Tag: Police

Christchurch – Everything is Going to be Alright

Christchurch – Everything is Going to be Alright

Christchurch, New Zealand – November 2, 2016

Everything is going to be alright…according to the sign on the Christchurch Art Gallery.  The neon phrase is 46 meters (151 feet) long.  One cannot miss it, particularly at night.  Unveiled in 2015 as part of the Christchurch Art Gallery reopening following the 2011 earthquake it is one of a series of neon work done by Martin Creed.

Say no more…

I was in Christchurch as part of a team preparing for the visit of Secretary of State John Kerry.  His ultimate destination was “the ice.”  He was to visit some of the facilities of the United States Antarctic Program (USAP).  The departure point for flights to the USAP McMurdo Station is a corner of the Christchurch International Airport.  The flights are on Boeing C-17 Globemaster operated by the United States Air Force.

To make sure everything was ready for his visit, the team went to the USAP offices and clothing distribution center.  Those are in buildings just across the street from the airport.  The clothing distribution center is essentially a large warehouse with all sorts of winter-weather gear.  The gear is checked out and fitted to those making the trip.  During the fitting, the travelers are given an in-depth briefing on the dangers of the Antarctic and how to deal with emergencies.

Entry to the USAP terminal.
The Clothing Distribution Center.
Poster delineating what must be worn or carried on all flights.
The various clothing items that may be issued for a trip to the “ice.”
A Boeing C17 Globemaster.
One of the airport support buildings.

Before going to the ice, the Secretary had several engagements in Christchurch. As soon as there was a decent weather-window, he and his entourage were off to the airport. It is about a five-hour flight. He was to spend at least one night there, depending on the weather at the Antarctic.
While he was gone, we spent time preparing for his return. In the off-hours, I wandered around the city, taking photographs.My restaurant of choice became The Rockpool. It is a sports bar/pool hall/restaurant. One day for lunch, I decided to have a Whitebait Butty sandwich. Whitebait is a small fish, about the size of a sardine. It is a favorite fish in New Zealand. I had wanted to try it, so I took the plunge.
The sandwich is made up of a whitebait fritter and two large, toasted, and buttered pieces of bread. The fritter is egg and the fish. I thought it was good enough; however, I do not know that I need to have another.
The Rockpool is where I had dinner with some of the team as we watched the results of the U. S. presidential race.  At many points during the meal, there were collective groans throughout the restaurant as it became apparent that Donald Trump would win the election.  The newspapers the next day demonstrated the frayed feelings of New Zealanders as it related to our new president.

The Rockpool Restaurant and Bar.
A Whitebait Butty sandwich.
The November 10, 2016 edition of the Dominion Post.
The November 10, 2016 edition of The Press.

Walking around town, one does not have to look hard to see the remnants of the February 22, 2011 earthquake. The scars from that 6.2 magnitude earthquake are everywhere in the central business district. One of the most notable, or at least the most visited, would have to be the Christchurch Cathedral. The western ¼ of the Cathedral is gone, lying in ruin on the ground. There are supports in place to keep other parts of the Cathedral from falling. Unfortunately, it is no longer a place of worship, but rather a home for pigeons. If anything, it presents an eerie, but a strong memorial to the 185 people who were killed that February afternoon.
The Cathedral Square area seems to be becoming more and more vibrant. There are several art installations and frequent visits from various food trucks. The Christchurch Tramway streetcars also have a stop at the square. That means people are always coming and going from the area.

Panorama of the damaged Christchurch Cathedral.
Flag Wall by Sara Hughes (2014) at Cathedral Square.
Chalice by Neil Dawson (2001) at Cathedral Square.
View of Planted Whare by Chris Heaphy at Cathedral Square. The word “whare” is Maori for the house.
Food trucks at Cathedral Square.

About four blocks east of the damaged Cathedral, one finds the Christchurch Transitional Cathedral.  That is the “replacement” worship space for the Anglican parish displaced by the earthquake.  Locally it is known as the “cardboard cathedral.”  That is because it is made substantially of cardboard.  It is most visible when one looks at the cylindrical forms used to support the roof.  They are quite literally forms, used when pouring concrete in the ground for footings or foundations.  It is a unique look.

The Christchurch Transitional Cathedral.
The Christchurch Transitional Cathedral.

Just a few blocks north of the Transitional Cathedral is the Firefighters Reserve, a memorial to firefighters worldwide. Its focal point is steel beams from the World Trade Center donated by the City of New York to the City of Christchurch. It is moving in its simplicity beside the Avon River.

A plaque at the Firefighters Reserve, a 9/11 Memorial. “A Tribute to Firefighters. This sculpture was designed by Graham Bennett. The steel, from the New York World Trade Center site, was gifted by the City of New York to the City of Christchurch to honor all firefighters worldwide. 26 October 2002.”
Detail of the 9/11 memorial.
Steel beams from the Twin Towers.

On one of my walks, I visited the Canterbury Museum. In 2016, Air New Zealand celebrated its 75th anniversary. To commemorate that, the museum had a special exhibit. I thought it was fascinating. As a collector-come-hoarder (some would say) I particularly liked the numerous old advertising posters. My favorite was of the plane taking off in the evening over Wellington.
There was a darker piece of the exhibit. That was the area dedicated to the tragic November 28, 1979, Antarctic flight. On that day, an Antarctic sightseeing flight from Auckland crashed on Mount Erebus. All 257 aboard were killed.

75th Anniversary sign.
A NAC plane flying over Wellington.
Memorabilia from an earlier Air New Zealand Antarctic sightseeing trip. About two and one-half years later, a sightseeing plane crashed, killing all 257 aboard.

Adjacent to the museum is the Botanical Gardens. At the entry-point, one encounters the Peacock Fountain. It is not named after the bird, but rather the man; John Thomas Peacock. Upon his death in 1905, he bequeathed a large amount of money to the Christchurch Beautifying Society. The Society used the money to install the fountain.
The 7.6 meters (25 feet) tall fountain is imposing. Erected in 1911, it was ultimately dismantled and placed in storage in 1949. Restoration efforts began in the 1980s. Very nearly half of the more than 300 pieces had to be recast. The rededication of the fountain in its current location was in 1996. It is indeed a sight worth seeing.
I found another fountain in the Gardens, the Regret Fountain. At roughly six meters (20 feet), it is not quite as tall as the Peacock Fountain, but it is impressive in its way. Sam Mahon is the fountain sculptor. The installation dates to 1997. That is a lever at the edge of the fountain beckoning people to push. When pushed, the fountain comes to life. I witnessed several people do that while I was there.

The Peacock Fountain at the Botanic Gardens.
The Regret Fountain.
Watching the Regret Fountain.
Trying out the Regret Fountain.

At the southeast corner of the park, at the end of a dirt path, is a Tudor-style house.  It is known as the Curators House and is now a restaurant.  I stopped by and noticed it was a Spanish restaurant.  That immediately put it on my list for that night’s dinner.

It was about a three-block walk from my hotel to the restaurant.  Once seated, I struck up a conversation with my server in Spanish.  She was surprised not only by me speaking Spanish, but Spanish with a Castillan accent.  That was fun to dust off my language skills.

The Curators House Restaurant.

For my starter, I had to have Patatas Bravas. Here it consisted of hand-cut potato wedges topped with spicy oven-roasted capsicum, tomato dressing, and aioli. That was one of my favorite tapas when we lived in Spain.
I followed that delicious tapa with Pescado a la Plancha (chargrilled fish). The menu described the dish as fish of the day with Canary Island style mojo verde, herbed vinaigrette, and sautéed seasonal vegetables. The fish of the day was an entire sole. It was easily the size of a dinner plate. I was not able to eat the whole serving, but what I had was so rich and delicious. I had zero room left for dessert. The walk back to the hotel helped settle my colossal meal.Later in the week, I stopped at the Christchurch Art Gallery. For such a small museum, they have an extraordinary collection. A couple of my favorites are the painting No! and the sculpture Survey #4. No! by Tony Fomison (1971) reminds me of the phrase, “talk to the hand.” Survey #4 by Peter Trevelyan (2013-2014) is impressive because the entire sculpture is made from 0.5mm mechanical pencil leads. I do not believe I could have come up with such an idea in a million years.
I also liked Portrait of O’Donnell Moffett by Rita Angus (c. 1939). I think what strikes me about that painting is the fact a copy of it appears on the wall of a building on New Regent Street. More about that soon.
On the exterior of the gallery, my two favorite pieces are Chapman’s Homer, a sculpture by Michael Parekowhai (2011).  I guess that is because the bull reminds me of Spain.  I also enjoyed the whimsical sculpture Quasi by Ronnie van Hout (2016).  Even though it is on the roof of the gallery, at five-meters (16 feet), it is easily seen from the ground.

Detail of No! by Tony Fomison (1971).
Detail of Survey #4 by Peter Trevelyan (2013-2014). It is a small sculpture made of 0.5mm mechanical pencil leads.
Detail of Portrait of O’Donnell Moffett by Rita Angus (c. 1939).
The sculpture Chapman’s Homer by Michael Parekowhai (2011).
Quasi sculpture.

About a block away from the gallery is The Arts Centre. The center is an extensive collection of neo-gothic style buildings dating from the early 20th Century. The buildings were severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake and had been undergoing painstaking restoration. The buildings were originally the University of Canterbury.

The Arts Centre building.
Stay by Sir Antony Gormley (2015).
Building on the grounds of the Arts Centre.
Detail of a stained glass window at the Arts Centre.

Maybe it is because there are a lot of buildings that no longer exist, leaving bare walls; but there is a lot of wall art in the central business district of Christchurch. They are each colorful and eye-catching in their way. One of those is the copy of the Rita Angus work on the north end of the buildings on New Regent Street. That area of two-story buildings dates to 1932. It is a genuinely colorful area of the CBD with many boutique shops and cafes. The pastel colors of the buildings repeat every fourth building. It can be a bustling area, especially when the streetcars pass along the pedestrian-friendly street.

New Regent Street looking south. Note the wall with the Portrait of O’Donnell Moffett. The original is at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Wall art. This is on the west wall of the Isaac Theatre Royal on Gloucester Street.
Wall art detail.
Have you paid for your wall art? This was on the west wall of the abandoned building at 159 Hereford Street.
Wall art. The walls meeting in the corner is just an illusion. The wall is actually parallel to the camera.
Art on the west wall of 113 Worcester Street.

The Re:START mall is another unique feature of the post-earthquake CBD.  Since so many of the stores in the CBD were destroyed, the Re:START mall tried to pump life back into the area with stores in shipping containers.  That idea has helped keep the CBD shopping alive.  It is in a beautiful setting near the Bridge of Remembrance and the Avon River terrace seating.  There always seems to be an abundance of people in the area.

A portion of Re:START mall.
Champions mannequins are outdone by the reflection of mannequins in dresses.
The Re:START mall.
Avon River terraced seating.

One evening, even though it was raining, I went out for a photo walk. It was a little uncomfortable and challenging, but I think I got some excellent photos; mainly since I was working without a tripod.

The east side of the Bridge of Remembrance.
Quasi, a sculpture by Ronnie van Hout at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
The Worcester Boulevard bridge over the Avon River.
The Maori pouwhenua at the Christchurch City Council building. The inscription translates to the mooring post.
A flock of Korus.
A silver fern.
Kayaks on the Avon River.
Punt boat on the Avon River.
The abandoned Harley building.
The building at 159 Oxford Terrace.
156 Oxford Terrace.
Waterwheel on the Avon River at the Hereford Street bridge.
A building being demolished across from the Cathedral.
Looking north on New Regent Street.
Building facades.
Bustling New Regent Street.
A streetcar turning onto New Regent Street.
Sidewalk cafe on New Regent Street.
A police car driving by the Cathedral.
Flag Wall.
Flag Wall and Cathedral Square.
The north wall of 156 Oxford Terrace.
A streetcar crossing the Avon River.
Detail of the Maori pouwhenua at the Christchurch City Council building.
The Firefighters Reserve.
Duck and eel.
Mamma and the babies.
Mamma and the babies II.
Mamma over the eels.
Avon River terraced seating.
Duck on the Avon.
The Avon River flowing by the Bridge of Remembrance.
The East side of the Bridge of Remembrance.
The east side of the Bridge of Remembrance.
Avon River as seen from the Manchester Street bridge.
Mural on the east wall of the UniMed building at 165 Gloucester Street.
Looking west toward the intersection of Hereford Street and Manchester Street.
The You Are Here Sign sculpture by Matt Akehurst (2011).
Side view of Quasi by Ronnie van Hout.
Detail of Chapman’s Homer.
Post-earthquake bracing.
Road Closed.
Street markings.
Sunning on the deck.
The Manchester Street bridge over the Avon River.
The Edmonds Clock Tower.
The Avon River from the Madras Street bridge.
Reflective Lullaby by Gregor Kregar (2013).
In the belly of the gnome.
The sculpture Bebop by Bill Culbert (2013) hangs over the main staircase at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
A streetcar along Worcester Boulevard.
NAC, the National Airways Corporation, was the forerunner to Air New Zealand.
A 1970’s Tahiti poster.
A TEAL poster with Maori designs.
A TEAL poster.
Travel posters from days gone by.
Entry to the Canterbury Museum.
Spring flowers.
The sculpture, Reasons for Voyaging by Graham Bennett (2007).
The back side of the elevator structure for the Christchurch Art Gallery parking garage.
Wreaths at the base of the Bridge of Remembrance.
View toward the west side of the Christchurch Cathedral.
The lobby of the Christchurch Art Gallery.
The sculpture Bebop by Bill Culbert (2013) hangs over the main staircase at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Detail of In the Wizard’s Garden by George Dunlop Leslie (c. 1904).
Detail of La Lecture de la Bible by Henriette Browne (1857).
Detail of Soldiers in a Village by Joost Droochsloot (c. 1640).
Detail of Cottage Interior with Kitchen Maid artist unknown (c. 1660).
An abandoned building at the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Cambridge Terrace.
The Worcester Boulevard bridge over the Avon River.
Columns in front of the Christchurch Returned and Services’ Association. Gallipoli and Chunuk Bair are both sites in Turkey from WWI.
The wall of remembrance at the Christchurch Returned and Services’ Association.
Quasi, a sculpture by Ronnie van Hout at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Directions and a bull on the piano.
Everything is going to be alright…
The Maori pouwhenua at the Christchurch City Council building.
The Worcester Boulevard bridge over the Avon River.
Hereford Street bridge over the Avon River.
The west side of the Bridge of Remembrance.
The office building housing the United States Antarctic Program.
Apparently, it is everywhere…



Oslo, Norway – July 8, 2015

Around 05:00-ish, the Regal Princess smoothly glided northerly in the Outter Oslofjord, heading toward port in Oslo, Norway. It was very relaxing to sit on the balcony and watch the sights of the fjord silently slip by the ship. It was a long passage. We did not dock in Oslo until about 10:00 on this gray and rainy day. The temperature was somewhere around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and hazy with low cloud cover. The water had a blue-gray tint. The sea was very calm.

At times, in both the Outer and Inner Oslofjords, the rain was ferocious.

The previous night we slept with our balcony door wide open. I thought that was very comfortable. It was chilly, which made for good sleeping. We could hear the sound of the sea as the ship cut through the water. For me, that was very relaxing.
The scenery from our balcony was beautiful. Some areas were an utterly pristine forest, from the cloudy hilltops, ending at the rocky seashore. Some areas had houses interspersed throughout. Looking at several homes on a hillside reminded me of looking at houses on the hill in Cascade, Colorado. At one point, at the end of Oscarsborg island, there was a military gun emplacement. It is the Oscarsborg Fortress, charged with defending the seaward approach to Oslo.

Homes along the shore of the picturesque Outer Oslofjord.
Gun emplacement at the south end of Oscarsborg Fortress on Oscarsborg Island. This is in the Inner Oslofjord.
A closer view of the gun emplacement at Oscarsborg Fortress.
One of the buildings on Oscarsborg Island.
The small dock at Oscarsborg Island is visible in the lower right.
The dock area and white hotel at Oscarsborg Island.
A wider view as the cruise ship slips by Oscarsborg Island.
The rugged coast of the Inner Oslofjord.

Marinas, along with colorful buildings and homes, seemed to be everywhere. One must wonder just what life is like this far north.
From our balcony, once we had docked, we saw water taxis of various sizes and ferries continually moving to and from Oslo. We even saw a seaplane go by at one point. The weather did not seem to deter anyone on their travels.

One of the many ferries we passed on this cold and rainy morning.
I am not sure what building is at the lower left, but it reminds one of something built from Legos.
A lone seaplane flying above the fjord.
A sightseeing boat approaching the port of Oslo.
Sheets of rain plagued our arrival to Oslo.
The Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art at Oslo.
A larger ferry departing Oslo.
City hall as seen from the Oslo port.
As the cruise ship was preparing to dock, Akershus Fortress and Castle came into view.

When we got off the ship, we boarded one of the Hop-On-Hop-Off buses that were right by the cruise ship dock. It was raining very hard. We ended up getting off the bus near the royal palace. It was beautiful even though we did not go inside.

The rather red interior of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus at the port of Oslo. The windows on the right are those of the cruise ship.

We tried to keep the perpetual rain from dampening our spirits. We ended up walking around the palace area of town, seeing some magnificent architecture such as the University of Oslo and the National Theater buildings.

Det Kongelige Slott or The Royal Palace of Norway.
A closer view of the Royal Palace entry.
Wet tourists on a wet day, walking along a wet street, in front of a wet Scandinavian Institute of Maritime Law.
The front of the Nationaltheatret.
A sculpture on the side of the Nationaltheatret.
An advertisement for some of the upcoming works at the Nationaltheatret.
One of the many trolleys operating in the area.
Some flowers in the park enjoying the rain.
More flowers soaking in the rain.
The rain continued as tourists took in the sights of a small park. The pond is used as an ice skating rink in the winter.

We also saw the Oslo Radhus (city hall). It has an art deco style, no doubt due to construction beginning in 1931. This building is world-famous as the home of the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony that occurs every year on December 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Probably the most eye-catching feature of the building is the astrological clock. The twelve signs of the zodiac are interspersed on the face of the clock. I must say with all of the hands; I was a little stumped on just how to tell the time.

At the end of the street is the Oslo city hall.
The entry to the Oslo city hall.
Detail of the clock at the Oslo city hall.
The fountain at the front entrance to the Oslo city hall.

Ultimately we found a store in which to do some shopping for Norway tourist junk. It was easy to find all of the “junk” we could ever want. We found refrigerator magnets, office magnets, moose lanyards, and even moose underwear!
Leaving the shopping behind, we stopped at a street-side cafe on Karl Johans Gate, Egon. Our server, Lorena, was amiable. She was actually from Grand Canary, in the Canary Islands of Spain. She said she had been in Oslo for only one week. When we inquired what had prompted her to come to Norway, she replied she had just gotten divorced. Regardless, she was very happy and quite keen to talk to us.
After having such a large breakfast on the ship, we were not yet hungry. Instead, we shared a pitcher of Ringnes, a Norwegian beer.

The sidewalk seating area of Egon Restaurant.
Lorena, our very nice and friendly Spanish server at Egon Restaurant.
My Oslo companion!
Pedestrians passing by Egon Restaurant.

When we finished the beer, we got back on the bus and sat through numerous stops. We chose to see the sights from the bus, letting the others hop on and hop off. The bus drove through some rural areas with horses and cattle scattered in the lush green fields. It is a lovely country.

An ornate metal door.
A quaint looking coffee shop in Oslo.
A view of our cruise ship across from some construction.
The Auster Salon and Academy in Oslo.
A view into an office while stopped at a red light in Oslo.
A portion of the Frognerkilen Marina.
Horses in a paddock in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
A beautiful home in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
People getting off the bus near a telephone booth in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
One of the typical buildings we rode by in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
Some dairy cows in the Bygdøy area of Oslo.
A new complex of offices and apartments.
People were out and about despite the weather.
A typical side street in Oslo.

We got off the bus at the cruise ship dock. Directly across the street from the ship is Akershus Fortress and Castle. It cost about $7 for both of us to enter.  It was still raining hard, so it was nice to be inside, dry and relatively warm.

The path to the entry point of the Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo.
The welcome sign to the fortress. The cruise ship is in the background.
A lonely canon overlooking the harbor.
The ancient canons seem to be trained on the cruise ship.

The castle, built in 1300, offered a self-guided tour with headphones. Surprisingly, there was a lot of the palace open to visitors. I found it to be the “coziest” castle we have ever toured. I imagine that is due to the much smaller scale of this castle. For example, compared to the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Akershus Castle is more like a country retreat.
There is a royal guard at the main entrance to the castle. There is an active military base still on the grounds. The guard stands stoically, neither speaking or moving…until a tourist tried to pose for a photograph on his right side, his weapon side. He immediately motioned that she must stand on his left. Once that happened, he allowed several pictures.

A couple exiting Akershus Fortress near the royal guard.
A royal guard at one of the entries to the Akershus Fortress.
A portion of the fortress viewed from inside the perimeter wall.
A lonely soul walking in the rain at the fortress.
Our cruise ship awaits.
Looking out of a gun-port at the Akershus Fortress.
A courtyard area within the Akershus Fortress.
The royal coat of arms inside the Akershus Fortress.
A painting and a piece of furniture inside the Akershus Castle.
Detail of some clothing on display in the Akershus Castle.

The castle still houses the royal chapel. In the chapel, one can see the royal box or balcony. That is obviously where the royals sit when they attend services.  The seating toward the front were individual chairs.  Farther back were some traditional pews.

View of the Akershus Castle Church from the rear of the church.
Detail of the altar in the Akershus Castle church.
The Royal Crest on the altar in the Akershus Castle church.
The Royal seating area in the Akershus Castle church.
The organ at the rear of the Akershus Castle church.
Detail of the end of a pew in the Akershus Castle church.  The monogram denotes King Haakon VII, the great grandfather of the current monarch, King Harald V.
A bible on display in the Akershus Castle church.
Looking through the rolled-glass windows from the Akershus Castle church toward the cruise ship.

The royal mausoleum, as one might imagine, is directly below the chapel. Our visit to the crypt reminded me of our trip to El Escorial in Spain.

Detail of the gate to the Royal Mausoleum crypt of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud as well as King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha.
The white sarcophagus contains the remains of King Haakon VII and Queen Maud. The years of death were 1957 and 1938. The green sarcophagus contains the remains of King Olav V and Crown Princess Märtha. The years of death were 1991 and 1954 respectively.

One of the oddest things I saw were two small pieces of stained glass in the Hall of Olav V. Most of the scenes were religious; however, two stood out. They each looked like characters from the Ghostbusters movie. That was a little strange for something dating from 1300.

Ghostbusters stained glass.
Ghostbusters stained glass II.
A more traditional stained glass.
The entire stained glass rosette.
The upper hall in Akershus Castle.
The opposite end of the upper hall in Akershus Castle. This puts the stained glass rosette in perspective.
A room in the Akershus Castle.
A suit of armor on display in the Akershus Castle.
Additional tapestries in the Akershus Castle.
A tapestry in the Akershus Castle.
A sword on the wall in the Akershus Castle.
Several flags on display in the Akershus Castle.
Detail of a royal flag in the Akershus Castle.
Detail of a royal flag in Akershus Castle.
One of the larger reception rooms in Akershus Castle.
A room in Akershus Castle with period furniture.
Another room and fireplace in Akershus Castle.
Detail of a tapestry in the castle.
Louise (1724-1751) of Great Britain, Queen Consort of Denmark and Norway. Married to King Frederick V of Denmark.
Seating for 70 in this dining room in Akershus Castle.
Coat of arms of King Frederick IV of Denmark and Norway (1699 to 1730).
Tapestry detail in Akershus Castle.
A fireplace in Akershus Castle.
The bow of the Regal Princess.
A little bit of civilization by the fjord.
“Illegal Immigration Started with Columbus.” I shall notify the Consul General…
Detail of the handles on the canons near the Akershus Fortress.
The canon seems to be holding the cruise ship at bay.
A boat heading to the dock.
A view of the port of Oslo. Near the top of the hill, one can see the Olympic ski jump installation.
Boats and ships everywhere.
Flowers for my bride to begin our cruise.
A cloudy, rainy day.
A motor yacht going by the cruise ship.
A ferry departing the port of Oslo.
A seagull checking out the photographer.

When we left the castle, we boarded the ship to prepare for dinner.



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.
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.
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.
Back in the D.C. Area

Back in the D.C. Area

Washington, D. C. – December 8, 2014

My arrival back in the DC area was wet.

A rainy, wet return to Arlington.

During my stay, I worked at the headquarters of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO). I worked there while I continued my agonizing wait for a visa so I could fulfill my assignment to Islamabad, Pakistan.
On one of the clear weekends, I decided I would walk about the Washington, D.C. area. Since my profession deals with buildings, I thought it appropriate to travel to the National Building Museum. I clambered aboard the Metro, disembarking at the Gallery Place – Chinatown Station. Once I was back on the ground level, I opted to stop at a Starbucks for a coffee and blueberry muffin. After my coffee, I had to take a photo of the Friendship Archway that marks Chinatown.

A group of people at the Starbucks in Chinatown at H and 7th Streets NW in Washington, D.C.
The Friendship Archway in Chinatown in Washington, D.C.

With the preliminaries out of the way, it was time to walk to the National Building Museum. Within a couple of blocks, I was at my destination.
From the outside, the building appears as an immense redbrick structure. There is not much ornamentation on the exterior. Once inside, the sheer scale of the interior space overpowers one. There are massive marble and gold painted columns throughout the atrium area. Apparently, in addition to being built for the United States Pension Bureau, the space lent itself to political gatherings.

Looking along the center of the atrium in the National Building Museum.
A view of the seemingly endless columns in the atrium area of the National Building Museum.
The fountain in the center of the atrium.
Workers setting up for a holiday choir performance.
A man and his family traversing a hallway on the upper level of the National Building Museum.
A strange device in this day and age… This payphone was tucked away near the toilets in the National Building Museum.
A sign commemorating the completion of the building to house the United States Pension Bureau. It is now home to the National Building Museum.

While the museum was nicely done, it was not one of my favorites. After buying my perquisite refrigerator magnet from the gift shop, I exited the museum to the south. I found myself facing the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. That was a bit of luck.
As an ex-cop, I have a special place in my heart for the police; especially those who have fallen on duty. I can still vividly recall sergeants reading accounts of fallen officers to us during squad meetings. That seems so far away now. Regardless, the memorial is understated but tastefully done. The names of the fallen are engraved on a curved marble knee-wall. Throughout the grounds are bronze statues of lions and lionesses watching over the names. Probably due to the time of year, there were many colorful wreaths placed throughout the memorial. The walls at the monument hold more than 21,000 names of fallen officers. It was a poignant reminder having a couple of police cars parked near the memorial.

A lion sculpture at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The curved wall holds the names of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
The emblem in the center of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Another lioness sculpture watches over the names of the fallen, while, appropriately, a police car is parked nearby.
A lioness sculpture above the inscription, “In Valor There is Hope.”
A view of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The National Building Museum is in the background.
The memorial and the museum side by side.
Looking back at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
A lioness sculpture and wreathes at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Looking over the roof of patrol car 9510 to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Near the end of my visit, I noticed a sign for the National Law Enforcement Memorial Visitors Center and Store. The location of the store is 400 7th Street NW. That was about three blocks away. I walked there, collected some souvenirs, and continued on my way.
Perchance, I stumbled across the Navy Memorial. Since my son is now a sailor, that was a unique find. Across the street to the east is the memorial to the Great Army of the Republic.

As seen from across the street, the Navy Memorial is very unassuming.
The bronze sculpture of a seaman at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The compass rose at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial to the Grand Army of the Republic is at the Indiana Plaza in Washington, D.C.

Across the street to the south is the National Archives Museum. As I crossed the road, I saw a couple trying to entice a squirrel just a bit closer so they could get a photograph. I am not sure if they were successful or not because I continued to the front of the building. It was the first time I had ever visited the museum. I was awestruck by the founding documents of the United States. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are all on display. It was genuinely fascinating to see them in person. I liked this museum much more than the National Building Museum.

A couple trying to entice a squirrel into a photo op.
A sculpture at the National Archives above the inscription, “Study the Past.”
The pediment on the south side of the Archives of the United States of America.
A sculpture at the south side of the Archives building. The inscription reads, “The Heritage of the Past is the Seed that Brings Forth the Harvest of the Future.”

The following weekend I was back in Washington, D.C. Following a stunning sunrise, I returned to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Leslie, Hillary, Tyler, and I visited the Basilica in 2009 while we were stationed in the area for training with the Department of State. I found it every bit as impressive on this visit. That may be due in part to the Christmas decorations.

The stunning sunrise from my apartment. One can see an airplane on final approach to Reagan National Airport.
Stunning sunrise II.
Stunning sunrise III.

For those who have not visited the Basilica, it is difficult to get a sincere feeling for the scale and grandeur by merely looking at photographs. It is by far the largest church in which I have ever been. I shall cease the narrative now and try to let the pictures of this magnificent structure tell the story. The narration shall resume after the Basilica photographs.

The front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The rosette over the main door to the Basilica.
The southern face of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
A similar view of the Basilica.
The main dome of the Basilica is visible just beyond the front rosette.
The tomb of Bishop Thomas Joseph Shahan (1857 – 1932) in the Founder’s Chapel. His is the only burial in the Basilica.
Dozens and dozens of donors to the Basilica are listed in Memorial Hall.
The mosaic behind the altar in the Mary, Queen of Missions Chapel.
Detail of the mosaic behind the altar in the Mary, Queen of Missions Chapel.
Our Lady of La Vang.
The Crypt Church on the lower level of the Basilica.
Women placing poinsettias in the Crypt Church.
Detail of the mosaic at Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu.
The stained glass door to the lower level sacristy.
A mosaic depiction of Joseph in the North Apse of the lower level.
The mosaic of Jesus in the North Apse is just behind the tabernacle.
Our Lady of Vailankanni.
The Schudi Organ in the Crypt Church on the lower level.
A man cleaning the floor in front of the Nativity scene in the Crypt Church.
Our Lady of Hope Chapel.
Detail of the Our Lady of Hope Chapel.
Pope John Paul II?
The Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel.
A painted crucifix.
The Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
A mosaic in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.
Detail from behind the altar in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.
Our Lady of Pompeii.
A sculpture of Mary and Jesus surrounded by Christmas trees.
The Mother of Divine Providence sculpture on the lower level.
Detail of the Mother of Divine Providence sculpture.
The Holy Family at Rest bronze. Note the stained glass reflection.
A sculpture of Saint Maria Goretti on the side of the pews in the upper church.
Part of the tour group listening to the guide while in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.
Detail of the mosaic behind the altar in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.
The painting behind the altar in the Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel.
The mosaic of Christ on the ceiling of the North Apse.
Detail of Christ on the ceiling in the North Apse.
Wider view of Christ on the ceiling of the North Apse.
The tour group marveling at the West Apse.
A small mosaic of fishes and loaves of bread.
A mosaic of Joseph with Jesus on the ceiling of the East Apse.
In the Founder’s Chapel with our tour guide.
In the Memorial Hall.
A sculpture of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in the Hall of American Saints.
Our Mother of Africa.
A bas relief in the Hall of Our Mother of Africa.
The guide providing information in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
Stained glass detail of Jesus in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.
Stained glass detail of Mary and Jesus in the Byzantine-Ruthenian Chapel.