The first place we visited in Perth was the Mint founded in 1899 as a result of all the gold being mined locally in the Western Australia's eastern goldfields. It is the oldest operating mint in Australia and one of its top exporters responsible for refining nearly all Australia's annual production of gold. Unfortunately with all that gold around we weren't allowed to take any photographs but the highlight of the tour was watching gold being heated up and poured in the Melting House to make a gold bar. Apparently they have been cooling and re-melting the same gold bar for their gold pouring displays for years!
Recreation of Prospectors' Campsite at Perth Mint
Me by the statue of a couple of gold prospectors outside Perth Mint
Next up was the grand "Beaux Arts-style" General Post Office in Forrest Place. The GPO building itself is now listed and the square in front of it is popular for events and festivals. Murray Street and Hay Street seem to be the main shopping streets in Perth and include London Court, a mock Tudor Shopping Court built in 1937 by a wealthy gold miner and financier. The restored Town Hall is located on the corner of Hay and Barrack Streets.
The General Post Office on Forrest Place, Perth
London Court Shopping Arcade, Perth
Shops along London Court, Perth
Perth Town Hall
We then stumbled upon the Old Perth Fire Station which unexpectedly had quite an interesting museum and heritage centre. Downstairs we some old fire engines and equipmnet but upstairs there were displays about all the different types of disasters the Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services might have to deal with - bush fires, cyclones, tsunamis and earthquakes; very well done but is it safe to live here?
Old Central Fire Station, Perth
Old Fire Tenders at Old Central Fire Station, Perth WA
Just up the road from the Fire Station was St. Marys RC Cathedral; the originally building built in 1863 is quite pretty although I think the jury is still out on the recently added extension on the righthand side.
St Marys Cathedral, Perth
Talking of jurys... it was at this point I began to notice a theme - almost every second building seemed to be some sort of courthouse! I found this quite amusing bearing in mind Australia's convict past (even if West Australians proudly point out that unlike the eastern states they were not originally a convict colony). First up we passed the District Court as we made our back down Hay Street, I didn't bother photographing that. Then we reached Perth Concert Hall, a fine auditorium built in the early 1970s - with the Commonwealth Court nestled beside it on the left.
Perth Concert Hall with the Commonwealth Law Court beside it
We then continued along St George's Terrace past Government House and the impressive Council House where had my photo taken by the statues of a mob of Kangaroos outside Stirling Gardens. Not surprisingly this is a very popular photo site with tourists!
Government House, Perth
Me by the Mob of Kangaroo Statues on St George's Terrace, Perth
Across Stirling Gardens is the Supreme Court with hidden behind it the Old Court House. This is a lovely old building (the oldest in Perth) which was originally built in 1836 and in its early years also doubled up as a boy's school, church and concert hall.
Supreme Court, Perth
The Old Court House, Perth
The Courtroom at the Old Court House, Perth
Me in the dock at the Old Court House in Perth
Our final port of call on our walk around Perth was the Bell Tower at the bottom of Barrack Street by the jetty. It was opened in 2000 as Western Australia's Millennium Project and contains bells from St. Martins-in-the-Fields in London's Trafalgar Square. The oldest bells date from 1550 and are referred to in the nursery "Oranges and Lemons" with the words "you owe me five farthings say the bells of St. Martins".
The Barrack Street Bell Tower
The Bells inside the Bell Tower
We finished off the day in true Perth style with a drink in Maylands watching the sun set over the Perth City Skyline.
A visit to the US Mint was actually on my bucket list having been unable to have a look around it last time I was in Denver. Sadly I was to be disappointed as it turned out we needed to pre-book the free tours about 3 months ahead! Fortunately tours around the US Mint's other location in Philadelphia don't need to be pre-booked so this item on my bucket list can wait until I get there later during my trip.
The visitor's entrance to the US Mint in Denver
We then walked across the Civic Center Park in downtown Denver, past a copy of the Liberty Bell (the original is in Philadelphia) to the Colorado State Capitol. The building looks like a copy of the Capitol in Washington although sadly the gold plated dome itself is currently obscured by white sheeting while essential repairs are carried out. Denver has been dubbed the "Mile High City" and sure enough a step leading up to the main entrance is engraved as being precisely "One Mile above Sea Level" and I had the obligatory photograph taken of me standing on it.
Mounted Policeman in the Civic Center Park in front of the State Capitol Denver
A copy of the Liberty Bell in Lincoln Park outside the State Capitol Denver
The Civil War Memorial in front of the steps of the State Capitol in Denver
Me stood on the 'One Mile above Sea Level' step leading up into the State Capitol in Denver
A short distance from the Capitol is the History Colorado Center, an innovative new museum that first opened in April 2012. Their headline temporary attraction while I was there (and about the only exhibit we weren't allowed to photograph) was the Jefferson Bible borrowed from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. This bible is in effect a personal scrapbook of selected verses from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John pasted together in chronological order by Thomas Jefferson (principle author of the USA 1776 Declaration of Independence) to create a single narrative and then duplicated side by side in four languages (English, French, Latin and Greek).
The star of the museum for me however was the Anschutz Hamilton Hall with a map of Colorado for its floor on which we were able to push around a pair of seven foot high "steam punk" time machines to various hot spots on the map. The clocks on the time machines would then wind back and the video screens would tell quirky stories from the history of the location.
Moving the time machines around the Map of Colorado on the ground floor of the History Colorado Center
Close up of one the time machines in the History Colorado Center
On the same floor as the time machines was Destination Colorado, a hands on recreation of life on the Colorado prairies in the 1920s. Here you could milk a virtual cow (the bucket lights up as you squeeze the teat!), drive a Model T Ford or visit a General Store - really something aimed more at school children than ourselves so surprisingly we didn't stay there long. A lot more interesting though was Colorado Stories on the top floor.
Me milking a cow in 'Destination Colorado' at the History Colorado Center
Colorado Stories contained galleries highlighting aspects of the history of about 8 localities around the state. I found the gallery on Bent's Fort, a prairie trading post from the mid nineteenth century, particularly interesting as included amongst the sample of goods from around the world it traded with local Indians was Stroud Scarlet from back home in Gloucestershire in the UK (Stroud Scarlet was the red cloth used historically for British Army redcoats).
Bent's Fort in 'Colorado Stories' - and amongst the goods being traded is Stroud Scarlet Cloth from back home in Gloucestershire!
Amongst the other exhibits in Colorado Stories were galleries on silver mining in Silverton (which reminded me of my trip down the Lebanon Mine a few days earlier), life in the WWII Amache Relocation Center for people of Japanese ancestry and the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre of Indians by local militia (probably one of the more tragic stories from Colorado's history).
Explosives ready to be set in the Silverton Mine gallery of 'Colorado Stories'
Re-creation inside 'Colorado Stories' of a WWII relocation center for people of Japanese ancestry
We then escaped the museum and went for afternoon tea at the Brown Palace Hotel which is considered the landmark hotel in Denver. Originally opened in 1892, my guidebook describes it as an "Italian Renaissance-style structure with elegant dining rooms and a common area based around a sunlit eight story atrium lobby with tiers of iron railings." Famous former guests at the hotel include the Beatles, various US presidents and the 'unsinkable' Molly Brown from the Titanic. Before making our way home we had afternoon tea with scones and finger sandwiches served on a 3 tier silver pedestal tray washed down with Earl Grey and Kir Royale - cousins that lunch!
The Brown Palace Hotel in Denver
The eight story atrium lobby inside the Brown Palace Hotel
Afternoon tea being served in the lobby of the Brown Palace Hotel
Sidewalk plaque commemorating the Beatles getting struck in a lift at the Brown Palace Hotel in 1964
I do enjoy watching live baseball and have been kindly taken to games on my last two visits to the USA. Earlier in my trip I had seen the LA Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers in double quick time while in Los Angeles but it was now time to see if I was going to be a good luck charm for the Colorado Rockies as well. So the following day we returned to downtown Denver to Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies Baseball Team, with me dressed in a purple Rockies "Dexter Fowler 24" shirt (Dexter is a Rockies centerfielder) to watch them play the San Francisco Giants.
Coors Field - home of the Colorado Rockies Baseball Team
Dexter Fowler at the plate for the Colorado Rockies
The game started well with the Rockies taking a 5 run lead including a grand slam home run (i.e. a home run with all 3 bases loaded) but then the Giants came back with the Rockies eventually winning 10-9 in a nail biting finish (am I beginning to sound like I know what I'm talking about?). After the game we went looking for an Irish Bar in Lower Downtown (universally known as LoDo by the locals) to celebrate and found Scruffy Murphys, coincidentally exactly the same name (although no connection) as the Irish Bar I found in Sydney, Australia.
Grand Slam Home Run for the Colorado Rockies
Pablo Sandoval (aka Panda) at the plate for the San Francisco Giants
Scruffy Murphys Irish Bar in Denver where we went to celebrate (didn't I visit its namesake in Sydney?)
Three days later I had another opportunity to see the Colorado Rockies play at home, this time against the Arizona Diamondbacks. By now it had dawned on me that US baseball fixtures are described the other way round to sports fixtures back home i.e. away team @ home team rather than home team v away team; trust the Americans to be different!
Me posing with my ticket by the player statue outside the stadium before the game
Everyone stands as the USA National Anthem is played before the game
Me enjoying a 'Rockie Dog' while watching the baseball
Although the Arizona Diamondbacks attracted a smaller crowd than the San Francisco Giants a few days previously it was no less exciting and I witnessed my first Major League Baseball game go into extra innings with the two teams tied at 4-4 after the usual 9 innings. We had to leave but listened to the game on the radio on the way back as the Rockies went on to win 5-4 in the 'bottom' (i.e. while the 2nd team is batting) of the 10th.
Another Home Run for the Rockies - perhaps I am a lucky charm at the baseball after all?
'Dinger' - the Colorado Rockies Mascot - up to no good again outside the away team's dugout
I wanted to see the US Capitol and White House while I was on the US East Coast so shortly before the end of my round the world trip I booked myself into a hotel for a few days in Washington and got myself a train ticket there on AMTRAK.
Arriving on my own in a strange city I started my stay with an open top bus tour to get my bearings; an approach I had also used earlier in my trip in Zurich and Sydney. The tour began from Washington's Union Station and soon after drove past the front of the US Capitol a short distance away for which I had a visit booked in a couple of days.
Washington's Union Railway Station
The US Capitol Building at the east end of the National Mall
Washington is laid out with the Capitol Building atop Capitol Hill as its focal point and the 1.9 mile (3 kilometre) long open space of the National Mall stretching westwards to the needle like Washington Monument a little over half way along its length and then beyond to the Lincoln Memorial close to the Potomac River.
The view from the Capitol down the National Mall towards the Washington Monument
I'd heard of the Smithsonian Institute but never appreciated before that it was a collective term for the national museums of the USA. The 19 museums that make up the nucleus of the Institute line each side of top end of the National Mall, making it the largest museum campus in the world. I later managed to visit two of its most popular museums while I was in Washington - the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of Natural History.
The red-turreted Smithsonian Castle on Independence Avenue on the south side of the National Mall - headquarters of the Smithsonian Institute
The American Indian Museum on Independence Avenue
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum on 14th Street
About half way down the National Mall (where the White House faces onto it from the north) is the Washington Monument, the 555 feet (169 metre) high obelisk completed in 1884 in honour of George Washington the 1st US President. Unfortunately it was closed for repairs and covered in scaffolding while I was there having been damaged by the 2011 Virginia Earthquake and then Hurricane Irene later the same year.
The Washington Monument half way down the National Mall
View east up the National Mall to the Capitol Building from the Washington Monument
The White House looking north from the National Mall
A change of tour bus took us from the Washington Monument out to the Arlington National Cemetery just over the Potomac River where more than 400,000 military personnel from every US war since the American War of Independence right up until current day Afghanistan are buried. The cemetery was originally the home of Confederate Commander-in-Chief Robert E. Lee and was occupied by Union troops early in the Civil War in May 1861. In 1863 a village for freed and runaway slaves was created and then the following year for both practical and symbolic reasons it started being used as a military cemetery.
Memorial Avenue leading up to the Arlington National Cemetery
The entrance into Arlington National Cemetery
Wax model of a Honor Guard Bugler in the Visitors Center
Rows of military graves at the Arlington National Cemetery
Deep in the heart of the cemetery with a terrific view over Washington are the Tombs of the Unknowns guarded by a honor guard from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment who also provide the ceremonial escort for the US President. None of the guards wear rank insignia so as not to outrank the unknowns and they perform a Changing of the Guard Ceremony by the tombs every half hour. There are four tombs; the original tomb from WWI with tombs from WWII, Korea and Vietnam in the plaza alongside it. The Vietnam Tomb is empty as modern DNA meant it was possible to identify who it was and return his remains to his family.
Looking up at the Tombs of the Unknowns
The Tombs of the Unknowns overlooking Washington
Changing the Guard Ceremony at the Tombs of the Unknowns
What I didn't appreciate beforehand is that all US military personnel who have seen active service and have been honourably discharged are eligible for burial at the cemetery if they so wish and this means it has on average seven burials per day. It took me a bit by surprise when I saw a Honor Band and Guard march past followed by a horse-drawn flag draped caisson and funeral cortege for one of these burials.
The Honor Guard leading a funeral cortege at Arlington National Cemetery
The horse-drawn caisson passes carrying an American flag-draped casket
Arlington House itself was built in 1802 on high ground in the estate by Robert E. Lee's father-in-law George Washington Parke Custis (the step grandson of George Washington). The now restored house has a terrific view of Washington to its front with the wide boulevard of Memorial Drive and Arlington Memorial Bridge leading straight to the Lincoln Memorial.
Arlington House, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee
The view over Washington from Arlington House
On the hillside directly below the house is the grave and eternal flame of President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd 1963. His wife Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was buried alongside him 1994 and his younger brother Senator Robert F. Kennedy (assassinated in LA, California June 5th 1968) is buried in an adjacent grave plot.
The eternal flame by President John F. Kennedy's grave
Close up of President John F. Kennedy's gravestone
The cemetery has lots of other memorials of interest including a pair of memorials behind the Tombs of the Unknowns Amphitheatre to the crews of the Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttles lost in 1986 and 2003.
Challenger and Columbia Space Shuttle Memorials either side of the 1979 Iran Mission Monument
As we returned to the Washington we drove past the Pentagon, the headquarters of the US Ministry of Defence and the largest office building in the world. Unfortunately (but perhaps not surprisingly) we were not allowed to take any close up photographs!
Another view of the Pentagon
Returning to the Washington Memorial I took the opportunity before getting back onto the main tour bus to have a look around the nearby Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving. I had so far been unsuccessful in my attempts to see coins being minted at the US Mints in Denver and Philadelphia so when there was an opportunity to see US bank notes being printed instead I was keen to take it! Not surprisingly for security reasons we were not allowed to take photographs of the printing presses running although in the gift shop on the way out there was a case containing a million dollars and you could also measure your height in $100 bills (I'm $1,607,700 tall!).
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing on 14th Street
Tour Entrance for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
$1,000,000 in $10 notes on display in the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
How tall are you in $100 notes?
I then got back on the main tour bus and we made our way around the numerous national memorials that pepper the lower section of the National Mall. Immediately behind the Washington Monument is the National World War II Memorial at the top end of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The National World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial behind it at the other end of the Reflecting Pool
The neo-classical Lincoln Memorial dedicated in 1922 to honour the 16th US President anchors the west end of the National Mall. Inside the memorial is the famous 19 feet (5.8 metre) high statue of Abraham Lincoln with words of his 1863 Gettysburg Address and 1865 Second Inaugural Address engraved on two of its walls.
The memorial has been the site of many famous speeches with hundreds of thousands of people gathered around its Reflecting Pool, including African-American Civil Rights Movement leader Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 and anti-Vietnam War Protests in the late 1960s. It has also been used a backdrop in numerous films including Logan's Run (1976), Forest Gump (1994) and Planet of the Apes (2001) amongst many others.
The Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln's Statue inside his Memorial on the National Mall
Looking back up the National Mall from the Lincoln Memorial
Just to the south of the Lincoln Memorial beside the Tidal Basin are the Martin Luther King Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial (32nd US President between 1933-1945) and picturesquely on the other side of the Basin the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (3rd US President between 1803-1809).
The Martin Luther King Memorial
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the Tidal Basin
Amongst the other memorials nearby was the Korean War Veterans Memorial depicting a patrol of soldiers from the conflict and the Albert Einstein Memorial with him holding a manuscript engraved with the formulas of his three most important scientific advances (the theory of general relativity, the photoelectric effect and the equivalence of energy and matter).
Korean War Veterans Memorial
The Albert Einstein Memorial
In addition to a grid of north/south (numeric) and east/west (alphabetic) streets Washington also has diagonal avenues named after states and the final leg of our bus tour took us along Pennsylvania Avenue which is probably the most famous and busiest of them. This is where a lot of the federal government buildings such as the Internal Revenue, Department of Justice and FBI Headquarters are and is usually referred to as the Federal Triangle.
View from the bus on Pennsylvania Avenue - all roads lead to the Capitol
The J Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue - headquarters of the FBI
One of the final buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue before the Capitol is the Newseum which apparently contains loads of footage of major events over recent years and looks like something the media mogul baddie in the James Bond Film "Tomorrow Never Dies" would have dreamt up. It looked a fascinating place to visit with terrific reviews but unfortunately I didn't have time to fit it in.