Would You Believe?

On March 18, 2012 · 7 Comments

Have you ever dropped into Google Street View and found terrain that just didn’t "look right," that differed from your expectations? I think we all have stereotypical preconceptions of how a place is supposed to appear, especially if we’ve never fully explore the area in person. Below is the image that surprised me a few days ago. See if you can guess the location. I guarantee you’re very familiar with its name. One could always hover a cursor over the image and reveal the answer instantaneously, but why spoil the fun? Scroll down when you’re ready for the answer.

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It’s Los Angeles, California. I’ll confess I cheated just a little bit. It’s the county of Los Angeles (map) as oppose to the City of Los Angeles (map) which is also part of the county. Still, a resident of this desert patch in the farthest reaches of northeastern Los Angeles County could say with a half-straight face that she lives in Los Angeles. Those not familiar with the area tend to forget just how far it sprawls, and that it’s not solely oceanfront, palm trees, traffic jams and endless subdivisions. Nearly ten million people live in Los Angeles County, but not in this corner.

Ready from another one? I’ll follow a similar pattern. I’ll post the image first and the answer below it. Scroll past the image when you’re ready and see if your mind took you in the proper direction. Remember, it’s not as it seems. The immediate answer will always be incorrect although other subtle clues may reveal it.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty at New York - New York Hotel and Casino
SOURCE: Flickr via Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

I’ll start with an easy one. Let’s begin with the premise that it’s not the real Statue of Liberty. How many fake Statues of Liberty could there be? More than I imagined, actually. I had to use a Flickr photograph instead of Street View because it would have become too obvious (see what I mean?). This version is a half-scale replica standing in front of the New York – New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The U.S. Postal Service admitted that it printed three billion postage stamps with the image of the wrong Statue of Liberty in 2011, the one in Las Vegas instead of the actual Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. An eagle-eyed stamp collector noticed certain differences in facial features and hair style. Linn’s Stamp News broke the story and it spread to the mainstream news media. The New York Times reported,

You might think that the post office would have just gone with the original, the one off the tip of Lower Manhattan that for 125 years has welcomed millions of New York’s huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Instead, they accidentally used the 14-year-old statue that presides over thousands of weary gamblers a week.

Context, of course, makes all of the difference. Only an expert can tell the difference when pertinent visual clues have been removed.

A Day in the Park

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What could be nicer than a day in the countryside on a lovely green lawn? Would you believe a lovely lawn in the middle of the inhospitable Australian Outback? One generally considers the Outback to practically define rugged, remote and dry. Nonetheless thirty-thousand people live Alice Springs in the Northern Territory deep within that expanse. They certainly deserve to have an attractive facility like the Jim McConville Oval where they can play "softball, junior baseball, slo-pitch, cricket, football" and the like. It’s odd to see a patch of sod in the desert, and in fact, swing the street view image around and notice how dry it appears elsewhere.

Chinese Arch

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You’ve probably got the hang of this game now. It’s not China and I’d venture that many of you already concluded that it must be Chinatown. But which one? This one happens to be in Mexico City, which I did not realize had a Chinatown until I wrote this. The arch can be found near Barrio Chino which is centered nearby along Dolores Street. Many Chinese immigrants came to Mexico at the turn of the last century for many of the reasons they also came to the United States: as an abundant labor supply, particularly for railroad construction. The Chinese community has largely assimilated into the larger Mexican population and Chinatown today has been reduced to a couple of blocks.

English Town Square

Shanghai - Thames Town
Flickr via Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0) license.

I desperately wanted Google Street View imagery for this location so I could wander through it vicariously but Google doesn’t provide that type of coverage in this country yet (hint). Welcome to Thames Town, not somewhere in England but an area of Songjiang Town near Shanghai, China. That’s nowhere near its namesake but right along the Yangtze River instead. This is a 21st Century housing development built intentionally in an English architectural style. They even have a website which is almost legible when run through translation software.

The Guardian featured Thames Town in an article prior to its construction,

With a fake turreted castle and at least one windmill, there is a danger that the site in Songjiang could turn into a British Disneyland that might serve as a monument to the excesses of Shanghai’s overheated property market. But the architects say they are designing a working community.

That ideal does appear to have been delivered judging by photographs available through the Intertubes.

Classic Mosque

Größere Kartenansicht

Where could this be? It’s very clearly a mosque with minarets but it’s not located anywhere near the Middle East. This is the Berlin Mosque (Die Moschee, Berlin), the oldest mosque in Germany and dates to the late 1920’s. It was damaged but not completely destroyed during World War II and renovations are still underway even today.

I’m sure the 12MC audience can find other unusual juxtapositions like the ones I’ve highlighted. Please feel free to post them along with a map links in the comments.

This Tour Made Possible by… You

On November 19, 2009 · 2 Comments

I sent out an appeal for sights I could cram into a single afternoon in San Francisco, and the readership of the Twelve Mile Circle came through with flying colors. I wrapped up the business that had occupied me form most of the week and set out on my journey to absorb as much of the city as I could in a just few hours.

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I should have noted in my previous article that I didn’t have a rental car so my apologies for that. However, that still gives me lots of suggestions for the next time I’m here. I factored in several suggestions along with my own research and here is the six mile loop I took, mostly on foot but also with one big chunk on a cable car.

Hotel Workers on Strike

After lunch, I made my way down from Union Square to Powell & Market, the beginning point of a couple of the cable car routes. Little did I know that I was going to have to snake my way through a group of striking hotel workers. It wasn’t my hotel, fortunately enough, because it was rather loud and raucous. I started my journey with some excitement but this would be my only unexpected delay during the entire time.

I was trying to be a little surreptitious when I snapped the picture in case the subjects might be sensitive to those kinds of things. I could imagine a scenario where I would have to explain that I was doing this for some obscure geo-oddity blog.

The Gripman on a San Francisco Cable Car

I boarded the Powell & Mason line to Fisherman’s Wharf. This was actually the first time I’d ever ridden a cable car on the several trips I’ve made to San Francisco over the years. I’m glad I did.

I sat at the very front of the car with my face practically pressed to the glass. The gripman stood directly behind me. I could perceive the complexity of these vehicles from the mechanical levers he grabbed in carefully orchestrated patterns. I couldn’t figure out all of his maneuvers on my brief ride but it seemed to involve aspects of grabbing, breaking and coasting in various combinations. His dexterity was truly a work of art especially with the pedestrians and drivers who seemed unaware the limitations of an approaching cable car.

I found Fisherman’s Wharf somewhat disappointing. This area was extremely touristy with aggressive barkers trying to corral crowds to various shops and attractions. Sorry, but I didn’t stick around long enough to take any decent photos.

Crooked Lombard Street

I hiked up Hyde Street towards Lombard Street to see the so-called "World’s Most Crooked Road." It looked so simple on the map, but soon discovered Hyde Street climbs uphill at a crazy angle as it mounts Russian Hill. I proved to myself that I’m both aging and out-of-shape as I pulled myself uphill slowly. I only had to stop to rest once so I felt pretty good about that and took some small consolation in it.

I don’t know whether Lombard Street is actually the most crooked anywhere or whether that’s all hype, but I can say with confidence that it’s really, really kooky corkscrew twisted. I helped some Japanese tourists with a group photo and I walked downhill. That was considerably more pleasant than the climb up.

Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill

However after Lombard street bottoms-out it begins to climb upward again as it continues towards Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower atop it. I was really getting a workout and hopefully shedding a few pounds I’ve gained from eating my way through San Francisco earlier this week.

Coit Tower is a 210 foot art deco cylinder built in 1933. I’m going to guess that the elevator is original too. It had a human elevator operator who made sure the retractable mesh metal door swung into placed properly. Otherwise visitors might be tempted to touch the wall moving past as the elevator rose. It was one of the noisiest most rickety mechanical devices I’ve ever experienced. Those things have safety breaks, right? I kept telling myself and I figured it must have to pass regular inspections too. That’s how I rationalize my ascent. It was all worth it once I got to the top.

Darrell Place Park

I came back down but I didn’t want to backtrack and I found a neat little alleyway that descended nearly 300 feet from Telegraph Hill almost down to sea level. Alley is the wrong word. It was a series of terraced wooden plank steps and platforms with banisters. Street is the wrong word too but it actually had a street sign and a name, Darrell Place. The neighbors obviously put a great deal of effort into beautifying the pathway with abundant landscaping and I’m glad I got to experience it while traveling downhill.

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I’ve included a satellite image because I thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt pretty good about stumbling across it by chance. I don’t think any roads go through here. The greenery pathway I followed cuts across the entire bottom of this image (the big stripe of shrubbery). Honestly I don’t know where these residents park their cars.

The Embarcadero in San Francisco

I cut down to The Embarcadaro briefly. I include this image because it’s about the only pure geography you’re going to get on this posting. This flat area of San Francisco is primarily filled-in soft soils composed of bay mud. In the next major earthquake it will liquefy and cause great structural damage.

I left that depressing thought behind and started paying attention to my thirst. I had to sneak in at least one brewpub on this adventure. I stopped by San Francisco Brewing on Columbus Avenue and relaxed for a little while.

San Francisco China Town

From there I walked through Chinatown. I was a minority here and I immersed myself briefly in a foreign culture. Most of the shops catered to the Chinese community exclusively. I recall walking past one store and observing a number of large turtles for sale. Undoubtedly they will be cooked up and consumed somewhere this evening.

And from there I returned to my starting point.

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An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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