AirToob Lightning

Tags  →  travel

“Monet's Playground” © by John White

John writes:

“This scene is from France in the town of Honfleur, in the Normandy region. This is a small fishing village where Monet frequented with his friends to paint the bright colors and vivid scenery that was so different from his home. I painted this early in the morning before the crowds made their way to this absolutely gorgeous spot.

“This was done on site en plein air and is an unframed 9"x12" original oil painting.”

Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.

Norwegian “Slow TV” at its best...

Click any of my screenshots below to play.

A few days into the voyage we leave Molde, the “Town of Roses” with a jazz festival, on the way to Kristiansund

Arriving in Kristiansund, which turns out to be a fascinating place. Many of its inhabitants are descendents of Scotsmen. It was settled as early as 8000 BC, and is the home of an important opera festival.

If you would love to take some or all of this long trip, which starts in Bergen, takes in the Gerainger fjord and Ålesund among other places, and goes right around the top of Norway inside the Arctic circle, but (like us) may never be able to do it, then this one-hour video is the next best thing to being there.

The commentary is truly excellent, the scenery is awesome, and you can enjoy some great music along the way.

If you like this...

[The Hurtigruten Shipping line]
[Slow going: why 'slow TV' is catching on fast - Channel 4 News]
[More Slow TV]

“View of the city of Lviv”, a beautiful watercolour © by Andrey Kovalik

(Lviv is the second largest city in Western Ukraine)

If you like this...

[The tags on this post are among my favourites... just a suggestion]

This is a picture of the Männlichen in Switzerland, with the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau wall in the background and Wengen below to the right. The valley that Wengen sits in must be one of the most beautiful places on earth.

My wife and I once went parapenting off the Männlichen in winter (each dual-seat with a pilot), starting a little out of shot to the right, descending eventually to Wengen below - an exhilarating experience that we shall never forget.

The photo comes from a site that looks really great if you like mountain walking - click it if you would like to visit.

A Taste of Cornwall, England, June 2018

We recently spent nine very nice days in Cornwall, based in Falmouth, with four days touring places I'd always wanted to visit - the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in particular. The weather was somewhat variable!

BTW: If you would like to see some great pictures of Cornwall, may I direct you to the fine pages of Reflections.

Falmouth (Click the image for the photoblog)

The Eden Project (Click the image for the photoblog)

The Lost Gardens of Heligan (Click the image for the photoblog)

St Ives, St Michael's Mount, Fowey, Land's End - and the filming locations of BBC's "Poldark"
(Click the image for the photoblog)

Some posts about our recent visit to Cornwall appear below (or click a picture to go to a particular one).

If you would like to skip them, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Lisbon is one of our favourite cities in one of our favourite countries!

From my web site...

[Some Places to Enjoy Life... In Portugal]

Happy New Year!

“Sunset on the Rolling Hills” in Alberta, Canada, by Dan Jurak, whose other work is well worth checking out

One of many fine portraits of India and its people by Harry Silcock (my brother-in-law and a real photographer!)

“Good Morning Damian Shan”
“The overall winner, and open award winner, in the nature/landscape category, is a shot of the Li River in Guangxi province, China. All photographs courtesy the Epson International Panoramic Photography awards.
Photograph: Jesús M. García

(Go here for large wallpaper version)

The garden of our wonderful Airbnb place where we stayed in Sintra (click the image for more info)

People interested in my web site may like to know that I have added a new page on Portugal for armchair travelers (or people who might be thinking of going there).

Portugal is a relatively recent discovery for my family, and it didn't take long to fall in love with the country and with its very friendly people. The cost of living is low, and the Portuguese really care about their environment, with almost 100% of their energy needs coming from renewables.

If you have never been to Portugal... then I highly recommend it!

A very nice image of some of The 12 Apostles in the Port Campbell National Park, by the Australian nature photographer and book author Steve Parish - click the image for his interesting information about the place

“Moonlight Wonderland” by Urmo Parts, a National Geographic photographer who hails from Järlepa, Raplamaa, Estonia (map link), and whose other work is well worth exploring

Portugal (Sintra and Lisbon), June 2017

Last month we returned to Portugal, one of our favourite countries. The people are so nice, the cost of living is low, and the Portuguese really care about their environment, with almost 100% of their energy needs coming from renewables (as we learnt last year on a wonderful cruise on the Douro river).

We spent 6 days in Sintra, a very picturesque place near Lisbon...

... and 6 days exploring more of Lisbon, one of our favourite cities

Posts about our visit appear below (or click a picture above to go to the corresponding place). The direct links are also here:

[Sintra, Portugal, June 2017]
[Lisbon, Portugal, June 2017]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Mission Galapagos

Liz Bonnin in the superb BBC 3-part series Galapagos, a beautiful and informative documentary

Mission Galapagos was a high-tech science expedition to examine what the Galapagos Islands can tell us about evolution and the effect of climate change on wildlife.

The islands, located in the Pacific about 1000km west of Ecuador, are not a place for Creationists to think about (doing so would fry their brains).

One of many things we learn is how the islands were formed (and are still being formed), how long this has taken, and why they are so different from each other.

It turns out that the islands sit on the Nazca tectonic plate that acts like a conveyor belt, trundling very slowly eastwards (at around 58km per million years), passing over a magma hot-spot below. This hot-spot constantly generates new volcanos as the plate moves eastwards, which rise above sea level to become new islands. Eventually the volcanic islands leave the hot-spot and cool so that they develop lush vegetation, and finally disappear underwater again (as the plate slides downward beneath the South America Plate) to become submerged mountains.

The Mission Galapagos science team visit one of the most awesome and dangerous dive spots in the world...

...Darwin's Arch, where scuba divers must descend quickly through strong currents to the relative safety of the rocky sea bed (click either image above for photo source)...

...and where hammerhead sharks (globally endangered) congregate in vast numbers for a mating ritual
(photo by Simon J Pierce, click image for photo source)

Among many other animals investigated was the astonishing marine iguana, living above and below water,
which has evolved so that the same animal can shorten its length in hard times
(Click the image for photo source and to read more about the expedition.)

There was much to enjoy in this documentary, whether above ground, underground or underwater. Some people, sadly, may never get to see it. American networks were very reluctant to show the final episode of Sir David Attenborough's Frozen Planet, because it showed "controversial" evidence of the effect of climate change at the Poles. What Bible Belt America and Trump America will make of Mission Galapagos, should they get to see it, is anyone's guess.

It is not only in America that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is under threat. There have recently been massive worldwide “Marches for Science”, protesting against “a global political assault on facts”. Anyone who doubts the significance of this is invited to peruse my Trump Diaries.

Liz Bonnin is one of my personal heroes in what is genuinely a fight against the forces of darkness. Her scientific background (she is a biochemist and Wild Animal Biologist, among other things) and her personality make her a very effective ambassador for STEM.

In the UK, as elsewhere, it was realized some time ago that disrespect for STEM would cost the country dear if not reversed. One of the first shots in achieving that was the successful BBC Series Bang Goes The Theory, where I first saw Liz in action.

Now young people (and especially girls) are being actively encouraged to take an interest in STEM.

Sadly, the USA is cursed with an anti-science (and anti-reality) President who seems bent on undermining the US's science and technology base, with untold consequences - but that's another story.

If you like this...

[My environment and technology page]

Palm Island, Florida, March 2017

Palm Island is somewhat hard to find on a Google Map (you can find it here (map link)). It's actually the northern end of Don Pedro Island.

We spent two weeks in this very nice place during the first 100 days of Trump's presidency (a holiday with our American family, booked before Trump's election), living in a very pleasant bubble of unreality.

As far as visitors and locals there were concerned, it seemed, nothing political was happening. TVs in bars and restaurants showed only sports and weather. Nobody talked about Trump. It sometimes felt like there was an elephant in the room, but nobody was discussing it.

I hope you enjoy the elephantless photos below (I kind of like "elephantless" - it's an adjective that can be applied truthfully to so many things!).

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

There is only one way to get to Palm Island with a car... the (expensive) ferry. No real food shops on the island, and none reachable by boat, so it saves money to bring most of your provisions with you.

A very short distance to cross - you can see the arrival ramp just across the water, in front of the tallest tree

The communal pool area at our rental, the Pigeon Toed Pelican, right across from the beach

Our rental is across the road, behind that clump of trees

Large Gopher Tortoise, after it very slowly crossed our road

Cold front... (luckily we weren't staying further north in the USA)

Osprey nest near the beach. High winds and storms have no effect on this!

"Our" beach, still rough after the cold front

Many examples of beach art - liked this one

Photo of a print on the living room wall at our rental (I can now at least recognize snook and grouper)
(taken from below and to the side to avoid reflections, then cropped and perspective-adjusted)

Kids skimboarding at Boca Grande (map link), the "Large Mouth" at the southern tip of Gasparilla Island, where inland waters meet the Gulf of Mexico

The replica of the Niña, passing by...

...the Boca Grande lighthouse (several iguanas around here)

Fast opposing currents, definitely no swimming!

Sunset on "our" beach

Loved the evening light

Junk boats with real junk (permanently moored)

Fun way to travel

We met many of the locals...

...who often turned up when anything interesting or appetizing was going on

Stump Pass (map link) with new sea wall being constructed. (is that a person snorkelling in the middle?)

Enormous floating work platform...

...whose rusty sides were an amazing palette of colours

Many trees around here were killed by salt water raised by the last hurricane. I suspect these were among them.

Evening trip (by boat) to Leverock's (map link), our favourite nearby restaurant

Evening view from Leverock's restaurant (part of a hotel complex, I believe)

Creek behind the rental

Loved the patterns cast by solar lights on the path to our creek

If you like this...

[Index of all my photoblogs]

Trees on the Bibemus Plateau, in the countryside of Paul Cézanne, October 2010

(From a new page on my web site)

Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

We returned again this year to one of our favourite cities. We were anxious to see how the people of Nice were faring after the horrific events of 14th July (short version: very well, they are carrying on with life as normal although the event will never be forgotten).

Out and about in Nice (click the picture to see more)

We had a nice day at nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer, mainly to see the Villa Kérylos (click the picture to see more)

We also visited the National Marc Chagall Museum in Nice, on one of the few cloudy days (click the picture to see more)

If you are interested, these are also the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Out and About in Nice]
[Beaulieu-sur-Mer and the Villa Kérylos]
[National Marc Chagall Museum]

[Our first visit to Nice in 2015 (many pictures)]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Out and About in Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

If you want to know why we like Nice (map link) so much, you will find lots of photos of our first visit to Nice here.

On this occasion we didn't take many pictures of places we had been before, but once again we had a very pleasant visit, and were exceptionally lucky with the weather.

Just a nice plaque on the wall of our apartment's small courtyard garden

View of the Promenade des Anglais and the Old Town from the Colline du Chateau - spectacular weather

Two hilarious locals on the Colline, passing many comments and something of a tourist attracion

A rare dull-weather evening on the Promenade des Anglais - but people still out and about as usual.

Promenade du Paillon - the fountains temporarily quiescent and lulling new visitors into a false sense of security...

...although nobody minds getting a little wet in this weather!

A beautiful sunset on the Promenade du Paillon...

...and people still out and about enjoying themselves

[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continues in Part 2]

Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villa Kérylos, Côte d'Azur, France, September/October 2016

[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continued from Part 1]

Villa Kérylos in nearby Beaulieu-sur-Mer is a Greek-style property built in the early 1900s by French archaeologist Théodore Reinach [a very interesting guy], and his wife Fanny Kann, a daughter of Maximilien Kann and Betty Ephrussi, of the Ephrussi family. Madame Fanny Reinach was a cousin of Maurice Ephrussi, who was married to Béatrice de Rothschild. Inspired by the beauty of the Reinach's Villa Kerylos and the area they built the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at nearby Cap Ferrat.”  —Wikipedia article

Beaulieu-sur-Mer (map link) is a well-named place only a 6-minute train ride from Nice Riquier station. Walking beneath the railway line at Beaulieu-sur-Mer brings you quickly down to the waterside via a pleasant short walk.

Looking towards Cap Ferrat, on the other side of which is Villefranche-sur-Mer, even closer to Nice

Looking towards Villa Kérylos

On the villa's terrace

There was a very arts and crafts movement feel about this place

[Nice and Beaulieu-sur-Mer visit continues in Part 3]

Cruise on the Douro River, Portugal (with a day trip to Salamanca in Spain), June 2016

We recently went on a 7-day cruise on the Douro River in Portugal, a wonderful experience. This cruise started and ended at Porto and included navigating 5 locks, among them the highest single-lift lock in Europe.

We saw many examples of Portugal's use of solar power and hydro-electric power, and learnt why its world-leading investment in renewable energy is so good for its economy, as well as for the environment.

Click the above image to see the trip itself...

...or click this one to see my photos of some of the art we found in public places

We also visited the Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum in Salamanca. Photography wasn't permitted there, but click the picture for my post about it.

If you are interested, these are also the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Cruise on the Douro River]
[Some Wall Art Along the Douro]
[The Art Nouveau and Art Deco Museum, Salamanca]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Florida - Jensen Beach and Stuart, February 2016

Some posts about our recent visit to Florida appear below (or click either picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to each section:

[Florida Sunsets]
[Stuart - Atlantic Coast]
[Jensen Beach - Indian Riverside Park]
[Stuart - near St Lucie River]
[Savannas Preserve State Park, near Jensen Beach]
[Moss Park, near Orlando Airport]

I have also made a major update to the place information on my Florida Map.

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Click either image above for more on this amazing place, and there are lots more links about it here if you are interested.

If you like this...

[More about Giuliano Mauri]
[More about Bergamo]

Fallingwater is the name of a house built over a waterfall in southwest Pennsylvania. Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s most famous architect, designed the house for his clients, the Kaufmann family. Fallingwater was built between 1936 and 1939. It instantly became famous, and today it is a National Historic Landmark.

“Why is it so famous? It's a house that doesn’t even appear to stand on solid ground, but instead stretches out over a 30’ waterfall. It captured everyone’s imagination when it was on the cover of Time magazine in 1938...”

One of many several nice places that Sandy (overthetrail) has visited and shared (which she does nowadays mostly on Facebook, but click her tag for more of her great shares).

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, November 2015

This was our second trip to Nice this year (our first trip in Feb/March can be found here if you are interested). We revisited many of our favourite places, so this time I am showing our visit to the Asian Arts Museum and Phoenix Park, both in a nicely redeveloped area near the airport.

Click the image above if you would like to see this visit, otherwise if you would like to skip the photoblog then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post.

Lisbon, September 2015

Some posts about our recent visit to Lisbon appear below (or click a picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Lisbon, September 2015 - Local scenes]
[Lisbon, September 2015 - Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, and the walk back]
[Lisbon, September 2015 - Lisbon Oceanarium]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

Lisbon, September 2015 - Local scenes

A nice start to the day - early morning at our hotel (location at the centre of this map)

Walking down from the hotel a short distance to the National Museum of Ancient Art. As well as some interesting contents, it turned out to have very nice café with garden on the other side (see below).

Looking back uphill, before entering the museum (no photography allowed inside)

The café garden, near the river

Not too hot, quite a wind blowing from the sea! Looking towards the famous Ponte 25 de Abril (a bridge which never seems to come closer however long you walk towards it!)

Walking towards the city centre from the hotel on a very quiet Sunday morning, I passed this ornately decorated building...

...which seemed worth a closer look!

[Lisbon visit continues in Part 2]

Lisbon, September 2015 - Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, and the walk back

[Lisbon visit continued from Part 1]

We passed The Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, a truly amazing place, on a river trip during our previous visit.

It is said to be the world's most advanced centre for research into cancer, brain damage and blindness, both medically and from an architectural point of view. From the river it looks a little like a cruise ship, but it is designed to look quite different from almost any angle in which it is approached.

On this occasion we took a (cheap) taxi to the Centre (location at the bottom left of this map) so that we could walk around it, and then walk back along the river towards the Ponte 25 de Abril, near which we knew there were some nice restaurants.

Inside the centre. This is as far as we could go (and we discovered later that photos inside aren't really allowed)

The best job in the world, possibly - official Lego model creator at work!

The habitat inside is part of the healing process

Looking past the edge of the Belém Tower to the gigantic Christ the King statue, which was inspired by the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. It was erected to express gratitude because the Portuguese were spared the effects of World War II.

Looking back - showing the aerial walkway to the auditorium

The auditorium (the inside of which is shown here), with sun blinds closed, and a café restaurant that looked like a great place to eat (but opens at 12.30, as do most restaurants in Lisbon, too late for us on this occasion)

Heading back along the river... the memorial outside the Military Museum (one of the best in the world, according to Tripadvisor reviews)

The amphibious HIPPOtrip vehicle going by (we took this trip last year, an excellent way of seeing what there is to see)

Approaching the The Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.

In the background is the Ponte 25 de Abril, near where we were planning to eat. It didn't look too far away at this point...

After a long walk in which the famous bridge never seemed to get nearer, we stopped gratefully at the Café In - highly recommended! My spouse chose a smoked salmon salad - this wasn't what she was expecting, but it was absolutely
delicious! Good value food here, too.

[Lisbon visit continues in Part 3]

Lisbon, September 2015 - Lisbon Oceanarium

[Lisbon visit continued from Part 2]

The Lisbon Oceanarium (location in the centre of this map) is said to be one of the best in the world. It is located on the banks of the Tagus (which the locals pronounce somewhat like a sneeze), which is enormously wide at this point, being crossed nearby by the 12km long Vasco da Gama Bridge.

The Ocenarium is is organized as 4 "oceanic ecosystems" around a huge central tank. This is the Antarctic...

I had to look twice before I saw the bird!

The Temperate Pacific kelp forests... I have always had a weakness for sea otters, since I once saw them in the wild like this off Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey, California. The Lisbon Oceanarium's sea otters are famous, apparently.

If you like sea otters, too, don't miss this video of an otter giving itself a massage which was shot here...

The Tropical Indian coral reefs

The big central "ocean" is accessed on two levels. We're looking down at a school party on the lower level. The Lisbon Oceanarium has all kinds of educational activities, many of them especially for children (e.g. “sleeping with sharks”, a different kind of pajama party!).

Down at the lower level

The inhabitants are hand-fed on a very scientific diet, designed to keep them healthy and avoid one species feeding on another. In the case of the sharks (no photos - sorry) hand feeding is done at the end of a very long plastic pole! Very interesting video shown in the lower level theatre about all this...

One of the nice features is that the big "ocean" is ringed by natural-looking grottos, which you can look through from outside

Outside the Oceanarium, on the way to a very good (and cheap) fish food restaurant

The area surrounding the Oceanarium looks really interesting (e.g. see “Sights Nearby” here) - worth a day in its own right

If you like this...

[Index of all my photoblogs]

The Forest Where the Wind Returns... a major new project by the legendary Hayao Miyazaki - but it's not a movie. It's a theme park on Kume Island in Okinawa, Japan, due to open in 2018, which reflects the love of nature that Miyazaki shows in so many of his films.

The image above is my screenshot from The Wind Rises - click it if you would like to see my post “The Art of Animation: Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli”.

[Latest news about the new theme park]
[Kume Island]
[All of my posts on Hayao Miyazaki]

This is my photograph of a painting by the Portuguese artist António Neves, hanging in the lobby of the hotel in Lisbon where we stayed recently. (I took it from the side to avoid glass reflections, and then fixed perspective etc. with image processing.)

I have posted some photos of our Lisbon trip here.

Found on the very nice pages of Vedika, where you will find much interesting and beautiful stuff. If you haven't already, do visit!

Parham House and Gardens, Sussex, July 22nd, 2015

My photoblog of our July visit to Parham House and Gardens appears below (or click the image to go there).

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

“Summer Pastoral” by the British Columbia-born Canadian artist Don Li-Leger, whose other work is well worth exploring

One of many treasures to be found on the fine pages of Jerzee55sst - thanks, Jerry!

Ash Lawn-Highland, home of President James Monroe, May 2015

After a sad event in my life, I spent part of the next day in this wonderfully peaceful place, set in the hills above Charlottesville, Virginia, not far from the more famous (and much more busy and expensive to visit) Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson.

It was very quiet, a slight breeze blowing and just the sound of birds singing.

A very interesting guy, I discovered - see here

An old game where you flip a ball up with your foot and hit it with something like a small cricket bat to a group of catchers

A modest home for a great man, set in a beautiful part of the world

This minimalist house has been designed by Barend Koolhaas, and is set among the beautiful countryside of Almen, in the Netherlands.

Despite its outward appearance from the front of the property, the building is actually triangular in shape, cutting its apparent footprint in half. The exterior has been designed in the shape of the barns found in the local area, and it’s been clad with timber siding, and corrugated steel on the roof.

This great example of living simply and sustainably is worth looking at in more detail, as is the rest of the site.

Thanks again to my friend overthetrail (Sandy) for this one!

(She hasn't posted here much for a while, but click her overthetrail tag to see some really nice stuff that she has sent my way over the years.)

Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015

Some posts about our recent visit to Nice on the Côte d'Azur appear below (or click either picture to go there).

If you are interested, here are the direct links to my photoblogs:

[Nice, Côte d'Azur, France, February 28th to March 15th, 2015]
[Day trip to Saint Paul de Vence, medieval walled commune in the Alpes-Maritimes]

If you would like to skip the photoblog, then (as usual) click the chevrons (>>) below to move on to my next “normal” post

“Racing for the Cup” by Poppy Balser, a fine watercolour painter living on the shores of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, Canada. You can see many images of her other paintings (recommended!) if you click the picture above.

Another gem gratefully snaffled from the fine pages of Jerzee55sst - thanks, Jerry!

If you like this...

[Try clicking the boats tag... or some of the other tags... just a suggestion!]

The 10 healthiest cities in the world (from this CNN poll):

From CNN's page:

Here are 3 of CNN's selections (in no particular order) - click any image or the links for some interesting information about the city and why it was chosen in the CNN poll. If you don't have time for them all, I recommend the links about Copenhagen - you'll want to go there if you haven't been already!

Land of the elders: Okinawa, Japan

Take a deep breath: Vancouver

Where happiness is the truth: Copenhagen

For the full list of cities and why they were chosen, see here. It seems like there are some great lessons to be learnt from these places.

“Surrounded by the Italian Alps, Funes is blanketed by a layer of crystal white snow every winter.”    —photographer: ewitsoe (exceptionally recommended)

Shirakawa-go is a small, traditional village known for its incredibly steep roofs that were made to withstand some of the heaviest snowfall in the world.”    —photographer: Miyamoto Y

Vyborg lies on the border between Russia and Finland and is surrounded by the Saimaa Canal, which freezes over in winter. From the castle tower, the entire town is visible in its snow-capped beauty.”    —photographer: EGRA

This page is unusual in crediting, and linking to, the sources of all of its photos, including the three shown here - sources that are well worth following up!

Many thanks (again) to Renaissance2007 (Julian) for this find.

“Synevir” by the digital artist Danapra (Mykhailova Olesya)

The artist credits Dmitry Peretrutov for the photo, which was used in the film poster for the first Ukrainian 3D horror movie “Synevir” (you can watch the trailer, should you feel so inclined!). I am not sure how the work was split between Danapra and Dmitry - does anyone know?

I found this when revisiting Danapra's Veranda, an absolutely gorgeous picture to chase away those winter blues, which I posted here a long time ago. I see that “D. Peretrutov” is alo credited with the photo on that one, so maybe these two people are partners, or even alter egos?

Synevir (or Synevyr), BTW, I discovered is the largest lake in the Carpathian mountains of Ukraine.

Hockley Valley

“Morning on the Farm”

“Jenne Farm”

Beautiful images of autumn (or fall) in Canada, © by Magda Bognar

From the page Fall or autumn: the Canadian dilemma:

If you like this...

[Autumn and winter images by Anka Zhuravleva]

Nice desktop wallpaper, probably taken in Bay of Islands, New Zealand... reminds me of the great time we had here on the Florida Keys.

Images © Stian Klo

Stian is a landscape photographer from Norway who grew up in Vesterålen and is now based in Harstad - two places that I would like to visit!

Stian's other work is well worth checking out.

Lisbon, Portugal, July 2014

My wife and I recently spent 4 wonderful days in Lisbon (our first visit to Portugal). We fell in love with the place (a huge and beautiful city, full of art and amazing architecture, with friendly multi-lingual people who don't mind in the least that a foreigner hasn't learnt their language).

The Discoveries Monument, built on the north bank of the Tagus River in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.

I took the picture above from our amphibious vehicle on a guided tour of the city. One of the other places that we passed on the river was so amazing that I have made it a separate post (if you're interested, you'll find it here).

Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon's Champs Elysée - but this avenue is much quieter and places along it are much, much cheaper (we had a good meal in an excellent restaurant and it cost less than a Prezzo or Café Rouge in England, which won't surprise our American visitors to the UK).

The avenue is nearly 300 feet wide and totally covered in trees - further along the temperature is nearly 100, but the avenue feels much cooler (the trees naturally air-condition it, as well as shading it) and there is always a breeze blowing.

Some places that we passed on the land section of our amphibious tour.

Even ordinary places are colourful and interesting.

Lisbon's Eden Theatre, a wonderful Art Deco theatre/cinema from the 30's, now converted into a hotel. I love the way in which the Portuguese often incorporate trees into their major buildings.

If you like this...

[Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Lisbon]
[Index of all my travel photoblogs]

Watercolours by Edward Seago   (click images for sources and related pictures, click other links for place info)

“Cattle on the Marshes, Norfolk

“Behind the Dunes, Sea Palling

“Shrimp boats on the Suffolk coast”

Brancaster Staithe

If you like this...

[Try clicking the watercolour tag (just a suggestion!)]

Lake Hallstatt (or Hallstätter See) in the Salzkammergut, Austria

Lake Sampaloc, an inactive volcanic maar on the island of Luzon, the Philippines

Lake Ohrid, straddling the mountainous border between southwestern Macedonia and eastern Albania,
one of Europe's deepest and oldest lakes

Thanks to Cyrion for this find!

“Today the account of an extraordinary encounter with an extraordinary woman, leading me from Erfurt in Germany to Wessex in Britain, Simiane in the Provence and Orsalina near Locarno in Switzerland” —Gerbrand Caspers

A modern view of Simiane-la-Rotonde, Provence

“View of Simiane”, probably 8th century

If you're interested in art and/or history, click either image for a typically fascinating entry (one of very many) in Gerbrand's Linosaurus Blog - a detective story behind just one of thousands of linoleum and woodblock prints.

(Gerbrand hails from the Netherlands, but he is kind enough to present most of his treasure-trove in English.)

Waddesdon Manor

Waddesdon Manor (home of the Rothschilds, now a National Trust property open to the public) is a magical place at Christmas... I took this photo on November 13th, when the Christmas events had just started.

It's the inside of the house that is really worth visiting at Christmas, and this year they also had a series of outdoor light sculptures by Bruce Munro called Winter Light.

If you like this...

[Visit to Waddesdon Manor, December 2009]

Maligne Lake (I learn from Wikipedia) is a lake in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. It is famed for the colour of its water, the surrounding peaks, the three glaciers visible from the lake and Spirit Island, one of the most photographed locations in the world.

I've just added it to my bucket list!

Click the photo (donated to Wikimedia Commons by Christian Abend) for a desktop wallpaper sized image.

Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast, Italy, September 2013

My photo of the sailing cruise ship Club Med 2 lying off Sorrento, with Vesuvius in the background

Start of a beautiful day in late September, leaving Sorrento for Capri

Click either picture, or go here, if you would like to see my photoblog of our recent trip to the Sorrento Peninsula and Amalfi Coast (you can skip the photoblog if you click the >> below)

“Monkeys in Pashupatinath - the largest Hindu temple complex, located on either side of the Bagmati river on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.

“Pashupatinath is considered the most important temple of Shiva in the world... Pashupati is an incarnation of the Hindu Lord Shiva as "Lord of animals", so the monkeys feel very comfortable with this complex of temples, and live their own lives paying virtually no attention to the pilgrims coming here.

“In the background you can make out the outlines of one of the 108 temples of Shiva Lingam, located in the temple complex...”

—adapted from an automatic translation of information provided by the photographer, Anton Yankovoy (whose other work is well worth checking out) and Wikipedia

An unusualy quiet evening at the hotel Villa La Massa, Florence (a truly wonderful place to treat yourself for a few days, as will be seen if you click the link), taken in late June 2013.

This hotel is situated on the river Arno, about 8 km upstream of the centre of Florence, and comes into my "died-and-gone-to-heaven" category. Worth saving up for!

If you like this...

[A much less expensive but beautiful hotel in Majorca]

The Iniciatic Well on the Regaleira Estate, Sintra, Portugal (another great image of this place will be found here).

Thanks to masnich9 for this one!

A complete virtual trip on the Trans Siberian Railway from Moscow to Vladivostok by train. You can listen to balalaika music or the rumble of wheels or somebody reading War and Peace in Russian as you trundle across the continent.

Since you probably don't have several days to watch and listen, you can use the route map or the list of scenic locations to jump into the trip anywhere you want. When you get to the page, pop the video out onto Youtube and watch full screen!

Strangely calming…

Thanks to my elder daughter for this one!

Devon and Somerset (Knightshayes Court and Cothay Manor) April 2013

A beautiful willow sculpture in the gardens of Knightshayes Court, near Tiverton, Devon

Click the picture if you would like to see some posts about our recent visit to Devon and Somerset

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Knightshayes Court, National Trust gardens, Devon]
[Cothay Manor, privately owned with beautiful gardens, Somerset]

"Aasleagh waterfall" (County Mayo, Ireland) by Ulrich Greger

An example of many fine photographs of places and people all around the world that can be found on - a great photographic travel site linked to Google maps, well worth exploring.

Thanks, Elegantlady (Roberta)!

[All images from (paged!)]

Havant and the South Downs, October 2012

A much-photographed scene that I took near the Royal Oak at Havant (near Portsmouth), a favourite pub of ours

Click the picture if you would like to see a post about our recent visit to Havant and the South Downs

Dartmouth, South Devon, Sept/Oct 2012

We had a nice week (with very mixed weather) in Dartmouth, staying in a self-catering apartment. Because of all the places we could reach on foot, by boat, or by steam train, we didn't use the car once while we were there!

The highlight was probably our visit to Greenway, Agatha Christie's much-loved holiday home, set in lovely grounds overlooking the Dart (see Part 2 below).

If you are interested, a GoogleMap showing the places in this photoblog will be found here.

The view from our apartment, one evening about halfway through the holiday when the sun reappeared! This is a training facility for Royal Naval cadets.

Some of the small boats that the cadets learn to handle

Flowers on the apartment's kitchen windowsill

Kingswear at night, across the river from Dartmouth

The lower ferry (one of two constantly crossing in either direction) connecting Dartmouth and Kingswear, which we used later as foot-passengers

All the power is provided by the tug - the newer "higher ferry", very close to our apartment, runs on guide wires

View of Kingswear (left) and Dartmouth castle (right, in the distance) from near the Bayards Cove Inn. Actually taken late in the morning on a typical dull day (at least it wasn't raining at the moment!)

Bayards, near the lower ferry

The Bayards Cove Inn, our favourite cosy hangout spot in bad weather (excellent food at lunch-time, at this time of year they also do Tapas 4 evenings a week from 6 to 9 PM - you can stay here, but check the room prices)

"Along Bayards" by Chris Forsey RI, a print of which was hanging on the wall of the Bayards Cove Inn

Last year in October we took a boat trip from Dartmouth to Dittisham (see the end of this post) This was the end of a longer trip on the same boat, arriving in Totnes


We didn't get off here, due to weather and timing, but it would be nice to do it in good weather

The return trip - pretty much the only photo on this voyage that came out (and I had to work hard on this one)

Near the lower ferry

A nice morning (relatively)! Start of a walk from Dartmouth to Dartmouth Castle and beyond. The twin town of Kingswear is in the distance, and Bayard's Cove Fort is below

View to the right...

...view to the left from a bit further along the road. You might be able to see the higher ferry crossing (upper centre), our apartment is just beyond it on the left hand side, to the left of the Royal Naval training facility

My spouse picked this as a "Des. Res." (sorry - English advertising abbreviation for "Desirable Residence")

Looking back at the boat pier in Dartmouth, telephoto lens cranked up to max (tiny camera but great lens for its size) - fairly low tide

Passing Warfleet Creek

We didn't stop at Dartmouth Castle on the outward walk, this is some way beyond it. Lots of nice empty picnic spots below with a great view.

Descending to Sugary Cove, which features as an EU super-clean beach (but at least at low tide, I would be very careful swimming here because of sharp rocks)

My spouse in her element....

Ancient folded rocks on the left hand side of Sugary Cove

I couldn't resist slipping this photo in. It was actually taken in Bathurst Inlet on the previous day (30th Sept). Bathurst Inlet is quite far away from Dartmouth (currently around 60,000,000 miles, on Mars) and the camera system that took it is a wee bit more expensive than mine! [Click the image for more info].

View across the mouth of the Dart

The Coast Walk goes on and on.... we turned around here on this occasion!

Another view across the mouth of the Dart (telephoto doing its stuff again)

Dartmouth Castle

Very steep narrow stairs leading down to the Battery

View from the top of the Castle

The little water taxi that shuttles to and from the Castle, saving weary legs on the way back!

We missed that particular boat... another telephoto view up river

View (mainly of Kingswear) from the water taxi landing

By the water taxi landing - the Mermaid sculpture is by a lady called Elizabeth Hadley

In the boat, looking back on the Castle and St. Petrox Church

Some passengers go free!

...dark rain clouds and bright sun producing some nice lighting effects

The Kingswear docks where two ferries come in, the Lower Ferry on the right and the Dartmouth Railway ferry (more expensive) on the left. The railway station is at the top of the ramp from either ferry.

A lot of the time the weather was like this... but we didn't really mind

Taking the lower ferry across to Kingswear, on the start of a steam railway journey to Paignton

We had plenty of time before the train, so we went for a walk through Kingswear and along the coast walk downstream (for a short way)

Does anyone recognize this place, just downstream from Kingswear?

Navigation beacon for boats coming in from the sea

We turned around on the coast path and took a climbing road back across the top of Kingswear. Looking down on the railway which we are about to get on...

Kingswear station

While at school, I was always fascinated by the model train sets that some friends of mine were lucky enough to have in their attics. I have a feeling that everyone working on this railway is having fun with a full size version!

"Lydham Manor" is the name of this rather beautiful locomotive, if there are any train buffs out there who want to know! It once hauled the Royal Train in the late 1950's.

Goodrington Sands, the stop just before Paignton, and where we should have got off! On a nice day this would be great for kids... As far as Paignton goes, what can I tell you? "It is better to journey than to arrive" about sums it up, especially in wet weather. But the trip was very enjoyable.

The only part of Paignton worth showing!

Yup, diesel locomotives are just not the same... The railway company is offering "footplate tickets" for people to treat their male relatives to a ride with the driver (I can imagine that some ladies wouldn't mind riding here too!)

Back in Dartmouth... when the sun DID come out,the light was wonderful

(BTW: the Station Restaurant, a very popular eatery seen here, was intended for the Dartmouth railway station that was never built)

The Britannia Royal Naval College, basking in unaccustomed sun. Lord Mountbatten and other male royals have studied here (and my spouse's grandfather).

[Dartmouth visit continues in Part 2]

Greenway, Holiday Home of Agatha Christie (trip from Dartmouth)
[Dartmouth visit continued from Part 1]

The start of a really nice day. We're off to visit Greenway, Agatha Christie's much-loved holiday home. On the way out, we took the train (Greenway Halt is its first stop on the way to Paignton). View from the train...

View from the railway viaduct that is about 80 feet high here, crossing the creek

Greenway Halt, looking back at the tunnel that the train has just come through. Smoke (or steam) keeps billowing out of the tunnel for several minutes (and out of railway carriages where passengers have foolishly left the windows open!)

Greenway Halt. Start of an unexpectedly long and high-climbing National Trust footpath to Greenway (allow half an hour and wear good boots in wet weather!) - we're told it's less distance if you keep to the road

The path climbs up through woods... and up... and eventually you end up here, wondering where Greenway itself is...

Along the path which faith tells us will eventually reach Greenway, although we are now about half-way back to Dartmouth!

Not there yet, but it's looking hopeful...


Greenway is a beautiful holiday home - 30 acres of ground perched above the Dart, and a truly "homely" house. "Dead Man's Folly" was one of Agatha Christie's books that was set here (in Greenway, I mean)

The house itself (no photos inside, but see here). It has great views over the Dart, as does the path we are walking up. I'm currently reading Agatha Christie's autobiography, which I now wish I had done before visiting. Highly recommended.

Any botanical experts?

View from the top of the grounds... so lucky with the weather today. Having arrived via Greenway Halt railway station, it really does seem like we are halfway back to Dartmouth!

View from outside the house (telephoto lens). Low tide...

After viewing the house itself, we took a much shorter route home. This is the rather lovely thatched cottage just behind the Greenway Ferry quay, which is only a short walk down from the house... and goes to Dartmouth main pier, not to Kingswear on the other side. The next day the weather seriously deteriorated, so this is the last photo that I took!

Majorca, September 2012

The weather in England this summer (apart from the past few weeks) has been pretty awful, and the weather in the rest of Europe hasn't been so great either.

My spouse found a great last-minute deal for a week in a nice-looking hotel (the Luabay Galatzó) on the south-west coast of Majorca. It was full board, everything included, and we didn't expect to go many places or take many photos. Since Majorca is at about the same latitude as southern Sardinia and southern Italy, and only a few hundred miles from Africa, we thought we would be unlucky not to get some sun!

As it turned out, the weather was great, the hotel complex was very attractive, and I did take more photos than I had expected.

(A bad storm the previous week damaged a few things around the hotel, including the TV aerial feeds. We don't normally watch TV on holiday, but it meant that we missed the closing ceremony of the wonderful London 2012 Paralympics. I recorded it, though, and will post highlights later.)

Waking up later in the morning, after getting here around 4.30 AM... the view from our room

First impressions of the hotel and the weather were very encouraging!

Looking left, towards Santa Ponsa (the nearby small seaside resort of Peguera, or Paguera, is to the right, invisible from the hotel)

Roofs of the next level down... notice the hotel cat (see later)

Lots of terraces and green areas...

Walking around the main pool... eventually reach the second pool, in the adjoining complex of Vista del Rey (this pool, frequented mainly by Germans, got very quiet later in the week)

There are various ways of walking down to Peguera... this way is via the steps leading down to the Vista del Rey pool (and a nice restaurant)

...or, retracing your steps, you can walk down through this seven-storey building, the Edificio Llevant, which juts a long way out from what is almost a sheer cliff (its shape reminded me somewhat of the tall keel of rock that divides Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings)

Taken from the top of the spiral staircase on the 7th floor... which is the floor where you enter, if coming from our hotel.... great views as you walk down to the lowest floors, which house a spa and gym (with a public entrance)

...either way down takes you onto a road, which eventually passes these gates

You can turn left and walk a short distance to a spot with a good view, still far above the sea...

...or you can turn right through a pine forest that takes you down to Peguera

I'm standing on a kind of knife edge of rock quite high above the beach and sea below... good idea not to try this if feeling wobbly! (Warnings but no barriers.) The rest of Peguera, frankly, is nothing to write home about...

An evening when we walked down to the Vista del Rey pool again, quite deserted

Reflections in the Vista del Rey restaurant windows (we only ate here once. The food at the hotel was very nice, and all food and drink there - including house wines, beer, Cava, etc. - was included in the price)

Another day, walking down through the Vista del Rey complex

Some very attractive villas and apartments down here

I could put up with living here for a while!

Most of the time the temperature was in the high 70's and low 80's, but we picked a hotter day to visit Palma (via local bus, which cost only 3.60 Euros per person each way, but unfortunately not all buses are air conditioned!)

Palma Cathedral, which the sea used to come right up to, so that the cathedral used to be reflected in it... unfortunately progress has moved the sea back...

This wonderful stained glass window, through which the sun was shining brightly...

... created some pretty rainbow effects on people and architecture inside

Just a nice picture on three large panels in the hotel lobby!

Sure enough, the hotel cat (a venerable creature obviously retired from being the official mouser/ratter) eventually found my spouse... (you may remember my post on Corsican Cats?)

Last evening at the main pool...

... the flight home left Palma at 4:50 AM, so we didn't have to leave the hotel until 1:10 AM (it was a long night!)

France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012

The approach to the Abbaye Château de Camon (now a hotel owned by an English couple), in unseasonal weather

Click the picture to see some posts about our recent visit to the Midi-Pyrénées

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Abbaye Château de Camon]
[Carcassonne Old Walled City]
[Château de Foix]

France (Midi-Pyrénées), June 2012

In the first half of June my wife and I spent 9 days in this very pleasant part of southern France, starting with a couple of days in Toulouse.

While Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, and a considerable population is still growing around it, the central city is compact, attractive and full of history. As well as the river Garonne it also has a kind of water inner half-ring-road in the form of a tree-shaded canal, part of the network of canals in the Midi.

As an entry point to the Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse's Blagnac Airport is efficient, pleasant and not too large. If you rent a car you can collect it immediately outside the airport doors, and a convenient shuttle bus service runs ever 20 minutes, taking you into the centre of Toulouse (Place Jeanne D'Arc) in 15 minutes for only 5 euros.

If you are interested, a GoogleMap showing the places in this photoblog will be found here.

Toulouse - the Basilica of St. Sernin, a massive and very impressive structure, about 5 minutes walk from the Place Jeanne d'Arc

The Pont Neuf over the Garonne - the decorative holes in the piers are to allow floodwater to pass through without sweeping away the bridge

The Basilica in the evening light

Evening outside the Capitole... fire jugglers but not much audience!

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 2]

Abbaye Château de Camon
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 1]

My spouse found this great hotel at Camon, near Mirepoix, the Abbaye Château de Camon, a converted Abbey / Monastery / Château. We arrived too late for lunch, and this place only serves breakfast and (superb) dinner, but the owner said he could knock us up a "plain ham sandwich"...

...which turned out to be this! He brought out some nice cold drinks as well (a large cold beer for me), all of this being "on the house"

We eyed the swimming pool hopefully (more of that later...)

The terrace, used for breakfast and evening drinks, weather permitting

The main entrance (always open, and interested tourists sometimes wander through) leading through a corridor which was once the cloisters. There's an open courtyard with high walls to the left, used for eating dinner in good weather (hah!)
(HDR photo)

Not your usual hotel staircase...

The corridor on our floor

Dinner in the courtyard - after a promising start the heavens opened in a cloudburst of hailstones and rain. Water poured in through the door, being shoveled frantically back by heroic staff - the splashback from the initial torrent of hailstones reached onto our table, which we hurriedly carried into the refectory just next to here!

Lac de Montbel, very close to Camon (via very "back" back-roads) - now a reservoir and leisure park

... not that water is in short supply right now...

Gleam of sun, taken from our bedroom window...

... and the day's weather mooches off, to return promptly the next morning

The approach to the Château entrance, which runs up its side... very narrow in places, luckily very little traffic up here (40 foot drop to the right down to local fields in many places)

We sat by the pool (under cover, reading) just to say that we had done it!

Hats, guests, for the use of... (the Château also has a fine selection of guest umbrellas)

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 3]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 2]

The ruined Château de Lagarde, seen on the short drive from Camon to Mirepoix

Mirepoix, a delightful medieval town. In Occitan its name means "see the fish", a reference to the clear waters of the river Hers

Lots of restaurants and cafés under the covered edges of the square, some run by English people who have adapted completely to the local way of life (and a few Spanish or possibly Catalan people running places here, too)

Locals - note the sun! In fact this was the day of the Festival of Cathar Bands in Mirepoix, and someone obviously had a direct line to the weather controller because it didn't rain all afternoon!

Different bands play simultaneously in different parts of the square...

...assessed critically by the local experts

The small carousel was in operation today (normally it doesn't run until July)

... balloons on sale ...

Market day, the following Monday - not sunny but at least not raining!

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 4]

Château of Montségur
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 3]

The ruined Château of Montségur, a short drive to the south of Lavalenet (see map) and a long steep climb from here for the determined. Last refuge of the Cathars, people of a religion diametrically opposed to the Catholic church, persecuted and burnt alive when taken, which happened here in 1244

The "easy" bit of the climb, near the top. My spouse bounded up like a gazelle. I learnt that even with a temperature of 13ºC, 56ºF, you need to take water on this climb... no refreshments or facilities of any sort at the top...

... all such things are in the village of Montségur, a LONG way below (telephoto lens!)

The path around the back of the Chateau is a little frightening, with very steep drops below. An English couple let their toddler run along this path ahead of them... yikes! No safety barriers, as generally when it comes to precipitous footpaths the French believe in Natural Selection...

A whole village was built here, by people obviously related to mountain goats!

Should you ever walk down here, please note that identical-looking balks of timber are used (a) for forming the edge of steps in particularly steep places and (b) for edging the twisting path (flush with the ground) where there is a long drop below. Useful to tell these apart!

Some nice views lower down...

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 5]

Carcassonne - The Old Walled City

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 4]

Carcassonne, the old walled city - huge and highly impressive. A very pleasant drive from Mirepoix along the D119, lovely countryside, and much nicer weather in spite of being not that far away

Although it doesn't look it from these photos, the walled city is very large and was very full of people - what it must be like in the high season I dread to think!

Culture break

There must be an amazing view from the top of the Basilica, as it is perched way above the surrounding area

Beautiful stained glass inside the Basilica... sorry that it's not too clear, as this was a hand-held shot and it was quite dark. A quartet of Russian singers was performing unofficially ... a beautiful sound.

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

[Midi-Pyrénées visit continues in Part 6]

The Château of Foix
[Midi-Pyrénées visit continued from Part 5]

Foix, to the south-west of Mirepoix. A very pleasant town with a small interesting Château at its top, which we were heading for - and a lucky break in the weather for a few hours!

Walking up...

...and up...

...nice views over the town (we haven't reached the Château yet)

...a nice sitting-out spot (it's in the previous photo - my little Lumix DMC-TZ4 camera has an amazing telephoto lens for its size)

Looking around..

The entrance!

Up some more... Later on I climbed the square tower, my spouse climbed the round one, but I apparently missed her appearance by a minute or so (see later)

The tower that my spouse climbed. As with "my" tower, when standing on the parapets at the top, you are actually outside the walls!

The bedroom of Henri IV, a little way up the square tower, a place to stay if you are Royal and like being very isolated...

Looking down from the parapet... telephoto lens again, it actually looked a LONG way down... No glass here... if you drop something, it's gone...

Where my spouse was, a minute or so after I left...

The railway station at Foix (and a few hours later, it was raining again...)

Back at the hotel...
The day of departure, and the weather changed...

Sunny all around, with a great forecast for the next several days...

Ah well, you can't win 'em all - and even cloud and rain in this part of the world is more enjoyable than in England!

[A GoogleMap of this area will be found here]

"Corsican Cats"

A rainy day in Corsica... and the local cats find a great way to spend it. Click the picture for the full story!

(It's been raining in England for what seems like forever - ever since drought warnings and the enforcement of a hosepipe ban....)

Fine photography (and great desktop wallpaper) by Kristin Repsher, a Texas gal living in Brisbane, Australia, whose other work is well worth checking out

This picture (taken outisde the gates of Valletta) is from my photoblog of a trip to Malta in April 2010, which was made extra interesting by a certain Icelandic volcano and the arrival of the Pope right on our doorstep!

Click the image or go here if you would like to see the pictures of that trip.

An exceptionally well-presented and educational virtual tour of Finland's forests by UPM (a very environmentally-conscious company) - thanks, Louvain95 (Lou)!

"Snow and Mist at Corfe Castle" by Andy Farrer, whose other work is well worth exploring

Corfe Castle is located on the Isle of Purbeck (actually a peninsula, not a true island) in Dorset, England.

[More from Dorset or England if you click the tags]


Péruwelz ("Stone-water") is a very ancient municipality in the Walloon (French-speaking) Region of Belgium. It is built on the river Verne Noire (from Celtic Vernos, "a brook lined with alders") - more on the location here.

This nice image is another winner of one of's frequent photography theme contests, many of which are open to photographers of all abilities.

A very nice blog from Dom, in which she gives her "random thoughts on beauty, dining, travel and living in the PRC". Thanks, Catcaley (click her tag above to see much other good stuff that she has sent my way).

England's West Country, October 2011

Dusk light at Kingsbridge, Devon - low tide

Click the picture to see some posts about our recent visit to England's West Country (with some side trips)

If you are interested, here are the direct links:

[Sherborne Castles, Dorset]
[Sherborne Town and Abbey]
[Tintinhull Gardens, Somerset]
[Kingsbridge, Devon (with visits to Salcombe, Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth)]

If you like the whiff of sea air...

[My Whitby photoblog]
[More seascapes...]

You might also like...

[Places to enjoy life... in England]

England's West Country, October 2011

In the middle of October (while recovering from the StumbleUpon fiasco), my wife and I spent 9 days in the West Country. For the first couple of days we stopped at the Ash House Hotel in Somerset (highly recommended), very close to Yeovil and the border with Dorset. While we were there we visited some nice places...

The first one was here... (click the image for more details)

Actually there are two castles. This is the "new" one, actually a Tudor Mansion that was the hangout of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The beautiful landscaping is by Capability Brown, who was also responsible for all of these wonderful places

The main road to Dorchester...

...before 1856

...and the old castle (what's left of it)

The modern touch...

[West Country visit continues in Part 2]

Sherborne Town and Abbey
[West Country visit continued from Part 1]

Sherborne is an attractive small town

Walking through the narrow lane to the Abbey...

...which is particularly beautiful, especially in this low October light

Please note the weather... this is October in England, and it's like summer (except for the short days). Forget August!

HDR photo

Local brews served in The Three Wishes Bistro... I can recommend the brew on the left. The one on the right is an acquired taste (that I haven't acquired), and stronger than most imported Pilsner lagers!

[West Country visit continues in Part 3]

Kingsbridge, Devon (with visits to Salcombe, Buckfastleigh and Dartmouth)

[West Country visit continued from Part 3]

We stayed for a week in Kingsbridge (nearly the southern-most place in England) in a self-catering waterside apartment at Crabshell Quay (next to the very pleasant Crabshell Inn), together with our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter.

It turned much colder when we arrived and a bit misty, with a poor weather forecast...

...however the the south coast micro-climate kept fighting back the bad weather (the view opposite our apartment, at high tide)

Kingsbridge is at the northern end of a tidal creek running south to the sea (passing Salcombe on the way)

While we were there, the difference between low and high tide was around 15 feet

Our apartment terrace - cool air, but a sun trap. Just below us, a narrow pedestrian path leads to the Crabshell Inn. That path runs along the edge of the quay, and has missing sections in the railing where vertical ladders descend towards the mud, sometimes more than 15 feet below... walking along it on a dark night, it's a good idea not to have had one drink too many!

The bad weather kept trying to arrive...

... and disappeared again...

... but the light was always beautiful!

Another day... tide's in... we're off to Salcombe, a few miles by car (in our case) or by boat (next time!)

We walked from Salcombe to North Sands, a mile or two along the edge of the coast. I think these boats were collecting crabs.

North Sands, where be found The Winking Prawn (a good seafood eatery that must be absolutely hotching in summer)

My spouse (a Devon lass) in her element

Next evening at Kingsbridge... weather still going to and fro...

A day trip to the Buckfast Butterfly Farm and Otter Sanctuary, at Buckfastleigh on the south edge of Dartmoor. A tip for photographing otters is, bring a video camera! (50+ failed photos of fast-moving otters later...)

My daughter managed to catch this one!

It took my glasses (and camera) a long time to de-mist as we entered the tropical butterfly house...

Pupae all ready for next year (they turn the heat off shortly and everything hibernates until next season).

Back in Kingsbridge...

A visit to Overbeck's, a very nice little National Trust property on the top of a hill overlooking the sea, not far from North Sands. Another tip: you need a very small car with a short wheelbase for some of the roads around here!

Looking across the creek... my spouse wants to do the coastal walk on the far side...

This spot must be a geologist's paradise (see here)

Dartmouth, on the mouth of the River Dart (a river worth exploring in its own right), which rises on Dartmoor not far to the north
(I discovered that Dart is an ancient Celtic name meaning "river where oak trees grow" - and the oak trees are still flourishing)

A certain small person (nearly a year old) really enjoying her first boat trip (an hour's sightseeing up and down the Dart)

Is this cute, or what?

The Britannia Royal Naval College, attended by Royal Princes and my spouse's grandfather...

The Dartmouth Steam Railway... and not far from here is Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home, which you can visit by ferry from Dartmouth (among other ways)


Passing back through Dartmouth, the boat keeps going until it reaches the sea...

Dartmouth Castle, at the mouth of the estuary

Back in Dartmouth...

...where they were holding a wonderful Food Fair, including free cooking classes by celebrity chefs

Last evening in Kingsbridge... dusk light on the side creek

"The Longshuba rice terraces at sunset at Yuanyang in Yunnan, China" by Dave Stamboulis, a photographer whose other work is well worth checking out

(Original post: August 7th, 2011)

I have just updated my Italy web page, which has information and/or links about our favourite places there (which include the Italian Lakes, Tuscany and Umbria).

[Italy visit continued from Part 2]

Approaching Isola di Garda, which has had a very long and varied history. It is actually 4 long thin rocks, joined together and converted to a lovely park and landscaped villa over many years

The original tower... it leant too far and the top bit had to be removed!

A nice cool place to arrive!

Julia, our lovely and very knowledgeable guide, explaining how olive trees can survive so long (this one is 500+ years old). This local girl speaks several languages almost perfectly, including Japanese, and is currently learning Finnish (because of boyfriend).

Two villas have become one. The section in the foreground is actually quite shallow. The space between it and the higher building is filled in with earth and a terrace laid across the top.

St Francis was here for a while. This place goes back a long way!

Not a cemetery... just a decorative way of using materials left over from past construction!

In the background is a walkway, joining up with a tunnel which leads to caves on the north side of the island, used by monks in the past

The terrace (with skylights) on top of the lower villa section and the earth-fill that joins it to the higher villa, allowing trees to be planted between the two.

Swamp cypresses in the park section. We couldn't visit much of the park this day because of a huge society wedding that was being set up.

Leaving the island after a tour of the inside of the villa (no photos allowed, alas), which is still lived in, followed by wine and olive-oil tasting on a terrace

[Italy visit continues in Part 4]

Sirmione and Lausanne
[Italy visit continued from Part 3]

That poster again... the sunset pictures in Part 1 were taken at the corner at the top right of the big section in the foreground (if that makes sense)

Visiting "Le Grotte di Catullo", a name which does not do justice to the place. It was a grey, slightly rainy day, but was still a very enjoyable and calm place to visit

The public lido below the ancient villa, with the limestone shelf visible

On the coach trip to Milan station to catch the homeward train to Lausanne, many of the big rest stops make good use of their open spaces by placing many solar panels like these, offering both power and shade. Will we ever catch up?

Lausanne - actually Ouchy, on Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) a short distance below the main city. You can get around Lausanne and its surroundings on a newly re-done Metro underground system, quiet and very efficient (being Swiss, the trains can climb a quite steep gradient as they go up from the lake and under the city)


...quite a stiff wind blowing, and about 30 degrees F cooler than Italy!

Nice playground at Ouchy

Juvenile sandwich hawks... (my ornithology isn't great)

Evening view from near the cathedral in Lausanne (HDR photo). This district of the city is a bit charmless at night, being a commercial district. Evian (famous for the water) is across the lake. It would be nice to come back one day and explore the surroundings... but right now Lausanne is stupidly expensive for a tourist, at least from England!

Farewell to Lausanne... and from here, the TGV and Eurostar trains back to London were great (at the beginning of the holiday, the TGV from Paris to Milan started well but broke down on the Italian border, which was a fair indication of things to come...)

[Lake District visit continued from Part 1]

Start of a walk along and past Elterwater, west of Ambleside and south of Grasmere

All the Lakeland becks are clear as crystal

Ridge between Silver Howe (left) and Loughrigg Fell (right), I think.... (looking north)

Slate spoil heap, a sign that the old industries are still going...

Shortly before I took this, a loud blast (like an extra-loud bird scarer) from over the low rise above us proved the point!

Approaching "Wainwright's Inn" at Chapel Stile - very pleasant

It was that time of year...

[Lake District visit continues in Part 3]

[Lake District visit continued from Part 3]

Start of another walk, starting where the water from Grasmere is about to flow into Rydal Water

Looking back on Rydal Water, Wordsworth's house is on the other side of the lake in the distance

Heading across Loughrigg Terrace, a path that runs under Loughrigg with Grasmere down to the right

Nab Scar, to the north east of Grasmere... and one of many awesome stone walls running up to the top of the fell


Grasmere, where the river runs out on its way to Rydal Water... this is APRIL in the Lake District!! (Apparently the real Lake District April now happens in June, July and August, according to the locals). Just out of the top of the photo people are swimming... words fail me. The sun is hot and it's in the mid 70's...

Grasmere, from the path descending from Loughrigg Terrace

The path descends gently with occasional hairpin bends

Just after taking this picture, we heard the first cuckoo of Spring, loud and clear... 20th April...

Outfall from Grasmere (with my too-fast small digital camera the water over the rocks looked static, so I added a slight motion-blur layer in Photoshop)

Looking back on Loughrigg

...nearly back at the car park., looking back the way we have come

Back at the hotel, at supper... a frequent visitor outside the doors... doors of a restaurant... wide open at 7:30 PM in mid April... still can't get over it!

Charlottesville, Virginia, October 2010

I had to visit Charlottesville in Virginia for a few days in late October, which was no hardship because it is one of my very favourite towns.

It has been rated as "the best place to live in the USA", and in spite of becoming a victim of its own success as more and more people move in around it, it's still a great place.

Charlottesville is a University town, set in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains, and was the local big town for "The Waltons" (which was actually filmed in California).

Charlottesville seen from the Monticello Memory Gardens, close to the famous Michie Tavern and Monticello, the estate and resting place of Thomas Jefferson

The heart of Charlottesville (and one of the main reasons for its immense popularity) is its historic Downtown, and in particular the Downtown Mall. You can walk from one end of the Mall to the other in just a few minutes, enjoying the restaurants, bookshops, pavement cafés, street entertainment, theatres and much else besides.

People read here, promenade here, play chess in the Mudhouse Internet café, and just sit here and do nothing but watch the world go by. It's my kind of place!

A fountain in one of the many pavement cafés

A pawn shop, Charlottesville-style!

At the west end of the Mall... the building on the left is the indoor air-conditioned ice rink (which was under threat of closure, but has thankfully reopened as the multi-use Main Street Arena)

At the other end of the Mall is the Charlottesville Pavilion where many events take place. If the Mall was being built today, no doubt JC Penney would be at one end and Sears at the other - and Charlottesville would be nowhere near as popular as it it is.

[Continues in Charlottesville Part 2]

[Continued from Charlottesville Part 1]

The best place to stay while enjoying the historic centre of Charlottesville (IMO) is the 200 South Street Inn. The room rate reflects its location, a few hundred yards from the Downtown Mall, and its well-deserved popularity.

Dating from 1856, it has been in its time a private residence, a girls' finishing school, a brothel (!) and a boarding house. It finally became today's Inn in 1986.

I love the old-style verandahs...

...where you can sit and enjoy the free wine and cheese laid out in the library / breakfast room from 5-7 pm each day

The Inn has many nice touches (and gave me an excuse to try out some HDR photography)

While the decor is in the historical tradition, the hotel is well lit by bulbs of the modern eco-friendly variety. These ceiling spotlights were too bright for the camera to show clearly, even when I decreased the exposure - they are LED spotlights which the owner tells me he bought for $17 from Sam's Club. They cost almost nothing to run and will last so long that the next person to have to climb up and change those bulbs will probably be one of the present owner's grand-children!

If you liked this...

[Some other places to enjoy life]

Malta, the Pope and the Volcano - April 2010

This picture is from my photoblog of a trip to Malta in April this year, which was made extra interesting by a certain Icelandic volcano and the arrival of the Pope right on our doorstep! Click the image or go here if you would like to see the pictures of that trip.


I might mention that I use a relatively cheap camera - not an SLR or anything. I try to improve the quality of the pictures using the "digital darkroom" that is Photoshop. I rarely use Photoshop to "falsify" a picture for creative or blemish-removal purposes - mostly I use it to improve colour, exposure and contrast (and sometimes to reduce depth of focus) where it makes the picture look more like what the eye saw at the time.

I started learning Photoshop in 2009, which eventually led to me writing a Beginner's Guide to Photoshop, as much for my own benefit as anyone else's (if I had known that it would take nearly 200 hours to create then I probably never would have started!).

If you can't afford Photoshop, my guide should also be of some help in using the excellent freeware GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) or other programs like Paint Shop Pro.

If you like this...

[Click the photoblogs tag at the top of this post for more of my own photoblogs]

Malta, the Pope and the Volcano - April 2010

This was my first visit to Malta. We seemed to time it perfectly, arriving on 14th April just before the volcano erupted and stranded many people, and returning 24th April when air traffic was almost normal again.

We were also joined by the Pope on his first visit to Malta!

Entrance to the Grand Harbour, on the south-east side of Valletta (a fortress city only 1km by 700m, built on a limestone peninsula between two natural harbours)

Lower Barraka Gardens, overlooking the Grand Harbour... the first week was very hazy

Upper Barraka gardens at the top of Valletta, overlooking the Grand Harbour, taken at the end of our holiday... we saw the Saluting Battery in action (see later in album)

View of Grand Harbour from Upper Barraka gardens, when the skies were much clearer (and the wind colder)

Vittoriosa and Senglea, two of the "3 cities" which were there before even Valletta was built

The new Pinto Wharf, renovated as a cafe and restaurants area, also where the Cruise Liners came in... more about Pinto Wharf later!

When taking the previous photos I sensed a presence...

Start of our boat trip around the two harbours, a great way to see and appreciate Valletta and its surroundings

The trip begins with a ferry from Valletta across to Silema, heading north-west (the Grand Harbour is on the other side of what we are looking at)

Trip around Marsamxett harbour and its creeks...

The Lazzaretto or Quarantine Hospital at Manoel Island. It later became an RN submarine and Mine Sweeper base known as HMS Phoenicia.

This is the north-west end of the Great Ditch, which was dug to defend Valletta (to the left) from the landward side - more about the Great Ditch later...

Approaching the tip of Valletta and Fort Saint Elmo

Swinging around towards the entrance to the Grand Harbour

Saint Elmo's Fort, a massive defence already in place by the Ottaman Empire's Great Siege of 1565 (before the rest of Valletta was built)

The short cut for small boats into the Grand Harbour (it was a bit rougher on the way back... I'm not a very good sailor...)

Here was a giant anti-submarine net that could be lowered to allow entry to Allied shipping

The Siege Bell (see later)

The Grand Harbour side of the Great Ditch

The Pinto Wharf

The Pinto Wharf, the yellow shutters belonging to the I Fratelli restaurant (see later!)

This ferry is even longer in real life than it looks here. We were considering it as one of our possible escape routes during the volcanic eruption!

The Grand Harbour, the largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, is home to a very large ship-building industry, currently struggling with the recession

One of the huge dry docks, capable of dealing with super-tankers

The smallest dry dock, intended for expensive motor yachts and such like. The three shells of the roof will extend to provide extra cover

The Siege Bell again...

... close up

Malta, due to its strategic position south of Sicily, acted as a stationary aircraft carrier for the Allies during WW2, and paid a heavy price - 154 days of continuous bombardment, compared to "only" 57 days of continuous bombardment that London suffered during the Blitz

We caught a ceremony to commemorate the award of the George Cross, the British Monarch's highest award for civilians, to the entire population of Malta

People have long memories here

OK, so the Pope decided to visit Malta 17th and 18th April. He arrived at the airport on Saturday afternoon, while we were heading down to Pinto Wharf. This underground car park is the fast way down for pedestrians. The top of the car park is at ground level near the entrance to Valletta. Notice that the car park is completely empty! You walk down 6 flights of stairs and then head for the tunnel in the distance...

Walking through the tunnel, dug through limestone rock

...emerging here...

... a short walk along to Pinto Wharf, not too crowded what with the Volcano and the Pope's arrival...

We found a great Italian restaurant (I Fratelli), opposite which was the Cruise Liner dock where rehearsals were in full swing for the Pope's visit tomorrow

The next day (Sunday). The Pope blesses the Granaries, just outside the gates of Valletta (and our hotel). We could see this event from our balcony, and watch it on TV at the same time

Back to Pinto Wharf, where the Pope was due to arrive by boat to meet the young people of Malta

Crowds awaiting for HH's arrival

The Saluting Battery greets him

All afternoon a great party was in progress on the wharf, with an ongoing concert that paused when he arrived

We had booked a table at I Fratelli, one of several restaurants constructed from the ancient storage vaults that used to store provisions for Valletta, hundreds of years ago. Its balcony was a great viewing point, only a hundred metres or so from where the Pope was being greeted

We could watch him on TV and out of the window at the same time. The transmission was delayed by maybe 10 or 20 seconds compared to the live event, perhaps to allow any unseemly events to be edited out.

The party resumes... the Pope had a great public reception (Malta being devout Catholic), but the Maltese also spoke their minds to him quite bluntly about some of the well-publicized problems in the Catholic Church

One of the family helping his Down's Syndrome son operate the Espresso machine

Evening on the Wharf... crowds almost completely gone

We stayed at the Hotel Phoenicia, just outside the gates of Valletta. In its prime this beautiful hotel must have been hotching... With people gradually leaving for tedious journeys home, due to the volcano, and not arriving for the same reason, it became emptier and emptier.

The path to the hotel swimming pool...

... a very long, narrow strip of garden beneath the walls of Valletta...

At the swimming pool... towards the end of our stay, it sometimes seemed like we were the only residents!

At the archaeological museum in Valletta

Looking at this beautiful work of art, it's hard to believe that it's around 5,000 years old...

Part of the Great Ditch, near our hotel. Valletta (and its gate) is to the right, the "Piazza" and our hotel to the left

The bus station on the Piazza, and one of massive bastions

Maltese buses are a real art form, as well as being frequent and extremely cheap

It is very strange to be in a place with such strong British connections which is south of Sicily (and well south of the northern tip of Africa)

The Grand Master's Palace

There is a lot of restoration work going on.... With an unusually forceful "keep out" notice...

An evening view of the outside of the hugely (internally) ornate and interesting Co-Cathedral. The outside is relatively plain... unfortunately I couldn't get any good photos of the inside.

One of many typical wooden balconies... this one was particularly fine (and inhabited).

The last evening...

The musical fountains on the main street of Valletta, streets which are deserted after about 8pm - this isn't a place for night life, but walking through the empty city feels completely safe

The piazza outside the gates of Valletta

If you liked this...

[Malta - history and map]

I became interested in the history of Malta when I visited it recently for the first time (see my Valletta photoblog).

Malta is now a republic, consisting of an archipelago of small islands, the two largest of which are Malta (which also gives its name to the whole country) and the smaller and quieter Gozo. The place is tiny: all of the islands would fit inside a circle about 30 miles in diameter. Malta is also the most densely populated country in the EU.

Thanks to its strategic location south of Sicily, guarding the narrow gap between Sicily and Africa, Malta has been repeatedly invaded (peacefully and otherwise) since prehistoric times.

Malta has suffered two major sieges. The first was the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when the army of the Ottoman Empire failed to capture the island. This was immediately followed by the building of the fortress city of Valletta on a limestone peninsula, the defences of which were constructed in only 5 years.

The second was the siege of Malta from 1940 to 1942. Malta was Churchill's "unsinkable aircraft carrier", and paid a heavy price for this. The arrival of the SS Ohio, which broke the siege, will never be forgotten in Malta.

If you are interested, you will find a photoblog of our trip to Valletta here.

A map of Valletta, marked with our favourite restaurants and other things, will be found here.

From the little I have seen so far, Malta (unlike Corsica) isn't a beautiful island. It is arid, mostly treeless, and suffers from environmental problems and uncontrolled building. On the other hand it is an extremely interesting place, steeped in history, the people are really friendly (especially if you happen to be English), the food is excellent, and it's a perfect place for sun-lovers (you may want to avoid the hottest months).

From the page:

"Cornwall will always be a great place to go camping but Ekopod is making it a stylish one too. This cool and contemporary living space is a luxury low-carbon retreat that brings the best of modern life to the best of the countryside. You can sleep in a full-size double bed but still wake up with a panoramic view of the hills. Breakfast on the decking terrace before hiking across the moors, bathe in a wood-fired bath tub after a surfing lesson or lounge in canvas easy chairs snacking on local produce from the honesty shop, all with minimal environmental impact. It's amazing that something so white can be so green."

This is one offering from Alastair Sawday's "Canopy & Stars" selections. If you are thinking of holidaying in the UK or other parts of Europe, and a few other places too, and are looking for somewhere special to stay, then I can really recommend Alastair Sawday's site as a great starting point. You will find more about him in the first link below.

From my web site...

[Some Places to Enjoy Life...]
[Some Places to Enjoy Life... In England]

(Original post: December 21st, 2009)

Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, is one of the most attractive National Trust properties in England. As it says here:

"Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild, creator of Waddesdon, loved France and French art. With his French architect Destailleur and his landscape gardener Laine, he built this Renaissance-style chateau in a dramatic setting. Waddesdon has one of the best collections of French 18th century decorative arts in the world, paintings, furniture, carpets and curiosities, lovingly assembled over 35 years by Ferdinand to please his weekend guests. Outside, his creation includes an aviary, flamboyant bedding, winding walks, colorful trees and panoramic views."

We visited it recently for their Christmas event. When you arrive it's already very dark, and you feel like you are on the set of "Brideshead Revisited" as you make the long unlit drive up to the Rothschild manor, where on this occasion you can park right in front, in a long row of giant illuminated Christmas trees. You get to tour a wing of the house, beautifully decorated for Christmas (no words will do it justice), followed by a dinner in the excellent restaurant. For £55 this is perhaps the best-value Christmas event one can imagine!

We stayed overnight at the Five Arrows Hotel in Waddesdon village, planning to go for a walk in the Waddesdon estate the next morning. From our hotel window we had a view of wonderful tiled roofs like this one.

This is part of the long drive up to the Manor. It was a cold, beautiful day. The sun at this time of year is very low, making for interesting photography, and we had the place almost to ourselves (very unusual).

All the statues on the estate were shrouded against the weather...

Frost still on the grass

Some fun with Photoshop. This wasn't taken with a telephoto lens, it's the result of a blurred layer on top of a sharp layer, with the lower part of the blurred layer masked out.

My first-ever HDR photo. The upper and lower parts come from two different images at different exposures, with some blending in the middle. My little Lumix camera will take three photos in rapid succession at different exposures, and even without a tripod it wasn't hard to align two of the images in different Photoshop layers. I temporarily used the "multiply" blend so that I could see both images at once, and used the Move tool and arrow keys to nudge one layer a pixel at a time. There are fancier ways of doing HDR but this worked fine for me with Photoshop 7.

As with the previous picture and several others, I am experimenting here with a Photoshop curves adjustment layer. Dragging the cursor in a shadow area (say) shows on part of the graph as a moving pointer. Adjusting the slope of that part of the graph improves the tonal range and contrast in that part of the picture, while sometimes messing up other parts. Then you mask out the other parts, leaving only the improved bits overlaying the original image.

On the way out I saw these rather beautiful Christmas tree ornaments in the National Trust shop, which reminded me slightly of Faberge eggs (but a lot cheaper!). They are about 20 times too large for the tiny tree we have at home, but I asked my wife if she could arrange them in a kind of nest, which she kindly did! (There's a blur layer being used here in Photoshop, too.)

[My Photoshop page]

Whitby, Yorkshire - November 17th, 2009

This was a day out in Whitby, Yorkshire, on the east coast of England (close to Robin Hood's Bay, the end of Wainwright's coast-to-coast walk). The rest of the week was fairly miserable, weather-wise, so we took full advantage of this sunny (if cold) day...

Hole of Horcum, on the North Yorkshire Moors on the approach to Whitby. The North Yorkshire Moors are the largest area of continuous moorland in England (in case you wanted to know that).

Whitby harbour entrance

St Mary's Church and Whitby Abbey, seen from other side of the harbour through the whalebone arch

Captain James Cook's memorial

Taken from Whitby pier

This was a "Goth Weekend", possibly associated with the full moon (for lots more Whitby Goth pictures, see here!)

One of the local yobbos, who sometimes eat fish (when they can't get fish and chips)

The best fish and chips place in Whitby, apparently! (There is fierce competition, but I can certainly recommend this place.)

The steps up to the church and abbey

Before this visit I had dabbled a bit with Photoshop, but I used these (non-expert!) photos to explore more of Photoshop's features. The main thing I learnt here was to use an additional curves layer in order to adjust the contrast and brightness of some parts of the picture that would otherwise be too bright or in deep shadow, and paint out the unwanted parts of the new layer with a black brush, letting the original show through. The Whitby Memorial Gate, for example, had no detail on the metalwork in the original, the Whitby Fudge window was dark, and the sunny area at the top of the stairs to the abbey was much too bright (it still is).

[My Photoshop page]

Cannero-Riviera on Lake Maggiore, Italy - July 23rd 2009

Cannero Riviera on Lake Maggiore is one of our very favourite places.

A photo-blog of our 2009 visit there will be found here.

Cannero-Riviera on Lake Maggiore, Italy - July 23rd 2009

We had an absolutely wonderful 10 days on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy - it got too hot sometimes, but several fast-moving thunderstorms (mostly overnight) freshened it up again.

We fell in love with this place in 1997 (see here on my web site) and it is still one of our favourite spots on the planet.

Hotel Cannero, opposite the boat pier - no need for a car, we travelled everywhere by boat! The promenade in front of the hotel is quiet and car-free, the road through Cannero Riviera is some way up the hill.

View from our hotel bedroom... We felt like we had come home again!

One of many nice touches all round the hotel

We liked peeking into people's front gardens...

Behind the hotel

The courtyard between the original hotel (left) and the new section (right) - my current desktop wallpaper!

One of the many "Botticelli Kids" who are a special feature of this place

Another of the hotel's nice touches...

The boat pier, start of many outings. There's a very useful website for travel on the lake (and information about the lake).

Evening view from the dining terrace

One of many reasons why family life is so nice in Italy is that older kids take charge of younger kids...

Evening view from the dining terrace - first signs of an approaching overnight thunderstorm

Later the same evening... A hand-held photo - it would have been impossible to take a picture like this in the old days without a tripod. Digital cameras are amazing!

Next morning, the overnight storm clearing away...

... and it's another beautiful day!

Cannero Riviera also has many nice touches, like this one

The little communal port (which is very near the hotel, it's just out of sight at the right hand side of the first photo in this photo-blog)

Ouch! These taps appear all over the area, but not usually attached like this!

Picture on the wall of our local art shop, just up the hill from the hotel. It's by Erika Wagner, a local artist whom we met.

A typical street in Cannero, leading up from the hotel (the "Riviera" got added to "Cannero" in 1946, when the town met criteria for having this term added - before that the town was just called "Cannero")

Another thunderstorm... What the pictures can't show is the effect of the strong down-draughts from the thunder-clouds above, causing rapidly-expanding rings of flattened water on the lake, like something out of a Steven Spielberg movie. When the rain fell the lake turned entirely white, as if being bombarded by huge hailstones.

... which cleared over very quickly

Flood levels in October 2000 and October 1868. The recent flood came several inches above the hotel dining room floor, but caused little damage (water is very clean) - apart from to the back of Raffaele, our wonderful Maitre D, when he was quickly moving the dining furniture upstairs! Sluice gates at the south end of Lake Maggiore prevent lower lying regions around the rivers Ticino and Po being overwhelmed - it's better to flood the lake (more on the floods...).

I just love the colours around the hotel, and all over the area

If you ask for mineral water in many places, you now get micro-filtered water produced on the premises (still or sparkling) in these beautiful glass bottles, which are washed and reused (see the AQUACHIARA web site). The water is usually free, and this practice is great for the environment.

The main Cannero harbour at the other end of the promenade (left hand side of first photo in this photo-blog)

Another beautiful evening...

Villa Taranto, great botanical gardens easily reached by boat

Villa Taranto - the Scotsman who developed it and donated it to Italy

Villa Taranto, looking north

Isola Madre, a garden island which is one of many destinations on the boat schedule

Looking down... the water beyond the rock must be well over 100 feet deep

Isola Madre

Yet another beautiful evening!

Raffaele and young hotel guests

The promenade, still unseasonally quiet. What I haven't photographed are the many well-cared-for dogs that appear on the promenade, sometimes taking themselves for a walk. An amazing thing about Cannero is that there is no dog poop anywhere - not even temporarily, as it were. Must be special breeds of dogs!

The local communal harbour

One of the many "Botticelli Kids". This one was full of beans and always had a smile or a laugh.

The candle floating ceremony that is part of the annual blessing of the lake. Thousands of candles are floated from pedalos.

Procession of the Virgin Mary, at the end of the ceremony

Still life with reusable water bottle!

On the day after the candles ceremony there is always a community concert in front of Hotel Cannero. Lucky guests at the hotel have a grandstand seat, and we always feel privileged to be allowed to be part of this event.

Erika Wagner, our local artist, strolling by and chatting to Sue

Another thing that's changed since 1997 is that we could see the occasional glow of a mobile phone being used by one of the younger orchestra members between musical numbers for a swift text message!


The end of a hot and brassy day... the first time we saw market stalls on the promenade

This smelt good, too!

Storm coming... very welcome

The local cemetery. It's a beautiful place, making you feel that the departed are very much in the thoughts of the living.

Sundial on wall of courtyard around the hotel's swimming pool

The manager Samuele, his mother and co-manager Maria Carla, and his brother-in-law Alfredo. If you read my description of our 1997 visit, Alfredo is the man with the bike and the small daughter Benedetta who is now nearly 14 years old (we missed her by one day!). I have never visited a hotel with nicer people.

Our last evening... I'm sure that we will be back again one day.

If you liked this...

[Some Places To Enjoy Life.. in Italy.]

(Original post: February 17th, 2009)

Steve Carter's photography and music web site (and his photography) just seem to get better and better. Yes, there are great photographs, but there's a whole lot more to enjoy on this site.

This is his new 2009 photograph gallery. If your mouse has a thumb wheel, just roll it (or use the slider or arrow keys) and the carousel of thumbnails spins around so that you can choose one - really neat!

From the English Lake District...

"5 a.m. in Borrowdale"

From his Hebrides album...

The two pictures above (which really need to be seen full size in order to be fully appreciated) were taken on South Harris (see map and this article).

Steve tells me that "this is a stunning place in good weather - bloody awful in the rain (nothing to do)"!

And from the Western Highlands...

The Torridon hills early on a November morning (the Torridon link is to a collection of pages by Steve, well worth following) - also click the picture for many more beautiful pictures of this area

If you like this...

[Another example of Steve Carter's English Lake District photography]
[My photoblog of a trip to the English Lake District, September 2008]

Julia Bradbury (the daughter of a steel-industry father from Derbyshire and a Greek mother, and a right nice lass) has become one of my favourite people after I watched BBC Four's series Wainwright Walks, set in the English Lake District - now available on DVD.

I love the Lakeland Fells and Alfred Wainwright's superb hand-drawn and hand-written guides to them, and Julia clearly does too.

The two series of half-hour programmes take you on ten of Wainwright's best fell walks, through some of the most beautiful wild scenery in the world. The names of the fells convey something of their unique character: Haystacks (where Wainwright's ashes are scattered), Blencathra, Castle Crag, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, and in the second series Catbells, Crinkle Crags & Bowfell, Helm Crag, High Street and Pillar.

Each programme includes a short sequence of superb aerial photography, taken from a helicopter, providing (literally) an overview of the route to be followed. This footage is a wonderful supplement to Wainwright's guides, and is almost worth the price of the DVDs by itself (and is taken on clear days, even when the actual walks encounter Lakeland's famously changeable weather).

The ground-based photography of the actual walks ("walk" being a term that occasionally includes serious scrambling, but excludes rock climbing needing a rope) is equally superb - the next best thing to being there. Even though you know that camera-men are present, the sense of solitude that Wainwright valued so highly is beautifully conveyed.

Along the way Julia meets various locals, some of whom knew Wainwright personally, all of whom add greatly to the interest of the walks. On some sections she is (very sensibly) accompanied by an expert guide.

Whether you are planning a trip to the Lakeland Fells or would just like to experience them from your armchair, I can't recommend these DVDs enough. They will give you five hours of real pleasure.

[My photoblog of a trip to the English Lakes, September 2008]

(Original post: August 27th, 2008)

One of many wonderful photos of the English Lake District (and other places) by Steve Carter

Steve (a very nice bloke) told me: "The photo was taken about 200 yards from the Kirkstile Inn by Loweswater in Cumbria, looking towards Crummock Water. Red Pike is the big(ish) hill in the backgound."

The hill in the right foreground is (I am almost certain) Haystacks.

I will soon be returning to the Lake District after an absence of many years, and am really looking forward to it. If the weather is like this then I will be delighted - but all that green beauty comes from the highest annual rainfall in the UK...

[Location of the Kirkstile Inn on my England Map]
[My full England Map]
[Walk Area: Buttermere Valley, Lake District]
[Lake District Walks (or see the previous post below)]
[Places to enjoy life... in England]

This excellent site provides guided tours of a very large number of walks in the English Lake District (and some other places too). Each tour takes the form of a photoblog and excellent notes, accompanied by annotated large scale maps.

This is a great site for anyone who likes walking - a real work of love by Andrew Leaney. Even if you can't get to the English Lakes, this site is a real treat for the armchair traveller!

For more on the English Lake District...

[Places to enjoy life... in England]

"Corsican Cats"

My wife always insisted that she was not a cat person. The trouble is, cats don't know this.

2004 was the year she finally got busted, and it took Corsican cats to do it.

Corsica has a large population of feral cats, but there is a distinct sub-species of these that inhabits anywhere within a five mile radius of a self-catering villa (and that covers a lot of territory).

It wasn't long before our local cat found her. It ignored me. It headed straight for the person who didn't like cats.

Sigh... wasn't long before plates of cat food and other gourmet cat delicacies were mysteriously appearing outside the kitchen door, and that had nothing to do with me!

The word spread, and 3 years later when we returned to Corsica, only a few miles from our previous place, the local cat appeared within seconds...

As I say, this is a distinct sub-species of "feral"...

...and turned out to be the advance guard of a large family with ever-increasing ramifications.

The youngest members of the family weren't introduced until several days had gone by.

On the few rainy days when we were stuck indoors, we spent what seemed like hours watching this wild bunch of felines hang out on the beach towel (probably mine) that my cat-hating spouse had so kindly provided.

We have never felt the need to watch TV while staying in Corsica.

If you like this...

[My Corsica page]

Waterfalls in Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan, China

Yangshuo Sunrise, Guangxi

Shigu Town, Yunnan

Traditional clothing & modern communication, Zhongdian Horse Festival

Wonderful photos of China by Gil Azouri

This was Venice in early September, 2001. It was our first trip, and we loved it. We only had a week, so we saw all the "must see" places like the Ca' Rezzonico...

...and the Piazza San Marco (and many more that you have seen zillions of photos of before).

Only a few hundred yards west of the Rialto Bridge, the crowds magically disappeared...

...and we greatly enjoyed exploring the (much) quieter Western Quarter.

Such a beautiful place - and nobody here but ourselves!

The weather was hot and brassy that week, so we mostly had a siesta in the afternoon and went out for an evening stroll just before sunset. We caught the low sun reflecting on the gold leaf of the Basilica...

...and enjoyed window shopping (much cheaper than the real thing!)...

...while trying to choose a nice place to eat. At one of these places, we learnt the hard way that fish was priced by the 100g, not by the course!

Walking home one night after our meal, we encountered this spooky looking wall of masks in the window of a shop that had closed for the night.

And then we returned to England. It was September 11th, and we were greeted by our daughter running across the drive, telling us what she had just seen on television.

We knew, over the next hours and days, that the world would never be quite the same place again. There were acts of incredible tragedy and heroism. There was a feeling of solidarity across the Atlantic that was quite astonishing, as the e-mails, forums and phone calls went to and fro.

A few days later, in our small town of Epping, England, scenes like this were taking place, similar to those in many, many other places.

At the time, I remember thinking that there were going to be very bad times ahead - and there were - but also that really bad times seem to bring out the best in people - and they did, nowhere more so than in New York. Among the good things that came out of this tragedy, there was New York's "Pay It Forward" programme, described here on my web site.

(Originally posted: June 14th 2008)

This is the southern-most end of a (very) long and (slightly) winding road - the other end of U.S. Route 1 is more than 2,000 miles away at Fort Kent, Maine at the Canadian border!

This end of the road is in Key West. I was here with my extended family (12 of us) as part of a wonderful vacation in the Florida Keys. Several photos follow!

I love these banyan trees. Hemingway lived near here. Also near here is Kelly's Caribbean Bar Grill and Brewery, which I can highly recommend. We had an absolutely wonderful meal there, with great service and good wine, for $60 a head.

A relatively quiet evening (I'm told) in Mallory Square, where people gather nightly at the southern-most point of the mainland USA to watch the sunset.

This band was performing great Island versions of Neil Diamond hits.

I swiped this one from my brother-in-law!

There are sometimes better things to do than watch the ships go by...

I really like my wife's little Sony Cybershot! It's light, inexpensive and it lets me take hand-held pictures like these after dark, without a flash. It's the only camera that we used on this holiday.

[This trip continues in the post below. Also see where this place is on my Florida Map.]
[Continuing the trip in the post above.]

This is the Dolphin Research Center at Grassy Key. We liked it very much - it's quiet, education-based and very different from other entertainment-oriented marine parks. As the staff keep pointing out, the visitors are here to entertain the dolphins, not the other way around (actually, it's thoroughly mutual).

We were here to fulfil a life-time ambition of my wife's, which was to swim with dolphins. Before you get to do that you have to attend a half-hour class (relatives and friends of swimmers can attend too). I'm glad I didn't miss it, as I learnt more about dolphins (and these particular dolphins) than I have every done previously.

This is probably Pax, although I'm not absolutely sure. Like the other dolphins he is quite capable of jumping out of the lagoons into the rest of the Gulf of Mexico, but he stays here because it's an easy and enjoyable life and he wouldn't be able to cope in the open ocean. Many of the dolphins here are rescue dolphins, or were born in captivity to rescue dolphins.

Being given the once-over by Tanner (again, I'm not absolutely sure, it might have been A.J.)

This and the following pictures of my wife's dream coming true were taken by a pro photographer down on the dock. (I was taking zillions also, but I won't inflict them on you here.)

My wife with A.J. and Tanner.
It's obvious from watching that nobody who has had this experience will ever, ever forget it.

In return for some nice scritching, the dolphins produce some amazing sounds (the dolphins at this center can imitate almost anything, using their blowholes). In this case one couldn't help feeling that the dolphins just like being scritched!

[This trip continues in the post below. Also see where this place is on my Florida Map.]

[Continuing the trip in the post above.]

On this trip we (12 of us) stayed here at Cannon Point at Marathon Key. It's a great spot if you have a large family and a boat, situated in a narrow strip of waterway between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico (both very shallow around here, typically only 7 feet of water under the keel until you get well out).

Just a few photos (the last in this series!) to give some flavour of the place...

Kayaks provided with the place... Those who got up early to explore the creeks from kayaks saw the occasional iguana on the banks under the mangroves, but there is plenty of other wildlife around here.

It was nice at this time of day, when the heat had cooled off... (Another picture swiped from a family member)

"Allah does not subtract from man's allotted time the hours spent in fishing."
In the case of my cousin, it's just as well!

That's it, you'll be glad to hear... If you're mad enough to want to see all 153 photos of this trip, including Key West, all the dolphin pics and many mug-shots of my family, send me a PM and I'll email you the album link!

[You'll find more Florida stuff on my Florida Page. Also see where this place is on my Florida Map.]

This is the wonderful Bearslake Inn, on the edge of Dartmoor, where we broke our journey last week on the way to Cornwall (see the centre of my map). It's a great place to have a drink, or a great meal, or to stay the night, or any combination of these!

Dartmoor from the bedroom window, in the evening light - the last time that we saw any real sun for a while...

The same view several days later, on the morning of our return trip. Now that our holiday is over, the mist is lifting and it's going to be a beautiful day...

[This trip continues in the post below.]
[This trip continues from the post above.]

One place that you can reach easily from the Bearslake Inn (see my post above) is the RHS Garden at Rosemoor (see the centre of my map). Rosemoor is a particularly beautiful and peaceful place, with natural woodland walks and replanted wild meadows, as well as some formal gardens.

It was a cloudy day (until we were about to leave, naturally). One day I hope to take some photos here when the sun is out!

We're about to leave... finally, a gleam of sun!

Many grand places have peacocks roaming around... Rosemoor is a little different!

"Early Paperwork" - early morning in a public park, China

"Pastel Boats" - a grouping of boats on a lake in China

Some fine work by Martin Mullen.

This is a picture that I took of Rievaulx Terrace, Yorkshire, England, on a not-too crowded day in June 2001. A long way down the steep bank to the right, people are admiring the Abbey, but a quiet walk and a picnic up here is hard to beat!

The picture comes from a section of my family web site which is a record of places where we have enjoyed life, and which other people might enjoy also. At present these places are in England, Italy, Corsica and Florida.

In the Italy section of these pages you will find a description of a magical week that we spent on the shores of Lake Maggiore - made magical because of the community of people there. If you like this description then you are definitely my kind of person, but rest assured that the converse is not true!

A nice seasonal winter photo by Andreea Teodorescu, who writes: "This a scene from Azuga, a picturesque ski resort of Prahova Valley, more precisely a view from a small bridge over Azuga River. In the BG, between the trees, we can see the Bucegi Mountains (the Caraiman Massif). In Azuga, there is the longest ski slope of Romania, Sorica ski-slope."

Trekearth (Learning About The World Through Photography) is a nice site, with many good photos.

Thanks to my friend csforest (Crista) for this one!


Untitled (from "Kids")

Two wonderful photos from Indonesia by Rarindra Prakarsa.