Archives for category: travel

This Atlas Obscura article drew my attention for several reasons. First, the idea of sculpted faces among the cobblestones is intriguing. I’ve seen many sculpted faces in Europe, on buildings, bridges, and decorative fountains, but never in the street. It would be fascinating to walk beside them and try to decipher their expressions.

The mere mention of the city of Ljubljana, brings me fond memories of a wonderful elderly lady I once knew. Her name was Josephine. And she was born there. When she was a child, her coal miner father moved his family to America, in search of a better life. They settled in Pennsylvania, where he found work…as a coal miner. He died of Black Lung, but his daughter did find a better life there. Her first husband was also a miner and abusive. She gathered her courage and divorced him, at a time when it was not often done. Her second marriage was a happy one, to a lovely man. They were together for decades, until he died. My favorite story she would tell me was of the trip to America. They had to change trains in Paris and little Josephine wandered away from her family. They were frantic. After embarking on this arduous, courageous journey they thought they had lost their beautiful nine year old daughter. It was with waning fear, exasperation, and great relief that they were reunited with Josephine just in time to catch their connecting train. It was such a pleasure to hear of this child’s adventureous spirit, and to know someone who had passed through Ellis Island, on her way to a new life in a new world across the Atlantic.

And then there’s the way my favorite poet inspired the sculptor to create the faces in the capital of Slovenia. His work can reach from the whimsical to the gravely serious to the sublime. What better wordsmith to be the impetus for the Faces of Locksmith Street than the man who wrote poems that echo still through the streets of Paris, as modern day footsteps trace his own long ago strides across cobblestones that mark the tumultuous, cacophonous, yet silent passage of history.

I drove across parts of four southern states on vacation right before Christmas. I wanted to sync my phone with my car for music listening purposes, but also wanted my battery to last the whole day, without the hassle of car charging. So, I diligently sought my kind of music via FM radio.

I soon discovered that my kind of music was not four different states’ kind of music. I love alternative. They love oldies, country, gospel, and talk radio. I eventuality found what appeared to be the only popular\alternative station in the entirety of the deep south. Fortunately, and oddly, it seemed to follow me along on my journey. Over the four days I traveled, I kept hearing two songs I fell in love with.

The first was. Lizzo’s Good As Hell . I loved everything about it. The sound, the lyrics, and the way it’s such a girl power anthem. I think a woman can be feminine and cool…and strong. Strong is always good. Especially when it comes with a giant dose of self-confidence. For me, that’s what the wonderful Lizzo is doing here. Encouraging us all to be, and stay, strong and confident, with a side of fun nails and hair tosses. At the moment that’s my favorite song. The version I’ve linked to above features Ariana Grande and is very cool.

The other is Dance Monkey by Tones and I . Such a fun song, which has become my second favorite for now. It’s really great to drive to. The beat and sound make me happy. That’s a major criteria for me about music. If it makes me happy just to listen to it, then it’s a valuable part of my day.

For music lovers there are songs we like, songs we love, and songs we can’t do without. Then there are the ones that are all of these, and also vital for long road trips. New music to lead us on our journies to new and exciting adventures.

Florida is a place of beauty, abundant nature to observe and photograph, and unexpected experiences. When given the opportunity to go to Busch Gardens, I knew there were animals there. What I had not realized was how many and how close I could get to some of them. Add a zoom lens, and I was able to take photographs I had only dreamed of before I got my DSLR and traveled to The Sunshine State.

I love palm trees too, so they were high on my priority list. These tall, spindly ones are among my favorites.

Many of my animal photos were taken from the steam train ride. I didn’t always catch the guide’s descriptions in their entirety, which unfortunately means I don’t have a proper kind for this beauty. Just an antelope. I really like the way it stands out against the pop of green it grazes.

Though the head of this white rhino is nearly in silhouette, its distinctive horn is unmistakable. Rhinos are so tragically endangered that it makes me both incredibly happy and incredibly sad to see one. These creatures deserve to live on Earth as much as we do. Hopefully, some way, some how they will be given a renewed opportunity to thrive.

I read somewhere that modern DSLRs have something like 5,000 setting possibilities. Um, no. I’m learning how to use it and may continue to do so for as long as it’s mine. I concentrate on lighting and composition to get what I want. Or try to. I end up with a higher and higher percentage of shots I love, so I’m satisfied with how I’m doing so far. I still have some trouble with depth of field. Sometimes those mistakes turn out to be happy accidents. I was able to crop this giraffe one so that it looks like an intentional piece of pop art. I’ll take it!

Elephants have such timelessly beautiful faces. They look old and ageless at once, with wisdom gained and emotion endured etched into the lines around their eyes. Just like us. It’s my understanding that they are very similar to us in many ways. They bond with family and friends, love them, grieve them when they are gone. It would be a pretty wonderful thing to have an elephant for a friend.

Emus are so cool and fluffy. They seem sweet, but I’ve heard they can be cantankerous, kicking very hard among other things. Years ago I was at a wildlife park in New South Wales, Australia. I was enraptured, photographing koalas high in a eucalyptus tree (The koalas were high in the tree, not me!), when I felt a presence behind me. It didn’t touch me. I could just sense that something was close. I reluctantly removed my face from my viewfinder, and slowly pivoted. It did not take a full body turn to come face to face with an apparently curious emu. When I say face to face, I mean that it was really close. We gazed into each other’s eyes for a heart stopping moment. Then, I slowly backed away, until I realized it was still standing where I’d left it. At that point I beat a hasty retreat, glad to have had such a close encounter, and also glad to walk away emu kick free.

I’m glad this zebra was in the shade, so that its amazing markings were able to really be showcased. Bright sunlight could have caused too much contrast or glare, but this is perfect. Really studying the complex patterns of striping on its forehead and knees in particular, show what a wonder zebras are. Beautiful, almost but not quite comical looking, they’re a gift nature has bestowed upon us. Let’s enjoy every stripe.

This lion and lioness seem content in each other’s company. They’re both gorgeous. His mane surprised me by how rough it looked and how much actual red was in it. Nearby, a lioness had taken up residence in the fake bed of a fake truck that decorated the exhibit. By looking at her through the glass right over where she lay, I could see, count even, the individual hairs on her back. That is the closest I’ll ever be to a lion, I’m sure. I could have stood there, gazing upon such majesty for hours. It was an experience I’ll always treasure and never forget.

I’ll close this out with a pic I took with my phone. It’s not sharp like the ones from my camera, but it gives an idea of how beautiful the Christmas decorations were. I rode the Skyride and loved dangling, swinging, and swaying high above the gorgeous lights, but nothing quite compares to being close to them. it was a day filled with many of my favorite things, the top favorite being, as always, the magic that comes out of my camera.

Having enjoyed more than one road trip around Great Britain, I found this Atlas Obscura article extremely amusing. It was only after bumbling my way around a mystifying tangle of letters in many town names, that I eventually had an epiphany forced upon me when I discovered that Leicester is pronounced Lester. Ah h–what? I’d encountered the word in another incarnation through pop culture (Elizabethan era version) references to Elizabeth 1 and her Earl of Leicester suitor and favorite. I’d pronounced (Well, thought it, as a child in the rural south had no one to discuss such topics with…though dogs and cows could be remarkably good listeners in a pinch.) it wrong up until I heard the city pronounced correctly. I then realized, with no small amount of awe, that the mundane name Lester, so common among the farm and factory folks of my surroundings, most likely had its origin in the elegant British word.

Much later, when Princess Diana drew my interest for the rest of my life, I was fascinated to find out that a London shopping area she frequented, Beauchamp Place, is pronounced Beachum. Not something an American is going to intuitively deduce.

This article is filled with examples of similar place names that make our weird American pronounciations seem logical…and simple. I no longer wrinkle my mental nose over Cairo, Illinois being called Karo…like the syrup of pecan pie fame, though it has no added letters and/or syllables to give it that extra umph of England’s charm.

In all honesty, though, I think all those head scratching British place names are intriguing, fascinating, and, yes, cool. As long as I don’t have to spell them.

​Late last year I got a new phone and wanted to test out the camera. My old one was 8mp and not up to the use I was trying to put it through. It was fine for Travel Tuesday tweets, but for these posts and uploads to Fine Art America, I needed better resolution. So, suddenly armed with 16mp, I drove up to an area a couple of hours away that boasts a lake, a couple of rivers, and a historic Civil War battlefield. 

Here are some of the results:

This is Paris Landing State Park. The vista of the distant shoreline reminds me very much of the Chesapeake Bay. There are even some diehard sea gulls that seem content to call such a landlocked body of water home.

Its title indicates an interesting history. It was a steamboat landing for exchange of goods and exports a couple of centuries ago. In the middle of the 20th century, Kentucky Lake was formed by damming the Tennessee River. The result is that the actual site of the steamboat landing is now underwater, but it takes little imagination to conjure up the sound of the ship’s whistle and the bustling workday loading of cargo.

The park marina houses an interesting mix of vessels, with the extremely blue sky reflecting onto receptive water, along with colorful leaves that lingered into December.

Not far to the Northeast lies Fort Donelson National Battlefield. Driving around to the different battle sites not only immerses one into Civil War history, but also provides beautiful views of clifflike ridges, battlements, and the scenic river. And to enhance the scenery, some of that out of its time fall foliage.

The River Batteries saw fierce fighting in 1862. It’s easy to stand looking down on the canons overlooking the Cumberland and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells such a battle would generate.

A picnic area on a small bluff above the Cumberland takes dining all fresco to the extreme, with the tables practically hanging over the considerable drop. I’d like to think erosion has had a hand in the, er, edginess of the table situation, but maybe some people enjoy eating so close to the river below that if you drop your sandwich from on high you could probably hear the splash.

Though it’s a bit unsettling, I’m glad the fall colors lingered a couple of months beyond their usual season. They made the hills and valleys and riverbanks breathtaking at times, and put my phone camera to the test in a way that made me happy I had those extra megapixels.

I’ve been sidelined by a wrecked back. The kind that’s so bad it makes walking an ordeal. More than a decade ago I injured a muscle in my lower back, lifting an old style computer monitor. After the fact I found out they weigh about forty pounds. No wonder I actually felt the muscle tear. I was incapacitated for weeks, wanting tomato soup and toast daily, for some reason unknown. I had an old cane that my aunt used when she broke her leg, and used it to hobble to the bathroom. I still have the cane. Still use it, though the hobble isn’t quite as bad this time. Probably due to the absence of muscle spasms. Those things would sideline a moose. This time pasta with an excess of shredded parm loaded on is my food of choice, liberally interspersed with chocolate and ice cream, and tomato or avocado sandwiches. My palette has apparently shifted over the years.

Other than struggling to stand (and hobble) sufficiently to acquire food and make necessary trips down the short hall that seems at least a mile long these
days to the bathroom, I’m mostly only good for sitting and staring at the TV. I’ve gotten through a bunch of movies. I’ll do a roundup or something about the best of them in time.

At the moment I’ve used up a big quota of my concentration ability on writing a few hundred words of my zombie story last night. It’s an unfamiliar struggle to write, since my mom died in July, so a few hundred words is a real accomplishment right now. Yes, I am aware of the irony. I started that story in the spring, just because I wanted to try something different. Unfortunate timing, but I want to finish it before starting something else…or going back to my serial killer script. Oddly, I think zoning on the Walking Dead marathon this week shoved me back into the world of the living, breathing writer I am, since it dragged zombies right up to the front of my mind again. I should just call this the year of death.

So how did I hurt my back this time? It would be funny, if it hadn’t ruined at least two solid weeks of my life.  I try to do a Travel Tuesday pic on Twitter every week. A couple of weeks ago it was this one I titled Scenic Roadside New Mexico.

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It was in an old photo album of a lot of cross country trip pictures. Old and big and heavy. Without thinking, I grabbed it up with one hand and carried it around. There was at least one twist in there somewhere. It took a day for the pain to kick in. I’d gone to a Chinese buffet and went inside fine. When I got up to hit the buffet, I suddenly could barely walk. What the–? Took me a couple of days to figure it out.

This weird, suddenly destroyed back thing runs through the women on my mom’s side. Her sister had a terrible episode once, finally got it better, only to sneeze and cripple herself again. I’ve learned to brace wherever I am when I feel a sneeze coming on, to the point of once almost taking down a section of metal CD racks at Walmart. A weird, bad back can be a hazard to more than one’s personal…person.

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I managed last week’s Travel Tuesday, despite my own personal faux zombie apocalypse (more than once I thought of how my painful shuffling gait was like a Walker parody). This White Peacock on Oahu one didn’t involve heavy lifting.

Here’s Today’s Travel Tuesday pic, while I’m on the subject. A beautiful and dramatic hillside vineyard near the Mosel River in Germany.

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I’m hoping this forced break from normal life will reboot me back to a long term more normal life, after the disruptive, surreal, and heartbreaking years of living life through the lens of my mom’s long journey through Alzheimer’s. I miss her every day, but emerging from that period of our lives is like walking into bright sunshine, after living in a cave.

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St. Augustine is another place I wanted to see because of books. Eugenia Price wrote historical novels that brought times and places to vivid life. Reading one of her novels was like giving her permission to invade your mind and show you a movie there. I’ve been to locations from several of her novel series and thrilled to every sighting of something familiar.

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In St. Augustine it was this house that I desperately wanted to see. It was featured in the novel Maria and looks just as I’d imagined as I read. The real life woman who inspired this novel lived in what is known as “The Oldest House”. I stood in her bedroom, and stared at the huge bed decorated with carvings of banana leaves until I had it memorized. What an amazing experience for a lover of books.

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The old fort known as the Castillo de San Marcos also figured in Price’s writing. Its beautiful seaside setting is enough to draw visitors, but that beauty is greatly enhanced by a reader’s thoughts while touring it.

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Palm trees, the ocean, history around every corner, and the opportunity to walk where favorite characters who were also real people walked make St. Augustine a place of wonder on many levels.It shines like a Spanish treasure on the shore of so many peoples’ dreams.

Cornwall was a place I particularly wanted to see in the UK. In part because I’d long heard how beautiful it is. My thing for seeing places books I love had been set was my main reason, however. I went with a mission. I loved The Shell Seekers, by Rosamund Pilcher, and desperately wanted to see the place that had instilled a perfect image in my head.

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I’m not sure I got solid information, but two sources (a bed and breakfast lady and the owner of a gardening shop who sold me a beautiful small artist’s print of a very Shell Seekery scene from among the trowels and Wellies) sent me to the above beach. I was told it was called Porthkerris and that it had been  Ms. Pilcher’s inspiration. It was beautiful and awesome and I felt I’d come as close to a Rosamund Pilcher pilgrimage as I was likely to accomplish. I left that beach happy.

Another author’s work lured me to Cornwall as well. I had recently discovered E. V. Thompson and his historical tals of the Cornish Coast were so captivating that I wanted so very much to at least get a flavor of the area.

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I’m terrible about remembering exactly where my travel photos were taken. I think this coastal gem is Penzance, of Gilbert andSullivan fame, but I can’t swear to it. All I’m certain of is that this harbor scene was gorgeous and some of the boats and one larger sailing vessel in particular gave me the feel I was looking for.

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This image, framed to look as if the click of my shutter had traversed centuries to transport me briefly to a time of fierce love, fierce people…and pirates, was as close as I got to satisfying my E. V. Thompson inspired dreams of dreamy coastal villages, where adventure and romance lay just beyond my viewfinder.

Cornwall seemed a place just slightly set apart from reality. Perhaps it is. Tintagel, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, lies there after all. What could be more tantalizing than the chance to stand in a land and imagine it as Camelot?

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This is the truest definition of a random image. The German landscape is peppered with ancient nameless castles, in various states of being. Some are gorgeously intact and look almost as they must have centuries before. Others are little more than time worn piles of rubble. This one is somewhere in between. What is visible of it looks like intact towers that could have stood by its rural roadside as they are, since it was built. I like to imagine it was once part of a bigger, more elaborate structure that fell away in a manner known only to the imagination. There is some small possibility that this structure was never part of a castle, or even fortification, at all. It could have been built for some purpose long lost to time. This kind of stumbled across history is one of the joys of driving around Europe. It pricks the imagination, leaving visitors to tell its stories as they will.

I came across a doc last week on TV that I watched enthralled, Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau: ESPN Films: 30 for 30. It had to be fascinating for me to watch ESPN. Surfing is about the only sport I’ll sit still that long for. It was about Hawaiian surfing legend Eddie Aikau. It caught my attention early on telling about the sugar barons intentions and plans for the islands leading to U.S. marines overthrowing the Hawaiian monarch Queen Liliuokalani near the turn of the twentieth century, complete with vintage pictures. They decimated the Hawaiian culture and the native people were oppressed. The haole elite built a surfing club at Waikiki and learned to surf, but the native surfers were so good that they could step outside the new normal and retain a piece of their culture.

Fast forward to the peak of surf culture and competition. Eddie was the best at riding the huge 30-40 foot waves at Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu and his big dream was to win the Duke, named for the granddaddy of long board surfers, Duke Kahanamoku. He would hit second and third place year after year, but could never quite win. His brother Clyde started entering competitions and won the Duke the first time he tried. Eddie was really disappointed and down, but kept a good attitude and kept trying. He eventually won and the surfing world rejoiced. During this time he almost single handedly defused dangerous rivalry between the native Hawaiian surfers and the international interlopers who came in and started winning the competitions

He wanted something new and meaningful later and entered the competition for a place on the crew of the Hokulea, a sailing canoe built to go on a journey navigated only by the stars and ocean currents to Tahiti to prove that natives could have sailed to Hawaii and settled it. After a long process he gained a place. They left in bad weather, overturned, and the crew was adrift at sea on top of the bottom. Eddie was afraid they wouldn’t be rescued and set off paddling on his board to go too many miles for help. The crew used up all of their flares trying to signal planes. A tourist on a flight saw their last flare and they were rescued.

Eddie was never seen again.

It’s an incredible story. I can’t believe I’d never heard of him, or somehow knew and forgot his story. I was already familiar with the Hokulea. It was rebuilt in 1980 and made the journey successfully, proving that the native people could have navigated such an incredible distance safely and settled the islands. There are stories like this all is over this world, with awe inspiring heroes most of us never know of. In this particular case, I’m amazed that Eddie Aikau’s story hasn’t been made into a major Hollywood biopic and an award winning one at that. This is the stuff that Oscars are made of. The kind of thing that renders a theatre full of people silent, admiring, and humbled. The ESPN documentary certainly left this audience of one feeling that way. 

Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau Official Trailer