Serial public art around the world

Public art exhibitions featuring a common sculpture that is multiplied and then embellished by various artists have been popping up in cities worldwide since 1998. Artistic director Walter Knapp first came up with the idea and convinced artists to dot Zurich, Switzerland with a collection of artfully-decorated lions. Within a year, Chicago businessman Peter Hanig had taken the idea and ran with it, using life-sized cows for an exhibition titled CowParade that is still circling the world today.

This idea of serial public art spread like wildfire into over 70 cities across the United States and many other locations worldwide. Tourism administrations seem to think the installations draw a crowd, while the exhibitions typically end in pieces being auctioned off to charity. It’s a win-win for all–unless, of course, you think the artworks are an eyesore.

From mermaids to gorillas, click through the gallery below to see a sampling of serial public art from around the world.


Missing plane found 71 years after it disappeared

A Royal Canadian Air Force plane, missing since 1940, has been found at the bottom of a lake, ending a 71-year old mystery regarding the final resting place of the aircraft and its crew. The plane was lost on Dec. 13, 1940, but was recently discovered by a group dedicated to finding missing airplanes, who used sophisticated radar to guide divers to the site.

On December 12th, 1940, another RAF plane went down near Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada, due to a raging blizzard. The next day, two Northrop A-17A Nomads, carrying two man crews, were scrambled to search for the missing plane. With the weather and visibility still poor, the two Nomads had a mid-air collision, sending them both crashing into the lake. One of those aircraft was recovered a few weeks later, but the other, along with her crew, were never seen again.

Last fall, Matt Fairbrass, President of Lost Airmen in Muskoka Project, made it a priority to find the missing aircraft. He and a friend discovered that a family living on the lake at the time had witnessed the two Nomads collide and were able to give them a general idea of where the plane went down. Fairbrass says he spent “hundreds of hours” searching for the airplane, and using side-scan sonar, he was able to narrow its final resting spot down to three possible locations. Divers from the local underwater search and rescue team were able to take it from there.

When the plane went down it was carrying two pilots – Canadian Ted Bates and Brit Peter Campbell. The families of the two men were left to wonder what became of them and after more than seven decades, this discovery has brought those families a measure of closure. Bates’ younger brother Tom, now age 84, says he’s “glad they found the plane,” adding “My parents thought about it often.”

The Nomad was a big, yet versatile plane, that was commonly used early in World War II. The plane had a wingspan of nearly 48 feet and was primarily used as an attack bomber until retired from service in 1944. Finding one is seen as a rare event amongst aircraft enthusiasts. For Matt Fairbrass however, he’s just happy to recover the airmen who sacrificed themselves for the good of their country.

VIA Rail Canada brings back bike trains for summer season

Traveling with your two-wheeled best friend just got a whole lot easier. Since 2007, VIA Rail Canada has provided seasonal bike racks on select VIA Rail departures, as part of its mandate to provide more environmentally sustainable, affordable passenger transit. Now, the racks will be available yearound, and increased baggage cars mean that cyclists can connect to even more cycling destinations.

By taking VIA (Canada’s national rail service), you can access thousands of miles of cycling paths running from Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Quebec City, London, Windsor, Jonquière, and Senneterre. Popular cycling trips include Quebec’s La Route Verte (2,671 miles), the Greater Niagara Circle Route (86 miles), Ottawa’s Capital Parkway Network (136 miles) and Ontario’s Waterfront Trails (559 miles).

Using the bike trains is easy. Check your buddy at the counter for a small fee; VIA staff do the rest, reuniting you on the platform at your destination. For a full listing of VIA’s Bike Train schedules click here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user cycle.nut66]

Three simple reasons why Palo Alto, California is like Reston, Virginia

Business travel often takes you to places you normally wouldn’t visit. I’d never plan a vacation to Peapack, New Jersey, for example, and London, Ontario is another that surely won’t make anyone’s “bucket list.” The upside, however, is that you get to see places you’d never visit otherwise. And, you remember that “off the beaten path” – the goal very committed traveler – isn’t necessarily sexy. This is what I’m seeing right now as I sit in Palo Alto. The conference I attended is behind me, and I’m killing some time before catching a flight home.

What I can’t shake, a feeling that’s been with me since I arrived in town on Tuesday, is that I’ve been somewhere like this before. I spent a couple of months in Reston, Virginia on business back in 2003, and the parallels stood out immediately.

Are Palo Alto and Reston brothers from another mother? I think so, and here are three simple reasons why:1. They are immaculate: when I was in Reston, I was blown away by the absence of litter … and the absence of dirt. The place is frighteningly clean (in a creepy, Monaco-esque way), and I wouldn’t be shocked if you could do surgery on the street with no fear of infection. Palo Alto is no different. I feel like I should take my shoes off before crossing University Avenue.

2. Planning is crucial: Both Reston and Palo Alto carry the ethos of a planned city. The seductive curves of Boston’s narrow streets are not to be found, and centuries of mismatched architecture – of the sort you’d see in Manhattan – have no home in Palo Alto or Reston.

3. These cities are purpose-driven: Reston, of course, arose as something of an enclave for employees of the federal government. There are some businesses in town, and they have effectively become part of the purpose. For Palo Alto, subtract “government” and add “Stanford.”

It’s eerie, right?! A country separates these twin towns, but the connection, if only spiritual, will never be severed!

[photo by richardmasoner via Flickr]

Top ten overrated international travel destinations

Laurel brought us the US’s top ten overrated travel destinations, and we thought it was time to go global. Here are ten international sites, in no particular order, that just aren’t worth a two-hour wait in line, fighting the crowds, or covering long distances to get there:

1. Eiffel Tower, Paris
Seriously, your photos of Paris are going to look much better with the Eiffel Tower in them. If you feel like getting high, Notre Dame is a much cooler spot.

2. Oktoberfest, Munich
If getting drunk with a bunch of American college student is your idea of a good time, then be sure to hit up the Hofbrauhaus tent.

3. The Blarney Stone, Ireland
Don’t do it. Stay away from the nasty, germ-infested piece of rock. Surely no luck can come of kissing that stone cold sore, right?

4. Cancun, Mexico
Crammed with spring-breakers and holiday makers, Cancun is party-central and really no different than, say, any other beach city in the States.5. Niagara Falls, Ontario
The volume of water thundering over Niagara’s limestone cliffs is arguably amazing, but the neon lights under the falls and Vegas-like cacophony built up around them are over-the-top.

6. Stonehenge, United Kingdom
Crowds jostle for space not to get close to the monoliths, but to capture them on film from a distance. That’s right; you can’t even get up close anymore. And a major highway runs right by it, ruining any ambiance that might remain.

7. Hoi An, Vietnam
This little town popped up again and again among the Gadling crew as one that has shoved out any local culture in favor of coddling tourists – if “coddling” can also encompass aggressive selling.

8. The Atomium, Brussels
Another Gadling un-fave, the Atomium is, in the words of our esteemed editors, “boring.” There’s no real reason to visit it other than to take a couple of pics and say you’ve been there.

9. Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
Here you’ll find a tower that is cabled up so it won’t lean any further, and tourist posing for photos where they pretend to hold it up. It’s not worth the journey.

10. Universal City Walk, Los Angeles
Not much more than an attempt to dazzle with bright lights and big screens, Universal City Walk is three blocks of cheese. There’s shopping for “memorabilia” and whatnot, and lots of families vacationing. Skip it and spend the day at Disneyland.

Did we miss any? What places do you think are overrated?

[Photo Credit: Flickr user Al Ianni]