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8.31.2006 - 29 comments 

This beach at Sam Lord's Castle was an absolutely beautiful beach. Perhaps, one of the prettier ones that I have seen anywhere. The water was so blue and clear, with its white sand beaches, it just did not even seem real. Sam Lord's castle itself is located in the parish of St.Philip, Sam Lord's Castle is a beautiful Georgian mansion built in 1820 by the notorious buccaneer Samuel Hall Lord. And is exactly right behind where I took this shot from.

Legend has it that Sam Lord acquired his wealth by plundering ships, which he lured onto the reefs off the coast, by hanging lanterns in the coconut trees. Many ship captains mistook these lights for Bridgetown and wrecked their ships on the reefs. And thus the plundering of the smashed ships on the jagged rocks where they thought they were finding a safe harbor.

Venture to a setting that only legend can describe...Twelve acres of tropical splendor at the rim of a deep blue sea. Where pristine beaches thread the coastline for more than seventy miles and calypsorhythms stir through the palms. A captivating castle in a legendary setting. An exotic escape with breathtaking views. A world of amenities to meet your every need. And a heartbeat away from paradise. That is how the hotel is described by the tourist agencies. But it is not far from the reality of breath-taking beauty that surrounds you there.

They (Barbados) were a British Colony before becoming an independant island country. Barbados had reverted to its former status, that of a self-governing colony. The island negotiated its own independence at a constitutional conference with the United Kingdom in June 1966. After years of peaceful and democratic progress, Barbados finally became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 30, 1966, with Errol Barrow serving as its first Prime Minister.

Many times we would venture out from here to explore the other island attractions from the capital at Bridgetown to the Barbados Caverns and the other large cities on the island. Truly a very relaxing island / country. The castle itself was more like a VERY large home that is was like a castle. From that standpoint, I would have to say it was a little disappointing, but at the time it was a Marriott Resort and the resort facilites were just marvelous.

You will find the bajuns (as the locals are called), for the most part very friendly, except that they do not like to have their pictures taken. Something about taking part of them a way with you, but I did find that for a couple of bajun dollars, they would let you take their pictures. I remember taking one of the cutest little old man driving his horse and cart with a full load of sugar beets on his way to market. After giving him some money, he was happy to be all smiles for my camera.

Truly this counrty was one of the most unique and relaxing family vacations we have been on.

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints." -Robert Louis Stevenson Posted by Picasa


8.25.2006 - 34 comments 

I have stated before that I would much rather post pictures I have taken of NATURAL THINGS on my blog rather that manmade things, but some things are just too pretty to not pay attention to. This for me is one of those posts. But as most of you may have noticed, this is one of the thumbnails I have at the top of my blog. I also have it full size on the wallpaper of my work PC.

The Opera House is lit up each night, but this particular night, there was a Football game being played there called "State Of Origin". This is kind of like the Superbowl playoffs here in the states. The players have to have been born in the Australian state in which they are playing for. We Americans would call this game Rugby, but it is called "football" there. They even have their own NFL. But is is one of the biggest sporting events that is played there. This night the "Maroons" (from the state of Queenlands) were playing the "Blues" of New South Wales. In recognition of that playoff game, they lit it up in blue. As we were crusing down the river from the west and all of a sudden you could see the lights of the city in the Circular Quay area of the city and then shortly after I saw the Opera house only tonight it was lit in blue.

It is one of the most distinctive and famous 20th century buildings, and one of the most famous performing arts venues in the world. Situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, with parkland to its south and close to the enormous Sydney Harbour Bridge, the building and its surroundings form an iconic Australian image. To some, the spherical-sectioned shells are reminiscent of the flotilla of sailboats commonly cruising there. It is a major tourist attraction even though most visitors have little interest in attending in performances.

As well as many touring theatre, ballet, and musical productions, the Opera House is the home of Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. It is administered by the Opera House Trust, under the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts.
The Opera House covers 1.8 hectares (4.5 acres) of land. It is 183 metres (600 feet) long and about 120 metres (388 feet) wide at its widest point. It is supported on 580 concrete piers sunk up to 25 metres below sea level. Its power supply is equivalent for a town of 25,000 people. The power is distributed by 645 kilometres of electrical cable.

The Sydney Opera House, Originally designed by the Danish Architect Joern Utzon, is meant to look like a giant sailing ship. The roofs of the House are constructed of 1,056,000 glazed white granite tiles, imported from Sweden. Despite their self-cleaning nature, they are still subject to periodic maintenance and replacement.

The Sydney Opera House contains five theatres, five rehearsal studios, two main halls, four restaurants, six bars and numerous souvenir shops. The building's interior is composed of pink granite mined from Tarana, NSW and wood and brush box plywood supplied from northern NSW.

The theatres are in a series of large shells, conceived by dissecting a hemisphere. The Concert Hall and Opera Theatre are each contained in the two largest groups of shells, and the other theatres are located on the sides of the shell groupings. A much smaller group of shells set to one side of the Monumental steps and houses the Bennelong Restaurant.

The Opera House was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on October 20, 1973, which crowds of millions attended. The opening was televised and included fireworks and a performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.Prior to the opening, two performances had already taken place in the finished building. On September 28, 1973, a performance of Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace was played at the Opera Theatre. On September 29, the first public concert in the Concert Hall took place. It was performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Mackerras and with accompanying singer Birgit Nilsson.

During the construction of the Opera House, a number of lunchtime performances were arranged for the workers, with Paul Robeson the first artist to perform at the (unfinished) Opera House in 1960.

By the way, in case you wondered, that particular night they (The Blues) won the game (but in the end, they lost the championship). Well it makes for a nice story just the same.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain Posted by Picasa


8.20.2006 - 32 comments 

There is probably no more picturesque area in Northern California than that of Big Sur. You have read of my admoration of the famous Highway 1 from San Fransisco south toward Los Angeles. But quite frankly that drive going south is actually pretty scarey. Those of you who have done it know exactly what I am talking about.

Highway 1 through Big Sur has been designated as an American National Scenic Byway & California Scenic Highway, an honor reserved for highways that are so distinctive they are destinations unto themselves.

Big Sur was voted "Best Place to Play Hookie," and "Best Romantic Getaway." Big Sur is also home of the "Best Marathon in North America" and the "Best Hotel in North America." Adding to our 'best of' list, Big Sur is now home to the "Best Restaurant in California," per the Zagat Survey. National Geographic Traveler listed Big Sur as one of the "50 Places of a Lifetime/The World's Greatest Destinations." Oh, and Big Sur was recently on the cover of Sunset Magazine, stated "Spring Escapes; Our top picks for weekend getaways and fantasy vacations." As if that wasn't enough, Smart Money Magazine rates Big Sur #7 in its "30 Trips of a Lifetime." So, if you believe either of those comments, you'll truly love it there.

California Gray whales have started their migration from Baja Mexico to Alaska and can be seen from the roadside turnouts throughout Big Sur. Bring your binoculars and watch for the water spouts. Although frankly, we never saw any of them. (I think it might either take a trained eye, or at least a GOOD one)!

Local Hiking is allowed along the beaches to the mountains... Hike along the streams in the cool, tree lined valleys. Climb up on the high ridges for a spectacular view of the coastline on the western slope and gaze into three million acres of wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest on the eastern slope. There are not a whole lot of places to stop safely along the highway, but I did manage to get a shot of this pretty, well populated (yet seemingly isolated) beach.

Evenings in Big Sur offer the opportunity to dine in restaurants from fanciful to exquisite. You can relax in lodging that ranges from rustic to luxurious. Camp out in the many well equipped campgrounds. We say several back packers in and around this area. You can also luxuriate at the local health spas. And of course one of the favorite past-times of Big Sur, Do Nothing!

That's right. Relax and take in the magnificent beauty of Big Sur. Once you are here there is no reason to do anything more. Replenish your spirit by simply absorbing the weepingly beautiful vistas of Big Sur. Do Nothing in Big Sur and leave refreshed and rejuvenated from head to toe. We didn't have that luxury. I did, but frankly (as long as I wasn't driving) right on the edge of Highway 1 (at about 1,000 feet above the ocean) I automatically relaxed!

" the open road is a beckoning, a strangeness, a place where a man can lose himself." -William Least Heat Moon (William Trogdon) Posted by Picasa


8.15.2006 - 36 comments 

You may remember my post of the Lompac, California "seed factory" a couple of months back, but let me tell you, if the flower fields of Lompoc had enjoyed the amount of traffic that Carlsbad gets with its location near the San Diego I-5 Freeway (over 150,000 visitors per year), the farmers there would have kept the crops as a revenue-generator.

The flower fields of Lompoc are not as abundant as they used to be but there's still a commercial place people can go and pay a fee for the privilege of wandering through glorious flowers...thousands upon thousands of them! Each spring in the months of March and April, 50+ acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers are in bloom in the colorful fields of Carlsbad, California, delighting tourists and locals alike.

The town of Carlsbad itself, (or "Village by the Sea,") is 48 square miles of rolling hills with seven miles of scenic coastline enjoyed by residents and guests who come to play. Located 35 miles north of San Diego and 86 miles south of Los Angeles, it is easily accessible from either city and well worth a drive up or down the coast to see. Old world charm co-exists with modern day pleasure in a city where the oldest building in town dates back to 1887 and the newest Legoland amusement park has been around just a few short years.

Carlsbad is named for the popular 19th century Karlsbad Spa in Europe. When sea captain, John Frazier, drilled a well and struck water in the 1880s, it appeared to have the same mineral properties as water in Karlsbad, Bohemia. Continuing a proud tradition for which the city was named, Carlsbad is home to two world class spa resorts: La Costa Resort & Spa and Four Seasons Resort, Aviara.

This charming city by the sea attracts guests from around the world and is also flower friendly as a premier growing region for poinsettias and ranunculus. Beginning in March and running for several months, flower lovers are abuzz at the arrival of spring which brings an endless sea of colors to local fields. People come from near and far and pay a small fee to get a glimpse of nature's perfect beauty. The bird of paradise got its start here and is the city's official flower.

Legoland theme park, Carlsbad flower fields, a downtown shopping village with a European flavor, a shopping mall and family oriented vacation beaches are a few of the things you can do and see when you visit. There is also jetskiing, parasailing and sky diving for additional thrills.
The Carlsbad Flower Fields located near the Carlsbad shopping outlet and Legoland kids' amusement park is comprised of 50 acres of flowers that grace the hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean each spring.

For a nominal fee visitors can enjoy wandering through the fields and getting a close-up view of the growth. Included on the premises are a special nursery, garden, and gift shop by Armstrong Garden Centers, and festivals throughout the season.

Among the specialty flower attractions, there are often miniature roses and poinsettias. A 1,500 square foot greenhouse is filled with the world famous Ecke poinsettias. You can also learn about the Ecke family, the world's largest producer of the country's best selling potted plant - The Poinsettia.

Brilliantly colored flowers are ranunculus' chief attraction, and they are indeed special. They most often come in multiple layers of delicate, crepe paper--thin petals, looking like an origami masterwork. Ranunculus (R. asiaticus) excel in southern and western gardens, and make terrific container plants everywhere. They also make long-lasting cut flowers. Bulbs are widely available this month in retail nurseries and mail-order catalogs.

Ranunculus leaves, grass green and vaguely celery-like, grow in a mound 6 to 12 inches across. Flowers on 12- to 18-inch stems emerge in March from fall-planted bulbs, June and July from spring-planted bulbs; they last up to six weeks. On the most common type, the Tecolote strain, flowers are mostly fully double, 3 to 6 inches wide, and available in bicolored picotee, gold, pastel mix, pink, red, rose, salmon, sunset orange, white, and yellow. The less common Bloomingdale strain is shorter, to 10 inches, with pale orange, pink, red, yellow, and white double flowers.
Ranunculus are cool-season perennials that grow in relatively mild weather with springs that are cool.

Ranunculus are most popular in regions of the South and West and grow exceptionally well in states such as California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana. The bulbs or tubers, come in four grades or sizes. The largest, called jumbos, are best for home gardens. Bulb size predicts the number of flowers. Each jumbo bulb will produce some 35 cuttable flowers, compared to a fifth as many from a number three bulb.

To plant the bulbs, choose a location in full sun and be sure the soil is well drained. The one environment that ranunculus do not tolerate is warm and wet. The cool soil of fall and early spring offers some protection from rotting, but soil that is never soggy gives extra insurance. As long as soil retains some moisture, don't water again until you see sprouts, usually within 15 to 20 days.

Companion plants. Because ranunculus are cool-season bloomers, their natural companions include other cool-season flowers such as snapdragon (Antirrhinum), calendula, larkspur, Chinese forget-me-not, African daisy, sweet pea and pansy.

Commercial growers can be found in Israel, South Africa and California, but California's production far exceeds other countries. All California-grown ranunculus are seed-grown plants of the Tecolote strain, and most are grown in and around Carlsbad. The tubers they produce will be harvested, dried, and packaged to sell to gardeners the subsequent fall.

In March and April, the California Tecolote ranunculus fields, 60 miles south of Anaheim and 30 miles north of San Diego, are so visible from the nearby highway that traffic slows even more than usual. So many people have turned off the highway and wandered through the fields that commercial grower began charging a fee. While visiting, you can buy cut flowers or tubers. Of course, as you can tell, we were some of those people too, but it was well worth it.

I took this picture hoping to catch one odd ball colored ranunculus in these several rows of the same color. After I took the shot and had it printed, I could acually see several more as well. But when you stand back and admire these hundreds of rows of different colored ranunculus, it really doesn't matter anyway, they are just beautiful.

"Our Nature lies in movement; complete calm is death." -Pascal, Pensées Posted by Picasa


8.09.2006 - 34 comments 

As I have often quoted on this blog, I far prefer to blog about things of natural beauty around the world, but occasionally, I am just attracted to manmade art as well. This set of photos is one of those times. I took it a couple of summers ago while we were vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I also don't usually post more than one photo with each post. But this is an exception to both those USUAL things. Many of you have mentioned "Crazy Horse Monument on on previous WALL, South Dakota post. So I thought I would go ahead and tell its story too.

Equipped with only a sledgehammer, a single-jack drill bit and a box of dynamite, Boston-born sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski went to work on June 3, 1948 creating his 563 x 641 foot sculpture of an Indian man atop a spirited warhorse. This would later be called Crazy Horse Memorial. He would spend the next 36 years of his life doggedly blasting away 7,400,000 tons of granite near Custer, South Dakota to rough out virtually the entire figure, in the round.

Now, 57 years after Korczak started carving, and his death in 1982, work still continues on the world’s largest sculpture. The dimensions are staggering. The mountain-sized statue is as long as a cruise ship and taller than a 60-story skyscraper.The story of Korczak and his mountain is told in the $1.6 million Crazy Horse Orientation and Communications Center. This Center has several scale models (both inside and outside of the building) of what the Korczak sculpture is intended to look like when it is complete. Even though you cannot get as close to it as maybe you could at the Mount Rushmore Monument, the size of it is almost over whelming. Born in Boston of Polish descent, Korczak Ziolkowski was completely self-taught. He never took a lesson in art, sculpture, architecture or engineering. Orphaned at age one, he grew up in a series of foster homes.

He began experimenting with woodwork as a teenager, and soon was sculpting in wood and stone. In 1939 Korczak briefly worked as Gutzon Borglum's assistant on Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the same year as Korczak's marble portrait, "Paderewski: Study of an Immortal," won first place by popular vote at the New York World's Fair.

The honor resulted in Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear's invitation to Korczak to carve Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills. In his invitation letter to Korczak Ziolkowski, Chief Henry Standing Bear wrote: ``My fellow chiefs and I would like the white man to know that the red man has great heroes, also.''; The nonprofit educational and cultural project became his life's work and that of his wife, Ruth, and their sons and daughters who today continue the Crazy Horse dream according to Korczak's detailed plans. Below is why the chiefs thought that this red man's chief deserved a memorial too.

~ Crazy Horse ~ Tashunca-uitco ~ (1849-1877) Celebrated for his ferocity in battle, Crazy Horse was recognized among his own people as a visionary leader committed to preserving the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life.

Even as a young man, Crazy Horse was a legendary warrior. He stole horses from the Crow Indians before he was thirteen, and led his first war party before turning twenty. Crazy Horse fought in the 1865-68 war led by the Oglala chief Red Cloud against American settlers in Wyoming, and played a key role in destroying William J. Fetterman's brigade at Fort Phil Kearny in 1867.

Crazy Horse earned his reputation among the Lakota not only by his skill and daring in battle but also by his fierce determination to preserve his people's traditional way of life. He refused, for example, to allow any photographs to be taken of him. And he fought to prevent American encroachment on Lakota lands following the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, helping to attack a surveying party sent into the Black Hills by General George Armstrong Custer in 1873.

When the War Department ordered all Lakota bands onto their reservations in 1876, Crazy Horse became a leader of the resistance. Closely allied to the Cheyenne through his first marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he gathered a force of 1,200 Oglala and Cheyenne at his village and turned back General George Crook on June 17, 1876, as Crook tried to advance up Rosebud Creek toward Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn. After this victory, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull and on June 25 led his band in the counter-attack that destroyed Custer's Seventh Cavalry, flanking the Americans from the north and west as Hunkpapa warriors led by chief Gall charged from the south and east.

Following the Lakota victory at the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Gall retreated to Canada, but Crazy Horse remained to battle General Nelson Miles as he pursued the Lakota and their allies relentlessly throughout the winter of 1876-77. This constant military harassment and the decline of the buffalo population eventually forced Crazy Horse to surrender on May 6, 1877; except for Gall and Sitting Bull, he was the last important chief to yield.

Even in defeat, Crazy Horse remained an independent spirit, and in September 1877, when he left the reservation without authorization, to take his sick wife to her parents, General George Crook ordered him arrested, fearing that he was plotting a return to battle. Crazy Horse did not resist arrest at first, but when he realized that he was being led to a guardhouse, he began to struggle, and while his arms were held by one of the arresting officers, a soldier ran him through with a bayonet.

That is why the work on this memorial to Crazy Horse by Korczak is still continuing after almost 60 years. The top picture was one I took from a couple of miles away from the monument, the next was from the visitor center (which is still perhaps) a quarter mile or so from the monument. The white statue in front, is at the vistor center, so that you can stand back from it and picture what the completed memorial to Crazy Horse will eventually look like. The next and final one, was one I took with my telephoto lens. Hopefully my grandkids will get to see it completed someday.

"The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality" - Samuel Johnson Posted by Picasa


8.04.2006 - 25 comments 

Anyone who has driven the interstate (I-90) across South Dakota has more than likely seen a landscape view just like this one. This is basically the typical landscape and what you see all the way from Mitchell, S.D. until you get to the City of Wall, South Dakota and then from Wall, S.D. all the way to Rapid City, South Dakota. But there is really not much between the "Corn Palace" in Mitchell, all the way to the city limits of Rapid City, SD except for a little town called WALL. We stopped at the "Wall Drug Store" in Wall S.D. (literally within a very few miles of where I took this picture of a passing thunderstorm) on the Great Plains.

This "Wall Drug store" (in this dry wastelands area) has become a mega-tourist trap and classic vacation stop for generations of thirsty travelers. As you travel this road, it seems as if every couple of miles, you will see a billboard telling you just how many miles you have until you reach this (TRAVELERS OASIS).

Many of you may even remember (although candidly, I didn't) that a guy named Dobby, was actually Killed by a Billboard? As the story goes, Virgil "Dobby" Hansen of Philip, South Dakota, painted hundreds of the nice wooden billboards that lined the byways of the Midwest, hawking the wonders of Wall Drug. Called Dobby because of the paint "daubs" that covered his clothing, Sherwin and Williams in RED, GREEN, BLACK,YELLOW and of course the nice crisp WHITE, he neatly hand-lettered each sign that stood out so vividly at 70-80 MPH. Each one, clear, concise and memorable, was a work not only of art but also of the pursuit of a job well done.

Dobby began sign painting in South Dakota when he returned from his service in World War II, and painted until his death in 1989, killed by the plywood sheets of an 80-ft. long "Wall Drug" billboard as it slid off a truck.

Dobby not only painted signs for the Wall Drug, but did woodwork that graces the Wall Drug as well.Others were the brands around the dining room, the wooden Wall Drug in black walnut on the face of the store and the Travelers Chapel sign to name a few.

For years, I have seen bumper stickers on cars stating that, "WE VISITED WALL DRUGS ~ WALL S.D." and had no idea what it meant. When we visited Wall Drugs, (which is basically a whole block, rather than just a drug store). The thought of visiting a DRUG store actually did NOTHING for me personally, but after seeing these billboards, we just had to stop, especially given the half million (or so it seemed) signs that we had spotted all the way from the "Corn Palace" in Mitchell.

The exterior of Wall Drug looks much the same as the older pictures I saw in Wall, with the only noticable change being to the sign, which now reads "Bill, Ted, and Rick Hustead's Wall Drug". The sign out front also states that seating capacity is up to 530.

I was surprised by what I found inside. Wall Drug is a totally enclosed collection of shops with a chapel, pharmacy museum, and huge cafe. The size of the meals in the cafe could be expressed as FARMHAND size. Each specialty shop was staffed with summer help from overseas, courteous and willing to help us.

Actually Wall Drug had a display of historical photographs that was incredible. There must be at least 2,000 or more with lots of interpretive information with them. Easily worth a couple of hours of time. Also, there is a huge and hokey Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur that belches smoke and makes very loud noises every 14 minutes. Also worth waiting for with small children or if you want to wonder why all the other adults are waiting for it too.

There was also the hokey bench with the plaster cowboys sitting on it which I HAD to pose my wife with, to prove she could have done better in life than getting stuck with me.

After wandering around the interior of Wall Drug for about an hour -- totally lost at times since it seemed you can walk around in what seemed like a square but you never end up back were you started -- we finally checked out the back lot. There we found the famous Free Ice Water Well, jackalope, bucking horse (real horse hide, by the way), buffalo (again a real hide), Mt. Rushmore, and chuck wagon photo-op.

The only disappointment was the pharmacy museum. I expected something world-class, given the piles of money Wall Drug makes each season but we found the museum to contain very few pharmacy related artifacts, all of which were up on a high shelf so anyone under 6 feet tell can't even see most of them. Most of the 'museum' space is dedicated to trying to sell you funny-smelling candles and throw-away cameras. Just like any OTHER tourist trap.

I could not help but wonder what this place would be like in the middle of February instead of July. But, please don't get me wrong... Wall Drug is the miracle of the badlands and I am sure if I am ever traveling that very long stretch of Interstate 09 from Mitchell, S.D. to Rapid City S.D. and find myself in the Badlands, believe me, I will make sure that I stop by and get myself a bumper sticker that reads, "WE VISITED WALL DRUGS ~ WALL S.D."
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it." -Yogi Berra Posted by Picasa