We went up to Montreal for the Thanksgiving holiday and took a side trip by rail to Quebec City. And boy, was it cold. I mean really, really cold. At one point my iPhone read 8 degrees Fahrenheit. This was during the day, around 9:00 AM. By the way, did I mention that it was cold?
Cold or not, both both Montreal and Quebec had lots of beautiful French architecture. Montreal in particular looked a lot like Paris. The Old Town section of Quebec, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, had Christmas carolers out and the Christmas markets were alive with shoppers and browsers. All in all, the people were very friendly, the food was terrific, cabs were plentiful and the trains actually ran on time. A good time was had by all.
Here below are a couple of shots from Quebec, mostly taken in the OldTown Section.
The season is upon us and that means that Meadowlark Botanical Gardens will be lit up with a spectacular light show. Instead of photos of the Gardens, this year I took a quick video with the new iPhone Pro 11. Here it is below.
In the United States it is easy—much too easy—to take freedom for granted. In part it is because we have a long tradition of freedom; for most Americans the idea of being without it is almost inconceivable. But that can be a dangerous thing if it leads to letting down our guard.
In that respect, a trip to Arlington National Cemetery is a sobering reminder that freedom has to be zealously defended; that freedom is not free, as the saying goes. The endless rows of headstones that quietly mark the final resting places of over 400,000 people is a monument to the price of freedom.
We visited Arlington Cemetery today; it is a place that belongs on everyone’s list of places to go and things to see. A few photos from the cemetery are below.
We had some visitors from the wilds of New Jersey the other day. Mary Anne’s sister Ellen and her husband Steve came by our neck of the woods for a visit. The four of us took a walk around town and then made our way to Great Falls National Park in McLean Virginia. Among other things, the park is known for its stunning views of the Great Falls of the Potomac. Here (below) are a couple of shots taken in the park, along with one photo taken on a hiking trail by Lake Anne in Reston.
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation runs the annual Virginia State Fair. Scheduled for September 27 through October 6, the Fair takes place in Event Meadow Park, Caroline County. There you can see agricultural exhibits, including entries by students of the major Virginia Universities, horses, pigs, cows, goats, races and tractor pulls. There are rides galore and food trucks everywhere. We saw a performance by visiting Chinese acrobats. And a hip-hop band performed an evening show. We missed the pig races because it was time to go home. Maybe some other time…
Anyway, here (below) are some photos from the event.
As the summer drew to a close we made a quick trip up to Long Beach Island. There we spent some time with Jim and Debbie Benning who rented a place in Brant Beach on Long Beach Island in mid-September. So here are a few shots from early and mid morning at Brant Beach, and later at Barnegat Lighthouse.
Tallinn may be the most beautiful city you’ve never heard of. The capital of Estonia, Tallinn is a small city in a small country with a turbulent history, particularly with respect to relations with Russia. On our walking tour of the city our guide noted that for Estonia, “NATO is everything”.
There are about 1.5 million citizens of Estonia, and about 435,000 people who live in Tallinn. Located on the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea, Tallinn has close historic ties with Helsinki, Stockholm and St Petersburg.
The city proper dates back to the first half of the 13th century, but humans settlements are estimated go back 5,000 years. The first recorded claim for the land was made by Denmark in 1219 after a successful raid. After a couple of centuries of fighting between Scandinavian and Teutonic rulers, Tallinn became an important commercial hub because of its strategic location.
Tallinn is one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities and is counted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the largest number of star-ups in Europe, and is the birthplace of Skype. It houses the EU’s IT agency and is the home of NATO’s Cyber Defense Center of Excellence. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 10 digital cities.
We went on a walking tour of the city with a local guide and took lots of photos in the process. A few are posted below.
Among the many mind boggling things to contemplate is the fact that the Russian aristocracy didn’t just have one enormous and opulently decorated and designed palace. They had several of them; each one elaborate and ornate. In fact Catherine actually put a halt to all the gold being used to decorate her palace that had begun by order of her predecessor, Empress Elizabeth.
Here, below, are some photos of Catherine’s Palace located in Pushkin, not far from St Petersburg. Please note that while some photos link to Evocative Photos for licensing, photos taken inside the palace may not be used for this purpose, so they are not linked. JFB
It would take years to see all there is to see in St Petersburg; actually it would take years just to see just the important stuff. So we picked our spots and saw all we could, including the winter and summer palaces. This post includes photos taken at the summer palace, located in Peterhof, about 40 minutes outside St Petersburg proper.
The physical scale of the place, along with the wealth on display, is almost beyond belief. The main palace has about 1,000 rooms—big rooms. The rooms we saw, and we saw quite a few, typically were decorated with gold inlays on the walls and ceilings. Classical paintings and sculpture abounded, including collections by Russian, German and French artists.
Outside the palace there were gardens, an elaborate set of cascading fountains and a smaller gold domed castle. And this was just the summer palace. There was a winter palace as well, in some ways even more over the top. Note that in the photo of the throne room below, there is no furniture in the room other than the throne. That’s because protocol demanded that supplicants either stand or kneel in the presence of the King.
A political scientist from Johns Hopkins who was on the trip with us (as a lecturer) made the point that while we refer to her as Catherine the Great, the serfs would be unlikely to do so. Their lot was arguably even worse than that of black slaves in the South of the United States. It’s something you can’t help thinking about when confronted by the staggering wealth on display in the palaces of the aristocracy.