A building with a long history

The Colosseum

What’s it about?
The Colosseum is an entire book about the building in Rome. The book covers the building from before it was built – back when the land was a pond in Nero’s palace – through the gladiatorial games of the Ancient Roman empire to its repurposing in the middle ages for various purposes and finally to the tourist attraction we have today.

Why should you read it?
The Colosseum has had a remarkably long life that covers a wide swath of history. It is fascinating, to me anyway, to read about the repurposing of private land (Nero’s palace) into public land (the Colosseum was open to everyone) as a political tactic, even in ancient times.

The success of the film Gladiator shows that we are still fascinated by them – Hopkins and Beard go over the lives of actual gladiators, discussing how often they fought, how likely were they to live, how they fit into the economy as a whole. It should be noted that there is no record of Christians being put to death in the Colosseum – those were stories put about after the end of the gladiatorial games.

Into the middle ages, we see that it was treated a bit like a quarry. Many stones were removed to build other, more immediately necessary buildings. It was also used as a place of business by various people. In the 1800s Lord Byron wrote verses about it and archaeologists began to study it. It’s apparently interesting to botanists as well; there are unique plants that grow in the Colosseum. Who knew?

Overall, if you’re planning a visit to Rome and want to see the Colosseum, I’d recommend reading this.

Visiting the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is awe-inspiring. The canyon itself is mind-bogglingly big. And attempting to capture that through photos of the thing is impossible. It’s an in-person thing.

Not to mention that trying to illustrate how awesome it is in one of those overview shots is a little bit like taking a photo of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower and expecting it to show how great the city is. It doesn’t work that way.

So here are a handful of photos. Know that none of them truly show how impressive the place is. You really need to go yourself.


bright angel trailhead
The kid and me after hiking 1.5 miles down and back up. The Bright Angel Trail is the one the mules go down. We did not see any mules – they leave at 7am. We didn’t get started until about 10am. We also didn’t get anywhere near the Colorado River. It’s much further down.


canyon view
See? It’s HUGE! And this photo doesn’t really show you how f’ing impressive it is. Seriously.


desert watchtower
This is the Desert Watchtower. It was designed and built in 1932 by Mary Colter, looking to imitate the style of the local Native American tribes. It’s got a steel frame and is way more solid than you might think.


el tovar cropped
The sign for El Tovar, the fancy hotel on the South Rim of the canyon. It was undergoing some roof repairs while we were there, hence no photos of the building itself. We didn’t stay there because roof repairs are loud. The food in the restaurant was divine, however.


hopi indian figure
The interior of the Desert Watchtower is decorated with art in the style of the local Native American tribes. This one is, I believe, designed to look like Hopi art. The Hopi like stripes, and I can get behind that.


ooh ahh point
Ooh Ahh Point was one of our hiking destinations. This one was about a mile down the South Kaibab trail, and the views were lovely. But you can see that we’re barely inside the canyon.


This was the sunset on the first night there. It was almost as gorgeous as the canyon.


wagon wheel
This was the outside of Hopi House, a gift shop full of local art. Some of it was impressive.


yucca plant
A banana yucca, a former staple of the locals’ diet. Not anymore, obviously.