Italy

I love visiting Italy. Pasta, pizza, pianos and violins were all created by Italians, and the first operas (stories set to music) were written in Italy. The name Italy comes from the word italia, meaning “calf land,” perhaps because the bull was a symbol of the Southern Italian tribes. l, Italy is shaped like a high heel boot kicking a rock or piece of dirt. Nearly 80% of Italy is either mountainous or hilly. There are many famous explores who were Italian, including Christopher Columbus, Marco Polo, John Cabot, and Amerigo Vespucci. Maybe someday I will discover a new land and have it named Gully! Purrs, Gulliver

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Transcontinental Railroad

“I’ve been working on the railroad.” I sang as my granddad played his harmonica. He taught me the song after telling me about how his grandfather worked on the transcontinental railroad. This connected the United States by going from Oakland, California through Sacramento, then up through Utah, and across the Great Plains to Omaha, Nebraska. There it linked with rails which already existed. The workers built tunnels through mountains and bridges over rivers and canyons to get the tracks laid. It was hard, dangerous work and it took six years to complete the lines. In 1876, an express train traveled coast to coast, from New York to San Francisco in just 83 hours and 39 minutes. Just 10 years before, the same trip would have taken months by covered wagon or even weeks by ship, going all the way around South America and up the Pacific Coast. My granddad was very proud of his grandfather.
Purrs, Gulliver

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April Fool

April Fool! In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell and changed its name to the Taco Liberty Bell. Many people were very angry because they didn’t realize it was just an April Fool’s joke. The trick had people talking though. After they got over being angry, they went to Taco Bell and had a burrito, taco or enchilada. Sales went up by more than half a million dollars that week. The Liberty Bell itself literally cracked up in February 1846, when it was rung for George Washington’s birthday. To prevent more damage, it is no longer rung with a clapper, but now it is tapped when marking special occasions. Purrs, Gulliver.

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First Railroad

I was re – reading the book “The Little Engine That Could” and wondered when and where the first railroad was built. It turns out to be in Wales, in 1804. Trains originally ran on steam, which required coal or wood to heat large tanks of water. Today, many railroads run on electricity, including the high speed rail lines across Japan, China and Europe, and the light rail commuter lines in the big cities of the United States. The railroad was a new industry with a language all its own. “We are on the ground” means the train derailed, and “highball it out of here” was slang for traveling at the maximum allowable speed. I found another fun fact – the Chesapeake and Ohio railway used a kitten as a mascot for their advertising, and called him Chessie. A book of his adventures was written about Chessie and his friend Peake. I wish someone would write about me! Purrs, Gulliver

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Old Palace, Seoul, Korea

After going to the mud festival in Boryeong, South Korea, I scampered over to the capital, Seoul to visit some tourist sites.  There are not one, but 5 palaces in the capital city. The oldest is Gyeongbokgung Palace (Palace Greatly Blessed by Heaven) which has 7, 700 rooms in over 500 buildings.  So a palace is not just a large home for royalty, but a place that has government offices, meeting halls, and even museums.  I could not see the whole place, but I was very impressed with the folk museum which shows how people dressed and worked many years ago.  One thing that has not changed is the national dish, kimchi, though there are many recipes. Vegetables and spices which have been fermented for months, it is spicy and sour tasting!   Purrs, Gulliver

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China

Most historians think the name China comes from “Qin”, which sounds like “Chin” Qin Shi Huang made himself the “First Emperor” and standardized the Chinese language, measurements, and currency. Emperor Qin ruled only fifteen years. During that time the Emperor had clay (terracotta) sculptures made of his army to protect the Emperor after he died. These figures were not found until 2000 years after they were buried. The figures include warriors, chariots and horses. Historians estimate there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, all individually made. Other terracotta non-military figures were also found including officials, acrobats, strongmen and musicians. Purrs, Gulliver

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Achoo

Achoo! I caught a cold while traveling, and now my nose is all stuffed up. Did you know sneezes travel about 100 miles an hour and can send 10,000 germs into the air? Sneezes protect your body by clearing the nose of bacteria and viruses Old beliefs about sneezing are that if a person sneezes, company is coming over, but if a cat sneezes it is going to rain.

Never try to stop a sneeze, because it can hurt your body. It is rare but injuries can include broken blood vessels in the eyes or broken ear drums. Your teacher or another adult can tell you the best way to sneeze if you don’t have a tissue ready. Purrs, Gulliver

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An Irish Birthday

Would you like a cuppa? A cuppa what? Why a cup of tea, of course! The Irish drink an average of 1,184 cups per person per year. Tea in the morning, noon and night, for any reason or none at all. And always black tea, never green or herbal. A good thing I like tea. My host family speak both English and Irish (Gaelic), and it is fun to listen to them sing Irish songs together accompanied by a Celtic harp. They are celebrating my friend Shelagh’s birthday – she just turned 10. Her father treated her to an old custom by turning her upside down, and holding her by the ankles, gently bumped her head on the floor 11 times for good luck. They then told me of another old custom. Farmers would often have the family pig live in the house like a pet. The pig was called “the gentleman who pays rent” because at the end of his stay he became sausage, bacon and pork chops which were sold at market! Purrs, Gulliver

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Morro Bay

 

 LAND HO! We were sailing off the coast of California when we spotted this rock sitting in water near the shore. We landed on a sandy beach nearby, and found out that we were looking at the “Gibraltar of the Pacific”, (Gibraltar is another famous rock off the southern coast of Spain). Morro Rock is the plug or lump of rock in the neck of a volcano- long extinct, thank goodness. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo named the rock “El Morro” in 1543. In Spanish “Morro” means crown shaped hill. Morro Rock is the last peak of the Nine Sisters rocks in the area- volcanoes that exploded 20 million years ago. Purrs, Gulliver.

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Up, Up and Away!

Up, up and away! I went to the Albuquerque, New Mexico balloon festival and to ride in a balloon! Not the kind you buy at the store, but a giant kind that can hold 4-6 people in the basket. The balloon part is called an envelope, and the basket beneath it is called a gondola. Hot air fills the envelope, and before long we were drifting through the quiet air, looking at the people and scenery below. Most balloons launch in the early morning, when there is little wind so landing is not as bumpy. A chase crew follows the balloon and picks up the people and equipment when the balloon lands. After my ride, there was a balloon fiesta where 600 balloons went sailing through the air at the same time, creating a rainbow of colors in the blue sky. Purrs, Gulliver

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