Jack and I woke up early this morning to see what treasures the fantastic thunderstorm the night before might have washed up on the beach. The steady roar and beat of the oncoming waves pulsed rhythmically. Seagulls flying overhead sang soprano melting in harmony.
"Dad the sun is arriving", yells Jack.
Then, like being kissed softly by an enchanted spell, his arms raised above his head and he began to conduct this symphony in front of us.
From my hotel window, I can still make out a smokestack kicking out carcinogens to the local Chinese population. Amazed and saddened by this race to shorten the life span of anyone that may live here, I began asking anyone that would talk to me about the state of the air pollution and why it has not been eradicated.
"Do you not have regulations?"
"Why, in this day of technology, does this still exist?"
"My eyes and throat are burning!"
All know of the problem, agree it is a problem, understand that their life span is about 15 years less than anyone not living in the problem, but they do not know how to change it.
According to one theory that I was told, each factory is required by the government to have air cleaning facilities in their plant. And, during the 60 minutes that a government auditor is at the facility, it is "powered on" and working. As soon as the audit is over, it will be switched off. If not switched off, the factory will lose to the competing factory (that is not running their air cleaning facility, to save money and costs low). This is happening time and time again and it is not a risk anyone is willing to take.
The Bronze Lions guarding this area of the Forbidden City are gigantic and absolutely foreboding as you walk quietly past. Until the 1920's, no one was ever allowed in this area of the city. By the look of these two, they still are not very happy about people in their palace.
The guide we have hired to bring us through the city has informed us that these Chinese lions are called "Sishi" and are always created in pairs to keep guard.
The male lion on the right will be playing with a ball (or rather the world) in his paw (symbolizing power) and the female lioness on the left with a cub (symbolizes longevity).
Had the opportunity to spend some time with friends at their river house in Buenos Aires. Now, that is a fantastic experience!
Obviously, we had great BBQ (Argentina style) and good wine (Argentina style) and lots of stories and laughs. This continued throughout the day until it was time for (what I think in the US they would refer as) a "Beer Run". I began to fear the hour ride back to civilization to find a store to replenish our wine stock when I was completely settled by my Argentinian friends, "No, you just stand on the dock and wait", I am being told. And just as simple as getting your mail in the USA, a floating grocery story soon past by and set dock. This seamless style of delivery (www.seamless.com) had everything we needed to continue the party, from gas to water, to eggs and, more importantly, wine! A beautiful thing!
Every continent and most major countries have at least one attraction, either natural or fabricated, that everyone usually puts in some sort of "Bucket List".
Well, the artistic beauty of the Sydney Opera House has absolutely made it one of those items. Completely overwhelmed by the simplistic and elaborate arrangement of the clay tiles, this monument was absolutely magnificent and a great stage for upcoming artists,
Flying from New York to Los Angeles on, what I believe was, American Airlines flight AA 2 (which, incidentally, I always thought was kinda cool). Taking a look out my window, I had a chance to see this. We were finally passing the thunderstorms that had plagued the Northeast and flying to the sunshine on the other side. The clouds are doing everything they can to keep us here in the city.
Everything about this place speaks to the word of Royalty. The gardens are amazing and the castle is huge- it is almost fairy tale-like. If you close your eyes for a brief second, it will immediately bring you back to when this place was bustling with knights and serfs.....
Not sure if it is because we have been living in the desert, but we are all focused on the abundance of water here. Water everywhere! Glistening from the trees... dripping from the roof... in the air.... everywhere....
These Sri Lankan fisherman are coming into shore after a long day of fishing. I am amazed by the style of boat still being used to bring in their daily catch. Nets appeared to be the style of fishing used by these guys. A much simpler life here than I have really seen before. Today, these men will fish because they need money . Tomorrow, they may work at the their local church or decide to share stories at a local pub. The global 9-5 work day is non-existent in this area of Sri Lanka.
It is said that at one time the wild cinnamon is what lured people to set up shop on the Western Banks of Sri Lanka. Well, that is no longer the case - at least not here along the beach. 100s of fisherman and purchasers align the beach in this area, bringing in their daily catch and layering it in long sheets on the hot sand to help the drying process. The smell is overwhelming as we set to take a few pictures of the orchestra of this industry.
An amazing venture up the face of this rock to see where the castle in the clouds once stood! We went through jungles and over a moat full of man eating crocodiles to get here! I absolutely am in awe with everything I am seeing around me.
Exactly 8 years before this photo was taken (on December 26, 2004), a tsunami slammed into the Sri Lankan coastline killing more then 5,000 people in Sri Lanka alone. This holiday train, the "Queen of the Sea" was struck by the tsunami near the village of Telwetta carrying at least 1700 passengers, killing all but a handful on board.
The morning stillness,only awoken by the ripples of Logan's toes, as he tip-toes in the Persian gulf. In the distance, the constant building and the long neck of the jurassic building cranes forcing this beautiful country to forget its peaceful and gentle past.
The gas industry has really forced this small country into, not just the present, but also the future. The people, culture, and beliefs are just doing whatever they can to stabilize and maintain.
Taking a ride out to see the fishing boats that are used in this country, it is amazing to see them in contrast to the futuristic buildings that are beginning to surround them. It appears this country is completely eradicating any past or culture that it may have, to give way to the future economy that their natural resources of gas seem to be providing.
Driving past this sign on the way back into Riyadh, it really shows the landscape and the great empty vastness of this country - miles and miles of just sand and heat. They keep a fence along all the highways in an attempt to keep the camels off the road. So every few miles, they have a sign to let people back into the desert.
For many in Saudi Arabia, the camel brings memories of a less complicated past. The beauty of the face and the form of its neck and head can have the camel's worth go for as much as $2 Million USD.
This particular camel, just purchased for $150,000 USD, is awaiting transport to it's owner's "istiraha" (resting spot), a weekend resting spot or home where many Saudis enjoy their weekend. It is a place to enjoy friends, to sip tea, and share poetry.
Poetry has a huge place in the Arabic peninsula. This is, I assume, because the Beoudin culture is a nomadic one. So, with no real written language between regional tribes and each family culture different, poetry would be read at most gatherings and festivals, enabling beliefs and historical memories to be past down through the generations and spread throughout the reaches of the desert.
There are so many folklores about this desert in the Arabian Peninsula - mainly, as the provider of a form capital punishment. This stretch of desert is the largest sand desert in the world. It is common knowledge in those parts, that when the government feels you are no longer of any use to society (because of your possible actions or beliefs), they will take you out into the vast sea of sand and leave you to battle the elements.
Unless you are on a 4-wheeler or riding a camel you will not survive "the empty quarter."
Through the intense Saudi sun and 100s of sand storms slamming into the palace of Diriyah, it still stands strong. Diriyah was the original home of the Saudi Royal family and was the capital of the first Saudi dynasty.
Kept in the background of the future of this capital it stands tall as the sand reclaims it back to the desert for which it rose.
About 10 minutes after this picture was taken, our SUV, with the complete family inside, became stuck in the sand. It was more than 109 degrees outside and the more I pushed on the car's accelerator or tried to move the steering wheel, the lower the car sank into the sand. Not knowing what to do and not really speaking any more Arabic than "Hello", "How are you?", and "Where is the bathroom?", we knew we were in a predicament.
Within 10 minutes, a group of men noticed we were in trouble and approximately 7 locals came over, motioned me out of the driver seat, and began rocking pushing and driving the car to safety. Not being able to express in English how happy we were with their ability to save us, we tried to pay them and they smiled shook their heads "no" and disappeared into the desert.
Wow.... look what just blew in! Came outside for lunch and the whole city seems to be taken over by a sandstorm. I have seen and heard about sandstorms in the past, but nothing as fierce as this. Amazingly, I took my camera out to take some shots and the camera actually had a clearer image then the naked eye. I am sure this has to do with all of the sand flying around. Everyone grabbed face masks and just continued their daily routine. I have always thought I may have landed in Mars here. Now, with this storm, I am pretty sure.
Our stay in Saudi Arabia was an amazing test of all that made us. Even the sun decided that it had had enough of the punishing heat and it to disappeared into the great vastness of the Empty Quarter - almost as if to recharge it's batteries to continue the battle the following day.
Well, it is official! This skyscraper is a very difficult building to fit into a 16x9 place picture setting.... Fantastic architecture only to be really blessed by the fantastic fountain dancing to the music at the foundation of this building.
One of the most recognizable sites in Dubai, the Burj Al Arab was always in view at the Jumeriah Al Qasr Resort, as both are part of the same resort complex. We highly recommend this resort for a royal treatment! Great food, great service and amazing facilities gave us a much needed vacation from desert life.
Quietly, this small tram carried myself and my traveling companions down the side of the mountain. Never riding a vertical train before, I was completely enthralled by the angle of the stadium-style seating of this train. I think this must have saved us at least 15- to 30-minutes of driving a windy road down this slope. Also, I am sure an unsettled stomach and everything else that type of ride would create.
The amount of strength it must take to power these large wings has to be incredible. This blue heron has had enough of me trying to take his picture and decided it was time to move on. The size of the bird compared to his massive wings is incredible. To be able to push the wind with those large fans, and in such a beautiful and graceful manner - it is extremely settling to watch.
The trips to Mexico are always a blur - they are filled with beautiful beaches, Tequila, Corona, great food, and lots of laughs and dancing. It is such a great place to spend a few days and always helps to recharge your batteries for the coming weeks ahead!
Some friends joined us on a trip to San Francisco - to just have a weekend away. It was very good experience and even included a fun trip to Napa. On this visit, we wanted to see and experience the California coast like we haven't before, so we chartered a helicopter and had them take us around the city. What a fun experience and absolutely an opportunity for some terrific pictures!
There are very few pics that can take someone immediately into a situation and or place, even if they have never personally been there.
I believe the San Franciscan trolley is absolutely one of those pictures. And, depending on the age of the viewer, it may even take you back to a time where things are a bit simpler. With this picture I can hear the clanging of the bell, the whistling of the track, and the vibrancy of San Francisco itself.
There is something about Italy that really brings a sense of peacefulness each time we visit. I am not sure what it is... It may be something as simple as this country really fits all categories for a wonderful place to visit.
- Great History
- Beautiful architecture and landscape
- Wonderful People
- Delicious Food
No matter how many times we visit, we just can not seem to get enough of this place... It takes us immediately back in time and really helps prioritize what is important and what is not.
Mount Vesuvius, which stands tall in the background, already has taught this town of Pompeii a lesson. Such a grand but horrific story! Ultimately, to the point of despair - the complete town stayed undiscovered for 1500 years. This is before archeologists began to discover what was under the debris.
There are only a few places I have traveled that cause the visitor to be almost as quiet and stern as entering into a temple or church. This city, arising from the ashes, causes that feeling. While there are so many people around, it is very quiet as they all visit this site - almost as if to pay respect for the 1000s that have died here.
I am sure this picture has been taken by so many people in the years it must be probably in the top ten of world attractions photographed. I would also include things such as the London Bridge and Great Wall of China in this arena but this is absolutely one of the items I have been waiting to see since the age of five.
In many of the places we have traveled over the years, you can absolutely imagine living there and what life will be like on a day to day basis. Venice..... Not a chance! I am in such shock of this tidal basin city and the bustling mixed with the water made highways. I think visiting this place is absolutely fantastic, but living here.... it appears to be more difficult then anything else. It is absolutely beautiful and extremely romantic almost to the point of "tilt."
Before we moved to New York City, we always had said when we finally decide to retire, we would retire here or in Siena Italy. It is an amazing city - with fantastic culture, people, and (most importantly) food and wine. Since then we have moved to New York City and learned what living in Manhattan is really like, we know in our hearts we are never leaving New York. So, I am sorry Florence, but we promise to visit...
Since we have moved to New York City, no matter where in the world our gridskipping may take us, the City brings us back home. As a home should be, it is fun to leave for a while, but you should be always yearning to return home soon after you leave. New York City is that place for us.