It was fabulous to be back in Jordan at the end of May, before Ramadan or the real heat this year.  I enjoyed the Centennial celebration of Jordanian independence with a date milkshake at Wild Jordan as we watched the flyovers around the Old City.  It was also nice to grab some Zalatimo’s Sweets as gifts from their shop around the corner from my hotel.  Another memorable element besides catching up with friends was finally visiting Jerash (Gerasa) before sunset one day after work. Jerash has been hosting humans since the Bronze Age and has fabulous Roman antiquities. I particularly enjoyed the Hippodrome.

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As Samra (c) Kathryn Pharr

As Samra (c) Kathryn Pharr

This work trip included a tour of the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant. Before I started my job, which includes water and sanitation issues, I had never visited a Wastewater treatment plant. This facility was just as innovative and impressive as DC Water’s Blue Plains. As-Samra’s completion of its expansion includes technology so that while overlooking the site, you cannot smell anything. (A colleague assured me it had smelled pungently before.) The amount of effort and engineering that ensures humans and ecosystems have safe water should not be undervalued and yet it so often is.

Another point where I noticed the effects of humans (less positively) was in the shocking decrease of the Dead Sea’s water level from my last trip in 2008 to Amman Beach Tourism Resort, Restaurant & Pools, which includes day access to a nice pool area, showers, and the Dead Sea. For 3 JD, you could coat yourself in Dead Sea mud and then wash it off in the Dead Sea (recycling, right?). On the right below, you can see how much closer the water is to the pool back in 2008. The left photo demonstrates how far we had to walk after coming down from the pool area. Eight years ago, that was all covered in salty water! (Yes, the sand was very, very hot.) Additionally, the resort had removed the fountain that was part of the pool area back in 2008. These were just small examples underlying the water security reports that continue to come out warning of increasing water scarcity in the Middle East.

 

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When I wrote last May about my trip to Stockholm, I knew I’d travel back for Stockholm World Water Week in August. As this pillar of the water community is looming on the horizon, I wanted to share some aspects of last August in addition to my visit back in February.

(c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

Stockholm Bridge, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

I will pause a moment to explain this World Water Week phenomena. It’s an annual event organized by SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute) that brings together people from around the world (~3,300) who work on water issues. It’s a wonderful, jam-packed week that flies by and is never-ending with sharing experiences and meeting new and old friends. In 2015, the mingle dance included an awesome tribute ABBA band that we all loved.

Skansen, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

Skansen, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2015

It was a lot of work, but we did have fun. Colleagues and I explored Stockholm through a Under the Bridges tour of Stockholm, which included a fabulous sunset and seeing Hammerby Sjostad, a sustainable urban neighborhood. One evening reception was at City Hall with its Blue Hall, that is covered in gold. There was a great evening of dining al fresco at Eriks Gondolen in Slussen with its stunning view of the city. After the conference, I wandered around the open-air museum of Skansen,

which opened in 1891 with houses from throughout Sweden (& now with period costumes from across 500 years of Swedish history) and with its own little zoo. If you enjoy Colonial Williamsburg, this is a must!

 

Galma Stan, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2016

Galma Stan, (c) Kathryn Pharr, 2016

The long summer evenings in Sweden were a sharp contrast to the shorter February days of my next visit. However, I deeply appreciated the dustings of snow that I came for. While there was less time to enjoy Stockholm in the sunlight, I appreciated my evenings in Slussen, a hip part of town that is easily accessible on the T-bana and that is walking distance into Galma Stan, the Old City. Slussen has good thrift shops and some fun local bars like the Black and Brown Inn.

In winter, it was wonderful to start the day with kardemummabullar (Swedish cardamom rolls). Even better were semla, special Shrove Tuesday buns. Working with a local partner for a few weeks, I also enjoyed Fika (afternoon cake time), which is a “daily” tradition in Sweden but luckily for my waistline, this organization only brought in goodies once a week! I had a lovely dinner in the basement of Gyldene Freden in Galma Stan.

Skiing on palace, 2016

Skiing on palace, 2016

It was a cool experience to catch the ferry that is part of public transportation from Slussen to the Vasa museum of the ship that sank just beyond port in 1628 and was salvaged 333 years later. The restoration work and the sheer size of the ship was stunning. The other big tourist attraction I saw was The Royal Palace in Galma Stan. We did not plan enough time to explore everything, but we did enjoy watching the changing of the guards. The guided tour of the palace rooms was amazingly well done. In the winter, it seems you can ski for free down the steps of the palace, so I had a go. Note: downhill skis are not the same as cross country skis.

Vasa museum, 2016

Vasa museum, 2016

With the cold weather, I’ll admit I did buy a Swedish sweater as a souvenir. It was a needed and beautiful expense. I can’t wait to find out what my next Stockholm adventures include!

Temporary art exhibits are exciting not just for locals but for tourists like me who happen to magically be in town at the right time. In February, I was so excited to see Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse at the Royal Academy of Arts, examining how gardens and art intertwine from the 1860’s to the 1920’s. The Agapanthus Triptych by Monet in the final room of the exhibit has not been seen together since his son sold the paintings individually after Monet’s death; it was stunning. The other featured artists were also amazing: Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet, Sargent, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Matisse, Klimt and Klee.

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(Photo is of Christmas decorations from 2014.)

Mayfair, a posh section of the City of Westminster well-known to Regency fans, isn’t limited just to the Royal Academy of Arts or the impressive Ritz and Claridge’s hotels (both incidentally known for excellent afternoon teas and dinners). You can also find a cocktail at Mr. Fogg’s Residence, an ode to Around the World in 80 Days. A stroll along Oxford Street or through Burlington Arcade (an enclosed sidewalk) will give you a sense of how the other half lives. Mayfair ends at Green Park, which is a lovely stroll and has activities throughout the year. If you are there in the evening, be sure to look for some of the last gas lights in London in the park.

However, my favorite part of Mayfair is Berkeley (pronounce Bark-lee) Square. It’s a very small, unassuming park that became famous through Vera Lynn’s “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,” that was a hit during World War II. If you find yourself in Mayfair, take a moment to see this park and listen to the song.

 

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

There are two things most people think of when they hear “Milwaukee”: beer and cold. Yes, at the Michigan Ale House in the Historic Third Ward, you could get cheese curds and a cold beer, but there’s more to this city that is refashioning itself. In June, I attended the Water Council’s 2015 Water Summit in Milwaukee. At the edge of Lake Michigan, Milwaukee touches the 20% of the world’s freshwater that is stored in the Great Lakes. The Water Council along with its private sector and academic founders has worked hard to focus the area on one of its natural resources and working on all aspects of freshwater. The tide is turning as several companies in the last few months have announced that they will be opening up manufacturing in Milwaukee: Zurn Headquarters and Paps Blue Ribbon (PBR) brewery. The conference was fascinating, but I’ll focus on what someone else might enjoy about the city.

I had a great first experience with Air BnB in Milwaukee because Summerfest overlapped with the Water Summit, so all hotels were full. What is this Summerfest you ask? Only the world’s largest music festival. The Rolling Stones played the night after I arrived.

I enjoyed staying the Fifth Ward, which is up and coming and an easy walk into the Third Ward. My strongest recommendation of Milwaukee might have to be the restaurant Crazy Water, and not just because it was perfectly themed for my trip. The cherry, chocolate chip bread pudding was decadent but I couldn’t turn it down even after a Midwest steak dinner.  I did have to wait till the next day to have room to sample the fabulous Purple Door homemade ice cream. You have to love people who make whiskey and brandy Old Fashioned ice cream. It’s also just in front of the Global Water Center if you want to check in on a collaborative water space for local universities, innovators, and companies.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

If you’re exploring the Historic Third Ward, walk towards the Milwaukee Art Museum, which looks like a ship setting sail on the lake. Even if the museum is closed, the architecture is worth a slight detour on whatever route you’re taking downtown.

While Milwaukee is very cold in the winter, it is a welcome respite from the humid heat of the D.C. area. It is also only about an hour from Chicago if you are thinking about planning a longer vacation in the area. The people in Milwaukee will greet you with real hospitality.

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(C) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

While just last week the New York Times provided a hipster version of how to enjoy Pittsburgh about the same time the Washington Post offered a journey to arrive there, it is no surprise that our trip was superior. First off, we did not limit ourselves to eating to enjoy the trip. (I am not downplaying the great cocktail and culinary options in Pittsburgh, but it does, as you will see, have more to offer.) We were lucky to have two local guides, Sunny & Drew, who put together an amazing, if intense, agenda. Sunni’s mom fed our crew an amazing feast when we rolled into the suburb of White Oaks about midnight Friday night.

Saturday morning the fun began. We started the day with a grand view of the city of Pittsburgh by going up the Duquesne Incline, which sets you out at the Point of View Park with a statue of George Washington and Seneca leader Guyasuta. The view of the Golden Triangle, where the Allegheny River and Monongahela River join to form the Ohio River.

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

A quick visit to the Strip District was a nice way to get breakfast on a Saturday morning with options that included fresh doughnuts and many amazing baked goods. We also stepped into an Irish/Polish church, St. Patrick-St. Stanislaus, to get a bit of Pittsburgh’s heritage.

Drew insisted on driving through the many different neighborhoods including Polish Hill with the lovely Immaculate Heart of Mary church.

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

One of our favorite stops was the National Aviary. The African penguins were delightful. I loved how for most of the birds (not the condors or the eagle) you walked into rooms that had birds roaming freely.

We enjoyed afternoon tea at the Frick cafe and truly enjoyed the docent-led tour of Clayton, the Fricks’ home in Pittsburgh. While the home was an excellent example of the style of mansions that used to litter Millionaire’s Row, we particularly enjoyed the orchestrion, an upgrade from a player piano because it makes nine instrumental sounds like an orchestra.

Believe it or not, we continued onto Kennywood, where I rode my first wooden roller coaster, the Jack Rabbit from 1920. In 1899, Kennywood opened as a “trolley park” and has been a place for fun ever since.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

The next day after a lovely service at St. Andrew’s in Highland Park and a visit with friends and their newborn, we took JJ to what we promised would be a fabulous experience: University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. I think the Welsh room was his favorite. If you go, check in with the information desk where for $4 you can borrow a key that will get you into the Nationality Rooms on Floors 1 and 3. As you leave, don’t forget to stop into Heinz Chapel next door, which looks like a mini-Notre Dame with such American “saints” as Emily Dickinson and Clara Barton. It was truly a magical weekend in Pittsburgh.

For those who either miss the mountains or who actually want to own a home before 40, the Atlantic ponders if you should consider moving to Pittsburgh, which offers upwards mobility and affordable housing.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

Landing in Stockholm was a bit like landing in any other European city (there is something about European airports that separates them from others, I just can’t name it). It was early May, and the weather was what I’d been told to anticipate: cool enough for a trench-coat and grey enough to wish you had an umbrella in hand. I’d tried to obtain Swedish krona at the Dulles airport, but it was easy to purchase my Arlanda train ticket to the City Centre with my credit card (with pin number-required for most travel outside the US now).

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

Whether experienced in typical spring rain or a pocket of sunshine, Stockholm is breathtaking and begs to be explored. It is built across fourteen islands on Lake Malaren, which connects to the Baltic Sea. The result is a delightful number of bridges to cross and infinite photographing possibilities. The Old Town section of the city, also known as Gamla Stan, dates from the mid-1200s. I walked past the Royal Palace, one of the largest in Europe containing over 600 rooms. I particularly enjoyed exploring the cobblestone streets and ducking into tourist shops with trinkets of Pippi Longstockings, trolls, nisse or tomtes (a house nome), Dalecarlian horses, and St. Lucia. As evening fell, I wandered around the neighboring island of Skeppsholmen, which is particularly peaceful after dark and the museums are closed.

I stayed at the Art Nouveau styled  Diplomat Hotel, in Norrmalm (City Centre)  next to the Nybroviken harbor and a short walk to Old Town. The breakfast buffet was particularly impressive. I enjoyed several wonderful meals nearby, including dinner at Broms. I loved Eriks Bakficka in Östermalm near the Djurgården bridge to the “museum island,” which served a fabulous version of a local dish Kalpudding, a cabbage and meat casserole with lingonberry jam. It was amazing. I also enjoyed the traditional cod and potatoes with butter and fresh dill dishes.

I hope to return to Stockholm and see more of the city during Stockholm World Water Week. I would love to explore the Vasa museum and go on a boat ride although I’m likely to skip the ABBA museum.

One extra delight for me on this work trip was to have dinner with my dear friends who live in the suburb, Hasselby, which is easily accessible on the city’s metro (tunnelbana), which is clean and easy to use. It was wonderful to see their lively daughter and meet their new son.

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

As always, when my trips involve seeing old friends in new locations, nothing about the new place beats catching up. Not that good weather isn’t a big plus. I’ve never really thought of LA beyond the glamour of Hollywood & Beverly Hills and the 1992 riots. What better way to explore than with college roommates who’ve lived there for years now?

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

One of the most unique sites to see is next to Hollywood but far from it: La Brea Tar Pits. Pre-historic tar pits have preserved the Ice Age skeletons of saber-tooth cats, birds (a rare find), dire wolves, and mammoths. It was pretty amazing! Right next to the tar pits and Page Museum, is the Los Angeles County Museum of the Arts (LACMA). I wish I had found the exhibit on the 1920s German cinema earlier than just before I had to leave; it was amazing. I was surprised to find part of the Berlin Wall across from LACMA (but not surprised about the great food trucks).

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(c) 2015 Kathryn Pharr

 However, the food trucks had nothing on Pie Hole, located in the arts district. We did a pie tasting of the Earl Grey, the Mexican chocolate, the lonely pie, and a chocolate crostata. All of it was amazing!

One thing I really enjoyed about LA was how distinct each neighborhood is. My friends leave on the east edge of town in Boyle Heights, which is 22 miles from the west edge that touches the coast. The view of the Santa Monica mountains and palm trees from the freeway made the small bits of traffic seem worthwhile. I had no idea I could see the famous Hollywood sign from Franklin Hills. We attended an arts auction in West Hollywood as a fundraiser for Em’s roller derby: too cool!

The view from Griffith Park of Los Angeles was amazing. I only wish the observatory had been open when we went through the park. Even though it was too cold to get in the water, Malibou beach was great. I was in awe of the Getty Villa: a recreation of the Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy. Its classical art collection is truly stunning. The conversation institute for the museum and the restorative work they have accomplished is equally impressive. Next time I’m going to go to the Getty Center to see the rest of the art collection.

Sunday brunch in the charming neighborhood of Atwater Village began with a tour of the Farmer’s Market (complete with bluegrass music for Kate and me) and ended with Canele. Everything we shared from the shrimp ‘n grits to the French toast with poached prunes and mascarpone was beyond incredible. Don’t believe me? See our smiles!

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