Monthly Archives: October 2010

Baton Rouge

With my business in New Orleans complete, I set my sights on the next welcome sign.  Baton Rouge, an easy 80-mile drive to the northwest, was a natural stopping point in my new quest to photograph welcome signs for U.S. state capitals.

Baton Rouge comes from the French and literally means “red stick”.  Records from French explorer Sieur d’Iberville describe large wooden cypress poles topped with heads of sacrificed (bloody) animals and fish that served as the boundaries for native lands when he arrived in the area in 1699.  Generally the red stick settlements referred to areas inhabited by natives that were hostile to the explorers; white stick (baton blanc) settlements were peaceful.

The red stick landmarks no longer exist, and today’s welcome to Baton Rogue is much more subdued.  The sign (below) is situated at the intersection of Sally Ride Drive and Veterans Memorial Boulevard at the exit to Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. 

On the far left is the Louisiana state capitol building, distinctive because it is the tallest in the U.S.  On the far right is the Horace Wilkinson Bridge that carries Interstate 10 across the Mississippi River and connects Baton Rouge with Port Allen, La.  The area in between includes other structures that make up the skyline of Baton Rouge.

The one thing that seems out of place on the sign is the widebody aircraft.  The commercial passenger airlines serving Baton Route Metropolitan Airport today do not operate four-engine planes, but I guess it’s always good to prepared for future upgrades in service… then the sign won’t have to be changed!

After locating the sign, I took a quick trip to downtown Baton Rouge to photograph the unique capitol building.  Along the way I thought I might catch a glimpse of another welcome sign – I’ve learned from experience that airport signs may not be the only welcome to a city.  But the main road leading from the airport to downtown – ironically named Scenic Highway – only offered views of manufacturing activities by Lion Copolymer (synthetic rubber) and Exxon Mobil (petrochemicals and refinery).  Scenic was the last word that I would use to describe the drive to downtown Baton Rouge, and I did not find another welcome sign.

Constructed in the early 1930s, its 34 stories make the Louisiana capitol the tallest building in Baton Rouge.  It is an impressive structure, and I was glad that I had taken the time to visit.

 

The exterior of the building included numerous details, but the one I liked the best was the carving of a pelican, Louisiana’s state bird and one of the state’s most well-known symbols.

I probably only spent one hour in Baton Rouge, just enough time to take my photos.  This was certainly not enough time to explore one of the fastest growing metro areas in the U.S., but my next welcome sign was just hours away, and I had to get on the road to continue my photographic journey…  My trip report will continue throughout this week.

New Orleans

The Big Easy.  Crescent City.   The City that Care Forgot.

With all of these great nicknames, I expected New Orleans to have a distinctive welcome sign.  Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

My visit to NOLA this week was to attend a conference, but I built in some extra time to search the city for the welcome sign.  This was actually my second attempt to find the Nawlins welcome sign; I came up empty three years ago on another work-related visit.

The only sign I was able to find was this one in the airport.  It greets visitors as they descend into the baggage claim area.  The (boring) visual of the city’s skyline also features a space for (tacky) electronic advertising.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I normally do not photograph welcome signs in airports.  But I snapped this shot upon departure after I came up short in my efforts while scouring the city’s borders.

But all was not lost.  Approaching Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on Veterans Boulevard on my way to catch my flight home, not only was I treated to aircraft takeoffs on Runway 1/19, but I found a farewell sign!  This sign almost makes up for the lack of a welcome sign.  It incorporates icons of New Orleans: a fleur-de-lis, a trumpet, and the Mississippi River.  The globe seems out of place, but otherwise it’s an impressive sign.

There was no place to stop along the roadway to snap this shot – did I mention it is adjacent to an active runway? – so I actually took this while driving, with the camera perched precariously on the steering wheel.  After nearly five years of photographing welcome signs, this is the first one that I was forced to take while driving.  (And this shot was my second go-around!)

 

Although it is also nicknamed America’s Most Interesting City, New Orleans turned out to be the least interesting of my visit to the River Region (in terms of welcome signs, that is).  My trip report featuring welcome signs from two state capitals will continue in the coming days.  And an unexpected surprise was waiting for me in Mississippi.

Yucatán

My passport is getting a workout this week.  Just three days after returning from Montréal, I took to the skies once again – this time on a trip to Mexico.  My destination was the beautiful beaches of the Yucatán Peninsula for a girls’ weekend getaway.

Even as I enjoyed the sun, sand and spirits, my thoughts turned toward welcome signs.  Unfortunately, I was not able to capture a photo on this trip.  (There was a sign at the Cancún airport, but I tend to avoid these generic airport welcome signs unless I am visiting an island with limited or no road access.)  Luckily my archive of welcome signs includes one from the same region I was visiting.

These photos were taken three years ago.  At the time, not only was I photographing welcome signs, but I was on a mission to visit the “New” Seven Wonders of the World.  One of these wonders is Chichen Itza, the remains of a Mayan civilization that prospered over 1,000 years ago.

I captured this sign as part of a group tour that coincidentally stopped for a very brief bathroom break at the border to the State of Yucatán.  (The United Mexican States includes 31 states, and the State of Yucatán is one of three that makes up the Yucatán Peninsula.)  I like this sign.  It’s simple yet noticeable, and it includes a pyramid symbol, one of the most recognized features of Chichen Itza.

Since it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World, I am including a few photos of Chichen Itza.  First featured is El Castillo (The Castle), the central structure of the settlement that is a temple to the Mayan god Kukulcan.

The Tzompantli was the site of human sacrifices.  The Mayans proudly displayed the heads of their dead enemies as a deterrent to future invaders.

Finally, the Group of a Thousand Columns once supported an extensive roof system.  On the day of my visit, a local girl sat pensively among the pillars, perhaps reflecting on the great accomplishments of her ancestors.

My welcome sign project continues… and so does my goal of visiting the New Seven Wonders of the World.  With a bit of luck, I’ll have the final two wrapped up by the end of the year.

Montréal

I spent this past weekend in Montréal, one of my most favorite cities in the world.  Montréal first captured my heart during a visit in 2002 and I never pass up an opportunity to visit.  I love the fact that city incorporates the old with the new.  I love feeling like I am in Europe when I am still in North America.  And I especially love walking along Rue Sainte-Catherine while enjoying a maple-sugar crêpe. 

With nearly four million inhabitants, Montréal ranks as the second-largest city in Canada, and the second-largest French speaking city in the world (second only to Paris).  The city takes its name from Mont Royal, a triple-peaked hill situated in the center of the Island of Montréal.  Mont Royal is a wooded park that provides welcome green space in a bustling urban environment.

I scoured the city for hours searching for the welcome sign.  This was not an easy task given Montréal’s aging infrastructure, massive construction projects and inconvenient road closures.  I almost came up empty until I found this billboard at P.E. Trudeau International Airport.  (As you can tell in the photo, the sun was setting on my last day in Montréal when I took this photo.)

To be honest, the welcome was not what I had expected.  Certainly I was not surprised that it is in French (I would have been surprised if it wasn’t), but I’m not quite sure why there is a heart and a kiss symbol on the sign.  These elements are not particularly representative of Montréal.  At first I thought that this was not an official welcome sign but perhaps an ad of some sort.  But the logo is used on the Tourism Montréal Web site, so it is legitimate.  But I am disappointed that a city with so many unique characteristics has such as banal welcome.