28 February 2009

out of the frying pan ...

Sami Tent / Paksuniemi, Sweden
A trip to Lapland would not be complete without first racing reindeer - and then cooking the loser. Actually, we didn't cook the loser but after some rigorous racing across the frozen landscape we came back to a meal of cooked reindeer and lingonberry jam. This gamey meal was cooked for us over an open fire by our Sami guide while we sat around the open fire inside a reindeer skin covered tent trying to warm up. We were over 200km north of the Arctic Circle - and it was COLD.

27 February 2009

among the trees

Schloss Schönbrunn / Vienna, Austria
Schönbrunn Palace is one of the most important cultural sites in Austria and since the 1960s has also been one of the major tourist attractions in Vienna. While the Palace was architecturally commanding in its scale, I found the surrounding grounds to be much more interesting. Unfortunately, we were there in late November so the numerous gardens were not in bloom but I'm sure in the spring and summer, the landscaping is spectacular. This was taken in the arboretum area and reminded me of parts of Central Park in Manhattan.

26 February 2009

by the barrel

Amisfield Wine Company / Queenstown, New Zealand
New Zealand is a land like no other - and the wine is pretty good, as well. Over the past ten years, NZ Sauvignon Blanc, particularly from the Marlborough region, has widely become recognized throughout the world as setting the benchmark for this varietal. However the Otago region is better known for its Pinot Noir and we tasted some excellent Pinots at Amisfield.

25 February 2009

magical mystery tour

California Lighthouse / Noodwestpunt, Aruba
These types of party tour buses are synonymous with the island of Aruba - though we chose to take a more sedate means of transportation for seeing the sights. For the next several days I am in southwest Florida touring eleven Brits around our renewable energy facilities in Tampa and Ft Myers. We will have our own magic bus transporting us about though I suspect it won't have a giant banana riding the roof.

24 February 2009

path not taken

Margit-szigete / Budapest, Hungary
Otherwise known as Margaret Island, this park land area is a 225 acre, 1.4 miles long island in the middle of the Danube in central Budapest. The island is mostly covered by landscape parks, and is a popular recreational area perfectly situated between Buda and Pest. Its medieval ruins are reminders of its importance in the Middle Ages as a religious center. The island was dominated by nunneries, churches and cloisters until the 16th century. During the Ottoman wars the monks and nuns fled and the buildings were destroyed. It was declared a public garden in 1908. The island was called Nyulak szigete or Island of the Rabbits in the Middle Ages, and it received its current name after Saint Margaret (1242–1270), the daughter of Béla IV of Hungary who lived in the Dominican convent on the island.

23 February 2009

queen of the thames

Thames Embankment / London, England
Boudica, derived from the Celtic word for victory, was a queen of the Iceni tribe of what is now known as East Anglia in England, who in AD 60 led an uprising of the tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. However, it was not until the Victorian era that Boudica's fame took on legendary proportions as Queen Victoria was seen to be Boudica's "namesake". Alfred, Lord Tennyson, wrote a poem, Boadicea, and several ships were named after her. As a more permanent memorial, a great bronze statue of Boudica with her daughters in her war chariot was completed in 1905 and stands next to Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament. Shadowed against the London Eye, Queen Boudica looks quite imposing.

22 February 2009

splitting hairs

Râşnov Fortress / Râşnov, Romania
Set deep in the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, it would appear that the Râşnov Fortress was not known for its customer service. This was a depiction of the "saw" that I shot in the small museum area discussing the fortress' history. The saw may represent human ingenuity's darkest hour. The idea here is that when the victim is suspended upside down, most of the blood will go to the head. That is an important part of the process because as the torturers saw into the victim's crotch, all of the blood in the head will oxygenate the brain so that the victim will not pass out as one normally would under such excruciating pain. Typically, the saw would reach the victim's navel before unconsciousness would take hold -- sometimes as far as the midriff.

21 February 2009

best NYC bagels

From the Kitchen of ... / New York, New York
The perfect morning. Sunshine. Hot coffee. And fresh homemade bagels! This morning was a first attempt at making completely homemade bagels which started last night with making the sponge, kneading the dough, shaping the bagels, passing the float test, retarding the dough - and then letting them sit overnight in the fridge. We got up this morning, briefly boiled the bagels and then into the oven they went. Twenty minutes later we were biting into the best bagels EVER - I mean it. Ess-a-Bagel, H&H, Absolute - move over.

20 February 2009

keeping an eye on parliament

Westminster Bridge / London, England
I've been in London all week - typically grey but no rain. Yesterday afternoon I walked along the Victoria Embankment from Westminster Bridge (where this was shot from looking towards Parliament and Big Ben) down to Blackfriars Bridge; ending up at the Tate Modern. A nice afternoon fortified by excellent lamb shawarma from a hookah lounge.

19 February 2009

open to the heavens above

Temppeliaukio Church / Helsinki, Finland
Temppeliaukio Church, better known as the Rock Church, is a Lutheran church in the Töölö neighborhood of Helsinki. The church was designed by architects and brothers Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen, and opened in 1969. The interior was excavated and built into the rock, but is bathed in natural light entering through the glazed dome (above). The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics - with the acoustic quality ensured by the rough, virtually unworked, rock surfaces. It was also a great venue for photography - and one of few churches that actually encourage you to shoot away.

18 February 2009

we have-a bananas today

18 Carerra / Santa Marta, Colombia
Santa Marta is located on the northern Colombia coast of the Caribbean sea and backdropped by the beautiful Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. I was particularly looking forward to revisiting Santa Marta as I had been there a number of times back in the mid-90's for business purposes (not what you're thinking). The city was vaguely as I remembered - hot, dry, somewhat dirty, and with lots of people going about their daily lives - not a tourist town. As obvious from the above photo, there were lots of fresh fruit vendors which reminded me not to eat fruit off the streets unless you can fully peel it - and even then.

17 February 2009

ing forward

Dózsa György Street / Budapest, Hungary
Architecturally, this is about as modern as it gets in Budapest. While socialism still has a strong grip on the mindset of the city, ING bank took a step forward with the design of its headquarters building across from Városliget City Park and the vast and empty Square of Heroes. The kinetic movement of the exterior glass, aluminum, and stainless steel components has served as an icon for a new era in Hungarian architecture.

16 February 2009

domaclature III

Iglesia de San Pedro Claver / Cartagena, Colombia
San Pedro Claver Corberó was a Jesuit who, due to his remarkable life and work, became the patron saint of slaves of Colombia and of African Americans. He was beatified July 16, 1850 by Pope Pius IX and canonized January 15, 1888 by Pope Leo XIII. San Pedro Claver died in 1654 in Cartagena where he spent most of his life dedicated to the abolition of slavery. Cartagena de Indias was an important port in the slave trading business with many coming from Africa and then sold into slavery. The cathedral, which has this beautiful dome centered over the intersection of the nave and the transept, houses the bones of San Pedro Claver in a glass coffin in full view under the altar - a somewhat gruesome toothless skull and draped skeletal frame.

15 February 2009

for dinner .. again???

Central Market on De Ruyterkade / Willemstad, Curaçao
While wandering around the circular public market in downtown Willemstad, I couldn't help but wonder if a pig can still smell without his snout? OK - I've seen pig's knuckles and ears - but these are the first snouts I've seen. Apparently, you deep fry them and serve them up with sauces. Think what more appetizing of a dish Mom could put on the table but pig snouts with some sort of delicious sauce dripping from its nostrils. Seconds please!

14 February 2009

happy [heart] day

Banks of the River Usk / Llanhamlach, Wales
Walking along the banks of the River Usk last summer, I happened upon these beautiful but deadly digitalis purpurea, otherwise known as Purple Foxglove or Ladysglove. Due to the presence of the cardiac glycoside digitoxin, the leaves, flowers and seeds of this plant are all poisonous to humans and some animals and can be potentially fatal. Extracted from the leaves, this same compound, whose clinical use was pioneered as digitalis by William Withering in the late 1700's, is used as a medication for heart failure causing the heart to beat more strongly. He also recognized that it reduced "dropsy", now known as edema or an abnormal accumulation of fluids beneath the skin. Fortunately, his patients began vomiting violently within minutes of ingestion which prevented "most" of them from consuming a fatal dose.

13 February 2009

straight up

Stockholm Palace / Stockholm, Sweden
The Stockholm Palace (Stockholms slott) is the official residence and major royal palace of the Swedish monarch, Carl XVI Gustaf and the royal family. The palace has 609 rooms and is one of the largest royal palaces in the world still in use for its original purpose. Stockholm Palace is located on Stadsholmen in the Old Town area of the capital city. It was incredibly cold when we were in Stockholm and I suspect that this poor guy was frozen into his vertical position. Nonetheless, he made for a nice composition.

12 February 2009

gentrified dungeons

Las Bóvedas / Cartagena, Colombia
Las Bóvedas, or dungeons, are strategically located between the forts of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina. They are considered to be the last major construction project during the colonization of the walled city of Cartagena. The structure, built between 1792 and 1796, has 47 arches and 23 vaults and was originally designed for munitions storage but is better known for its use as dungeon cells during the Spanish Inquisition which gripped Cartagena de Indias until the early 19th century. Las Bóvedas has recently been restored and now serves as retail space for handcrafts, antiques, bars and galleries.

11 February 2009

gaelic glory

Ballintoy Parish Church / Ballintoy (Balle an Tuaigh), Northern Ireland
Set along the picturesque north Antrim coast and looking out over Ballintoy Harbor, the Ballintoy Parish Church currently serves a community of about 250 Church of Ireland parishioners. Ballintoy is located about 1km from the harbor, a small fishing village at the end of a very small, narrow, steep road down Knocksaughey Hill which passes by the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The rope suspension bridge is taken down every November and put back up the following March (due to weather), linking the mainland to the tiny Carrick Island.

10 February 2009

no. 2 urchin

Espanola Island / Galapagos Islands
Walking the beach of Espanola Island, I came upon this spiny pencil sea urchin "has been". Looks to me like an overused ashtray - place your butts here, please.

09 February 2009

waddling back home

Portobello (Otago Peninsula) / New Zealand
I'm back - alittle bit bigger - but well rested and tanned. I've always heard what an eating orgy cruise ships are but until you've experienced it, it is hard to imagine the amounts of food available 24/7. After the first two days, I quickly realized what the end result might be so I paced myself better and decided to make healthier eating choices. It's all good. The weather was fantastic - very hot days full of nothing but sunshine.

08 February 2009

through the church gate

Church of St Peter and St Illtyd / Llanfrynach, Wales
The church of St Illtyd and St Peter at Llanhamlach lies on the eastern side of the River Usk, about 5km downstream from Brecon, an historic market town dating back to the 11th century. The church tower is attributed to the 14th century but the rest of the building was comprehensively restored in 1887. We came upon the church while taking an afternoon walk from Peterstone Court, a beautiful country inn and spa that we stayed at this past summer.

07 February 2009

renaissance reflection

9th Street NW / Washington, DC
A look up from within the courtyard of the Renaissance Hotel on the fringes of Chinatown. We were waiting for a table at a nearby restaurant, The Matchbox - I got antsy and started wandering. Nothing unusual about that.

06 February 2009

red light district

Fifth Avenue / New York, New York
The iconic Flatiron Building, originally known as the Fuller Building, is considered to be one of the first skyscrapers ever built. Upon completion in 1902 it was one of the tallest buildings in New York City. The building sits on a triangular island block at 23rd Street, Fifth Avenue, and Broadway, at the northern end of Madison Square Park. The neighborhood around the building is called the Flatiron District after its signature building. That said, what strikes me about this shot is the complete synchronization of the red traffic lights - and corresponding brake lights of the cars.

05 February 2009

kiwi sunrise

Lanarch Castle / Dunedin, New Zealand
This was the spectacular view of the Otago Peninsula from our room at Lanarch Castle. The Otago Peninsula is a long, rugged finger of land that forms the easternmost part of Dunedin, New Zealand. Volcanic in origin, it forms one wall of the collapsed crater that now forms Otago Harbour, part of which you can see on the left side. The peninsula lies due east of Otago Harbour and runs parallel to the mainland for approximately 30 km. The peninsula is home to many species of wildlife and ecotourism is an increasingly important part of its economy. This is where you will find the rarest of penguins, the yellow-eyed.

04 February 2009

domeclature II

Church of St Peters and St Pauls / Krakow, Poland
Located along the Royal Route (Droga Królewska) in the Old Town area of Krakow, St Peters and St Pauls is a grand 17th century Baroque structure modeled after Rome's del Gesu. I have always been fascinated by domed structures, particularly from the interior. This one was magnificent.

03 February 2009

swept away

ICEHOTEL / Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Suite 320 of the 2007/2008 ICEHOTEL. Now in its 19th year, the ICEHOTEL is an annual construction feat using nothing more than the snowflakes that fall to the ground and ice carved out of the nearby River Torne - incorporating the expertise and experience of builders, designers and artists from around the world. From start to finish, the ICEHOTEL takes approximately six weeks to create with each year bringing a completely new design. This room was designed by two artists from Bulgaria; one a sculptor and the other an architect. A truly amazing experience.

02 February 2009

horizontal tonality

Hilton Barbados / Needham Point, Barbados
Some shots work much better than others in black & white - I think this one works well. We had just arrived in Barbados for a week of sailing on a tall ship through the Grenadines and were staying at the Hilton the night before boarding. An incredible storm swept through not long after I took this shot.

01 February 2009

vegetarians are sexy?

Hester Street / New York, New York
NBC pulled the plug on a PETA pro-veggie commercial planned for the Super Bowl because it "depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards," according to an NBC Universal's advertising standards executive. The ad, which carries the tagline, "Studies Show Vegetarians Have Better Sex," shows lingerie-clad women getting "intimate" with vegetables. Perhaps PETA should have lined these experienced guys up instead.