Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: engineering

The Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies

The wee town of Falkirk in Scotland is known mainly for two things: the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies. Being a mere half-hour train ride from Glasgow, I’m surprised that Falkirk remained unvisited until last weekend. With the possibility of leaving Scotland by the end of the year, I decided that I had to see the Kelpies lit up during the night and that would have to happen before daylight savings time started, when it wouldn’t get dark till well past 8pm. That meant that a stop at the Falkirk Wheel was also anticipated, though it was raining ever so lightly on the day that I went. No matter – it was destination Falkirk, rain or shine!

The Falkirk Wheel

The Falkirk Wheel is the world’s only boat lift constructed as a part of the Millennium Link project (completed in 2002) to connect the Union Canal and the Forth and Clyde Canal. The two were originally connected by a series of locks, and the wheel was proposed as a replacement. I’m not an engineer so I’m not going to elaborate on the engineering aspects of the wheel, though I do remember the guide mentioning that it saves time and uses a significantly lower amount of power to move boats between the canals. Visitors get to experience the wheel in action by boarding a boat, which is lifted 25 metres from the Forth and Clyde to the Union Canal. The boat then travels a short distance on the Union Canal before returning to the starting point. To me the ride itself was nothing out of the ordinary, and it was more of a “been there, done that” thing for me, though perhaps true engineers would appreciate the wheel for what it is more than I do.

The Kelpies

I did look forward to the Kelpies a lot more than I did to the Falkirk Wheel simply because of my love for public art, especially murals and sculptures. The Kelpies are the largest sculptures of horse heads in the world, though I kind of wonder where else you’d find a sculpture of the head of a horse. Outside of high season (April to October, I think) the bus that usually takes you directly to the Kelpies doesn’t run, so I had to walk about 20 minutes from the nearest bus stop. It was a worthy walk, however, and I found the Kelpies to be rather impressive! I’ve seen other works by the artist who made the Kelpies, Andy Scott, including “Rise” in Glasgow and “Carmyle Heron” in Cambuslang, and I quite liked his style, so the Kelpies certainly didn’t disappoint! They were especially beautiful during the night, though I kind of wished that they’d be lit up in warm colours to have more contrast with the dark sky – but no complaints!

A stroll around Falkirk

Of course, I had a chance to walk around Falkirk a bit, so it wasn’t all just about the wheel and the horse heads. Top left: A beautiful house that I passed by near the train station. Top right: Spring time is coming? Bottom left: A row of trees reflected in water by a trail around the Kelpies. Bottom right: A lit path leading from the Kelpies to the town centre.

Though the weather wasn’t all that great when I visited Falkirk, I had a good time and especially enjoyed finally seeing the Kelpies after having told myself to go and see them for over two years! Better weather seems to be more promising in the upcoming weeks – bring it on, spring!

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Waterloo: Five years in a day

On Friday, September 21st, 2012, I went back to the University of Waterloo for the opening ceremony of the new Quantum Nano Centre. It was in Waterloo that I spent five years doing my undergrad studies in nanotechnology engineering, and since my convocation in June 2010, I haven’t been back. Within the past two years, I was told that much has changed, so I took this opportunity to revisit my alma mater, on the day before my departure for Europe, ending my 3-week vacation in Canada.

I took the 7:15am Greyhound bus from downtown Toronto, but getting to the bus terminal was an adventure on its own. First of all, I assumed that at 6am, Finch buses would be pretty much empty, but I was severely wrong as the bus I hopped on to was full of sleepy people trying going to work. Then at Finch station, I took the subway southbound and made the mistake of getting off at Bloor because I thought the bus terminal was at Bay and Bloor. I asked some guy at Starbucks and was told that it was at Bay and Dundas, three major blocks down the road. Oops. Having a relatively good idea of the distance scale of downtown Toronto, I knew how far away that was, and with 15 minutes left, was I going to run for it and hope I make it, or just try to catch the next bus instead? I dashed forward down Bay but after 5 minutes realized that there was no way I’d make it. About to give up, I reached for the nearest TTC bus stop and saw on the schedule that a Bay bus was supposed to arrive in 2 minutes, so I crossed my fingers and waited for that 7:09am TTC bus. YES, IT CAME ON TIME. Even though I had to pay an extra token to get on, I arrived at the Dundas terminal at 7:11am and made it for the Greyhound bus. Yahoo!

So, note to self – make sure you know where you’re going BEFORE you actually go (has it been THAT long that I had forgotten where things are in downtown?) and don’t hate on TTC…the bus COULD actually come on time!

Alright, the bus got me to Waterloo at 8:50am, in time for the opening ceremony at 10am. Of course, aside from this ceremony itself, a greater purpose of this visit was to see my campus again and relive the best five years of my life in one day, in 2012. Here we go.

About this QNC, the construction started in 2008, if I remember correctly. Of course, it being completed in 2012 meant that three nano classes that have graduated already (including mine, which was the first ever batch) never got to use any part of it. I vaguely remember the administration telling us that the building would be done before we graduated, but I know better now than believing the words of administration. So, the appearance of the QNC is supposed to resemble that of a carbon nanotube, which I guess is depicted by those hexagonal shapes on the right. To be honest I was a little disappointed. I was actually expecting something like a cylindrical structure, that would have been cool. Unfortunately I didn’t get to tour the inside of the building; I left right after all the speeches were done at the opening ceremony to join my friend for lunch.

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