Monday, March 17, 2014

Just Say No To Green Beer

Captain Holly doesn't do green beer on St. Patty's Day. It's whiskey or nothing. Two paws. Neat. Awwww, just pass the bottle!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

The green ones have gathered for a portrait.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tiananmen Square

Pipkin visited Tiananmen Square on June 1st, just a few days before the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It goes without saying that these photographs are long overdue, but Pipkin has really struggled with revisiting these photos.

Security had been extremely tight just a couple days before he visited. The Chinese government realizes 6/4 is a "sensitive time" and they wanted to prevent any demonstrations and protests. Their solution? To shut down Tiananmen Square.

Sitting at the heart of Beijing, Tiananmen Square spans 440,000 square metres and can hold about 600,000 people. Imagine, then, how Pipkin felt when he hopped around the outside of the Square at dusk and saw only empty space, with groups of soldiers marching about. It was quite eerie. He wished he had taken photographs but it was getting very dark, and he was afraid of what the soldiers might do if he hung around too long.

Tiananmen Gate Tower
Just when he thought he wouldn't be able to visit Tiananmen Square until well after 6/4, Pipkin heard that it was open to visitors, although security was still very tight and the number of visitors was limited.

Pipkin stands in front of the Monument to the People's Heroes

Security cameras on the lamp posts
Pipkin's passport was scanned. Security checked to make sure he wasn't hiding anything in his mustache, and they went through his camera bag (this is standard security practice for visiting many tourist sites in Beijing). After he was cleared, Pipkin hopped through the gate and felt a chill as he took his first steps onto Tiananmen Square.

If you are unfamiliar with the Chinese students' demonstrations at Tiananmen Square and its fateful outcome, please head to this wikipedia link to give yourself a brief understanding of what occurred here in 1989.

In the background, Mao's Mausoleum

Pipkin's Western views of Mao and the Tiananmen Square Massacre shaped his visit to the Square as a sombre remembrance of the thousands (numbers are difficult to come by) of lives that were lost here. It was surreal for him to feel sadness while Chinese visitors remarked upon Mao being such a hero, and how his death was such a loss for China.

It's surprising to Pipkin, too, how so many young people today in China don't have any knowledge of the demonstrations in 1989. Strict censorship in China has limited any knowledge of this part of China's history.

This blog doesn't normally get serious and this topic is far too big to share here, so again, please spend a few minutes today to read about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. If you are old enough or grew up in the late 80's, you will no doubt recall "Tank Man", the young student who stepped in front of a row of tanks to peacefully protest China's military response to the demonstrations.

Pipkin will forever remember his visit to Tiananmen Square. Some things should not be forgotten.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Madame Sherri's Castle Ruins

Clover looks out into the forest from the spiral staircase
After attending the Harris Hill Ski Jump, Clover hopped across the river to West Chesterfield, NH, to visit the ruins of Madame Sherri's castle.

Trail markers are helpful in winter when the paths are hidden by snow
Madame Sherri's Forest spans 513 acres on the western side of Wantastiquet Mountain. There are trails that lead to a picturesque pond, and longer trails lead you to fantastic views of Brattleboro from the top of Wantastiquet. Madame Sherri's castle ruins are easily accessed from the parking lot off Gulf Rd.

When you arrive at Madame Sherri's castle ruins from Gulf Rd, the first thing you see is the curvy stone arched staircase to nowhere.

Madame Sherri (born Antoinette De Lilas) was a music hall singer in Paris before moving to New York City as a newlywed in 1911. She and her husband Andre Riela adopted the name "Sherri" and became theatrical costume designers. During the Prohibition Era the couple would spend time in Chesterfield, NH partying with their friends. When her husband passed away in the early 20s, Madame Sherri bought the land you see here and spared no expense having a summer home built to host lavish parties.

A view of the foundation at the back of the castle
Madame Sherri's foreign accent, pet monkey, eccentric dress (she was known to wear a fur coat and nothing else!) and entourage of New York City celebrities and socialites gave the locals a lot to gossip about. Rumour has it "Madame" ran a brothel at her castle.

But eventually the money ran out, the parties ended, and Madame Sherri spent the last years of her life at a rest home in Brattleboro. Her castle fell into disrepair and was destroyed by a fire in October 1962. Madame Sherri died a few days after the fire.

A stone arch in the castle's foundation

Only the stone foundation, stairs and a fireplace remain, but some people say you can see Madame Sherri's ghost floating down the stairs in an elegant gown, and that you can hear music and laughter from parties long ago.

Madame Sherri's castle ruins are worth visiting in summer and in fall. In the summer you can see more of the foundation (there's several feet of snow covering the grounds in these photos). In the fall, the autumn leaves on the stones make for a colourful backdrop and really bring out the drama of this legendary site.

Clover's ears didn't pick up any music, but she did feel the magic in this place, and while she doesn't think humans should wear fur, she certainly knows the joy of having nothing but fur on.

And a wonderfully bold red lip. Every labbit needs a bold red lip.