Monday, March 31, 2008

Bridging Life and Chocolate

OK, I am WAY behind on posting :) And only have a couple minutes now but I wanted to get a picture up before I really flaked out! This is the Ponte Vecchio (means old bridge--constructed 1345 so I guess that counts!) in Florence. One of the main sights I passed by it many a time in my 8 months of living in Florence. This particular evening I was heading to Hemingway's chocolate shop in the south of Florence. No surprise there as any who were living in Florence at the time can attest to. Hemingway's has some of the most sublime chocolate that I have ever tasted. It is kind of pricey, but I ended up there many a night. The best way to get there was one bridge down the Arno from the Ponte Vecchio which is where this picture comes from. Darn it

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Nice is Nice!

Time for another journal blog about my summer travels :)

After finally arriving in Nice I was very glad that I has spent the time in Lyon finding directions to the next hostel—I never would have found it on my own—no question about that! I did make it though and it is on a hill that overlooks the city. A bit hazy, but I think that the weather has broken so the visit should be Nice (sorry, couldn’t resist.)

The next day was time for exploring and it was a good day in Nice! The name of which, by the way, comes from the Greek original name of the settlement, Nike :-) OK, not original settlement—there were people here some 40,000 years ago, but we aren’t sure how to spell the town name in grunts! (OK, before people get mad—I am sure that they had better language at that time, but I don’t know what it was :-)) But anyway, back to the day—I headed out in the morning deciding not to take my car—easier on the environment and the budget and to go museuming—it seems that the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month all of the museums are free—Cool! So, I headed first to the farthest—the Matisse Museum which is also near some Greco-Roman ruins. Seemed like a good place to start—only it was on a hill! I didn’t realize this place was so lousy with them. So, several hundred steps later I made it up to the top to a wonderful treat!!! Next to the Franciscan church (not too remarkable, but an interesting nativity scene) is a public garden—absolutely filled with roses!!

After sitting in the park enjoying a fair and a baguette sandwich lunch I headed down hill to the Musee d’Art Modern et Contemporain. Also free today. The best thing about the museum, I think, is the building. It is attached to the library and this huge (say 70 some foot) sculpture of a cube on a person’s head. As far as I can tell it houses the administrative offices of the library. The art museum itself is a good display space with a lot of room and very open, well light spaces—a good space for many of the works. Most of which I was not too impressed with. One nice thing though was that many of the galleries represented life’s works of some artists so it was interesting to see representations from much of a life’s work. It is interesting to look for themes and the like.

Then it was off to museum #3 (OK, should have been 4, but even with my map I didn’t find the natural history museum) which was the Theatre de la Photographie et de l’image. A surprising exhibit of photographs of American Indians from 1900-1915. Some truly beautiful images and wonderful faces—not what I expected to run across here in France, but beautiful none the less—my parents would have loved it!

Well, since I am on the French Rivera, I thought that a visit to the beach and harbor was in order—so I found a crepe filled with chocolate and went to the waterfront. It was almost 4 o’clock and the sun had been hazy for a while so it wasn’t overly crowded. I sat on the retaining wall and enjoyed my crepe and I have to tell you, the water here is a truly amazing blue color. Wow! I tried to take some pictures, but it just didn’t come out. And I was surprised that the beach is not at all sandy—it is all pebbles.

And off to one more hill! In the center of town in the hill that has over history been the castle and the center of various fortified towns—not much left as one of the King Louie’s had it all wiped out just after 1700, but it still has great views and a park with many happy, yelling kids.

This picture is from the harbor the first night I was in town. There were many a pretty boat tied up, but I was attracted to the simpler image of the blue water and orange cones. Actually, here is one more from the same harbor:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Winter Wonderland

While teaching in Italy I had the chance to spend spring break with several students doing a service project in Croatia. We spent most of the time working on an outreach project for a local church and it was an interesting experience to say the least. I visited Yugoslavia with my family many years ago (~1980) and much has changed since then. This was the first time that I have been back to a country for the second time, but where the country has changed names! It was interesting to talk with our hosts about changes and what it was like to be living there during the revolution. The church we stayed at was very near Zagreb and there was evidentially quite a bit of fighting in and around that area. We had the chance to take one day and go up into the hills surrounding the area and in February it was definitely still winter there. I like this picture just for the sheer wintery-ness of it. It was beautiful and quiet up in the hills.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

This Bee a Favorite Picture

Returning to one of my favorite subject here…FLOWERS!!! I have been revisiting just posting flower picts, but I thought it was time for one more :-) In 2005 I joined my sister and some of her friends to the annual Taste of the Valley in the Alexander Valley, CA for some great wine tasting. Several of the wineries have food and special events and over the two days you can visit WAY too many wineries and be very glad that your sister has a friend who does not drink and that can be a designated driver :-) . We had a great time and got to taste some really tasty wines. I, of course, had my camera with me and while we were waiting for the first winery to open and let us in I wandered around outside their gates and found this guy hanging out on a flower just waiting for his moment of fame and stardom—I was happy to oblige!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bubbling with Excitement

Back to Europe again! This time to Paris for Thanksgiving of 2004. As mentioned in a previous post I hit Paris for the 5 day weekend around Thanksgiving and went to many a museum in just a couple of days. On my way to the Louvre one morning I passed through the Palais Royal (Royal Palace) which, obviously, has quite a history. I was actually just passing through on a cold, crisp morning, but I came across this sculpture and really liked the reflections. If you look closely you can see the photographer and the great architecture behind me. I think that during the summer this is actually a fountain but in the cold November air they had it drained.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Viking Seep!

OK, today’s post was chosen just because it is really darned cute! I was traveling in Denmark went out to Trellborg on the western part of Sj√¶lland. There is not too much left, but this was a Viking settlement in the late 10th century. It is at the confluence of 2 rivers and was likely part of Harold Bluetooth’s network of military forts to secure his power after unifying the area. There is a very large circular earthen-work (over 100 meters in diameter) that was originally 7-8 meters tall and a dry moat in a ‘V’ shape in front of it. Inside there were 2 roads forming a cross and in each of the quadrants there were 4 long houses forming a square. The earthen-work still exists and they have excavated the post holes (and some posts) for all of the buildings. Some of the moat is still there as well. The fort didn’t have the best history…begun in ~980 AD, done by 990 (well the moat wasn’t quite done but…), Attacked in ~992 and abandoned by 1000. Only about 10 years of active use. Not the best considering the massive manpower it took to build it. I have posted several pictures of it in my Flickr account here. The sheep hanging around now-a-days seem to appreciate it all the ruins though and could really care less about all of the tourists wandering around their grazing area. You do need to watch out for the sheep dropping, who know that Viking settlements had such slippery footings!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Maxfield Parish Lives!

OK, decided to take a shot not from Europe trip today J This is a picture that I actually took from my backyard in Woodland Hills, CA in 1999 and have always thought it looked like a Maxfield Parish painting come to life. Not too much to say about this one, but wow, that was a purty sky!!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Going Postal...

Europe again! In June I headed into The Netherlands (OK, short clarification as I needed it too—The Netherlands—the name of the country, means Low Lands. Holland—two provinces (Holland north and Holland South) with most of the population, was a kingdom for a short time. Not the name of the country! Dutch—our name for the language and the people. Netherlands, country. Holland, provinces :-) ) Ok, but I digress! So, before heading Amsterdam I wanted a night in a somewhat smaller area so planned on Utrecht. Not that much smaller—4th largest city in the country. But anyway. I headed up to the area and realized that my guidebook had a driving tour of the surrounding country side so I headed to that first. Now this is a wet country—25% is reclaimed and a bunch is below sea level. There really are canals everywhere. And not a few windmills! The area just north of Utrecht was one of the most idyllic places that I have ever been. There were canals around every house and little bridges to cross to them. The properties opened out onto fields or estuaries, or even a lake. And the houses were all very lovingly cared for and up kept. I stopped for pictures several times and walked down one road to a windmill (hollow post mill type to be exact, there are many kinds here after all) which went through an estuary type place and I truly don’t think that I have ever heard that much bird song. It was incredible. Even some cuckoo birds. And geese, and ducks, and swans, and…. You get the picture. I just can’t describe it—Do there for yourself. Now. See what I mean J. I also stopped for a cup of coffee and a locally made apple cake in Tienhoven mmmm…tasty!

So I drove around for a couple hours (even went through Breukelens—after which a certain NY neighborhood is named by the settlers!) and then headed into Utrecht itself with really expensive parking. The canals of Utrecht were great—and often decorated with little carvings that were a lot of fun. Modern, I think, but still fun. And the bicycles. Wow. There are more people here on bike than I have ever seen. I am not sure how to describe it without it sounding too crazy. There are bike paths on almost all major roads and they are all in use. Give you an idea—at the mall in town I did a rough count of the bikes parked in back—and came up with over 1600!! They are everywhere. This town honestly puts Davis and Berkeley to shame—China too and I never thought I’d say that! And it is all ages out on their bikes. Unfortunately, may things were closed in Utrecht (the cathedral for organ tuning of all things!) so I didn’t stay too long but it was a fun town—and the area just north, wow.

This picture actually comes from the Post office in Utrecht—very art deco and very cool. Felt a little silly wandering around in the post office taking pictures but it was so cool!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Family Portrait

Today's post comes from Gibraltar-again, this picture was taken on my great European trek. When in the south of Spain I stopped for the day in Gibraltar and had a wonderful day, though REALLY sore feet at the end of it. I was warned that parking is next to impossible on the rick so I parked just on the Spain side of the border crossing and walked on over into British Territory. You can now drive across the border though you used to have to take a boat to Africa then come back as Spain had closed the boarder completely-no phone, no utilities, no nothing-they want Gibraltar back! It was only re-opened in 1985. Also, Spain asked the people of Gibraltar to vote on joining them-after all, who wouldn't? Well, the Gibraltarians wouldn't-12138 votes to 44! But the line to drive across the border is really long and slow-there is still a lot of stress and Spain is not happy about the tax-free status of Gibraltar. So, I parked in Spain and walked across. Entering territory itself is a bit odd-you take a bus to cross right through the middle of the runway (not much space around there) and often have to wait for planes to land.
After being dropped off downtown I decided not to take one of the predatory taxis around the rock and instead started walking--straight up it seemed. There is a town at the bottom of the rock and a nice visitor center in one of the old military bases at the top. There is a great view and you can see Africa from the top of the rock. There are a lot of old battlements still there including one old gun that could fire all the way across the straight and hit the African shore--impressive! So I walked up the rock-yup, up the darn rock. And across. And back again. Ok, I was a bit lost sometimes but had a great time. If it just weren't for the blisters or bad sunburn on my shoulder :-) All along the top of the rock live the Barbary Apes, one of which is pictured here. I took several pictures showing whole apes and their family groupings-they literally just walk around you and pretty much avoid the tourists unless you have food or really curly hair-but then started taking some extreme face close-ups and happened on this guy. I just love his expression and the framing of the shot-enjoy!