Tag: Mosque

Murree

Murree

Murree, Pakistan – April 11, 2015

Leslie and I had a blast today. Our persistence trying to go on a Community Liaison Officer (CLO) trip paid off with our selection to participate in the journey to Murree, Pakistan.

Ready for the adventure!

Murree began as a British cantonment in the middle of the 19th century. At some point during its time under British rule, a brewery began operating in Murree under the name Murree Brewery. Today, that brewing operation is now located in Rawalpindi, a large suburb of Islamabad. Since this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there are no liquor stores. One can only obtain Murree beer from one of the five-star hotels in Islamabad. Not long after our trip, I did get some of the beer. I thought it tasted a little too hoppy and bitter. However, that is a story for another time.
We arrived at the Embassy in time to have some breakfast in the American Club. In addition to breakfast, we also ordered lunch to go, since the flyer for the trip noted a picnic lunch.With our lunches in hand, we walked outside the Club to the waiting vehicles. We picked a car at random, hopped inside, and soon departed.
Ultimately, the road reduced to just two lanes and began to gain altitude. A river flowed rapidly alongside the way. Unfortunately, I have not been able to track down the name of the river. Regardless, it was a beautiful valley. It reminded me of portions of the Colorado River west of Vail, Colorado.
Frequently we saw long, narrow, stone buildings. Some were one-story buildings, while others were two-story. The CLO Assistant happened to be riding in our vehicle. He informed us those were chicken farms. Unlike chicken farms in the United States, I did not detect any foul (pun intended) odors as we passed.
We continued to gain altitude into a heavily forested area. At times, the forest was broken on either side of the road by a small village, with shops and homes built very close to the road edge. As we passed through their lives, the villagers stared at us, no doubt trying to figure out just who was traveling through their town.

Passing the many small businesses.
A pedestrian walking past the Mobilezone business.
Some businesses on the outskirts of Murree.
The Shangrila Resort Hotel.
A roadside business.

Periodically we encountered switchback turns. Many were very tight turns. I do not recall seeing any as sharp in the mountains of Colorado. In some instances, the corners had a divider to keep traffic traveling in the opposite direction from leaving their lane.
The mountainsides became increasingly steep. Looking across the valley, one could see that much of the mountainsides are stepped, no doubt to help control erosion. The CLO assistant shared that those opposite mountainsides were fully forested when he was a child. Now they stand barren, victims of commercial logging.
A little more than an hour outside of Islamabad, we reached our destination, Pindi Point. The attraction to the area is the Pindi Point chairlift. A roundtrip ticket on the chairlift cost 350 Rupees, about $3.50. At that time of day, the only other people present consisted of a handful of chairlift workers.

At the bottom of the chairlift was a sign comparing the Pindi Point chairlift with two others in Pakistan. Some of the points trumpeted facts such as no breakdown or accidents in 24 years; it can operate in winds of up to 120 km per hour (not with me on it); and its gearbox is at least twice as big as the others.

A sign welcoming people to Murree City.
The lower point of the Pindi Point chairlift.
Technical comparison of the Pindi Point chairlift and three others in Pakistan.
Leslie had a good time with some of our mates on the trip.

I watched as two people from our group got onto the chair in front of Leslie and me. I decided that if we were there in the winter and if we had had skies, getting on would have been easy. When the chair came around the wheel, we both plopped down. The chair dipped a little, making it hard for Leslie to pick up her legs. One of her legs caught slightly under the chair. Luckily, she was not injured, but it did cause her some pain.
The Pindi Point chairlift is only intended for sightseeing. There is not an associated ski area there.
The ride up the side of the mountain was beautiful but steep. At about the midway point, a worker was standing at a platform. It did not seem to be a chance encounter, but rather, the man’s job seemed to be to stand there. I do not know why he was there. However, he was courteous, smiling, and waving as we greeted him in Urdu.

A worker alongside the chairlift.
Nearing the top of the chairlift.

Near the top, we saw two young men lounging on a blanket under the chairlift. They both enthusiastically waved and shouted as we traveled overhead.

Waving at us as the chairlift glides above.

At the top, just like chairlifts in the United States, we had to get off on the run. One of the workers there helped Leslie. She just barely kept from falling. That, on top of the beginning leg drama, had her shaken. That is when we noticed we had several dozen stairs to climb to reach the road at the top. It took a little time, but we finally made it to the way. I openly mused as to why the builders of this beautiful chairlift had stopped a couple of hundred feet below the road.
The top of the stairs emptied into an arcade type area. There were people selling food and water, while others operated booths with games. Another group held onto several white horses. The area bustled with tourists.

Some of the carnival-like booths at the top of the chairlift.

Some of the housing we encountered appeared abandoned, but in fact, people did live in them. There was a real feeling of expeditionary living in many places.

A rustic home.
A small shop outside a home.

The elevation was about 7,500 feet. That made for some very nice, comfortable weather. The road circles the top of the mountain, dropping slightly into the town of Murree. At one point, there was an overlook. Murree is only about 30 miles from the Pakistan/India border. From the overlook, we could see India and snow-capped mountains.

Another view of the snow-capped mountains.
Looking toward India.
Looking northeast toward the beginnings of the Himalayan Range. These peaks are in India.
The Clifton Lodge.
A family walking toward Murree.
A rug on the roof…
A green driveway.
A building with some character.

Mickey Mouse characters were abundant. One, in particular, pointed the way to the Regency Hotel to passers-by looking for a place to stay.

Welcome to the Murree Regency Hotel!

At the lowest point of the road, we were in a small commercial area. The CLO asked if anyone wanted to do some shopping. Of course, everyone jumped at the chance. Leslie and several others stopped in a little trinket store.
Just across from the store were five or six white horses. I imagine they were there for rent; however, we did not partake. Regardless, I am not sure I could have gotten on the horse anyway. Even if I had gotten on, based on the size of the saddle, some 80 percent of my caboose would have been without support. While I stood and watched, one of the wranglers went to work on the shoe of one of the horses, filing some problems away.

In the town of Murree.
Some of the businesses in Murree.
A crowd at the gift shop.
Our fearless leader for the day!
A man leading one of the many white horses in Murree.
Repairing a horseshoe.
The Bilal Mosque in Murree.

Departing the commercial area, we began the gradual climb along the road back to the chairlift stairs. We walked by a street cafe. I do not know what they were cooking, but it sure smelled good. For fear of stomach issues, I kept my course true and did not stop.

A restaurant on the side of the road.

A little further along the way, we encountered another group of horses. They seemed to be everywhere.  After that, we saw a man that was roasting what looked like nuts and beans. He also had some popcorn for sale. It was an interesting photo opportunity, but again, we dared not partake. We did not want to take a chance of occupying the bathroom for the next two straight days.

Horses in front of the Hotel Breeze.
One of the white horses.
A man riding one of the white horses.
Looking back toward town.
A local real estate office.
A shop along the road. This man was cooking some sort of lentils.
Maybe taking an order…
The man cooking the lentils was right at the side of the road.
On the phone again.
The valley below Murree.

Just around the corner from the cooking vendor, I spotted another rugged-looking home. A cute little girl about five or six years old stepped out of the house to try to determine just what was passing by her home.

A little girl at the door to a house.

Nearing the stairs, I saw a man selling baskets. They were all handmade from local bark and twigs. I bought one that is a good size for bread or fruit. It cost a whopping $2. In the same area, some of the people stopped to partake in the various games of chance. They reminded me of games at local fairs in the United States. They seem so simple, yet one very rarely wins any of the tantalizing prizes on display.

A basket vendor.
The basket vendor taking the time to read the newspaper.

We encountered another likeness of Mickey Mouse. This time he was on the door of a brightly decorated truck, near the Pakistan flag.  The Urdu phrase near his head translated to “Heart Heart Pakistan.”

Hello Mickey!

When we made it back to the top of the stairs, Leslie told the tour organizer of the troubles she encountered with the chairlift on the way up. She asked if the chairlift could slow down when we got on and off the chair.  Climbing down the stairs, we saw a sign that had an awful lot of Urdu and then one word in English, “Rescue.” That made me a little nervous, but such is the life of someone illiterate in the local dialect.

The Lucky Draw booth.
Preparing to descend to the top of the chairlift.
The attendant at a game of chance.
Nearing the top of the chairlift area.
Other than “rescue,” I am not sure what the sign states.

Much to our surprise, when we arrived at the chairlift, it stood still. Thankfully, the operators granted Leslie’s request. We got on and waited for the trip down to begin. It was just as beautiful as the trip up, but this time, we understood just how steep it was. After clearing the platform, we saw the two young men on the blanket again. They seemed just as excited to see us this time as the last. Another 100 meters or so down from them, we saw three children under the lift.
They asked us for candy or money. If my hands had been free, I probably would have tossed them some money, but, between my camera, backpack, and newly acquired basket, I could not manage anything else.

Three children hoping for some sort of handouts.
Three children II.
The steep way back down.
A view across the valley.
Mountains in the distance.
A truck below the chairlift.
Some more Urdu signs.

At the base, the chairlift stopped again so we could get off. Once everyone was down, we walked to a small home about 100 meters from the chairlift.  We sat with the others in the dining room and ate the lunch we purchased earlier.

The bottom of the chairlift.
Passing by the snack bar.
Wall hangings in the dining area at the Pindi Point Chairlift.

Our next stop was Kashmir Point. Our stop there called for a train ride. The engine of the “train” is a tractor made to look like a train engine.
When we arrived, the small square was bustling with people. A young boy with a hawk on a stick immediately caught our eye. It is the type of bird we see soaring in the Islamabad area daily. I am sure one could have taken a photo with him and the hawk for a fee. I might have done so if our group had not been moving so quickly to the waiting train.

Boy with a hawk.
Boy with a hawk at Kashmir Point.

The train, pulling two coaches, stopped. Our group boarded the second coach. Shortly after that, the train departed. Sitting directly in front of us, at the rear of the first coach, was the cutest little girl. She kept looking back to try to figure out just who we were.

The young girl taking her seat.
A young girl looking back at us.
Smile
Women walking by the Kashmir Point train.
Women walking past the Kashmir Point train.
View from Kashmir Point.

The train traveled along a road that circled the top of the mountain. The area, known as Kashmir Point, gets its name based on the fact one can see the Kashmir area from there.  The total trip only took about 15 minutes.

On our descent from Kashmir Point, we saw hundreds of Kashmir shawls and blankets displayed along the roadside, usually at turns in the road.  They were beautiful, but we did not stop.

The Jamia Masjid Masoomia at Kashmir Point.
The Hot Spot.
An A-frame structure.
The Hotel Bluemoon.
Goodbye!
A motorcycle rides past a display of Kashmir shawls.
The vendor at a Kashmir shawl display.
Yet another Kashmir shawl display.
Driving through town.
Pedestrians at the roadside.
Curious onlookers.

Soon, though we were still in the mountains, we transitioned to a four-lane divided highway toward Islamabad. We arrived there when the local schools were letting out.  It was easy to see that the children all had to wear uniforms.

Schoolgirls waiting for transportation home.
A group of schoolgirls.
A highway sign.
The rear of a jingle truck.
Some hillside homes.

Along the highway, I found the roadside signs interesting. They provide the same information as warning signs in the United States, but with a flair for English. I saw signs such as “dead slow” warning of a sharp curve; “speed hump”; “speed camera ahead” warning of radar; and a “falling rock” sign.  The falling rock sign seemed necessary as we did see a large rock-slide in the opposite lane.

An Urdu road sign.
Dead slow, dangerous curve ahead, drive cautiously.
Speed hump.
A safety sign along the road.
A speed camera ahead.
Highway warning signs.
Falling rock!
Another speed camera ahead.

We also passed a Rescue station. I could only wonder if it was the same station referred to by the sign at the top of the chairlift. Lastly, we saw a sign that we thought depicted Smokey, the Bear. It was a similar message with a different character, Murree the Bear.

A rescue station.
Murree the Bear signs.
A parked jingle truck.
A man walking from a roadside vendor.
Pedestrians at the roadside.
A rock slide closed one lane on the opposite side of the highway.
If one stops, one may be able to get a Pepsi here.
Two women walking along the road.
A pedestrian bridge.
A new development.
A jingle truck.
Directional signs.
Auto parts stores and goats.
Walking by a mosque in the distance.
Men attending an event at Millan Shadi Hall.
More jingle trucks.
A jingle truck traveling the opposite direction.
An abandoned car.
Pedestrians walking by several small businesses.
The closer one gets to Islamabad, the heavier the traffic gets.
Even the small trucks are jingle trucks.
The girls’ campus of Dar-E-Arqam Schools in Bharakhu.
An electric shop in the background.
On the phone.
The Shikarpuri Bakery.
The only store sign I can read is for the bakery.
A multitude of businesses.
A small yellow car.
A business center under construction.
Multiple small businesses.
A small jingle truck used by the locals in a similar fashion to a bus.
One can get deals in medicine and cosmetics at Gulzar Pharmacy.
The Khan Medical Centre & Maternity Home.
Leopards Courier.

We ended up at home in the mid-afternoon. All of the roses in the median of 7th Avenue brightened the end of the trip. We truly valued the experience because the security situation here does not allow for much sightseeing.

Roses along 7th Avenue in Islamabad.
Riding the horse in front of the Breeze Hotel.
Rest Stop

Rest Stop

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – January 23, 2015

We arrived in Abu Dhabi at 19:45. We made it through the airport with no issues. As we came out of the baggage area, a driver from the Ritz Carlton hotel met us. We had opted for an allowed rest stop due to the distance we were traveling to Islamabad, some 8,300 miles.
The hotel is direct across the highway from a huge mosque, beautifully lit at night.
At the front door of the hotel, the welcome staff swarmed our luggage and us. One wanted our name and quickly took our baggage away. Another man dressed in a traditional Middle Eastern costume led us to the reception counter.
While we checked in, a woman in a traditional costume approached us with a small tray. On the plate were two warm, damp washcloths, and two small glasses of juice. They were both refreshing after our long journey.

Some of the costumed greeters in the main lobby of the Ritz-Carlton.

With the check-in process complete, one of the costumed women walked us to our room, 2677, on the sixth floor. Decorative marble made up the floor of the room, on top of which was a large rug that stuck out from under the bed on three sides. We overlooked a massive courtyard area containing a vast swimming pool. The terrace was comfortable with furniture consisting of a small round table and two chairs.

Home sweet home at the Ritz-Carlton.
A rather posh bathroom.

We did not unpack. Instead, we went directly downstairs to the restaurant. We sat on the patio and enjoyed the lighting of the grounds and a wonderful dinner.

Wine and lights.
The wine and lights reflecting from the silver spoon.
The path toward the main courtyard fountain.
Our room is up there somewhere…
The restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton.
The fountain in the main courtyard.
The lights at the restaurant above our table.

The next morning we sat on the terrace enjoying our coffee and the beautiful sunrise. Following our morning coffee, we moved down to the restaurant. One could order from the menu or choose to go to the massive breakfast buffet. We opted for the buffet.  We had a wonderfully relaxing breakfast, sitting on the patio of the restaurant.

A pigeon enjoying the early morning on a ledge.
Two birds above our room.
The main courtyard and swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton.
Sunrize at the Ritz-Carlton.
Part of the vast grounds of the Ritz-Carlton. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is on the left.

After breakfast, the swimming pool beckoned. Leslie sat in the sun and read her book while I swam a little.
The scale of this hotel is incredible. I have stayed in many hotels around the world, but this one was massive. One can get an idea of the scale by looking at the photographs. The six and seven-story buildings of the hotel overlooking the pool seem endless. The size is similar inside too. Much of the common areas have ceilings some 25 feet above the passageways. The lobby is even more immense, with the ceilings there easily 40 feet above the beautifully inlaid marble floors. Many of the ceilings throughout the hotel are punctuated with enormous and beautiful chandeliers too. The colossal scale does not end there. Out the front of the hotel are dozens and dozens of private villas. They do not look so much like private hotel villas as they do an upscale neighborhood in Beverly Hills.
Speaking of Beverly Hills, I felt a little like Jed Clampet…just a little out of my league!

Reading by the pool.
The fountain in the main courtyard of the Ritz-Carlton.
The Ritz-Carlton as seen from the edge of the swimming pool.
A hotel across the canal from the Ritz-Carlton.
The far bridge is the Sheikh Zayed Bridge.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The main entry fountain.
The main entry fountain II.
The entry to the Ritz-Carlton.
The swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton.
A directory sign in the Ritz-Carlton.
A panorama of the main courtyard and swimming pool of the Ritz-Carlton.
Buildings across the canal from the Ritz-Carlton.

Looking at the lobby photograph, one can get an idea of the scale. Three large chandeliers are hanging from a tall vaulted ceiling. The marble floors below are exquisite.
One of the more unique things I have ever seen was the painting that hung above the bellman desk. It was a rectangular painting. Within the art were three pyramid-shaped pieces of canvas with flat tops. The paint covered the entire canvass, including the four sides of each of the pyramids. When one moved, the scene in the painting “moved” to adjust to one’s position. The shape of the pyramids caused this optical illusion. I don’t know that I would ever want one in my house, but it was quite amusing.

The chandeliers in the main lobby. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is visible through the window.
The “moving” painting.

We checked out of our room that afternoon, shortly before 15:00. The hotel stored our luggage, allowing us to partake in a late lunch. When we finished lunch, we lounged in the lobby area. We saw many fabulously dressed people arrive for a wedding. I do not want to think about what a wedding at the Ritz Carlton hotel must cost.
Our ride to the airport arrived at roughly 17:00. As we walked outside, I saw a silver Lamborghini parked near the door. I thought it looked great, but Leslie was not impressed.
The ride to the airport was quick. When we checked our baggage, we did not face any of the weight drama we had suffered in the Dulles airport, even though we had not left anything behind. For some reason, flying Etihad from an origin other than the United States meant the maximum weight allowed for each bag is 30kg per bag! The attendants never even asked to weigh our carry-on bags.
After going through passport control, we began our long walk to gate 46. When we were nearly at our gate, I saw the Etihad First Class Lounge. That reminded me that I had heard an announcement on one of our previous flights that there was an Etihad Economy Lounge. I left Leslie standing in the concourse while I approached the woman at the counter. I inquired as to the location of the Economy Lounge. She said it was in Terminal 1, about a 15 or 20-minute walk. I thanked her but said, never mind. I told her Leslie has trouble walking. The woman suddenly asked to see my boarding pass. She asked if we were both flying in economy. I replied, yes. Unexpectedly, she said she would make an exception this time. She allowed us to enter the lounge.
We were like peasants in the king’s palace, oohing and awing at everything. There were numerous types of food and snacks available. Of course, drinks were free and readily available. It was an excellent way to prepare for the final leg of our journey.

Directory sign in the Abu Dhabi International Airport first-class lounge.
Directional sign in the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

We left the lounge and went to our gate to wait for the final hour or so for our flight. Since we were going to have to climb stairs to get to the plane, we requested early boarding for Leslie. Shortly after that, we found out our 22:00 flight was delayed until about 22:30.
When the agents finally allowed boarding, they led us to a bus. By chance, we ended up right at the front door of the bus. Unfortunately, when the bus stopped at the plane, only the middle doors opened. Regardless, we were able to board reasonably quickly and easily.
The man I happened to sit beside was very aromatic, not in a good way. Then I noticed the same with some other passengers. I adjusted the fresh air vent to blow across my face.
Our delay continued to increase because we were waiting for about 40 passengers from a connecting flight. They finally arrived. We pushed back from the gate at about 23:05, a little more than an hour late.

The swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton with the night skyline of Abu Dhabi in the distance.
Pillar of Hercules

Pillar of Hercules

Gibraltar, United Kingdom – December 25, 2011

 

We spent our Christmas day, in part, on the road. We were on the way by about 07:00. We decided we would head to Gibraltar today. We made it to Gibraltar shortly before 09:00. The original plan was to park and then walk across the border. Work colleagues told me that the best strategy to avoid the hours-long wait in the car to go through border control. With the combination of Christmas day and an early hour, we drove right into Gibraltar with ease.

I am glad our trip worked out like that. We saw zero taxis operating, so if we had walked, we would have been very restricted in what we could see and do.

As we drove across the border, the Spanish National Police stopped our vehicle. The officer wanted to look at our passports. He quickly motioned us through. I said, “Feliz Navidad,” and drove away. In about 20 meters (65 feet), we stopped for another officer. I was not paying close attention. I greeted him with “Feliz Navidad.” He answered me back in English with a British accent! I said, “Oh, I guess we crossed the border.” He joked with me that the change in uniforms and the different flag should have been a clue! I switched to “Merry Christmas.” He smiled, thanked me, and then cleared us to enter Gibraltar.

The Rock of Gibraltar is massive. At its tallest point, it is 426 meters (1,398 feet) tall. The village is at its base and partway up the side of the slope.

The first oddity we noticed is that we drove directly across the runway of the Gibraltar International Airport to get into the city. When the runway is active, barriers drop down to keep cars from interfering with the air traffic. After driving about one kilometer, it dawned on me that I was driving on the right side of the road. Luckily, so was everyone else! It may be a British possession, but they do not operate on the left side.

We drove to the south end of Gibraltar, known as Europa Point. It was incredibly windy there. It was sunny, but it was very, very gusty. The sun was in contrast to our early morning drive. As has become the custom during this trip, we drove through the fog this morning. Also, it was windy during our journey too. At one point, in the mist, our TomTom took us on a road that was very obviously not on the main track. In the fog, we could see many strobe lights going on and off. I thought they were on power lines. As it turned out, they were on wind turbines. That was an odd part of the trip.

Anyway, back to Gibraltar. At Europa Point, there is a lighthouse and a mosque. The lighthouse is known as Trinity House. It was not open to the public. On the opposite end of the parking lot was the mosque. The sign on the mosque read:

Mosque of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

King Fahad Bin Abdul Aziz al Saud

Ships on the west side of Gibraltar.
A ship at anchor just offshore.
It seems there may be hell to pay if you do not obey!!
One of the tunnels at Gibraltar.
A panoramic view looking west.
The Europa Waterfall emerging from the rocky cliff.
Two ferries, probably enroute to ports in Morocco or the Spanish province of Ceuta.
Parson’s Lodge on top of the rock. Part of the El Quarry development is in the foreground.
Detail of the Europa Waterfall.
The mosque at Europa Point.
The mosque and the east side of Gibraltar.
The Trinity House Lighthouse at Europa Point.
Another view of the Trinity House Lighthouse at Europa Point.
The mosque at Europa Point.
A type of flowering cactus?

From the point, we decided to go to the town center. Once again, TomTom took us on a challenging route. Initially, we drove by St. Bernard’s Roman Catholic Church. It was not open, but I did take a few photos. From there, the road was steeply descending and became very narrow. At some points, the mirrors on the 4Runner were within an inch or two of either side.

St. Bernard’s Parish.
A statue at St. Bernard’s Parish.
Looking north along the west side of Gibraltar. The Buena Vista Battery is atop the rock cliff.

 

When we got back down near sea level, I stopped at a gas station for a “pit stop.” While I was parked waiting for everyone to come out, I noticed gasoline was £1.169 per liter; that equals US$6.94 per gallon! I did not buy any!

We found a place to park and began walking around town. We decided we would go to church to celebrate the birth of our Savior. We first walked by the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Gibraltar. The sign read The Cathedral Church of the Anglican Diocese in Europe. We passed by that church. A few blocks later, we found King’s Chapel (1560). We noticed the service was due to start at 10:30, in about five minutes. It was a Church of England. We went inside.

A deserted street near the town center.
Officer’s Barracks Number 16.
A family walking to the Christmas service at the Anglican Church.
A sign for an attorney’s office.
The entry to the King’s Chapel Anglican Church.
The story of the King’s Chapel.

Just outside the chapel, we saw a framed story about the chapel.  I thought it was interesting, so I have included it here.

  • This ancient chapel was built c. 1533 so completing the friary established here in c. 1480 by the Franciscan Order.
  • In 1704 Gibraltar was captured by a British force and this chapel became a Church of England place of worship, and the convent itself a residence for the governor.
  • The sieges which followed the capture caused damage until, finally, during the Great Siege (1779 – 1783) a large part of the nave had to be pulled down.
  • In the restoration (1783 – 1788) that part of the nave was permanently excluded from the chapel and it remains in this shortened form to this day.
  • The chapel was closed in 1833 upon the completion of a new garrison church (now the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity); it was re-opened in 1843.
  • Alterations were made in 1843 and 1877, an east window was added.  In 1887 the organ was installed after alterations had been made to accommodate it.
  • Major repairs were carried out in 1888 when the nave roof was renewed.  Minor alterations and further repairs were made in 1924.
  • On 27 April 1951, the ammunition ship Bedenham blew up in the harbor and once again the Kings Chapel sustained heavy damage.
  • In restoring it alterations and improvements have been made, details of which may be found in guide books and pamphlets available in the chapel.
  • Open daily for quiet, rest and prayer.

We found ourselves in a tiny chapel. Including us, the pastor, his wife, and his son, there were 27 of us there for the service. Listening to the service with the pastor’s British accent put a different touch on the service.

Various ancient flags above the worship space.
The altar and stained glass window above.
Interior of the King’s Chapel.
Canons across the street from the chapel.
I believe the Latin reads, “No enemy taken by storm.”
The highest point of Gibraltar rises dramatically above the town.

We left the church and walked around for a few minutes. We quickly decided to go since nothing was open. We drove back into Spain. Once again, we were the only car crossing the border.

It was about 12:30, so we decided to try to find something to eat. Just across the border, we stumbled upon La Braseron Asador de Carnes. When we entered, an employee told us we were about 30 minutes too early for lunch. So we sat in the bar and had a vino tinto, of course.

Right on cue, the waiter took us to our table. To start, we had Patatas Bravas, a type of diced, fried potatoes covered in a red sauce, served warm. We could hardly stop ourselves from eating them all.

For the main course, the kids had grilled chicken breast, and the adults each had a half chicken from a wood-fired oven. I have to say; it was the best chicken I can ever remember eating. For dessert, the kids had Tarta de Chocolate. Leslie and I had coffee. Soon after bringing our coffee, the waiter returned with some wrapped sweets for Leslie and I. He said they were traditional Spanish Christmas sweets. They were as follows:

  • Polvoron – ** (very crumbly, shortbread biscuit)
  • Mantecado de Cacao – * (Cream of Cocoa)
  • Mantecado de Canela – *** (Cream of Cinnamon)

The stars reflect our ranking of each one. The total for lunch came to 71.85€ (US$88); oh, small towns!! We left the restaurant and began our drive back to Rota.

Just outside of the town of Jerez de la Frontera, we drove by the Cartuja de Santa Maria de la Defension (Monastery of St. Mary of Defense). It was not completely open, but we were able to find out it dated from the late 1400s. Too bad we could not have gone to Christmas mass there!

Monastery of the Sisters of Bethlehem.

A large stone cross on the monastery grounds.
A gate leading to the inner grounds.
The church at the monastery.
A sculpture in a courtyard.
At the top of this ceramic tile piece is the Latin phrase, Mother of Mercy, pray for us. The tile at the lower left begins the story of Mary, the patron saint of Jerez de la Frontera, in the year 1268.
The top of this tile piece reads; our Redeemer, defend us from all evil. This story begins in the year 1368.
The top of this sign reads, bless my soul to the Lord my God, how great you are.  The four bullet points go on to say: *If you want to participate in the Mass and the liturgical services you can find the time at the door of the church.  *You can visit the atrium of the church from Tuesday to Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and the monastic artisan exhibition from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.  *If you need it, a sister can attend you from Tuesday to Saturday from 12:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Outside of these hours, if you have an emergency that can not wait, you can ring the bell.  *If the doorbell does not respond, try again after a few minutes.  If it does not work, you can call 956156465.  Thank you.
The façade of the church.
Our Lady of the Defense.
The left pillar of the main gate reads; The Charterhouse of Xerez.
The right pillar of the main gate reads; Monastery of the Sisters of Bethlehem.

Another unusual sight on the way back was the cactus fences. They looked like prickly pear cactus, but much more substantial. They stand about six feet tall and are in place of barriers on several of the farms we passed.

We arrived back at the Lodge at about 16:00.

Tunis Seminar

Tunis Seminar

Tunis, Tunisia – December 14, 2010

This trip marks my first time ever on the continent of Africa!  I am here to attend training on pest control at the embassy.

When I arrived at the airport it was dark, so it was very difficult to get my bearings.  An expediter from the embassy met me and helped me through immigration.  Once through, we collected my luggage and went to the car.

He drove me to the Ramada so I could check-in.  My room, 3138, overlooks the pool area. I can hear the Mediterranian Sea in the background. It is now about 21:30 and I am completely beat. I got up this morning at about 02:30 to catch my flight in Madrid, so it has been a long day.  My journey began early because I had to fly from Madrid to Paris.  In Paris, I had several hours layover at the airport before I could board my flight to Tunis.

Home away from home in Tunis.
The hotel swimming pool as seen from my room.
A sample of the local currency.
Relaxing with a glass of wine and a small snack.

My first full day was spent at the training. It was an interesting day. There will definitely be some things I can take back to Madrid to use there. On the evening of that first full day, we went to the restaurant Le Golfe. The name means “The Gulf’, referring to the Gulf of Tunis. The dinner was delicious. I had medallions of beef with two sauces; one, a brown pepper sauce and the other more of a white sauce. I topped it all off with an orange and lemon sorbet. The dinner was about 50 Tunisian Dinar, somewhere around US$35.

The swimming pool in the early morning.
The hotel swimming pool.
Pedestrians crossing as we drove to the embassy.
Morning traffic.
Driving to the embassy.

The training the next day was on the road.  Instead of sitting in a classroom at the embassy, we went as a group to several homes in the city to look at specific pest issues and learn how to mitigate them.  Periodically, we were able to stop to take in some of the local sights.

A roundabout with a mosque in the background.
A sign for the Tunisian Academy of Sciences.
The building housing the Tunisian Academy of Sciences.
Fishing in the Mediterranian Sea.
A feral cat.
Looking to the northwest along Avenue de la République.
Trees at the end of Avenue de la République.
A very calm Mediterranian Sea.
Ruins at Antonine Baths in the Carthage section of Tunis.
A tourist shop across from the Antonine Baths.
Some of my classmates looking over the items for sale.
At the Antonine Baths looking toward the Presidential Compound.
A wall at the Antonine Baths ends at the Mediterranian Sea.
A panoramic view of a portion of the Antonine Baths.
Many types of footwear for sale across from the Antonine Baths.
Another tourist shop near the Antonine Baths.

On that second day, after the seminar, my friend Gary and I went to the Carthage Museum. It was very cold that afternoon, but the museum was very interesting. The city the Carthaginians built was a real marvel for its time. Apparently, it so threatened the Romans that they came in and literally destroyed the town. Even still, the ruins were fascinating.

The house of the son of the President of Tunisia nearing the end of construction.
Looking east across the Gulf of Tunis.
The back of a tiled bench.
The Harbor Sidi Bou Said as seen from an overlook. The east side of the Gulf of Tunis is in the distance.
A frog or toad near the sidewalk.
Some flowers growing near a wall.
A beautiful bloom
A typical door in Tunis.
Yours truly posing by the door.
Same door, same yours truly.
A staff member looking out of a door.
Three amigos in Tunis for training.
The class photo.
A poinsettia plant.
A unique flowering plant.
A palm tree at the top of the stairs.
A very red Mini Cooper.
A hand-stenciled, wooden license plate.
Detail of a typical home in Tunis.
A garden statue.
Yet another garden statue.
The instructor sharing methods to deal with mosquitos.
Detail of a palm tree.
A Tunisian flag flying near the Carthage Museum.
Remains of columns at the Carthage Museum.
One of my classmates at the Carthage Museum.
Ruins of a Carthaginian city dating from as far back as the seventh century B.C.
The ruins are known as Byrsa Hill.
Another view of the ruins.
View toward the Carthage Museum.
Domes of the Acropolium of Carthage.
Detail of a mosaic.
Detail of a mosaic II.
Detail of a mosaic III.
A statue at the Carthage Museum.
A second statue.
A mosaic floor from an ancient building.
Posing with a very large head.
Posing with a rather large head at the Carthage Museum.
A map of the Mediterranian at the height of the Carthage influence.
A model of a portion of the city.
An artist’s rendition of what the Carthaginian city may have looked like.
Detail of a mosaic outside the museum.
Detail of a mosaic outside the museum II.
A panoramic view from Byrsa Hill.
Portions of columns.
The Acropolium of Carthage, a musical venue.
The entrance for the Carthage Museum.
A souvenir shop closed for the day.

When we were through, our friend Jim came to the museum to pick us up and take us to his home for dinner.  On the way to his home, he drove us through the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.  Interred there are hundreds from the North Africa battles of World War II. It was a moving sight.

The many graves at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.
A statue at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial. The inscription reads, “Honor to Them That Trod the Path of Honor.”
An inscription at the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial. It reads, “Here we and all who shall hereafter live in freedom will be reminded that to these men and their comrades we owe a debt to be paid with grateful remembrance of their sacrifice and with the high resolve that the cause for which they died shall live.”

While I was at the training, Leslie’s birthday came and went.  As part of my gift to her, I had my classmates write a birthday wish to Leslie.  The only catch was that the wish had to be in their native language.  I thought it turned out well.

Birthday greetings are written to Leslie in several languages.
Birthday greetings are written to Leslie in several languages, page 2.

On the way home from Tunis, I did not have to go through Paris.  I had a direct flight from Tunis to Madrid.  At just a little over two hours, that made the return journey much more tolerable.

This trip really taught me to have a “plan B” set up whenever I travel. Just a week or two after departing Tunis, the Arab Spring riots began. Jim, the same man with whom we had dinner after our museum visit, had his wife and children evacuated out of Tunisia because of the unrest. At one point, he had a tank sitting in front of his house for several weeks.  I am very happy I was able to get out of the country before all of this trouble began.