Thursday, August 31, 2006

Pont Du Gard

The Pont Du Gard was built by the Romans around the middle of the first century A.D. The lower level is a bridge large enough for cars. The upper level was a large aqueduct that went from mountain springs all the way to Nimes. The structure itself is immense and the scope of transporting and putting in place all of the huge stones that it is composed of is simply mind boggling. Few structures of this magnitude graced the Western World once the Roman Empire departed from the South of France.

The area below is used for kayaks, swimming and sunbathing in/near the warm, placid waters. Above, is a new visitor complex with a restaurant, ice cream shop and museum (ie, you need never be far from your Perrier, LOL).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ancient Roman Ruins

Glanum is the site of an ancient city which has both pre-Roman and Roman structures. On the site, you can see the remains of temples, water systems, roads, public baths, a gathering area (forum), stores and houses. It is quite amazing how much of the structures have survived the 2 thousand plus years to tell their story today.

The Pope's Palace

Le Palais des Papes, the Pope's Palace is in Avignon and is one of the best preserved and most spectacular of the ancient structures. The Papacy was originally based in Avignon prior to moving to Rome at the behest of other contituencies. There was even a period where the church split into a dual papacy, one in France and one in Rome, both excommunicating the other. The disagreement was eventually settled with both claimants backing down in favor of a new Pope.

Wild Flamingos!

With it's ancient civilizations, old canals, towering castles and huge churches, it came as a little of a surprise that there are still many wilderness areas in France with gorgeous birds, wild flowers, butterflies, dragonflies and all sorts of wildlife. This flamingo is apparently the same species that is found all throughout the Mediteranean and down through Africa, a bit paler than the Carribean species but equally beautiful. In the bogs in the Bouches de Rhone area there are huge flocks of these casually feeding on small crustaceans. There are also beautiful wild swans.

Plateau Albion

We drove up to Plateau Albion and Mont (Mount) Ventoux. Along the way, there are many old churches and castles. France is rich in history and has seen thousands of years of civilization, the traces of which are everywhere. It seems that every small town has a historic church or old castle. It leads one to wonder what it was all like in the time of Christ when all these amazing structures were new and the Romans were power.

Aix En Provence

Aix was a central point of Roman activities in France. It has many surving structures. As part of more recent construction, it has many charming fountains, many of which are hundreds of years old and covered with huge growths of moss and maidenhair ferns draping gracefully from the sides. Others, such as this central fountain contain stunning statues and captivating jets of water.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fontaine Moussue

The Fontaine Moussue is an 18th century fountain covered with a thick living layer of moss (hence the name, mossy fountain) and maiden hair ferns. It is on the Place Crousillat and has surrounding trees planted at the end of the French Revolution and at the end of World War I. This fountain is in Salon and is covered with ferns, moss and small flowers. The water trickles constantly down the sides and base. It was originally a saucer-shaped fountain but years of calcium and moss deposited to become the current mushroom shapped mossy fountain.

Salon de Provence

I'm off to Salon de Provence. It's too late for any sprucing up in French. My little Berlitz book is just going to have to do. Hopefully, the flight is uneventful and quiet enough for some sleep. No idea if I'll be able to post for a bit when I come back anyhow. A prochaine, mes amis.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Guiness Book of Records

The folks at the San Diego Ukulele Festival were trying to break the record for most people strumming the ukulele at once. Of course, the same people set the Guiness book of records last year with around 150 strummers so I suppose it was all just in good fun. Everyone was there. Grandparents, little kids, singles. Everyone seemed to be having fun grabbing their little piece of history. As for me, I was having just as much fun taking the picture although I was tempted for a little bit and I did have my uke with me. As you can see, the day was gorgeous and just perfect for this kind of mischief. Wish you were there...

Time Flies

This is the crowd gathering at dusk to see the fireworks in Lahaina, Maui on the 4th of July. It was a warm and humid and the ice cream shops were doing well that day. The fireworks were actually worth the wait as well but that's a topic for another post.

For those of you with really good eyes, the gentleman on the left's shirt says "I love hot moms." People put the funniest things on T-Shirts don't they?

Saturday, August 19, 2006


This is the view from Diamond head, Oahu. The top of Diamond head still has a few pill boxes (gun emplacements) from World War II that overlook the ocean and provide a little historical perspective.

The park below is lovely Kapiolani Park, named for Queen Kapiolani, sadly the last reigning queen of Hawaii before being deposed by American sugar plantation owners. Along the water, you can see the Natatorium war memorial and the cruisy Queen's Surf followed by the high rises and white sand beaches of Waikiki. If you could see further still, you would see the airport and Pearl Harbor. So, do you blame me for getting home sick once in a while?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Go Jump off a Bridge

Go jump off a bridge. Some people take those sayings more seriously than others. This guy was standing on the wrong side of the railing looking down into the not so deep water below debating whether to jump off or not. I was seriously wondering whether I was going to have to call an ambulance but youthful craziness won out. He jumped, feet first, shortly after this picture and emerged apparently unscathed to join his friends. Notably, none of them decided to try this crazy bridge jumping stunt so they were probably thinking the same thing I was, which likely just further encouraged the jumper to jump. Ow.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Wonders of Modern Photography

Having just come back from Maui, I had all kinds of pictures of beautiful beaches. I figured I'd spruce this one up for the faithful audience.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch (no, not literally), I had another stressful, demanding day at work. It's pretty normal, really, and you ironically get used to it (or end up with bleeding ulcers). Wish I could be there on that Maui beach though. Perhaps someday.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

One in a Million

Do you ever feel like you're standing all alone in the midst of a crowd? Perhaps the only one to stand up and tell the big boss something he doesn't want to hear? Or perhaps the only one willing to fight for a cause? Maybe the only one to be friends with someone that's unpopular? Sometimes doing the right thing can be truly lonely. The rewards are seldom large and sometimes downright unpleasant (like being laid off for explaining why the business plan is fatally flawed). Sometimes it makes you question whether doing the right thing was really the right thing to do in the first place (sheepish grin). Come the end of the day, that's a matter between you and your conscience.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I Thought I Saw a Figon

Is it a fish? Is it a dragon? Perhaps a Drish or a Figon? Either way, this little statue at the Red Carpet Club was pretty cool. With all the new restrictions I went to the airport extra early just to be safe and ended up not encountering too much in the way of lines so I spent my time sipping hot chocolate in the frequent flyer lounge instead.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Blue Jellies

Blue Jellies are cool to watch as they pulsate through the water. They remind me of poisonous mushoom on the prowl. Fun to look at but not fun to brush against.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Living the Life of a Seal

Some seals have to worry about becoming shark food but not this seal. This rare Hawaiian (indigenous) Monk seal lives a cozy, well fed life at the Waikiki Aquarium. Due to the expansion of construction and human activities, these seals are rarely seen in the Main Hawaiian Islands any more, preferring the peace and quiet of the Northern islands to breed and raise their pups.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Something Fishy

A yellow damselfish being friendly in Hawaii. This is one of a few solid, bright yellow coral reef fish. The other two that come to mind are the yellow tang and some angler fishes. Overall, taking these pictures is much easier when the subject comes to you!

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Little Luxury

Chandeliers are not the most common sights anymore. They used to be standard fare in any hotel of note. However, these days, everything has gone marble and brass with inset lighting. Admittedly, it's still impressive to see a huge crystal chandelier like this one at the Century Hyatt Tokyo. You can watch the chandelier as you go up the elevator through the clear glass walls and then, as the elevator passes above the foyer, you get a view of the Tokyo skyline.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Serious Sushi

The Japanese take their Sushi seriously! This very large stuffed tuna was mounted over the door of a very popular sushi restaurant in Tsukuji-Shijo, Tokyo. The interior was decorated with large photos of fisherman with similarly huge Tuna as well as a large fish aquarium with live entrees that periodically get added to the menu. Just a half a block away is the fish market, the likely source of all of that tasty fresh fish, with high stacks of foam crates full of iced fresh fish from all over the world.

This fairly large restaurant (2 floors) was packed, apparently because they are very reasonable with good quality. Notably, the retaurant across the street was not full. So, good quality at affordable prices makes a difference.

Tokyo Skyline

It was rainy and cloudy in Tokyo. The rain kept the air relatively clean and smog free. The clouds swept through in huge streaks like puffy white railroad trains. The gleaming skyscrapers glittered in the gloom like huge castles rising out of a forest of buildings.

That was yesterday. Today, it was hot and sunny and the crowds were out in their usual Tokyo masses. It was nice to settle down to a little sushi and ice green tea after a long day in meetings and subways. Hope you are all fine & have a happy Wayward Friday!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tokyo Wildlife

Hello from Tokyo! Even in the midst of Tokyo Airport, among the steel girders, glass and concrete, there is wildlife. This swallow was part of a pair of birds flying back and forth to feed two tiny hatchlings on an iron girder above the bus stop. It was dreary and rainy outside and the birds offered a nice change of pace.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Orchid Judging

It was a banner night at orchid judging with 5 orchids awarded. This one, a bifoliate (2 leaved) Cattleya [Lc. Allen Condo 'SVO'], had a spicy fragrance and flowers that were as hard as cardboard with a waxy sheen. Overall, a good time was had by all and it was nice to get away from a very stressful day at the office.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Summer Blooming Orchids

The summer blooming orchids are popping up on the balcony and it is really relaxing to stare at their amazing colors and enjoy their fragrances. The pictured orchid is a sweet smelling Encyclia alata that was being visited by ants, likely for the sugary secretions that it exudes on the stem. Perhaps ants are the pollinator. There were also three more Stanhopeas with those wonderful bird-like flowers that remind me of space ships from a science fiction movie and that produce some of the strongest frangrances in the orchid family.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Extreme Measures

I forgot the camera at home and found myself at the beautiful Huntington Botanical Gardens without my favorite toy. Not to be totally left in the cold, I resorted to extreme measures: the camera phone. Albeit, it doesn't take the best nor the most consistent pictures when you're used to Nikon but, it occasionally comes through in a pinch. Here's a picture of a water lilly with a reflection of the glass panes centering the flower in a bulls eye. Wow.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Downright Owl Tired

I'm exhausted. Actually, I've been pooped all day. The weather has cooled down enough to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows. However, last night at about 4am, an Owl flew up to enjoy a lovely perch on top of the lamp post outside my window. Now, owls can be deadly quiet when they want to be but this little guy/gal was hooting up a storm. I swear this owl was louder than my music alarm in the morning.

So I hear "hooo hoooo hoooooo hooooooo", seemingly louder the longer I try to ignore it. I roll over, try the pillow over the ears thing but this is just one LOUD owl. So, at this point, I'm wide awake and thinking that any owl that has that kind of persistence might just hang around for a portrait photo or two. So, I sleepily grab the SLR and the super dooper flash and carefully sneak out of the house, careful not to make too much noise so as not to scare off our very vocal owl before I get my picture.

After some looking around, I see a dark sillouette (aka lump) on top of the lamp post. This is in character as the owls do tend to look for a high spot to perch on while looking for food (or while keeping me up as it may be). The camera is having a tough time focusing but this little camera has a little beam for range finding and soon enough, we have focus. Then, POOOOOF! Big flash! It takes my eyes a little while to readjust to the dark as I look to see if our owl friend stayed around for a second photo but alas, the owl flew off to darker/quieter outposts which, admittedly, was for the better since I really needed to get back into bed to salvage what was left of last nights sleep. I check my camera screen to see if the owl posed or not and voila, there he is in full yellow and red-eyed glory. Tonight, however, I intend to sleep.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Beach at Del Mar

This is the view from the patio at the Poseidon restaurant in Del Mar. The waves looked like they were running around 2-3 ft (pretty decent) and there were more lifeguards in that spot than I have ever seen on a San Diego County Beach. I'm guessing the City of Del Mar has no funding shortages. All in all a gorgeous day. The food at the Poseidon was awesome as well.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hunting for Hippo

Everyone was waiting so patiently to look at the hippo. Meanwhile, the hippo was looking at me!

It's really fascinating watching the hippos gallup underwater. How something that big can be so graceful underwater boggles the mind. They're probably pretty buoyant underwater, having just the right density to get traction on the bottom and still be able to effortlessly glide through the water. Perhaps they can even regulate their buoyancy like fish do? I'll leave that last one to someone more versed in hippo trivia.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tyranosaurus Snack

This passing Tyranosaurus has taken a fancy to some of the spectators at the pride parade, possibly fancying some of them as a mid-day snack!

This year, they had different companies sponsoring huge inflatable animals (there was also a shuttle). Admittedly, the animals were pretty lifelike. Rex here is enough to make even the toughest parade participants take a second look.