Archive by Author | Simon Phipps

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The Blue Mosque

Blue Mosque, first dawn by webmink
Blue Mosque, first dawn, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

I was recently in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state in Malaysia and a part of the greater Kuala Lumpur conurbation. An unmissable feature of Shah Alam is the truly enormous and remarkable Blue Mosque (the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque to be formal). It is a recent building, only completed in 1988 unlike the mediaeval mosque of the same name in Istanbul.

Coade Stone Lion

Coade Stone Lion by webmink
Coade Stone Lion, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

This iconic Victorian sculpture of a lion stands opposite the Houses of Parliament at the south end of Westminster Bridge in London, England. It looks new, but has survived 175 years, including through World War 2 and the demolition of the building for which it was created.

It is actually made of a ceramic called Coade Stone by sculptor  W.F. Woodington in 1837. The material is made from a mix of clay, flint, quartz and glass – in ratios that are known to us – and then cured over multiple days at high temperature – in a process that is lost.  Coade Stone appears to be one of the most durable artificial materials created, but sadly the precise technique needed for industrial manufacture did not survive the closure of the manufacturer.

There are more details of the history of the sculpture on the plaque beneath the sculpture:
Detail: Coade Stone Lion


Hungarian Parliament by webmink
Hungarian Parliament, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

The Hungarian capital, Budapest, is a city I’ve visited a few times. Each time I have been charmed. It has managed to avoid the tourist infestation that’s taken Prague, while still becoming interesting and accessible to the visitor.

This is the Hungarian Parliament building, seen just after sunset across the river Danube from the walls of the castle.

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake by webmink
Tenaya Lake, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Another shot of Yosemite National Park that’s not Half Dome! This is Tenaya Lake, near the summit of the high country in Yosemite just a few miles from the east entrance to the park at Tioga Pass. Even late in the year there’s snow visible at this altitude.

The lake is right beside the road, so no trouble finding it – but do turn off and walk in the woods too. Pack breakfast on your day excursion to Mono Lake, Bodie or Bishop and picnic here after you’ve spend the hour or so it takes to drive up from the valley floor. The Tioga Pass Resort just outside the entry station also does a great breakfast if you prefer not to picnic, and you’ll be surprised how good the deli inside the Chevron station at the foot of the hill just outside Lee Vining is – make sure you eat there at least once!

Yosemite High Country

Crossing the Tuolomne River by webmink
Crossing the Tuolomne River, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

If you’re heading to Yosemite National Park this summer, don’t forget to visit the high country. There’s year-round tundra in Tuolomne Meadows, wonderful walks along the Tuolomne River, fewer visitors, more granite domes and the opportunity to skip across Tioga Pass to visit Mono Lake and maybe even Bodie ghost town.


Putrajaya Panorama by webmink
Putrajaya Panorama, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Malaysia has an evolving purpose-built administrative capital, called Putrajaya. It’s rising from what was jungle, complete with artificial lakes and enormous official buildings. This picture gives a view of the new mosque and the prime minister’s house, but there’s much else to see in the area.


Padstow Harbour by webmink
Padstow Harbour, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Cornwall, the part of England that’s the far south-western point of the country, is a rubbed land dominated by fishing and historic industry. The town of Padstow nestles on the coast around a delightful harbour, and has become a gastronomic destination since chef Rick Stein has set up shop there in several places.

American Castle

American Castle by webmink
American Castle, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Dusk in Chicago is a great time to enjoy the architecture. This is the Chicago Tribune building, with its gothic flying buttresses and ornamentation yelling permanence and wealth to you. Let’s hope the newspaper can survive the onslaught of new technology better than the mediaeval european buildings it mimics…

Pilgrim Memorial, Southampton

Pilgrim Memorial, Southampton by webmink
Pilgrim Memorial, Southampton, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

It’s possible that you think the Puritan colonists who settled the US east coast departed from Plymouth, but that’s only partly right. It turns out their journey was already fraught by the time they got that far.

The Mayflower (together with the Speedwell) originally departed from Southampton with the Pilgrim Fathers (and presumably some Pilgrim Mothers as well) – Elizabethan religious misfits whose departure probably went unremarked at the time. After stops at Dartmouth and Plymouth to repair storm damage the Mayflower went on to the New World – the Speedwell was too damaged to make the voyage. And the rest is history. More details can be seen on the plaque at the bottom.

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