“Pic of the Week”, April 20, 2018: Views of Seville

07 Seville views

For over 800 years the tower of Seville’s magnificent cathedral (the Giralda) stood as the tallest structure in the city, built at 103 m.  Completed in 1195, it was originally the minaret of the Aljama mosque before it became the bell tower of a Christian Church.  The structure took 12 years to build.

The name Giralda means “she who turns” after the weather vane on top of the tower.  The figure on the weather vane, called El Giraldillo, represents faith.

The Giralda, originally used for calling faithful Muslims to prayer and as an observatory,  was highly valued by the Moors.  There were plans to destroy it before the Christian conquest of the city in 1248, but a threat by King Alfonso X …

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.All Trips / Europe / Spain

Seville’s Awesome Cathedral!

04 Seville Cathedral

Seville’s cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  The cathedral was built in the 15th century (1401 to 1506 A.D.) on the site of the 12th century Aljama mosque.  Portions of the mosque survive within the Cathedral’s structure, most notably the belltower known as Giralda.

Seville’s Cathedral is very popular with visitors and unless you arrive early or late, you’ll likely have to wait in line to purchase your ticket.  It’s one of the most magnificent churches I’ve ever seen, and I found it well worth the wait and price of admission.  While you wait in line you’ll have time to study and enjoy some of the beautiful craftsmanship adorning the …

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“Pic of the Week”, October 13, 2017: Christopher Columbus’ tomb, Seville

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One of the most popular attractions within Seville’s fabulous Cathedral is this unusual tomb, constructed in honor of famous resident, Christopher Columbus.  The great 15th century explorer, widely celebrated for his successes, died in poverty in Valladolid. The tomb itself is more recent, from 1892, with statues of four royal bearers carrying the suspended tomb.

Columbus traveled far in life but likely even further in death. Posthumously his remains have journeyed from Northwestern Spain to Seville, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the USA and finally back to Seville. With all that travel, one might begin to wonder if this is indeed the remains of Christopher Columbus, but recent DNA tests were pretty convincing that this tomb does hold Columbus remains.

(Click on thumbnails …

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.All Trips / British Columbia / North America / Western Canada

A visit to the Burgess Shale. Stanley Glacier, Kootenay National Park

04. Stanley Glacier valley. Looking for fossils (54) Trilobite

One of the world’s most famous fossil sites is Canada’s Burgess Shale, which contains a large assortment of ancient and amazingly well-preserved (often soft-bodied) marine fossils.  Originally discovered at high altitude in the mountains of British Columbia’s Yoho National Park in 1909, the Burgess Shale was one of the important reasons for the designation of the region as a UNESCO World Heritage site.  There are two Burgess Shale sites in Yoho National Park you can visit, both long hikes with significant altitude gain.  One is to Mount Stephen and the other to Walcott Quarry.

Recently a sister site has been discovered further south in Kootenay National Park, about 25 miles (40 km) south of the original site.  That …

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.All Trips / Europe / Italy

Palermo’s Palazzo dei Normanni

02 Exterior of Palermo Palazzo del Normanni (2)

Palazzo dei Normanni (Palace of the Normans) is the old Royal Palace in Palermo, Sicily.  It was built in the 9th century by the Arab/Islamic rulers for the harems of their emirs.  It was expanded and renovated by the Normans who subsequently conquered Sicily in 1072.  The Norman kings transformed the building into a multi-functional complex that served as an administrative center and a royal residence.  During the period of Norman rule, Sicily thrived and prospered.

The Palazzo sits on the highest spot in Palermo and is the oldest royal residence in Europe.  After the Normans left, Palazzo dei Normanni was not used for several centuries.  But the palace returned to an administrative role in the second half of the sixteenth century, when the Spanish governors chose …

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.All Trips / Asia / India

Jantar Mantar — A Visit to the Royal Observatory of Jaipur

27 Jantar Mantar, Jaipur . Brihat Samrat Yantra

Jantar Mantar is a walled astronomical observation compound which adjoins the Royal Palace of Jaipur.  It’s home to a collection of astronomical instruments — many massive — and was built in the eighteenth century by the Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh.  The site was completed in 1734 and is an interesting hybrid of masonry, brass and science.  Although it was abandoned in the 19th century and fell into disrepair, the site has been restored and is well preserved (the best in India).  It is notable for being home to the world’s largest stone sundial, but I found all the instruments to be interesting.

Even a non-sophisticated or lay astronomer can have a sense of wonder at complexity of the instrumentation, and …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 17, 2017: Streets of Old San Juan

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A day to explore the lovely streets of Old San Juan is simply not enough time. The colors, sights, architecture, cafes and general ambience invite one to linger and even to get lost while wandering the streets and lanes. Situated near a wonderful old fortress, Old San Juan is not to be missed.

(Click on thumbnails to enlarge, then right arrow to advance the slideshow)

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.All Trips / California / North America / Southwestern USA

Backpacking to Ostrander Lake, Yosemite National Park

Ostrander Lake, Yosemite National Park

From time-to-time I enjoy looking at some of my older photos to remember bygone adventures.  It’s from one of these periods of reflection that today’s blog germinated.

When I lived in Southern California, I enjoyed spending time each summer exploring the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains — John Muir’s Range of Light.  While much of California is hot as an oven in the summer, these mountains offer a pleasant climate and excellent backpacking opportunities.  In the summer there’s enough water in the lakes that you don’t need to carry more than a day’s worth — very different and much easier than what’s required when backpacking in the Mojave desert.  The weather is warm in the day, cool at night, and almost without …

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