.All Trips / California / North America / Southwestern USA

“Pic of the Week”, January 20, 2017: Kelp Forest, Monterey Bay Aquarium

030 Monterey Bay Aquarium. Kelp Forest

The finest aquarium I’ve had the privilege of visiting is in Monterey, California.  Built alongside the old sardine canneries of Cannery Row (a site immortalized in John Steinbeck’s novella of the same name), you’ll find yourself fully immersed in the underwater world when you visit.

There’s dozens of great exhibits, but there are two that are my favorites — the jellyfish, and this one, the Kelp Forest tank.  I’ve spent a lot of time watching this latter tank because there seems to be no end as to what’s going on.   A giant shape approaches in the tank, only to be broken into thousands of individual sardines as the school splits apart.  The moving light and shadows of the kelp, the sharks …

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.All Trips / Europe / France

Les Invalides (and the Army Museum), Paris

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One of the more familiar landmarks in Paris is the gold-capped dome of Les Invalides, also known as Hotel des Invalides, and the adjoining Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée).  This is a complex of buildings in Paris containing, most famously, the tomb of beloved leader Napoleon Bonaparte.

King Louis XIV, the Sun King, began the project in 1670.  King Louis saw the need for a home and hospital for war heroes who had long and faithfully served their country (20 years of service were needed for residency).  It was later realized that a royal chapel should be part of the complex, which was completed in 1708.  During the 18th century the veterans were required to attend church every day.

The area containing …

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.All Trips / Hawaii / North America

The Dole Plantation, Oahu, Hawaii

Dole Plantation 10-2014 (84)

You’ll find the Dole Plantation on the drive from Honolulu to Hawaii’s North Shore, about 40 minutes north of Waikiki on the Kamehameha Highway.  If you’re staying in Honolulu and want to get “out of the city” for awhile, especially with children, a fun day trip would be to the Dole Plantation, one of the island’s most popular tourist destinations with more than a million visitors a year.

A Brief History of the Pineapple in Hawaii

The pineapple was given its English name because of its resemblance to a pine cone.  Christopher Columbus was the first who brought this plant, native of South America, to Europe.  For centuries pineapple imported to America’s seaside towns was a treat; a fresh pineapple displayed on …

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.All Trips / Europe / Spain

Palau Güell, Barcelona

Palau Guell, Barcelona 04-2016 (86)

Palau Güell is a mansion designed by Barcelona’s favorite son, the highly imaginative architect, Antoni Gaudí, for tycoon Eusebi Güell.  It was to be the first of their collaborations.  The home was built between 1886 and 1888 and is in the El Raval neighborhood, near the popular pedestrian mall, la Rambla.  It’s part of Barcelona’s “Works of Antoni Gaudi” UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The building was refurbished in 2011 and is fresh and beautiful throughout.

Palau Güell was the first important commission Antoni Gaudí received as a young architect.  Mr. Güell (a wealthy industrialist and patron of the arts) asked Gaudí to build him a unique urban home.  The result is Palau Güell, a great example of Art Nouveau/Moderniste …

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.All Trips / Eastern Canada / North America / Ontario

Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory

004 Niagara Butterfly Conservancy 7-2013

The Niagara peninsula is one of my favorite places in Canada.  Not just because of majestic thunderous Niagara Falls, but because of the many parks and gardens, the beautiful vineyards, lovely small towns, and that marvel of engineering that is the Welland Canal.  And it’s home to my favorite cousin, Liz, who has shown me the highlights of the peninsula during a number of visits, including my last stop there when we made a point of going to the Butterfly Conservatory.  The Butterfly Conservatory opened in 1996 and is a special place, home to over 2,000 tropical butterflies.

The Butterfly Conservatory is situated on the grounds of beautiful Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, about a 10 minute drive north of Niagara Falls.  …

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.All Trips / Asia / India

Ox-Drawn Water Wheel, Rajasthan

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While traveling across rural Rajasthan, en route from Jaipur to Udaipur, our guide stopped the bus beside a farm.  The point of the stop was for us to see how a water wheel is still used in agriculture.  There was a large metallic mechanism beside the road apparently connected to a water wheel; after a chat with the farmer, a pair of oxen were attached to the steel bar and we were shown how the water wheel worked.

This type of water wheel is called a sakia, or Persian wheel (although it likely was invented in India around 300 BC).  The device is designed to lift water from a well using buckets or scoops connected to an endless belt activated by …

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.All Trips / Africa / Botswana

“Pic of the Week”, July 28, 2016: African Elephants

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Elephants have fascinated me since I was a child.  You can enjoy them at the circus, in documentaries and zoos, but to really appreciate elephants you need to observe them in the wild.  They are majestic and entertaining, and will capture your full attention.   Their cute little ones will steal your heart.

African elephants are the largest land animals currently living on our planet.  They have massive ears shaped like the continent on which they live (and which are larger than the auricular appendages of their Asian cousins).  Because of their size, they consume a lot of food, about 300 pounds (136 kilograms) a day.  They are social creatures, with females and the young roaming in herds, but bulls tending to …

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.All Trips / Central USA / Colorado / North America

National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, Leadville, Colorado

01 Leadville Museum of Mining 09-2014

Leadville is the highest altitude town to be occupied year round in the United States, situated at 3094 m (10,592 ft) above sea level.  The area was a booming silver mining town in the late 19th century and while the mining era is all but over, relics of it are still plentiful around Leadville.

The National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum (NMHFM) offers an interesting look at the geology and mining of the region, and its Hall of Fame portion recognizes the men and women who were important mining pioneers.  A relatively new institution, the nonprofit NMHFM was founded in 1977 and the building it occupies renovated in 1987.  Initially it was to be on the grounds of the Colorado …

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