I have planned to post this for a couple of months. With all the uncertainty of where and when it’s safe to travel, and what places are open, this seems a good time to compile my posts of some opportunities for enrichment and inspiration.
Please note: I have not revisited most of the links, and some things have undoubtedly changed. Also, I hope people are able to find ways to get outside that are safe and healthy for themselves and those around them.
Click here for virtual travel to:
Fantastic worlds and their soundscapes
Click here for ways to experience:
Old Time Radio
Audiobooks and storytelling
Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Sessions of world music
More arts and music
Click here for mostly off-screen adventures, like:
Coloring pages for adults and kids
Several areas are loosening stay-at-home restrictions, but for many of us, staying home is still the safest thing to do. And traveling far away for fun and adventure may seem a long way off. So how about some virtual journeys? This is just a sampling of sites I’ve encountered which caught my eye. Some feature videos, some still photos, some simply ambient sounds.
For some armchair traveling to unusual and little-known places, try Atlas Obscura.
There are a tremendous number of museums and historical sites generously offering virtual tours.
Many of these sites I found through my local library’s amazing efforts to keep our community connected, informed, and inspired during this time. Don’t forget to check what your local library offers online.
*Update for April 23rd, celebrating Shakespeare’s Birthday:
*Stratford, Ontario’s Stratford Festival is starting StratFest at Home, a series of twelve Shakespeare plays to watch at home for free. It starts on the Bard’s Birthday, April 23rd, with King Lear, and continues a week at a time with Coriolanus and Macbeth, with more to follow.
This deeply generous offering is joined by the UK’s National Theater. They have been streaming performances a week at a time starting April 2nd. I watched both Jane Eyre (now over) and Treasure Island which ran until this afternoon (2 pm EDT, if my conversion is right). Both were excellent, with great filming and powerful performances. Jane Eyre was the great drama you would expect; Treasure Island was a wonderful adventure. And I’m particularly looking forward to Twelfth Night, streaming 4/23 til 4/30. More will follow. Do keep in mind the difference between UK time and your local time.
If you’re a fan of Shakespeare like me, see below.
There’s a wealth of more plays highlighted on Playbill. The plays stream on a variety of platforms, some on more than one.
For drama of a different sort, try out some Old Time Radio productions. I have very fond memories of listening to some rebroadcasts as a kid with my family. VT Dorchester has made an excellent post featuring ten golden-age radio shows. Personally, I can’t wait to listen.
For a different sort of audio storytelling, Audible is offering free stories, “for as long as schools are closed.” There are different age levels from very young to adult, fiction and nonfiction, from classic to very modern – e.g. Pooh through Harry Potter to Pride and Prejudice.
A neat thing about both of the above is once you get started, they’re screen-free. But there’s something special about seeing the reader when you’re being read to. Of course, you can read aloud at home. And for youngsters, Barnes & Noble is hosting online storytimes. Also check your local library and even indie bookstores for story times.
Viking TV (not about Vikings, actually) is hosting “Arts and Music Wednesdays,” along with all kinds of cultural offerings on different days.
That’s all for now. Great thanks to all the artists and institutions making these uplifting and mind-expanding opportunities available to all of us, and to the friends who alerted me to these wonderful offerings.
Check back soon for an interview with VT Dorchester.
The black dragon guarded the gate, and visitors who entered there were met by stirring music. Hedwig perched on the other side of the gate to greet incomers. But we came via a secret passage through a stone tunnel. There was no mistaking where we ended up: Professor Snape was once again teaching spells to eager (if somewhat nervous) students. Sweetlords was offering delectable delicacies. And witches and wizards in their school uniforms and robes were everywhere.
If there was any doubt, we encountered the Goblet of Fire. We had returned to the Wizard Faire!
The sweet trolley came around, pushed by an affable ginger-haired young wizard; I couldn’t resist, and bought Scottish shortbread. There were also sugar quills and House badge biscuits on offer, and Butterbeer just across the Alley for thirsty muggles and wizards alike, not to mention house-elves. Dobby seemed to quite enjoy his.
A canopy circled by floating keys caught my eye.
Beneath it were so many intriguing things to buy: Hermione’s bag (did it include an Undetectable Extension Charm?), other colorful Hogwarts Houses bags…
Grimm teacups, and lockets holding everything from Polyjuice Potion to Amortentia.
Nearby, a wand maker had a display of truly beautiful wands that he had carved by hand. There was dragon artwork, too. My favorite merchant was the glass-maker, who made all sorts of potion ingredient bottles!
That was where, to my awed delight, I met my favorite professor, Minerva McGonagall. She kindly deigned to pose for her portrait (I’m a mere muggle, so alas, it does not move).
She was keeping questionable company; I swear I saw her conversing with Fenrir Greyback and Bellatrix Lestrange, but I do believe she was trying to talk sense to them.
A perfect place for wizards to meet for refreshment and companionship was the Hop’s Head.
We ate lunch in the shade there, surrounded by House banners. I spied a Ford Anglia lurking nearby – were the Weasleys about?
Just across the alley from the Hop’s Head was Octorara Wizard Academy. At Quills and Ink, you could buy all your necessary school supplies.
From there, you could make your own wand. With wand in hand, you could proceed to classes. Transfiguration and Care of Magical Creature were taught by learned wizards and witches. In Herbology, one could learn about Bowtruckles. Brave students could attempt Potions.
And under a brightly festooned canopy, there were tea tables where a Seer undertook teaching gifted witches and wizards how to divine the future.
I’m so glad we made the sojourn. All of this was to benefit the local library. A more noble quest is hard to imagine. For libraries truly are magic.
In the enchanted spirit of Hallowe’en, I want to relate a most magical event: a Wizard Faire!
The faire was hosted last summer by a library – not particularly close to where I live, but sometimes one must make quests for magic. It was held in the heart of a small town, full of handsome old buildings of stone and carved, painted woodwork. We entered through a brick gateway guarded by a dragon which waved its great wings as we approached.
There were lots of clever allusions to Harry Potter. For instance, Green Gobbs Bank – an actual historic bank, the especially handsome kind built of stone, with a carved stone arch above the door. Not only was the dragon fittingly nearby, but inside was the Escape Room, where one could search for the Elder Key.
Across the Alley was Sweetlords Confections, my first stop to admire all the treats. Some were handmade by local folk, some flown in from England (by owl??).
I had just gleefully bought a bag of Sherbet Lemons when my husband hailed me – Professor Dumbledore was walking by, did I want a photo with him? Professor Dumbledore…! He greeted me with a beaming smile and open arms. I humbly offered him a Sherbet Lemon, and he said, “Why yes, I’d be glad to share one with you.” That might have been the highpoint of the whole faire for a mere Muggle like me.
Enjoying the Faire like us were lots of people in magical clothing. Market stalls sold wands, Remembralls, purple handbags like Hermione’s, writing quills, potions…
You could decorate your shopping bag to carry all these things, and you could glamorize your own wand! Along the street were also familiar-sounding shops: Fiction and Plots, for one.
If you preferred, you could take a class in making your own Potions – next up: how to make Troll Boogers (I passed on that one). More enticing for me was the Herbology Stall.
First Years could make “Fortune Tellers”, of the folded paper kind. Other forms of divination were present: a gifted witch would read your tea leaves, and then there was the Grim Tea Cup.
We refreshed ourselves with pumpkin pasty, rockcakes (much more delicious than they sound) and butterscotch beer. There were other delights to choose from, too. On the stage, young people showed their skills with Irish Dancing, including a Sorting Hat Ceremony while stepping lively. Later, we learned about owls with three of the beautiful creatures and their caretaker.
Lastly, Professor Snape took the stage, and performed feats of magic for us, enlisting young onlookers in helping him out with spells – Protego protected a balloon from being pierced with a needle, for instance. And a young witch got a card to levitate once she perfected the pronunciation of Wingardium Leviosa.
What an excellent day! And it all benefited the town’s library. Because libraries are most assuredly magic.