Archive for June, 2010|Monthly archive page

Middle East, April-May 2010, part 1

As I’m too lazy to write a whole lot at the moment, here’s some photos. Bashar is everywhere!

Hanging with Hassan Nasrallah

Feeling a bit faded in Damascus

Mosaic of Hafez

Hello from Hama

. . . likes the candy

Middle East, April-May 2010, part 0

Actually, nothing here in the Middle East, all of it in the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and Quebec.

So this trip started back in March with some formalities. The plan was to start in Jordan, then north to Syria, and west to Lebanon. While it is possible to get visas for Jordan and Lebanon at their respective borders, one needs a visa in advance for Syria (although there are exceptions). I decided to get mine in D.C., and to do so, I also needed a new passport, in Philadelphia.

D.C. and Philly were in bloom, or at least the cherry trees and other trees were starting to show their colors. So it was a nice bonus, and I had not visited either city in more than seven years. I did some of the usual tourist things, and familiarized myself with Philly once more. The skyline is quite interesting actually, and the Broad Street streetscape looking south from City Hall is virtually unchanged since the 1930’s. The historic district is a bit spruced up, but it’s still Philadelphia, sitting in the shadow of New York and Washington. The Liberty Bell got much nicer digs, though, far better than that lousy 1970’s bunker.

Independence Hall

Second Bank of the United States

The Liberty Bell

PSFS building, a very underrated Modernist masterpiece

So after a night in Baltimore, I headed to the Syrian Embassy in D.C. The city is a mess to drive around, but there’s a thrill to driving Pennsylvania Avenue, and circling the memorials at night. It can be a beautiful city, but somehow the politics and power-hungry types work their way into my mind, and I can’t wait to get out of Washington. And then there’s the Beltway traffic, which is horrendous.

On the plus side, the African restaurants in D.C. are excellent, and the Adams-Morgan and Dupont Circle neighborhoods are fun places to walk around. I also especially like the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which have an unusually intact, harmonious group of brick row houses and plenty of greenery. D.C. is after all a Southern city. I caught it during cherry blossom season, on the early side, so it wasn’t really crowded yet. But this is the nicest time to be in the city, before the heat and humidity hit you like a brick wall.

Capitol Hill in bloom

Tidal Basin, Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Fast forward three weeks, after returning from New Mexico, I flew to Europe via Montreal. In theory, at least.

Yes, I was delayed by a volcano. I flew the first leg of my trip from New York to Montreal, and spent a rainy, cold day wandering around the city, only to find out that all the European flights were cancelled by the eruption of the volcano with the unpronounceable name, Eyjafjallajokull. My next available option was for the following Friday. The world traveler Kiwi Andy was kind enough to put me up for the night at his place on the Plateau, so we got to catch up on things after seven years. So after another day in Montreal, I rented a car and drove right back to New York via Vermont and the Berkshires. After more rain, the skies finally did clear.

Andy with his Jamie Lynn art

Gloomy day in Montreal

Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal

I visited the Burton Store in Burlington, of course. So now I’ve been to all the Burton Stores around the world, yay. Like the one in Innsbruck, it’s hidden away in their corporate headquarters in an industrial section of town. They had the 09-10 Ions and SLX boots in my size, and a Custom 158, but still, it’s a significant amount of money to spend, so I had to resist. I did pick up some gloves, though.

Burton Snowboards HQ, woohoo!

And then I drove through Vermont along U.S. 7, passing cute small towns, before crossing the border into Massachusetts and stopping for lunch in the purple valley, Williamstown. Vermont is such a mellow state, so relaxing.

Middlebury, VT

Williamstown, MA

Luckily, I did get out eventually, drove back to Montreal, and was on my way to Amman.