city at night

city at night

Friday, April 29, 2016

Baby Bunnies

Even though it was a chilly, gray day, I went outside to clean out one of my flower beds this afternoon.  There was of bunch of fuzzy stuff in one spot in the bed, and when I brushed it aside I was startled by movement.  There, in a small depression, was a nest of at least five baby rabbits.  The one whose movement had startled me crawled out of the nest and wandered around for a while until it found its way back to the nest.

I was worried that they would be too cold tonight without their furry covering.  So when I was done working in the garden, I tore up some cotton balls and put a very thin, porous layer over the nest.

I did a bit of research on the internet, and discovered that mother rabbits only come to the nest a couple times a day to nurse their babies, usually around dawn and dusk.  They looked well-fed, so they had probably not been abandoned.  I just hope mother is not alarmed when she sees the cotton that I had placed over her babies.

UPDATE:  When I looked at the nest this morning, the cotton had been moved away, so the mother obviously came to nurse her babies.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Flying Down to Rio

In my previous post I wrote about a tour which I took in 1986 to Brazil and Argentina.  Our trip began in Rio de Janeiro.  Although Rio is neither the capital nor the largest city of Brazil (those honors belong to Brasilia and Sao Paulo respectively), it is certainly the country's most famous city.  In spite of the poverty of the "favelas" (shantytowns) which cling to the hillsides, Rio has a cachet of glamour with images of beaches and Carnival and samba dancers.  With its coastal location and dramatic mountain peaks, it has one of the most spectacular settings of any city in the world.

The flight to Brazil is almost as long as flying to Europe.  We took an overnight flight on Varig Airlines from Miami.  The next morning we were in Rio.

Our hotel was a beautiful high rise on one of the most famous beaches in the world... Ipanema.

Notice the mosaic sidewalks for which Rio is famous.

The mountains in the background are called "Dois Irmaos"  (Two Brothers)
Fortunately, I did not go swimming at the beach.  Not only can the surf be dangerous, but I have read that due to the city's poor waste treatment system, the bacterial level of the water is often dangerously high. 
One of the most popular activities in the city is to take the train which climbs the 2300 foot high granite peak of Corcovado.  We didn't have to wait long for the train, but I have read that nowadays tourists sometimes have to wait in line for hours.
Atop Corcovado is Rio's most famous landmark... the statue of Christ the Redeemer.  This art deco statue is 98 feet high and its arms stretch 92 feet wide. It was constructed between 1922 and 1931.  In 2007 it was declared one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World".

The view from Corcovado on a clear day is amazing.

Rivaling Ipanema in fame is Copacabana Beach.  In the background you can see Rio's other famous mountain, Sugarloaf (Pao de Azucar).
Like Corcovado, Sugarloaf Mountain is a monolith of granite.  It rises from the edge of Rio's harbor.  A cable car takes visitors to the top of this mountain also for more spectacular views.
(Yours truly, waiting for the cable car)
Far below, Copacabana Beach
Corcovado with its statue of Christ as seen from Sugarloaf

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Beautiful than Niagara

Way back in 1986 I took a guided tour to Brazil and Argentina.  I generally avoid guided tours, but the company with which I had dealt when I took students to Mexico was planning a new tour to South America.  They were offering their clients a preview of the trip at such a ridiculously low price that I couldn't resist.  As it turned out, the tour was quite good.  It wasn't overly regimented, and there was plenty of free time to explore on our own.

One of the highlights of the tour was a visit to Iguazú Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina.  Here the Iguazú River tumbles over the Paraná Plateau forming a magnificent series of waterfalls.  The maximum height of the falls is 269 feet, about the same as Niagara Falls, but there are up to 300 separate cataracts (depending on the time of year and the water level) which are spread over a distance of nearly two miles.  The falls are located in an area of tropical forest and are within a national park.  Although they are very accessible to tourists, and there are a few hotels within the park, there is none of the tacky tourist development which surround Niagara Falls.

We were on the Brazilian side of the river.  There is a paved sidewalk along the gorge which provides wonderful panoramas of the falls.

Here are a few slides from that trip which I scanned to the computer...

Another walkway extends out into the river to provide close-up views of the mightiest portion of the falls, a U-shaped chasm known as "La Garganta del Diablo"... the Devil's Throat.

A picture of a much younger me by the falls.

Shortly before my visit to Iguazú Falls, a motion picture had been filmed there.  "The Mission" is a historical drama dealing with the Jesuit missionaries in this part of South America.  If you have never seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  The photography, especially of the falls, is stunning.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Quiz Time - Museums of the World

Here's another quiz for my readers.
Can you identify these great museums of the world?

Number One...

 Number Two...

Number Three...

 Number Four...

Number Five...

 Number Six...

Good luck!

Update:  My friend Gayle correctly identified three of the six museums.  This is her first time participating in one of my quizzes.  Congratulations, Gayle!

Number Two is the Louvre in Paris, the largest and most famous art museum in the world.  This one is the only one of the pictured museums that I have not visited.  Since I was in Paris for only three short days, I figured that I did not have the time to do justice to this vast museum.

Number Three is the British Museum in London, one of the greatest archaeological museums of the world.  For years there has been controversy over how the museum's huge collection was amassed during the heyday of the British Empire.  Some countries demand that their treasures be returned.   Their point of view is understandable.  But on the other hand, in today's world where religious fanatics are blowing up archaeological sites, perhaps the collection is much safer right where it is.

Number Four is the Cleveland Museum of Art in Cleveland, Ohio.  While it is not as famous as the others, my hometown museum is highly regarded internationally for the breadth and quality of its collection.

Three museums remain to be identified.  Don't be shy!  I am sure that some of my readers out there know the answers!

Update:  Number Six has been correctly identified.  Meredith, a former student of mine correctly answered that it is the D'Orsay Museum in Paris.  Meredith is a frequent commenter on my blog, but I believe that this is the first time that she has participated in one of my quizzes.  Congratulations, Meredith!

Although I did not visit the Louvre during my short visit to Paris, I did go to the D'Orsay Museum.  It is much more manageable in size.  I didn't see everything there, but I did see its excellent collection of Impressionist paintings. 

Numbers One and Five remain to be identified.  I know that some of my readers recognize them!

Update:  I was holding off on closing the quiz because I knew that some of my readers could identify the last two remaining museums.  My friend and fellow blogger Kim ("El Gringo Suelto") correctly identified Numbers One and Five.  Although Kim is a very frequent commenter, this is the first time that he has participated in one of the quizzes.  Congratulations, Kim!

Number One is "El Prado" in Madrid, Spain.  Nowhere else in the world will you see such an extensive collection of Spanish masters such as Velázquez and Goya.  It also houses a large collection of Italian and Flemish paintings.

I have written frequently on this blog about museum Number Five, so I was surprised that it was not the first one to be identified.  It is the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, one of the world's great archaeology museums, and the greatest collection of Pre-Hispanic artifacts anywhere.

Congratulations again to winners Gayle, Meredith and Kim!   

Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Walking Tour of Mexico City

For any readers who are planning a first time visit to Mexico City, I present to you here a walking tour that takes in many of the major sights.  The photos are from my wanderings around the city on my most recent trip.  I have written about most of these places in previous posts, but perhaps this will put those sights into a logical order.  

The route is 1.5 miles long and takes about 30 minutes to walk, but if you visit all the places of interest along the way it would comprise a full day (or more) of sightseeing.  Although the street changes names several times, it is a straight line heading from west to east, and it would be impossible for you to get lost.

(image from the web)
If you are staying in the Condesa, Roma, or Zona Rosa neighborhoods, take the Metrobus north along Insurgentes Avenue (take any "Buenavista" or "Indios Verdes" bus).  Get off at the "Plaza de la República" station.  As you leave the station, turn to your right to cross the avenue.  Immediately at the next corner turn right, and you will be face to face with the first point of interest along the route... the Monument to the Revolution.
This massive structure was originally planned as a legislative palace by dictator Porfirio Diaz.  Work had begun on the central dome of the palace, but construction was halted with the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.   Years later, the uncompleted project was turned into a monument honoring the revolution that toppled Díaz.
If you are a history buff, the Museum of the Revolution located beneath the monument might be of interest to you.  Or you can take the elevator into the dome for excellent views of the city. 
The monument reflected in a nearby office building
Leaving the monument behind you, continue down Avenida de la República, lined with palm trees and Mexican flags.


You will soon come to this art deco building which stands at a major intersection.  It is the National Lottery Building.

Next to the Lottery building and in front of a modern office tower is a large abstract sculpture which is called "El Caballito" (The Little Horse).  Actually it should be called "El Caballito 2", because at this intersection once stood a 19th century, neo-classical equestrian statue.  (In an earlier post about the sculptor Manuel Tolsá, I described the strange history of the original "Caballito".)

You are now going to cautiously cross the intersection with the wide boulevard known as "El Paseo de la Reforma".   It is one of the city's most important thoroughfares, and deserves a walking tour of its own.

After crossing the intersection, the street is now known as Juarez Avenue.  This area was badly hit by the disastrous earthquake of 1985.  It is only recently that the avenue has revived with the construction of new buildings such as the high-rise Hilton Hotel.

Beyond the Hilton is a complex of new government office buildings and the Museum of Memory and Tolerance.  The museum is dedicated to the Holocaust and other 20th century genocides.  A visit to this excellent museum is a sobering experience, although the first time visitor may wish to continue on down Juárez Avenue.

Right across the street is the Monument to Benito Juárez, the nation's most beloved President.

The monument stands at the edge of the Alameda Central, a park which dates back to colonial times.  The Alameda was recently refurbished, and is a pleasant place to stroll.

Tucked away at the western end of the Alameda and easily missed is a small museum which is well worth visiting, especially if you are interested in the Mexican mural painters of the 20th century.  Called the "Museo Mural Diego Rivera", it contains a large and important mural painting by Diego Rivera which survived the earthquake of 1985.  It was removed from the a hotel across the street which was severely damaged and later demolished.

At the opposite end of the Alameda Park is one of the city's most important landmarks... the Palace of Fine Arts.  This structure is built of Italian marble, and is the main venue for classical concerts, operas and ballet.  On Wednesdays and Sundays, the world-famous Ballet Folklórico performs in the main theater.  Go inside to admire the lavish art deco interior and to see the collection of mural paintings by some of Mexico's most famous artists.

Catty-corner from the Palace of Fine Arts is the Latin American Tower.  This fifty year old skyscraper was for many years the city's tallest building.  It is considered an engineering triumph because it has gone through several major earthquakes unscathed.  Although the building is showing its age (there are plans to refurbish the exterior), it remains a Mexico City icon.   Take the elevator up to the observation deck for spectacular views of the city.

As you pass the Latin American Tower, the street becomes narrower and changes names again.  It is now Madero Street, and some years ago it was converted into a pedestrian walkway.  We have entered the heart of the city's historic center, and many colonial palaces and churches remain along Madero Street.


Only a few steps away from the Latin American Tower is the historic House of Tiles.  The exterior of this colonial mansion is profusely decorated with ceramic tiles.  Today it is the flagship of the Sanborn's restaurant chain.  In this city which is a center for superb cuisine, Sanborn's is hardly one of the culinary highlights.  However, walk in and see the dining room which is located in the beautiful courtyard of the mansion.

Across the street from the House of Tiles is the Church of San Francisco, all that remains of the colonial Franciscan monastery.  The ornate interior is worth a visit.

Continuing down Madero Street, you come to the Palace of Iturbide.  This former residence of Spanish nobles and later the home of Mexico's first emperor is today owned by Banamex (the Bank of Mexico).  Frequently there are free art exhibits in the courtyard of the palace.  There have been some excellent shows here, so check it out if there is an exhibition.

Madero Street empties in Mexico City's vast main plaza, the "Zocálo", which is exceeded in size only by Moscow's Red Square.

On the north side of the "Zócalo" is the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the Americas.  Constructed over a span of centuries, it is perhaps not the most architecturally harmonious church in Mexico, but both the exterior and the interior are most definitely impressive. 

On the "Zócalo's" east side is the enormous National Palace... once the home of Spanish viceroys and now the headquarters of the executive branch of government.  Go around to the side to enter, and see what are arguably Diego Rivera's most famous murals... a series of paintings depicting the history of Mexico.


This concludes the walking tour.  But beyond the "Zócalo" there are more sights to see.  You could spend another day visiting the archaeological excavations of the Aztec temple just beyond the Cathedral, and the excellent museum next to those ruins, and go a few blocks see more mural paintings at the former seminary of San Idelfonso and the Secretariat of  Education, and visit more colonial gems such as the Church of Santo Domngo.  The list goes on and on.  Mexico City is certainly one of the great cities of the world.