Christine van Blokland is an Emmy-winning travel and arts journalist. Born in Scotland, she has traveled the world as the creator, host, writer and executive producer of Curious Traveler. She has received several National Daytime Emmy nominations, SATW & NATJA Awards, and has given travel talks at the Smithsonian. Her travel motto is ‘Never stop learning’, although she’ll never learn how to pack light.
Curious About - London
Why is St. Paul's Cathedral such an iconic symbol of London? And why doesn't it face due East? And what does St. Paul have to do with the City of London crest? What is the City of London and why can't the Queen come in? Why do so many London neighborhoods end in -gate? Why is Temple Church round? And what did those secretive Knights Templar do here? And what does all of this have to do with Magna Carta - and why has a copy remained at Salisbury Church for 800 years?
Curious About - Wales
Why is there a dragon on the Welsh flag? Why does the man next-in-line for the British throne hold the title the "Prince of Wales"? What are the Walls of Constantinople doing all the way over here? Who is King Longshanks? And how is he related to King Vortigern and Magnus Maximus? Where is Britain's smallest church? I can't see it! And how the heck do you pronounce the second longest place name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch???
Curious About - Montreal
Why did the French settle here? And why is French still the official language here (as well as English)? Why is there a Paris Metro Stop in the middle of the city? Why is Notre-Dame Basilica bathed in blue? And why does it slope downwards towards the altar? Why does the Hotel de Ville look like DC's Eisenhower Building and why does the Bank of Montreal look like the Pantheon? And is there really an ongoing archaeological dig going on under your feet at Place Royal?
Curious About - Asheville, North Carolina
Why is there a French Loire Valley castle in the middle of the American Deep South? Did you know that the name "Biltmore" is completely made up? Why did the architects of the Statue of Liberty, the New York Subway and Central Park put their stamp on this small town? Why did Henry Ford, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Edison all stay in a hotel where it looks like the roof is melting? And how did Scots-Irish immigrants create American country music?
Curious About - Victoria, British Columbia
Who was "A.B.C. Architect" and why did he design such a grand Parliament Building in Victoria? What is Fan Tan Alley, and what does it have to do with the 2nd oldest Chinatown in North America? How did an 11th and 12th century French, Spanish & Italian Romanesque-style castle, built for a Scottish self-made millionaire, become 'Canada's Castle'? Why isn't there a sign above the main entrance to The Empress Hotel? And finally, as we take High Tea here, is it pinkies up or down?
Why does Paris look like Paris? Why were the Eiffel Tower and the Pont Alexandre III built for World Expos? Why is the Opera Garnier so ornate? Why is there a Romano-Byzantine Basilica atop the highest point in Paris? Why are the streets so windy in Montmartre? Why was a famous cabaret built inside a red mill: the Moulin Rouge?
Why is there a giant hole in the top of the Pantheon? And how is it still standing after more than two millennia? Why does Piazza Navona look like a racetrack? And why did it used to be a swimming pool? Where did the bronze for St. Peter's Basilica come from, and why are those windows in the dome so heavenly?
Why did Shakespeare use Kronborg Castle as the setting for Hamlet? Was picturesque Nyhavn really the playground for sailors and brothels? Christiansborg Palace, Amalienborg Palace, Rosenborg Castle - why so many palaces in one small European country?
Who was Gassy Jack and why was he so gassy? Why was Capilano Suspension Bridge built and what do all those totem poles mean? What's so important about the Hotel Vancouver, and what does it have to do with the train station, the Queen of England, and Harry Potter? Who was Yip Sang, and why did he have his own Boy Scout Troop?
Curious Loire Valley
When and why were so many stunning chateaux built in such a concentrated area in central France? Why is there a river running through Chateau de Chenonceau, and what do the ladies of the castle have to do with it? Why does Chateau de Chambord have 440 rooms, yet no one ever lived there? Why is there a porcupine over the entrance to Chateau d'Amboise?
Where is the hidden symbol of Venice on the iconic gondola? Why are there two different saints on the gateway columns? Why is the solar system off on Torre dell'Orologio? Why does Saint Mark's Basilica look like Hagia Sophia? Why does the Doge's Palace have a Stairway of Giants, and what do those symbols mean?
Why is there a beautiful, tiny blue-domed church floating in Kotorska Bay? Why did someone build 1350 steps up the side of Kotor's mountain? Why is The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon pink? And why are the towers mismatched? Why are the streets within the fortress walls intentionally in a maze?
Why are you encouraged to walk on the rooftop of the Oslo Opera House? Why did Vikings live here, and why are their ships shaped like that? Why was the Oslo National Theatre built, and what's that secret staircase? What is the troll legend, and why did it happen here?
Who got hitched at Bordeaux Cathedral and why was it such an important moment in history? Did Parisian architecture actually come from Bordeaux? Why is Bordeaux so synonymous with wine? What was the Place de la Bourse hiding? What do all these sculptures mean at Place des Quinconces? Why were two ancient gates spared?
Why did the ancient Roman rich and famous choose to vacation here? Who opened the gate for the bad guys in the 1500s? What does the town clock tower symbolize? What's the history of majolica tile art? Why are Sorrento lemons and limoncello so famous?
What did Alfred Nobel invent that led him to create the Nobel Prize? What is Gamla Stan? What's so important about the throne inside the Royal Palace of Stockholm? What is the Djurgarden Canal, and why was it only for the Royal Family? Why did the Swedes grow grass on their rooftops, and what's the history of their folk costumes?
Curious French Villages
Why did the famous French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc only work on one residence: the historic Roquetaillade Castle? Why is there a monolithic church in Saint-Emilion? And why did its monk sleep underground? Why is there a giant wall around the tiny village of Blaye? And why was beautiful Bourg-en-Gironde built into the side of a cliff? And how do Cadillac and Pauillac make time stand still?
How did Dublin get its name? And what do Vikings and a black pool have to do with it? Who was Maewyn Succat, and why is he celebrated with green beer? How did the harp become a symbol of Ireland, and why do the harps on Irish coins and Guinness beer look different? What is the curious history of the Book of Kells, and how did it make its way into Trinity College's Longroom Library?
Who were the Habsburgs, Maria Theresa, Franz Joseph and Sisi? And how did they shape Vienna? What is the Ringstrasse, and why are there so many oversized, ornate public buildings dotting it? Where did Mozart perform as a 6-year-old prodigy? When and why did Austria shrink to a tenth of its size? What do the eagles on the rooftop of St. Stephen's Cathedral symbolize? And why are Vienna's coffee and pastries so legendary?
This beautiful region of England is full of picture-perfect rolling hills, quaint stone cottages, sprawling country estates and that distinct Yorkshire dialect. Why are country estates named Castles and Abbeys? What is The Shambles, and how did it get its name? Why is one of the largest medieval Gothic cathedrals in Europe in the small town of York? How did the Quakers and chocolate shape York's history? Where and what is Herriot's country?
Why is there a giant church complex, the DomQuartier, in this tiny Alpine town? And why is there an equally giant medieval fortress high above it? Who lived in Mirabell Palace? And Hellbrun Palace? Why is Getreidegassse so charming, and why are those shop signs so important? And how do you solve a problem like Maria? From the Sound of Music to Silent Night to the Sonatas of this town's beloved Mozart, it's time to get curious about Salzburg.
Curious San Miguel De Allende
How did this UNESCO town in Mexico get such a curious name? And what do a duck and a dog have to do with it? Why are there so many grand mansions in such a small town? Why do postcards have to do with its soaring Gothic church? Why is there an art school in a former convent? And how did San Miguel de Allende become a magnet for retired American military on the G.I. Bill?
Why did the Scottish kings live in Edinburgh, and why don't we have Scottish kings anymore? Why was Edinburgh Castle built high upon on Castle Rock? What's the connection between Edinburgh and Harry Potter? And where are the real-life inspirations for Harry Potter locations? What is so royal about Edinburgh's Royal Mile? Who is Arthur, and why does he get his own Seat?
Curious Guanajuato City
Why is there a stone giant holding a flame, high in the hills overlooking the town? How did silver help shape this Mexican town? Why are its streets and alleys so winding, and what happened to the Guanajuato River? What does the town's main church have to do with the King of Spain? Why does the town's marketplace look like a Paris train station? And its theatre looks like the Paris Opera House?
Curious Austrian Christmas Markets
Why is a European Christmas Market also called Weihnachtsmarkt or a Christkindlmarkt? And what do these markets have to do with the Holy Roman Empire? Why do you find Christmas Markets mostly in German-speaking countries? What is the curious history of the Advent Wreath, of Silent Night, and a creepy Christmas character named Krampus? And is a Krampus different than a Krapfen?
Curious London Shops
You may not be able to live like a royal, but wouldn't it be nice to shop like one? In this episode, we explore the curious world of Royal Warrants, a special designation given to only the best shops and services, literally fit for a king (or queen, or prince or princess). Kind of like knighthood for a shop. From the royal dressmakers to tiara makers to the royal cheesemonger (yes, there is such a thing); we take you across London, inside the world of the royals.
Who is buried under Glasgow Cathedral and why? Who is Saint Mungo, and why is he so big? Why does Glasgow City Chambers look like a palace? How did this seaport town become a center for Scottish Enlightenment? And how did the creativity of one man, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, leave a permanent mark on this city?
Why did the English choose Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg, Virginia as their early American settlements? Why did King William III and Queen Mary II establish a university here? What was life like for the colonists here? What crazy concoctions are to be found in a colonial apothecary?
Curious Quebec City
After nearly 500 years, French is still the official language of this North American city. How has this UNESCO World Heritage Site retained its 'Frenchness' after all this time? Why does the Chateau Frontenac hotel look like a French castle, and what does it have to do with the Canadian railway? What's so curious about Rue Saint-Jean, Place Royal and Petit-Champlain?
England's Curious Great West Way
England's Great West Way follows the ancient path from London to Bristol. We take the train and get curious at stops along the way: Stonehenge, Bath's masonic architecture, the Roman Baths and the S.S. Great Britain. We also sample some curious pub pies, learn some cockney rhyming slang, and visit a few charming villages.