Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I recently visited to Salt Lake City in Utah.  While I was primarily there to attend the Rootstech conference and do some research in the Family History Library, I did take the opportunity to do a little sightseeing.

First I will make some general comments on Salt Lake City. It is in a valley surrounded by glorious mountains.  When I was there most of them were snow-covered, so there were fantastic views around most corners. It is also very clean.  Unbelievably so.  In fact, there we several places where they had free dispensers of plastic bags to allow people to clean up their dog mess.  But it wasn't just the lack of dog mess that made it so clean.  Only once did I ever see any litter on the streets. Another point is that the streets seemed almost deserted.  There weren't crowds on the footpaths (or sidewalks as they call them there), and I never saw heavy traffic on the roads, all of which make is a pleasant place to walk around.
The city was established in 1847, so it does not have any 17th century buildings (or other early structures). The earliest building that is there is a pioneer log home that has been relocated next to the Family History Library. 

But the lack of any lengthy history doesn't mean there isn't plenty of interesting and attractive things to see.
The heart of Salt Lake City is Temple Square. This is where the Salt Lake Temple is located, and also the Tabernacle (home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir). The best way to start this is to go to one of the visitors' centres. There is a north visitors' centre and a south visitors' centre.  I went into the north one, and there were some very interesting displays about the building of the temple (bringing the huge blocks of granite in from the mountains to the place where the temple was to be built). I also got a little pamphlet there which gave a map of temple square and information on the buildings there.
Another interesting building that is outside the temple square precinct is the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. You can go into that building and take the lift up to the 11th floor to see the views of the city.  But the building itself is very beautiful and well worth a look.
On the Thursday night we were privileged to be able to attend a special concert by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir put on especially for Rootstech.  They get hundreds of requests for special concerts throughout the year and rarely are able to accede to those requests, so we really were privileged.  
I got there early (along with a couple of other Aussies - Liz and Peter Pidgeon), and we got to hear their rehearsal.  That was very interesting, hearing them keep repeating certain parts of a piece of music until the conductor was happy.  Then the concert started.  It was called "Land that I Love - The Immigration of Irving Berlin".  It was a really wonderful experience in a building with wonderful accoustics.
Then on the Sunday after the conference, when the library was closed, a few of us joined up with Jan Gow's "Hooked on Genealogy" tour group to do some sightseeing outside the main town area. Jan has been to Salt Lake City many times, so she knew where we should go, and could fill us in with what we were seeing. 

We started off with most of us attending the regular Sunday performance of Music and the Spoken Word at the Tabernacle.  What I found most interesting was that some of the pieces that were performed were those that we had heard being rehearsed on the Thursday night.  Great to hear how they finally came out in their entirety.  I have to confess, though, that the piece I enjoyed most was Bach's Fugue in G Major, which was a pure organ piece - no choir involvement
Then we got our mini-bus and set off on our sight-seeing tour.  First thing we went and saw was the great salt lake.  It wasn't what I expected. I had thought it was a dry salt like, rather like Lake Eyre. But what we saw was a lake with water. Very salty water, admittedly (it's seven times saltier than the ocean and saltier than the dead sea). The only thing that lives in the lake is the briny shrimp. It turns out that I was thinking of the Bonneville Salt Flats.  They were both originally part of Lake Bonneville, which in the Pleistocene era was nearly as big as Lake Michigan, but are now separate.  
Bonneville Salt Flats (left) and the Great Salt Lake (right)
All the driving around took us very close to those glorious mountains,  very spectacular.  We also drove past the copper mine, but couldn't go in as the visitors centre is not open in the winter.

After lunch it was time to visit the outlet shops for some retail therapy. Enough said.

A big thank you to Anthony from the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel who was our driver for the day.