Tag: Airport

Paris, France

Paris, France

Paris, France – July 16, 2010

This trip was Hillary’s graduation from high school gift.  We made the trip with our “jellybean” carryon travel bags.  They are quite colorful.

All bags point to Paris…
Our bags waiting patiently at Barajas Airport, Madrid, Spain, for the flight to Paris.
Our bags made it to Paris!

After arriving at the airport in Paris, we took a taxi to our hotel.  As it turns out, we are just around the corner from the famous Moulin Rouge.  So, during the drive there, went through some rather dicey areas.  The three-star hotel itself is nice, right beside the Montmartre Cemetery.

The Montmartre Cemetery as seen from our hotel room.
Another view of the cemetery. Note the cat napping in the lower left.

After unpacking, we took a taxi to the Arc de Triomphe.  Begun in 1806, it took some 30 years to complete.  It is massive; about 50 meters (164 feet) tall and about 45 meters (148 feet) wide.  That was spectacular.  After taking several photographs and watching the seemingly crazy traffic go around the circle, we began our walk toward the Eiffel Tower.  On the way to the tower, we passed an odd-looking poster touting an exhibit entitled “Views on Biodiversity”.

The Arc de Triomphe is a very busy spot. The barriers are in place for the finish of the Tour de France. The riders were due in Paris in nine days, July 25.
The Arc de Triomphe.
Sister and brother posing at the Arc de Triomphe.
The poster on the right is for an exposition entitled “Views on Biodiversity.” The one on the left reads, “User Reception Charter.”

Arriving at the Eiffel Tower, we all marveled at the size, about 320 meters (1,050 feet) tall.  I can recall being amazed when I first flew to Paris last April.  I was easily able to see the tower from the airplane. The Eiffel Tower dates from 1889.

The Eiffel Tower and the Seine River.
The Pont d’Iéna (Lena Bridge) crosses the Seine River and leads directly to the Eiffel Tower. Hitler crossed this very bridge in 1940, walking toward the Trocadéro, as part of his victory tour.
Crossing the Pont d’Iéna, one can see many of the tourist boats on the Seine River.
Looking up at the tower from the Seine River.
Hillary preparing to board a tour boat.
Hillary and Tyler.
Hillary and the mama.
Hillary and the papa.

We left the Eiffel Tower, and on a whim, we boarded a boat operated by Batobus.  It is one of many tourist boats that ply the Seine River.  One of the most spectacular bridges on the river is the Pont Alexandre III.  The white color of the bridge really contrasts with the gold-colored accents.  The boat stopped at the Musee d’Orsay, St. Germain des Pres, Notre Dame, Jardin des Plantes, Hotel de Ville, and then the Louvre, where we got off.

Our boat arrives for the sightseeing journey on the Seine River.
Pulling away from the dock.
Detail of the Pont Alexandre III (Alexander III Bridge).
The Grand Palais Museum is visible at the end of the Pont Alexander III.
Another boat preparing to overtake our boat.
An old boat docked at the side of the Seine River.
The boat is nearly upon us…
…and there they go…
The clock at the Musée d’Orsay.
Leslie and Tyler on the boat.
A very small portion of the Lovre Museum.
Detail of the Pont Saint-Michel (St. Michael Bridge).
The twin spires of Notre Dame Cathedral as seen from the Seine River.
The south side of the cathedral.
Detail of two of the rosette windows on Notre Dame Cathedral.
Notre Dame Cathedral as seen from the east end of Île de la Cité (City Island).
A brief bit of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day.
Our intrepid sailor.
The mama and the daughter.

From the boat stop, we walked to dinner.  I took them to the same restaurant I ate at when I was in Paris the previous April, Flottes.  It is located at 2 Rue Cambon, Paris.  The meal was every bit as good as the time before.  I would highly recommend the restaurant.

One of the vehicle entry points to the Louvre Museum.
A statue of a lion at the Louvre.
Another big cat at the Louvre.
Young Reclining Woman by Aristide Maillol near the Louvre.
A man and children feeding birds.
Hillary stopped in Dolce & Gabbana.

The next day we took a taxi to the Louvre Museum.  We arrived at about 08:10. The museum does not open until 09:00.  So, we walked around taking photos for a while, then we stood in line.  We were about 50 people from the front of the line, so when the museum opened, we got in quickly and bought our tickets.

Part of the Louvre Museum.
The iconic I.M. Pei pyramid at the Louvre.
While waiting for the museum to open, everyone walked around to stay warm.
The I.M. Pei pyramid. In the distance is the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
Leslie, Tyler, and Hillary posing.
A closer view.

Our first objective was to see the Mona Lisa.  After getting a map of the museum, we headed straight there.  I was prepared for the very small size of the painting since this was my second time at the museum.  But at 77cm x 53cm (30 inches x 21 inches), it is much smaller than I had imagined.  The painting is behind a large plexiglass screen, making photographs of the painting a challenge.  The size of the Mona Lisa seems all the more disproportionate when one turns 180-degrees to see The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Caliari.  That painting is an astounding 6.8 meters x 9.75 meters (22 feet 3 inches x 32 feet).

Departing that area, we wandered around the museum.  I saw several sections that I had not seen during my previous visit.

The surprisingly small portrait of Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
Detail of The Wedding Feast at Cana by Paolo Caliari. It hangs directly across from the Mona Lisa and it is a huge canvas.
Detail of The Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David.
Detail of Pygmalion and Galatea by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson.
One of the stunning ceilings in the Louvre.
Detail of Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Paul Delaroche.
Detail of Joan of Arc on Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral of Reims by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’.
The Nymph of Fontainebleau by Benvenuto Cellini.
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova.
This appears to be a sculpture in alabaster.
A very unique sculpture.
Detail of Jupiter de Versailles.
A man’s face carved into a large bowl.
An unusual stone used for an Egyptian carving.
Alexander the Great.
The Albani Lion.
Hillary standing near Venus de Milo.
A statue near the Venus de Milo.
An ancient police lineup???
A stone lion, not to be confused with a stoned lion…
Carving above the fireplace in the Room of the Caryatids.
Diana of Versailles.
A gate in the museum.
The I.M. pyramid as seen from an upper level of the Louvre.
The Grand Salon in the Napolean III apartment in the Louvre.
A rolltop desk in the Grand Salon.
A very large and ornate urn.
A highly decorated helmet and shield.
Detail of intricately decorated armor.
A piece of 19th century stained-glass.
A decorated tile.
Another view of the pyramid. The people are queued to enter the museum.
An interior stairway.
A vase in the Napolean III apartment.
A sculpture in the apartment.
Detail of a chandelier.
Hillary checking out the detail.
A very large mirror in one of the apartment salons.
A dining table to accommodate 49 of one’s closest friends…
A view of the interior Marly Court.
Statues along the parapet.
A beautifully painted vase.
Hillary near a crystal make-up table.
Napolean’s chair.
An odd interior window.
The expansive skylight above Marly Court.
A sculpture of Neptune in Marly Court.
The Seine in the Chapel by Antoine Coysevox.
Hillary, Tyler, and Leslie taking a break in Marly Court.

Now it is official; the Louvre is my favorite museum on the face of this planet!

Close to noon, we went to the Louvre Museum store.  I bought a journal that I had seen on my last trip.  It probably was a crazy purchase at 80€ (US$101).  Regardless, it adds nicely to my collection of journals and I will be able to use it for many years to come.

When we left the Louvre, we walked across the Seine River.  Then we walked along the river and saw all the various vendors.  Ultimately, we crossed the road to have a drink and a plate of assorted cheeses. That was a welcome respite after all of our walking.

We departed the café to do what Hillary was just dying to do…shop!  About halfway across the Pont Royal (Royal Bridge) I suddenly realized I had left the bag with my brand new journal under the seat at the café.  Tyler was kind enough to dash back; fortunately retrieve the bag, and bring it back to me!

Fence detail outside of the Louvre.

With my journal in a secure grip, we walked over to the Rue Saint-Honoré area and did some shopping.  Luckily, Hillary did see much that interested her.  The shops in that area cater to the very, very rich.

While the women shopped, Tyler and I ducked into the Saint Roch Church.  It honestly did not look like much from the exterior.  But wow, the interior was really beautiful!  Exiting the church, we saw a couple of interesting cars parked on the street.

The Joan of Arc statue in the Place des Pyramides.
The clock above the main entrance to Saint Roch Church.
The interior of Saint Roch Church.
The Chapel of the Virgin.
A list of World War II Concentration camps and the number of martyrs at each. The numbers seem to be awfully low.
An Aston Martin parked on Rue Saint-Honoré.
A Mini Cooper parked on Rue Saint-Honoré.
Hillary posing at Gucci on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
A display on the floor of one of the shops.
The Napolean column in Place Vendôme.
Hillary posing at Van Cleef & Arpels at Place Vendôme.

We made our way over to the Opera area.  We sat down at a sidewalk café and had lunch.  It was a beautiful day.  We sat there, enjoying the weather, and watching the people.

The Paris Opéra building.
Timeout for lunch.

When we got back to our hotel, we decided to walk through a portion of the cemetery.  The Montmarte Cemetery is allegedly the oldest in Paris.  It definitely looked old.  The cemetery holds the distinction of having the most unique gravestone I have ever seen.  The gravestone is for a family, but the oddity is that there is a space in the gravestone for the stone image of the face and feet of each member!

The Cimetière de Montmartre (Montmartre Cemetery).
Some of the crypts in the cemetery.
A unique family gravestone. Note the visible faces and feet.
A bridge over a portion of the cemetery.

That evening, we ate at Corcoran’s Irish Pub, just a few doors down from our hotel.  It was good comfort food.  After dinner, we slipped around the corner to look at the Moulin Rouge.  We decided that at 120€ (US$152.40) per ticket, we did not need to see the show!

Ready for dinner.
The iconic Moulin Rouge windmill.

The following morning, we decided we would have breakfast at Corcoran’s.  It was not open when we checked.  It was such a beautiful morning, we all four sat on two different benches in the median of .  I sat there reading a book, oblivious to three men approaching.  I heard Leslie and Hillary scream out.  One of the men had approached them and tried to kiss them.  I jumped up from my bench, and using my best ex-cop voice, I yelled, “Hey!!”  It was loud enough and forceful enough to stop the men in their tracks.  I also apparently stopped a passing car.  The driver of the car asked if everything was ok.  I said yes because the men had continued their walk on .  When they were about 20-meters away, one of the men turned around and apologized.

That encounter put a bit of a damper on the morning.  We returned to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and hailed a taxi.  We returned to the Arc de Triomphe area.  We found the L’Etoile 1903 (The Star 1903) café and had our coffee and breakfast.  That helped calm us down.

After breakfast, we walked about one block to the Arc de Triomphe.  The bright blue sky made the monument all the more impressive that day.

The Arc is at the top of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Hillary’s next shopping destination.  One of the last stores we stopped at was Louis Vuitton.  Leslie and Hillary went inside.  Tyler and I waited on the sidewalk.  When the two women exited the store, I was shocked to find out Hillary was the proud owner of a 300€ (US$381)!!  I suspicion that wallet will never carry that amount of money!

A little spooked, I hailed a taxi and had the driver quickly take us to the airport before any more damage could occur.

Our return trip home was uneventful.

A painting in the café of the 1903 Paris-Madrid Rally.
Waiting for breakfast at L’Etoile 1903 (The Star 1903) café.
The bags are ready to return to Spain.
A huge French flag at the Arc de Triomphe.
On Avenue des Champs-Élysées, one of the oddest store window displays.
Hillary on Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This could get expensive.
…and it did get expensive at Louis Vuitton!
A pair of window displays at Louis Vuitton.
Another of the windows.


València, Spain – May 29, 2010

We got up really early to catch a flight on Ryan Air.  It was only 20€ (US$24.80) per person from Madrid to València roundtrip!  At the time it seemed like a good idea (more on that later).  I have no idea how an airline can make money like that.  The flight from Madrid only took about 55-minutes.  Leslie’s mother and aunt were able to join the four of us for this trip.

When we arrived in València, we took a couple of taxis to our hotel.  As we neared the hotel we found ourselves on a “race track”.  The driver told us the city was preparing for a Formula One race the weekend following our visit.  That is one thing I would like to see; however, I will not spend the amount necessary to buy a ticket.  Some of my friends here in Spain have told me tickets start at about 200€ (US$248)!  No thanks!

After checking-in at the hotel, we decided it was lunchtime.  We took taxis to a local pedestrian mall, found a sidewalk café, and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

A panoramic view of the Hotel Atarazanas, our base of operations.
Odd ceiling decoration in the restaurant at our hotel.
Rooms for rent.
Some beautiful old buildings on Avinguda del Port across from the Plaça del Tribunal de les Aigües.
A barely visible cross on the side of Parroquia de Santa María del Mar (Parish of St. Mary of the Ocean).
Waiting for lunch at a sidewalk café.
Tyler and Hillary waiting too.
Locking oneself out of a residence or business must be a rampant problem. All of these tiny stickers are for various locksmiths.

Back at the hotel, Leslie, Hillary, Tyler and I opted to skip lunch.  Instead, we walked around the area a little bit.  We initially stopped at one of the marinas of València.  We sat there for a while watching the waterfront.  There were several large yachts docked.  One of the largest was Lady Lara.  She is 59.3 meters (194 feet) long.  Her beam is 10.4 meters (34 feet) and she draws 3.2 meters (10.5 feet).  The yacht can house a crew of 15 to tend to a maximum of 12 guests.

Somewhat dwarfed by the Lady Lara was the Solea, a 36 meter (118 feet) expedition yacht.  Even though she is much smaller, she can still accommodate up to 12 guests.

From where we sat we could see several of the buildings that had housed the racing sailboats for the recent (February 2010) America’s Cup yacht race.

Yachts moored at the marina. The sign in the distance for Team New Zealand is for the America’s Cup.
Tyler is quite happy to be walking to the beach.
The building for the Swiss team for the Americas Cup.
The yacht in the center is Lady Lara. The expedition yacht on the right is the Solea.

Continuing our walk, we ultimately wound our way to the beach. There we saw the very large flag poles flying both the flag of Spain and the flag of the Province of València.  With the azure blue sky, it was a very pretty sight.

Upon arrival on the beach, Leslie and the kids immediately began sunbathing. I stayed in the shade. I am not much of a sunbather. That does not seem to stop many people here in Spain.  Additionally, there are numerous women that sunbath topless. You certainly don’t see that every day in the U.S.!

Later that afternoon, all six of us took a ride on one of the hop-on-hop-off the tourist buses.  The red, double-decker buses seem to be in virtually every major city in Spain.  It is a nice way to get around town, see the sights, and learn about local history.

The Torres de Serranos (Serranos Towers) at Plaça dels Furs (Furs Square) date from the late 1300s.
The cathedral as seen from Plaça de la Reina (Queen’s Plaza).
A beautiful old building on the Plaça de la Reina.
The north side of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences).
The “spine” of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
A bougainvillea pergola near the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.
The northernmost building at the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias.

For dinner on our first night, we ate at Samaruch Restaurant.  It is located at Paseo Neptuno, 58.  The food was really good.  One of the things we tried was paella.  It was delicious. València is known as the rice capital of Spain.  Since that is one of the main ingredients of paella, I am sure that was part of why it was so good.  Aunt Arlene was kind enough to pay for dinner that night.

On the way to dinner near the beach.
The Carrer d’Otumba at the beach.

One day we went to Oceanogràfic, the aquarium in València.  It is, by far, the best aquarium I have been to in my life.  It is near the complex known as Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences).  The architecture of this entire area is absolutely amazing.  I have never seen anything like this before.

I am guessing the aquarium complex is about the size of a Sea World complex in the United States.  However, unlike Sea World, there is only one show; the dolphin show.  Other than that it is just one exhibit after another.  Regardless, it is really quite amazing.  Out of all the aquariums on site, there are two that one can walk through.  Each of those aquariums has a tube or tunnel through which one can walk. The various fish swam all around us.  There were sharks, rays, eels and much, much more.

Ready to go to the aquarium, Oceanogràfic.
The group shall depart momentarily.
Standing in line to enter the Oceanogràfic aquarium.
The large blue building, the Àgora, is adjacent to the Oceanogràfic complex.
Tyler and Hillary on the other side of a water tunnel.
A closer view of the Àgora.
The main building in the Oceanogràfic complex.
Looking through the Zones Humides – Aviari (Wetlands – Aviary) to the Àgora.
A bird on the sidewalk.
A bale of turtles.
Looking up at the top of the Zones Humides – Aviari (Wetlands – Aviary).
A duck riding on a turtle.
A beautiful white bird.
Two seals swimming.


Some clownfish.
The view from one building to another.
One of the seals.
Another of the seals.
A group of pelicans.
A cruising shark.
Another view of the avant-garde architecture.
A trainer feeding dolphins.
The sweeping roofline of Oceanogràfic.
More of the avant-garde architecture.

At the souvenir store at Oceanogràfic, I bought a book called All València. It is a tourist guidebook highlighting several tourist spots in the city.

An afternoon break near our hotel.
Hillary and Leslie soaking in some vitamin D.

When we returned to the hotel, Leslie and I went to a nearby cafe for a cocktail. While we were there, I opened the book. I happened to notice a small segment in the book about the LLADRÓ factory. I knew Leslie’s mom wanted to get an LLADRÓ figurine. I asked her if she wanted to go to the factory. Of course, she said yes.

For dinner that evening, we went to a restaurant near the Juan Carlos I Royal Marina.  There is just something about eating outdoors that seems to make the meal better.

A mojito before dinner.
Tired after a hard day of tourism.
The ship Zurbaran docked at the port.
Sunset near the beach.
The canal connects the marinas.
Taking a break on Carrer Marina Real Juan Carlos I (Juan Carlos I Royal Marina) during our walk back to the hotel.

On our last morning in València, we arranged for two taxis to take us all to the LLADRÓfactory.  The factory is in a small town just north of València, (White Taverns)and has been around since the mid-1950s.  Founded by brothers Juan, José, Vicente; there are now dozens and dozens of employees carrying on the work.

We arrived fairly early and found ourselves in the first tour group of the day. Most parts of the various figurines are molded plaster. The more complex pieces have several different molds. When each piece is rigid enough they are “welded” together with additional wet clay. The figurines are then painted by hand and ultimately fired. One part of the figurines that are entirely made by hand are the flowers.  If there are any included, each flower is literally made by hand.  We were able to watch that happen.  The ladies were amazing that did this.  Unfortunately, in the production areas, photographs are not allowed.

After the tour, we were able to walk around the gift store. There were beautiful pieces displayed everywhere, each one for sale. There was one figurine, “The Queen of the Nile” that was several figures on a boat nearly three feet long. The sales price was 120,000€ (US$148,800).  We decided not to buy one!

Waiting for a taxi for the trip to the LLADRÓ factory.
Not quite as tired as last evening.
Ready for the day.
A family photo at the water fountain in Plaça del Tribunal de les Aigües (Water Court Square) in front of our hotel.
An old building across from our hotel.
A large chess game on the grounds of the LLADRÓ factory.
Inside the waiting area for the LLADRÓ factory tour.
Detail of the LLADRÓ figurines.
Some of the stages of the process and the tools used in making figurines.
A beautiful carriage.
The Cinderella story nearly comes to life.
Aunt Arlene and Hillary posing by one of the intricate LLADRÓ creations.
An Egyptian-themed figurine.
A Chinese dragon.
A butterfly chandelier.
A ceramic beaded screen.
One may take home this figurine for a mere 800€ (US$992).
One of the Las Meninas series inspired by the painting of Diego Velázquez.
An LLADRÓ mirror.
An LLADRÓ chess set.
This florist and her cart are available for 2,000€ (US$2,480).
While this florist fetches 3,300€ (US$4,092).
The hunt.
A collection of clowns.
A stunning boat with an equally stunning 120,000€ (US$148,800) pricetag.
Hillary posing by The Queen of the Nile.
One can take this scene home for 5,000€ (US$6,200).
It seems they are done shopping.
Aunt Arlene is definitely done shopping!
A panoramic view of the LLADRÓ compound.

When we were finished with our tour we called two taxis to take us to the airport.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 16:00.  We arrived at the airport at about 13:00. We ate lunch at Burger King and went to our assigned gate to wait for our flight back to Madrid.  As it got close to the time for us to board the plane, they began to announce that they were having mechanical problems with our airplane.  We continued to wait and wait.  Finally, we all left the gate area and went down to the Ryan Air counter.  We had to wait until 18:00 before we could either get a refund or change our flight. We ultimately changed our flight to the one that was scheduled to depart at 21:00. The time to board came and went. Finally, at nearly 22:00 they allowed us to board a plane. We got to Madrid at around 23:30.  By the time we walked to the Metro and made our way home, it was nearly 01:30 the following morning.

A quick lunch at Burger King at the airport.
Let the waiting commence.
More waiting…
Really, more waiting?!

As an aside, if I had driven us to València, and if we had departed the LLADRÓ factory at the time we got the taxis, we would have been comfortably back home at about 16:30!    Who says 20€ per person was such a good deal?!

Other than the flight debacle, our València trip was great!

The VP & Asbestos Training

The VP & Asbestos Training

Washington, D.C., United States – May 9, 2010

On Friday, May 7, Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Madrid, Spain for a visit.  That made for a couple of hectic days before my trip to Washington, D.C. for asbestos training.  At each embassy, when a high-level visit occurs, the facility manager normally gets baggage detail.  This visit was no different for me.

A couple of days before the VP arrived, I was at Torrejón Air Base to witness the limousine arrive courtesy of a U.S. Air Force C17.  Then, when Air Force 2 arrived on the 7th, my colleagues and I loaded all of the baggage from the airplane into a box truck.  Once loaded, to my surprise, the truck was given a police escort to the hotel.  What a trip!

One of the Vice President’s limousines coming off the C-17 at Torrejon Air Base, Madrid, Spain.
Yours truly in front of a limousine.
One of the limos.
Air Force 2 taxiing to its final location.
Air Force 2 has arrived. The local press is on the scaffolding, waiting for VP Biden to deplane.
Vice President Biden walking down the stairs.
…and the motorcade is off…
One of my colleagues assisting with the visit.
One of my colleagues assisting with the visit II.
Yours truly again…
The tail of Air Force 2.
Air Force 2 parked.
A police escort for the luggage truck.

Yesterday, Saturday, was a long day.  I got to the embassy at about 07:00.  I did a lot of work until about 10:15.  Then I left the embassy and walked to the Intercontinental Hotel.  The Vice President spent the night there.  I met my contact with the U.S. Air Force there for the baggage detail.  We coordinated getting all of the bags from the hotel to the airport for the Vice President’s return flight to Washington, D.C.

At Torrejón Air Base, once the flight crew arrived, we were able to begin loading the baggage onto Air Force 2.  While we were waiting for the Vice President to arrive, we feasted on Spanish tapas that my colleagues had made and brought to the airbase.  Not long after tapas, the VP arrived, boarded Air Force 2, and in a snap, the visit was over.

One of my colleagues assisting with the visit III.
VP Biden boarding Air Force 2.
Air Force 2 taxiing away from the ramp.
Taking off for Washington D.C.

Later, I left Madrid on Aer Lingus which has a codeshare with United Airlines.  This is a direct flight from Madrid to Dulles, Virginia.  The flight was supposed to have been eight hours long; however, because of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland, the flight time was 9:45.  The airplane diverted quite a way south to safely miss the ash cloud.  This was a long day for me.

On the plane, I was reading the book, War and Peace. One passage struck me.

“Love?  What is love?” he thought.

“Love hinders death.  Love is life.  All, all that I understand, I understand only because I love.  All is, all exists only because I love.  All is bound up in love alone.  Love is God, and dying means for me a particle of love, to go back to the universal and eternal source of love.”

Asbestos training may sound odd, but it is imperative.  Many of the countries in which there are embassies have asbestos present in many forms.  It normally falls to the facility manager to inspect facilities for asbestos, take samples of suspected asbestos-containing material, ship the material for testing, and then coordinating the remediation if required.

During the week of training on asbestos and underground storage tanks, there was an opportunity to go with some others from the training to the National Museum of the American Indian. There the group received a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum and its various mechanical systems.  It was quite fascinating…at least for facility managers.

It is always very interesting to see what equipment and programs other buildings have in place.  Visits like this offer an opportunity to share best practices.  I was very impressed with the tour we received.  Every part of the operation was presented to us.  I was particularly impressed with the cleaning crew.  It was quite evident that a lot of time and effort had gone into setting up a display which allowed them to describe their operation very well.

When we were done with the tour, we were able to walk through the museum.  This was my first time in the museum.  I really enjoyed it.  As it happened, there was an exhibition by artist, Brian Jungen.

Buffalo Dancer II by George Rivera, outside the National Museum of the American Indian.
Sacred Rain Arrow by Allan Houser.
The Oneida Indian Nation sculpture.
Detail from the sculpture.
Intricately decorated book covers.

One of the first I saw was the Chair Whale.  As one first approached, it looked like the skeleton of a blue whale suspended from the ceiling.  Upon closer scrutiny, one realized the “skeleton” was actually made out of those molded plastic patio chairs that nearly everyone owns.  It was amazing to me the imagination and vision it took to put this together.

Shapeshifter by Brian Jungen (2000).

The next sculpture was that of an Indian standing tall.  Again, on closer inspection, one could see the entire sculpture was made out of multiple baseball gloves.  Each glove was cut into a specific shape and then added to the sculpture.

The Prince by Brian Jungen (2006).
Various totem poles by Brian Jungen.
Looking down on the Potomac Atrium space.
A totem with a light.

There were many items in this exhibit.  The last one that really struck me were the totem poles made out of golf bags.  Much like the baseball gloves, the golf bags were cut into a specific shape and then added to the totem pole.

I enjoy art such as was on display today.  I always find it amazing how some artists can take everyday, ordinary objects and form them into something one would never expect to see from such an object.

I would highly recommend a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian.

During one of the training days, over lunch, I walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial.  It was the first time I had seen either memorial.  I thought they were both very moving and worth the trip.

Approaching the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.
Thousands of people walk by daily.
The Washington Monument in the distance.
A sculpture near the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
The Lincoln Memorial.
People at the memorial.
People at the memorial II.
Detail of the Lincoln sculpture.
Lincoln’s speech.


Washington, District of Columbia – February 24, 2010

Tyler and I headed out today for a quick trip from Madrid, Spain to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.  While we were waiting at the Barajas Airport in Madrid, my boss sent me an e­mail that I received on my Blackberry.  He wanted to know if I wanted to attend a greening conference in Paris in April.  It took me about two nanoseconds to say yes.  However, I could not get my Blackberry to work to send a reply.  Finally, not wanting to miss out on this opportunity, I called my boss’s office manager and asked her to sign me up!

Waiting in Barajas Airport in Madrid for our plane to Washington, D.C.
Our airplane getting ready for us.

In preparation for our trip, I woke up at 05:00 in Spain.  Tyler and I actually sat down for dinner in Washington, D.C. at 03:00 (Madrid time) the following day!  We were bushed.  When we arrived in Philadelphia from Spain we went through the diplomatic line at immigration.  That only took about a minute.  Then we had to go to the luggage area to get our bag.  After that, we breezed right through customs.  Then the ordeal began.

Even though we had been through three different security screenings in Madrid, we had to go through security again in Philadelphia.  It was like standing in line for a ride at Disney World.  The line snaked back and forth multiple times.  We finally made it through the x-ray area with no problem.

We made our way to the gate for our flight.  Our flight to Washington, D.C. was supposed to leave Philadelphia at 17:45.  Tyler and I sat down and I looked up at the sign in the boarding area.  The sign indicated our departure time at 18:40.  I got up to go check the monitors in the hall.  Sure enough, the new time was listed as 18:40.  I got back to the seating area and shared the news with Tyler.  Just as I did, the gate agent made an announcement that our gate had changed.  We were fortunate that the new gate was right next to our old gate.  We entered that seating area, sat down, and watched it fill up with people.

The sign in our seating area still showed a departure time of 18:40.  After being there for nearly an hour, the gate agent announced they were still waiting for our plane.  They expected it at the gate at 18:05.  At about 18:05, the gate agent said they were changing our gate again.  The new gate was at the far end of the concourse.

Tyler and I made our way to the newly assigned gate and sat down.  We did not see anyone coming down the ramp from the plane at that gate until about 18:20.  I told Tyler there was no way we were going to take off at 18:40.  Sure enough, we did not board until about 19:00.  The plane was packed.  There were only about one or two empty seats.

We finally pushed back from the gate and taxied toward the runway.  When we got in line for takeoff, the captain announced that we were number 13 for takeoff.  There was a huge, collective sigh of disbelief from the cabin.  We finally took off at about 19:30.

When we got to Reagan National Airport, we had to wait for our bag.  Of course, they changed the baggage pickup point once while we were there.  We finally got our bag, got a taxi, and rode to the hotel.  As I noted above, it was about 03:00 Spain time when we finally sat down to have something to eat.

While we were in the gate seating area in Philadelphia, it was approaching midnight Spain time. I was tired so I would lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes.  I was shocked at the cacophony of sound.  The Muzak playing in the area was classical music.  Competing for that at about the same sound level was the CNN Headline News coming from the television.  Also competing for sound space was the ever-present clicking of keys as people typed away on their laptop computers.  I could hear several people having conversations on their cell phones.  Trying to drown that out was the dull roar of many conversations taking place both in the seating area and in the concourse.  Periodically it was all punctuated with an unintelligible announcement on the speakers in the concourse.  As if that were not enough, there were many different food smells also vying for my attention.  It was nearly a sensory overload.

The following morning, we heard on the news that they are expecting another heavy winter storm in the northeast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Washington, D.C. was hit with about three feet of snow.  They are only expecting 1 – 3 inches from this system; however, Philadelphia is expecting about 12 inches.  That is a little unnerving because today is Thursday and we are supposed to fly out of Philadelphia this Saturday.  I do not think the snow will be a problem on Saturday.  But I am concerned about the airlines trying to get back on schedule after having multiple canceled flights because of the weather.  Oh well, it is out of our hands.

The view from our room in the Georgetown Inn, Washington, D.C.

In Georgetown, just a couple of doors from where we were staying was a Five Guys burger joint.  We decided to eat there.  The burger was huge, the french fries were huge, and the drinks were huge.  They don’t eat like that in Spain, but it sure was good!  We both had a bacon cheeseburger. On them, we both had pickles, grilled onions, catsup, and mustard.  When we ordered, I did not realize they were double hamburgers.  It was a huge lunch.  We did not even put a dent in the french fries.

For dinner, we ate at the Sea Catch restaurant.  It was a little pricier than I originally anticipated.  Tyler and I both had lobster and fillet Mignon.  We also had a Cesar salad.  All total, including the tip, our dinner was $150.  That being said, it was very good.

While we had some free time, we went to the National Aquarium.  I was very disappointed with that venue.  It was by far one of the worst aquariums I have ever visited.

A puffer fish.
An emperor anglefish.
A blue tang.

When we left the aquarium, we took a taxi to the mall.  We got out near the Washington monument.  It was bitterly cold and a stiff wind was blowing.  We walked to the Smithsonian castle and looked around there for a while.  A couple of the memorable items we saw were a Gibson Les Paul guitar and the crypt of John Smithson.

It was definitely a whirlwind trip.

James Smithson’s crypt in the Smithsonian Castle, Washington, D.C.
A Gibson guitar, Les Paul model, in the Smithsonian Castle.
Waiting at Reagan National Airport for our return trip to Madrid, Spain.