Posts Tagged With: vacation

India’s Ancient Magical Observatories

I wanted to climb the steps, but it was not allowed, and a guard stood by to ensure everyone followed the rules. Still, the idea of climbing on the giant edifices tugged at me just as it does a child who steps into an enchanting playground. And that’s what this place looked like—a playground filled with odd-shaped structures that begged to be climbed.

Part of the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, India

In reality, though, we were at Jantar Mantar—an astronomical observatory built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh, a soldier, scholar and ruler with a lifelong interest in math and astronomy. He founded the city of Jaipur in the 1720s and built five Jantar Mantar observatories in northern India.

Jantar Mantar means “instruments for calculation,” or “magical calculations.” The Jaipur observatory consists of 18 devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, observing planet orbits; calculating the lunar calendar and predicting the start of the monsoon season. It’s main purpose, though, seems to have been casting horoscopes, which require a precise knowledge of the positions of the sun, moon, planets and stars at the moment of birth.

The largest instrument (with steps leading to its top) is a sundial 27 meters high, its shadow carefully plotted to tell the time of day to an accuracy of about two seconds. You can see the shadow moving at 1 millimeter per second, or roughly the width of a hand (6mm) every minute.

Influenced by the Islamic school of astronomy, Jai Singh also incorporated elements of early Greek and Persian observatories into his designs. The Jantar Mantars, however, are more complex, on a greater scale, and contain some completely unique designs and functions.

They were made almost entirely of masonry, with some engraved metal rings and plates set into masonry foundations, and they were built large because the larger the scale, the more accurate the measurements. Once finished, they could not be corrected or improved, and observations were limited to those involving the positions and motions of heavenly bodies that are visible to the naked eye.

Over the years, they’ve been restored from time to time—partly because they are tourist attractions, but also to keep them useful and scientifically authentic. Local astronomers still use them to predict the weather for farmers (although the accuracy is questionable), and students of astronomy and Vedic astrology are required to take some of their lessons at the observatories.

Because of their size and inflexibility, the Jantar Mantars were obsolete even before they were constructed and were soon replaced by smaller machined brass instruments and telescopes that proved more useful and accurate. Still, they are amazing reminders of ancient innovation and man’s quest to understand the universe.

Categories: Architecture, Asia, culture, engineering, History, India, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Travel Theme: New—Hawaiian Marriage Proposal

The idea of ‘new’ can mean so many things. In this case, it refers to new beginnings and a new commitment (and lots of new paperwork) when two people who are best friends decide to take that extra step. Thank you, Ailsa at Where’s my backpack?, for such a perfect New Year’s theme.

Jack and Jill by the seaplane

Jack and Jill by the seaplane

Jack and Jill had been a couple for almost seventeen years and had shared many wonderful times—travels to exotic places, sunset walks on the beach, cooking meals and watching football games together, long talks, and even—when Jill could persuade Jack, which was rare—going dancing.

They’d also tackled their share of difficulties, but no matter the circumstances, they’d always been there for each other—as confidante, coach, cheerleader, Florence Nightingale, and general support system.

So in the fall of 2012, Jack planned a surprise for Jill. She plagued him with questions, trying to trick him into revealing even miniscule hints about this surprise, but he was resolute (and, if truth be told, enjoying the game). The only clues he would divulge, which weren’t really clues at all, were that she should take two cameras and that the setting would be outdoors.

At 2:15pm on December 22, they set out, driving west. Just before they reached the Honolulu airport, Jack turned down a road that led to an industrial area by the ocean. This was quite puzzling because Jill knew the area. It was mainly used for airfreight services such as FedEx and UPS. As they passed FedEx on the right, Jack turned into a driveway on the left that Jill had never noticed before. And there it was, adjacent to the ocean—a little office, hidden by a hedge, bearing the sign, Island Seaplane Service.

Now she knew—they were going for a ride on a seaplane. Jill had flown on small planes before but never a seaplane. A new adventure. She was delighted.

Inside the office, Jack checked in, then disappeared for a few minutes. He came back carrying a cardboard box, and Jill could see a bouquet of yellow roses—her favorite—peeking out of the top. How sweet, she thought.

Jill was so surprised and overwhelmed by all this, she barely noticed the three TSA security guards until she was told, “You can’t take your camera bag on the flight.” And there were more rules—cameras were allowed but the straps were not and had to come off. While Jill attended to this task, Jack engaged in a serious, hushed discussion with the three security guards who refused to let him take the box containing the flowers on board.

As it turned out, President Obama was in town (Jill didn’t know because she’d been too busy to watch the news in recent days). That’s why the guards were there. That’s why the heightened security. But roses—a security threat? The guards did eventually relent, and after checking the contents of pockets, plus a thorough pat down and wanding (the zipper on Jill’s cargo pants caused a “beep” and had to be investigated), Jack and Jill were allowed onto the floating dock next to which the seaplane awaited, its pontoons bobbing on the water.

The guards followed them, watching for suspicious activity, Jill suspected. One guard offered to take a photo of them together in front of the plane. Then they climbed aboard, Jack in the back seat with his box and one camera, Jill in the fold-out seat in front of Jack so she could have the flexibility to take photos from either side (Jack’s idea because he was accustomed to Jill’s obsession with photography).

After fastening seat belts, they all donned headsets so that Jack and Jill could hear the pilot talking to them during the tour. It would take about five minutes, he told them, to taxi out to the take-off spot.

And that’s when Jack made his move. Out of the box he took an exquisite lei—a garland of perfumed tuberose interlaced with golden royal ilima flowers—and placed it around Jill’s neck. Then, before Jill knew what was happening, he handed her a letter. It read, in part, “I cannot imagine being without you. I would like to share the rest of my life with you. Jill, will you marry me.”

The headphones made it impossible for Jack and Jill to talk to each other, but she turned around and took his hand, squeezing it and nodding vigorously. But Jack wasn’t done. He reached into the box again and pulled out a necklace—a double strand of deep-green jade stones—and fastened it around her neck. She wanted to throw her arms around him and kiss him almost more than she could bear, but again she squeezed his hand and held on tight while the little plane lifted off effortlessly into the Hawaiian sky.

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At first they flew east, the high-rise office buildings of the city glistening below them in the afternoon sun, the deep blue of Honolulu Harbor, the green-roofed Aloha Tower Marketplace sitting aside its namesake ten-story clock tower—once the tallest building in the state and still a beacon welcoming ships into the harbor.

Then came Waikiki. From this vantage point, how azure and enticing the ocean looked as it flowed over coral reefs and onto the most famous strip of beach in the world.

Earlier, the pilot had told them they would circumnavigate Diamond Head for a good view of the storied peak, even though it meant veering slightly off the approved course. But at his attempt, the radio crackled and a voice said, “Are you familiar with the blue line?” meaning, ‘get back on course!’ Air-traffic officials were allowing no deviation today, so the pilot turned around and headed back the way they had come.

Still, there was more to see. Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, its worn volcanic crater rising from the congested city like the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, seemed deserted, although the next day it would be overflowing with a thousand guests—including the President—attending memorial services for the late Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye, a decorated WWII veteran and until a week earlier, at his death, a powerful force in Washington and third in line for the Presidency.

When they reached Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial came into view, its white frame spanning the sunken ship below. It, too, was eerily deserted, its flag at half-mast in honor of Senator Inouye.

At Hickam airfield, the pilot pointed out Air Force One on the tarmac. Nearby, an orderly array of eight fighter jets appeared, with space for a ninth. Was one jet in the air at all times? Patrolling the coast while the President was on island? Ready to shoot down any plane, even a tiny seaplane, that veered off course? A chilling thought.

From there, the pilot headed inland, over Oahu’s elevated central plain with its quilted acres of pineapple fields, coffee and cacao plantations, alongside the island’s western mountain range and across a deep rift in the earth known as Kipapa Gulch, to the North Shore, where winter waves can reach heights of 25-plus feet, drawing surfing competitions and crowds that often bring the two-lane shoreline road to a standstill.

At the edge of sunshine, a wind farm appeared, and beyond it, a rain squall. The pilot ventured a little closer to the island’s northwestern tip, edging out to sea to avoid the inclement weather, and then turning back (they couldn’t continue around the island because, with the President in residence at his Kailua vacation compound, a ten-mile, no-fly zone was in effect).

The partnership of sun and rain must have known what this day meant, though, because it conspired to bestow upon Jack and Jill a blessing in the form of a rainbow before whispering farewell.

Too soon the southern shore came into view, and the pilot landed on the tranquil waters of Keehi Lagoon with a gentle rapid-fire series of smacks rather than the usual rubber-wheel-on-concrete thud. The proposal ride was over. The TSA guards said their goodbyes and left.

And Jack revealed to Jill why he’d been allowed to bring the box on board: He’d confided to the guards that he planned to propose, they made the call, and the Secret Service had given its permission.

His high-flying, Secret-Service-approved proposal accepted, Jack got the “yes” hug and kiss he was waiting for.

A spring ceremony is planned.

Categories: Hawaii, Love & Romance, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Norway: Viking Churches? Not

It’s an ironic story line—after raiding and pillaging towns and villages in countries throughout the north Atlantic, Vikings returned home and went to church.

Perhaps they did, but if so, they didn’t attend services in a stave church—so named for its interior, weight-bearing pillars, or staves. There may be dragons on the roof, but stave churches weren’t built until after the Viking Age ended. That date is traditionally marked in England by the failed invasion attempt by Norwegian King Harald III, who was defeated by Saxon King Harold Godwinson in 1066. Ireland and Scotland note their own dates, predicated on victories against Vikings.

stave church, Borgund, Norway

stave church, Borgund, Norway

At one time there were more than a thousand stave churches throughout Europe. Most were built between circa 1130 and 1350 AD. Construction stopped when the Black Death started to spread through Europe, and congregating in small spaces became life threatening.

And the stave church is indeed a small space. So small, in fact, that most of its congregation had to stand—men and boys on the right, women and girls on the left. The elderly and sick could sit on benches along the walls.

Today only 28 stave churches survive, and all are in Norway where there is a long tradition of building in wood (remember those sturdy Viking ships). Earlier churches were built on often-soggy ground and succumbed to wood rot. Lesson learned. Stone foundations solved that problem.

stave church interior, Oslo, Norway

Stave church interior, Oslo, Norway

While visiting the stave church in Borgund, I was surprised to see that it—like other stave churches—had no windows. The only light entered through a few small portholes high up on the walls. The altarpiece depicts Christ’s crucifixion. Animal masks adorn the south door, and serpents and dragon-like creatures decorate the main-door side panels and lintel. On the roof turrets, Christian crosses and dragonheads keep each other company. Old legends die hard I guess, and it seems that the parishioners were hedging their bets—honoring old gods and new.

I found it interesting that the timber used in construction of the church was most likely seasoned on the root, strategic cuts drawing the tar to the surface before the tree was felled. After construction and during renovations, additional tar was applied to protect the wood.

carved doorway, stave church

carved doorway, stave church

It was common to bury the dead under the church floor, but that practice stopped at the end of the nineteenth century thanks to the unpleasant smell. However, stillborn infants and babies who died before being baptized could not be buried in the consecrated ground of the churchyard. Tiny coffins were placed under the floor, even in recent times. It seems odd to me that the ground around the church was considered consecrated, but the ground under the church was not.

If you stand inside the church and look up, you’ll see that the roof above the nave looks like an inverted boat with ribs. Hmmmmm! I wonder what inspired that design.

Categories: Architecture, culture, History, Norway, Photography, Scandinavia, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Travel Theme: Liquid

According to one definition, a liquid is a sample of matter that conforms to the shape of its container, and which acquires a defined surface in the presence of gravity. Another calls it a substance that exhibits a characteristic readiness to flow, little or no tendency to disperse, and relatively high incompressibility. In other words, you would be hard pressed to compress it. Ever tried compressing water? I haven’t, but I feel sure it would be impossible. Squeeze it one way and it squirts out another.

But I digress. A liquid could be many things, but I choose my favorite liquid—water. How much of the human body is water? A Google search supplies conflicting answers, but I rather like this breakdown: the body is more than 60% water, blood is 92% water, the brain and muscles are 75% water, and bones—yes, even bones—are about 22% water. Now I’m definitely getting off track, so to get back on, I’ll take a pictorial look at water as found on the Garden Isle of Kauai. In addition to keeping our bodies hydrated at an optimum level, water can do all the following and more.

Entry to a great photo challenge by Where’s My Backpack?

Categories: Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Inspired to Blog

That’s me, hiking Kauai’s infamous Kalalau Trail

I am on a hiking trail—the famous eleven-mile Kalalau Trail, carved into the steep cliffs of Na Pali on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. After 35-plus years living in Hawaii, this is the first time I’ve set foot on the Kalalau Trail. I’ve thought about it, talked about doing it and even planned it on a previous trip to Kauai, but this is the first time I’ve ever done it, even though I can only claim the first mile and back. Next time I’ll go further.

And that’s my inspiration to blog—traveling and trying things I’ve never done before, and not letting my age (let’s just call it “advanced”) or physical limitations hold me back. This past summer on a cruise up the coast of Norway, I joined a bird-watching excursion to the Stappen Islands at Norway’s North Cape. My goal was to photograph puffins, Arctic turns and other seabirds in flight, and it proved a tougher task than I imagined. Our little boat rolled and pitched in the sea, and although I wedged myself against the railing, at times I worried about falling overboard (I’m tall and the railing was only waist high). I also admit to a little seasickness. But yes, I did get a few good shots.

A year earlier, I took a tour through Turkey. On the itinerary, our brochure listed a visit to an underground city in Cappadocia. When we arrived at the entrance, I was taken aback to learn that the underground passageways were extremely low, narrow and claustrophobic. Several members of our group declined to continue, but I was determined not to miss anything, so down we went—seven levels, each deeper than the first. The tunnels were so small, we had to crouch or walk on our knees, and our arms brushed the rough walls. Sometimes the line of people in front of me would stop for several seconds. I’d wonder what was happening and imagine getting stuck in there, running out of air, but then we’d move again. Thank goodness I’d worked on squats before leaving home.

One of the larger rooms in the underground city, Cappadocia, Turkey.

Looking back, I can think of other times I was fearful but determined to press on, like when I was faced for the first time with driving a left-handed-stick campervan on New Zealand’s North Island roads where truckers speed madly around slowpoke tourist campervan drivers, jumping off a rocky ledge in Hana Maui to join my friends in the waterfall-fed pool below (and being sure I was going to die by doing so), commanding a sled-dog team on an Alaskan glacier (braking is the hardest part), swirling above the clouds in an open-cockpit biplane over the San Juan Islands and leaning out to take photos while my stomach did some swirling of its own, and even swimming with sharks (no cage) in Midway Atoll’s lagoon.

All these travels inspire me to blog. I can’t wait to share each moment, and conversely, read about others’ adventures. I’ll probably want to try some of those adventures. And if I do, I’ll blog about them.

This post has been a special photo challenge by the Daily Post. For others’ blogging inspiration, check out the link.

Categories: Hawaii, Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 49 Comments

Kauai: Hawaii’s Garden Isle

Every February-March, my editor asks if I can once again update the Destination Hyatt books for the Maui, Kauai and Waikiki resorts. I look forward to this assignment because I’m a wordsmith, and it’s a chance for me to get creative, writing new sidebars, little-known facts, and intros for each of the resorts and the islands they inhabit. And that means I have to come up with new themes and ideas each year.

A few years ago, I wrote this one for Kauai. And since I just returned from six days on the Garden Isle, now seems like the perfect time to put words and photos together for a blog post. My husband calls this “flowery” writing, but I call it fitting for a garden island.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any Kauai experiences, do tell.

A father takes a photo of his five children at sunset on Brennecke’s beach, Kauai.

Kauai: The Magician

Abracadabra! Endless stretches of powdery-sand beaches strung together like jewels glittering gold in the sunlight. Throngs of red-footed boobies and other acrobatic sea birds soaring gracefully above the cliffs and lighthouse at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge. An impregnable mountain fortress known as Na Pali flaunting its steepled spires, sea arches, and isolated, idyllic pillows of sand.

When it comes to sleight of hand, Kauai is a master, transforming the raw lava of a once barren volcano into an emerald-robed Garden of Eden complete with groves of coconut palms and a smorgasbord of fruits: papaya, banana, breadfruit, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, and the tempting mountain apple.

Like pulling a rabbit out of its hat, the island reveals hidden gardens filled with colorful tropical flowers, the languid Wailua River and its ethereal Fern Grotto, waterfalls galore, a replica Grand Canyon known as Waimea, and towering Mount Wai‘ale‘ale—the wettest place on earth.

Once Kauai has mesmerized, resistance is futile. You’ll find yourself playing 18 holes on a world-class, cliff-top golf course, hiking into Waimea Canyon’s wilderness of pastel reds and yellows or along Na Pali’s carved-into-the-cliffside footpath, kayaking a rainforest river, sipping coffee made from the island’s homegrown beans, relaxing in a rejuvenating spa, visiting locations where movies such as Jurassic Park and South Pacific were filmed, exploring by horseback or astride an ATV, stretching out on a beach in the company of a Hawaiian monk seal or green sea turtle.

Kauai waves its magic wand and you gladly fall under its spell.

Categories: flowers, Hawaii, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

glittering gold sunset near Waikiki

Sharing this sunset from a few nights ago.

I’m standing on the rocks below Diamond Head, and the structure you can see on the hill at right is the Diamond Head Lighthouse. Most people view it from above, when they climb to the top of Diamond Head Crater on a hiking trail and look down from the pinnacle.

In the 1800s, with so many ships running aground on reefs and shoals during the night, something had to be done, and in 1878 a lookout station was built. Its first attendant, John Peterson (from Sweden), known as “Lighthouse Charlie,” was on duty seventeen hours a day, watching through his telescope for incoming vessels. He lived in a small cottage nearby and was paid $50 a month.

When a steamship ran aground in 1897, a stone tower topped by a fixed white light was built. In 1918, after Hawaii was annexed as a territory, the federal government built the current lighthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands 55 feet tall, 147 feet above sea level, and its 1,000-watt electric light magnified by a 7,300-candlepower lens can be seen 18 nautical miles away.

Categories: environment, Hawaii, History, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

The Trojan Horse. Existing only in the pages of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, it has been recreated on the outskirts of Troy—an ancient, excavated city in northwestern Turkey.

the Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse and me

In the poem, Paris, Prince of Troy and thought to be the handsomest man alive, traveled to Sparta in Greece to win the affections of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus.

When Menelaus found out that Paris had stolen his wife and carried her (and much of Menelaus’ treasure) off to Troy, he sent a fleet of ships to destroy Paris and Troy. But Troy wasn’t that easy to destroy. So a large wooden horse was built. It was hollow so that soldiers could hide inside. When the Greek fleet sailed away, the Trojans thought they had won and brought the giant horse—which they were told would bring them luck—inside the walls. That night, of course, the soldiers in the horse emerged and slaughtered the Trojans as they slept off their victorious drunken stupor.

There’s much more to the story, just as there is more to the finding and excavating of Troy, but that’s for another post.

To show how BIG the horse is, note the relatively tiny figure (all 5’9” of me) leaning against the horse’s leg.

The term, Trojan Horse, is used today to represent a deception—something that looks good on the outside but really isn’t. I’ve had a few encounters with that: an ex boyfriend or two, even a job that looked like my dream job but soured after a couple of months. Anybody else had any Trojan Horse experiences?

Categories: Animals, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

CBBH Photo Challenge: Repetition

East of Malaga offers an intriguing challenge for September, and so I again focus my lens on Hawaii, where repetition usually means colorful and fun. Usually….but not always.

flower lei gold and purple

Repeating patterns of gold and purple in these flower lei (In Hawaiian, there is no “s”—and no s added to singlular for plural)

seed lei

Lei again, but this time made of seeds.

ala wai canoe race

Dozens of outrigger canoe teams race along the Wla Wai canal at the back of Waikiki in a competition known as the Ala Wai Challenge.

Scottish Festival bagpipes

Yes, we have a Scottish contingent in Hawaii. Each year they break out the highland fling, haggis and bagpipes, staging their rousing Scottish Festival at Kapi’olani Park in Waikiki.

no annexation signs

Some Hawaiian groups want to separate from the United States and return to the Islands’ former status as a Pacific kingdom. These signs in front of ‘Iolani Palace in downtown Honolulu represent Hawaiian NO votes when annexaztion to the U.S. was proposed, then adopted in 1898.

Hula halau from Japan

Dozens of groups from around the Pacific region, including this hula halau from Japan, participate in the Honolulu Festival each year.

floating lanterns

The Hawaii Lantern Floating festival is held at Ala Moana Beach Park each year on Memorial Day to honor loved ones who have passed away. Each lantern holds a name and special message wishing the departed comfort in their spiritual journey. There is also a lantern floating festival following a bon dance at the Haleiwa Jodo Mission on Oahu’s North Shore.

My two selected blogs for this theme, I think are clever interpretations and so different—tires and beehive:
http://bopaula.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/cbbh-photo-challenge-repetition/
http://tamaraessexspanishblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/conejo-blanco-photo-challenge-2-repetition/

Categories: flowers, Hawaii, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Solitary

This week’s theme—solitary—really resonates with me. Although I love being around people and I’m usually the last one to leave a good party, I find myself needing a lot of alone time. Time to think. Perhaps that’s because I’m half photographer and half writer, and what’s a writer to do without time to think and record those thoughts? So I spend half my life being solitary, knowing that whenever I’m ready, the photographer half can come out to play.

What do you think of when you see this image? Has the boat left him adrift in the vast ocean?

man swimming in Mediterranean

Solitary Man

Categories: environment, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Travel Theme: Texture

We may take it for granted, but, along with vision, hearing, smell and taste, touch is an invaluable sense. So how can a photographer express the sense of touch in a photograph? I hope the following images will evoke the feeling of touch through texture: the softness of a wool sweater, the rough surface of a cement fountain, the knobbly coldness of sculpted metal, fluffy duck feathers, a fish’s slippery scales. And if you should imagine the twinge of a splinter from rough-hewn wood, or the crisp and salt-crusted surface of a French fry, if you know what these objects feel like, the photos have served their purpose by awakening your own memories of texture and touch.

Which ones are your favorites?

Can you spot the ringer?

chair and dried flowers

Gold-painted wrought iron chair, dried flowers and wicker baskets, Norway

sweater

cozy sweater and scarf, Norway

clamshells

knobbly clamshells, Norway

fishing net

fishing net, Norway

brick and wood house

brick and wood house, Brugge, Belgium

wrought iron flower

wrought-iron flower art, Brugge, Belgium

rusty buoys

rusty buoys, Norway

fish

fish, Norway

duck feathers

duck feathers, Copenhagen, Denmark

fish sculpture fountain

cement fountain with metal sculpture, Copenhagen

viking

viking beard and clothing, Copenhagen

farm

weathered-wood farmhouses, Norway

reindeer

reindeer fur, Norway

stage show

projected backdrop on stage

french fries

French fries

metal pipe sculpture, Norway

metal pipe sculpture, Norway

Belgian lace

Belgian lace

glacier

My husband’s shot of the tip of a glacier

wicker whisks in basket

wicker whisks in a basket

Categories: Architecture, Art, Belgium, Norway, Photography, Scandinavia, Stock Photography, Sweden, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Everyday Life—Hawaii

Hawaii is like no other place in the world. Spending time at the beach is commonplace for most residents. Both children and adults dance hula at every opportunity—at birthday parties, weddings, other special occasions or just while enjoying the aforementioned beach time. At any given moment, there are more unique, fun and (mostly) free activities and events than can fit into anyone’s busy schedule. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in Hawaii consider all this part of our everyday life.

Hawaii Theater, downtown Honolulu

Downtown Honolulu’s renovated Hawaii Theater is a great place to catch a play, dance performance or music recital. And there are plenty of restaurants nearby.

surfers carrying boards in Waikiki

Surfers carry their boards across Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki during a break in one of Hawaii’s many parades.

rodeo in Waimanalo, Oahu

Hawaii could once claim the largest cattle ranch in the U.S. (yes, bigger than those in Texas). Parcels of it have since been sold, but there are still plenty of ranches and cowboys in the Islands, and they love their rodeos.

street musicians, downtown Honolulu

Impromptu street musicians in downtown Honolulu

children looking in a cockpit

Checking out the cockpit of a flight simulator at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, Pearl Harbor.

costumed gecko at Missouri memorial

The gecko is Hawaii’s unofficial state lizard. Here’s one, doing his job by posing with a local visitor to the Battleship Missouri Memorial, Pearl Harbor.

tattooed man with fluffy dog

It seems that everyone these days sports an elaborate tattoo. Some are just for decoration, but others follow Polynesian tradition and are rich with symbolic meaning.

hula Lei Day

May 1 in Hawaii is not May Day—it’s Lei Day. Another excuse to wear colorful flower lei and dance hula.

keiki hula, Lei Day

When it comes to hula, everybody gets into the act, including these cute keiki (children)

Paniolo on a Maui ranch

Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) on the job at a Maui ranch.

water rocket launchers

Playtime with water-filled soda bottles and rocket launchers (air pumps).

juggler Waikiki

At any given time in Kapiolani Park under the shadow of Waikiki’s Diamond Head, you can see jugglers, slackliners and other performers practicing just for fun.

Chinatown restaurant

Island folks love to get together and eat out, and with so many enticing Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, German, Hawaiian and other ethnic restaurants to choose from, who can blame them.

Hawaiian checkers

In Hawaii, we don’t just play checkers. We play checkers with shells.

canoe festival red sail

When you live on a small island, the ocean is part of your home and your lifestyle. Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands settled Hawaii by traveling here in outrigger canoes.

Categories: culture, Hawaii, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

Helsingborg, Sweden from the castle keep

The town of Helsingborg, Sweden through an archway in the castle keep.

While in Europe this summer, our cruise ship stopped at Helsingborg, Sweden, and we spent several hours exploring the town. One must-see on our agenda was The Keep. Once a castle stood on the hill overlooking Helsingborg’s streets, but now the only thing left is The Keep—a walled entrance behind which stands a lone remaining tower. We climbed the steps up to The Keep, and I looked back to capture this image of the town (far) framed by one of the arches (near).

Helsingborg, Sweden is across the narrow Oresund strait from Helsingor, Denmark—a town famed for its Kronborg Castle, which is said to have been the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Helsingborg, Sweden, castle keep framed by flowers

Looking up from the streets of Helsingborg towards the castle keep

castle keep, Helsingborg, Sweden

Another near-and-far view of the castle keep

Categories: Architecture, flowers, Photography, Stock Photography, Sweden, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

open-air restaurants and cafes in Istanbul

Young Istanbul-ites gather at outdoor restaurants and bars on a sultry summer evening.

The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul itself, Cappadocia….all these iconic sites come to mind when travelers think of Turkey. But for this week’s photo challenge, I wanted to show a different side of the country that straddles two continents, and, indeed, two worlds. Turkey is at the same time part Asia and part Europe, Islamic yet democratic, both modern and ancient, and in the immortal words of Donnie and Marie Osmond, it’s a little bit country and a little bit Rock ‘n’ Roll.

By Rock ‘n’ Roll, of course, I mean Urban. In the Turkish countryside you’ll see vast acreages dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables. But you’ll also see a plethora of urban centers. Istanbul, certainly, but also Izmir, Ankara, Antalya and many others.

I’ve selected just a few of the many images that to me represent Turkey in its most unique urban sense.

giant ant art display

A giant-ant art installation occupied this Istanbul square across which pedestrians hustled from buses on one side to trains and ferries on the other.

election billboard

Election machinery was revving up while I was there, and political billboards popped up like fields of poppies.

Istiklal street and pedestrians

Crowds of pedestrians on Istiklal Street offer a snapshot of urban life for the 13.5-million inhabitants of Istanbul.

blue tram in Sultanahmet

A modern tram picks up passengers in Istanbul’s Old Town—Sultanahmet—near the Grand Bazaar.

Turkish flag and soldier statue

Turkish Pride—The country’s flag and statues representing soldiers who fought for Turkey’s independence are a common sight in every city.

Hierapolis ruins

The Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis was a bustling urban center and healing spa from the first century BC.

Categories: Architecture, culture, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Fjords of Norway

Norway fjord

A farming community perches on the shore of a fjord in Norway

Norway belongs to the sea. Along it’s western edge, the forces of water have carved a lacy filigree of bays, inlets and fjords like very few places on earth. It’s the fjords, of course, that capture the imagination. Ice Age glaciers creeping slowly across landmasses, carving out narrow channels that eventually fill with water as the glacier melts and retreats, and seawater encroaches. And they’re deep. Some, such as Sognefjord, plunge more than 4,000 feet below sea level, as deep as the height of mountains bordering them.

snowy mountaintop above a Norwegian fjord

Even in late June, a snowy landscape crowns the top of a mountain above a Norwegian fjord.

viewing platform above a Norwegian fjord

It looks like you could walk off the end of this viewing platform above the fjord. The glass front offers a majestic and spine-tingling view of the fjord below.

Where fjords meet the sea, glacially formed underwater valleys mix with other cross valleys to form a complex array of channels. These run parallel to the coast and are walled off from the sea by a chain of mountainous islands and rocks, making a protected passage along much of the entire 995-mile sea journey from Stavanger to North Cape, Norway.

viewing platform above a fjord, Norway

The fjord viewing platform from another angle.

During the winter, towns deep in fjord valleys can be cut off from the outside world. Snow buildups not only clog roads but can unleash avalanches of snow and rock that plunge into the water, sometimes resulting in fjord tidal waves over 100 feet high.

cruise ship, Geiranger, Norway

Our cruise ship anchored off the small town of Geiranger (pop. 250), Norway, at the terminus of the Geirangerfjord. During the 4-month summer tourist season, 140-180 cruise ships carrying several hundred-thousand people come here to experience the spectacular scenery. Nine-mile-long Geirangerfjord is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But in summer, cruise-ship passengers like us find fjords welcoming and awe inspiring, like peaceful blue-green lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains and replete with ethereal waterfalls and picturesque towns.

cruise ship deck in Geirangerfjord

Waiting in the Geirangerfjord until the tenders start up and ferry us to land.

waterskiing in a fjord

waterskiing in a fjord (disclaimer: shot through the window of a moving bus and between trees as we flew past them).

Categories: cruises, environment, nature, Norway, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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