In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Golden Gate Bridge turns 75 with pomp and circumstance
Some said it couldn’t, or shouldn’t, be built. When it hit 50, the sheer weight of its fans almost flattened it. This Sunday tens of thousands are expected to come visit as the Golden Gate Bridge turns 75.
The iconic suspension bridge arches across the Golden Gate, the opening of San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most well-known spans in the world, and each year more than 10 million people visit it, according to the Golden Gate Bridge District, which is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep.
The bridge officially opened on May 27, 1937. Completed in just four and a half years at the height of the Depression, it is an example of American ingenuity, “overcoming adversity and thinking ahead,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a crowd on Friday as the ribbon was cut on the bridge’s newly built welcome center.
Many at the ceremony sported orange hats, scarves and cloths in homage to “international orange,” the official name of the color the bridge has always been painted. Finding the emblematic clothing wasn’t hard, joked San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, because orange is also the color of the San Francisco Giants. He called the bridge “our welcome sign to the world.”
- – As of April 2011, 1,929,896,448 vehicles had crossed the Golden Gate Bridge since opening in 1937.
- – The total length of bridge, including approaches from abutment to abutment, is 1.7 miles.
- – The height of the bridge’s towers above water is 746 feet. Each tower contains approximately 600,000 rivets.
- – The bridge’s two cables have a diameter of 36 3/8 inches. Each main cable is 7,650 feet long.
- – The bridge is named for the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.
- – The toll to cross the bridge in a car is $6.
- – The bridge cost $27 million to buildin 1932.
- – The bridge was painted orange vermilion (dubbed International Orange) because it blends well with bridge’s setting and because it provides enhanced visibility for passing ships.
- – Rough weather has only closed the bridge three times in its history. Each time, the bridge weathered the storm and suffered no structural damage.
Taking a moment to make a political point, California Gov. Jerry Brown noted that when the bridge was built the nation and the state were in a deep depression and much poorer than today. “When we ‘couldn’t afford it,’ we built a great monument” and weren’t afraid to invest in the future, he told the crowd.
The bridge’s last big anniversary was a nail-biter for engineers. When it turned 50, the celebration included closing the span to auto traffic and allowing pedestrians to walk across. Organizers had expected a crowd but they didn’t expect the 300,000 who thronged it. The sheer weight of the crowd actually began to flatten out the bridge deck, which rises in a gentle arch to 80 feet at midpoint.
Forth Bridge and that ‘endless paint job’
The standing joke is that it is an endless paint job. In fact, contrary to popular belief, workmen do not have to begin repainting the Forth rail bridge as soon as they have completed it.
The iconic structure is so vast that only sections of it are spruced up at a time. Even that costs millions, prompting an ill-advised suggestion by a Labour MSP in 2003 that the bridge be demolished.
This was tantamount to sacrilege in a country that regards the bridge as the eighth wonder of the world, according to a Heriot Watt University professor. More recently First Minister Alex Salmond hailed it as a “blood red wonder”, a reference to 71 men and boys known to have lost their lives building it.
It will come as no surprise to Scots that their biggest ‘listed’ building could achieve the status of the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. By any standard, it is an engineering marvel of 54,000 tonnes of steel wrought into the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world – 1.5 miles – when it was completed in 1890 at a cost of £3.2m. That’s about £235m today.
Before the bridge adorned the Firth of Forth and countless souvenir shortbread tins, the church established a ferry service in the 12th century to enable pilgrims to visit holy shrines in St. Andrews. A notable passenger on the ferry was Mary, Queen of Scots, following her escape from imprisonment in Loch Leven castle in 1568.
This was a hazardous passage, even in the 19th century, when an official report recounted that more than 83,000 people with almost 6,000 carts and carriages had risked ‘a drenching and even death’ on the ferry.
Mykonos a Greek island treasure
Mykonos is the classic Greek-island stop and, along with Santorini, it’s the most touristy. But being on Mykonos recently reminded me how enduringly charming the Greek islands are — even when they’re extremely crowded.
Mykonos’ port, Chora, is a humble seafront village crouched behind a sandy harbour, thickly layered with blinding-white stucco, bright-blue trim, and bursting-purple bougainvilleas. Thank goodness for all that colour, since otherwise this island — one of Greece’s driest — would be various shades of dull-brown. On a ridge over town stretches a trademark row of five windmills, overlooking a tidy embankment so pretty they call it “Little Venice.”
The sea, the wind, the birds, and the weather-beaten little whitewashed churches all combine to give the town a vibrant allure. Everyone gathers in the cafes and pubs to nurse an ouzo or some other drink, and to watch the sun set to the rhythm of the sloppy, slamming waves.
While Chora has some museums, they merely provide an excuse to get out of the sun for a few minutes. The real attraction here is poking around the streets: Shopping, dining, clubbing, or — best of all — simply strolling. The core of the town is literally a maze, designed by the Mykonians centuries ago to discourage would-be invaders from finding their way. That tactic also works on today’s tourists. But I can think of few places where getting lost is so enjoyable.
When you’re done exploring the town, it’s time to relax at one of the enticing sandy beaches around the island. Each beach seems to specialize in a different niche: Family friendly or party; straight, gay, or mixed; nude or clothed; and so on. (Keep in mind that in Greece, even “family friendly” beaches have topless sunbathers.) The low-key beach in Ornos, ideal if you brought your kids, is easy to reach since it’s in a sizeable town in the middle of the island. Or you might try Psarou and Platis Gialos — two beaches along a cove to the east of Ornos. Psarou is considered a somewhat exclusive, favourite retreat of celebrities, while Platis Gialos feels more geared toward families.
My favorite beach is Agios Ioannis, a remote patch of sand tucked behind a mountain ridge that gives me the feeling of being on a castaway isle. From Ornos, head toward Kapari and look for a turn-off on the left at some low-profile beach signs. You’ll drop down the road to an idyllic, Robinson-Crusoe spot where two restaurants share a sandy beach.
Paradise is Mykonos’ famous “meat-market” beach, a magnet for partiers in the Aegean. Located at the southern tip of the island, Paradise (aka Kalamopodi) is presided over by hotels that run party-oriented bars for young beachgoers — perfect if you want to dance in the sand all night to the throbbing beat with like-minded backpackers from around the world.
All of these beaches have comfortable lounge chairs with umbrellas out on the sand. Figure around $14-20 for two chairs that share an umbrella (or half that for one chair). Just take a seat — they’ll come by to collect money. Be warned that in peak season — July and especially August — all beaches are very crowded, and it can be difficult to find an available seat.
From the port, you can take a public bus to any of these beaches, or you can cruise on a shuttle boat to Psarou, Platis Gialos, or Paradise. Another alternative is to rent a car, motor scooter, or all-terrain vehicle. If I wanted to drive a scooter or ATV on a Greek isle, I’d do it here, where the roads are not too heavily trafficked (you’ll pass more fellow scooters and ATVs than cars), and idyllic beaches are a short ride away.
Sheep racing marks the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Barnsley
A corps of twenty trained animals will zoom round a special track to celebrate the great occasion.
Have you come across – or indeed organised – any curious ways of marking the Diamond Jubilee? Here’s one.
Cannon Hall Farm on the edge of Barnsley is holding a version of Royal Ascot using sheep instead of horses. There is no overt political comment in any of the publicity material, but theorists can have a whale of a time.
The contestants, inevitably referred to as ‘woolly jumpers’ amid multiple respellings of the town as Baansley, are already experienced and popular since being trialled last year. Their surprisingly deft management of jumps and thunderous duels along the straight have been popular with pretty much everyone who has been along to watch.
Richard Nicholson, director of the farm which is staging nine days of racing, says, “We pull out all the stops with our sheep racing and don’t think there’s another permanent course like ours anywhere else in the country.Over the Jubilee holiday we’ll be running lots of races so anyone who hasn’t seen the sheep in action before has plenty of opportunities to do so.”
The farm has a corps of 20 sheep trained to speed round the track, while a loudspeaker crackles out live commentary and there’s a pretend Tote where you can pick a sheep to encourage and maybe win a non-monetary prize. Nicholson says,”The sheep are fairly easy to train once they realise there is a food reward at the end of the race. It often surprises people that they are so willing to race and jump the fences so well. They aren’t put off by crowds and are keen to race and get their food treat.”
The Royal tribute races will be held every day from June 2 to 10, on the hour every hour between noon and 4pm. Visitors can also watch sheep being sheared; a strangely fascinating sight.