Monday, November 30, 2009
When we visited Turkey in 2001, we went to Side to see the ancient ruins including the Roman Temple of Apollo featured in the photo above. We were disappointed in Side, because of the way modern development had been allowed to encroach on the ruins. This temple bathed in light at sunset was very nice. We stopped here for a while and had a long chat with a young couple from Vancouver. They were very upset about an expensive Turkish carpet they had purchased and then asked the shopkeeper to ship home for them. When it arrived, there was a $400 duty charge to be paid. This was refused by the husband's mother who returned the carpet to the shop in Istanbul. The young people were on their honeymoon, and now had to return to the shop in Istanbul to hopefully sort things out. We realized how fortunate we were that our own carpet had arrived home safely without duty charges, but we had no idea what had made the difference.
These are two photos taken in 2000 that demonstrate the beauty of Sicily. The first one looks down onto Taormina, the famous Sicilian resort. The second is a view looking down from the Roman theatre near Taormina.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
These 1998 photos were taken on the Greek island of Naxos. The first photo features the Portera, the most noteworthy landmark of the island. The second photo, taken from the Portera, shows the island and the causeway.
These three 1997 photos of the main square in Bruges illustrate the beautiful medieval houses that are everywhere in the city. When its port became silted up in the 16th Century Bruges declined in economic importance and was replaced by Antwerp. Happily, as economic activity declined, most of the old buildings were not pulled down and replaced by new development. Consequently, visitors to Bruges today are able to see much of medieval Bruges - a truly wonderful experience.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
When we visited the Loire Valley in 1997, we didn't have time to go inside this chateau, but admired it very much from a distance. It is what first comes to mind when you think of the chateaux of the Loire Valley because of its beautiful and unusual design and the frequency of its being photographed.
Rhonda, which we visited in 2002, is a very picturesque town that sits above a tremendously deep chasm. It provides a setting for the city that is visually interesting and unique.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Here we are in 2001 at Xanthos, a famous ancient site in Turkey near Antalya on the Mediterranean coast. Xanthos has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1988. It was first developed as a city by the Lycians and captured around 540 BC by the Persians. Later, the Greeks and then the Romans took over. The lady on the left is Nadine, the archaeologist in charge of the dig. We were delighted to meet a fellow Canadian, and she was very kind, taking us on a tour of the large site, describing what we were seeing, and explaining the purpose of the current excavations. We love to explore ancient sites. This was a very special occasion, the only time we had the privilege of speaking to the archaeologist.
This 2004 photo conveys the hustle and bustle of a busy market town on the west bank of the Nile river in Egypt. We traveled south from Cairo to Luxor on the train and then north by bus on the west bank of the Nile. I was so fascinated by what I saw that I spent the entire time taking one photo after another on my new Nikon digital camera through the window of the train and bus.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
These 1997 photos are of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, U. K. This beautiful cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1710. The importance of St. Paul's to the city and the country cannot be exaggerated. Since its opening, many of the most important funerals and celebrations in the country have been held in the cathedral and it remains London's most important landmark. It is all the more incredible that St. Paul's survived the wreckage that London suffered during the Blitz in World War II.
In 2004, we spent two weeks on Crete and loved it. These are photos of the harbour at Chania which is quite typical of the sea fronts in old Mediterranean towns and cities. You can see why walking beside the sea is so picturesque and interesting. And always there is the brilliant blue of the water and the intense blue of the sky! This can especially be seen if you right click on the image and open it in a new window so you can see the enlargement.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
There are two things to take note of about this small vehicle photographed somewhere in Gujarat in 2007. One is the fact that it has only three wheels. There are many such vehicles in India. Secondly is its colourful decoration. We saw trucks everywhere, many of them very large, that were attractively decorated in this way. When you cross a state boundary, all commercial vehicles must stop while the driver goes to a government office at the side of the road to pay a tax. It's really something to see maybe a hundred large trucks stopped by the highway for this purpose, most of them colourfully decorated.
We visited the Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in 2007. It is famous as one of the few places - if not the only one - where the Asiatic lion can be seen in its natural habitat. We took a jeep safari before sun-up but did not see any lions. There are apparently fewer than 50 in the park. We did see deers, sambar and monkeys however, and the park was very attractive, especially just after dawn.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In 1999, we arrived at Peyrepertuse in the fog and rain, somehow appropriate for a visit to this ruined castle set high in the French Pyrenees. It was a refuge built by the Cathars, a religious sect that flourished from the 10th to the 13th Centuries, until wiped out in the Albigensian crusades.
This stairway in the lobby of the Edmonton city hall leads up to the Council Chamber. The city hall was opened in 1992. I love the way the windows flood the room with light and emphasize the beauty of the sky. The city enjoys beautiful skies at any time of year even on the coldest days of winter.
Monday, November 23, 2009
We visited Rome in 1994 in the middle of a heat wave. Can't you almost see the heat in this photo of the Roman Forum? If you look very closely, you can just make out the man and woman near the bottom right. This will give you an idea of the scale of the ruins. The forum itself is very large. We walked here for an hour or so until we felt burned to a crisp and returned to our hotel, disappointed that we couldn't spend more time reading the guide book to see what we had actually been looking at.
This street scene, photographed in Paris in 1994, shows the typical built form of the central city that provides a lot of density while at the same time keeping everything at a very comfortable human scale. I could walk here for hours, just to enjoy taking everything in. An architect named Barry Sampson once told me of his belief that what people most like to look at is other people, and Paris would definitely be evidence of that!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
In 1994 at Grosmont in North Yorkshire we took a ride on a train with an old-fashioned steam engine. This was operated by the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and it was a lot of fun, reminding me of the trains I took as a child on the CNR from my home at Flin Flon in northern Manitoba to visit my grandmother in Edmonton.
This sunset over the Pacific Ocean was photographed in 2003 at the Wilmingdon Beach Campground in Powell River. This is an excellent campground in a very beautiful location set among the high cedar trees you will find on the West Coast of Canada.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
In 1999, we went to Omaha Beach early in the morning and were the only people there. It was easy to imagine soldiers landing and fighting to establish a bridgehead. We found the experience very moving. What impressed me most was how very narrow the beach is before the ground rises up to form quite a high hill, and consequently how difficult it must have been for the armies to gain a foothold.
Here we are in 2002 with members of our tour group in the famous Jemma El-Fna square in Marrakesh. The square is huge, and was very crowded. For entertainment, there were lots of buskers - musicians, magicians, snake charmers, dancers. After dark, we were taken to one of the food vendors where we had a dinner of grilled chicken accompanied by wine served in Coke bottles, drinking wine in public being illegal in Morocco. I think the authorities turned a blind eye not wanting to interfere with the success of Marrakesh tourism.
Friday, November 20, 2009
No trip to Bruges would be complete without a boat trip on one of the town's many canals. This photo from 1997, the year we first visited Belgium, is a good example of why Bruges will always remain in my mind as the town where you only have to point your camera in any direction to get a great photo.
This photo, taken in Cairo in 2004, could be in any of the bazaars or souks that we've visited in Muslin countries. Always colourful, crowded and full of activity, they offer for sale almost anything you can imagine. The only thing missing in this photo is the donkeys that are usually seen heavily laden with a variety of different types of merchandise.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
While staying in Perpignan in 1999, we took a drive to Collioure and were pleasantly surprised by this small charming jewel of a resort, intending to return for a longer visit some day but so far not managing it.
In 2002, we spent an afternoon here in Granada at the Alhambra, one of the world's most beautiful buildings. The Alhambra, or the red fortress, was constructed by the Moorish rulers of Granada in the mid-14th Century. It was once their residence and is a prime example of the beauty of Islamic architecture.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
These photos were taken in 2007 at the fortress at Diu. The fort was built by the Portuguese in 1535 while Diu was their colony. The Portuguese were forced to leave in 1961 when India launched a military action. The girls in the middle photo were visiting from Gujarat. The photo immediately above was taken within the fort.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a fortified town located in Languedoc in the south of France. The hill here has been inhabited since about 3,500 B.C. The hilltop was fortified by the Romans around 100 B.C. In the 11th Century A.D. - and subsequently - the extensive fortifications that we see today were constructed. Simon de Montfort captured Carcassonne in 1209 during the Albigensian crusade, forcing the citizens to surrender. Carcassonne then became a border citadel between France and Spain. When we visited in 1999, we were impressed by the excellent condition of the fortress and by the lady who acted as our guide. She was very pleasant and knowledgeable, and took us on an extensive tour of the site.
One of the highlights of our Moroccan holiday in 2002 was a visit with the Berbers in the desert. We rode on camels at sunset, slept in the open air, and rose in the dark for another ride on the camels to see the sunrise. Here are our camels waiting for us to return to them for the ride back to Merzouga.
Monday, November 16, 2009
One day, on our Greek vacation in 1998, we visited Oia, a town on the island of Santorini. The photo is not exaggerated. The sea really is a deep intense blue and the buildings a brilliant sun-drenched white. In the photo you can see how Oia is perched above the Caldera.
Crete, Thera (or Santorini) and Symi are our favourite Greek islands, and Sitia is one of the nicest things about Crete. We spent four days here, most of it on the beach, which was very good. It is easy to get around the island by bus, though we rented a car and drove to Kato Zakros in the east of the island. In 2004, when we were there, Crete had very good hotels and beaches, and to get away from hordes of tourists it was only necessary to leave the main cities. Sitia was the best place we found to do this, particularly if swimming is what you want to do. Everywhere on Crete, the people were great - very helpful and friendly.
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I think this 2004 photo captures the special quality of light in the desert at Giza that gives everything such intensity. And, of course, the camel remains central to the culture of the desert even today.
This is a photo, taken in 2004, of the second pyramid at Giza. The smooth face of this pyramid has been eroded away. Imagine how beautiful it must have been before this happened!
Saturday, November 14, 2009
This view of the English countryside, taken in 1994, shows one reason why Shropshire became my favourite destination for a day trip from Birmingham. How inviting this landscape is for the person who loves to walk! The photo was taken from Stiperstones. This name has been given to both the village and the adjacent nature reserve. The name, like so many in England, is interesting, and makes one curious about its derivation.
This photo, taken in 2008, features the tour boats, called Bateaux Mouches, which take visitors on the river Seine. The river, the historic artery of the city, has been connected by canals to other rivers: the Rhine, the Rhone and the Loire. Because travel via the rivers of France was of such importance historically, many of the famous landmark buildings of Paris have been built on the banks of the Seine. This is what makes a trip on a Bateau Mouche so interesting.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Here in 1994 is the famous dome of the Florence cathedral. Designed and built by Brunelleschi, it was one of the foremost architectural achievements of the Renaissance. The cathedral complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The dome posed major technical challenges which Brunelleschi managed to resolve. Construction was from 1420 to 1436.
During the 2003 trip in our rented motor home in Alberta and British Columbia, there were the worst forest fires they had ever had. While we were camping at Radium, we were worried because the fires seemed to be very close, and we could smell smoke. Next day, when we left, one highway was actually closed. Smoke can be seen in this photo taken near the town of Chase near Kamloops. The town was threatened by a fire described by the Globe and Mail as covering 22 square kilometers on August 18, 2003. More than 140 firefighters and 5 helicopters were fighting that fire which was only one of several that were burning in southern B.C. I remember a radio report that blamed at least one of the fires on the carelessness of people handling matches.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Naoussa on Paros, where we visited in 1998, is a picturesque fishing village with the white-washed houses and brilliant sunlight that we associate with the Greek islands. What is not so commonly seen are fishermen like these - laughing and chatting together while mending their nets - as men at Naoussa have no doubt been doing since ancient times.
In 2002 we arrived in Tangiers by boat from Spain, then took a train to Casablanca to meet our tour group. First, however, we had a day in Tangiers where the guide in the second photo above took us through the medina - or old city - featured in the first photo. The guide was very pleasant and spoke excellent English. Other than Turkey, this was our first time to a Muslim country and our first trip to north Africa. As we walked through the narrow lanes, we were totally absorbed by all the strange new sights. We had agreed a price with our guide, but when we told him it was time to go, he doubled his price. It was a frightening experience, because we had no idea at all where to find the exit from the area, nor, obviously, did we speak Arabic. Only when Paul refused to pay at all - and only after a prolonged argument - did the man finally agree to take us to the exit.