The Wonderful Art of Dale Chihuly Mar07

The Wonderful Art of Dale Chihuly

I have been a huge fan of Dale Chihuly for many years.   He is a glass artist from Tacoma, Washington (USA) and now has an amazing gallery in Seattle called Chihuly Garden and Glass.  I don’t have too much time to ramble on about each piece, each one can speak for itself.  His incredible versatility and technical execution makes each piece special.  I hope to own a few of his works one day.     A bunch more photos from the trip.  Click any image for a bigger version.   And one photo from our journey back.  Some random pub in a town I no longer...

Exploring Santiago Sep10

Exploring Santiago

Though I’m posting this in September, the photos were taken in March. It has taken me ages to find the time to edit and post these shots but such is the life with young twins. I have been to Chile several times in the past but often don’t have time to explore due to my work schedule. However, during this trip I had an extra day and decided to explore the city of Santiago. I contacted Cat at Foto Ruta to see if she had time to plan a custom tour. Not knowing the city well, it’s nice to have a local show you around. Cat was very accommodating to my schedule and interests and we planned an afternoon/sunset shoot.  We met at the GAM (Center of Arts, Culture, and People) and wandered the streets for hours from there.   Not far from the GAM is the “Cerro Santa Lucía”. My favorite photo from the fountain did not turn out great but I had a good laugh at the little boy playing in the water.   Here are my tour guides for the afternoon, Cat and Alex.  I never did see the photo from the other side :) I did try my hand at some sweeping shots of traffic.  Need more practice. A few shots while walking through the streets. We then made it to this great plaza where guys sit around and play chess.  Maybe women play too, but likely few and far between. Some interesting characters, and a bit of street art too. I love old and interesting churches, this one was beautiful. Caught this guy in the plaza, his shirt says “I shoot people”.  So do I :) Some fantastic murals, they were huge and very well done. This young guy looked relaxed and waved to us.  I like the long shadow in the waning daylight. We got into an area of town filled with graffiti.  This is not the crappy work you see in a subway tunnel, but works of art by commissioned local artists.  It was brilliant. My guides Cat and Alex looking for shots. Even the people around here are covered in art. A few shots from a rooftop to finish the day.  Thanks for the great tour Cat and Alex!   The next day, I only had a few hours before my flight but enough time to visit Centro Artesanal Los Dominicos.  This is a small village full of Chilean handicrafts and a farmers market.  Worth a visit. My final stop for the day, and a place I have visited twice before, was the Cementerio General de Santiago.  It’s an interesting place to roam around, with a blend of old and new.  I’ll likely visit again in the future. I “almost” sat on this at the end of the day.  No idea what it is but it was covered with long, hard, and incredibly sharp spines.  It hurt to even pick it up, so I’m glad I didn’t sit on it. It would have been a LONG plane ride...

A Short Visit to Wrocław, Poland Mar02

A Short Visit to Wrocław, Poland

Being a native of Poland (specifically Łódź), I was happy to book a return visit to my homeland.  I haven’t been back for many years, and it being a work trip I didn’t have much time for sightseeing.  I flew to Wrocław via Frankfurt, and while at the Frankfurt airport I had the chance to stretch my legs so I took my camera along. They have a great kids area complete with a plane and a soft rubber floor.  I didn’t have the twins with me, so they couldn’t enjoy playing pilots.  Click any photo to enlarge. I also got my first glimpse of the new Airbus A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world.  I actually saw many of them so Frankfurt must be a hub for these monsters.  It’s an impressive machine. I spent my week in Lubin, Poland and unfortunately have just one photo to share.  I took this at a park near the Astone Hotel on a cold and foggy morning.  The toned black and white conversion was done in Silver Efex Pro.   The night before my flight home, I did have a few hours to spend walking around Wrocław.   It was late so I was unable to enter any of the fantastic cathedrals and churches in the city (I am fond of these places: 1, 2).  It was also very cold and I was poorly prepared for the elements :)  Regardless, I did get a few photos from this beautiful city.  Next time I intend to spend more time there. First, just a quick shot as I was on my way to the city square (Rynek). A quick stroll through the city square, very beautiful and not something I find in my home town of Vancouver :) As you may notice, it’s now dark.  I may have stopped for a pint, maybe.  Below is a photo of the University of Wroclaw with the River Odra in the foreground.     My chilly walk continued and I was treated with a great view of the Cathedral Island (cathedral right and church of the Holy Cross [Kościół Świętego Krzyża], left). Getting to Cathedral Island meant crossing the Tumski Bridge (Most Tumski).  From Wikipedia: Tumski Bridge is also called Lovers Bridge, Cathedral Bridge or Green Bridge. It’s a place of enamoured tradition for lovers. The bridge is full of padlocks which lovers leave to cherish their feelings. An important part of the ceremony is to throw the key into the Odra river.   Now on Cathedral Island, the Church of the Holy Cross. At the side of the big Cathedral.  Very sorry I was unable to go inside. Now off Cathedral Island, I took a few photos of the National Museum.  Such great architecture, I spent some time here.     Looking back towards Cathedral Island, I took one more shot before heading back to my hotel cold and happy.      ...

A Trip to Chile Dec15

A Trip to Chile

I visited Chile in May 2013, so this post is LONG overdue.  In my defense though, two cute babies arrived and those little things take up all of my time :)  So after months of inactivity, here are a few photos from the trip. I landed in Santiago and had a day to explore the city with my colleague Jamie.  We decided to go for a walk without having a destination in mind. and as we left the hotel the sun was reflecting off the large tower.  Sadly, I think the effect is visible due to air pollution.   We walked along the canal, and came across several interesting sights. We saw a large statue at the top of a hill and decided that was a good destination.  It turned out to be the Santuario de la Inmaculada Concepción, and it was a much farther walk than we had expected. Half way up the hill, you can see the tower in the distance where we started our walk. Finally at the top, tired and needing a rest. Enjoying the view.   A few more shots from the top of the mountain (click to see bigger). We found a rail car that could take us back down, which was great as we didn’t want to walk all the way back down.  Using Trip Advisor, I found that the cemetery is worth visiting.  Despite being tired, we decided to make our way down there since it wasn’t far.  Along the way, we came across some interesting graffiti. And a dog that didn’t like me taking his photo. We finally made it to the Cementerio General, and I’m glad we made the effort.  It is an amazing spot, with a lot of old crypts and gravestones.  The sun was starting to set and we just walked around looking at the interesting sights.  This is the entrance gate. Inside one of the buildings, there are many like this. Each plaque a person’s final resting place.   Some are obviously very expensive, with marble and stained glass windows. They are beautiful.       Others are older and less well maintained, but equally interesting and with a lot of character. A few more shots. This is a spot I will have to come back to, it’s a fantastic place to walk around. That was it for Santiago, not a city you can see in one day but we did our best.  Must have walked 20Km in total.  The next day, we took a tour to the Casablanca Valley, well known for it’s white wines.  The tour would visit several wineries, with a sampling at each one of course.  First up was Indomita, with a great view and a beautiful estate. A few shots during a tour of the winery.   The name of the second winery escapes me.  It was smaller and used more traditional techniques.  If you recognize it, leave a comment and I’ll update the post.  Thanks!     Here they are making balsamic vinegar.  As the vinegar ages it reduces in volume so they pour it into ever smaller barrels. The final winery was Casas del Bosqe.  Another beautiful spot where we sampled wines and had an excellent lunch.     The next day, I caught an early flight to Calama, which is located in the Atacama Desert.  The Atacama is the driest place on earth, receiving almost no rainfall.  Some weather stations have NEVER received rain!  These are a couple of iphone photos from the plane as we were leaving Santiago.  There are still clouds here, in the Atacama there are only clear skies.     This shot is on the approach to Calama.  A bizarre landscape featuring no plants.  In the bottom of this photos, there is a small river that supports a small group of shrubs.  Beyond that, it’s  bleak but strangely beautiful as well.   I was in the Atacama to visit a copper...

A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part III Jun19

A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part III

This is the third group of photos (part 1 and part 2). One day I decided to book a tour with Bravo Bombay (reviews), run by Hemali Talsania.  Hemail is great, and put together a great tour for me and a couple that joined us.  Hemali’s knowledge of the city is great, and her English is excellent.  We went to several spots that I wanted to visit, here are a few photos from the day. First, I was picked up in a van by a driver.  I didn’t take the Mumbai Local this time, and after two journeys on the crowded train it was nice to get driven around in an air conditioned van.  The accident with the motorcycle was just part of the adventure.  On our way down the driver asked if I wanted to take the sea link, having read a bit about it I agreed that we should.  The Bandra–Worli Sea Link, or officially the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link, is a new bridge and freeway that links western and southern Mumbai.  It’s a great route saving a lot of time but it’s tolled so it is virtually empty.  In the city (where there is no toll) the traffic is snarled but the freeway is wide open.  Maybe it will get more use over time.  I know, not a great photo but I took it through the window of a speeding van ;) One of the first stops was Dhobi Ghat, a huge (world’s biggest?) open air laundry.  This facility washes an absolute mountain of laundry every day from all over Mumbai.  A few photos from the laundry. This is my favourite photo from the set, just a little kid going about his day. Next on the agenda was Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, or Victoria Terminus.  An amazing building with incredible detail.  Worth a visit if you are into architecture.  Unfortunately, the interior was not nearly as amazing as the exterior. At the university, there is a replica of London’t Big Ben.  It’s actually a very good replica, though sadly I could not get any closer than this as it’s behind locked gates. When you take a close look at the faux Big Ben, you can see the Indian touches compared to the original. A popular tourist spot, the Gateway Of India.  One of the few places we visited where there were a lot of tourists and people pushing their wares.  I was somewhat of a celebrity being one of the only tall white guys around.  Several people asked to take their photo with me, first time that has happened. Everyone in the group received a blessing (for a small donation).  It was nice. We visited a Hare Krishna temple, and listened to the chants.  A nice spot and interesting religion.   The Mahatma Gandhi Museum, full of interesting artefacts.  The most powerful and memorable were the letters to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. Outside the museum, I met a charismatic and friendly tour guide who I chatted with while waiting for my group to finish up.  Smartly dressed, he was happy to pose for a photo.  For some reason he reminds me of Eddie Murphy. Close to the harbour, we saw a fishing boat coming in.   A little helter skelter but definitely interesting. The harbour itself. Hemali, our tour guide (far right) and the couple who joined the tour.  Maybe they will see this one day (if so leave a comment ;) After the tour, I did some of my own exploring.  Here a vendor is selling strings of flowers.  These were being used to decorate cars for a festival. A family I ran into, they were great and the boy holding the dog asked me a million questions.     My favourite photo form the trip.  This old guy was sitting in a flashy metal carriage when I approached him.  He didn’t speak English, but nodded and smiled when I asked him...

A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part II Jun16

A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part II

I took a lot of photos in Mumbai, this is the second group. You can view part 1 here. I decided to head to the south part of the city to explore the area.  Leaving the hotel the security guard posed for a photo.  Hotels have strict security since the terrorist attacks of 2008. I have heard some crazy stories about the “Mumbai Local” train.   During rush hour, it’s one of the most crowded trains in the world, people are hanging off the sides.  The staff at the hotel told me not to ride it, it’s not for tourists.  A tour guide I hired said “you are taking the local?  I don’t even ride the local”.   With those sentiments, I knew I had to ride it :) I decided to ease my way into it, my first trip was off-peak, and it was quite pleasant.  There are no doors on the train, and it stops for only a very short while at each stop.  For my second trip, I booked the cheap fare during rush hour.  That was definitely entertaining and highly recommended for anyone looking for some adventure.  The mass of humanity that steams off a train at each stop is crazy, and somehow you need to push your way though that to get on board.  Good times. My destination for the day was the Chor Bazaar.  “According to popular legend, if you lose anything in Mumbai you can buy it back from the ‘Chor Bazaar’.”  You can literally get anything here, it is one of largest flea markets in India. This aisle was full of garlic.  It smelled amazing, not overpowering at all.  The guy sitting on the ground was peeling cloves, that is what he does most of the day. At one point, I walked past a school.  The kids were just leaving and a few of them come over to say hello.  They spoke very good English (they all learn it in school) and they started asking me a lot of questions while showing me around.  They wanted to pose for a photo, but at the last second all ran away leaving just one.   These guys had a good laugh. Venturing outside of the market after a few hours of exploring, I decided to just stand on a street corner and look at the interesting people streaming by. [Click any image to view bigger.]   There are interesting people everywhere.  I’m not even sure what this gentleman is selling, but he looks sharp.   If you know what this stuff is, please post in the comments.  Update: Thanks to Sandhya for letting me know via the comments that this gentleman is selling Singhara (Water Chesnut/Water Caltrop) seeds. Another friendly character, spoke no English but was happy to pose for a photo.   Some of the local animals.  Fresh mutton?  No problem.  Want to buy a rooster, they have that too. Sidewalks in Mumbai are not quite up to Canadian standards.   A few more interesting sights and people including a fruit and vegetable stand. On more than one occasion kids ran up to me and wanted to pose for a photo.  Very curious and very cute.   A shave on the street.   I’m not sure this is up to WCB standards. It was amazing to watch these guys climb bamboo scaffolding with no harness or other safety equipment.   One of the slums on the beach.  Despite the conditions, children will find a way to entertain themselves.  Here they made a kite and they seemed to be having a great time.   A well dressed gent at a street market. Finally, my dinner.  Curried goat, roti, and a local...

A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part I Jun16

A Visit to Mumbai, India – Part I

My trip to Mumbai, India was an eye opening experience.  In a way it was what I expected but at the same time I wasn’t always prepared for what I saw.  India is clearly a developing nation but in many ways behind other third world countries I have visited.  I know that India is becoming a technology center for many global companies, it has a quickly developing economy and is on the verge of rapid industrialization.  However, when you walk the streets and talk to the people you don’t see much evidence of that.  There are obviously many wealthy people in India, but there are far too many that live on the street below the poverty line. While it’s true that many people are poor and live on the street, all of the people I met were warm and accepting of my presence.  Some were guarded at first but if I asked for directions, to take a photo, or just how their day is going they would all flash a big smile and do their best to help me out.  Those that spoke English were eager and willing ask where I’m from and how I like the country.  Some engaged in conversation and other just said hello and posed for a photo.   I’m wouldn’t get the same reception if I walked the streets of Vancouver (my home town).  People in Vancouver are often self-centered, indifferent, or paranoid you are running some scam and do not engage strangers to the same level. The people in India are also very spiritual and tolerant.  They are a blend of many religions (Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, and others) often obvious by their clothing though there is no visible tension between them.  They celebrate festivals and openly practice their faith.  Many also believe in the concept of Karma which is present in all of the religions.  Because of this, there seems to be an environment of safety and I did not ever feel threatened during my visit.  I walked in many different areas of the city, alone, as an obvious outsider and didn’t feel unsafe at any time.  It may have been luck but I can’t say that I would do the same in other large cities around the world. My experience of India is limited to one city, Mumbai (Bombay).  Other cities may be drastically different, I really don’t know.  I hope to visit other parts of India some day to see for myself. Exploring On Day 1 My first day in Mumbai was just spent exploring the area I was staying in, Juhu.  Juhu is an affluent suburb of Mumbai where many Bollywood stars live however if you plucked me from Vancouver and dropped me in Juhu I would think it far from affluent.  There are obviously many poor people living on the street and there is garbage littered everywhere.  The waterways I saw were extremely polluted, looked almost like blank ink and filled with trash.  Juhu Beach unfortunately isn’t much better being covered in garbage, and both animal and human waste. For a country so blessed with natural beauty and resources it’s a real shame to see it treated so poorly. Part of the problem is the population explosion in Mumbai.  I have heard estimates that put the population between 20 and 24 million people and all those people need to live somewhere.  Combined with the fact that Mumbai is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world, you essentially force people to live on the street or in slums.  These places often have no sanitation, garbage collection, or even running water.  The garbage and waste is simply dumped into the environment and it is clear that nature has paid a heavy price. Juhu Beach, not every area is this littered though there is no area that is clean. One thing to note is the smog in...

Belize Vacation Dec08

Belize Vacation

On November 30th, my wife and I left rainy Vancouver to visit Belize for the first time.  Belize is a tiny country in Central America with a population of about 320,000.   It is 290km long and 110km wide, you can literally drive around the whole country in one day if you wanted to.  English is the official language which makes getting around very easy. Due to our last minute booking we had to take four flights (Vancouver -> San Francisco -> Houston -> Belize City -> Dangriga) and a boat ride to reach our final destination, Coco Plum Island Resort.  The last flight is on a small plane which lands on a tiny runway in Dangriga, just part of the adventure I suppose. Coco Plum is on a small 16 acre private island about 15 minutes by boat from Dangriga.  There are only 10 or so cabanas on the island, so it is very quiet and far removed from large resorts elsewhere in Belize.  As soon as you arrive on the island, the staff make sure you are well taken care of.  Bags are taken to your room, and the bartender makes you a tropical welcome drink.  In our case, mosquito bites :) The bar is a central hub of activity for staff and guests.  Special thanks to Leo for being such a nice guy and a great bartender.  Erwin, Bella, Sam, Crispin, and Byron also deserve special mention for making our stay fantastic.  The roof of the bar is covered in t-shirts from former guests, each with its own message. After check-in, we went to our cabana and were surprised how big they were.  More than enough space for two people.  Everything is very clean, well maintained and comfortable. The ocean literally steps from the door.   The resort is beautiful, tranquil, and a great place to relax.  Here are some shots from around the resort.  The island in the photo below is another resort, Thatch Caye. The long dock is one of the great features.  During the day a place to relax.  At night the lights attract rays, sharks (small ones, don’t worry), and squid.  It’s also a good place to snorkel, we saw a lot of interesting creatures and I even found a huge live conch. A large hermit crab. Another type of crab which seemed to be unhappy about my presence. Even an urchin which did a good job of hanging onto my hand. The water is typical Caribbean: blue green, warm, and clear. Katie and I spent a lot of time snorkeling around the area.  We also ventured out on most of the snorkel trips from the island to the local barrier reef.  Belize has some of the best snorkeling I have encountered anywhere in the world and I have been to a lot of great locations.  The reefs are still in great shape and there is a huge variety of coral, fish, and invertebrates.  Spotted Eagle Rays are common. A lobster trying to hide in the coral.  The lobster here don’t have big claws. This puffer fish was also trying to keep a low profile, but I spotted him. There are also a lot of birds in the area, including pelicans. We had a few nice sunsets while we were there, though not quite as good as we had in Thailand and Hawaii. On some days, there are several inland tours you can participate in.  We chose to visit the Belize Zoo, which is small but well laid out and quite natural.  Animals have large pens with plenty of room for cover.  Considering that this is a third world country, the animals were well kept.  Unfortunately, when we were there it was raining and a lot of the animals were not visible.  We didn’t get to see a jaguar, which is one of the big draws.  It also made getting good photos harder, but here...

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