Monthly Archives: August 2018

A 5 Compass City Museum in Sydney

The Museum of Sydney shows up on most lists of the best things to do in this Australian city.   And it should.  This is the best place to get a brief, accurate, and authentic introduction to both Sydney and how modern Australia happened.  Take the tour for an excellent introduction and then take the time to explore both its fixed displays and the temporary exhibits that make this museum exceptional.   Earlier in 2018 Ruth and I saw a truly fine show called “Underworld” in the Museum of Sydney.  It has since closed.  It consisted of mugshots and biographies of many mostly petty Caucasian criminals. This was historically interesting because when Australia was a European colony in the 17th century most of the immigrants were, like Sweeney Todd, considered riffraff in their own countries, mostly England, and were shipped to the end of the world to be forgotten about.  The upcoming show “How Cities Work” that opens in December sounds like another winner.  It claims it will explore Sydney’s secrets.

The Museum of Sydney is especially authentic because it was built on the site of the first New South Wales Government House and ruling class residence, and the ground beneath it was carefully examined by archaeologists before construction began.  Much of what they found is on display, and it’s a considerable amount because colonists used to dump refuse and then cover up those roof tiles, broken plates, and discarded bottles.  They even found rock specimens from a mining museum that was once on this spot.

The first European Governor of Australia, Arthur Philip lived here as did the next 8 Governors including William Bligh, the ship commander of the Bounty who was the victim of a mutiny.  He was Governor of New South Wales from August, 1806 until January, 1808.  This site was the center of the early colonists social and political life and the place of 1st contact with local Aboriginals, the Gadigal people, including Bennelong of the Wangal clan who graciously gave Governor Philip an Aboriginal name, Wolawaree.

I most enjoyed 2 areas of this thoroughly delightful attraction:  models of the First Fleet ships and the Trade Wall.  The First Fleet from England in 1787 consisted of 11 ships that left from Plymouth for an 8 month and one week voyage to Australia.  There were 1,500 people aboard, including 732 prisoners.  Two of the ships carried naval personnel, 6 contained unwanted, so-called criminals, and 3 were full of supplies and food for the long trip.   I imagine the passengers had feelings similar to the first colonists who will be heading for Mars.  The Trade Wall, another permanent exhibition, shows goods from all over the world that were available in Sydney before relative self-sufficiency occurred.  They include cocoa beans from Central America and tobacco and corn from the United States.  This is an original and fascinating display idea.

If you get to know this museum, you will better understand Australia and its chief city, Sydney.


That’s Bennelong, Governor Philip and an Australian robber above.


The Jason Fox Story

Jason Fox, our favorite Walla Walla winemaker, is doing well.   A graduate of Walla Walla Community College’s Institute of Enology and Viticulture, Jason is committed to staying in this eastern Washington wine region of note.  This very active community college maintains several acres of teaching vineyards for its courses in winemaking.  After interning at Walla Walla Vintners, Jason opened his own winery, Lagana, and is waiting for Wine Enthusiast magazine to come and rate his wines.  In the meantime, he is winning awards.


Jason, once a star student, has a passion for making whites.  Our favorite of these is a delicately balanced Roussanne.  The Roussanne grape is from Frances’ Rhône region and has a distinct taste.  But Jason and his partner Todd Bernave are expanding their repertoire, and Jason’s latest success is a fine pinot noir from their Breezy Slope Vineyard.

It took only 3 decades for the Walla Walla Valley to emerge as one of the world’s premier wine destinations.   A strong sense of kinship and family permeates this valley with six regions and, already, more than 140 wineries like L’Ecole.   Close to 3,000 acres of vineyards have already been planted.  Its top six varietals are all reds with Cabernet Sauvignon being the biggest one with 38% of all production.

If you don’t have time and a nearby seat, don’t ask Jason, “What’s new?”   His response was some wineries followed by an interesting story about an older one.  The newbies in the area are Truth Teller and the Armstrong Family Winery with the Valdemars on the way.  Chris and Dawn Loeliger began making wine in Woodinville, WA, which is near Seattle, but they are moving to Walla Walla, which is not near Seattle. They came to town as Truth Teller with a jester logo just before spring release weekend.  The Armstrong family was also active in Woodinville but harvests in a space in Walla Walla and will completely move to a new facility there when it’s built.  However, perhaps the newcomer getting the most buzz, according to Jason, is Valdemar.  This family from Rioja, Spain, is opening a winery in Washington that is under construction.

I asked Jason if he knew Christophe Baron and he did.  Baron runs Cayuse and is Wine Enthusiast‘s 2017 winemaker of the year.  I asked Jason where I could buy Christophe’s wine to try it and he said not to bother.  They are expensive and there’s a long list of oenophiles waiting to purchase and enjoy them.  Cayuse’s website is replete with comments like “The best winery anywhere—-truly!”  Baron is from the village of Charly-sur-Marn in France’s Champagne region.   At Cayuse, his initial focus was on Syrah, and he has produced more than 50 wines that have earned 95 point ratings from Wine Enthusiast.  However, he recently had a faulty cork problem that resulted in millions of dollars lost and 2,995 cases recalled.

The Walla Walla wine story is far from complete.


NCAR in Thriving Boulder

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is a working  laboratory sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  Its mission is to study climate and the Earth’s atmosphere and share what it learns in a museum.  This facility in a beautiful setting is mentioned in the official Denver Visitors Guide as one of the best  free things to do in the area.  It’s #4 and described as a weather-themed museum.  That it is.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is in the Rocky Mountain foothills above the dynamic city of Boulder near the Flatirons.  Boulder, 27 miles northwest of Denver, is the home of the major campus of the University of Colorado.  Those who take public transportation from Denver’s Union Station will be downtown when they arrive in Boulder and will need some way to get to Table Mesa Drive and NCAR.

The setting was very important to its designer, the renowned I. M. Pei, who was born in China and is now 101 years old.   Pei, whose most familiar design is probably the Louvre pyramid, always planned for NCAR to be here and called the road up to it  his “Grand Gesture”.  The building was described as futuristic when it opened in the 1960s and is still impressive.

This museum about climate and weather is geared to a young audience so everything is easy to understand,  However, a lot of it is frightening.  It’s sponsors view climate change as well underway and clearly state that we need to reduce and stabilize the amount of carbon in our atmosphere RIGHT NOW with renewable energy, carbon capture, etc.  It has charts, photos, and posted info meant to scare.   For example, “High in the Andes Mountains, glaciers are retreating rapidly and may be largely gone by midcentury”.  One photo shows how the Arctic village of Kivalina is dealing with a rising ocean.

The fun is in the weather section with a cloud creating bowl the most popular exhibit with children.  I also loved seeing the enormous hail ball on the back of a Honda that reminded me of the freak storm that formed in Antartica and damaged the town of Broken Hill, Australia, last November.  If our weather that Sunday had been better, Ruth, Tom, and I would have taken the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail, the only interpretative hike in North America devoted to weather.

NCAR is reason enough to go to Boulder, but we also really enjoyed the busy Pearl Street Mall.


An Offbeat Prison/Garden in Boise

The Idaho Botanical Garden is an unusual place.  Its 33 acres were once part of the Idaho State Penitentiary in Boise.  This prison’s sandstone walls and guard towers are now part of the garden experience.   Some concerts in its summer series and community events are held on Outlaw Field where local sports teams once played the inmates.  The prison team was called The Outlaws.    This penitentiary was once Idaho’s official prison.  Between its opening in 1872 and its closing in 1973, 13,000 prisoners served time here.  The mature trees in the Meditation Garden were planted by minimum security prisoners.  The location became a botanical garden in the 1980s.

Some aspects of this almost urban botanical garden are traditional.  Despite its somewhat inhospitable location in the Boise foothills,The Idaho Botanical Garden contains an English Garden designed by a British landscape architect, a Rose Garden, sculptures, many activities for children, etc.  Its non-traditional aspects that will be of interest to visitors from others places include an Idaho Native Plant Garden and a Firewise Garden featuring flammable grasses, shrubs, and trees in a place close to potential forest fires.  Firewise offers plant lovers alternative plants that won’t combust.   Another interesting focus here is on Idaho’s carnivorous plants that will both enchant and horrify children.

My favorite area was the Western Waterwise Garden.  It’s in the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden. All the species here originated in western states, and 2/3 of them were either collected or described by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their early 19th century expedition that included this area.  Their diaries noted 178 plants not known to science previously.   There’s an impressive list of them on Wikipedia.  One is called Fire-on-the-mountain.  Thomas Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to pay special attention to blooming plants they hadn’t seen before and consider their commercial value.  This botanical garden offers examples of the plants they catalogued.

There’s a ‘what’s blooming’ list that’s updated regularly.  When we were there it held the names of fairly common plants like lavender and hollyhocks.  There was also some information about this botanical garden’s nationally known collection of Western Penstemon plants that are especially popular with pollinators.  I was not familiar with this plant.  Ruth, the family horticulturist, found a favorite too, a very unusual blooming petunia that she is trying to find and grow.


Towns Named Clinton

There are 22 towns named Clinton in the United States.  Many of them are named for DeWitt Clinton.  He was mayor of New York City, a US Senator, a 2-term Governor of New York, and a Presidential candidate in 1812.  While he was New York’s Governor the Erie Canal was built.  He was the force behind its construction, and that’s why so many towns were named after him. There are even communities called DeWitt in Arkansas and Illinois.

There are lots of Clintonites in the United States. The largest town called Clinton is probably the one In Maryland, which has almost 36,000 people.   Some of the Clinton towns are in counties also named Clinton.  There are even 2 Clintons in Canada, in British Columbia and Ontario.  The towns named for DeWitt Clinton are in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, and Mississippi.

Clinton, Connecticut, is the bluefish capital of the world.   Clinton, Illinois, has an annual apple and pork festival.  In 2016 someone in the town of Clinton, Indiana, posted a fake news story on a website claiming that the mayor was changing its name to avoid any association with Bill and Hillary.  In Clinton, Iowa, the Bickelhaupt Arboretum is proud of its collection of dwarf conifers.

Kentucky’s Clinton is named for a riverboat or military captain.  Massachusetts’ Clinton is named after the DeWitt Clinton Hotel in New York City.  North Carolina’s Clinton was named for Richard Clinton, who was famous during the American Revolution.  South Carolina’s Clinton honored Henry Clinton Young, the lawyer who planned the first roads in the area.   Montana’s Clinton was named for General Sir Henry Clinton.  It’s claim to fame is its Testicle Festival during which guests are served cattle testicles to demonstrate their food value.

Louisiana’s Clinton has been used as a film location.   Sounder, The Long, Hot Summer and the 2006 Dukes of Hazzard movie are among the ones made there.   Maine’s Clinton is the dairy capital of The Pine Tree State.  In Missouri’s Clinton in 2006 the Elks’ Lodge collapsed during a meeting.  The result was 1 fatality and 9 humans pulled from rubble.  New Jersey’s Clinton was called the worst radon hotspot in the United States by the New York Times in 1988.  In 1865 James Wilkes Booth stopped in Clinton, Maryland, 2 hours after killing Abraham Lincoln (that’s his hearse above).  Called Robeysville at the time, what-is-now Clinton, Maryland, which was founded in the 1770s and has had several names, was where Booth hoped to pick up weapons and supplies.  Oklahoma’s Clinton is where my favorite Route 66 Museum is.   Its football team, the Red Tornadoes, has been state champ 16 times.