Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘USA’

Our Seattle ferry cruise had taken us from Elliot Bay in downtown Seattle, up along the Puget Sound Coast to Shilshole Bay where we entered Lake Washington Shipping Canal.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.06.27 AM.png

Now we had to get through the Chittendon locks to raise our ferry up to the level of the lakes. Our final destination for this day was the docks at the south end of Lake Union.

P1150460.JPG

I always have a sense of anticipation when approaching locks. These locks were built in 1917 … at the time creating the largest locks in North American enabling passage between two bodies of water of different levels.

P1150461.JPG

When given our all clear, we sailed into the lock, tied off, water was pumped in through tubes at the bottom of the lock as we gradually rose to the lake water level… a difference of about 20 feet. The ship canal project began in 1911 and was officially completed in 1934.

P1150465.JPG

Gate opens, ferry unties and we sail on through to the next stage of our cruise. It all takes about 15 minutes. It’s somewhat amazing to think that something like this stills exists in this day and age, but it works as it has done for a hundred years.

P1150468.JPG

And on the other side we came to a busy small shipping area.

P1150469.JPG

All types of marine transport were tied up in the safety of the canal.

P1150474.JPG

Another bridge across the canal.

P1150476.JPG

One of the many dry docks used for ship maintenance.

P1150478.JPG

A newly painted fishing boat ready to go back out into the sound.

P1150479.JPG

Tug boats to assist the bigger ships negotiate the canal.

P1150483.JPG

And yet more bridges… the higher traffic bridge and a colourful train bridge.

P1150484.JPG

Not all homes along the canal are inviting! This reminded us that in every city, there are those who do it tough in whatever shelter they can find.

P1150489.JPG

Its always fascinating to look up to the superstructures of bridges, built to take millions of cars and trucks a year safely across the canal. Spare a thought for those who built them.

P1150495.JPG

Gas Works Park is a large public access space on the northern side of Lake Union. It contains the remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the US… a plant that operated from 1906 to 1956. In 1962 the City of Seattle bought the plant and opened the park to the public in 1975.

P1150497.JPG

As we cruised up the length of Lake Union, several sea planes flew overhead. They are an important link between Seattle and the islands including Vancouver Island in Canada.

P1150504.JPG

A fascinating feature of Lake Union are the number of floating homes.  They come in all shapes and sizes, some virtually indistinguishable from those built on land. While these home owners don’t pay real estate taxes, they do have to pay pay dock fees.

P1150505.JPG

This floating home community is one of only a few in the United States… I know of one across the bay from San Francisco.  Floating homes evoke a sense of romance and these, along the banks of Lake Union and Portege Bay, do offer a unique lifestyle. We were told that here, for the most part, neighbours are friendly and community minded and there’s a never ending kaleidoscope of things to watch such as wildlife, boats and seaplanes.

P1150513.JPG

As we approached our dock at the end of our cruise, a seaplane prepared for takeoff.

P1150515.JPG

Maybe it was going to Vancouver Island… that’s where we will go in the next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Seattle was having its hottest start to July ever (2015) so we took to the water as a somewhat cooler alternative to walking the hot streets.

P1150431.JPG

As the ferry left the terminal we looked back on an area that is being reconstruction to connect the city back with the waterfront… for too long divided by a fast and busy highway and much of the water’s edge was not available to the people of the city.  After much consultation with the community, the dream is to make a vibrant waterfront for all to enjoy. The highway will remain but the waterfront area will be much more people friendly with boardwalks, parks and amenities. And the ferries that leave from here join that area to the small islands and also link the harbour via a canal to large lakes within the city.

P1150434.JPG

Seattle has a large, very busy working port area that is vital to the economic health of not only Seattle but to the whole of Washington state. I read that four in ten jobs in the state are tied to international trade, driving job growth and economic prosperity.

As ever-larger container vessels ply the seas, the port has seen dramatic changes to accommodate such vessels. The port has needed to install not only heavier cranes with a longer outreach but also provide deeper drafts.  An ongoing task.

P1150437.JPG

A view back to the city and the space needle.

P1150438.JPG

Several restaurants now use the older pier areas. This one is the iconic ‘Waterfront Seafood Grill Pier 70’ which has received recognition many times as one of Seattle’s top dining destinations.  As you would imagine, the menu incorporates the wonderful bounty of fresh seafood of the area, as well as the fresh harvest from the farms in the surrounding countryside.  During summer, guests can enjoy waterfront dining on that long deck.

P1150439.JPG

I’d seen these silos from the space needle and wondered what they contained. The answer is grain. It’s a completely automated facility moving grain efficiently from trucks and rail cars to silos and then to ship’s hold.

P1150449

A massive rock wall surrounds a marina filled with some very expensive yachts.

P1150448.JPG

Just before the ferry turned from the main harbour area into the canal, we passed West Point Lighthouse, sitting, as it has done for many a long year, at the end of a low, half-mile-long, sandy point that extends into Puget Sound. The lighthouse still sends out alternating red and white flashes, even though from a modern beacon within the tower.

Light houses are usually built on rock. But, to support this lighthouse built on sand, a grill of timber was first built three feet below the ground before adding the brick foundations. The brick tower and and an octagonal iron lantern room were then built on top. They must have done something right, it still stands today, albeit with a surround of added rocks to keep both the lighthouse and the sand spit safe from lashing storms.

 

P1150455.JPG

Along the canal, many houses are built on timber piles. Safe from storms, this would be my choice of place to live in Seattle… if I could afford one of them…. but probably not!

P1150456.JPG

Other places are built on the shore line rather than over the water.

P1150457.JPG

Salmon Bay Bridge, (or Bridge no 4) is on the northern rail line between King Street Station in Seattle and Everett (where the Boeing factory is situated). It’s called a single-leaf bascule bridge, built in 1914, and has two rail tracks. It has a span of 61 mts (or 200 ft).

So what is a bascule bridge?  In simple terms its a draw bridge that uses a massive counter weight to continuously balance a bridge span, or leaf, as it swings upwards to allow clearance for boat traffic. As we were to see later, largish ships use this canal.

The concept has been used since ancient times. But it wasn’t  until the introduction of steam power in the 1850s that long, heavy spans could be moved quickly enough to make their use practical for more modern day usage.  I guess this is electrical these days.

P1150458.JPG

I liked this house near the bridge… solid foundations rather than timber poles that have a habit of rotting over time…and lots of balcony to sit out and watch the bridge in use!

P1150459.JPG

More houses along the canal. It was very pleasant sailing passed these canal side homes as we made our way to the locks that lift the ships from the ocean level to the lake level.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

Read Full Post »

While the kayakers and the DIB explorers returned to the ship, David enjoyed some extra time on shore wandering back to the small beach on Pond Island.

P1110124

Pond Island Shore ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110124

Let’s take a quiet wander with him.

No commentary necessary!

P1110104

Mussels and seaweed  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110104

.

P1110107

Antler shed by a deer ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110107

.

P1110109

Sea Urchin Shell  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110109

.

P1110111

Crab shell ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110111

.

P1110114

Banana Slug ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110114

.

P1110116

Shelf or bracket fungi ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110116

.

P1110125

Starfish and Mussels  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110125

.

P1110129

Close up of star fish patterning ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110129

.

P1110131

Bald Eagle returning to tree with a catch ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110131

.

P1110135

Bald Eagle  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110135

.

P1110041

Kayaks waiting to be returned to the ship ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110041

.

P1110135

Brady takes the tiller ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110135

The wandering over, it was time to return to “Sea Lion”.

On the way back, young Brady was given the tiller by Nikki, the ship’s Bosun.

This nine year old was really making the most of this expedition.

P1110343

Ryan, the Chef ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110343

And waiting for us all to return on board, was our chef, Ryan. He, and his small team, did a wonderful job of providing us all with good, fresh food… without going over the top as happens on the big cruise ships. Breakfast was the usual fare, with hot porridge for the likes of me! Lunch was salads and a hot dish, varying the cuisine of those dishes each day…. and there was always ‘the cookie of the day’ to finish off our lunch. In the late afternoon, while we had our daily debrief,  there were nibbles that usually included cheese and a salmon dish. The evening meal was a choice of three mains; meat, fish or vegetarian. We ticked off our choice in the morning and, there it was, ready for us in the evening. No waste. There was one starter, that was usually the soup of the day, and one dessert. No choice, except to say no! I have to say that no-one could have, or did have, a complaint about the food. It was all very good.

Jen Williams © DY of jtdytravels; P1110224

Jen Williams © DY of jtdytravels; P1110224

After lunch, I had a massage from Jen, our wellness expert.

It was just fantastic. Thanks Jen.

The ship relocated a little further up Chatham Straight to Sitkoh Bay

and David decided to do another plant hunting walk.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

.

Read Full Post »

The famous American wilderness explorer, John Muir, once said, “To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world.” And it is indeed amazing… especially when you have the priviledge, as I did at Pond Island, to just float quietly on still waters taking in the beauty that surrounds you. Let me share it with you.

Pond Island © JT of jtdytravels; P1130927

Pond Island © JT of jtdytravels; P1130927

Much of the time, as we moved slowly along the shoreline, we just enjoyed the peace and the beauty of the wilderness that surrounded us, especially the reflections in still waters.  That peace was only broken when we saw wildlife along the way. Then Jason would quietly tell us something about each one as we observed their behaviour in the wild.

P1130928

Shoreline reflection 1 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130928

.

P1130930

Shoreline reflections 2 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130930

.

P1130934

Kayaks afloat on Pond Island Bay ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130934

This was the first day on this expedition that the kayaks were in use.

The conditions were perfect for that activity.

P1130936

Kayaking fun ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130936

Some of our group, like David, had chosen to walk, some to kayak and some, like me, to explore by DIB. We all enjoyed the beauty of this wilderness area in our own way.

P1130939

Small island of conifers ©  JT  of  jtdytravels;  P1130939

At one end of the bay was a rocky island, a perfect example of a conifer forest surrounded by the deeper green of the much smaller Sitka alders.

P1130942

Pair of Bald Eagles ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130942

The island provided a great look out point for a pair of bald eagles. It’s hard to tell which is male and which female, they look so similar. The female is, in fact, slightly larger.

Bald eagles are the national bird of USA, indeed it’s the only bird unique to North America. Its scientific name is  Haliaeetus leucocephalus; from Greek hali “sea”, aiētos “eagle”, leuco “white” and cephalos “head”. About half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska so it’s not a surprise to see them here. In this bay, the eagles were on the look out for salmon as the annual salmon run was just beginning. They will eat both dead and dying fish.

It was good to watch the eagles in the wild away from human habitation. Further south in the ‘Lower 48’ states, bald eagles and other birds of prey such as kites and hawks, are vulnerable to toxic chemicals in the environment. Because these birds are at the top of the food chain, each link in that food chain tends to concentrate chemicals from the lower link. Here, in  the wilds of South East Alaska, they are free from that danger.

P1130944

Salmon run creek ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130944

We gradually made our way towards a small creek where salmon were beginning to congregate for the start of their annual spawning run. Five types of salmon occur in Alaska, easily remembered by looking at your fingers! Thumb = Chum; Pointer = Sockeye ( a bit obscure but it helps to have a bit of imagination!); Middle finger = King; Ring finger = Silver; and Pinky finger = Pink.  In general, adult salmon eat other fish, squid, eels, and shrimp. However Sockeye salmon has a diet that consists almost entirely of plankton.

P1130950

Indian Paintbrush flowers and grasses ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130950

Another small, rocky island had no trees,

just grasses and the delightful red paintbrush, Castilleja miniata.

P1110056

P1110056

If we had been able to have a closer look at the red paintbrush plant, as David did while walking on the shore, we would have seen that the red parts are actually modified leaves, or bracts.  The flower is tiny, protected by the bracts.

P1130947

Nature’s abstract art ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130947

I loved the reflections of this island; another example of nature’s abstract art!

P1130952

Inside salmon pool ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130952

As we turned the corner, we came into a small pool where the salmon collect before their final spawning run. Alaskan salmon are anadromous, meaning they are born in freshwater (rivers or streams) before they travel to and live much of their lives in salt water. They then return to freshwater to spawn. It has long been believed that salmon return to the exact spot where they were born in order to spawn. Recent tracking studies have shown this to be mostly true although some do stray and spawn in different freshwater systems. Such homing behaviour is quite an amazing phenomenon and has been shown to depend on olfactory memory.

When the female reaches the place where she will lay her eggs, she makes a depression in the river or creek bed with her tail, and then deposits some of her eggs.  She then waits for males to fertilise the eggs before covering the depression. She then moves on to make another depression. Females will make as many depressions as they need in order to lay all of their eggs; that may be up to seven depressions.

After spawning, the adults die and thus provide more food for bears and eagles.

Young salmon will stay for six months to three years in their natal stream.  Only 10% of all salmon eggs are estimated to survive that period. As they prepare to leave the creeks for the ocean, their  body chemistry changes, thus allowing them to live in saltwater.  They will then spend about one to five years (depending on the species) in the open ocean.  There they gradually become sexually mature and prepare to return to the creeks of their birth. It’s another of the wonderful stories of nature.

P1130962

Shore reflections 3  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130962

.

P1130967

Mergus Merganser ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130967

As we sat quietly in this pool area, enjoying the reflections, we noticed movement. A female merganser was moving along beside the shore. She was very watchful of us, as we were of her! We stayed very still and she seemed to accept our presence.

Baby Mergansers © JT of jtdytravels; P1130969

Baby Mergansers © JT of jtdytravels; P1130969

She was followed by her brood of ducklings. They are similar to their mother except for a short black-edged white stripe between the eye and bill. They were wonderfully camouflaged against the barnacles, rocks and sea weeds. We stayed our distance and watched them.

These birds, Mergus Merganser, need nesting holes in the mature trees of these forests for breeding. The female lays usually 8 to 12 white to yellowish eggs and raises one brood each season. This one had five ducklings with her; maybe others had fallen prey to predators. As soon as the eggs hatch, the female takes the ducklings in her bill down to the pool or river. They feed on freshwater invertebrates and small fish fry. They are fully fledged when 60–70 days old but are not sexually mature until they are two years old.

P1130971

View back from salmon pool ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130971

.

P1130973

Island view ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130973

.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1100253

Pair of marbled murrelets © DY of jtdytravels; P110025

Back out in the main bay we saw a pair of Marbled murrelets, very small sea birds with a very long Latin name: Brachyramphus marmoratus. They’re difficult to photograph partly because of their size and partly because they are very busy little birds, constantly diving to feed on sand eels, herrings and other small fish. They feed in pairs and we saw them often as we sailed in the waters of the Inside Passage where they are never far from a forest.

Old growth forests are especially important to Marbled murrelets. Unlike other sea birds, these little birds nest on the mossy branches of old trees, particularly the hemlock and the spruce so prevalent in these forests. This habit of nesting in trees, rather than on cliffs and rock ledges or in burrows like other sea birds, was not documented until 1974 when a tree climber found a nest. It was a rather remarkable finding and has had important implications for the logging of old growth forests in the area. In many places on their habitat range, this species of murrelet has declined in numbers because of logging.

Marbled murrelet (courtesy Wikepedia)

Marbled murrelet (courtesy Wikepedia)

Even without the pressure of the logging of their nesting trees, murrelets are hard pressed to succeed in the breeding process. After choosing a tree with lots of moss and lichen on the branches and with plenty of cover from predators, the female murrelet lays just one egg on a platform of lichen and moss. After a month of incubation, the chick hatches and is fed for about forty days until it’s able to fledge and fend for itself. Breeding success is low and chick mortality is high. We were entranced by these little birds each day of the expedition.

P1130977

Harbour Seal ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130977

Every now and then, a round grey head would pop up on the surface, have a quick look around and then slip quietly away again beneath the surface. This was a harbour seal. They don’t stay long on the surface and are hard to photograph in the wild because it’s not easy to predict when they will resurface. They stay down for quite a while as they seek fish, squid and shrimp. In 2010, an aerial survey of harbour seals in Southeast Alaska estimated that there were 60,000 harbour seals in these cold, fish rich waters. They are a delight to observe.

P1130987

Shore Reflections 4 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130987

These are tidal waters, so the DIB drivers put out buoys to mark rocky areas that would become shallower as the day went on. The forest reflections were lovely.

P1130986

Return of the kayakers ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P113098.

Happy kayakers gradually came back closer to shore.

Their time afloat was almost over.

It would take some time to collect the kayaks and take them back to the ship.

P1130977

“Sea Lion”  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130977

Sadly, it was time for me to go back to the “Sea Lion”; the Dibs were needed for other tasks. Meanwhile, David was still on shore doing a beach walk while he waited his turn to return to the ship. So next time, we’ll wander along the shore here at Pond Island with him.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright JT  of  jtdytravels

If you are enjoying this armchair travel series, please pass the site onto others.

www.jtdytravels.com

More of our travel stories are on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

.

.

 

 

 

 

.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

One of the main aims of our trip to USA in October was to cross the country from New York to Los Angeles by train. That takes a few days, so we split our journey up into manageable chunks. The first section of this amazing train journey was on the AMTRAK “Lake Shore Limited” from New York to Chicago, an overnight journey.

P1100786  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1100786 © JT of jtdytravels

A few memories stayed with us as we prepaared to leave New York and one of those was a very pleasant lunch at the Times Warner Centre (above). One very wet morning, we had intended to visit the Museum of Natural Science….  but a few thousand other people had the same rainy day program in mind.  So we took the much easier option to have a simple but delicious lunch in one of the quieter restaurants in New York.  Amazingly, we could actually chat without the need to shout at each other.

.

P1100787  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100787 © JT of jtdytravels

After lunch, when the sun came out, we enjoyed the abstract reflections in the glass of this tall, modern building. The varied architecture of New York is one of the fascinating aspects of this city. But, after more than a week exploring the Big Apple, it was time to board our big, double decker AMTRAK train bound for Chicago.

.

P1100932  ©  JT  of jtdytravels

P1100932 © JT of jtdytravels

For the first hour or so of the journey, the tracks run alongside the Hudson River. The trees were just on the turn and gave a hint of the autumnal colour to come.

.

P1100951  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100951 © JT of jtdytravels

Being an overnight journey, we opted for a small room with beds.  And small was the operative word! To begin the journey, we each had an armchair from which to watch the world go by. As the sun set, and the whispy clouds began to turn to salmon pink, we were called to go to the dining room.  Dinner was an acceptable if not exciting repast. Conversation was pleasant with strangers we knew would never see again.  Interestingly, as Aussies, we seemed to be the ‘exotics’ on the train and we were able to add to our dinner companions’ knowledge of our country… and dispell some rather unusual myths and beliefs as well!

 

Rocking our way back to our room, we hoped that the attendant had made up our beds whilst we were away. Not so!  David did an heroic effort of working out the mechanisms for changing chairs into beds and then wrestling with sheets and blankets in such a confined space. I opted for the lower bunk, of course, giving David no option but to have to climb the ladder into the top bunk. The only place for the ladder was over the top of the ‘loo’ which was right beside my bunk. In fact, one of the best ways to meet your neighbours on the train was to have a chat out in the corridor while your partner used the ‘loo’.  The room was small but we were able to sleep as the train clickety clacked its way on towards Chicago. The only times I woke were when the train was stationary on a siding waiting for a goods train to pass us by. Goods trains have the right of way always on these tracks and, as the hours rolled by, we became ever later on our schedule.

.

P1100965  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100965 © JT of jtdytravels

Next morning, we woke to a very different world; a world of quintessential American farms.

It was delightful to watch the scenery slide by…

.

P1100972  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100972 © JT of jtdytravels

wide open spaces and fields of golden corn…

.

P1100974  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100974 © JT of jtdytravels

and the ubiquitous red barns on each farm.

.

P1100994  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100994 © JT of jtdytravels

This is dry country.  The wide arcs of watering systems were much in evidence.

.

P1110014 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110014 © JT of jtdytravels

Here, most of the trees had already lost their leaves.  Winter was on the way.

.

P1110016  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110016 © JT of jtdytravels

And then we came to the derelict and silent, but once very busy, steel city of Gary in the state of Indiana.  I read a fascinating report about this ghostly place written by Don Terry on July 2, 2012, in a journal “The American Prospect”.  A couple of sections from that article may decribe what has happened to Gary much better than I can:

Terry commented that this “shrinking, economically depressed hometown of Gary, Indiana—Steel City—was, once upon a time, a wonderful place to raise a family. That it had good public schools and well-maintained city parks and streets. That there were department stores, restaurants, movie theaters, nightclubs, and crowded office buildings up and down Broadway, its main thoroughfare. That a young guy could go outside, play some ball, flirt with girls, and not worry about getting killed in a drive-by shooting. That he could graduate high school, and if he didn’t want to go to college or join the military, he could just stay put and make a decent living in one of the smoke-belching steel mills that ringed the city and provided paychecks to tens of thousands of workers. That Gary used to be part of the American working and middle-class mainstream, a place folks moved to and put down roots in—not some decaying, can’t-wait-to-pull-up-stakes-and-get-the-hell-away-from-here outpost.”

.

P1110022  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110022 © JT of jtdytravels

Terry quotes a young teenager who told of joining other teenage volunteers, armed with bottles of Windex, to wash windows in a senior citizens’ apartment building. They donned yellow plastic gloves and T-shirts that pleaded Bury Guns, Not People. The young lad said, “ My dad told me how he used to love to play outside. Now there aren’t a lot of kids in our area. Everybody has moved away. When you do go outside, you have to watch to see if someone is following you home. There’s nothing here for young people. No jobs. No future. I’m leaving as soon as I can.”

.

P1110027  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110027 © JT of jtdytravels

Terry commented that “this is what happens when work disappears and dreams die. A once-bustling American city turns into Gary. A model of industrial might for much of the 20th century, sometimes called “the Magic City” by early boosters, Gary today is anything but. Over the past four decades, the jobs and the people have been chased away as Gary’s biggest employers had to grapple with low-cost foreign competition and responded by installing technology that enables two steelworkers to turn out as much steel as a dozen did a quarter-century ago. The five steel mills of Northwest Indiana—including the largest, the U.S. Steel mill in Gary—used to have a combined workforce of up to 100,000. They now (in 2012) employ roughly 20,000 people and are producing as much steel as ever.” The old less productive mills are now silent.

.

P1110033  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110033 © JT of jtdytravels

“Like Flint, Detroit, Cleveland, and Akron, like hundreds of cities and towns across the once-industrial Midwest, Gary is emblematic of the new American poverty, the poverty that descended when the factories closed down. The city (in 2012) is half the size it was in 1970, its population reduced from 170,000 then to 80,000. Its poverty rate (in 2012) was 28 percent. A fifth of its houses, churches, school buildings, and other structures are vacant and boarded-up. The hulking steel mills still line the Lake Michigan shore in northwest Indiana, but,” comments Terry,  “they’ve been hemorrhaging workers for decades.”

There’s much thought provoking comment in this article. To read more, just Google:

Where Work Disappears and Dreams Die

We had plenty of time to take in this area as we waited for yet more goods trains to pass us by. We wondered what nearby Chicago had in store for us.  We were in for a very pleasant surprise; Chicago is one city I would recommend anyone to visit.  I would like to return one day.

.

P1110035  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110035 © JT of jtdytravels

Our Chicago hotel, the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel, was an older building; they call it “Classical Revival Beaux-Arts” architecture. Whatever the style name, this hotel, in times past, has hosted Presidents, Politicians, Film and Sports stars…. and now it hosted us!

.

P1110265  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110265 © JT of jtdytravels

Although the rooms have been updated to include many modern amenities, there are still reminders of the grand old past in the public rooms.

.

P1110269  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110269 © JT of jtdytravels

The public room ceilings are elegantly decorated.

.

P1110271  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110271 © JT of jtdytravels

The beautiful old wall clock gave us the hint that it was time to get outside and see something of this city.  With advice from the friendly reception girls and a map in hand, we set off to explore.

.

P1110245  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110245 © JT of jtdytravels

By contrast to our hotel, this building almost next door, is an ultra modern glass construction.  This is the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning and Leadership.  The contrast between these two buildings was the beginning of our fascination with the architecture of this city. But, our interest for the afternoon was the long park that runs the full length of our street, South Michigan.

.

P1110037  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110037 © JT of jtdytravels

This park is a corridor of green between the busy street and the railway lines. Beyond the railway is another extensive park along the banks of Lake Michigan. This was a great place to explore.

I’ve added the photos of this walk in Chicago onto our flickr site:

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

The album title is US: Chicago- Afternoon walk

.

P1110153  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1110153 © JT of jtdytravels

After a few hours of walking and enjoying especially the Millenium Park in Chicago, we made our way back to our hotel in time to see a glorious sunset from our room.  We looked forward to a good night’s sleep in a much larger room, in a much more comfortable bed, with no clickety clacking and rocking of the train.  That would come again the next night, and the story of that part of our journey will be the topic of my next post.

Jennie and David

.

All Photography Copyright ©  JT and DY  of  jtdytravels

More of our travel stories and photos are on

www.dymusings.com

and

www/flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

.

Read Full Post »

Not being a fan of chaotic big cities, but being in New York to visit family and friends, we set ourselves the task of finding the quieter places, places to escape. And one of those places is a small six acre section of that great, green space, Central Park.

P1100863  ©  JT of jtdytravels

P1100863 © JT of jtdytravels

Many people know the beauty and the facilities of Central Park but few know that there is a ‘secret garden’ very close to this north-eastern section of the park.

.

Google Map of Conservatory Garden, NY

Google Map of Conservatory Garden, NY

To get there, we travelled north along Park Avenue by bus from 59th Street to 106th Street. ( We could have taken the subway # 6 to 103rd Street Station.) It was then but a short walk west to to the gates of the Conservatory Garden in 5th Avenue opposite 105th Street. This area is the border between Manhattan and Harlam, and Harlam, as many of our age will remember, did not always have the best of reputations for safety. So much has changed in New York and safety is one thing I noticed had really changed. The city still has an edge to it but we felt as safe as we do at home in Australia.

.

P1080818  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1080818 © DY of jtdytravels

David and me in front of the Vanderbilt Gate.

The main entry to the Conservatory Garden is through a magnificent wrought iron gate, the Vanderbilt Gate. This gate was designed by an American architect, George B Post and made in France. It was used for many years at the entrance to the estate of Cornelius Vanderbilt ll whose home stood at the corner of 5th Avenue and 58th Street.

We were about to step into a garden that not so long ago was an area avoided by most, a derelict area of filth, of drugs and of crime, a place where no one in their right mind would enter. But that was then. This is now. And the transormation is the result of the vision of one woman and the hard work of many volunteers who followed her vision.

The Conservatory Garden is named for the original conservatory glasshouses that were used by the Central Park to grow on plants for the park. They fell into disrepair when the cost of maintaining the glasshouses became too great and they were finally demolished in 1937. In their place a new garden was developed by Betty Sprout and Gilmore Clarke and it was maintained until the 1960s when it too became unmanageable. It stayed unloved and unkempt for twenty years.

This area became a very dangerous place to be, neglected, fullof garbage, the haunt of drug addicta and dealers; a place with a very high cime rate.  That was until a landscape gardener named Lyndon B Miller was approached by a friend to see if she thought the garden could be restored. What a sight met her eyes… but thankfully she saw the potential. But restoring a garden costs money and takes time. Photographs of French and English gardens were shown to possible sponsors and volunteers from the New York Garden Club came to the fore to help. This garden is a tesatment to the value of a garden in the social life of a city. Crime has disappeared and it’s now a place of peace and relaxation.

In 1983, a Women’s Committee was founded to make sure that Central Park and the Conservatory Garden remain in good condition for the people of New York and their visitors. They raise funds through Charity events, through the sale of plaques on the park benches ( there are some 9,000 benches in Central Park!), through the adoption of trees, and through donations to help buy the many tulips and other flowers that adorn the Conservatory Garden.

New Yorkers, and visitors like us, have much for which to thank these women. Certainly many of the 1,000 plus members probably live in close proximity to the park… for aprtment dwellers, it’s somewhat akin to having your own garden. But these women raise many millions of dollars to help keep the park and its facitlities in good order. I’m sure those who founded this park and the Conservatory Garden would be thrilled to see their vision still alive and vibrant today.

.

P1080820  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1080820 © DY of jtdytravels

.

This garden is a designated QUIET Zone… something very rare in new York! It’s for those who want to quietly enjoy a stroll in beautiful surroundings where there are no bicycles or horse drawn carriages or runners to dodge, let alone people out for a brisk walk with their dogs. In this secret garden you will share peace and space with other like minded folk who seek to sit quietly, to read or just to stroll in the beautiful Conservancy Garden. Let’s go inside and enjoy its beauty.

.

Aerial View of the Conservancy Gardens in Spring

Aerial View of the Conservancy Gardens in Spring

The photo above comes from the Park’s website and shows the layout of the Conservatory Garden.There are three sections, each one reminiscent of one of the great classical gardens of England, Italy and France. On the left is the gentle English Garden; in the centre a classic Italianate Garden bordered by the pink and white of crab apples in the spring time. Beyond the lawn and the fountain is a raised area backed by an extraordinary, semi circular wisteria arch, a pleasant pace to sit and read in the heat of summer, I would imagine. On the right is the more formal French styled garden which has plantings of tulips in the spring and Chrysanthemums in the autumn.

.

P1100809  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100809 © JT of jtdytravels

The Italian Garden

The first garden to greet you after you enter the gate is the expansive lawn of the Italianate Garden. This is a favourite place for weddings and for wedding photo shoots. We were there on a week day, so it was all very peaceful. Beyond the lawn is the cool arbour od wisteria. It must be a magic sight, and fragrance, in late spring. We were there in October and the crab apple trees were just beginning to change colour.

.

P1080852  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1080852 © DY of jtdytravels

From the fountain, looking back across the lawn to part of Mount Sinai Hospital.

.

P1080853  ©  DY of jtdytravels

P1080853 © DY of jtdytravels

Close up of the fountain.

.

P1080856  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1080856 © DY of jtdytravels

Autumnal leaves on a small pool.

.

P1080858  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1080858 © DY of jtdytravels

Portrait of autumn leaf on water.

.

P1100810  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1100810 © JT of jtdytravels

Beside the Italian garden is a quiet avenue of trees, a favourite place for those who just want to sit and read in a shady place, seemingly far from the chaos of the city. And yet, 5th Avenue is really only meters away!

.

P1080832  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1080832 © DY of jtdytravels.

The French Garden

To the right of the Italian Garden is a garden with a French influence. It’s a small sunken garden filled with flowers. The unexpected sight of so many flowers and such a riot of colour in Central Park, or any where in Manhattan, comes as a bit of a surprise… a very pleasant surprise. This photo is a just a taste of what’s to come in my next post… so stay tuned!

Jennie and David

Photography copyright ©  Jennie Thomas and David Young

jtdytravels

Read Full Post »