This year marks the centennial of the Panama Canal. With its opening in 1914, seagoing transit between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was radically transformed. Before “the trench” was dug, ships seeking to cross the Americas needed to circumnavigate South America — a time-consuming journey of 8,000 or so miles that included the rounding of that continent at the treacherous Cape Horn. The canal, however, is just 48.2 miles long and can be traversed in complete safety in 10 hours or less. It was a stupendous achievement, and in 1994 the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized it as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. (The other works named to that list include the Channel Tunnel; the CN Tower; the Empire State Building; the Golden Gate Bridge; the Itaipu Dam; and the Netherlands North Sea Protection Work.) In November 2013, I experienced this modern wonder firsthand. Continue reading
Posts Tagged With: architecture
Happy Friday! This week I obtained my Electronic Travel Authorization for Sri Lanka, which will officially permit me to enter that country during my planned visit to India and Sri Lanka this spring. I’m still working on obtaining my entry visa for India; the application process for that document is much more complicated.
Our featured image this week comes from a city much closer to home for me: Miami, Florida. In Miami you can find a remarkable Mediterranean Revival villa that was built in the early 20th century. It’s called Vizcaya Villa.
The house was built for James Deering, a wealthy industrialist. It was actually used as his winter residence; he already had homes in New York, Chicago, and Paris. Inside are numerous furnishings imported from Europe, some of which were centuries old when acquired. Today the villa is part of a complex called Vizcaya Museum & Gardens that offers public tours. In addition to the house itself, the estate includes some elaborate formal gardens that are also well worth checking out.
This photo was taken during my visit to Miami and Miami Beach last weekend.
Would you like to have a winter home like this?
On Tuesday evening I dined on scorpion. Not just scorpion, in fact, but also grasshopper, ant, and mealworm. The place where I enjoyed these entomological hors d’oeuvres was the Explorers Club, right here in New York City — thus proving that you don’t have to travel far from home to do adventurous things!
Of course, I do also enjoy roaming far and wide in search of the best of what this planet has to offer. This being a Friday, I will now share with you a new featured photo from my worldwide adventures. Today’s image comes from St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. Gorgeous onion-domed churches abound in Russia; but of all the ones I saw, my clear favourite was the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood, also known as the Church on Spilled Blood and the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.
Completed in 1907, this church began construction under the direction of Tsar Alexander III, and it was erected on the spot where his father, Alexander II, was assassinated in 1881. I was blown away by the intricate detailing of the architecture, which melds elements of Baroque, neoclassical, and Russian medieval design. Further enhancing the building’s charm is its setting; as you can see, it’s is situated on one of the canals that give St. Petersburg its distinct character and beauty. Not pictured here is the church’s interior, which is as much of a masterpiece as the exterior and contains over 7,500 square metres of mosaics.
This photo was taken during my visit to the Russian Federation in May 2013, during which that nation became country no. 28 on my World Karaoke Tour.
Happy Friday the 13th! As an explorer, I draw inspiration from the achievements of Voyager 1 — which, scientists announced this week, became the first man-made object to enter interstellar space. Launched in 1977, that space probe has now traveled roughly 11.7 billion miles from Earth. Kind of makes my own wanderings seem pathetic in comparison. 🙂 But I do what I can. (Note: many news articles have stated that Voyager 1 has left the solar system. But technically that’s not quite true; the probe still needs to pass through the Oort cloud, a region of comets that orbit the sun. Voyager 1 won’t even reach the Oort cloud for another 300 years or so, and it won’t transcend the outer edge of that region — thereby officially bidding adieu to the solar system –until about 30,000 years down the road.)
Speaking of my own, Earth-based travels, it’s time for another photo drawn from one of my previous trips. This week’s image comes from Los Angeles. It’s a very unusual house. Called the Chemosphere, this residence is octagonal-shaped, which would be distinctive enough; but what truly makes it unique is that it stands atop a 29-foot concrete pole.
Here, the Chemosphere — which was designed in 1960 by the architect John Lautner, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright — can be seen peeking above the treetops. (This is as close as I was able to get to the Chemosphere; it’s privately owned and its driveway is gated.)
Although as you may recall I was just in Los Angeles a couple of weekends ago, this photo was taken during one of my earlier visits to that city, in September 2012.
Would you like to live in a house like this?
Today brings to a close what has been a somber week here in the United States — especially in the cities of Boston, Massachusetts and West, Texas. And as I write this, things aren’t over yet in Boston, with the city in lockdown, one of the suspects dead, another suspect still at large and a significant possibility of accomplices who haven’t even been identified yet. So this isn’t a particularly happy Friday.
But the world has always been a dangerous place and full of cruel people; and we must carry on and do the things that bring us joy. For me, of course, one of those things is travel. This weekend I won’t be on the road, but I’ll be attending the New York Travel Festival. If I’m going to be stuck in my home city, I might as well be at an event that will have me thinking of adventures in far-off places.
And I’m also reminded of other lands every time I post a new picture in my Friday Photo series. This week’s featured image comes from the Spanish capital of Madrid. It’s a capture of the Puerta de Alcalá (the Alcalá Gate). Designed by the Italian architect Francisco Sabatini, this neo-classical monument was completed in 1778. It can be found in Plaza de la Independencia; it was moved to that location in the 19th century. Originally it had stood at the eastern boundary of the city, so it was actually a functioning gateway. Today it’s purely ceremonial.
This photo was taken during my trip to Morocco, Gibraltar and Madrid in February 2011, during which Spain became country no. 22 on my World Karaoke Tour.
To my fellow Americans: Happy National Margarita Day! And to everyone worldwide: I hope you’ve had a very happy Friday. I missed a week in this Friday photo series because I was on the road, visiting Nashville, Tennessee. But I’m back and better than ever! And this week’s featured image comes from Nashville. It’s a photo of that city’s Union Station:
Opened in 1900, this Romanesque revival edifice originally served as a railroad terminal. Today it’s a luxury hotel (it calls itself the Union Station Hotel). The interior is reportedly quite ornate, featuring a lobby with a 65-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows. (Regrettably, I didn’t have a chance to step inside; during my taxi ride to the airport at the conclusion of my visit to Nashville, I made a quick stop that only allowed me time to photograph the exterior.) The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
This photo was taken last weekend. 🙂 I’ll have much more to say in the near future about my visit to the great state of Tennessee.
Go here to see my previous Friday photos!
Another Happy Friday to you, as the holiday season is now upon us.
Today’s featured photo comes from Paris, the City of Lights. Fittingly enough, it’s an image created after dark. The subject is the I.M. Pei-designed entrance pyramid at the Musée du Louvre.
This week, of course, has been all about pyramids here at H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke! Unlike the ones in Giza, which were built with limestone bricks, the pyramid at the Louvre is comprised of 673 panes of glass in a metallic framework. (An urban legend, repeated in a certain low-quality Dan Brown novel whose name I won’t even bother mentioning, claims incorrectly that the Louvre’s pyramid contains 666 panes of glass and therefore draws power from the number of the Beast.) Completed in 1989, Pei’s structure contrasts dramatically with the Baroque architecture of the rest of the museum.
This photo was taken during my visit to Paris in the fall of 2005. When I took it, rain had just fallen, which made for some nice reflections.
Today’s featured photo is of a bizarre-looking home in Naucalpan, a suburb of Mexico City. The residence is called the “Nautilus house” due to its resemblance to a nautilus shell:
I saw this house, which was designed by Mexican architect Javier Senosiain, during my visit to the greater Mexico City area in May 2011. I actually toured the Nautilus house as a special guest of the owners (who can be seen entering the house in the photo above). To read more about that trip of mine to Mexico City — including the night when a taxi driver robbed me and left me in the middle of nowhere — go here.