Local Help Required

help

We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout,
We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out.
I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around,
Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson,
Look out Jackson town.

My visit to Jackson was quite a unique one at that. It was supposed to be a pit stop, between New Orleans and Memphis, a place to relax, recharge the old body battery and get a full wash done. When I arrived on Monday night, feck all was open downtown, so I got the bus to the edge of town, popped in this Irish Pub I had looked up, for some scran and probably one too many beers. About 9pm I walked the 0.8 miles to my Motel, which had me walking over two bridges over the interstate, neither of which had any form of walking lane and right at the side on the motorway was discarded needles – It’s gonna be that sort of place then.

I get checked in and my gaff has an upstairs bedroom and toilet and downstairs master bedroom (En Suite), lounge and kitchen. It’s a massive place and as you have probably seen from a previous post, not exactly what was advertised. I do a wash and I’m chatting to this boy Jim, he’s interesting. I tell him my story and where I work and we talk about energy. He was telling me about Corn Fuel and working in Alaska, with radiation, we hit it off. He’s a bit of a charmer, backed up when his current wife swings by and tells me so. The local chaps are trying to put up a new basketball ring, with no joy. Jim’s daughter pops buy and he heads off, she sits so we chat and she’s getting a bit of the ole Scottish patter. I will not go into great detail, but I was almost booking a second train ticket to Memphis.

To go to any shops, food outlet or to get downtown, you have to either drive or use an uber type thing. Jackson is an interesting place, with very little shops or outlets in the centre of town. You need to go to Galleria’s or Mall’s 20-30 miles away to get all that stuff. In Jackson itself however, there is tons to do. I’m out the gaff Thursday by 11am and my train is not until 6pm, I’m hot footing it from one attraction to another. I get the bus up to the Old State Capitol Building and work my way back down. It’s been the State Capitol for Mississippi since 1903 and was once the USA Capitol. It’s a working building, but I give the once around a miss. Round back is more interesting, one of 49 Caboose’s given to the USA by France when they gave them relief after the second World War. It’s down by the GM&O Depot and is called the “Merci Train,” a wooden train car given to the state of Mississippi by France after World War II. Even tho one was given for each state, unfortunately, most have disappeared over time and although this boxcar still exists, it’s a little beaten up due to it’s exposure to the elements. It’s a lot more interesting to me as a I pop by and take in the War Memorial also.

The main attractions for the day is the Two Museums – The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History, housed in a brand spanking new building and as I found out, only opened in December 2017. They knew I was gonna be passing through Sugar. I fleet thru security and hit the counter. As I scratch for my wallet, the lass says it’s my lucky day. Their sponsor Entergy (another Energy Co, jings) has sponsored 100 free tickets for today and guess what, Wardez in number 100 baby, hence why it said Special guest on da ticket. I will not go into any detail about the Civil Rights Museum. I’ve been to quite a few in my time here and while everyone is unique and fascinating, they all tell very similar, shocking, oppressed and corrupt stories from the time and how dark those days were. Lots of videos to help tell the story and make it personal to you the human being. There are sensors that go off when you walk under that say things like “Get to the back of the bus”, “You cant go in there, round the back”, a sort of shock and Awe about the segregation at the time. No photo’s were allowed, but What I will say is, if you have any interest in this sort of thing, look up the story about the lynching of Emmett Till. It’s on Wikipedia and easy to find. I firmly believe you will share the same amount of anger as me when you not only hear/read the outcome, but what the shop owners wife said afterwards.

Trump was one of the first to tour these both by the way.

My main posting will be about the Museum of Mississippi History and this was a real doozy and a must see for anyone, interested in history, albeit American Civil War history, but real life artefacts from the time and how people lived. It starts off talking about the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations and how they lived in 13000 BC through to 1518 and example of which has a 500yo dug out canoe, which reminds me of a Billy Connelly, Scotsman, Englishman and Irishman joke – Ask me next time you see me. From then to about 1800, many explorers like Hernando De Soto and other European explorers flooded the area, bringing African Slaves and gradually forced the Choctaw Nation off their Ancestral homeland. Come 1840, Cotton is King and the number of black slaves working in the fields and houses for the Plantation owners, outnumber the white’s and from there the struggle ensues. Mississippi goes through a period of regression and Freedom, then we have WWI, the Great Depression (bet your thinking it must have been from reading this?) and then from then to the current day – Civil Rights, Diversification and Innovation, Jackson prosper baby!

There are some doozy things like a kilt, a house outfitted with the technological marvels of the 1980s, including an etcha sketch and viewer. Proper Duelling Pistols, a Knife Jim Bowie used to stab someone. Printing presses at the time and Civil War stuffs. They had a funky music area with a Wurlitzer, singles and memorabilia from olde time Jazz and Blues and a recording both, where the Big Man recorded his own message. I owned it!! Joking aside, It’s starts with an interactive information wall where you choose an object and it elaborates further. You then get a 10 minute video about the place. i spent ages there and as a result, missed having a wander round the blues trail, bar one sign. Who can turn down going for something to eat before yet another overnight train ride @ a place called Fat Albert’s – That’s the Joy!

It’s funny, i was reading this magazine in the Amtrack station about what’s going on in Jackson over the next few days, including a Truckfest BBQ with Live Music and an open air cinema, both which I never found anything on when researching my visit. Frustrating, but makes me more determined to go to tourist offices and the right places to get ‘what’s on’ local info as soon as I arrive somewhere.

Cheerie

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A Streetcar named Desire

street

As we sit on the tracks @ 2pm having boarded in Birmingham, waiting on yet another freight train passing. The 12.08 ‘party train’ has a buzz about it. I call it the party train going on the number of coolers and very little luggage being taken on board my carriage by the locals. It’s apparent the FRI-SUN party crowd are heading to New Orleans, hence why the gaffs were so expensive methinks. I should not baulk anyhow, having arrived at the hostel circa 11pm Friday night, I found a local bar, got some grub and scooped a fair few beers n Gin in a short space of time. Most things in St Charles Street seem to be open 24 hours, which is very handy.

Saturday morning I was up sharpish to make good use of the solid wifi and sample the brekkie on offer. A couple cups of sludge and ham and cheese toasted croissants went down a treat as I firstly seen the F1 Qually, followed by the mighty Super White Army, Tranmere Rovers winning at Wembley to get back into the football league. Today was going to be a superb day people’s, I just know it will be. I have this feeling about a proper skelp, starting 12 lunchtime to 12 midnight in mind.

To put to one side the urge to get completely leathered as a stranger in a strange town I head up to The National World War II museum, a short 10 minute walk through the underpass, where many homeless and in some cases, armless people live in tents, to the edge of the French Quarter and where some good action starts. It’s billed as being voted the second best Museum attraction by Trip Advisor in the World and second best in the USA. Roughly translated the best in the world and the USA is also in the USA. I will have to Google where that is, I bet its an Art Museum.

A short queue and I’m ready to roll. It’s $27 to get in and I have paid to see two shows @ $6 each. The brochure says “The Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today – so that all generations can understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.” When you delve deeper, you get the message that Team USA were provoked after Pearl Harbour and they won the war. The UK and Russia were flagging and they saved the day. hmmm.

We start off by getting on the car of a train, similar to those used to transport troops heading to boot camp and you’re told a good 5 min story. The 4D cinematic experience, Beyond All Boundaries is powerful, its tells a great story of the US involvement and really sets you up for seeing all the exhibits and is a great show. Obviously there had been a bit of cost, with Tom Hanks narrating and the likes of John Goodman and Tobey Maguire speaking. The only one thing I would say that lets you down is were shuffled into a holding room, with no real organisation or placing, while Tom sets up the show we’re about to see. I was off to the side and had somewhat limited viewing. I could see one or two were looking round wondering was this it and why were they standing? It like when you get a briefing at work. That aside, it was powerful and more than worth the extra $6 bucks to see it. Visually emotive and interactive with shaking seats and a moving stage.

It’s an immersive tour of WWII as they advertise. Plenty of multimedia exhibits, personal accounts and lots of personal items donated by those who fought and also items of what they picked up from Japanese soldiers. Things like – Swords, personal things, rings, medals, hand guns, wallets, pictures, cards and the likes and they are all from the time and not replica’s, like at other places. The tour is broken into Campaigns, like European Campaign – D-Day invasion of Normandy and Road to Berlin. Asia – Guadalcanal, Road to Tokyo and Pacific Ocean battles. There is a general dislike of Germany, due to the war, the Holocaust and the likes, but I never knew that Italy, Mr Mussolini and his chums were in alliance with yer man Hitler for a good wee while, hence the battle of Rome. It has changed my opinion of those bastards. Here is a question for you, I shall tell you the answer at end if you follow it that long. In WWII, who suffered the most casualties?  Was it Germany, Russia, USA or another?

I’ve been for something to eat, Napoleon Catfish, with some good cold beers and onion rings. I head back to the gaff to get showered and changed and one of my roomie’s has just got back also. His name is Praise, which makes me chuckle, cos when he told me I said in response like the Fatboy Slim song and he looked at me awkwardly. I have to get it on my phone and let him listen to it. Now, when he speaks, I can only hear the song. He has been up Frenchman Street on his bike, so we chat and he tells me what it’s like. I say I’m heading off to Bourbon Street to get hammered and he is going to the French Quarter. He says about Bourbon Street that it’s really busy, full of drunk 17-21 yo girls, who get really drunk and are leary – He says it likes its a bad thing.

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I get the tram up and start off at an Irish bar just off the street. I try to order a pint of Stella x 3 times and the lass still does not understand me, so the English speaking boy I’m leaning over says Stella and she gets it – WTF? We get chatting, two boys from Houston down for the weekend. One, Chelsea fan, moved out here 7 years ago and settled with his wife and the other came out 3 years ago (Brentford fan) and married the pal of his wife. We get chatting about where I have been and I say I am getting a bit homesick, do they miss being back at home. The only thing that’s an issue is to do anything or go anywhere, especially in Houston, you have to drive to it. Back home, everything is ‘local’, more accessible and that’s what’s missed. They warn me off Bourbon Street and say I should go to Canal Street, more quality boozers, better liquor and more fun. They have both been to Glasgow and the West Coast and liked it. I say cheers and head to da Bourbon Street anyway.

I would not say I was blown away by Bourbon street, like many in Magaluf and likes, just pure party street, drinking in the street, but what probably sets it apart is the atmosphere, the music and the beat. People get married and go on a street pub crawl with a full scale brass band, it’s superb. I’ve settled in this one bar called Johnny White’s corner pub for some grub, beer and hockey. He made me down ma gin before I came in tho, house rules. The Scottish accent is both good and bad at times. Bad when your ordering and they cant understand me. I don’t know how many times when asked my name after saying Wardy twice, I change and say Alan. The good is women love the accent and just want to chat. I have taken to asking if a girl wants my number to go for a drink or a cup of coffee. Then writing it down with the line Wardy thinks your Bonnie, telling them to look it up before they call. It almost got me into a jam the night with a married lass, where I never went over the score, they were more drunk that me, but I shouted the loudest and the faster.

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I sat for two hours in a shop doorway sometime after 11pm, with a homeless army veteran, talking shop, the army and the USA. I went and bought and was drinking cans of gin and, well I think it was tonic. I offered to buy him some beer and he refused, but took some food and change for his breakfast. Really nice, genuine guy and cracking sense of humour. He had a sign asking for money, but was not begging, but had a keen eye for sussing people out and one classic was he said to two passing older couples “hey, my wife has been kidnapped and I need to raise 100k by Monday or they will let her go.” They gave him a couple of bucks and a chuckle. Anyway, after about an hour, as I usually do, I got a bit aggressive and was barking at passing, what I assumed to be rich kids, telling them they should be embarrassed and to donate. 

Just shaking my head all day Sunday and got up after lunch to get some grub and a wander round the French Quarter. Lot’s of street artists out on the go, jugglers and market stalls, but there was a chilled out, party vide on the go, with most places packed out it seemed. I did not cordon on till much later, when I noticed it was all families and some had flowers. My mother aint getting a call if you are expecting me to add this in, she already facebooked me Saturday morning, which was her birthday. My mother and technology eh, who would have thought. The rest of the day is spent supping on cocktails in one or two bars the hostel said were good and they were right. A late dinner and some more beer rounded off what was a weekend of self indulgence, supported by the superb tram system, with old, efficient streetcars that take you from A-B on about 6 routes in the city for only $3 for day pass. If you have not been and you are thinking of going to New Orleans, Wardy says you should. I said Wardy says you should. Feck, Alan Says you should.

I did take about 3-4 videos, but they aint uploading.

Cheerie

Ps. The most deaths in WWII was in China, most murdered by the Japenese, which you never her about.

 

 

 

Lost in Translation

lost

Right, I was a bit annoyed on Tuesday with the gaff I booked in Jackson, however, I calmed down slightly by the night time, partly through chatting with a couple of locals, but also it could be the case i was over-reacting. I say it might be the case, i don’t think it is the case, so this post will be about using a site like Booking.com, Hotels.com, Trivago and Tripadvisor and the likes.

Let me start by saying I have been on the road for over 75 days now, staying in 22 different hotels, Airbnb’s and hostels, spending an average of £25 a night, having reviewed my spend. I have given one 10 rating so far, plenty of 9’s and a 5.8 and a 6.3, for varying reasons. The average rating of all the properties combined is exactly 8/10 and if you review my history, i have been very fair to all. What i will say is that over 95% of my bookings to date have been with Booking.com, so they have had a significant amount of my business.

Now, what Booking.com will argue is they are a third-party company that provides an online platform through which properties can advertise their availability. By making a reservation through Booking.com, I enter into a direct contractual relationship with the property. From the point at which I make my reservation, they act solely as an intermediary between me and the property. They handle transmitting the details of my reservation to the property and sending me the confirmation, yet they have a dedication to customer satisfaction. I have had one incident where a late night Chicago airport stayover had committed to a late pick up and transfer and renaged. I contacted Booking.com to complain and in fairness to them, as a one off they refunded my excessive $22.50 2km taxi fare, after the lodge refused to compensate me.

I strongly feel that they should accept full responsibility for the properties they are responsible for advertising and promoting, on the basis they have a duty of care to their customers and they make money from every one of their over daily 950,000 bookings made. Make no mistake, if I make a booking with booking.com and I do not get what was advertised and the property do not accept responsibility for that, my point of contact will be booking.com, who can deal direct with the property they are advertising. This way it ensures the duty of care to correct the information, falsely advertised.

I may be boring you with this, but the intention, using the specific property I am staying in right now, which I will not name and shame, is to highlight, fairly I might add, how you should not be so easily suckered in by both what is on offer facilities wise and the photo’s showing the property. I made this specific booking, because it was one of the lower priced double rooms, with en suite on offer. But, it also had a working gym, or so I thought. It had laundry facilities and a pool. I did not mind it was a bit out of town – I like a Jolly Wander and I have time on my hands baby with my planning. Lots of stop offs on the way is how you meet the locals and find all the interesting nooks n cranny’s.

So here is what was advertised and my comments. Below that is the photo’s listed for the property and what I took. You Decide! 


Room Conditions
416 ft² – Very Spacious
Free WiFi – Comes and goes, but okay
Non-smoking – Has been smoked in, in the past. Fag butt in fireplace but room smelt okay on arrival
TV – Was Ace, 3 in total, all LCD and all showing Ice Hockey, up-to-date films and TV and cracking signal
Telephone – Never used
Air conditioning – worked well, even if at times the smell coming through was off (smokey)
Radio – must have been in the tv
Refrigerator – solid and chilled
Desk – three of them and solid
Seating Area – lots of space and comfort
Free toiletries x 2 shower gell and soap in both bathrooms
Toilet – two of them, worked fine
Microwave – looks a doozy and new
Dishwasher – why, of god why would you need one there were no pots, pans, glasses, cups or any form of kitchen utensils
Bathroom – clean
Heating – available, but i used the air con
Kitchen – Pointless! No cooking utensils or pans, pots or anything to cook with
Cable Channels – Superb
Bath or Shower – Both and hot water all the time baby
Fireplace – Has not been used in years. You can hear birds up in the flue chirping away, listen to da video
Sofa – Ok, but looks like a few people have had the sex on it over the years
Tile/Marble floor – Good, as carpets are well worn
Wake-up service – never used
Alarm clock – None
Dining area – One of the tables referred to. Pointless, unless you get in a take away
Oven/ Stovetop – Irrelevant, see above posts
Coffee machine – Great filtered coffee (4 sachets), sugar and powdered milk and polystyrene cups
Sofa bed – had two beds
Trash cans – Yes, with bags

Most popular facilities
Non-smoking rooms – Yes but people smoked everywhere else, especially round the pool – Why???, so very untidy
Swimming pool – the photo’s of the pools look a lot different from reality. Wicked use of angles to make it seem bigger. Pool seemed clean, but people from outwith the hotel came and used it, smoked round the pool, so the surrounding area was not appealing. Certainly very few deck chairs and not the amount in the photo
Jacuzzi Tub – looks in perfect working order and welcoming in the photo’s. Broken and in disrepair in real life
Fitness centre – took an hour and asking 3 times to get the door unlocked. Two running machine’s did not work. Despite switching on and off, but when programmed went to an error message. Stepper did not start with digital display when used and although the digital display came on when I used the bike, buttons did not work to programme, hence one pace available for workout. Front desk unable to help.
Basketball court – Run down area on concrete, not the covering in the photo. Hoop busted, but a couple of guys had bought a new one and were fixing it up.
Tennis court – no sign of this whatsoever

Outdoors (Sit back and relax)
Picnic area – run down, a couple of wonky, falling apart tables and only two chairs
BBQ facilities – As above, no facilities whatsoever
Laundry – Very cheap at $2 to use. They give quarters for the machines and you can by powder. The laundry room is run down, but machines done the job. My issue is however, there are no ironing facilities available (iron or boards), which means you have wash and dryed clothes that you cannot iron?

There you go. I have not scored the gaff yet, but I will do when Booking.com contacts me to do so. It’s $188 bucks for something not quite what it is.

Cheerie

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Fried Green Potato’s

freied

Ahh, what else are Sunday night’s, still nursing a horrific hangover, for? – daing ma blog catch up obviously. Now, I had a brief couple of days in Birmingham, Alabama, staying at a slightly dodgy motel on the outskirts of town that attracted all manor of lodgers.

A boy drove up in a swanky red car. However, later on when he went back out to the car from the motel, he had to put a long piece of metal down the side of the passengers window to shuggle the lock. Quite strange I thought, unless of course he had locked his keys in there. Nop, the alarm went off, he had the hood up and after a couple of minutes the alarm went off. Stolen car I think, but do not mind as long as he is not into ransacking rooms as well. I’m in 116 and 4 doors down is 110, the occupant of which had quite a glam wifey in it with her golden hair and long fingernails. She was always dressed up like she was heading for a night out, but on a Tuesday and Wednesday? Anyway, she never used to surface till in the afternoon and a fair number of people drove up, knocked and come and go-ed if you catch my drift. She maybe played rugby.

The gaff was okay for the price. A microwave and fridge in there, so two for one deal in the shop for special K and a whole lot of fruit gave me a base for the mornings and a late night snack other than a Wendy’s. I had originally chosen a Burt Reynolds film I remembered from 78’ called Hooper, where he was a stuntman, for my film choice. However, this was changed to the above for reasons I will go into later. I could of had a number of choices to be honest, like Forrest Gump, who stayed in Alabama. Talladega Nights as the race speedway was just down the road. Both My Cousin Vinny and Big Fish were filmed and set in this area as well as Capote, who was born here.

I have my maps and do a bit of two day planning, to include a laundry run and a local ball game. Some of the attractions I want to see like the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and Alabama Theatre are closed, which is disappointing. I use my time well and go for a proper trek round the city, considering I had not been burnt for a couple of days. There is the Birmingham Civil Rights Heritage Trail that winds throughout the downtown area where I am close to. It marks out all the significant locations along civil rights march routes and is a sort of, discover yourself type sketch, even if it’s well signposted.

What struck me on my 2 hours walk, jeez, was the amount of barbers and food store’s this city has, especially around the poorer areas. I start of at the impressive Kelly Ingram Park, right across from the Civil Rights institute itself. While I did read up on it, I did not go in. It tells a story of black and white life in Birmingham from the late 1800’s to current day. How different life was like depending on your skin colour and I probably would of made me mad as there still is a lot of African American poverty that I have seen. It has a Powerful Movement Gallery, which visualizes the violence in 1955-63. As I stopped to take a drink, there are about 3 bus loads of 11-14 yo’s on a school outing to the park and probably the institute and while they are noisy, I could not help thinking how inclusive the schools are. Everyone mixing and multiple races, there did not seem to be groups or cliques and it’s no doubt what got me thinking and eventually posting later about the UK, having a negative racist undertone in our society, which may get worse after brexit.

Anyway, enough of that, there’s tons to do in this town and I wish I had more time here. There’s an American sports hall of fame, a colonial-style village, vintage motorsports museum, botanical gardens, museum of art, science centre (for the kids), zoo, Mercedez Benz visitor centre, railroad museum and a racecourse (dogs), a good few of which were out of town and its in these situations I wish I knew how to drive!! I could of borrowed that chaps red car.

For now, I’ve done the trail, had a wander round a Bryden’s style clothes market that had some glitzy and whacky clothes. I settled for a plain white t-shirt for the very hot days and I changed into it there and then. There was some decent Polo shoes on the go for much cheapness, like $60, with a buy one, get one free sign. I pass by the stars (Walk of fame) outside the Alabama theatre and with the exception of Truman Capote, I never knew anyone. That was until I got home and looked up the amusingly named Fannie Flagg’s. She’s the wifey that wrote the novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Everyday is a school day neebs.

I headed downtown to get some scran and possibly some nice cold beer. The usual bus price is $1.25 regardless of distance, but they also have this shuttle that links uptown with downtown and costs only 25 cents, which is ace, cos it is a helluva distance to walk. Boy on the bus is quite chatty and tells me about a good irish bar. I get into the place and they sell Tennent’s baby and have a white pudding dish on the menu, I am in heaven.

I got back home at a decent time and no troubles walking around the area. Hump day on Thursday, walking some 2km to get to a laundromat I had found online that not only has a barbers across the road, there is a doozy bbq joint I can have some good clean battered and fried jumbo shrimp on a roll with salad and slaw. You heard me right, the middle parting and the curtains have gone people. Too hard to manage in the heat and its only gonna get hotter. I did try to get into the domino game on the go in the barbers, but they were not for having me. I get back to the gaff and have a wee snooze, cos I’m off to the game tonight.

I’m off to see the Birmingham Barons, who play at Regions Field, right over the back from where I’m staying. They’re a minor league baseball team based, who, as it turns out are linked to the Chicago White Sox, who I seen just a couple of weeks ago. How spooky is that by the way. $10 to get in, cheap as chips baby. It’s the 4th of 5 games against Pensacola and they’d won the first 3 scoring 30 runs so I’m expecting a show. The standard is okay and for the size of the stadium, the crowd is not the greatest, but it’s entertaining. I stayed for 7 innings as I have a long train ride tomoz and I had my fill. Guess what? The jinx strikes again – they lost 2-6. Mind you, they lost the next night as well when I was not there.

Cheerie

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Double Feature

brewsterstage

Now, I am going to start with an apology. I’m sorry for overloading two stories in one go, even if they are both about Washington. It was not only the Pens game Saturday night, but it was also Cinco De Mayo on 5th May. The date is to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, however, as you would expect, Americans see it as a reason to go out, buy taco’s and drink tequila. I got masel into a bit of a jam winding up Caps fans in the Fado Irish bar, when we were winning, however, a cool guy called David and his lass Mel, appreciated the banter and although I had to buy 5 tequila’s and 5 Jaggeur bombs, I got out alive. Anyway, spent all day Sunday in my bed at the gaff.

So, it’s Monday now and my train is at 6.50pm, so what to do. I go check out Capitol Hill, the reflecting pond and a doozy Navy Memorial I stumbled on with a large fountain.  Luckily for me, right next door to Union Station is The National Postal Museum, which I thought would be greeeat for a couple of hours after checking the place online, even if i did have 3 hot dogs and a soda for my lunch.

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So the museum is in a building that once was the main Post office in DC from 1914, till about 86 I think. The museum has tons of interactive displays about the history of the United States Postal Service and in some area of the mail service around the world. Mail by Sea, mail by air, by land on the Pony Express (Stagecoach) and using the railroads and the many deaths in the early days as all the carriages were wooden, they were right behind the engine’s, which used to explode regularly.

They have a mascot or did have called Owney (unofficial of course) and a massive collection of Stamps, including John Lennon’s childhood stamp collection and William Gross stamps. He donated some $8 million to expand the place and house his collection, which includes those upside down airplane stamps that were printed and appear in the Brewster’s Millions film – Now do you get the link!  Oh, this is another free museum by the waaaaaay.

I’m inside, this place is brilliant, when you first enter, if you head to the right, the first exhibition is all about the mail sorting systems from the original hand sorting that took 11 hours, to the feeder system and bar code readers by Pitney Bowes to what they use today. This feeds into the other about who the Post Office dealt with, who the customers were and the communities, where everyone knew who the post office dood was. Before they had a Union, Postal Delivery workers used to have to work a 12 hour day, with inspectors checking up on them. How the mail service linked the US, including how it was delivered via Stagecoach and rail. Truly fascinating stuff.

Did you know that during the war, women assumed responsibility for delivering the mail, letters from the front line and to keep America running. When the war ended, they were all duly sacked. Even then they had Zero hours contracts eh.

You can’t help feeling romantic in the Pony Express gallery. True there are some real stories and accounts in there, but also some myths that added to the romance. Oh and John Wayne of course in the film that made him famous, his first male lead – Stagecoach. I spent a good wee while in the Postal Inspection Service area, which tells a story of mail fraud, deception, transporting drugs and methods, counterfeiting and even sending bombs through the mail and how all these things are detected. The cuffs used to cuff the unabomber were on display.

On the second floor there is the National Stamp Collection and I quote “Thousands of objects from our nations philatelic collection framed in American history”. Very informative and somewhat interesting as there was stamps from all over the world, including the Inverted Jenny. A True Stamp geek’s paradise i will tell ya. They had boxes of stamps you could sift through, many stored away in print you could look up and you could use their computer to design your own stamp baby. They had an International Treasures wall displaying ‘exceptional’ examples from 24 countries and wait for it – Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, worn by the wifey hersel.

I feel what was best is there was something for everyone. If you loved flowers or butterflies, there were displays of both. If you wanted to look up print of trains in stamps, planes in stamps or superheroes in stamps, you could do so. Only thinking back now, i’m angry I never looked up World Cup stamps – Jeez!

cheerie

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Houston Calling

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Washington is a freebie lovers dream. Finished with the impressive national monuments, I’m heading up the National Mall, which is line on each side with Museum after Museum, interest after interest, regardless of your taste! A say that with an added note that the streets are also lined by sellers trucks, selling touristy tat and kebabs, ice cream, icy cold drinks – all that a slightly inflated price. There not pushy, it’s just there and a bit of a distraction. Sorry, I like Mr Whippy Ice cream too much. 

On my left there are the National Museums of American History and Natural History. The National Gallery of Art (N.G.A.) Sculpture Garden and both East and West buildings. On the right we have the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Smithsonian Castle, Hirshhorn Museum and American Indian Museum. Now, I am sure that each of these are superbly interesting in their own right, but I have eyes for only one place and both Donny and Hazel have said it’s a doozy, my next stop is the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, with Planetarium. I’m well excited.

Now I took tons and tons of photo’s and spent a good few hours in the place and probably would have been in there longer if it did not close come 5.30pm. I did not mind too much, I was a bit puckered anyway and I wanted to get up to the hockey stadium to soak up some atmosphere before the Pens played, then get in a good bar to watch the game, have a beer and get some grub.

Where do I start? When you walk in the first thing that’s visible is Gemini IV and the Apollo Lunar Module. There’s two floors to the place, 12 different exhibitions on the first floor and a flight simulator and 13 on the second floor, an Imax Theatre and the Einstein Planetarium, which I missed when it closed. Aside from the exhibitions, they have a number of planes hanging from the roof. I love that shit.

How Things Fly, Early Flights, Golden Age of Flight and Jet Aviation were interesting and there were a number of interactive toys and tools you could play around with that helped tell a story. I did not pop into Explore The Universe and Looking at Earth rooms, thinking it would not top Chicago. Moving Beyond Earth had models of the International Space Station and a model of Colombia and the Space Race had models of the first aircrafts that went into space, how small they were and in some case had 2-3 people in them. Imagine having a single bed mattress as your home for 28 days, sharing a pod with 3 others. I know these guys were conditioned and trained, but wow!

The second floor is just as interesting and I spent ages in the Pioneers of Flight exhibition. It’s cause of these people, going as far back as 1783, that I am able to travel the world today. In fact there was a model of a typical Pan Am plane, the DC-7, where you can walk through its nose, how small and exclusive those early flights were. Great War in the air, World War II Aviation and Sea-Air Operations are intriguing and right up my galley, so to speak. They don’t just show planes like the North American Mustang, there is a Supermarine Spitfire MKII model, Macchi C202, Messerschmitt and Mitsubishi AGM Zero.

There’s a lot of information about the pilots, what medals were given by what nations and the type of flight suits they wore in every era. It was not all about the planes either, there was stuff about that Steve Fossett guy who went missing in the desert and his balloon flights. National Air Races back in the day and the awards they won. They even had a wind tunnel, even though I never went in – I’m no very aero dynamic.

Well worth the $0.00 entrance fee – doozy neighbour.

 

Part of the National Mall includes some ad hoc gardens and art, showcasing the talent of Washington artists. I have always struggled with Art, hence why I very rarely go to art galleries and the likes. It’s interesting tho, have a gander.

What I will say is this, how can something created by a lassie called Tracey in London, be worth more than my buddy Gordon fae Perth? They could design the same thing and hers would be worth tons more ££££. I have always thought that if you took a painting, put it up for sale and said it was by a local artist, yer lucky if it would get pennies. If you took the same painting, added to an ‘Estate’ collection, up for auction, it would get some candy!. Think about that.

Cheerie

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Mr Ward Goes to Washington

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After paying homage to the mighty ‘Go Pens’, I’m off to the Nations Capitol – Washington DC, steeped in history and politics. Well it is the home of the Donald after all. I have had this film title in mind for a wee while having seen it a couple of weeks back. As soon as I seen it was on, I made the point of watching, having enjoyed it first time I watched it. Jimmy Stewart, now there’s a guy, a true underdog. The good news is however, is I will be splitting my 3 day adventure over 3  posts, not to dump everything I’ve done at once.

The train journey is a doozy, with Luscious loch’s and rambling rivers. Hilltops, beautiful trees, scenery and wildlife, all on their tootsies watching the choo choo whizz by. I’m writing this down on my phone as a I go alone, supping on some wine, noting some beautiful houses and farms on the way. Not one the same, all unique in design and colour, yet in stark contrast some very basic, run down and derelict properties align the route. Chapels, graves, barns, scrapyards, car lots and town to town, all trackside. The most interesting from an lover of charity shops and all things antique catch the eye. All the ‘junk’ some have in yards, beaten up barns, all visible. Old shops and eateries with cool old signage. Some towns have maybe died, but some of the history has not, thankfully.

The train tracks snake alongside the river, full of life with ducks, birds and beavers. I’m yearning to get a lodge by the river and simply unplug for 2 weeks. I’m not fussed if it’s sunny or not. A bit of fishing maybe, woodland wanders and your standard deliverance experience if it came to it. As we leave harpers town then is the main river, but in between that and the train tracks there is a lade, with a very thick green covering on top, the result of all the algae, plant life and trees. One thing about the journey is how green the countryside was! Anyway, my eyes are caught by what looked to be a trio of turtles. Next significant log and again 2-3 wild turtles looking magnificent, so many, free and enjoying their small stretch of life, looking up at the sky, so peaceful baby.

Washington is costly, so I’m in the cheapeast hostel and I got my money’s worth. I get the metro, walk about 20 blocks and I’m at the gaff. There are free beers on the go tonight and a possible BBQ on Sunday, which sounds promising. What I did not know and did not come up in my research, was the legalisation of cannabis back in January. On Saturday night they will have some on site to be bought at a reduced price if I’m into that sort of thing. The tone has been set. I lump down to the room, go have a shower and unpack my case. At that point Irene comes in and goes to bed, there is a bit of chat, maybe flirting, but that’s another story. 2 x 2 bunk beds and 2 single beds. 3 of us in the room, Irene and a proper hairy redneck boy, cant remember his name, but as with most Americans, he knows everything. Like, Vegas Knights will play the Pens in the Stanley Cup Finals, but as I write this, the Pens just got knocked out. Anyway, he talks about Iraq and the likes, but the pair of them don’t seem to go out. They get up, get stoned, go to bed, eat a little. Dope-Rest-Munch-Repeat.

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It’s Saturday and I’m off sharpish. Got a day planned sight seeing, but free sight seeing. I’m no paying a penny to get in anywhere if I can avoid it. First stop is Harry’s diner for some Clam Chowder and battered fish on a roll, which is how they do it here. A nice vanilla milk shake to wash it down. First stop – The White House, home of the Donald and a classic snapshot of not only the building itself, but also the West Gate. Many may not know I am a massive fan of the West Wing. Many of a scene has been shot at the West Gate, so the big boy has to get a snapshot baby. The excellent thing about Washington is that everything is laid out, monument to monument, museum to museum, all in an order where you can casually walk from one to another over a couple of days. I must add that the street sellers, food trucks, cheap touristy tat and the likes, are all in order as well to be fair. $$$$

I wander round the big white house and down to the towering Washington Monument. Most of these places are accessible to a point, then you have to be on a paying tour. A wander round and I come to a truly inspiring WW II memorial, which sits at one end of the Reflecting Pond that was in the Forrest Gump movie, when Jenny wanders through it. This leads up to the Lincoln Memorial, but it looks mega busy and far away, so I stick with the WW II fountains, the stone architecture and bronze statues are all designed to honour those who had fallen and celebrate the victories of not just America. I will finish off this blog with a snippet taken from the memorial website, so you get an idea of what the photo’s hopefully show. What I will say is there were veteran’s their, being taken around and each individual veteran had a personal guide to push their wheelchair, help them around and talk about the memorial. This is something the Yanks do very well, looking after their Armed Forces Personnel, current and past!

“Twenty-four bronze bas-relief panels flank the ceremonial entrance. To many, these panels stir memories as they tell the story of America’s experience in the war. Granite columns representing each U.S. state and territory at the time of World War II ring an impressive pool with water shooting high into the air. Quotes, references to theaters, campaigns, and battles, and two massive victory pavilions chronicle the efforts Americans undertook to win the war. A wall of 4,048 gold stars reminds all of the price over 400,000 Americans paid to win that victory.”

Cheerie

Ps. One of the video’s is of 3 official choppers flying overhead and towards the White House. I was reliably told was the Donald in Marine Force One.

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