Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Renaissance Faire, VA

On May 4, 1996, the Virginia Renaissance Faire opened for the first time near Fredricksburg on Route 3, a stretch or road known since the 18th century, appropriately, as "King's Highway". The site, once owned by George Washington's mother, is in an area known locally as Sherwood Forest, and was purchased for nearly $3 million by Renaissance Entertainment Corp. (REC), a Colorado-based company that owns fairs in California, New York, and Wisconsin. The Faire ran seven weekends through June 16, but lost so much money, some due to poor weather for 2 years, that 1999 was its last year.
On Sunday, a few of us went to explore the site and see what remained. It had been raining heavily the night before and some of the morning, but by the time we arrived, the sun was shining. The ground was uneven and wet so I was glad I had my boots on.

Nearly all the buildings were still standing and though overgrown seemed solid. Creepers and brambles covered walls and pathways making the place appear like the Sleeping Beauty's forest.

Most of the upper floors in the buildings were unsafe as they were plywood, but a couple that I climbed gave great views of the grounds. Still, after last week's close call, I was very wary of the floors and for the most part, kept on solid ground.
This lovely tower had become very overgrown in 10 years but still looked like it was part of a fairy tale.

It was wonderful to see that the buildings had not been vandalized too much. Glass was broken but it was still easy to imagine how it must have looked in its prime and grafitti was not yet an overpowering influence.

This shot was taken from the ship which hosted small plays and acts. Although the paint was long gone, the deck was sound, but we resisted climbing the rope ladders to the crow's nest.

I couldn't see where this roof came from, it seemed as though a giant had used it for a frisbee.

Some of the platforms and stages had disintegrated and a few walls had been pierced by falling trees. There was evidence of fire in one of the buildings but the rest of the ground was ageing gracefully.

The whole time I was there, I was aware of bullfrogs calling out to prospective mates, and in some places their calls were quite deafening. I came across a large puddle which had a dozen or so frogs splashing back and forth while bellowing to eachother, such as the chap above.

The two images above are of the Faire in 1997, there are very few public images on the internet, and it was pure chance that I took the photo below 10 years later from almost the same position as the ship photo above.

The Virginia Festival has now been moved to Spotsylvania, VA but I have heard people say they preferred the Fredricksburg site. In 1999, after the Virginia Renaissance Faire closed, Renaissance Entertainment Corporation took many of the decorations from the Faire to "dress up" the Kingdom in Bristol, WI, giving it much of the look it retains today.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Abandoned Brewery, MD

On Sunday, I went with a friend Emily, to explore an abandoned brewery in Maryland. Neither of us has ever explored alone before and it's not something we'd do as there's always a risk of danger in some of these old buildings, but it felt strange with just two of us instead of the usual bigger group.

Once we were inside the building, we quickly got down to business and set up our cameras and tripods, the only sound coming from us being the clicking of shutters, and mutters as we got our positions just so.

The building seemed solid but the paint was peeling off in layers and we had to be careful to not disturb asbestos dust on the floor.

At some point there must have been giant tanks sitting in these circular holes, but the empty rims reminded me of an empty watch or clock face.

I took a lot of close up shots this time and loved the colors in the brewery; plenty of reds, blues, oranges and yellows.

We went from level to level which looked similar busy capturing the peeling paint on panel doors and the stairs. Some of the walls had disappeared and we looked out onto the city from a vantage point not many others had seen.
We headed down cold dark stairwells with flashlights and came to a level which we weren't familiar with. Thinking we could take a short cut through to exit the building, we entered into a room marked 'Laboratory'. As we entered, the door slammed behind us locking us in. We looked at the flooring we needed to cross and it welled in the middle, obvious signs of rot. After trying the door again, we realized we would have to cross the room. Keeping to the walls we tentatively padded over sheets of plywood and past holes we could see in the floor.

If you click on the above image, you can see the condition of the floor and the wall we kept to on the left. As we turned the corner, the floor started to give and we both rushed to get to the smaller rooms on the other side. I 'borrowed' the above photo from one of our group members who said the floor was as thin as cardboard on Flickr. We weren't actually too interested in taking photos at this point so have none to document the moment. Once we were on more solid ground, we carefully investigated the other rooms but found no way out. A dark stairwell had a door at the bottom which was also locked. Being level headed and darker haired females, we carefully considered our options as by now, dusk was approaching, and we were hungry. While we were scratching our heads, we noticed a Jacobs ladder from a flat roof leading up to another roof with an open door leading back into the building. It was our only choice, so climbing out the window, we were dismayed to find the flat roof was just as dodgy as the room's floor inside and we were very conscious of the sponginess underfoot as we tiptoed to the ladder. 25ft up and we walked across a rusty metal platform to the open door and were ecstatic to find we recognized the nearby stairwell.
We were very pleased to be on solid ground as we left the bottom stair.

But..... there was another black cold corridor just beckoning us inside. Deep into the cold dark depths we went, and found these fermenting tanks. It was pitch black without flashlights so once we had our photos we hurried out to the warm sunset and a nearby pub.

This was a photo from up on the brewery roof...

...and this is one from inside the building that I manipulated later. Click to enlarge and read the message on the wall.
We found a fabulous pub near by and I had the best chicken sandwich and cold beer I'd had in ages. We chatted to a local guy who had a humungous bowl of mussels, clams and crabs legs plopped in front of him and he begged us to help him eat some. The mussels were bigger than my computer mouse and wonderfully fresh. After an hour or so of munching and learning the best varieties of seafood, we headed back towards home. What an exhilarating day!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Atlantic City Day 2

On Sunday, I took these images in the morning from the hotel room looking down towards the boardwalk. After two cups of coffee because I'd annoyingly forgotten to bring my teabags, I headed out to explore further. On my way into A.C. the day before, I'd noticed a sign for Margate. Because there is a Margate on the south east coast in England, I wanted to see the U.S. version to find out if there were any similarities. There were none. Margate and the other small towns in that area where all largely residential areas with a few shops flanking a main street.

There was a nice sandy beach but it was too cold to investigate that but I did come across Lucy the Elephant who stood proud of all her local rooftops and looked out towards the sea. She is a National Historic Landmark standing 65ft tall and weighing over 90 tons. She was built in 1881 to encourage real estate sales and has known various owners before ending up at her present site in 1970 where she was restored extensively and has become a tourist attraction and popular landmark.

This Dairy Queen is the most retro one I've seen so far but unfortunately was closed so I had to forgo my favorite peanut butter blizzard. After lunch and a quick stop in a nail salon, I headed over to the other side of A.C. near the marina.

They certainly love their water towers in A.C. and these two really stood out in an housing area that had seen better days, with many houses bulldozed, boarded up or standing derelict.

A lot of A.C. is undergoing change with new housing being built and the image above looked like a new hotel was being erected, looming over a few houses that had been left standing.

Another narrow house stood alone which must once had neighbors on each side. I thought it was abandoned until I saw someone walk into it.

This was a tiny shop proudly showing its Obama wares, the only place still being occupied in a street of boarded up houses. I wondered whether it had many visitors.

I had seen this wind farm on the way in and tried to get as close to the turbines as I could. A notice board by the gates supplied visitors with information. The wind machines are 262ft high and each of the blades are 120ft long making the total height over 380ft. Over a year the turbines can provide power to 2500 homes. They turn automatically to maximize the power from the winds but will shut down when wind speeds exceed 45mph. I would much rather see more of these that have nuclear power stations built.

This book store drew me out of the car, but I was very disappointed to find it closed. It looked as though there was no entry into an actual shop, but instead, the windows opened at the front of the shop and people selected their books that way.
As it got darker, I headed back towards the hotel so I could explore along the boardwalk.

Most of the big hotels back onto the boardwalk along with the usual tourist shops and restuarants and through most of the evening, this proved to be a popular place to visit.

I took this picture of the sea and really liked how the camera picked up the shine on top of the waves, even the blurriness seemed to look OK.

I was pleasantly surprised to come across this beautiful Korean War Memorial along the Boardwalk. It seemed a little out of place amongst the tackiness of the tourist attractions but had a power of presence that commanded silence from the people that stepped down to investigate. There were video screens with commentary and hundreds of names carved into a wall. The bronze statues were so realistic that you could feel the pain felt by the soldier looking at his lost comrade's dog tags and the loyalty of the team carrying their wounded or dead compatriot.

Walking back to the hotel, the pier looked like a ghost town attraction, but I walked in and chatted with some construction workers who informed me that it would be opening again in a couple of months once repairs had been finished.
Atlantic City is an exciting place at night and a wonderful introduction to Las Vegas, but I had to agree with many that I spoke with, that it isn't a place that you'd want to spend too much time in. Some residents spoke of the decline that had taken place and the general apathy of many people living there. Hopefully, with the new housing being built and the obvious attempt at sprucing the city up, these views may soon change.

Atlantic City Day 1

Last weekend I headed to Atlantic City for a printwear show to follow up on some research and see some colleagues. I'd also wanted to see A.C. properly as it was known as the mini Vegas of the east coast. Someone I know kindly offered to share their suite as rooms are expensive in A.C. so I was lucky enough to be able to stay in the Trump Taj Mahal. Friday evening, I headed out onto the 'strip' armed with my camera and tripod to see the sights.

This is the front entrance of the Taj Mahal and before I had walked to Caesars which was about half a mile down the road, I had been chatted to by two homeless guys, seen an arrest outside a check cashing place and witnessed a marital breakup where the wife stormed off hauling a child and suitcases to another hotel. This was a dodgy city, but quite interesting.

Undaunted, I continued inside Caesars and walked around the main lobby area. All the hotels are themed like their Vegas peers and not to any lesser scale. The Caesars in Vegas is about three times the size of this hotel, but no grander.

All of the hotels have grand entrances brightly lit by thousands of bright bulbs and neon strips with luxury cars and limos parked everywhere.

Ballys was my favorite hotel with a Wild West theme and I spent a lot of time here. Both of the nights that I explored, I met some really friendly people here to have drinks with, and was shown how to play a slot machine. I have absolutely no interest in gambling and on both nights managed to only part with $10, $5 each night. The second night, I was actually pushing the buttons while yawning and staring off into the distance wishing I picked a quicker way to lose than a 1 cent machine. It wasn't until someone caught my eye and smiled that I realized how odd I must have looked, playing a machine with no interest whatsoever!

This was inside the Resorts hotel which had an art deco theme that wasn't particularly captivating but this mirrored ceiling was fun to watch for a while.

I didn't explore much of the boardwalk on Friday, knowing I would have more time on Saturday, but I kept seeing these odd little carriages all over the place. Can you believe that people actually pay for someone else to push them the mile or so up and down the boardwalk in one of these?

This is the back entrance to the hotel and our suite looked out from the right of the tower 24 floors up.