Sunday, May 9, 2010

UK Travels Part 3


If you go visit Edinburgh, make sure to include Forth Bridges Visitor Center Trust along with Edinburgh Castle, Carton Hill and Holyrood Palace. At the Visitor Center Trust, you will see two bridges: 1) Victorian Firth of Forth Rail Bridge (UNESCO Heritage) and 2) a modern Firth of Forth toll road bridge, which is longer than the rail bridge and a much lighter suspension bridge, running close to each other almost in parallel. I was struck by the beauty of the old and new bridges. The water underneath and in between became the playground for wind surfers with their flapping colorful sails in the afternoon. I was just lucky to stay at a hotel overlooking all this. Honestly, however, I searched for a hotel with a competitive rate without realizing the venue was far away from central Edinburgh. I spent a restful day, sketching what I saw.

The rail bridge has quite a history. Sir Thomas Bouch (1822- 1880), who built the Tay River Bridge, was sought again, but he died worrying over the previously collapsed bridge and its victims. The new design team had to build it stronger. The cantilever system was adopted to allow vessels to sail underneath. The British National Museum of Science and Industry brought mobile exhibits to various cities in Japan, including Kitakyushu, I saw an old photo of three men sitting and experimenting on the cantilever models, next to the miniature Firth Bridge. The man in the center was Kaichi Watanabe (1858-1932) whom I found afterward, was a foreman of the construction site, a job he took right after his graduation from Glasgow University, and later became the first president of Toyo Electric Company.

Royal Crescent

Surprisingly Bath, Somerset, around 1800 was one of the larger cities in Britain. It was once the wool and cloth commercial and fashion center around the 1500's and known for the off and on again operations of baths (geothermal) that the Romans loved and left. Bath prospered as a resort for wealthy British with great examples of Georgian architecture such as the Royal Crescent. It is comprised of 30 houses like a half Colosseum, with Ionic columns on high bases. The whole city was designated as the UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is well compared to Italian Florence (Firenze) and I’m glad that I dropped by, attracted there by the Canterbury Tales.

Stratford von Avon

Stratford von Avon, Shakespeare’s (1564-1616) birthplace, the world mecca for literary pilgrims. After hotel check-in, I hurried to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to secure my seat of any play currently being performed. Measure for Measure, probably not ranking at the top, but not at the bottom either, was the one I got.

I vaguely remembered that the play was about power harassment, which dealth with gender concerns of the audience. Justice, truth, and hypocrisy are the issues and their relationship to pride and humanity. The finale was the revelation of tricks by the overriding Duke of Vienna that was seen both as comedy and tragedy. Amazingly Shakespeare’s birthplace built by his father was intact, almost the same as it was 400 years ago. However, the “New Place” house Shakespeare himself had built was gone.

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