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Art gallery’s architect was a polarizing figure

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VICTORIA—Fear of an earthquake created one of Canada’s finest art galleries.

For nearly 50 years the Royal London Wax Museum occupied the 94-year-old CPR Steamship Terminal on Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

The iconic building looks a like a Greek temple, but it was built on wooden pylons that are anchored in rubble at the bottom of the harbour.

The wax museum was one of Victoria’s most popular tourist attractions, but the building’s owner – the province of British Columbia – feared the building would collapse if an earthquake hit the city.

The wax museum museum had to move out so more than $3 million in restoration work could reinforce the building. The museum couldn’t afford to move back in a year later.

But that opened up an opportunity for the Robert Bateman Centre to move into the waterfront building.

Many of Bateman’s best-known paintings, plus the story of his career, now occupy the second floor of what had been built as a steamship terminal for CPR passenger ships.

A high-end seafood restaurant occupies much of the main floor, along with a Robert Bateman gift shop.

A little-known feature of Bateman’s art is revealed in his museum.

In his early career and while head of the art department at Nelson High School in Burlington, Bateman was primarily an impressionist painter doing abstract cubism, similar to Pablo Picasso. A friend invited him to Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Museum in 1962 to see the work of Andrew Wyeth.

Wyeth was a prominent realist painter. His paintings look almost like photographs. Bateman was blown away by Wyeth’s work – and the rest is history.

Bateman became a world-renown realist painter. Many of his original freehand sketches from the field of birds, animals and landscape are displayed in the museum, along with Bateman’s written explanations of his artwork.

The building itself is a piece of art.

It was designed by one of British Columbia’s best-known and most controversial architects.

Francis Rattenbury designed the steamship terminal, plus the spectacular B.C. Legislature across the street and the renowned Empress Hotel sitting kitty-corner from the legislature.

They’re all very creative and magnificent designs, but Rattenbury was never a legitimate architect. When he arrived in Vancouver from England in 1891 the new province decided it needed an impressive government headquarters and announced a design competition.

Rattenbury entered a design that impressed the judges, but they wanted to see other buildings he had designed – of which there were none. Rattenbury happened to have an uncle in England with the same name – and an accomplished architect.

Rattenbury had his uncle ship some of his architectural drawings to Vancouver and he presented these as his own. He got the contract and the B.C. Legislature is one of the most impressive government buildings in Canada.

With his reputation enhanced by the legislature project, Canadian Pacific Railway hired Rattenbury in 1904 to design an impressive hotel on the Victoria waterfront. Rattenbury had a swampy corner of the harbor filled in and that is where the Empress stands today.

CP was so impressed with its new hotel; they hired Rattenbury to design a new terminal for its busy passenger ship business that served the west coast of B.C. and American states.

Rattenbury’s bloated ego prompted him to leave his wife and four children and hook up with Alma Pakenham, a woman 40 years younger than him. Victoria’s upper crust society rejected Rattenbury and he eventually moved back to England with his young wife.

A couple years later Rattenbury was beaten to death in his home at age 68. His young wife and her lover – the couple’s 18-year-old chauffeur – were charged with his murder.

Alma Packenham was acquitted of the murder, but committed suicide three days later. The chauffeur, George Percy Stoner, was convicted and sentenced to death, but a deluge of more than 300,000 protest letters to the Home Secretary by people who believed Alma had pushed the chauffeur to kill her husband resulted in his sentence being commuted to life in prison.

However after five years in prison Stoner was released to join the British Army fighting Hitler and died in 2000 at age 84.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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