Inside The Pointy Obelisk

Long time readers of my blog know that I absolutely love tall things. Whenever I get into a new city, I generally like to find the tallest thing around and climb it. I get a little bit King Kongy, albeit from the inside. If it’s got an observation deck, you’ll observe me wanting to go to there.

When I arrived in Arlington in August, however, the Washington Monument was closed to inside visitors. It had only just reopened in September of 2019 after a three-year renovation to the elevator controls and security screening area and then had to close down again six months later because of Covid 19.

As you might imagine, I was incredibly stoked when they announced that it would reopen on October 1st, even with a limited capacity. In order to visit now, you have to get a timed entrance ticket from the recreation.gov site. A very limited number of tickets would be available each day, and each group would only get 10 minutes at the Observation level. They opened the Monument on schedule, and I tried a few times a week to snag one of the precious few visitor slots for each day that I might be able to visit.

On October 28th, I was finally able to snag a slot for the following day, soon after I finished my work for the day. I was incredibly excited to finally get to go up inside the Monument.

I wasn’t paying attention to the weather, though. Hurricane Zeta had just made landfall, and all the leftover rain was coming our way– it was slated to rain all day long, including well past the end of my time slot to visit the monument. I briefly considered not going at all since I would be trudging through rain and the views would be hampered, but after a series of should-I-go-or-not coin flips, I finally grabbed a rideshare to the National Mall. (Normally I would go via the Metro, but my workday and the visit timing were too close together, and I needed a slightly more direct route. I took the Metro home afterward.)

I don’t need to talk about the two shades of marble again, do I? I just talked about that the other day.

By the time I arrived, my feet were wet, and I was well and truly damp despite my coat and umbrella. You can’t quite tell in the photo above, but it was raining. It was raining a lot.

One unexpected benefit of going to the Washington Monument in the middle of what’s left of a hurricane, however, is that there was nobody else there. No tourists, I mean- the staff of Park Rangers was all there, waiting at the entrance of the security area for visitors. I was the only person visiting, though. I went through security in moments, and they let me into the lobby, past some VERY large metal security doors, to the elevator.

I was alone in the elevator, and after a moment I reached the observation deck at the top. There was nobody with me except for another Park Ranger, so I had all of the windows to myself. In hindsight, I really should have taken pictures of the observation deck’s interior to show how I had the place to myself- that’s never going to happen again. It was kind of magical.

Anyway, here’s what I could see out of the little slot windows at the top of the monument. Visibility was hampered by all the rain, but I could still see quite far. Looking East, I could see the National Gallery of Art on the left, the National Air & Space Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian on the right, and all the way in the distance, the United States Capitol. The Library of Congress and the Supreme Court are back there too, but the rain made those nearly invisible.

Facing South, I could see the Tidal basin and the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. The Tidal Basin is where they have the Cherry Blossom Festival when it’s not a pandemic year. I still need to visit the Jefferson Memorial; I haven’t been there.

Continuing my clockwise walk around the top level, this is the view toward the West. The World War II Memorial is in the foreground, then the Reflecting Pool, then the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. On a clear day, you could see the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial from here, along with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. I could not.

Lastly, I looked to the north. That big round path around grass is the Ellipse, and sitting behind that is the White House.

Here’s an obligatory selfie of me pointing toward the White House. I promise, that’s what I was pointing at.

After a few minutes looking out the various rain portals and up toward the capstone, I was ready to go back down to the ground. There’s an exhibit level just below the observation level, but it was closed during the pandemic. Stupid pandemic.

I really need to go back on a clear day.

After a brief but lively chat with a friendly Park Ranger, it was time to go back down to the ground. One more very heavy security door and another vestibule, and I was back outside. There was another group of about three people about to go in as I was leaving. Even though it was still raining, I decided to try getting some more National Mall photos- I’d never seen it that empty before. This is looking toward the Reflecting Pool and the Lincoln Memorial.

…and of course I had to take the “It’s right behind me, isn’t it?” photo. My camera lens was fogged up from all the rain, but there you go.

After that, it was time to walk along the National Mall, in the direction of the Capitol toward the Metro, and on toward home.

Have you ever been inside the Washington Monument?

34/52 (and 13 of 30!)

Local Tourist, Day One… er, Three

Let’s time travel, dear friends, back to the day I arrived on the Amtrak. The train arrived early on Friday, August 7th, and I was on the platform by twenty to nine in the morning. It didn’t take them long to unload my car, and I was on my way to my new apartment pretty quickly. Once I arrived, I unloaded the car, taking multiple trips to do so. I snuck in a brief but fitful nap to try to offset the mediocre sleep from the train, before my first visit to Harris Teeter I described in yesterday’s post.

On Saturday, August 8th, I waited for Verizon to come and install my Internet – a process that took all of 90 seconds once they were here. Afterward, I drove to a nearby Best Buy and acquired a new television- my previous TV committed Seppuku about two weeks before the move, so I needed a screen. I also drove by a local friend’s house to pick up a small table and chair that she was willing to part with so that I didn’t have to use my toilet as a desk until the movers arrived. I also made my first visit to a new favorite place, a local Irish pub with delicious food. The corned beef and cabbage was delightful.

Which brings us to Sunday, August 9th. The first day in my new city that I had no specific goals or plans in mind. I decided, after a little waffling, to take a Capital Bikeshare over the Potomac and check out the National Mall. I’d seen it all before, of course, but not as a local! Here’s my local tourist afternoon in eight photos.

Photo the first: After blundering my way through the Arlington roadways on my rented bikeshare with the help of my phone’s little mapping robot, I made my way to the Arlington Memorial Bridge. I stopped about halfway across to look at the boats on the Potomac, and the pretty stellar view of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument.

Photo the second: There was a rack for the the bikeshare pretty close to the Lincoln Memorial, so I made the decision to re-rack my bike and walk the rest of the way. This gave me time to poke around the Lincoln for a little bit.

Photo the third: Walking east from the Lincoln Memorial, I moved along the Reflecting Pool, enjoying the fact that although it was still a hot day, the breeze was actually cooling me off. That never happened in Florida.

Photo the fourth: Just past the Reflecting Pool is the World War II Memorial. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know much about this one- I know there’s at least a dozen different Memorials that I haven’t seen before, but this is a big one. I probably saw it on a previous visit, but it didn’t make an impression until I stumbled across it on this day. This is a big place. I bet it gets really crowded on especially hot days.

Picture the fifth: Continuing east, I reached the Washington Monument. Somehow in all the times I’ve been by here over the years, I never noticed before that there are two different colors to the marble, starting at about 150 feet up. This is because construction halted for about twenty-three years for a variety of reasons including the American Civil War. When they resumed construction in 1877, the marble came from a different source so it has different shading.

Picture the sixth: Still the Washington Monument, but the sun and clouds were doing neat things and I thought it would be an interesting photograph.

Picture the seventh: I continued east along the National Mall, past several of the Smithsonian museums, and toward the Capitol.

Picture the eighth: This is where I concluded my tourism for the day. I stopped at the Smithsonian metro station beneath the National Mall, and took the metro back to the station closest to my apartment. I’m very happy that I can walk a few minutes from my apartment to the Metro, and then take a fifteen minute train ride directly to the National Mall.

When post-pandemic life resumes and there’s more cool stuff going on in the city, I think I’m gonna be doing that a lot.

Have you been to the National Mall? What’s your favorite thing to see there?

28/52 (and 7 of 30!)

What I Spent In Linz, Austria (Just kidding.)

I love the “What We Spent” posts that Ali writes when she travels, and I wanted to do one for my side trip to Linz, Austria last month.  Alas, I didn’t track my spending very accurately.    I can tell you that I spent somewhere around sixty euros for all my food in Linz, and I can tell you that I spent €12 on a ticket for an art exhibition, which I will come back to later in this post.  I also spent around ten euros for various public transit needs around the city, €6,30 of which was just for the Pöstlingbergbahn.

It turns out that tracking my spending in such minute detail isn’t really my style, so I’ll leave that to Ali and go back to doing what I do best-  posting waaaaaaaay too many photographs.  Seriously, I came back from a twelve day trip with roughly five hundred photographs, and I did not take a dedicated camera.

While the overall trip ran about twelve days, I was only in Linz for about a day and a a half.  I started off on Tuesday morning from Regensburg, traveling in one of my all-time favorite conveyances, a Deutsche Bahn high speed ICE train.

After I reached Linz, I dropped my bag off at the hotel and set out immediately to start my tourism.  Here’s the highlights of a brief visit to Linz.

The Mariendom. 

Also known as the New Cathedral, this very enormous cathedral is the largest in Austria, although not the tallest.  The style is very similar to the cathedrals in Regensburg and Cologne, although this one only has the one spire.  It was really difficult to get the entire thing into a single photograph.

I took a bunch of pictures inside, but I think this one gives you a sense of the size while also showing you some pretty, pretty stained glass.

Schubert, Kepler, and Mozart all lived here.

While I was in the city, I sought out the listed former homes of Kepler and Mozart.  The Mozarthaus is actually kind of difficult to spot because it’s part local government office (hence the Austria and European Union banners on the building) and part cultural location with shops and restaurants.   The only obvious sign I could find was a bust of Mozart and some commemorative placards just inside that archway.

The Kepler house was much easier to spot-  the sign over the door says that Johannes Kepler lived in this house, and the little one off to the right has a bunch more information.

I didn’t set out to find the Schubert sign on purpose, I just sort of stumbled across this one.  Basically, it indicates that Franz Schubert came here to visit family friend Josef von Spaun.  The bottom floor of this building now holds a Douglas, which is a perfume and cosmetics store.

Höhenrausch.

Höhenrausch is an art exhibit that Linz puts on every summer.  This year, it runs from late May to mid-October.   The theme this year is “The Other Shore,” and everything has to do with water in some form.  There are regular exhibit rooms, but the true delight of Höhenrausch is that it winds its way over the rooftops of the city, through church and building attics, and up a custom-built tower.  This is the flyer they give you at the start, showing you the full path you take for the exhibit.

I paid my twelve euro admission, climbed over the starting barricades seen all the way to the left of this flyer, and moved onward.  On a nice sunny day, the views as you clamber over the rooftops are spectacular.

I’m curious to know whether these walkways stay up year round, or whether they build them anew every year like they do for the decks at Cave of the Winds at Niagara Falls.

After I first emerged on the outdoor portions of this exhibit, I saw the sculture man in the distance.  I didn’t yet realize how large he is.

It had rained before and after my day in Linz, and this was a perfect day for this part of the trip.

As I got closer, I saw just how large the  sculpted man is.  His name is El Pensador, sculpted by Cuban artist K’cho.  He is made from the remains of Cuban fishing boats.

The tower behind El Pensador is called the Oberösterreich-Turm, which just translates to Tower Over Austria, I think.   Regardless, it was tall and I wanted to climb it.  Long time readers know that I always like to climb the tallest thing in any new city I visit-  I get a little bit King Kongy when I travel.  I wasn’t able to climb the spire at Mariendom because that’s only allowed during tours and my visit didn’t coincide with any tours. So, I climbed this instead!

Partway up the sculpture was “The Flying Ship,” said to signify a “new departure.”

Here’s one of the views from about two thirds of the way up the tower, looking toward the top of the Flying Ship sculpture.

Here’s one last look at the Linz skyline from the rooftops of Höhenrausch, before I head back inside.  Nice view of the Mariendom’s spire from here, don’t you think?

I took lots of photos of the art inside of Höhenrausch, but most of those photos were set aside before I started writing this post because I already had more than thirty shots to include.   Besides,  I feel like most of the art in this exhibit loses something in a still photograph.

Even this piece, “Uncertain Journey,” a dense network of woolen threads created by Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota, loses a lot of its impact in a single photograph.  Pretty neat though.  I wonder if this was created within the space it currently occupies, or if it was made elsewhere and then installed here.

These pictures are only a fraction of the Höhenrausch exhibit, and if you have a chance to swing by Linz before it closes in mid-October, I highly recommend checking it out.

Hauptplatz and the Trinity Column

Hauptplatz is one of the largest city squares in Europe, and it’s home to the Dreifaltigkeitssäule, or Trinity Column.   The column is a giant Baroque sculpture which was installed in 1723 as a monument to those who had died in plague epidemics.

This building is in the square, and this interesting relief work on the building was directly over a restaurant.  I have no idea what the history is on this, but it looked pretty nifty.

Hauptplatz is also the launching point for this adorable little tour train that goes through the old city, as well as the end point for the Pöstlingbergbahn.

The Pöstlingbergbahn and Pöstlingberg.

Linz has a wonderful system of Straßenbahn (street cars,) but the Pöstlingbergbahn is a special part of the tram network.  The Pöstlingbergbahn is considered the steepest mountain rail in the world.  It was built in 1898 although it has since been modified to use updated rail technology with a more commonly used gauge of track.  To ride the Pöstlingbergbahn up to Pöstlingberg, you will need to pay for a round trip ticket, and then wait-  it comes once every thirty minutes.   The ride is picturesque as you climb the mountain.  The Pöstlingberg stop at the very top is quite pretty for a tram stop.

This is the door to the men’s room at the tram stop.  I just thought this was hilarious and kind of adorable.  And I cracked my head on low hanging stone at least twice trying to get a good photograph.  I feel like this is what it would have been like if Gandalf needed to take a whiz in the Shire.

When you walk out of the tram stop, there’s a sign to let you know that you are at the very border of Linz.

As you walk into Pöstlingberg, you quickly come across an open space that looks over Linz.

Pöstlingberg is high on a hill, on the bank of the Donau (Danube) river.  At 539 meters (1,768 feet,) the view of Linz is pretty great.  This was not the same day as the earlier pictures from Höhenrausch, and you can tell that this was a much more hazy day than in the Höhenrausch shots.

One of the big draws for families in Pöstlingberg is the Grottenbahn, a train ride geared toward small children.    As you approach it, fairytale creatures help to point the way.

I found the entrance to the Grottenbahn, but decided not to ride because there was a pretty large number of small children already waiting to ride and I just didn’t feel like waiting.  I will say that the walkway leading up to it was cooler than the rest of the hilltop by several degrees, and this was a very refreshing place to walk.

The decorations on the entrance walkway give you an idea of what you can expect inside.

Another major point of interest in Pöstlingberg is the Pöstlingbergkirche, a large pilgrimage church built at one of the highest points on the hill.

The walkway leading up to the door of the church has a fenced platform which has begun to collect Europe’s ever-present love locks.

I honestly have run out of things to say about the inside of churches throughout Europe.  They’re all pretty ornate and they’re all very impressive.   And most of the time, the people I find inside them are tourists rather than congregants.

The Ars Electronica Center.

After I rode the Pöstlingbergbahn back down the hill, I got off the tram one stop earlier than Hauptplatz so that I could go to the Ars Electronica Center.  It’s a museum that has exhibits related to technology, and I was curious to spend a few hours checking it out.  I had heard that it was a really cool place to visit.

Unfortunately, it was closed.  I didn’t catch that on their website-  they opened up again about a week after I left.    I got to see the entry vestibule, but that’s about it.  Anyway, the building is right on the bank of the Donau, directly across from Hauptplatz, so I walked back over the river.

Four random pictures that don’t fall into the rest of the narrative for this post.

This street is Landstraße.  I spent a lot of time traversing this street because it was kind of central to everything else I was doing, and it led directly to Hauptplatz.  It was also the path that most of my tram usage required, including going to and from the train station.

I hate a couple of times at Deli-Linz while I was in town, and this was my favorite snack of the visit-  Peanut Butter Bread with bananas and cracked cocoa beans.  With a Fritz-Kola.  Sehr lecker.

Last, but certainly not least, I saw a great many interesting vehicles during my visit.  This brightly colored Vespa was just too cute.

Have you ever been to Linz?

Los Angeles 2: Electric Boogaloo

While my first Los Angeles post was about Saturday night, most of what I’m including in this post took place on Friday.  We had arrived on Thursday night, and after a bit of sleep, we were ready to go see Los Angeles like proper tourists.

This awesome little Starbucks had just opened next to the hotel, and after briefly caffeinating, we were ready to go see the city.  (We sat on that deck once or twice, later in the weekend.  It’s really very nice.)

We started out a little before lunch, and Amelie’s friend Wendy met us at the metro station closest to the hotel.  We had a short list of things we wanted to see, so we set out on foot.  Halfway to our first destination, I realized that we were in front of the Webhosting company I’ve been using since about 2003.   Hi, Dreamhost!

We also walked right past The Bradbury Building, a lovely old built in 1893.

If this looks familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s used often in television, movies, literature, and even comics.  The Bradbury is where Sebastian’s apartment was located in Blade Runner, and there’s a Blade Runner sign posted near the stairwell detailing the movie’s production at the Bradbury Building.

Later in the day, we went to City Hall to take advantage of the free observation deck on the 27th floor.  I wish we had known that the night before this, they were shining the Bat Signal on City Hall in memory of the recently departed Adam West.  I would have liked to have seen that. Our visit was mid-afternoon on Friday, so no Bat Signal.

Across the street from City Hall is a signpost showing all of the sister cities of Los Angeles.

Once we went inside the Main Street entrance to City Hall, we went through metal detectors and checked in with the security desk.  First we took an express elevator to the 22nd floor, followed by another elevator to go up to 26.  On our way up, we saw the Mayor’s office, which in no way tempted us to knock.

After the elevator to floor 26,there’s one flight of stairs up to the observation level.  Inside, there’s a lectern set up, which leads to mugging for the camera, of course.  The first two are Amelie and her friend Wendy, and the third is me doing my best Shatner.  I’m not sure why podiums make me go full-Shat, but there it is.

Once we were done playing with the lectern, we went out to the observation part of the observation deck.  While City Hall isn’t the tallest building in LA, the observation deck goes all the way around the building for 360 degree views of Los Angeles.  You can even see all the wonderful LA traffic!

City Hall is just a block or two away from the Los Angeles Times, which gave us a pretty great view of that building.

This is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Frank Gehry building with a pretty interesting face.

Union Station is the main train station for Los Angeles.  We walked through it when we first reached LA the night before, and it’s a very pretty station.  It’s also much larger than I realized-  the red roof here is all part of the station, along with the many tracks behind it.

Here’s part of the Los Angeles skyline, as seen from City Hall.

The Hollywood sign and Griffith Park observatory are both visible from City Hall, but it was kind of hazy so this was the best shot I got on Friday.

I took a few dozen photos from the observation deck, but mostly it just looks like rambling cityscape.  Here’s a nice picture of tall LA buildings from sidewalk level.

During our walk on Friday, we also walked right past  the Angel’s Flight funicular.  It was originally opened in 1901 about a block away, and was moved to its current location in the mid-1990s. It’s been closed since 2013, but is currently being restored with some safety enhancements and should re-open later this year.  I’m sad it wasn’t open- I love a good funicular.

This next picture was not taken on the same day- this was a different part of our visit, where we were at a Hollywood metro station which was closer to the Griffith Observatory.  There’s a Dash bus line which runs between this metro station and the Observatory on a regular schedule.   You can actually see the very top of the Dash bus in the bottom edge of this photo.  Not pictured:  A tiny Rocketeer taking off from the Observatory to fight a Nazi zeppelin.

You can always tell where you are in LA by the decorations in the Metro.   Not sure you’re in the station closest to the Griffith Observatory?  Just look for starfields in the station’s rafters.

The last picture in this post is not related to anything else in the photo- it’s just a Korean restaurant where we had dinner on Sunday night.  We all thought the name of the place was pretty entertaining.  The food was delicious, if a bit zippy for my tastes.  I had Kimchi pancakes, and tried Soju, a clear Korean liquor that was similar to vodka.  Tasty stuff.

Have you been to Los Angeles City Hall? 

Lost Photo Post: The Orlando Eye

This is one in a series of photo posts where I took a bunch of photographs, intending to make a blog post out of them, and then never got around to actually writing the post.

Anyone who has read even a little bit of this blog has probably already figured out that I love tall things.  Tall buildings, tall ferris wheels, you name it.  I even have a tall-stuff tag for posts that involve being up high!

The Orlando Eye is one of those places that I wanted to go as soon as I found out it even existed.  I’ve been on the very similar London Eye several times now.  They were building it when Amelie and I went to Megacon in 2015, but it wasn’t quite open yet.  We planned on going on it the next time we were in Orlando, and we almost reached the location but there were thunderstorms and high wind, so we decided to postpone.

Fast forward to Megacon 2016, and we finally had time to stop back at the Orlando Eye.  I’ve got a bunch of pictures below, but first some details:

The Orlando Eye is on International Drive, not terribly far from the convention center, Universal Studios, and Sea World.

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The Eye is a 400 feet tall ferris wheel with enclosed and air conditioned cabins that rotate slowly around the ring.   It’s similar to the London Eye, although the structure and mechanisms are slightly different, and the London Eye is only 43 feet taller.

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Since July of this year, it has been rebranded as the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye.    From the capsule, you can see the Universal hotels.

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The ride is very smooth- a complete cycle takes about thirty minutes.  This view is the Orange County Convention Center, where Megacon has been held for many years.  You can just make out the Sea World roller coasters behind the Convention Center.

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This is another view from the Eye.  I honestly cannot tell which roller coasters are visible in this photograph.  I think it’s Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, but International Drive is in the heart of the biggest concentration of tourist attractions, so it could be almost anything.

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A little bit more of I-Drive, with one of the capsules visible.  The Orlando Eye capsules are heavily tinted, because this is Florida.   The view here isn’t as interesting as on the London Eye, I’m afraid.  For one thing, the Eye has no tall buildings around it to look at.  If they had built this in downtown Orlando, thirty minutes to the East, it would have had a better view I think.

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This restaurant is a short walk from the Orlando Eye.  I suspect that they did the roof lettering deliberately to attract the attention of hungry Eye-goers.   This appeals to me immensely:  I like when things are clearly labeled!

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Off in the very far distance, you can see Epcot.    This one required some zoom lens.  And, to be fair, the only reason I can tell that it’s Epcot is that Spaceship Earth is pretty distinct.

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Finally, here’s a couple of horses.  As crowded as International Drive can get, Central Florida is still covered in swatches of land that is either undeveloped or used for farming and livestock.  So:  horses!

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Have you ever been on the Orlando Eye?

Editor’s Note:  I’m attempting to blog every day in November with CheerPeppers.  I don’t expect to succeed because life be crazy, but any blogging in excess of my previous post-free month is a win, right?