Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Monumental Monument

There are monuments and then there are MONUMENTS!  This one falls in that latter category.  The Altare Della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) or the Victor Emmanuel monument as it is known to most travelers, stands head and shoulders above any monument I've seen before.  First of all it is HUGE and second, it's white in a city where shades of brown monopolize the landscape.  It completely dominates a busy intersection just a stone's throw away from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Riding high above the street in the center of the monument is Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.  He and his prancing horse strike a very commanding pose in front of this grand testament to his glory.

Below the Victor Emmanuel statue and located under a  colossal statue of the goddess Roma, is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier complete with an eternal flame of honor and the constant vigil of two fellow soldiers.  The tomb was added to the monument after Wold War I.

Looking straight up from street level, I felt dwarfed by the magnitude of this monument.  As one might expect about a monument of this scale, its construction created some controversy.  The biggest controversy had to do with the site of the monument since quite a bit of Capitoline Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome) and the Medieval structures that stood there were destroyed.  Other controversies centered around it being a bit pompous and way too large, an opinion I wouldn't argue with.

In recent years, an elevator was added to the back of the monument letting people ride to the top to take in some spectacular views of the city.  I missed that.  It will have to be on the agenda for my next trip to Rome.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Supreme Experience

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to hear a case argued before the Supreme Court of the United States.  My good friends Julie and Dave were attorneys for a case that made it's way to the Supreme Court so we all went to Washington DC for the event.  Julie and Dave had special seating because they were named in the case.  Julie's mother Glenda and I were there to observe.

Anyone can observe a case at any time.  It just takes some determination, the ability to get up very early, and a heavy coat if the case will be heard in the winter months.  This one was in December and it was very, very cold when we lined up in front of the court hoping to get in.  There are only a select number of spectator seats available so it's important to get in line as early as possible to be assured of a seat.  If I recall correctly, we waited in line in the freezing cold for around two hours before the guards came and issue numbers to us, assuring us of a seat.  Only then were we able to go inside and warm up.  While we waited for the session to start, we went to the cafeteria for breakfast and warmth.

You are not allowed to take a camera or a purse, or a briefcase, or even a coat inside the courtroom.  The only thing you can carry is a pad of paper and a pencil.  We stopped at the coat room where coats were checked and lockers secured our belongings.  After the session was over, I was able to snap this one photo looking toward the courtroom.

It is an experience that I will never forget.  I was lucky enough to hear a case that had impact on the state of Arizona but, I highly recommend hearing oral arguments for any case that is being heard while you are in Washington DC.  The experience of seeing those judges at work is priceless.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Going on Safari

As I sit here to write this post, I can look up above my computer and see this wonderful face staring down at my from my office wall.  I loved this photo so much that I had it enlarged to 16X20 and matted and framed and it now hangs above my desk.  He has such and engaging face, it's hard to believe he could be so fierce.

This post is about my visit a few years ago to Safari Park in Escondido California, an extension of the San Diego Zoo network.  Only this place is like no zoo you've ever seen before.  It's huge, over 1800 acres of rolling hills the look very much like the African savanna.  Of course, I've never been to the African savanna but judging from photos I've seen, this place looks pretty darn close.

They have over 300 species of African and Asian animals all living in very large, natural-like compounds where they have room to roam and get plenty of exercise.

The facility has tram rides that take you through these far away places so that you can get a good look at the animals and they can get a good look at you.  In fact, I think this guy was saying "hey, are you taking my picture?"

In addition to the animals, there are many species of birds.  Some of them live in the compounds out in the open like these beautiful flamingos.

Others live in large aviaries where guests can walk through and get a closer look.  The lorikeet even land on your hands or arms if you offer them the food they love so much.  This was the first time I'd seen a lorikeet.  They really are the most colorful birds I've ever seen.

If you are interested in visiting Safari Park, you can check their web site for more information.  They offer a large variety of tours and safari experiences.  They even have an overnight camp stay that mimics some of the real African safari camps.  I'd love to do that one day.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Lure of the Underground

Does anyone remember that old poster from 1927 by Alfred Leete?  I have a post card version that is in a frame with some other classic post cards hanging in my hallway.  Here is what it looks like.

I've had my post card for at least 20 years and I've always loved it.  Maybe because the London Underground lured me in the first time I visited that city way back in 1985.

There is something so cosmopolitan about taking those long escalators deep under the bustling city streets and sidewalks and hopping on an arriving train and being whisked off to my next destination.

And when I get off at my station, I love hearing the whoosh of the train as it closes its doors and speeds out of the station with a burst of wind and the clickety-clack of the tracks as it rolls on to the next stop.

If I take the underground out to the end of the lines, I might end up in a car with only a few people in it.  But, I can assure you that most of the time and especially during rush hours, it will be standing room only inside each car.  I might even have to pancake myself into the car and stand nose to nose with another commuter.  I've done it many times.

Some of the stations are sleek and modern with futuristic features that remind me of Star Trek and spaces so wide open that the announcer's voice echoes through the area.

Other stations are old, quiet and tunnel-like and almost devoid of the crowds found at the more popular stations.  It's times like this when I can close my eyes and see images from period dramas set anywhere from 1930 to 1950 with all the men in wide lapels and all the women wearing stockings with seams and all of them waiting for the next train.

I'll bet this station looked just the same back then.