DC: National Air and Space Museum

My dear blogging friend Kathy of Hometown Tourist and Bridges to London enquired on my last DC post about whether I managed to visit the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  The answer is a resounding yes!  I would not have missed it for the world. 

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum National Air and Space Museum

I think out of all my time in the United States, this was the time when I missed Stephen the most as I think he would have really liked it here.  I’m not trying to gloat but it was kind of awesome.

I’m trying to piece together my memories, photographs and notes so if I make any mistakes here, don’t be shy to jump up and down and correct me.  Here goes…

Click on any of the photos for enlargements

Milestones of Flight

Spirit of St Louis, Spaceship One, Bell X-1

In the corner there you can see the Ryan NYP “Spirit of St. Louis” in which Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo transatlantic flight on 21 May 1927. 

SpaceShipOne is centre and was the first privately developed, piloted vehicle to reach space.  The flight took place in 2004 and arced into space but didn’t actually orbit the Earth. 

The gorgeous, retro plane in on the right is the Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis" which was the first aircraft to officially exceed the speed of sound in controlled, level flight in 1947.

Space Race

Sputnik One and North American X15

Here you can see a replica of Sputnik 1 which was the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite back in 1957.  The success of the Sputnik programme triggered the Sputnik crisis and launched the Space Race

The sleek and magnificent plane taking up the rest of the photograph is the North American X-15 which is the world’s fastest and highest flying aircraft.  Thirteen X-15 flights went higher than altitudes of 50 miles thus achieving astronaut wings for the pilots and in 1967 Pete Knight achieved a speed of 6.72 mach.

Apollo-Soyuz Test Project V-2 Missile and Skylab Orbital Workshop

The Apollo–Soyuz Test Project was the last mission in the Apollo space programme and represented the first joint US and Soviet flight.  Two manned spacecraft left from Florida and Kazakstan respectively in July 1975 and they rendezvoused in orbit.

The V2 Missile was the world’s first ballistic missile (which sort of means it was shot into the air and then subject to the laws of gravity and physics thereafter).  It was also the first manmade object to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight.  In the end though, it was a terrible bomb used toward the end of World War II by the Germans and many prisoners worked to their death to create them in Mittelbau-Dora.  The bombs were mainly used in Antwerp and the Blitz over London.

The history of the Skylab Space Station is fascinating but I won’t bore you with the details.  This is the backup Skylab orbital workshop but it wasn’t actually used because the Skylab programme was abandoned after the first mission to make way for the Shuttle programme.

America by Air

I’ll let most of these magnificent planes speak for themselves. This whole section put me in mind of films like Casablanca or tales of the war and the race to reach the skies. Oh, I can't put it into words but it was a very romantic, retro section.

Ford 5-AT Trimotor and Douglas DC-3

The Ford 5-AT Trimotor (1928) with the glorious Douglas S DC-3 (1936) peeking out from underneath.

America by Air Boeing

The wonderfully retro Boeing 247-D (1934) is at the left of the photo above with the gorgeous Northrop Alpha (1930) peaking out above the nose of the Boeing Jumbo Jet.

Curtiss JN-4D Jenny

The Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" biplane (1916).  How beautiful is that?

Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing

The Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing (1927).

On the way out, I decided I just had to get a decent photo of the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter.  It took me about ten minutes to get this photo!!  It is in such an awkward position!

Lockheed F104 Starfighter

It is unfortunate that you can’t see what a spectacular aircraft this is.  This was the first US jet fighter to fly twice the speed of sound.  This particular plane was in service with NASA for 19 years and was donated to the museum after it flew its last flight in 1975.

All too quickly my time at the National Air and Space Museum came to an end and it was time to walk on up to the Capitol.

To access all my posts in DC, click on the "Washington, DC" tag below and to access all posts from my trip to the US, click on the "New York 2009" tab.

A Saturday in London

One of the aspects of being an expat is that your circle shrinks dramatically.  In South Africa my life was drastically different to life in London and I was a very social person.  There were the frequent dinner parties at my house, nights out with school and university friends, picnics in the sun, lunches with family and of course, the frequent braais.  Now it is just Stephen and I, occasionally my mum or brother and every once in a while I see some of my old South African friends.  The purpose of this little insight into how sad my social life has become is to explain how it was that Stephen and I found ourselves fighting on Friday night.  It is usually just the two of us and our four animals and we do get cabin fever sometimes.

As we are both stubborn Taureans, we were naturally still fighting on Saturday morning.  Eager to avoid another night on the sofa, Stephen eventually conceded defeat and decided to take me to the centre of London to see New Moon. 

We arrived in London an hour before the show and decided to take a walk around Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street.

The Three Graces by Rudy Weller atop the Criterion Building
'The Three Graces' by Rudy Weller atop the Criterion Building

The Lights at Piccadilly CircusLights at Piccadilly Circus  

Naturally, we had to take a look at the famous lights at Piccadilly Circus.  It was at this point that Stephen looked at me and said, “you know, you’re just like a bloody tourist!” which was met by me blinking rapidly at him.  (He certainly got The Look).  “What?” he said.  “You do know that the tagline on my blog is ‘The Adventures of an Eternal Tourist Living and Working in London’?”, I retorted.  Rather than admit that he never actually reads my blog, he uttered a small “oh” and didn’t complain about my photo taking for the rest of the day. 

A Christmas Carol - Regents StreetI was quite excited to see some Christmas lights even if they were sponsored by the Disney film A Christmas Carol.  

Lights in Regent Street

I love the grand old buildings of regent Street and I quite liked the huge snowflakes.  (You can just see it there stretched between the buildings).  They must look great all lit up at night!  I did have one concern about the snowflake lights though – where would the Doctor land his Tardis?  I mean, realistically, he could need to land it anywhere, right?  (Oh, ignore me, I’ve gone Doctor Who crazy lately).

Regent Street

As mentioned, Stephen was paying some serious penance for fighting with me earlier in the day so he had to take me to see New Moon (which I reviewed over at Emm Media) and the Cranes concert later that evening.  Thankfully, there was a shining beacon of hope and non-torture during the middle of the day for him as we happened upon the Ferrari store on Regent Street. 

Ferrari Store Regent Street London

In case you’re trying to find it, it is across the road from the world’s most amazing toy store, Hamleys.

Hamleys Regent Street London

Stephen bought a nice red Ferrari windbreaker but they wouldn’t let me take a photograph of it.  Our sweet-as-pie sales assistant turned into a demon when I did try to take a photo and I thought we were going to get kicked out of the store!!!  They did let me take a photo of the Ferrari F1 car in the entrance though and I was somewhat mollified.

FerrariAnd I sneaked a photo of a very happy Stephen before we hurried back to the London Trocadero to watch the film.  You can tell he was trying to please me that day – he even wore the FDNY shirt I bought him in New York.  I have a bit of a thing for men in uniform, especially firemen and policemen!

Stephen So that is all for my Saturday afternoon in London.  What did you get up to?

Concert: Cranes + worriedaboutsatan

I usually book concert tickets months and months in advance and spend just about forever looking forward to them.  To illustrate, this week I booked tickets to Muse on September 11th next year but I’ve resolved to only start counting down the sleeps after New Year.

So imagine my surprise when I visited my favourite band’s MySpace on Thursday and realised they were having a concert last night! It was all very exciting and I booked tickets immediately.

My favourite band is called Cranes and I’ve been a huge fan since 1993.  Naturally, I have all of their albums including the rare and obscure ones.  This is the third time I’ve gone to one of their concerts – the first time was in June 2004 and the last one was in October 2008 when they released their latest album.  (Click for reviews of the Cranes concert in 2008 and the review of their latest self-titled album Cranes).

The concert was at the Luminaire in Kilburn which is an okay venue but they obviously haven’t heard of the credit crunch or current financial crisis.  The cost of one lager shandy (only half a pint of lager in that plus lemonade!) and a Red Bull was £6!!  There was nowhere to sit in the venue and huge pillars everywhere blocking the view of the stage so I can definitely say that the venue didn’t warrant the prices of the drinks.  Or I should say drink – we decided not to buy more after the first round.


Please excuse my terrible photos!  I’m often able to get great results with my little point-and-shoot camera but last night was not one of those occasions!  In fact, the only usable photos of Cranes were taken by Stephen!!!  :(  Unfortunately, I was afflicted by terrible photography at last year’s concert too!

The support group was called worriedaboutsatan, a wonderful minimalist electronic duo from Leeds.  I really enjoyed their show and bought two of their CDs.  Their show was interesting as they had a full backing film to go along with the music.  They were good!

alison shaw, cranes

Cranes’ sound can best be described as belonging to the shoegazing or dream pop genres.  The lead singer Alison Shaw has a dreamy, girl-like voice and their music is moving and melancholic.  I really love their music.

alison shaw, cranes, concert luminaire

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this concert as much as I enjoyed the others.  They had a couple of problems with the sound at their last concert which seemed to happen again at this concert.  The mic, bass and guitars seemed too loud and the sound just wasn’t harmonious.  There was also something wrong with the amplifier or something, as there were a couple of grinding, screeching noises towards the end of the concert.  The set list was also disappointing.  They played most of their sedate, quiet songs which is fine if it is a seated concert but not nice for a whole evening if it is a standing concert.

So in the end, it was a little disappointing which I guess is also okay.  You can’t always go to absolutely brilliant concerts!  Which reminds me, I still need to post about the Pixies and Shpongle concerts in October!

DC: The Holocaust Museum and Smithsonian

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum After hours of walking in the hot sun, it was an absolute pleasure to arrive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  There was a long queue to get in and heightened security too as it was shortly after the fatal and tragic shooting that took place there on June 10th. The employees were friendly though and the queue went quickly so I was inside in no time. 
United States Memorial Holocaust Museum It was free to get into the museum but I wasn’t able to get into the main exhibit The Holocaust.  About 1.7 million people visit the Holocaust Museum each year and to get into the main exhibit between March and August, you need to either get there first thing in the morning to book a slot or there are a limited number of passes that you can book online before your visit.  Advanced passes are not required between September and February.
I was not disappointed though as I was able to go to the From Memory to Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide exhibition on the second floor.  You may know that I am interested in the topic of genocide and run another blog too where I post about topics such as war, genocide and humanitarian crises.  You can find my blog at A Passion to Understand.
As always, click on any of the photos for enlargements
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
I found the exhibit to be fascinating.  As you walk in, there is a display running right along the wall that chronicles and describes the situations in Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan.  There are also screens and other interactive devices giving eye witness accounts of these conflicts.  It was a chilling but very rewarding visit and made me even more determined to carry on blogging about and researching these events.

In what seemed like no time at all, I made my way back out into the sun and I made my way towards the Smithsonian Institute which is "an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States" according to Wikipedia.  Quite apart from the fact that all of the museums are free, I’d say that the Smithsonian is worth visiting just to see all the beautiful buildings!
There was the Freer Gallery of Art and the National Museum of Natural History across on the other side.
Freer Gallery of Art National Museum of Natural History
The building that most captured my imagination was the Smithsonian Castle which houses the Institution’s administrative offices and the information centre. 
Smithsonian Castle
Smithsonian Castle Smithsonian Castle Smithsonian Castle
I also loved the High Victorian styling of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building.
Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building
Look at that exquisite brick, glass and metal work!

My final stop before reaching my destination was the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
I didn’t go inside but I did walk around the stunning sculpture garden.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
I was quite taken with Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, 2007.  This is a lovely idea where people can write out their wishes and attach it to the tree.  I was just too satisfied to wish for any at that moment.  “Satisfied” isn’t the right word but it comes close.  I was already at peace.
Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree for Washington, DC, 2007
There were two other pieces I quite liked too and they were Barry Flanagan’s The Drummer and Henry Moore’s King and Queen, 1952-1953.
Barry Flanagan’s The Drummer  Henry Moore’s King and Queen, 1952-1953.
Such lovely art! It makes me quite keen to rush off and visit an art gallery again soon!
I visited the USA in June 2009 and I absolutely fell in love. I visited New York and Washinton, DC and hope to go back for Christmas 2010. To see other posts from my trip, click on the tags below.

Liverpool: Quiggins Centre Revived?

Like a phoenix rising up from the flames, it looks like the Quiggins Centre in Liverpool has been revived.  Quiggins was a quirky little shopping centre made up of loads of little alternative, counterculture shops.  Every time I visited Liverpool in the nineties and beyond, my stepmum and I would go along to Quiggins.  Of course, being a Doc-wearing, black-clad coffin kid, Quiggins was the ideal place for me back then and I absolutely loved it.

Quiggins Entrance, originally uploaded by Paul Holloway

Quiggins was under threat of closure for years and years.  I don’t quite understand the legalities of what happened but I believe that some greedy land developers wanted the land that Quiggins was on and it was eventually closed in July 2006.  We had heard that it had reopened and were looking for it when we visited in December but we weren’t successful.  Imagine our happiness then when we saw the following sight on Thursday morning:

This is not the official Quiggins Centre and Wikipedia says that although it houses many of the old occupants, it is not actually associated with the owners of the original centre.  Take a look inside though; it is full of the magic and wonder that we remembered from the old Quiggins Centre:

Grin @ Quiggins

See that t-shirt at the top left?  The black, long-sleeved one?  I would have looooved that back in the day, before Trinny and Susannah told me not to wear clothing with high necklines.

Isn’t it just quaint and kooky? 

On the first floor, there is a vintage dress shop and a dress designers.  I really like that black mini dress on the right.  What a pity I’m not as teeny weeny as I used to be!

Grand Central Hall used to be a Methodist Church and the main hall was amazing.  They were currently building more shops in the main hall but at one stage, I looked up and was so glad that I did.

It’s not a great shot but the photo on the bottom right shows what the hall looked like in its former glory.  Having little stalls and shops there definitely changes the look of the building but if they can maintain some of the features like the organ and the ceiling then it will all be worth it.  I’m also hoping that they will refurbish the gallery and allow people to sit upstairs again. 

It was good to see the old Quiggins traders again.  I didn’t buy anything on that day but seeing as I usually hate shopping and shopping centres, it was good just to browse and to enjoy it!  (Oh, I know I’m a grumpy so and so but seriously, Amazon was launched with me in mind!)

Go to Liverpool, visit Quiggins!

Quiggins Centre, Grand Central Hall, Renshaw Street, Liverpool.