Ailsa’s Where is My Backback? blog is fun to read and offers weekly photo challenges. I felt inspired by this week’s travel theme: big. So here we go…
El Jem, Tunisia
This is of the biggest Roman amphitheaters, truly an amazing sight in the Tunisian desert!
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A cult show Breaking Bad
resumes tonight for its fifth (part II) and final season, completing the transition of a mild-mannered high school teacher Walter White, played masterfully by Bryan Cranston, into a drug cook and kingpin par excellence who calls himself Heisenberg. The show’s success spurred great interest in the city where it’s set and filmed, Albuquerque, New Mexico
, to a point where even the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau provides a guide
to exploring Breaking Bad
locations. And local businesses are following the suit by offering popular new items such as blue ice candy – a nod to the show’s iconic blue meth – Bathing Bad bath salts, or Heisenberg’s Dark Ale.
Breaking Bad fans who make a pilgrimage to Albuquerque want to know: how bad is it really? Well, it tends to score on the high side (pun intended) among U.S. cities with substantive crime issues but has a long way to go to “top performers” such as Detroit. And of course the key principle of real estate – location, location, location – applies as it does everywhere, so neighborhoods vary. Read the rest of this entry
Last year around this time I pulled together the best of my cherry blossom shots from past seasons. It’s time to augment the collection with fresh images of these delicate and ephemeral blossoms that I never get tired of. Spring is finally here in Washington after a long wait, and with it the blossoms are in full force. So are the throngs of visitors but I tried my best to crop them out and fill the whole frame with white, pink, and blue. This poem captures the mood of today well…
“Shining spring day
Falling cherry blossoms with my calm mind”
~ Kino Tomonari
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Today I found a fascinating post on BuzzFeed
featuring photos of the 33 most beautiful abandoned places in the world. It’s hard to pick favorites but I have to say the one of the sand-filled house in Kolmanskop, a ghost town in the Namib Desert, is the most striking to me. The blues, yellows, and oranges are striking. And the multiple door frames captured in this shot make the image self-referential, reminiscent of the hall of mirrors.
It made me look through my own photo collection to find beautiful abandoned places I’ve come across. Here are my top five. How about you? Have you taken any photos of desolate yet striking locations that you’d have to share? If so blog about it and link back – which I guess would officially make this my first-ever travel theme post! Read the rest of this entry
As someone who grew up in Poland, I’m no stranger to snow. LOTS of snow. But in DC a significant snowfall that sticks is a rare occurrence. A dusting now and then, sometimes an inch or two of accumulation that lasts a few days, maybe just one or two big snowstorms during the season – or none at all. As the Northeast is being pounded with a serious blizzard, we have been spared this time. But even though it’s a dry and sunny day here, watching dramatic images from up north makes me think of snow-covered Washington. This is a collection of photos from different years and different snowstorms, including the mother of them all – February 2010 “snowmaggedon.” Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry
“It’s the grandest thing I ever saw!” exclaimed Adolph Francis Bandelier standing at the rim of New Mexico’s Frijoles Canyon in 1880. He was born in Bern, Switzerland but his family emigrated to Illinois when he was eight. Fascinated with the history and culture of American Indians in the Southwest, he became one of the foremost anthropologists and ethnologists of the Pueblo people. Today the Bandelier National Monument, named after him in 1916, remains a witness to the native people’s ancestral history on this land and a testimony of one man’s determination to bring that history to life.
In 1890, Bandelier wrote novel titled The Delight Makers, a fictional tale in which he re-imagines the life of pre-Columbian Pueblo Indians. The novel opens with a description of the Frijoles Canyon as Bandelier saw it. Over a hundred years later that was exactly the view I was taking in on a cold January day and my reaction was the same – it’s the grandest thing I ever saw!
Frijoles Canyon was formed following the eruptions more than a million years ago of a nearby volcano, now collapsed into a giant Valles Caldera. The eruptions were so powerful that they produced volumes of ash 600 times greater than the eruption of Mount Saint Helens. Soft compressed volcanic ash, or tuff, formed steep and easily carved walls of the canyon. Read the rest of this entry
The non-stop news cycle from the Republican National Convention in Tampa last week was for the most part nauseatingly repetitive (check the word cloud
: “America” – “President” – “Mitt Romney”) and occasionally hilariously bizarre (thank you, Clint Eastwood
). But now that it’s over, I want to reconnect with a meaning of the word “Tampa” that does not equal the RNC. To me that meaning goes back some years ago when I had a chance to visit.
Tampa is not necessarily on Florida’s A-list of destinations. It doesn’t have the vibrancy of Miami, history and natural charm of Pensacola, or Orlando’s Disney World (ok it has Busch Gardens but it doesn’t quite measure up). When I was there is also felt in a large part under construction with street closures and cranes dotting the landscape. So to me the highlights were a few special, memorable places rather than the city as a whole. Read the rest of this entry
Golden Gate Bridge where I got my tan
…be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, sings Scott McKenzie
(I would add a jacket and sunscreen – see below). San Francisco, the Golden City…First impression: love it! Second thought: I still love it but why is it foggy every day until noon and lows drop into the 50s in August?? That fairly typical reaction to SF’s unique coastal climate was well summed up by a statement often attributed to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Apparently Twain never actually said it but whoever did clearly shared my experience from a last year’s trip. Another highlight of that trip in a similar vein: a facial sunburn acquired on a cloudy day while freezing on a boat to Alcatraz. But even if the weather is not always LA-style “California dreamin” you really barely notice. So much to do, see, taste! Plus, because of SF’s topography it has many different microclimates. If it’s cloudy where you are it may be sunny just over the hill – that is if you manage to climb it, they are
steep =) Read the rest of this entry
Just a short drive of 50 miles northeast from Portland, Mount St. Helens may as well be on a different planet. On May 18, 1980 – exactly 32 years ago – the mountain’s 9,677 ft (2,950 m) tall summit blew its top off and became reduced to 8,365 ft (2,550 m) with much of its northern face replaced by a mile-wide crater. Eruptions are nothing new to this mountain. In fact, local Native American tribes gave it names that clearly indicated a history of violent outbursts, such as Lawelatla (“One From Whom Smoke Comes”), Tah-one-lat-clah (“Fire Mountain”) or Loo-wit (“Keeper of the Fire”). The first European to see the mountain was British Captain George Vancouver. While on a mission exploring the Pacific coast in 1792, he spotted the peak from his ship Discovery as he sailed past the mouth of the Columbia River. He named it after his friend and the British Ambassador to Spain at the time, Alleyne Fitzherbert, Baron St. Helens. Read the rest of this entry
Coconut Grove hibiscus
If Miami had an old town, it would be Coconut Grove, its oldest continuously inhabited neighborhood. It was originally settled in late 1800s and annexed by Miami in 1925. And even though little of the frontier character remains, Coconut Grove still has its unique village-like feel (if you can tune out high rise hotels). Fortunately, it’s easy to find places where the past comes alive.
One of them is the Barnacle Historic State Park with the oldest house in Miami still in its original location having survived several murderous hurricanes. Just like a barnacle clinging to a sea rock, the house has stuck to the edge of the Biscayne Bay since 1891. It was built by Ralph Middleton Munroe, originally from New York, who bought bayfront property among the wilderness of Florida hammock (tropical hardwood forest) for… $400. Ok, it was quite a bit of money back then! Read the rest of this entry