Tuesday, December 29, 2009

World Heritage: 2009 in Review

Well, this year I made it to two World Heritage sites, the lowest total since 2001. I sort of saw that coming, given the location of this year's conferences. Still, I was happy to make it to these two sites:

  1. Augustusburg Castle in May
  2. The Lavaux Vineyards in September

The list is up to 890. I didn't pick up any from new inscriptions again this year. My 46 out of 890 gives me 5.2%, marginally up over last year's 5.0%. I don't anticipate a big haul next year, but one conference near an iconic World Heritage Site (on the level of Stonehenge) intrigues me. Stay tuned...

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Halfway to France (and Back)

Last month, I told you about biking halfway to Mexico. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of biking halfway to France. I borrowed a bike from Lausanne's free bike rental program and headed along the lake to Vevey, about 10-12 miles away. It looks like if I had continued around the circumference of the lake, another 10-12 miles would have put me in France. I suppose biking all the way around the lake would make a good vacation, but since all I had was a free day after four days of conferences, this trip was a nice diversion.

For a more detailed analysis of my route, you can check out my Everytrail post. Here's what I had to say about the ride there:
I should have taken the Metro to the Ouchy station near the lakefront, but I let the guy talk me into riding my bike. Of course, I couldn't understand his directions in broken English and ended up riding all over the place before getting out of town.

Once I got out of town, however, the ride was great. There is a main road near the lake, which has bike lanes most of the way, but occasionally there were detours. At one point, I rode through a medieval town center, and at another point, the route rose through the terraced vineyards that hug the coast. I could have reached out and grabbed the grapes. (I didn't.)

When I got to Vevey, I visited the tourist information center, ditched the bike, and headed out. The woman in the information center claimed that there was nowhere to lock my bike, but that I didn't need to. She also sent me to a mall when I asked about souvenirs, so I'm not sure of the quality of her advice. I locked the bike to a sign, which seemed to work. I had lunch at a Thai restaurant, bought some postcards and visited Charlie Chaplin's grave. All in all, a successful visit.

On the ride back, I tried to minimize my detours, not entirely successfully. I had an idea of leaving my bike at Ouchy, then returning for it via Metro after rush hour was over. I really wish I had done that; I meandered all over town trying to find a good route back to Roule Lausanne. Eventually, I did and left tired after my longest bike ride yet.

I should note that both the tourist information center and Chaplin's graves are waymarks, which allowed me to find them more easily. I now have the "grave of a famous person" category. While that doesn't help me with waymarking bingo, it does bring me up to 251 waymarks.

Also, the Lavaux vineyard terraces are a World Heritage Site, which makes them the 46th that I have visited, and the 2nd for 2009.

Finally, here is a link to a Picasa album I made up with some selected pictures from my trip. Now it's off to change my remaining Swiss Francs into British Pounds and find the gate for my plane...


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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

World Heritage: 2008 in Review

Well, as predicted last year, I broke my streak of visiting 5 world heritage sites per year. Unfortunately, it was in the wrong direction, as I only visited 4.

  1. Istanbul in April.
  2. Nancy, France in October.
  3. Naracoorte Caves in Australia in November.
  4. Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne in December.

The list is now up to 878. Sadly, none of the sites inscribed in 2008 were ones I could claim retroactively, so my total is now 44 out of 878, or 5.0%.

2009 is not particularly promising. I could hit sites in the US and UK again, perhaps. I have a trip planned to Cologne. Although I've already seen the cathedral, there is a site in the outskirts that I could add. My Asia trip is to Tokyo, but my preliminary scouting indicates no sites right around the city. Of course, I never know what the year will bring...



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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sunday in Melbourne

We had some free time on Sunday before the opening of my conference, so we walked from our hotel to the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. The Building and Gardens are a world heritage site because they, "as the main extant survivors of a Palace of Industry and its setting, together reflect the global influence of the international exhibition movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries." OK, it's not Stonehenge, but it goes on the list -- I'll be posting my year-end World Heritage review soon. We also visited the Melbourne Museum, which has a nice aboriginal collection (no pictures). They also have Phar Lap -- or at least his skin. The rest of him is in Canberra (heart) and New Zealand (skeleton). We bought tram tickets and headed back to the hotel. The tram proved to be a fairly convenient way of getting around the central area of Melbourne, although it made life challenging when driving.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Saturday Drive

Here are some pictures from our Saturday drive. As predicted previously, I'm hopelessly behind -- I've just gotten to posting the pictures just before we got to Adelaide, and we only have a day and a half left of our week here before heading back to Melbourne. Anyway, I think the highlight of the day was Naracoorte Caves National Park, an Australian fossil site and part of a World Heritage Site. We saw some animatronic reconstructions of prehistoric Australian mammals (I should post a video so you can hear the grunting) and toured a couple of caves. On the road, we took a look at a number of site affected by Australia's decade-long drought. We came across the first one by accident...we were looking for a resting point, and wondered what had happened to the lake promised on the sign.



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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

World Heritage: 2007 in Review

Well, another year is drawing to a close, and time for me to take stock of my visits to World Heritage sites. (See 2006 or 2005.)

Five appears to be my lucky number. For the third year in a row, I visited five sites.

  1. In early May, I visited Tallinn, Estonia.
  2. In late May, I visited Barcelona, including the works of Gaudí ...
  3. ...and the Palau de la Música Catalana.
  4. In September, I visited Schönbrunn in Vienna...
  5. As well as Vienna's historic city center.

I also got a bonus site...the Sydney Opera House, which Christina and I visited in 2002, got listed. So that puts me at 40.

2008 is a promising year. I have the potential to add sites in Australia, Turkey, the UK and the US. Maybe I'll break the string of fives...

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

World Heritage: Year in Review

Looking at last year's update of five sites inspired me to take stock of this year's total.

Looks like it's five again!

  1. In early April, I went to Cologne and saw the cathedral.
  2. Later that month, Christina and I headed to New York and took in the Statue of Liberty.
  3. In June, I traveled to Russia and saw St. Petersburg.
  4. In September, we went to England. One World Heritage Site we saw was the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape.
  5. Another was the Ironbridge Gorge.

For the second year in a row, Christina made it to a site I missed (which is only fair, given I made it to two she missed), Suzhou. If only I didn't have to go to these conferences...I wouldn't be traveling so much in the first place, I guess.

That brings me to 34 sites. Over 4%, finally! At this pace, I probably have a couple more years to go before I hit 5%.

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Friday, October 06, 2006


In our continuing quest to visit World Heritage sites, we went to the Ironbridge Gorge, one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution. It's home to the world's first -- you guessed it -- iron bridge. After visiting the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, we walked to the bridge and grabbed some ice cream.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Big Pit

We had a lot of fun during our recent visit to the UK, and one of the highlights was our visit to Wales' "Big Pit" museum. The museum is part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape, a World Heritage site.

If you're ever anywhere near Southern Wales, I recommend visiting this place. The highlight is where they take you underground into a "disused" coal mine. Your guide will be a real Welsh coal miner. (When someone referred to him as "retired", he explained that since the museum only runs 10 months a year, he works in a mine the other 2 months. And then went off on a rant against the Welsh Assembly.) It was really quite an experience bumping our heads through the mine and seeing how mining used to be done in the heydey of British coal.

The excitement of our visit was when a woman in our tour group started to feel faint. She had to be taken back to the surface then, but the ground station took a while to respond. In the mean time, a 6-year-old boy started to panic -- we had just heard about all of the gases that can kill you in a mine. The guide did a great job of cheering the boy up -- he was still nervous the rest of the trip, but he made it.

Sorry, no pictures of the mine. We had to give up our cameras, watches, cell phones, or anything else with a dry cell battery.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

New York, New York

Greetings from Manhattan. It's my first trip back since a 7th grade field trip in 1983, and it's Christina's first visit. (Boy, they don't make field trips like they used to, do they?) Yesterday, we dropped the animals off at the kennel, and then drove up to the Philly area to have lunch with our friends Cheryl and Jon, and their son Noah. Then we drove up to Piscataway, where we spent last night.

This morning we got up and headed to Liberty State Park in New Jersey, where we caught the ferry to Ellis Island and Liberty Island. Ellis Island was OK, but since neither of us felt a real personal connection, we cut short the audio tour when it started to get repetitive and headed to Liberty Island. The one good thing I can say about the weather is that the rain kept things from being too crowded. That's the Statue of Liberty there -- really it is.
There's Christina with the original torch.

After touring the statue -- another World Heritage Site off (or on) our list -- we parked the car at a PATH station, took the train into Manhattan, and caught a cab to our hotel. Our hotel is really nice -- it was completely renovated last year. We've got a flat-screen TV, a mini-fridge...all the mod cons. After a little relaxation, we headed out for some sight-seeing and dinner. There's Christina in Times Square...

...and there she is after our dinner at the Carnegie Deli. She was quite full after half a sandwich...I made a pig of myself and finished mine off. I won't need to eat for days.

On our walk back to the hotel, we saw various NYC icons like the Ed Sullivan Theater, where David Letterman tapes his show.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

A Splash of Cologne

Greetings from Cologne (or Köln, if you prefer). My flight got in late yesterday, so I didn't have as much time for sightseeing as I had hoped. My main goal was to see the Cologne Cathedral, a World Heritage Site. The parts that you have to pay to see were open until 6 pm yesterday, so I headed over there with about 2 hours to spare. Once I got there, I realized that these parts (the tower and treasury) weren't the impressive parts, and I had no great interest in them. The interior of the cathedral itself was quite impressive, but I couldn't wander around because there were services going on. I'll probably try to stop by today or tomorrow. The cathedral was built to house the bones of the Three Magi. It was started in 1248, but not completed until 1880. Unlike other cathedrals that took a long time to build, they managed to stick to the original Gothic plan.

I sat outside the Cathedral and enjoyed some falafel before going in.

From the conference reception, the cathedral is the dominant sight in the city. Unfortunately, someone decided to build an ugly building in front of it. The Cathedral is the one major pre-war structure. Allegedly, Allied bombers spared it so they could use it as a landmark to find the city. I've heard that story about other sights in other cities that were spared bombing, so I'm a little built skeptical.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

World Heritage: Year In Review

2005 is drawing to a close, so I decided to update my World Heritage page with the sites I visited this year.

I made it to five more sites, starting in February, when Christina and I went to Paris. Paris itself is a World Heritage site, for a number of reasons, including the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, both of which we toured. (Christina made it to Versailles, but I was stuck in conferences and unable to join her.)

The first three quarters of this year were busy, but not from a World Heritage perspective. In October, however, we took a vacation to San Juan, Puerto Rico, whose Spanish fortifications constitute a World Heritage site.
In November, we spent two weeks in England, which allowed us to visit two more sites -- Blenheim Palace and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Those are the ninth and tenth UK sites I've visited -- over one third of my total sites. You'd think the US would be top of the list, but I've made about twelve visits to the UK since '93 and really enjoyed touring it. The US is a little bit harder to tour around -- and we have six fewer sites.

My final World Heritage site of the year was Mahabalipuram, which I visited during my recent trip to India. (More pictures to follow.) These approximately 1300-year-old sculptures were some of the farthest away sites I've visited, but oddly reminded me of some Mayan ruins.

I've now seen 29 sites -- less than four percent of the total. They're adding sites faster than I can see them. So unlike my Nebula project, the end is not only not in sight, it is absolutely impossible. (Until I become fabulously rich and spend several years doing nothing but globetrotting to these sites, I suppose.)

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Thursday, November 24, 2005


Happy Thanksgiving! I'm here at my sister-in-law's in Wilmington, NC. I've set up their wireless network and have finally found time to blog from their living room.

When we were in England a couple of weeks ago...well, I guess it was about a week and a half ago that we spent time in London. We stayed at the Hilton London Metropole, where we stayed last time, and went to the Kew Botanic Gardens, another World Heritage Site.

The gardens are the oldest and some of the largest botanical gardens in the world. We took a 40-minute tram tour to get an overview.

The Gardens are currently hosting an installation by Dale Chihuly of blown glass art. We liked the way they blended with the gardens.

They had a lot of interesting very old plants. The British, after all, went all over the world a couple hundred years ago and grabbed stuff that interested them. The gardens are an interesting imperial legacy -- though these days, much more devoted to conservation.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

By the Time We Got to Woodstock...

Greetings from the UK. We got here on Saturday night -- we took a day flight, a first for me. After a night at an airport hotel, we had Sunday for some sightseeing. We headed for Woodstock, specifically Blenheim Palace. It's another World Heritage Site. To quote UNESCO,
"Blenheim Palace, near Oxford, stands in a romantic park created by the famous landscape gardener 'Capability' Brown. It was presented by the English nation to John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough, in recognition of his victory in 1704 over French and Bavarian troops. Built between 1705 and 1722 and characterized by an eclectic style and a return to national roots, it is a perfect example of an 18th-century princely dwelling."

That seems a little thin justification for a World Heritage Site. It's a very nice house. The most exciting thing that every happened there was Winston Churchill's birth. (His grandfather was the 7th Duke.) There was a nice exhibit on him.

You can tell I'm still a little zoned from the flight in that picture. I thought maybe the day flight would help with the jetlag, but now I'm not so sure.

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Mexico Pictures

When we got to Mexico City, it was late, and we stayed at the airport Hilton before heading to Puebla the next day. The hotel room featured a view unlike any I had seen before.

The next day, we headed to Puebla, where we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It had a gorgeous lobby.

And a much nicer view than the Hilton. We could see the historic center of Puebla, including the cathedral where Christina was confirmed. Update: Christina tells me that's not the cathedral. We do have a picture of the cathedral from our window; I'll replace with that one later.

In fact, Puebla is a World Heritage site, the 23rd I've visited.

On Sunday, we visited the pyramid at Cholula.

We also visited the Church of Santa Maria de Tonantzintla.

Coming soon: pictures of the family!

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Bern, Baby, Berne

I'm still not sure if it's "Bern" or "Berne" -- probably one if you're speaking German, and another if you're speaking French. Anyway, last Thursday, after the conference ended, we headed up to Bern for a day trip. The Swiss trains are great -- clean, new and on-time.

The old town of Bern is home to many beautiful fountains. Here's one:

Some of the fountains are less attractive...one is topped by an ogre eating some children:

Here's me outside of Einstein's old house:

We climbed up to the town rose garden. The roses weren't yet in bloom, but we got quite a view:

We also saw the bear pits. Bern was named by a king after the next animal he killed, which happened to be a bear. They've been keeping bears in pits for hundreds of years. Doesn't seem the most comfortable environs:

Bern is a World Heritage Site and the 22nd one I've visited. I updated my World Heritage page with the two Switzerland sites we visited.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Trummelbach Falls

Yesterday was the free afternoon of the conference. Christina and I decided to skip the excursion. I didn't see the point of going halfway to the highest train station in Europe, getting out for an hour, then heading back down. If we were going to do a trip like that, we'd go all the way to the top. It's a good thing we didn't -- aside from the price, the clouds took away the view yesterday (as see on the Jungfraujoch channel on our TV).

Instead, we headed to Trummelbach Falls, a short bus-and-train ride away. (OK, and a 5-minute walk.) The falls, according to the brochure, are the only mountain-interior, accessible waterfalls in Europe. They're also really, really, neat. I don't think our pictures will do them justice.

There weren't a lot of signs (an interesting change from most tourist attractions), but I did learn that most of the water from the Jungfrau mountains, and the nearby Monch and Eiger, drain through the falls. Given the spring snow melt, that's a fair bit of water. Lord Byron was inspired to write some poetry by the falls.

I'm sure Christina will give more detail when she posts. That might not be until we get back.

In any case, the Jungfrau region is a World Heritage Site. This marks my 21st World Heritage Site visited. Only 733 to go!

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