Gil Eannes

Gil Eannes was one of the Portuguese navigators who, with the support of Henry the Navigator, expanded the known world and turned Portugal into the premier world power of the 15th century.

In the early 15th century, Cape Bojador, on the western coast of the Kingdom of Morocco, was considered impassible.  Upon reaching this western-most point of Africa, sailing ships found themselves pushed away from the coast by strong northeastern winds.  Navigational tools and charts were either non-existent or very primitive.  Early navigators sailed mostly by sight, using the coast as a guide.  The wind, which pushed them away from the coast into open waters, was terrifying to the men attempting to round the cape and most of them turned around rather than risk losing sight of land.

Finally, in 1434, Eannes and his crew became the first Europeans to cross this barrier.  This was a major achievement and opened the way for the Portuguese to explore and to colonialize Africa and eventually led to Vasco da Gama’s journey to India.

Portugal is rightfully proud of their role during the Age of Discovery.  Henry the Navigator and his navigators da Gama, Magellan, Eannes and others are national heroes.  Eannes is pictured on several Portuguese postage stamps like this one from 1945.

Gil Eanes

The Portugal Navy named a medical ship after Eannes in 1955.  After decommissioning, the ship became a museum located in Viana do Castelo.  According to Trip Advisor, the Gil Eannes museum is the second most popular thing to do in Viana do Castelo.

Gil Eannes 2

 

 

 

Colonial Williamsburg in the snow

Sometimes karma rolls through and you find yourself in a once in a lifetime experience.  A few years ago, my wife and I spent an extended weekend at Colonial Williamsburg to celebrate our birthdays, which are two days apart.  Colonial Williamsburg is one of our favorite places to visit and we’ve been there several times.

This time, as we slept a winter storm rolled through and covered Williamsburg in a six-inch blanket of snow.  We woke up to a place that had been turned, overnight, into a winter wonderland.  Although everything was closed, we enjoyed wandering around the town, which was virtually abandoned, and enjoying the beauty of the snow.

This photo is one of my favorites from that day.  I love the colors of the buildings and the timelessness of the image.  You can imagine that you’re standing in the town before the invention of automobiles, the discovery of electricity, and they creation of all things electronic.  It was a peaceful day and one that we’ll always remember.

Kodak Camera 284

Cathedral of St. Mary the Great, Viana do Castelo

Portugal has a long history with the Catholic Church and there are beautiful churches and cathedrals everywhere.  While the undisputed star of the show in Viana do Castelo is the Basilica of Santa Luzia, situated on the mountain overlooking the city, the 15th century cathedral is quite beautiful as well.

The cathedral, with its twin towers topped with battlements, was built to be a fortress as well as a church.  Built during a time when Viana do Castelo was made wealthy by Portuguese ships returning from their many colonies around the world, the exterior belies the ornate interior, with gold gilt and renaissance art.

One aspect of the interior is unique.  The cathedral is probably the only church in Portugal that has a model of a Portuguese caravel, the sailing ship that was used by Vasco da Gama, Christopher Columbus and other explorers in their discoveries of the world.  If you look in the photo below, you’ll see the ship in the case on the right.  The white sail with the red cross was inspired by the Knights Templar, known in Portugal as the Order of Christ, who wore a white surcoat with a red cross on the chest.  Henry the Navigator, the Portuguese prince famous for initiating the Age of Discovery, was the Order’s first Grand Master.

Interior with Ship Model

It’s easy to overlook the tiny model among all the ornamentation inside the cathedral, but it’s something that pays tribute to the importance of the sailing ships of Portugal, some of which left from Viana do Castelo to begin their exploration of the world.

Anchorage, Alaska, May 2016

The final stop on our Alaska cruise was the city of Anchorage.  Established in 1914 as the terminus of the newly established Alaska Railroad, Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska, with over 40% of the state’s population living in the city.

Anchorage 4th Ave HDR Outdoor 2

On Good Friday in 1964, much of the city was destroyed by the second strongest earthquake ever recorded.  Downtown Anchorage sustained much of the damage, but many areas of the city were destroyed.  The Turnagain neighborhood was destroyed when the land it was built on dropped seven feet and then slid into Cook Inlet.  The destroyed area was turned into Earthquake Park and can be seen from the Anchorage Trolley tour.

While we’re on the subject of the Trolley tour, our tour guide had an interesting account of the earthquake.  Her husband, a kid at the time, was at the dentist on the day of the earthquake.  When the earthquake happened, the dentist grabbed the child from the chair and they climbed out the first floor window.  The young boy, having never been anesthetized before, thought the shaking was the result of the Novocain.

Despite the extensive damage, Anchorage was quickly rebuilt and today is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.  Monuments and art, including several totems,  are everywhere.

 

There are murals everywhere in Anchorage, even in back alleys.  The largest and most beautiful is Alaska’s Marine Life, the 54th of artist Robert Wyland’s Whaling Walls.  Other standouts are the Iditarod mural on the side of the Alaska Experience Theater and a small mural on the side of Kobuk Coffee.

 

We had roughly a day in Anchorage and we made the most of it.  We like to research restaurants before we visit a city and the place we chose for dinner was Glacier Brewhouse.  The place was packed when we stopped and we had to wait more than an hour to be seated but it was worth it.  The food, the beer and the service were all great.

The next morning we took a walk to Snow City Cafe for breakfast.  Another popular spot with both locals and tourists, we had about a half hour wait.  While we waited we wandered across the street to Resolution Point and the Captain Cook monument.  Resolution Point gave us a great view of “the Sleeping Lady”, Mount Sisitna.

 

After a wonderful breakfast at Snow City we wandered back to the Anchorage Visitors Center for the Trolley Tour.  The Visitors Center is a cute little “cabin” with a sod roof.  The Trolley Tour took us on a very informative tour of the city.  We visited Earthquake Park, Lake Hood, some of the oldest neighborhoods in Anchorage and saw Engine No. 1, the first locomotive of the Alaska Railroad.

Lake Hood was interesting. We learned that 1 out of every 60 Alaskans have a pilot’s license (the national average is 1 out of 400).  This makes sense when you find out that roads reach only 30% of Alaska.  We also saw the iconic de Havilland Beaver airplane.  Only 1,600 of these airplanes were built between 1948 and 1967.  Despite the last Beaver rolling off the assembly line 50 years ago, hundreds are still operational and are so popular in Alaska that they pass down from family member to family member.

 

After the Trolley Tour we took a leisurely walk back through town, eventually stopping at Town Square Park for a reindeer sausage.  The weather was great and the park was a wonderful little place to enjoy the day.

Anchorage Park HDR Outdoor 1

Eventually it was time to get to the airport.  Ted Stevens Airport was pretty interesting with a lot of art.  The ducks and geese were quite striking.

 

So, after twelve days, it was time for the flight home.  We enjoyed everything about the trip and will always look back on it as a trip of a lifetime.

Aveiro’s Old Railway Station

Aveiro was one of our favorite stops during our visit to Portugal.  Though best known for its canals and the moliceiros that carry tourists up and down the canals, there’s a lot more to the city than the canals.  The city is full of fine examples Art Nouveau architecture and Portugal’s famous azulejos and calçada are everywhere.

Just a few minutes walk from Aveiro’s main canal you’ll find the city’s beautiful old railway station.  The station has been replaced by a newer and shinier station, but the old station is a gem.  The station is covered with azulejos depicting scenes from the area, including salt harvesting and fishing, both of which were traditional industries of Aveiro.

Old and New Stations
The old Aveiro Railway station with the new station on its right.

During our visit the station was closed and fenced off, hopefully for restoration.  The building is now over a century old and is in need of restoration.  We were still able to view the beautiful tiled artwork on the front of the building.  The tiles are predominantly the traditional blue azulejos, but highlights of yellow are scattered throughout, especially in the tilework framing the scenes.  These two sections depict scenes of the Vouga River and the Aveiro Lagoon.

Aveiro Train Station Detail 2
Azulejo panels on the Aveiro railway station.

The azulejos are quite beautiful and serve the purpose of documenting the history and traditions of Aveiro.  The citizens of the city are quite proud of their history and their old railway station does a great job of putting their history on display for visitors who may come to Aveiro through the railway station.

Station Azulejo Detail
Panel detail from the railway station.

My hope is that on our next visit to Aveiro the renovation of the old railway station has been completed and we’ll be able to enjoy the station in more detail.  For now, it was a nice stop on our tour of Portugal.

 

Praça da Liberdade, Porto

Praça da Liberdade, the main square in Porto, with its many beautiful Beaux Artes buildings, is reminiscent of the grand avenues of Paris.  Its location makes it a great starting point for an exploration of this beautiful and historic city.  It’s within walking distance of the Ribeira, the Mercado Bolhão, Majestic Cafe, Livraria Lello, Sao Bento Train Station and many other places to visit.

Just a few years ago the square was a tree-lined park.  When the Avenida dos Aliados Metro station was built under the square, the park was removed and the area over the Metro was paved in stone.  I would have loved to have been there when the park still existed, but the square still remains a great place to visit.

Avenida dos Aliados

Cigar Store Indians

Cigar store Indians have an interesting history.  Because many people in the 17th and 18th centuries could neither read nor write, store owners used emblems or totems to advertise their wares.  A great example that still exists today is the striped pole seen outside many barber shops.  Because American Indians introduced tobacco to Europeans, the image of a Native American became the symbol of tobacconists.

Unfortunately, many of the artisans who created the statues had never actually seen a Native American.  The cigar store Indians, for the most part, looked nothing like a Native American.  Many have dark skin and features associated more with people of African or Asian descent.

The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, in Williamsburg, Virginia, has a nice collection of these advertising icons.

Cigar Store Indians

Chimneys

As Winter quickly approaches, I want to share this photo I took at Williamsburg, Virginia several years ago.  During our visit a snow storm struck the east coast and left a six-inch blanket of snow covering Williamsburg.  While Colonial Williamsburg and most businesses in the town were closed, we made the best of the situation.  We spent a lot of time wandering through the historic district and taking many photos of a once in a lifetime experience.

I love how the red brick chimneys pop against the otherwise monochromatic scene.  I also love that, because the scene is from the backyards of the historic buildings, the snow is pristine, with footprints or other signs of man.  To me, it’s a peaceful and beautiful scene and provides a different view of a much photographed tourist destination.

Chimneys

Castle of Leiria

Probably the cultural and historical highlight of the Portuguese city of Leiria, the hilltop castle can be seen from virtually everywhere in the city.  The castle has a long history, when the very first king of Portugual, Afonso Henriques, had the castle built as defense against the Moors, who still controlled the south, including Santarem and Lisbon.

Over the centuries the castle has seen many changes and has been the site of many historical events.  It was the home to Dom Dinis and his wife, Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.  Dom Dinis was the king who declared the “language of the people” as the language of the state, making Portuguese the official language of the country.

Dom Dinis earned his “Farmer King” nickname when he founded agricultural schools to improve farming techniques in the country.  He also ordered the creation of the Pinhal de Leiria, a huge pine forest, as a barrier against encroaching ocean sands.  The forest also became an important source of raw materials for the building of the Portuguese naval fleet which, in the coming centuries, would help turn Portugal into the most powerful country in the world.

Leiria Castle 2

Atlas, NYC

This beautiful Art Deco sculpture has become one of those lasting icons that are associated with New York City.  Created by sculptor Lee Lawrie and installed at Rockefeller Center in 1937, The sculpture depicts Atlas holding up the heavens.

According to mythology, the Titans, the older gods, fought the Olympians, a younger generation of gods, in a ten-year series of battles known as the War of the Titans.  When the Olympians came out victorious, Atlas, a Titan, was condemned to hold up the heavens for eternity.

If you’re a fan of television, you may have seen this work of art on 30 Rock, where it’s been shown many times.  If you’re a reader, you may have seen an artistic rendering of it on the cover of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.  Atlas is is a fitting image to represent the strength and power of New York City.

AtlasInNYC2