Scuze me while I…

… kiss the sky. One thing you must do when in Chicago is… ‘look up’! Many places may claim to be home to the skyscraper, but few can challenge Chicago for architectural variety and significance when it comes to  construction in the vertical plane. And where better to appreciate the visual feast (and strain your neck), than messing about on the Chicago River?

River view by day

The ‘Jewelers Building’ to the right in the following picture dates back to 1926. The four corner crowns were an elaborate way of disguising water tanks. To protect the valuable commodities, this building originally accommodated basement drive-in elevators that would take vehicles up to the required floor.

River architecture [1]

Immediately opposite are the 1969 and 2009 stages of modernism. To the left is the IBM Building designed with energy consumption at the heart of its architecture. While to the right is an example of personal ego, emblazoned with the name of someone who has fragrantly ignored contemporary concerns for climate change and conservation (viewed from many angles the name can be avoided, but if you get the light and shade correctly aligned it may occasionally read ‘RUMP’).

River architecture inc Trump Tower

Then come the visually twin towers of Marina City aka the corn cobs. A futuristic vision emerging from the early 1960’s.

Riverboat trip [4]

Who says urban high rise living lacks a stunning aesthetic? Unfortunately, to live here might well require a stunning bank balance. This isn’t going to be the revolutionary vision for ‘The Projects”!

Riverboat trip [15]

Gently floating along the river parallel to Wacker Drive, it is quite easy to imagine you are in the midst of an urban re-enactment of a Grand Canyon stylised landscape. No? just me on some far out visionary trip then.

Riverboat trip [16]

Then comes an architectural mystery. How can you build up so high from such a narrow v-shaped base? Economics and advances in technology eventually combine to give rise to 150 North Riverside, limited at its base between a river and an active railroad. To counter the effects of wind on the whole structure, 12 rooftop tanks contain 1000 tons of water to counteract natural movement.

Riverboat trip [29]

Formerly the worlds tallest building, the Wills (nee Sears) Tower uses a bundled tube framework for its design, to enable stability at the increased height. The younger neighbour (with a neon crown) uses contrasting detailing in its shape and design, in order to create its own unique contribution next to the towering icon.

Riverboat trip [28]

Meanwhile, back at the confluence of the y-shaped rivers, one of many navigation-based reflective themes to be seen in the riverside designs presents in a striking fashion. In 1983, the 333 West Wacker Drive building adopted the curve of the river as its over-arching theme. the tinted glass is also a reflection that harmonies with the water below.

Riverboat trip [31]

As dusk sets in the skyline adopts a new magical presentation…

Riverboat trip [42]

Riverboat trip [46]

… and the illuminated Tribune Tower provides a beacon for the return to dry land for the intrepid architectural enthusiasts…

River architecture [3]

Until we speak again, a special thanks goes out to the Chicago Architecture Foundation for providing such a fabulously insightful historical excursion.

Death in the Sun

Is it the sun or is it the moon? How am I supposed to know, after all this is Lancaster, and I am merely a cat from Cardiff!

sun-at-night-sign

A view from a different perspective confirms it is the sun, but not as astronomical scholars know it. This is Lancaster, a place of history, sandstone architecture; and it’s cold and dark so time to find out what else this historical place has to offer travelling cats.

sun-at-night-outside-view

What will greet the inquisitive traveller to this promised source of light and heat? Why, death of course!

Dead cow

sirloin-steak

Dead pig

full-english-breakfast

Dead lamb

lamb-steak

Vegetarian deadly options are available, but this being the north of England, a mere southerner cat from Wales would hardly want to invite a scourge of ridicule by even enquiring of such things. This is a place where Lancaster Blondes are apparently smooth and tasty temptations for the unsuspecting weary traveller…

sun-bar-3

 

 

 

 

 

lancaster-blonde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When daylight dawns there really is an abundance of old sandstone to navigate and cast an architectural eye over.

The good folk of Yorkshire might well lay claim to their county town of York being far better known; but the rival Lancashire has a county town well worth exploring, full of interesting knocks and crannies.

Until we speak again I can fondly remember a couple of ex-cats who would have gratefully ignored any architectural indulgence in favour of exploring death in a bowl! Juno and Bella always wore an indignant look when it came to food choice!

cat-matecall-this-food

A Brexit Apology

Where is that spider?Bella would no doubt have been looking on with bewilderment at the events of recent days.

Cats are most frequently known for a peaceful nature and openness to form trusting relationships with very different people. They are also known for an occasional sense of indifference to others, wholly wrapped up in the importance of their own world. Here in the UK the 48% of the former were insufficient to counter the will of the 52% of the latter. It would seem that a reflective look back at a sea-faring history has caused some to believe they can conquer the world through an ability to reclaim trading nation status, despite having little or no sea-faring and trading capability left. Welcome to the 19th century, but without the Empire status!

Once there were busy trading ports; but this is the 21st century, and European partners (soon to be ex-partners) share a sense of beauty where once there was busy commerce. The schisms in British society got me thinking more about similarities with European neighbours, and the portside beauty of Dubrovnik and Cardiff is as good an example as any of the importance of sharing. The Old Port of Dubrovnik provides a tranquil setting in which to reflect on a recent message highlighted through the tragic murder of Jo Cox (MP for Batley and Spen) that ‘we have more in common that what divides us’, a thought that has become even more meaningful within the newfound chaos that our nation wants to embrace…

Old Port [1]

But, if you don’t have the cash (in our newly plummeting market economy) or time to visit Dubrovnik, then Cardiff Bay can compete in the tranquility stakes…

Cardiff Bay sweep 6

Each has its own special atmosphere at night:

Old Port at night [2]

Busy day down the docks

Both are outward looking locations extending welcoming arms to travellers from far and wide:

Sea view [2]

Cardiff Bay view

So, as the sun sets on an era, and we embark on the challenge of a roller-coaster that will ultimately only benefit the ruling classes, I am sure if Juno and Bella were still with us they would be apologising to European friends for an outcome of a unnecessary referendum born out of right wing political panicking.

Old Port at night [3]

And a welcome will always be open from Cardiff (even if the majority in Wales wish to become the rump of a right wing England); as some of us search desperately for a place to pray:

Norwegian Church

Until we speak again, enjoy the chaos and keep the welcome genuine and open.

Lessons from Dubrovnik

Cats just have that way about them that exudes majesty, as they survey all below them, by day or by night. Here is the Queen of Dubrovnik eyeing a late night inebriate on their way home after a particularly pleasant evening of wining and dining…

Going back to apartment [5] cat

Dubrovnik isn’t twinned with Cardiff… unfortunately. But if it was, we would have some very important lessons of history and culture to learn. As you are my one and only regular reader you will know I’ve recently had an issue about how the good burghers of Cardiff are lacking in their sense of civic pride and vision regarding some gems of historical architecture. Juno and Bella used to occasionally make reference to the ‘old git’, but history matters; it defines a place, it bestows a sense of uniqueness, it says something about the values of the people who live and work in a place.

Even by Juno and Bella’s standards of personal ridicule I was not around to capture historic Cardiff quite in the following way…

Old Cardiff pic [1]Old Cardiff pic [2]

But we do have our moments; take St John’s Church late on a summers evening…

St John's at night

Then take a look at the Old City of Dubrovnik, and we really can see why Game of Thrones executives identified it as the perfect location for King’s Landing. A breath-taking view awaits those who venture upward on the cable car to Mount Srd:

Old City from Mt Srd [1]

And a tour of the city walls takes in the complete circumference of the Old City, with stunning views at every turn:

City Walls [4]

Though rumour has it, possibly passed down by cats across time, that back in the 7th & 8th centuries the quirky meandering of the wall was determined by a need to accommodate the dominance of the car:

City Walls [3]

By day (Place Gate) or by night (Stradun), there is no doubting the beauty of the preservation of historical artifice, and the restoration of pride following the fierce bombardment of the city in the war of 1991-5:

Ploce Gate [7]Stradun at night [1]

But still those damn cars get in on the act!

Bell Tower at night

Whether it is the views from the city walls, the narrow streets, or the major civic buildings, Dubrovnik speaks loud and clear about valuing your heritage…

From City Wall [8]

Prijeko [5]

St Blaise Church [2]

And even a quiet walk back to the apartment at night manages to intrigue the imagination, on a stroll back in history:

Going back to apartment [1]Going back to apartment [2]

Rumour has it that cats don’t like water, so next time I will look at how Cardiff Bay and Dubrovnik Old Port stack up. Until we speak again, may all of your horizons be broad.

 

Blue sky thinking

Why cats dont like waterCardiff has a researched reputation for being the wettest city in the UK, but any cats put off by a little water need not worry about visiting the city. For a start, 60% of days in the year don’t experience any rainfall! What’s more, on a few of these Cardiffians have even been known to recognise the sun as some mysterious bright sphere in the sky.

So that got me thinking about all of the wonderful sights around the world that are framed by a deep blue sky. And, you know what, Cardiff can rival each of them on its day.

Take Dubrovnik in Croatia, for example. The old port looks quite stunning when viewed on a sunny day…

Old Port [8]But then, so does the old port in Cardiff, given a chance…

Cardiff Bay sweep 6As for a view of the Sponza Palace framing the blue stuff…

Sponza palace [2] Just try out the Millennium Stadium for size…

Inside Millenium Stadium [1]

Then there is the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, or the Bell Tower in Hydra (Greece); all very perpendicular, or phallic, depending on your outlook…

Koutoubia Mosque [2]Bell Tower

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But any unsuspecting seagull soaring over the Bute East Dock in Cardiff had better maintain supreme surveillance, if a headache is to be avoided…

Sit and spin on that

As for historic finery, the Duomo in Milan has few rivals…

Duomo from bus tour

But don’t underestimate the majesty of Cardiff City Hall either…

City Hall [2]

Raffles City in Singapore and the Lippo Tower in Hong Kong may stake their claims for attracting the awe of passing visitors…

Raffles CityBank of China & Lippo Tower 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, be prepared to be stunned when you meander around Cardiff Bay to see the Pierhead Building

Pierhead Building

Until we speak again, enjoy your travels, but don’t forget to admire the beauty that exists closer to home!

 

Culinary cats on tour

B and JBella and Juno were never slow on taking any opportunities for adventurous dining; usually giving me the dead eye as I was trying to eat, but on many occasions just camping down near the fridge lest I forget there was plenty of cat-friendly contents lurking inside. The question is whether the spirit of culinary adventure was lost on me or not. A recent opportunity arose for a trip to Dubrovnik in Croatia, and when in such a fabulous place there was nothing better than taking the Juno/Bella challenge of trying to eat your way out!

First stop is Dubravka 1836, a delightful restaurant located just outside the Pile Gate of the old city…

Dubravka 1836 at night

 

 

The interior decor is a reflection of the historic surroundings…

Dubravka 1836 [3]

Dubravka 1836 meal [1]

 

So, the next challenge is to decide from a mouth-watering menu what to eat. Check out reviews in advance, as they can often point you to signature dishes. On this occasion a Dubravka beef steak coated in cheese presents discerning cats with a rich source of flavours. The Dingac local red wine is a perfect companion to, well just about everything!

After a necessary nights sleep, just to allow the previous feast to settle, and gentle strolling around the old city (see future blog posts), it is time for a satisfying afternoon snack. Restaurant Arsenal is located overlooking the old port… Restaurant Arsenal [2]… and where better to sample some of the local seafood delicacies. You can almost see the anchovies, calamari and shrimp queueing up to leap onto your plate! A glass of the Posip white wine compliments the seafood salad perfectly…

Restaurant Arsenal [3] food

Koloseum [2]Most cats will let you know that fish is the dish of choice every time, so suitably instructed an early evening call into the Koloseum restaurant provided the perfect opportunity to relieve the establishment of one of its delicately grilled Tuna Steaks. Oh, and a glass or more of the Grasevina white wine doesn’t go amiss!

Koloseum meal

 

 

 

 

Most places in Dubrovnik old city are back streets, but a meander around the narrow passageways presents an enormous choice of places to re-fuel. One such establishment is Domino restaurant, serving up a tender and juicy steak to interrupt the flood of sea-based sustenance…

Domino [3]

Domino [1] food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can only eat so much in a few days; a statement that neither Juno or Bella would ever have understood! There comes a time when you need to consider the return journey to the local airport. But not without a lunchtime visit to the starting point of the whole culinary adventure. Dubravka 1836 has its signature pizza dish, and who am I to leave without sampling it? This also gives me an opportunity to see in daylight that which had drawn me in so seductively as a beacon in the darkness.

Dubravka 1836 [1]

Dubravka 1836 daytime [2]

Dubravka 1836 daytime [3] food

Going back to apartment [5] cat

Strolling back through the old city to the apartment one evening, following an inevitable feast, I had this strange sense that Juno and Bella had arranged for eyes to be kept on me. Or perhaps that was just my over-excited imagination coping with the volume of fabulous vittles.

Until we speak again, eat well, drink well, and don’t feel the need to keep looking over your shoulder!