Friday, June 7, 2013


The Erie Canal, extending from the Hudson River near Albany/Troy to Lake Erie near Buffalo, was a very successful entrepreneurial project built in the early-mid 19th century. Large canal boats that plied its waters opened the trans-Allegheny west to settlers and to commerce.  To make toll charges fair, the canal company built specialized “Weigh Locks”, something we had never before encountered. The weigh lock was designed along a flat part of the canal.  A barge would enter, the lock space would close on both ends and then the water would drain out of the lock leaving the barge to rest on a cradle which was attached to a lever system connected to a scale.  Each boat was registered with its own unloaded weight.  The unloaded weight (tare) was then subtracted from the weight registered on the scale and, lo and behold, the toll taker determined the weight of the cargo.  A toll was then paid based on that weight. The lock was then filled with water to bring the boat to a proper floating level, the gates were opened and the barge with its cargo went on its way.
Chase Bank desk where tolls were calculated and recorded

Model of scale used to weigh loaded canal boats

Dry goods shoppe which flourished along the shores of the Erie Canal

Syracuse China Co. was founded and expanded -- providing dishware which could be shipped west along the canal

The Erie Canal paid off its bonds in 25 years after which its tolls paid for current maintenance.  In 1885, canal passage was declared free in an effort to compete with the railroad, which had by then become a major transportation system, which allowed for more rapid travel and easier movement of goods.  So, a better system replaced one that had been outstanding in its day. Such is the creative, though at times destructive, power of capitalism.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


ARLES: Roman Colosseum

Colosseum Interior: still in use today

Central Entrance to Colosseum

Van Gogh - Le Cafe La Nuit

Facade of Holy Family Cathedral by Antoni Gaudi

Spires of Cathedral - still under construction

Keurig Coffee Single-Serve at Bullfight Arena Mall

Interior Supports for Bullfight Mall

Picasso's Mistress hanging in National Museum of Catalonia


Vienne: View from the Castle

Vienne: Main Street

Vienne: Mural for Annual Theater Festival

The Bridge at Avignon

Walls of Avignon
Interior Courtyard of the Papal Palace

Papal Palace of Avignon from the Babylonian Captivity when 2 popes ruled the Church - one in France and one in Rome

Marketplace in Uzes, source of spring for the Roman aqueduct, Pont du Gard



Uzes: Hotel de Ville (town hall)  17th C. on L, 15th C. on R - further to the right, 13th C facade

Olive Oil Manufacturing in Provence: Modern, Self-Cleaning Equipment

Olive Farm

Thursday, May 2, 2013


American Heroes of D-Day

The Cliffs at Pointe du Hoc

Cable Stay Bridge at Lyon - Contemporary amidst the Ancient

Crepe Maker in Old Lyon

Blooming in Beaujolais Country

Classic Citroen

Beaujolais Vineyard

Traditional Beaujolais Winery

Silk scarves from 

Supplies for the Riverboat, Amadagio

Remains of Roman Road, Vienne

Temple to Roman Emperor, Augustus and his Wife, Livia

Vienne: WW I and WW II Memorial

Sunday, April 28, 2013


The finest and most extensive collection of Romanesque frescoes from the 10th and 11th centuries may be seen at the National Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) in Barcelona.  Originally, these paintings were applied directly to the walls, ceilings and pillars of many of the small remote Romanesque churches in Spain and especially the Pyrenees. Recognizing that they art treasures were threatened in the modern age – by deterioration or pillage - the government of Catalonia made a plan to remove these frescoes intact.  Early in the 20th century, a small group of Italian restoration experts successfully carried out this incredibly delicate task. Having been transferred to a stretched cloth, these frescoes were transferred to an especially designed area of the museum where they are applied to wooden frames in the shape of the original wall, arch or pillar of the church from which they were taken.  The shapes of whole chapels and their component parts are duplicated with their original frescoes on the surface.  Sensing a chapel setting adds even more to the authenticity of the experience.  These aged frescoes, now seen in one location and protected by the museum, never will be destroyed by falling or leaking roofs, collapsing walls, and, as happened to several of them during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), to be demolished in battle.  Here they are preserved as an amazing and accessible treasure from the distant past.

The museum utilizes the space of a building constructed for the International Exposition of 1929,  held in Barcelona. It sits on Montjuic, a hill overlooking the city, capital of the province of Catalonia. The name means Jews' hill.  Jewish culture thrived throughout the Iberian Peninsula in an era  known as the Golden Age.  Spain’s large, influential, and prolific Jewish community had a rich history until their tragic expulsion by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

A different kind of preservation may be seen down the hill from the National Museum.  The entire brick exterior of the circular bullfighting arena located in downtown Barcelona has been transformed for a completely different purpose -- enclosing a modern shopping mall.  The stands and sand of the arena have been replaced with large bright yellow beams supporting three floors of glass fronted shops circling the inner side of the building. The formerly cheering crowds have been replaced by shoppers now entering to buy jewelry, clothes, cameras  --- goods from around the world.  The former focus of interest here, the bulls and matadors, are left to the imagination.
Frame for apse frescoes

Romanesque fresco with widowed donor at bottom right

Museum --  originally built for International Exposition, 1929

Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

Former Bullfighting Arena

Interior of Shopping Mall



Kayaking under the Pont du Gard

Arch with rectangular holes for beams to support scaffolding if repairs were needed

European Union portrayed Pont du Gard as unifying symbol on 5 Euro note
Were the Romans engineering geniuses? Seems so by visiting the Pont du Gard. 

To settle and maintain their civilization in Nimes, a free flow of fresh water was needed – for the Roman baths, drinking water, and sanitation. In just ten years, Romans directed the construction of a 50 km (31 mile) long aqueduct from the fresh, flowing springs in Uzes, a Roman military camp, to the Roman settlement in Nimes. Local slaves and prisoners provided the construction manpower.
What were the essentials in the design project?

Though the distance from spring to settlement was only 15 km, the aqueduct needed to wend through 31 km in order to maintain a gentle slope in the channel that carried the water.  This very precise downward slope took advantage of the fact that the drop in height from the spring to Nimes was only 11 meters, or approximately 10 inches per mile!

100 gallons per second traveled through the aqueduct from end to end. The water channel was covered to prevent evaporation of this precious resource.

Local limestone blocks were used to construct bridges – dry construction with no mortar. However, the Romans knew that limestone is porous and could not carry water. So, brilliantly they covered the channel with an impervious plaster made of broken tile, lard and other materials.

To cross streams and rivers, 20 arched bridges were built -- the greatest of which was the Pont du Gard with its three tiers of arches, standing 160 feet high.