Friday, December 31, 2010

2010, we hardly knew ye...

Once again it's New Year's Eve!  Where did this year take you?  Did you stick to your resolutions (even if it was to make no resolutions)?  Did you get to travel, did you welcome new people into your life, did you pay off those credit cards? 

Each December I take stock of the year that is being quietly ushered out the door - and abuse friends and family by sending the annual Xmas newsletter.  I also look to the year ahead and wonder where it will take me.  A friend recently put a bug into my ear about the "Seagull Century" because she and her husband completed it for her 50th birthday.  This is an annual fall bike ride, 100 miles in length, and it starts in Salisbury Maryland.  Apparently it's "easy" because it's spread over two days and as it is near the shore it's quite flat.  In 2010 8100 riders biked; the youngest was 6 years old and the oldest, 88.  You know, I think I can do this...  ("can" and "will" are still not merged...)

I want to thank my readers for reading (and viewers for viewing, since my first MO was to make this a photo-blog).  I know you're out there even though I don't know who you are in many cases, and maybe I don't hear from you so much.  If you follow me, I will follow you (google-blog speak, but it sounds like a Phil Collins song doesn't it?).  I have been watching my "google stats" and each year the blog has grown a little bit.  I started posting occasionally in 2008 and that year only 861 individuals found me (2213 page views).  In 2009 2030 people found me (3774 page views).  In 2010, 3144 people found me - 7888 page views!  Granted, it looks like most find me on google and then bounce away, but in the past three months the return visitors have outnumbered the ones who run screaming into the night.  I hope this means I am slightly more interesting than I used to be!

So if you are out there, drop a line, post a comment, let's get to know each other!  Happy New Year!

The photo selection today is where I'd really like to be... Lake Como in June.

Canon 7D.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Here comes Santa Claus, Here comes Santa Claus

Just a few days now!  I see that NORAD has its Santa Tracker warming up to start running tomorrow (those New Zealand kiddos start a day before those of us in the EST time zone!)...  the neighborhoods are all decked out with lights...  too many cookies and candy at work this week...  and Merry Xmas all around (also hectic frantic year-end closings, but those memories will fade with time...)

Here are some photos from Xmas season past...  most with my Canon 30D, but one with the Canon 7D.

My niece and nephew at my parents' house (2007):

December in Savannah, Georgia (2007):

Oh Tannenbaum...  (parents' home 2007):

Bruges Belfort (2009):

Lisboa's Baixa district (2007):

Vienna's Graben (2010):

Monday, December 20, 2010

I wish I were in Paris

Inspired by two fantastic Paris photo blogs I am now following, here are a few of my photos of Paris which were taken in June and July 2009.  In June, I had taken my Dad to Normandy for the 65th anniversary of D-Day (not a vet, just a history buff) and in July I carted my Mom along to see the Lavender in Provence as well as the Tour de France. 

We saw the last two days of the Tour - the Col des Abeilles on Saturday with a mad race to Avignon to catch the Eurostar to Paris, and, the very last etage in Paris.  We stood on the Quai de Montebello and saw the riders on their way to the Champs Elysees.  This worked out perfectly even though it was due to bad planning.  Hint:  don't have lunch on the Ile St. Louis the day of the Tour because you will be "stuck" on that side of Notre Dame for the duration.  I am glad that we did that though because we had a tree shading us and were right in the front row.

Here are the two blogs I mentioned, and I urge you to take a look:  She has numerous photography books and I can assure you the photography is even more stunning in a hard bound coffee table book with full bleed photos!  I am waiting for "French Essence" to arrive in the post, and I have "My French Life" from a few years ago. Virginia visits Paris frequently and updates her photo blog almost every day.  She has outstanding photographs and do take a look this Xmas season to see her banner photo of Galeries Lafeyette.  I especially like her B&W photo from today's date. 

Mostly Canon 30D, with one Canon SD800IS. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A very blustery day

Today was the first snow of the 2010-2011 winter - in my neck of the woods, anyway.  I am a little apprehensive because most years we simply don't get more than a dusting of snow all winter, and even then not until January sometime at the earliest.  We have had cold cold cold days this month, and now snow.  Just like last year...  agh! 

Here's hoping we hop back up into the 40s soon and stay there, for, oh, 10 weeks or so (the advent of spring).  For my international readers, anything above 5 celsius with no winds would be grand for a winter, and 10 even better but not likely for a few months yet.

I took this photo one February day in London...  this photo looks like how it feels today.  Except that Boudicca seems to be saying "bring it on".  No no no no no...

ps.  I say this from the perch of a suburbanite with NO public transport options within miles of my house.

Canon 30D.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Working in the salt mines, going down down...

My travel postings are all out of order.  I never finished the tales of Italy and Switzerland, nor California.  Why not through Peru into the mix now?  This was the tail end of a trip/conference our entire team conducted in Peru.  By entire team, I mean our colleagues in Latin America joined us as well. 

Just hours before we left for the airport to head home, we visited a salt mine in Salinas, Peru.  As an aside, I had just visited Salinas California (home of John Steinbeck) barely three weeks before this.  What a coinky-dink.  

Putting it on a map?  Well, it's near the village of Maras, and just north of the mines the River Vilcanota runs east to west.  We are still in the Sacred Valley, and apparently the Incans also mined salt here.  Yes, I did bring some salt home with me. 

I had never heard of Peruvian pink salt, but this is where is comes from.  I don't think all of the salt is pink, however.  The sun was relentless this day! I am glad I carried my umbrella, as dorky as it looked.

Canon 7D.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kennedy Center Christmas Jazz Concert on NPR

I had a nice evening with my brother and his wife attending a Xmas concert at the Kennedy Center.  The last time I visited the Kennedy Center had to have been ten years ago.  This is a shame because they always have beautiful Christmas productions.  I mentioned to them that we should consider a "new family tradition" of going to a Kennedy Center show for Christmas.  This isn't quite the same as the annual family trip to Vegas in late December, but I bet it's more Christmasy!

This particular show was the annual NPR Jazz Piano concert.  This year it airs on December 14, so if you happen to hear it, I was there in the audience.  Maybe you can hear me going woot-woot.

Before the show started, the emcee came out to talk to the crowd.  He "prepped" us for applause, as this was a radio show.  However, once the show got going there were no issues with prompting for applause!  He also dedicated the concert to James Moody, sax legend, who just died on Thursday. 

There were four pianists.  I had never heard of any of them.  However, when Freddy Cole was introduced I realized that his brother is incredibly famous.  They were:  Renee Rosnes, Kenny Barron,  Helio Alves, and Freddy Cole.  If you are into jazz, I bet you know their names already.  If you do not, Freddy Cole should ring a bell.  His brother was Nat King Cole. 

I know very little about jazz, but I noticed that the performers had a lot in common.  Renee and Kenny have played with Joe Henderson, James Moody, and Bobby Hutcherson.  Helio has performed with Joe Henderson and Yo-Yo Ma. 

They each played two or three holiday favorites with a jazz twist.  The only person who sung during his performance was Freddy, and what a voice!   He sounds quite a bit like his older brother.  Freddy is apparently up for another Grammy this year. 

During each break in performance, the emcee asked the pianists to talk about themselves a little.  This was for the radio show, of course.  What made me stifle a giggle is that each performer talked in the carefully modulated tones that are familiar if you have ever seen the old SNL clips about NPR.  Ha!

At the very end they did a round-robin of Jingle Bells.  That got the audience singing and clapping. 

Photos?  Well, you are not allowed to take them inside the theater.  So, here is the photo I had recently blogged about.  I had a "where am I" post which was apparently a stumper and with good reason.  I'd have no clue where it was unless I visited the church!  This is inside Santo Spirito in Florence.  Brunelleschi was the architect of this church and he also built the Duomo in Florence. 

This below was taken a few days after the New Year in 2008.  We were back in Florence for the very end of the New Year's Jazz tour with Anne and Kirk Woodyard, of Music and Markets.    Canon SD800IS.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Markets and Art - the magic of Vienna

There are many Christkindlmarkts in Vienna.  This particular one below was in between the KHM (one of the best art museums I've visited yet - the Hapsburgs were quite the collectors) and the NHM which I did not visit this time.  At this market, I bought a beautiful ring.  It looks like a Pomellato knockoff, with Swarovski crystals.  After wandering around the market, I walked over to the the Leopold gallery...  so delightful.  That day the KHM and the Leopold were open late although I visited before it was too late in the day. 

The first print is one of Kolo Moser's iconic posters.  Kolo was a founder of Secessionism with Klimt.  The second is Paul Klee, "Diana", from 1931, and the last is Claude Monet of course. 

Only the Kolo piece is "native" to the museum, the other two were from the Beyeler Fondation in Basel Switzerland.  The Leopold was hosting several important pieces of art from the Beyeler Fondation.  What a stroke of luck to see them.  I now feel I must go to Basel. 

Canon 7D.

Where is this?

Taking a small break from my usual travel and photography blogging...  Below is a photo I took four years ago.  Test your knowledge - where was I?  This one might be tougher than the last one I posted.  Hint:  not Europe.

OK, the answer:  Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

All wrapped up and ready for Christmas...

I liked this photo so much I decided to give it its own post.  This be-ribboned package was found at Demel, and inside is a Sachertorte.  The Viennese really know how to do Christmas right.  Lights a-twinkle each afternoon, Christmas markets galore, and all that gluhwein.


Friday, November 26, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas... in Wien

Another Demel photograph..  I love that cafe.  I will miss it  I do miss it.  What you see hanging are Xmas lights.  You must see Kohlmarkt at night during Xmas! 

The green dome is the tippy top of the Hofburg Palace.  Not seen in the photo, but, below the dome and to the left is where the Lipizzan stallions practice to the soothing sounds of Mozart and Strauss. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A is for Austria

B is for Baroque Architecture; and the Belvedere (once a Palace, now a spectacular art museum which houses many Klimts)
C is for all the Cafes mit Apfel Strudel und Sachertorte mmmm
D is for Deutsche Sprachen; and the Donau (which we Englische Lautsprecher call the Danube)
E is for Empress Elisabeth (known as Sisi, and quite a story she has; she was the 19th century's Princess Diana)
F is for Franz Josef I (hub of Sisi); also Franz Ferdinand
G is for the Graben (great place to shop, relax at a cafe, or ogle architecture)
H is for the Hofburgs, which had quite a dynasty going for 600-some years,
I is for the Imperial influence which lives on everywhere in Vienna despite the Habsburg ouster nearly 100 years ago
J is for Jugendstil, which was Vienna's answer to Art Nouveau
K is for Klimt, perhaps the most famous Kunstler (artist) of Vienna and a founder of Secessionism (art movement); also, the numerous Kunst museums including KHM (utterly astounding).
L is for Lipizzaners, those graceful stallions who perform ballet
M is for Maria Theresa, mother of Marie Antoinette; also let us not forget Mozart
N is for Napoleon, who had his foot on the neck of Austria for some years
O is for Opera
P is for the many palaces
Q is for the lovely Quartiers of Vienna
R is for Rococo; also the Romans who were in residence before all the others mentioned here!
S is for Strauss.  The Lipizzaners practice their ballet to Strauss (and Schubert, and Mozart, and Brahms...)
T is for Trams, the many trams which will whisk you to various parts of the city in no time flat
U is for U-Bahn (see Trams).  U-Bahn is underground, trams are street level (trams are also called S-bahn)
V is for Vindobona, the Roman settlement in Vienna.  The Romans trafficked the Danube heavily....
W is for Wagner (Otto, famous Jugendstil architect); also, the famous Waltz; and don't forget Wienerschnitzel!
X is for Xmas Markets
Z is for Zentralfriedhof, where 2.5 million Viennese are buried, including many household-name composers...  Z is also for Stefan Zweig, who wrote a good bio on Marie Antoinette (which I read in high school).

I couldn't really think of a good "Y" of Vienna.  Oh well.

By now I think you've figured out where I am this week.  Where is it on the map?  Well, it's roughly the same latitude as Paris and Munich (within less than one degree), and it's roughly the same longitude as Zagreb and Split in Croatia.  Pretty far east, in other words. 

What have I done this week?  Well, the above is a decent list - just about all of the above (for the historical figures, I've either visited their palace or saw a monument, etc).

I visited the Albertina which had a well executed Michelangelo exhibit (his drawings - to think they are 500+ years old in many cases) as well as a Picasso exhibit. 

I visited the Belvedere (palace) which houses many Klimts (but you won't see Klimt's Bloch-Bauers, they are in NYC now); there was also a temporary Rodin exhibit there.  Rodin was a contemporary of Klimt and in fact Klimt's The Kiss may have been inspired by Rodin's The Kiss. 

I saw an opera (Rigoletto by Verdi) at the Wiener Staatsoper (the big opera house).  I visited many Christkindlmarkts (Xmas Markets) which feature warm gluhwein to sip while wandering around the grounds and ogling the wares. 

I saw the Lipizzaners go through their paces at the Spanish Riding School (and do you know there are Roman ruins right in the imperial quad where the horses are stabled?). 

I visited the huge cemetery where 2.5 million Viennese are buried primarily to see the graves of the composers Beethoven, the Strausses, Brahms, Schubert (Mozart is not buried there).  While there I was delighted to find a church built by a pupil of Otto Wagner; it is in the Jugendstil style and check out the photo of the dome below - stunning. 

My favored cafe is Demel, which was founded in the late 1700s (1786, which was not long before Marie Antoinette, daughter of Austria, found her fate).  I will miss the pastries here. 

I have seen the Imperial apartments but not yet the Schatzkammer where the crown jewels are held.  The imperials are buried in a few different churches; by this I mean their bodies are in the Royal Crypt but their hearts are elsewhere and their entrails elsewhere yet. 

I visited a tiny little museum which shelters a Roman excavation and which had some interesting artifacts from the time period. 

I've been in a number of churches including the Stephansdom; I do want to climb its tower.  I have been lucky with weather so far (cold but no rain) and I hope that continues otherwise the climb may not be worth it. 

In starting to post photos of Vienna, I am finding there are not a plethora of Vienna travel blogs, or Vienna photo blogs, or blogs on Vienna, on the interweb!  At least not in English.  You cannot swing a stick without finding a blog about life in Paris, or photos of Paris, or what have you.  Not so Vienna.  That is a shame.  I wonder why?

Here are some photos of the past few days:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where am I?

Test your world knowledge.  Where did I take these?

I couldn't decide which one to post so I posted both.  Which one do you think is better? 

I am really impressed, these photos were hardly a clue at all - yes, they are Machu Picchu.  Same scene, different camera settings.  I also cropped in tightly.  The photos I took are below.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Big Sur, part two

Here are some more foggy fotos from Big Sur.  When I started planning I decided that since my time was so short I was going to drive to Nepenthe, have lunch, and turn around.  Things didn't work out as planned.  It was so very foggy the view from Nepenthe was essentially staring into a white void.  No photos of it, alas.  I had high hopes!  The below will have to do, instead. 

Nepenthe would be worth a visit during clear weather.  It is quite an intriguing story.  Vast swathes of coastal land was bought by the Fassett family post-WWII from Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.  They hired a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright to design the building which stands there now and they decided that the site was so magical it should belong to everyone.  Now you will find a restaurant and shop - and apparently some magnificent views.  I will take that on faith.  Nepenthe means, loosely "no sorrow" or perhaps "no cares".

What was interesting is that during my stay at the lovely B&B, one guest told me that when they visited Phoenix (the gift shop) they saw a simply stunning quilt by internationally renowned quilter/textile artist Kaffe Fassett.  They did not know it (and I only learned it first by talking to them), but, he is a son of the Fassetts who bought the home in the 40s.  Even more interesting is that his mother's family founded Carmel-by-the-Sea as an artists' colony!  When I used the Nepenthe "facilities" there was a large mural signed by Kaffe Fassett.  I think he now lives in London (another place after my heart...)

Regarding the photos, if anyone happens to know what the frondy vegetation might be called, I'd be much obliged if you would tell me.  I saw it EVERYWHERE along the coast. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Big Sur, part one

The second day of my trip I left Pacific Grove in the morning for a drive down the coast to Big Sur.  Despite the fog (or maybe because of?) it was a beautiful day.  I didn't have my tripod, so my photos aren't nearly what I had envisioned for this visit.  Nonetheless, here are a few.  I'll post a few more sets in the next few days. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Just then, I saw 20 heads bobbing in the water...

What a chilling sight.  Twenty heads, some torsos...  rolling up and down with the waves....  shudder.   The water had to have been 55 degrees, tops.  Nonetheless, the surfers were all having a whale of a time.  What was their porpoise?

This was just north of Santa Cruz, which apparently has surfing conditions par excellence... 

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