked out the rest of this complex. Another show depicted a moon landing, and static displays included the actual suit astronaut Alan Shepherd wore when he did his moon walk. There is still moon dust on that suit.

Alan Shepherd's moon walk suit with moon dust still on it.
Alan Shepherd’s moon walk suit with moon dust still on it.

We also saw moon rocks, a display on the history of space suits and the actual Apollo 14 space capsule that the astronauts returned to earth on.

The actual Apollo 14 re-entry capsule.
The actual Apollo 14 re-entry capsule.

This display of engineering ingenuity was thrilling to behold. But we were only half done with our trip. We boarded the bus and headed back to the main visitor center. But if we were expecting it to be anti-climactic, it was anything but. We’ll cover that in our next blog post!

Meanwhile, click on the link for additional pictures of the first half of our tour. Or scroll on down if you are on the main page.




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Photo Gallery: The Apollo Moon Missions




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Here are some more pictures from the first half of our tour of the Kennedy Space Center.

The giant doors on the Vehicle Assembly Building
The giant doors on the Vehicle Assembly Building. It is the largest one story building in the world.
The Crawler-Transporter hauls ass at an impressive one mile per hour. It consumes 296 liters of fuel per kilometre.
The Crawler-Transporter hauls ass at an impressive one mile per hour. It consumes 296 liters of fuel per kilometre.
The Apollo Launch Pad 39. The barbed wire fence is to keep out alligators!
The Apollo Launch Pad 39. The barbed wire fence is to keep out alligators!
Liwuid Nitrogen container and waste water dump.
Liquid Nitrogen container for Launch Pad 39. There are actually three pads – 39A, 39B and 39C.
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This is one of the blast deflectors that sat in the pit below the launch pad during Apollo launches. The pit was also filled with water, not to cool things off but to absorb noise.
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The Orion Launch Pad. This will be used for the Orion manned Mars explorations planned for the early 2020s.
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A one-third size scale model of the Orion capsule.
The Apollo Mission Control Room.
The actual control consoles used during the Apollo Moon Missions. They have been relocated for this display.
The giant rockets of Saturn V
The giant rockets of Saturn V
Stage 1 of the Saturn V rocketship.
Stage 1 of the Saturn V rocketship. Stage 2 and 3 are further down. Banners tell the story of the different moon missions.

The Lunar lander
The Lunar lander
The Command Module
The Command Module
The Re-entry Module
The Re-entry Module
Some moon rocks on display.
A moon rock on display.
The Lunar Rover
The Lunar Rover
A look inside the actual Apollo 14 Re-entry Capsule.
A look inside the actual Apollo 14 Re-entry Capsule.




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The Historic Kinsol Trestle




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If you’re a railroad buff and visiting Vancouver Island, you might want to check out the historic Kinsol Trestle. It is a restored railroad trestle on the old abandoned CN Rail line and now part of the Trans Canada Trail.

The trestle is truly a marvel to see. The largest railroad trestle in the British Commonwealth and one of the largest in the world, it stands 145 feet above the Koksilah River with a span of 614 feet (0.187 km). It is also notable for its seven degree curve.

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The Kinsol Trestle is the largest railroad trestle in the British Empire and one of the largest in the world.

It is fairly easy to get to – just 48 kilometres from Victoria, British Columbia, about an hour drive. Head north up the Malahat Highway and turn off onto Shawnigan Lake Road. We were staying with friends in Cobble Hill when we went and it’s a short thirteeen kilometres from there, also along Shawnigan Lake Road which forms a big arc beginning and ending on the Malahat. That route will take you right past Shawnigan Lake School, the world renowned private school. The trestle is just seven kilometres from the school.

Work on the original Kinsol Trestle began in 1914 but was halted due to World War I. Work resumed late in 1919 and the twelve story structure was completed in 1920. It served mainly as an industrial road carrying timber and other materials. Although it crosses the Koksilah River, its name is actually a portmanteau of the King Solomon copper mine which operated near by. It is also called Koksilah River Bridge.

Modern timber train crossing the trestle. The last crossing was in June 1979.
Modern timber train crossing the trestle. The last crossing was in June 1979.

The rare passenger train crossing the trestle included 1954 excursion from Victoria to the Cowichan Valley carrying a load of railroad enthusiasts attending the national Model Railway Convention. The train stopped there on that occasion so the rail buffs could get out and take pictures.

A rare crossing of the trestle by a passenger train. This one was filled with model railroad enthusiasts.
A rare crossing of the trestle by a passenger train. This one was filled with model railroad enthusiasts.

The last train crossed in the summer of 1979 and the bridge then fell into disrepair. In 2008, after lobbying from various historical societies, three levels of government and a private trust combined resources to rehabilitate the landmark bridge. It reopened in 2011 as part of the Trans-Canada Trail.

Now the trestle is part of the Trans canada Trail. Tracks have been replaced by a boardwalk.
Now the trestle is part of the Trans Canada Trail. Tracks have been replaced by a boardwalk.

From the parking lot, the trestle is a short hike along the abandoned rail line, now part of the trail. The walk is fairly flat.

At the trestle, you can go down to a lookout on the south side, or hike right down to the bottom on the far side. As high as a twelve story building, it is most impressive.

Looking up at the trestle from below
Looking up at the trestle from below

We spent a good hour at the trestle and then continued with a visit to Cowichan Bay, a quaint little seaside town of houseboats, fishboats and artisan shops. I’ll write about that in a future post!

Click on the link below for additional photos, or if you are on the home page, just scroll down.

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Photo Gallery: The Kinsol Trestle




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Here are some additional photos of the Kinsol Trestle.

The Kinsol Trestle spans a salmon spawning river in rural Vancouver Island.
The Kinsol Trestle spans a salmon spawning river in rural Vancouver Island.
Looking down at the river below from the top of the bridge
Looking down at the river below from the top of the bridge
The Koksilah River
The Koksilah River
The Kinsol Trestle
The Kinsol Trestle
The trestle is a truly massive structure, one of the largest trestles in the world.
The trestle is a truly massive structure, one of the largest trestles in the world.
Janis and Sheila under the trestle.
Janis and Sheila under the trestle.
The bottom of the trestle
The bottom of the trestle
Looking straight up from below.
Looking straight up from below.
The lower part of the span that crosses the river.
The lower part of the span that crosses the river.
The Kinsol Trestle
The Kinsol Trestle
Photo of old train crossing the trestle.
Photo of old train crossing the trestle.
One last look at the Kinsol Trestle
One last look at the Kinsol Trestle




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Hello Dali!




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“I want my museum to be like a single block, a labyrinth, a great surrealist object. It will be a totally theatrical museum. The people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.”  – Salvador Dali

Figueres is the birthplace of noted surrealist painter Salvador Dali and the site of the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dali – his famous museum. It holds the largest exhibition of Dali’s works in the world, including his personal collection. And it’s not just paintings. There are sculptures, three dimensional set pieces and a lot of interesting oddities that only the mind of the great Dali could have devised.

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The Salvador Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain

On the second day of our three days in Barcelona, we decided to take the train to Figueres, a small town about 25 kilometre from the French border and 140 kilometres from Barcelona. It’s a two hour ride through lovely Spanish countryside passing through the occasional small town along the way.

After arriving at Figueres, we left the train station and headed for the Salvador Dali Museum. Our walk took us through a large street market. It was May 1st, May Day, and the town was bustling. Among the street vendors we saw several with life size wooden carvings including one of Tintin, his dog Snowy and a bust of Captain Haddock. But the most unusual carving was a life-size Woody Allen!

Tin Tin and friends - life size scultures for sale during May Day 2009 in Figueres, Spain.
Tintin and friends – life size sculptures for sale during May Day 2009 in Figueres, Spain.
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And a life-size Woody Allen.  Street vendors had all sorts of interesting stuff for sale, mostly art.

Finally we arrived at the Theatre-Museum Dali. It actually was a theatre once which burned down during the Spanish Civil War. In 1960, Dali and the mayor of Figueres decided to rebuild the old theatre as a museum to the town’s most famous son, though actual construction didn’t begin until 1969. The museum opened in 1974 and expansion continued through the 80s. The master himself died in 1989 at the age of 84 and his body is buried in the crypt below the stage at the museum.

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A crowd gathered at the Teatre Museu Dali.

Even waiting with the long line to get in was a pleasure as the place is an artistic showpiece, inside and out. The front, where we were waiting features many sculptures, some on top of the building, some on the large balcony, and some in the courtyard.

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Outside the museum is this piece called Homage to Meissonier, a painter much admired by Dali. The sculpture itself is by Antonin Mercié. One of the sculptures in the museum’s inner courtyard also sits atop a stack of tires.

On the balcony are several figures including a deep sea diver and statues carrying loaves of bread on their heads. Dali’s work is rich in symbolism and bread plays a large role in his work. The guide book says the diver is a “symbol of immersion into the depth of the subconscious that await the visitor.”

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The deep sea diver is flanked by dark figures carrying loaves of bread.

After going through the entrance, we passed into a open air courtyard. High walls form a semi-circle around the open space. The centrepiece is an old touring car, an exhibit called Rainy Taxi. Over the hood of the taxi is a statue of a huge buxom woman, The Great Esther by Ernst Fuchs. Behind the car is a huge stack of tires surmounted by two crutches (another element of Dali symbolism found in many of his works) holding a boat, Gala’s Boat. Gala was Dali’s wife and muse.

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Rainy Taxi, The Great Esther, and the tires forming the base for Gala’s Boat.

The car is called Rainy Taxi because it rains – not on top of, but inside of – the taxi. Inside is some greenery and two figures, the driver and a passenger. Live snails crawl around inside. The original Rainy Taxi was created for the 1938 Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme. The one at the Dali Museum is a reproduction.

Behind this tableau is a giant picture window through which you can see the large stage-cupola area. Above this room is a geodesic dome.

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The geodesic dome sits atop the stage-cupola area. In front of the picture window is Gala’s Boat which sits atop two crutches which sit atop a stack of tires.

The room itself is immense and the centrepiece is the stage curtain, a reproduction of the backdrop for the ballet, Labyrinth (1941). Against one side of the room are displays of artwork in recessed alcoves. The most stunning is a large picture of Gala from behind in the nude. But looked at from a distance, the picture becomes a digital image – a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.

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Portrait of Dali’s wife Gala and Abraham Lincoln.

On the other side of the room is a staircase and archways to other galleries. There are a lot of them, some simply galleries of paintings hanging on the wall, and some much more than that.

One such striking room is the Mae West Room. It features a living room with two paintings on the wall, a cabinet with two cubby holes for displaying artwork, and a large sofa shaped like lips. At the front of this set are two large, billowing, yellow curtains pulled back and held by ropes. There is a short staircase to an observation platform in front of this and when you mount it and look at the living room set through a large lens, you see the stylized face of actress Mae West.

Mae West Room
The lip shaped sofa and the display cabinet which looks like nostrils. On the wall, two paintings.
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Seen from an observation platform, the living room looks like an image of actress Mae West. The curtains form her hair.

There is also a bedroom which features an elaborate bed on dragon legs above which hangs a large tapestry, a reproduction of Dali’s most famous work, The Persistence of Memory.

And yet another room is called the Palace of the Wind and is surmounted by a giant mural on the ceiling. Looking up you see the bottoms of two pairs of feet attached to figures standing up with their upper bodies out of sight in the clouds. The two figures are Dali and Gala “pouring a shower of gold over Figueres and Emporda” according to the guidebook.

There is much more to see here, including rooms with the furniture attached to the ceiling, and a display of stereoscopes. But even upon leaving the museum, surprise await you. As you exit, you look back and see a whole new aspect of the museum – a large rectangular building with a turret at one end. The walls are pink and festooned with figures of bread. Buns really. And on the top of the building, giant eggs alternating with waving mannequins.

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The outside of the museum – a pink facade decorated with bread and topped with giant eggs. Eggs were, you guessed it, another key element in Dali’s symbolism.

The Dali Museum is truly amazing and well worth a day trip from Barcelona. I didn’t have the best camera when I made this trip. Nor did I take as many pictures as I now do on trips. But I did take enough to fill another photo gallery. Click on the link below or scroll down if you are on the main page of the blog. Do check it out!


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Photo Gallery: The Dali Museum




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Here are some additional photos from our visit to the Dali Museum in 2009.

 

The town square at Figueres, across the street from the railroad station.
The town square at Figueres, across the street from the railroad station. Yes, that’s a Spanish-English Dictionary Janis is holding.
Many tents were set up as artisans and merchants displayed their wares for the may Day celebrations.
Many tents were set up as artisans and merchants displayed their wares for the May Day celebrations.
The Iglesias de San Pedro or Church of St. Peter in Figueres, Spain.
The Iglesias de San Pedro or Church of St. Peter in Figueres, Spain.
Sheila, Chris and Janis waiting in line to see the Dali Museum.
Sheila, Chris and Janis waiting in line to see the Dali Museum.
Two figures on the roof near the entrance to the Dali Museum.
Two figures on the roof near the entrance to the Dali Museum. The white figure is holding a loaf of bread on its head and the gold mannequin is holding  a hydrogen atom, representing Dali’s passion for science, another of his many recurring themes.
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The curved wall that encloses the inner courtyard has recessed spaces with windows and mannequins on three levels.
Looking down on the Rainy Taxi from one of the windows surrounding the courtyard.
Looking down on the Rainy Taxi from one of the windows surrounding the courtyard.
Two crutches holding Gala's Boat.
Looking over the shoulder of a mannequin at Gala’s Boat. You can see the giant backdrop of Labyrinth through the window.
Gala's Boat
Gala’s Boat held up by two crutches, a statue called The Slave of Michaelangelo, and a stack of tires.
The Slave of Michaelangelo
The Slave of Michaelangelo
The immense reproduction of the backdrop for the ballet, Labyrinth.
The immense reproduction of the backdrop for the ballet, Labyrinth.
On an end wall, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Close up it's a nude painting of Dali's wife Gala.
On an end wall, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Close up it’s a nude painting of Dali’s wife Gala.
The geodesic dome above the stage-cupola area.
The geodesic dome above the stage-cupola area.
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Exterior of the Dali Museum.  The yellow dots on the walls are bread. Eggs represented fecundity to Dali and are an important symbol.
Close-up of one of the loaves of bread dotting the outside of the museum.
Close-up of one of the loaves of bread dotting the outside of the museum.
The streets of Figueres were still busy when we left the museum.
The streets of Figueres were still busy when we left the museum.
One last look at a busy May Day in Figueres.
One last look at a busy May Day in Figueres.




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