Eye to eye with a Great Horned Owl.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Travel Dispatch # 29 (Queensland)

This is a "makeup" exercise for the travel posts. Right after we got off the dive boat we rented a car and spent the next day on a drive up the coast from Cairns to Port Douglas and the beginnings of the Daintree Rainforest. As usual, I took quite a few pictures. But that night as I was transferring, supposedly, my files to the computer I thoughtlessly skipped a step and formatted the card before I had actually uploaded them to the computer. I said a few things best not repeated and spent a few hours attempting to resurrect the files to no avail. I was discouraged and not just a little P-Oed, but I didn't loose heart completely. I locked the card, tucked it away and decided to deal with it when we got home. Which I did and with the happy result of being able finally to retrieve the errant photo files.

So, I get to abuse you once more with more travel pics from our mega trip. As I mentioned, these shots are from a day when we visited Port Douglas (north of Cairns) and took a hike in Mossman Gorge at the south end of the Daintree Rainforest. The above photo is on a pier near the marina at Port Douglas. There were a number of good views on the drive up and since we came back on the same road we got to see them twice - but conditions had changed dramatically in those few hours.

Going up.

Coming back.

Port Douglas

Shut up and Fish!

It was spring time in Australia and things were in bloom. They have a tree we never did find out the name of that has an incredible bloom and there were a lot of them.

From Port Douglas we went further north to the rainforest (it seems funny to even type that, North to the Rainforest?). And it totally lived up to its name.

It poured! So we took a 2.6 kilometer walk through the forest, in the rain and were completely soaked. With all those trees and all that vegetation, there were bound to be some interesting ones.

These pics were shot on the 23rd of November in Australia, but they were already getting in the spirit of the coming season and since we are now pretty much there I want to conclude with this shot I got in a little shop in downtown Cairns. There's definitely an Aussie vibe about this look at jolly old St. Nick and the Mrs.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Beautiful but Dangerous

Yesterday was a "stay at home" day. Overnight Saturday the temperature dropped enough that the rain we had been getting since early Friday changed to freezing rain. In the process, it coated everything with a damaging layer of wet, heavy ice. There was no wind, thankfully, or things could have been much worse. As it was, the main sound of the day was the sound of branches breaking, falling and covering the ground with fragments of ice.

The best place to be was definitely inside in a warm and cozy place. But ultimately the splendor of all that shimmering, transparent ice covering everything drew me out with camera in hand to record the very real beauty of another of nature's many faces. Without further comment, I will just post some of the shots I got within yards of the house.

I have to admit I almost didn't bother to go out. I could just imagine all the cameras out there clicking away and didn't see why I should add to the deluge of "ice" shots. Well I'm sure they were and a lot of them have already been appearing on facebook. More ice pictures probably didn't need to be taken. But I'm glad I got off my duff and went out. It's, happily, not all that common an occurrence and it was an undeniably wonderful photo op. And I also almost hate to admit that these are the first pictures I've taken since getting home from our trip - almost three weeks ago. That's just too long to have the cameras sitting idle. They (I) need the exercise and constant practice to keep the eye and the head in shape. 

It's now Monday morning. The temps have drifted back up to above freezing and overnight last night the ice disappeared from the trees. The driveway is still a bit treacherous, but the trees are much less burdened. Rumor has it that we're looking at sub-zero temps before Christmas. Ah, winter in the North Country.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Travel Dispatch #s 27 and 28 (Paris)

Hang on to your hats. This could be a bumpy ride. Well at least a full one. This was my first visit to Paris and we've only been here for two and half days -- not very long in such a subject rich environment. As a newbie, it was difficult not to behave like a typical tourist and try to check off as many of the traditional sites as possible. In the time we had, I think we did pretty damn well. I've taken more photos in the short time we've been here than I've taken other places where we've spent more time. This is a city teeming with photo ops. But don't panic. I've narrowed the selections down to just some basic markers to highlight the highlights. It's still going to be lengthy though as I'm combining the two days into one post. Grab a cup of whatever and come along for our lightning tour of Paris.

The weather here has not been all that great -- a lot of grey. But our first evening there was some nice late light near the Seine and there were some occasional moments of sun.

The last shot is across the Seine from the Left Bank looking at the Louvre which was going to be our first destination early the next morning.

Crossing the river the next morning, we encountered this. The mesh retaining walls of the bridge literally covered with locks. Padlocks. Like this...

Apparently it's a thing in Paris to write names and/or messages on locks and lock them to the mesh of the bridge. There are a LOT of locks.

We arrived early to get in the ticket line and got to enjoy the sight of the sun rising over the Louvre. None too shabby.

Outside and inside the museum. The lower shot is looking down the Grande Gallery -- it is grand, long too.

We, of course, saw lots of great art.

We even saw some new art being made -- maybe not so great. He was copying the painting meticulously, right down to the frame.

From there we wandered to the nearby Comedie Francaise. 

The occasional home of one of my personal heroes . . .

. . . Moliere. We tried to get tickets to see a Cocteau show there, but they were sold out. So much for not planning ahead. Leaving the theatre, we stumbled on this delightful little confection shop.

Everything was so attractively displayed that we just HAD to get something. I'm not sure Clarisse, the sales girl, was all that thrilled with our selections.

And she probably wouldn't be thrilled with me including this particular picture of her, but the chocolate and the caramels we got were very good.

The Arch de Triumph was our final check mark of day one before we returned to our hotel to collapse prior to venturing out once again for a delicious dinner at a restaurant recommended by our Australian friends. Yum.

Next morning it was museum time again and this time we headed to the Musee d'Orsay. We discovered after we got there that the first Sunday of each month is "get in free" day. We were thrilled with that but not with the "No Photo" policy. Interesting that the Louvre allows it and not the d'Orsay. In any event it spared you a few more pictures of art. I did manage to sneak a couple of shots of the interior of the museum itself, a former train station.

We had two more sites to check off during the afternoon and it required a couple of Metro trips. One was the Eiffel Tower, of course.

Which interestingly, to us at least, has a lovely little carousel sitting right at the base of it.

From there we zipped across town to Notre Dame, where we were also able to check out one of the best old bookstores. . .

Needless-to-say, it's been a fantastic journey, but it's nearing the end. Tomorrow we make our final two flights toward home and after spending the night in another of the world's great cities, we will get in our own car and drive ourselves back to our own little home town and our own cozy house. It's been great knowing there are interested folks out there to share this adventure with. I don't know how many photos I've included in these posts, but I do know I have accumulated 3156 photo files -- that I've kept. So you see, I really did spare you the bulk of them. And thanks for the comments you've made along the way. It was nice to know someone was following along.