Conifer and blossoms, Salt Lake City

Fuzzy!

Fuzzy!

Doesn’t this gorgeous blue conifer look furry and wintery? Blue conifers do not seem to grow in the swampy south and I just love seeing them in the northern climes. It was really very hot, mid 90s, and yet the conifer was in full bloom. This post is really just a collection of photographs but the last few weeks have made me wonder why Salt Lake City didn’t flick my switch. Every destination is a prospective new home in my head so I am picky about the pluses and minuses.

Green Hydrangea

Green Hydrangea

I mentioned in previous posts about Salt Lake City that I was concerned about the number of homeless people, many of whom were mentally ill. I could see that there were two issues; Mormons are very generous to those in need and life, perhaps, must be extra difficult if you are mentally ill or alcoholic in a strictly religious environment. When I spoke to people about the problem, they said that many of them were incomers and I quite believe that. It is a safe city so those most vulnerable may feel safer and there is a homeless shelter. There were signs all over the center saying, “Don’t give the homeless money, you know where it goes” or words to that effect. I usually concur with that but on two occasions people asked me to pay for a meal for them.

sunflower-seeds

Finally, I decided to do something about one young man who really concerned me. I had noticed him at 8 am on the main drag, muttering to his self and likely hearing voices. The whole day was roasting hot and I saw him again at 5 pm in the same place. He seemed agitated and I thought my accent (and general eccentricity) might frighten him. I assumed that the locals were generous with cold drinks and food but he was so ill, he should have been in a hospital. When I got back to my hotel there was a police cruiser with a perfectly blond, clean cut young officer in it. I motioned to him to lower the window and immediately his face looked concerned.

white-on-blue-hydrangea

In short, I told him the whole saga; he listened carefully and told me that there was a homeless shelter quite close. I explained that community mental health had been my field of work and that this young man was really ill. To his credit and my relief, he said he would go and check on him. I know he thought I was a crazy lady but maybe I opened his eyes to a problem that goes beyond people who live on the open road.

Blossoms at the Temple Complex

Blossoms at the Temple Complex

There is really no criticism of the people of Utah – they are generous and friendly (if a bit odd) but if I lived there I would spend all my time helping waifs and strays. We have so many people in Houston in the same position and they usually beg under bridges. I try to keep some gift cards for fast food places – although they are not always received with gratitude! One lady was about to argue that she would prefer money until she saw my face…

Multi-colored blossoms in park

Multi-colored blossoms in park

Brigham Young’s Lion House

The Lion House

The Lion House

lion-house-sign2

This is the original house of Brigham Young and his many wives.  I went on a short tour of the inside of the house which was remarkably small but quite beautifully appointed.  Not all of the decoration was the original, which is to be expected.  I was fascinated by the red chandeliers and eventually had to ask if they were original.  They weren’t and I laughingly mentioned that a red light, where I come from, usually indicated a house of ill repute.  In Salt Lake City, the red light indicated that the household had extra food for the early pioneers who struggled to grow enough food.  Although Brigham Young was a polygamist, there was pressure from the United States for polygamy to be outlawed as it threatened the status of the Latter Day Saint’s as a legal church and the practice was officially ended in 1890. Researching Polygamy was quite fascinating…

Brigham Young Cottage Garden

Brigham Young Cottage Garden

You probably have seen a variety of documentaries and reality shows about current day polygamists.  Despite the law against it, many groups of families carried on the practice.  Some of it is weird but harmless but a few of the larger family groups behave more like cults or cartels.  It is very much frowned upon by current LDS members.  Polygamy is a reasonable practice in times of stress.  It regularly occurred in historical times were men were often killed in battle and the survivor’s would marry their brother’s wife, for example, to protect them and to increase the population.  It is legal in Egypt to have 4 wives but they must be treated equally.  As a result, it is very rare.  Who the heck would want more than one spouse? 😚 😍 😒 😟

Red and Blue flowerbed

Red and Blue flowerbed

Everywhere I went in the Temple Complex, I was mistaken for a Mormon woman.  That was probably because I was dressed more respectfully than some red neck Mormons who were visiting.  There was very subtle missionary work but it was water off a duck’s back (I lived in Egypt…).   As you can see from the photographs, the flowers beds were just so vibrant.  It was a very hot, sunny day and I was surprised that the flowers looked so good – they wilt in Houston.  I guess the blossoms enjoy the respite of a cooler evening with some dew?

Bee in blossom

Bee in blossom

A penultimate post to come, with more flowers.

The architecture of Salt Lake City

The Latter Day Saints Temple complex is the icing on the cake, as far as architecture is concerned, with beautiful buildings and gardens but I was fascinated by other buildings I noticed. The Greek Cathedral, below, fascinated me. I had no idea that the second influx of immigrants (after the Mormons) was Greek.
holy-trinity-cathedral
holy-trinity-sign
Brewing companies seem relatively common all over the country these days and I liked the use of the older building.

Salt Lake Brewing Company

Salt Lake Brewing Company

The Karrick Building

The Karrick Building

I mentioned that the City Creek runs through the mall, a feat of architecture that amazed me. When I left the mall I noticed that they had constructed a waterfall – how beautiful.

Man-made Waterfall at City Creek Mall

Man-made Waterfall at City Creek Mall

Replica Pioneer Building

Replica Pioneer Building

This is a replica of a Pioneer house – quite an evolution in building.

Brigham Young Historic Park, SLC

Pioneer Farmer's Wife

Pioneer Farmer’s Wife


When you are in the temple complex of the Latter Day Saints, it is easy to envision what drew Brigham Young to settle in this area of Salt Lake City. Within the city limits there is a small canyon and a creek that runs through it, City Creek and Canyon. To my utter fascination, it runs right through the modern shopping mall – beautifully designed. This historic park is a lovely way to demonstrate how hard it was for the early settlers to tame this harsh environment. This is a lovely little oasis in the center of the city although the Salt Lake City is generally serene with a beautiful backdrop of mountains.

Pioneer planting methods

Pioneer planting methods


model-waterwheel
Original City Creek running through the modern mall

Original City Creek running through the modern mall

My cousin told me a wonderful tale which I thought might be apocryphal until I researched it – The Miracle of the Gulls. In 1848, when the first Mormon pioneers were struggling to grow crops, they were almost devastated by an invasion of what is known as ‘Mormon crickets’. They are really members of the Katydid family – shudder… When all seemed lost in came a migration of gulls that regularly ate at the Salt Lake. This time they gorged on the Mormon Crickets, so much so that they regurgitated the first buffet and then started again thus saving the crops. Isn’t nature amazing? If I was a pioneer, I would have been convinced that it was a miracle instead of something naturally occurring. Maybe it was a miracle?

Mountain view from Salt Lake City

Mountain view from Salt Lake City


When you look at the landscape you have to admire the tenaciousness of the Mormon Pioneers. They had almost nowhere else to go, having been persecuted for their beliefs in other states, and yet managed to conquer this inhospitable place. It is as hot as hell in the summer and incredibly cold with major snowfalls in the winter. A wonderful environment now that we have tourism and modern facilities, especially air conditioning. It is a rich state and their hard work has made it so.

Pioneer Gardener

Pioneer Gardener


City Creek Mall

City Creek Mall

Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City

Altar, Cathedral of the Madeleine

Altar, Cathedral of the Madeleine

Given the somber appearance of the outside of this Catholic cathedral, I was astonished when I walked inside and saw the wonderfully colorful interior. The Cathedral was built between 1900 and 1909 under the leadership of Bishop Scanlan. Whenever I visit Catholic Churches in the States, I expect either an Irish name, as in this case, or a Spanish name. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family and it was common in the old days for the oldest boy of a family to go into the priesthood, whether he wanted to or not. Our Parish Priest was a wonderfully arrogant example of this…😇 (When you read to the end of this post, I think you will agree that I am headed to Purgatory for bloggers…) As I looked at the engraving of Bishop Scanlan below, I wondered about his long journey to the alien landscape of Utah.

bishop-scanlan

When I researched The Cathedral of the Madeleine, I noted that the interior was inspired by the Spanish Gothic style of the late middle ages. Although I visited Madrid years ago, I don’t think I have ever seen a Cathedral that looked quite like this one. It was magnificent. I could imagine a Lenten Mass with the incensor or thurible burning with that evocative smell of the Middle East.

Stages of the Cross

Stages of the Cross

All Roman Catholic churches have a set of pictures called the steps of the cross which depict the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. This one was unique and slightly surreal. Before Easter we traditionally prayed at each stage. Our church, in Scotland, was very modern, created by some fancy architect but not really appealing to the majority of the parishioners. I looked at current images online and I couldn’t recognize it – all the colors had been changed to white which really emphasized the beautiful stained glass. There must be so few parishioners that there were just some chairs – no rows of kneeling benches. It was so busy when I was growing up that it was standing room only. How sad and yet reflective of our times.

Epistle Altar

Epistle Altar

I loved this epistle altar to the right of the main alter. The colors are so rich – imagine how lovely it would be on a cold Utah Christmas Day? There is always a funny story to every travelogue and this one happened as I was trying to cross the road to enter the church. There were some roadworks and it made it difficult to see where the pedestrian crossing was. I noted that all the locals religiously crossed when they should, so I followed the herd. At the Cathedral, I just couldn’t figure out where it was so just decided to cross the road – jay walking, I guess. I was obviously a tourist lady who was lost trying to get to her church but a truck slowed down, when I was in the middle, and shouted, “Use the Crosswalk!” My first thought was to shout, ‘F*****g Asshole’ but I was inhibited by being in Salt Lake City and in front of a cathedral. Instead I yelled, “Shut Up” which seemed to surprise him. I was so mad that I had to stay outside the Cathedral for a while because I couldn’t go inside with all the thoughts of what I would do to that trucker if I saw him again… 😈 I guess he didn’t like Catholics – join the club!

Anyway, once the devil hopped off my shoulder, I went in and lit some candles for all my friends, family and bloggers who are struggling just now. 😇

The strange man at the bar…

State Liquor Store #1 Salt Lake City

State Liquor Store #1
Salt Lake City

This is the beginning of my series of travelogues about Salt Lake City. I bet you weren’t expecting that title or the headline photograph! I have many beautiful photographs of the city and temple so worry not. I thought I would give you a funny story for the Sabbath.

Kerry in front of the Temple, SLC

Kerry in front of the Temple, SLC


So, I arrived in Salt Lake City and took my hotel shuttle from the airport. Joining me were a flight crew (my hotel was full of them) and the lady pilot told me I had a lucky escape from the airline that wanted to interview me for a flight attendant job. It is always nice to start a vacation with a bit of gossip! My hotel was across the road from the Sheraton (President Obama stayed there on a state visit) but it was also right next to State Liquor Store No. 1, along with most of the other hotels. I have been to State Liquor Store No. 4, in Moab and they look like stores from the Soviet era. Barely functional with many bottles of alcohol; they stock many shelves of quarter bottles which gives you an indication that it is a illicit pleasure.

For anyone that doesn’t know, Salt Lake City is the capital city of Utah and the majority religion is Latter Day Saints or Mormonism (they don’t like that term so much). Additionally, my family is half Catholic and half Mormon with a few atheists and ‘lapsed’ thrown in for fun. I went into State Liquor Store No. 1 and as in Moab, felt like a very bad girl leaving with my brown bag and quarter bottle of vodka! It’s slightly ironic that I couldn’t find caffeine free coke given that caffeine and alcohol are forbidden in the Mormon Church. Now that I think about it, the State Liquor store in Egypt was just the same but you had to get a permit to use it.

On my first afternoon, I went straight to the Temple and Catholic Cathedral – much more about that later. I walked everywhere and noticed there were both panhandlers and mentally ill people who were obviously homeless. As I walked the short distance from the Convention Center to my hotel, I was approached by many of them. They were very polite, “You are beautiful. Can I have some money?” One young black man, who was not homeless, approached me and asked me if he could ‘show me around the city’… Despite having visited many dangerous places (and lived in them), I had a feeling of unease in one of the safest cities in the US.

With slight trepidation, I walked a couple of blocks from my hotel to a Vegan bar to eat dinner and have an (illicit) drink. The place seemed funky and modern and at the hostess’s suggestion I sat at the bar. It didn’t have the friendly feel of a place in Texas nor were they unfriendly. I had just started my meal when a very well dressed man came in, stood directly behind my bar stool and ordered a shot of bourbon. The barman urged him to take a seat and I said “hello” since he was in my personal space. He threw back the shot, put cash on the counter and left. Shortly afterwards two young men and a woman came in, I moved along one seat so that they could sit together but like the first man, they just stood and started ordering shots of Jagermeister and tequila.

I couldn’t help but stare in fascination at them tossing these shots back while still standing. The young man closest to me thanked me for moving along. I said, “You know, even in Texas, we don’t drink like that”. He started laughing and said that they were at a Mormon wedding just around the corner where no alcohol was served. Then I started laughing because I have been to a family wedding with no alcohol. For some reason, he asked me if he looked Mormon because he had left the church. In my head, I was thinking, ‘You couldn’t look more Mormon if you had a big M tattooed on your forehead’ but slightly more tactfully said, “You look very clean cut and wholesome”. Then he said to me, “Did you see a man in a brown suit, earlier?” I said, “Yes, he was drinking like you”. It turned out that he was the Minister at that wedding. How bad can a wedding be if even the Minister has to sneak out for a shot of bourbon?? At least I had the good grace to wait until my Mormon family wedding was over before heading to a wine bar…😇

More Salt Lake City stories to follow.

Eagle Gate Monument Salt Lake City

Eagle Gate Monument
Salt Lake City