Sunday, 16 November 2014

Model Wonders: Part 5 (Americas Edition)

It may have been a dream (I can never quite tell), but just the other day I was ambling down the street when a group of youth stopped me. "Nev," they said as one, "It goes without saying that we closely follow your visits to prospective World Wonders, and have enjoyed your recent visits to the Americas and Europe. However, we recall you used to buy models of your Wonders, as we saw originally here, then here, then here, and finally (but still over two years ago) here. Do you still do such a thing, and if so, will you be making an update on your purchases over the last year?"

"Thank-you for your kind words and enquiries," I responded, after a moment's consideration. "I have indeed been buying models of all my Wonders, plus a few other ones too. Look, here they are:"

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu is in the middle of nowhere, oh, except for the big tourist town right next to it. Fortunately, Aguas Calientes is at the bottom of the hill and Machu Picchu is at the top, so it doesn't get in the way. Aguas Calientes is mostly comprised of an endless series of souvenir stalls, all of which sell virtually the same souvenirs. Above is just one of them, and I'm not a big fan of it. Despite the vast amount of tat, the majority was fake handicrafts, and the selection of models was not a prime one. I got this for about £4 because it wasn't too big (the larger ones were ugly anyway) and seemed to represent the mountain and the terraces with a degree of accuracy. But considering that Machu Picchu is currently riding high at no. 3 on my list, I feel it deserves a better model.

Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines posed a problem - how to get a model of what are essentially lines in the desert? The town of Nazca had the above solution. It had lots of solutions in fact, from key rings to fridge magnets to T-shirts. But these mostly represented just a single picture, I wanted something that represented a lot of them, and fortunately this faux leather scroll (?) did the trick.

Easter Island

I like this one a lot. It wasn't the cheapest - I think I haggled down to about £14 (everything on Easter Island is expensive) - but it was definitely the best. I wanted a row of heads rather than just a single head, and I like that the heads aren't all identical.

The slight catch is that this one is big and heavy, and immediately made a difference to the weight of my backpack - not a good thing given that I still had eight months to go at the time (I eventually posted it back). Also, being big but made from soft and crumbly stone, it has been susceptible to damage. The platform broke in two and a head fell off. But, you know, I think that's kind of in keeping with the real thing, so I've decided not to fix it.

The Statue Of Liberty

Hmm. Lady Liberty looks a little weedy here, not the mighty Mother of Freedom that is the real thing. Also, months of being stuffed in my bag broke her hand off, although it was on a wire so I've been able to perform reconnective surgery without too much bother. I don't think I'm revealing any new truth about New York when I say that it has several souvenir shops, and there is no shortage of models of the Statue of Liberty. Indeed, you can get a human-size one if you want. I didn't want - Danielle would not appreciate a human-size Statue of Liberty in the living room. It might have made an intriguing travelling experience though, going through the States and Mexico with it by my side. Perhaps one for a future mission. In the end, I chose this weedy Lady Liberty because I liked that it included the full base and star-shaped Fort Wood, but I recognise there are better out there.

Empire State Building

I got this a couple of years ago, when passing through New York. It's no-nonsense and pretty big - as big as a child's arm, some might say. There were all sorts of novelty ones with King Kong hanging off the side, but I'm not into that sort of thing.

Chrysler Building and One World Trade Center

A couple of Unofficial Wonders here, I wasn't intending buying models of New York's other highlights but... I couldn't resist. The Chrysler Building was only $2 - sure, it's crap, but $2! The World Trade Center wasn't much more. I don't think they're going to win any awards for beauty, but hey, they're better than nothing! (Danielle might not agree.)

CN Tower

Finding an appropriate CN Tower model in Toronto was harder work than I expected. Rather than being flooded with them, New York style, I had to hunt a little. The official gift shop had stuff, but it was all pretty uninspiring. Eventually I found a big souvenir shop in Chinatown that did the job. These days, any time I want to recreate the experience of standing at the base of the CN Tower, I only have to put the model on the table and crouch below it.

Mount Rushmore

I love this model. I love how none of the presidents really look like they're meant to, especially Abraham Lincoln, who looks more like a man who wrestles bears.

The Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch is as wide as it is tall - somebody forgot to tell the model makers, the official ones no less, bought from the official gift shop for about £7. Despite that, I think this is a elegantly simple model, just like the real thing. 

Walt Disney World

What a disappointment. Disney World, out of anywhere else in the world, surely has an abundance of tacky tourist tat - and it does. But I wanted a model of Cinderella Castle, the focal point of the Magic Kingdom, and unless I was willing to buy a gigantic plastic doll's house version, I had to settle for this rubbery piece of crap. I thought there would be hundreds of Cinderella Castles. Disney, what were you thinking?

Actually, I tell a lie. One shop had this for sale:

At $37,000, it was a little beyond my budget.

Golden Gate Bridge

Another slightly underwhelming model. This was the best of a bad bunch in San Francisco (and believe me, I hunted. I probably went into about 20 souvenir shops). A spectacular bridge is made to look pedestrian. 

Hoover Dam

This is more like it. Some models are difficult to buy, and some couldn't be easier. I took ages buying the Golden Gate Bridge because there were loads of (pretty substandard) models spread across numerous souvenir shops. This meant that each time I went into a shop I came out unsatisfied and empty-handed, and had to keep looking, eventually buying a model I could have bought in the very first shop after all. Not so with the Hoover Dam. I visited the Dam and went into the gift shop - wham, there it was.A straightforward honest-to-god model of the Hoover Dam. It's a bit of a beast, too. If an invader was ever to attack me in my home, I would chuck this dense lump at him and dent his skull.


We have here the Pyramid of the Sun (left) and the Pyramid of the Moon, not at all in proportion to each other. For some reason, Danielle has singled these out as two she particularly dislikes. They're not that bad, are they? Girls have inexplicable tastes sometimes.


When you've got an ensemble Wonder like Palenque, there are several options to go for for the discerning modelmaker - the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Palace, the Temple of the Cross, or even a group of buildings together in a single model. The possibilities are multiple and exciting. Except Palenque doesn't appear to have discerning modelmakers - there was this knocked-off Temple of the Inscriptions effort and that was it. I braved the attentions of the many vendors looking for a Palace model, but it doesn't appear to exist.


Happily, the actual archaeological site of Tikal is free of vendors, and all the stalls - and there aren't really all that many - are by the entrance. I wasn't really in the mood for hunting and haggling, so when I found this I was happy enough. I think it's Temple I. 

Chichen Itza

We have here El Castillo and El Caracol, Chichen Itza's two main monuments. You must trust me that finding a model of El Castillo is not difficult. In facts, there are so many vendors who are bursting veins trying to sell you stuff, that the model pretty much finds you. That's certainly how I ended up with the El Caracol model - I was walking by a stall and the vendor started shouting "One dollar! Only one dollar!" I saw El Caracol among the tat, and confirmed with him, "One dollar?" Yes, indeed, there was no trickery, and a dollar later it was in my hand. I spent a little longer searching for a nice El Castillo, and am fairly happy with this one.

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