2020 Photo Challenge: Shot From Above

Travel Words’ 2020 Photo Challenge theme for September is “point of view” and for this final week, the subject is shoot from above.

Looking down on Maasai villages from prop plane flying from Serengeti National Park to Arusha, Tanzania
Plane ride Serengeti-Arusha, Tanzania
Hotel room balcony view, Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan, Egypt
Ruins of Roman settlement during the siege of Masada, from Masada plateau, Israel
Looking down from the courtyard behind the abbey atop Mont St-Michel, France
Looking down on the Rhine River from Marksburg Castle in Germany
Looking down on hoodoos from the Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
A trail we chose to view from above rather than hike down! Bryce Canyon NP, Utah

Thursday Doors: Open House Chicago

Last Saturday, we participated in the annual Open House Chicago event, in which over 300 buildings are open to the public. People can tour these buildings and most have volunteers that can answer questions about the building or organization housed there.

For Norm’s Thursday Doors this week, I feature some of the doors we saw on our tour of Lincoln Park and other nearby neighborhoods.

St. Edward Catholic Church, Irving Park neighborhood: We were interested in seeing this church for its painted replica of the Bayeux Tapestry in Bayeux, France. We saw the original stitched tapestry last June when we were in Normandy.
St. Edward has a particular interest in the tapestry because part of it tells the story of Edward the Confessor, King of England. In Bayeux, it is celebrated as the story of William the Conquerer’s invasion of England in 1066, and his son’s coronation as king of England and Normandy.20191019_120434
Dank Haus, German American Cultural Center, Lincoln Square/Ravenswood:
It was Oktoberfest at Dank Haus, so the public was invited to hear a German oompah band in the 5th floor ballroom, and while there, buy a German snack and beer. We had a pretzel, but we don’t drink beer! There is also an impressive full wall sized (including the elaborate frame) portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm I and a beer stein museum.

The building was originally the home of the Three Link Association, also known as the Oddfellows. Door knobs contained the symbol of that fraternal order.
The Belmont by Reside (formerly the Belmont Hotel) in Lakeview is an enormous u-shaped building that has always amazed me, so I made sure we took time to see it. Designed in elegant Georgian style, its elegant ballroom is now a parking garage, while retaining the original ceiling and ornamentation.
The New Elephant Resale Shop on N. Clark in Lincoln Park used to be Sphinx Storage, so its exterior décor has an ancient Egyptian theme. We did not go inside but I took these photos showing the ancient Egyptian symbols displayed outside.

The Elks War Memorial in Lincoln Park honors the more than 1,000 Elks members who fought in the wars since WWI. Its magnificent rotunda is the grandest domed rotunda in Chicago.

Moody Church in Old Town: This massive Romanesque Revival church has Byzantine elements. Its sanctuary seats 3,700 people, making it the largest column-free auditorium in Chicago. It is named after famous evangelist, Dwight L. Moody.
Under each seat is a rack that men used to use to store their hats.
These were not the only sites we visited, just the ones with interesting doors! 😉
More doors from OHC next week!




CFFC: Lines

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week has the topic Lines.

Marriott Hotel, Cairo, Egypt

Looking down on an indoor courtyard from the second floor atrium. The Marriott Cairo was converted from a 19th century palace to a hotel, preserving many of the original building’s features.

Fine arts & gifts store in Jericho, West Bank, Palestine

These beautiful jars are made of glass and when you hold them up to the light, their color changes – or rather, you see more colors in them.

Countryside near Jericho, Palestine

Crops are covered to protect them from the winter weather.

Chihuly glass art, outside Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA

This display is outside, but part of the Museum of Glass. It is located on a bridge in downtown Tacoma and spans most of the length of the bridge.

Columned fountains, outside the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA

These columns filled with flowing water were arranged in a circle, sort of like a “henge.”

Journey to Egypt, Part 11: Luxor – Lunch, a Ferry Ride, & Dinner with a Local Family

December 27, 2018

A Walk to Lunch

Back in the city of Luxor (about 850,000 population), our bus driver dropped us off in the vicinity of the place where we would have lunch. The restaurant was a few blocks away down dusty streets, and we had to walk. I was glad for this because as it turned out, there were many buildings with interesting doors and I kept stopping to take pictures! Most of these doors I have already posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors, but here are a few of them again, plus some other sights along the way.

Mineret of a nearby mosque
interesting building
Dale stops and looks back to see where I am – taking pictures, what else?!
Here’s one Dale took – he found this sign amusing.

The restaurant where we had lunch

We ate on an open terrace – it was a beautiful day!

Ferry Ride

After lunch, we walked back to the bus, which took us to a boat dock. We took a ferry called “King of Love” across the Nile!
The ferries were all colorfully painted and named.

One of the cruise ships that take tourists up and down the Nile – we were to see many of these in the next few days.

Our Hotel: Sofitel Winter Palace

We had “down time” for the rest of the afternoon – well deserved, after seeing so many monuments in the morning! I will use this space to post pictures of our hotel, the Sofitel Winter Palace.

The hotel was decorated for Christmas, including this unique Christmas tree.

Dale thought the decorations of an ancient priest carrying a boat looked like a menorah!

Returning to our room, I discovered that the attendant had left flowers in a vase and on the sink in the bathroom.

The Winter Palace Hotel was built in 1886, in the luxury style of many old hotels in the Victorian age.
Underneath the hotel, where the arches are below the railing, there were some shops, including one that sold antiques, including jewelry. Merchants are not allowed to sell anything that is more than 100 years old, to discourage the marketing of possibly valuable artifacts.
Behind the hotel are the century old Royal Gardens.

There are large, lavishly decorated salons like this one.
They had hats for guests to try on, like Dale in this fez!

Dinner with a Local Family

For dinner, we were split into two groups. Each group would go to a different local household for dinner. Dale and I went with four other people. The home-hosted dinner is one of the highlights of OAT tours.

Our family, of modest means, was very welcoming.  The father’s name is Mohammed, the mother is Doah (pron. Doh – AH) and they have four children – two boys (Faheed, age 15 and Kareem, age 10) and two girls (Rana, age 14 and Zena, age 2).


Left to right: The cousin-translator (I don’t remember his name), Doah, Zena, Mohammed, Kareem, Faheed 

Little Zena was so cute! She loves to dance to music, which she was too happy to do, because she sought our approval – she was not at all shy!

Zena enjoyed her juice, as did we all – it was delicious!


A couple in our group is from Florida and they brought this Miami Dolphins t-shirt which they gave to Kareem.

Rana enjoys drawing and wants to be an artist. Her drawings were passed around among us, as well as photos of the family, to admire. Rana didn’t get home until just before we left – just in time for a family photo!

Rana (in the white hijab) joined the rest of the family for this photo.

A nephew was there when we arrived, but he had to leave; then another relative, Iman, came, who spoke a little more English. Both parents did speak some English.

Mohammed is a farmer. He has an old car, which at 38 years old is the same age as his wife! He drives 20 km to the farm, where he grows vegetables.

Doah is a housewife. The meal she prepared was delicious, even the eggplant! I have never liked eggplant, so when she told us what each dish was, I didn’t put any of the eggplant in tomato sauce on my plate. Doah seemed to think I didn’t know what it was, so she repeated: “Eggplant!” Of course, then I had to take some to be polite. But when I took a bite of it – I liked it! The sauce it was cooked in definitely helped, but I vowed to try eggplant again to see if I still liked it. (I did try it, and I did like it!)

The family lives in a modest apartment with two bedrooms – the three older kids share one bedroom and Zena sleeps with her parents. (Since there is no crib or extra bed in the parents’ room, I assume she sleeps in the same bed with them.) The kitchen is quite small and very basic. There is no room in the kitchen for the refrigerator, so it is kept in the parents’ bedroom!

Doah in some of the photos dressed more western style, but now she wears colorful long dresses and a hijab. Girls start wearing hijabs at age 12. Doah showed us Rana’s school uniform – a black jumper, mid-calf length, with a white shirt underneath and a white hijab. The boys’ uniform is less austere. Kareem wears a blue shirt and blue jeans! That doesn’t sound fair to our Western sensibilities, but on the other hand, most Egyptian men at adulthood begin wearing the long, traditional robe for men, the dalabeya. Most of the men we saw wore plain ones, usually white, black or gray. Although Doah was wearing a colorful dress and matching yellow hijab, most women we saw on the street were covered head to toe in black, although their faces are generally covered. (Some do veil their face but the majority, at least that I saw, did not.) I noticed that older women, 20181227_204314despecially, dress in black.

We spent about two hours at the family’s home, during which we asked questions about their lives, told them about ours, and looked at their photos.

When it was time to go, the van driver who was to take us back came to the door and we went downstairs. This bird statue was on the first floor of the apartment building.



Journey to Egypt, Part 3 – The Cairo Marriott Hotel: Thursday Doors

December 23, 2018

Located on an island in the Nile River in the middle of Cairo, The Cairo Marriott is huge and opulent. Its décor is beautiful with Arabic influences, including some awesome doors. This post combines a history of this magnificent hotel with Norm’s weekly feature, Thursday Doors.

Reception area on the first floor

Originally a palace, it was built in 1869 with the vision of its architect, Khedive Ismail, to serve as a guest palace for European monarchs during the inauguration of the Suez Canal.

The hotel is built in neoclassical style, popular with European designers of the time. The interior was designed by German architect Carl von Diebitsch.
The Cairo Palace, as it was called in the early days, hosted several notable ceremonies, including the wedding festivities of Khedive’s son, which lasted 40 days! A boat party in front of the palace was held as part of the wedding celebrations of Egypt’s King Farouk and Queen Nariman.
The palace’s transition to a hotel involved several changes, including a name change to the Gezirah Palace Hotel. In 1879, the state confiscated it due to outstanding debts and the Egyptian Hotels Company took it over. In 1919 it was purchased by a Syrian landlord, Habib Lotfallah, who had settled in Egypt, for 140,000 EGP (Egyptian pounds).


Marriott took over the property in the 1970s. They restored the old palace and added two towers for 1,087 guest rooms. Our group members all stayed in one of these towers, called the “G” tower.

View from our balcony

I was surprised but delighted to see this Christmas display of gingerbread houses at a bakery on the first floor corridor of the hotel.

Today, the only thing left of the estate is the palace. Many of its rooms and furniture have been preserved and restored to their historic splendor. The hotel now used some of the palace space for lounges and meeting rooms. There are several restaurants which guests may choose from. Our first night, arriving fairly late, we did not want to eat too much, ending up at an Italian restaurant on the ground floor where we shared lasagna and a salad.

Entrance to the restaurant where we ate lasagna our first night.

The next morning, we met in one of the dining rooms for breakfast consisting of a large buffet with a large variety of breads, cheeses, fruit, yogurt, etc. to choose from. There was an omelet station where we could choose ingredients for an omelet.

Partial view of the dining room where we had breakfast each morning in Cairo.


Right in front of this magnificent piece is where we met any time we were going on a tour. It is right outside our dining room.


Entrance gate

Design on the entrance gate


20181225_214654 elevator door at Marriott
One of the elevator doors in “G” Tower


Finally, a shot of Cairo just before sunset taken from G Tower at the Marriott Cairo.sunset in Cairo from Marriott
Note: Historical information for this post is from Cairo Marriott Hotel and Omar Khayyam Casino.

Getting Our Kicks with Missouri Kitsch (Day 8-Part 1)

June 15, 2018

The previous night, before dinner and the big thunderstorm, we drove through Springfield to see the Gillioz Theatre at 325 Park Central East, which is also the historic Route 66, brand new in 1926 when the theater was built. It was one of the first theaters to introduce “talkies” to the Midwest in 1928 and was restored in 2006 to its original Spanish Colonial Revival design.
Our hotel in Springfield, Missouri, Best Western Rail Haven, was filled with features of the bygone days of Route 66, including this ’57 Chevy.20180615_09194520180615_091726
The office looked like it was designed in the 1950s and the breakfast area resembled an old-fashioned diner.

Our room’s bathroom was fitted with vintage fixtures.
It was only after we were on the road today that I read about a few things we had missed in the Joplin area of Missouri, which we had already passed:

Precious Moments Chapel, 4321 S. Chapel Rd., Carthage, MO; 1-800-543-7975
The true meaning of kitsch, this chapel was designed by the creator of Precious Moments porcelain figurines, Samuel Butcher.

Thomas Hart Benton Mural & Exhibit, in Joplin City Hall at 602 S. Main St.; 1-800-657-2534. Called Joplin at the Turn of the Century, 1896-1906, it was the Missouri artist’s final work. Other public art in Joplin features scenes of Route 66, by different artists.


After we checked out of the hotel, we headed to Fantastic Caverns (4872 N. Farm Road 125, Springfield, MO), Missouri’s largest caverns. This cavern was used as a speakeasy in the 1920s and a country music theater in the 1960s & 1970s. Now it offers 50-minute tram tours which highlight cave features. 20180615_103655.jpgIn a large open room of the cave, we were shown a video of the history of the cavern and its discovery.

Question: What is the difference between a cave and a cavern?
Answer: Nothing. They are two names for the same thing.

The first explorers of the caverns was a group of women, in 1876. They left the first – and only – “graffiti” – here!


A group of young people were traveling with their dog and brought him (or her) along on the tour, which I thought was an odd thing to do. What if he got scared? What if she jumped out? But none of that happened. With the calm coaxing of his owners, he settled down and mostly slept.


I did not realize at the time that we were near Wilson ‘s Creek Battlefield, (6424 W. Farm Road 182, Republic, MO) the site of the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi (1861). Over 2,500 men perished there. I definitely would have wanted to stop there if I’d known, because it is a National Historic Site and therefore part of the National Park Service. There is a 5-mile self-guided auto tour and a museum.

Back on Route 66 again, which parallels I-44, we headed toward St. Robert, to find the Devils Elbow Bridge, (I-44 Exit 163, south to Hwy Z/Route 66 and south to Teardrop Rd.) However, before we reached the bridge, we arrived at one of the most kitschy and bizarre places on our route! Uranus, Missouri is the home of the Uranus Fudge Factory and Sideshow.
This was obviously a place created specifically for travelers on Route 66. You can watch a short video about Uranus on their web site. However, I think our photos do it just as much justice (except we didn’t go into the fudge factory).

A lot of weird, seemingly unrelated objects crowd near the entrance – a dinosaur, an old-fashioned police car, a weather vane, a double-decker bus, a rocket.

The “town” is just a strip mall of connected buildings designed to look like an Old West town. There’s a freak show, a “museum”, a gun range, a general store, a restaurant, and of course, the fudge shop.

Entertainment for the whole family! Plus some rather humorous signs.

If you like bizarre places, you MUST visit Uranus, Missouri – the height of kitsch!

Stay tuned for Getting Our Kicks Day 8-Part 2!