Day 25—Sydney Australia

I’m sorry I’ve ignored this narrative.  Some real time travel interrupted me.  I’ll rejoin us 25 days after we left Sacramento on our trip to “head east” when we found ourselves in Sydney, high up on a bridge, without Bubba.

                                                                      I’ll let Bubba explain.

Here I am, I made it all the way to Australia, and somehow lost track of Rick and Spider.  I saw this clam shell building and wandered over and they must have wandered the other way.

I took a ride out to the clam building (Sydney Opera House) and when I looked back, I saw this big bridge.

                                            Up on top, I could barely make them out, yes, it was….

How did they get up there and why am I not with them??!!

          The Sydney Harbor Bridge climb takes a couple of hours and has a few restrictions.  You have to leave all your clothes behind and dress in their blue suits.  You can’t bring anything with you (sorry Bubba) to ensure that nothing drops to the roadway below.  Even the caps you see are fastened to the jumpsuit and the zipper is in the back so you won’t be tempted to sneak something up.  The people are securely  fastened to the bridge with safety cables. 

We started 25 days ago in Sacramento.  So far we have been to four continents in both hemispheres.  We have visited Canada, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and now…Australia.

Sydney is a beautiful city.  Modern yet with a touch of exotic.  Even the street birds are a little unusual.  The pigeons have to make room for the wild locals.

                                              It is a place where brides and joggers share space.

 

                                                         And it is a city that comes alive at night.

            Convicts were once sent here and, if they got into trouble, they would end up in courts like this one.

                                                     Can you tell where the defendants sat?

                                        Not Guilty! Your Honor!!  It’s a witch hunt!

                                                     Tomorrow, we see the Blue Mountains. 

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Day 20. 21 Hitting the slopes in… Dubai, United Arab Emirates

          We made it on the flight that took forever and arrived in Dubai.  I thought I’d look around and see if there was anything interesting to see.  If you look west you see the Persian Gulf, look north (with better eyes than mine) you see the Strait of Hormuz and maybe the coast of Iran, south is sand and east…one…big…building.

Up there

          That is the Burj Khalifa.  The tallest building on earth.  It reaches 2722 ft., I’ve been told.  I didn’t measure because TSA took my pocket tape measure.  I had to find a way to get up there.

Maybe I can take a helicopter to the top.

 

          At about a half mile up, it looks like I’m in some type of aircraft but no, this is a shot out of a window in the building.

Big View

          The nice lady helped me get just a little higher to see better.

          You can get in a line at the bottom and buy tickets to go to the 125th floor, or if you think you are clever you can get in the shorter line.  The shorter line costs about twice as much but gets you on a very long elevator ride to the 148th floor. 

You know you are in a different world when you are met at the elevator door by a uniformed attendant with a tray of sweets and a glass of fruit juice.  It gets narrow up this high so it doesn’t take long to walk around.  You can even go outside and take in the somewhat hazy view.  There are about fifteen floors above you here.

And 146 floors below.

          Closer to earth, I thought I would look for other attractions.  I’m here for a short time, what wonderful sights await me.  It is hot outside so I didn’t see any parks.  Not much in the area of natural green color plants at all.  You could sit on the beach.  Hot sand melts the plastic off me so that would be a “no”.  I like to visit historic…  That’s problematic too.  While the history of the region goes way back, Dubai really wasn’t much to look at before the 1990’s.  Since then there has been an explosion of growth resulting in some very stunning examples of modern architecture but not much in the way of historic.  So what do you do?  We went to the mall.  That is the air conditioned place to go and the people here make the most of it.  We visited two; the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates.  We barely got to scratch the surface.  The Dubai Mall alone has around 1,200 stores. 

 There is artwork.

          These aren’t swimmers and they aren’t guys leaving the Big Building taking the express way down, it is art, man.

There is the chandelier of all chandeliers.

Kind of that jelly fish effect.

You can go ice skating.

Or meet this guy.

          I think he is supposed to be a penguin but looks more like a duck to me.  There aren’t’ a whole lot of penguins here to complain about misrepresentation.

          Yes, the sign behind him is correct.  Here, in the desert on the shores of the Persian Gulf, you can go snow skiing.

Don’t bump your head on the ceiling when riding the ski lift. 

          Dubai is a pretty mind bending place.  A building so tall it looks like it has to be Hollywood special effects, snow in the mall, and a chalet of sorts, with a form of fireplace.

Or at least a video of a fireplace.  It is too hot here to even think of such a thing. 

          This is a place unlike anywhere we have been and before my mind explodes, it is old world customs meeting with modern technology in the desert.

I think I will get in a plane and head east again.

Day 19 Doha, Qatar and Dubai U.A.E.

To go further east we headed to Doha in Qatar where we would change planes and go to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.  The trip should be easy enough except…

Bubba and I watched on the seatback monitor and realized that the phrase “as the crow flies” doesn’t apply to commercial aircraft.  We were doing a little zigging and some zagging to avoid “conflict zones”. 

          We traveled east to Germany, turned south east down the coast of Italy, took a hard left to skate over Greece and the north part of Turkey, a hard right to go south and wander back and forth along the Iraq-Iran border to the gulf where we made a pretty hard right (west) to skim down the coast of Saudi Arabia to finally land in Doha.  By this time, we were late for our connecting flight and had to spend a few hours at the airport.  Bubba speaks.

            This isn’t where we planned to be hanging out.  Since we missed our flight, we were a little concerned about what to do next, but we were met at arrival by a kind lady with new tickets.  Seems they kind of knew we weren’t going to make it on time and went ahead and rebooked us. To go from arrival to our new gate we had to go through a security line.  We ended up on the other side with a lot of time and no cash.  We had US dollars, Canadian dollars, Euros, and Dirham but no Riyals.  We finally were called to boarding and Rick was in the last row and Spider in the second to last.  After a delay, we started to taxi.  A down side to traveling with a pilot is she notices things I try to ignore.  As we taxied, she turned back and whispered, “I smell smoke.  Something is burning.”  Not something you want to hear on a plane.  And, just as I was saying, “Nah, just your imagination”, the flight crew advised us we were going back to the terminal with a “technical issue”.  I may have been tired before that, but I was wide awake now.  We stopped a little short of the terminal and the flight attendants went to the emergency exits, took off the little party streamer things, and stood next to them.  There were looks back and forth and some quick calls on the cabin phones.  Eventually, they relaxed a bit and we turned around and headed back to the runway.  The plane took off with everyone sniffing for the duration of the flight to Dubai.  It sounded like a flight of bloodhounds, sniffing for, but not wanting to smell, smoke. 

 

You may have noticed a lack of photographs in this narrative.  That would be because I was hiding deep in a pocket and Rick and Spider had a tight grip on the armrests and were not letting go.

We arrived in Dubai around one AM somebodies time.  I lost track and quit trying to change my watch several time zones ago.  Although late at night, the city was lit up  a Christmas tree and was quite enchanting.  Like a refinery at night enchanting.  Like the spaceship landing on Close Encounters enchanting.  Lots of lights on lots of tall buildings.

Tomorrow, I need to pick up a few supplies.  We have been on the road for 19 days so far, time to restock.  I wonder if I’ll be able to find a little shopping mall around here.

Back to Brussels–Day 18

In the quest to always move east, we took a week out to roll around Belgium.  We are now back in Brussels for a last look before boarding a plane again.

                                                                     Who’s this guy??

                                He is a statue.  He is dressed up in a uniform.  He is a fountain and he is….!!

AHHHHH!!  Don’t get wet.  I found out this is Manneken Pis.  A rather famous fountain to commemorate…there are several stories.  He has been standing there doing his bit since 1618 so his origins are faded.  The one I like best is the small boy who found a way to extinguish the fuse of a bomb and save the city.  This guy is famous.  He has a better wardrobe than most of us and his outfit is changed often.  There is even a special museum dedicated to his wardrobe and, of course, we visited. 

                                   Only some of his outfits are on display.  The rest are packed in drawers.

                                                     Do you like Elvis?  Well, Elvis is in the house.

            This is taken very seriously as he has been there for close to 500 years.  It is considered an honor for him to wear a costume and the submission process is quite complicated.  He has been given honors by several countries.

            He is a great hero among us short inanimate people. Who else can attract a crowd with umbrellas to watch him go about his 500-year business. 

                         Enough of this culture stuff.  Time to find an even more serious place to escape the rain.

            Kind of says it all.  Nothing better on a wet day than a tavern with many taps and an underground room.                                                                                           What could go wrong? 

            A couple of pints later and I’m ready to go back out and see the sights.  We stopped at a shopping arcade.

 

 

                                            Rick bought a snappy hat that looks like his other snappy hats.

            We then stopped by the Cathedral des Saints Michael et Gudule.  I think the guard may have detected the previous pints as he pointed the way out.  Or at least one way out.

                                                 Must be time to board the first plane out to the east.

                                                     I wonder where this place may be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 17 Waterloo

Bubba is on day 17 of his quest to go somewhere east.  Heading back from the Ypres area toward Brussels, we passed near the battlefield at Waterloo.

On June 18, 1815 The forces of France led by Napoleon Bonaparte met the European forces aligned against him led by Wellington and Blucher near the hamlet of Waterloo in Belgium.  We could not pass this area by without a stop.

            Battlefields generally look like an empty field and you have to use your imagination to reconstruct things.  Waterloo is a little different.  In spite of being 200 years ago, there are still some relics and, over the centuries, new sites have been laid out.  A little Bubba sized person like me has problems seeing such a vast area but I’m told there is a platform where I can get a better overall view.  It was easy to find, up by the big lion.

Waaaay Up

How do I get up there? Oh look, a staircase. Just a few steps to go.

But once you get to the top, you get a great overall view of the area with a chart showing the battlefield highlights.

The mound was put in about ten years after the battle, so things were still pretty fresh. Left on the site are a farm that figured prominently, another farmhouse where Napoleon spent the night prior to the battle. There is also a Panorama housed in a round building put in about 100 years ago and a great museum. They chose to build the museum mostly underground so as to not interfere with the views.

                We stopped off at the museum and there was the man himself. Kicked back in a chair checking the polish on his boots.

          I like the cut of those uniforms. The beats my shirt any day and they get some pretty cool hats instead of this peg thing on my head.

Hey guys!! Do you have a place for me? I’m looking for a laid back position, with maybe some built in nap time.

             It must be time to leave now. I’ll go look at the farmhouse where the Emperor spent the night prior to the big battle.
His bed and desk are still there.

He must have left in a hurry. He didn’t make the bed. One more stop to pay homage at the spot that was the last stand on Napoleon’s Old Guard.

Back to Brussels for a brief stop before boarding a plane and heading east again.
Travel tip: The world is so rich in history. With a little research, you can find some bit of history, a notable place, a tiny museum, near to anywhere you happen to be standing. Give yourself some time to hunt out these places so you can visit and enhance your trip that much more.

Day 15? 16? Ypres, Belgium

The next part was pretty serious.  Bubba didn’t come out much because we spent several days in WWI battlefields.  The scope of the slaughter was stunning and the cemeteries dotted here and there, filled with fallen youth was sobering and a real eye opener of the extent of the loss of life from that war.

Tyne Cot Graves

     There are nearly 12,000 graves in this cemetery, named Tyne Cot, alone. The cemetery is located on the battlefield and some of the fortifications were incorporated into the memorial.   Remains are still being unearthed in the area and are reburied with honors.  If they can be identified, their names are removed from the ranks of the missing.

     The names of the missing just from this area have been inscribed on a memorial at the Menin Gate but they ran out of room.  Tyne Cot’s walls are inscribed with a further 35,000 names of missing from the battles held near here.   

Wall of the Missing

     100 years on and the families of those lost still visit and leave reminders that these were real people with families and descendants they never knew.

     There are several places where the trenches have been preserved.  You can get a tiny taste of what life on the battlefield was like.  

     At the time, the trees were all blown away and during the height of the fighting, the trenches would be filled with water and deep mud.  

     The Menin Gate, located in the city of Ypres, was the medieval entrance to the city.   During the war, it was a strategically contested area and the city was devastated. The gate was restored as a memorial to the missing from the battles held here.  Over 54,000 names were inscribed before they ran out of space. 

     Since the opening of the gate as a memorial a ceremony has been held at 8:00 PM every evening. When the area was occupied by Germans in WWII, the ceremony was suspended until it was liberated.  The ceremony was continued with the sounds of the second world war in the background. 

     Shortly before eight every night, the street is closed and the crowds begin to gather.  At eight sharp silence descends and a bugler sounds the last post as a group of veterans dips their flags. Families lay wreaths and units are honored.  When we were there, a family from Australia, escorted by soldiers from the lost soldier’s Australian unit, laid down their wreath.  

 

     The missing and the lost and their families to this day, made their sacrifices in the “War to End All Wars”, so their decedents would know only peace.  We must not forget the sacrifices they made for our sake.

 

 

 

Day 11, 12 Belgium

My first for real Belgian waffle!!!

 In Amsterdam, I hopped on a train and headed to Brussels, Belgium.   Now I know I said I would always head east but I have to move a little bit west to go east.  The road takes you where the road wants you to go.

The train station in Brussels in in the basement of a building that houses the airport and the rental car places.  I could have hopped another train into the city center or points west but I talked Rick and Spider into getting a car instead.

The first stop in our quest to go west in order to go east was Bruges.  We parked the car and quickly forgot where we put it but that would be a problem for later.   Bruges became a place-to-come-back-to right from the start.   Knowing that our beds for the night still lay west of us, we were unable to fully explore this city.

In the few hours we had to spare, we saw a rich array of medieval buildings.

The churches have been around for a couple of years or centuries and have picked up a few monument and statues.

Sometimes I can’t tell if they belong together.  Is that supposed to look like that?

  A can’t miss is the Ghent Altarpiece.  Twelve fifteenth century panels painted by the brothers van Eyck.  It has a rich history of its own.  Looted by Nazis in WWII, the panels were found in a salt mine by the famous Monuments Men and were featured in the movie of the same name.  Sorry, no photos.   Bubba was properly humbled by the masterpieces.

 We found this place.   Maybe we could get a bite to eat here.

You can pick up a ham sandwich here, if you can reach the ham.   Even the butcher shop is an olde worlde building.

The medieval architecture here is amazing.  If it wasn’t for the banana on the bike, you wouldn’t know what century you were in.

This city is on the come back to list.   But now I must move on…  If we can find the car.

Yeah, well, we did do a little searching before we found it.  The problem occurs when you come to a place like this, you exit the car park, looking at all the buildings and not where you happen to be at that time.