Sunday, October 31, 2010

Plymouth, Michigan, USA

Here we are, about half way between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice. Time to celebrate! Halloween, the eve of All Saints Day, is the modern manifestation of an old set of holidays known as cross-quarter days. As the dark half of the year begins, conditions are perfect for witches’ night flights. (Well, maybe not that perfect...) [2008]

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ain Dara, Syria

In any other part of the world, this neo-Hittite lion would be in a museum. But the museums of Syria are full of artifacts that are even more exquisite. Still, it hurts to see this once-proud temple guard succumb to horizontality. Would someone please restore his dignity by putting him back on all fours? [1993]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Honfleur, France

The year was 1608.  From this very harbor, an experienced navigator set sail for the other side of the Atlantic.  His name was Samuel de Champlain, and his ambition was to colonize.  He founded Quebec City, and the era of permanent French settlement in North America began.  You might say the history of Canada began here in Honfleur.  [2004]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

From the Lower Town, it looks like the lord's castle, but it is really the Frontenac Hotel.  Sorry, I should say Le Château Frontenac. The lords who built it were the railroad magnates of the 19th century.  Wealthy travelers of the past may have come by train, but most today arrive by car. In either case, the view of the St. Lawrence is magnificent.  [2005]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Lisbon, Portugal

Every city of southern Europe, Lisbon included, has its patron saint, many of them martyrs like St. Vincent. Just as St. Vincent's body was protected from wild animals by the ravens (see them?), St. Vincent will protect Lisbon. The name of the 17th century monastery in the background? The Monastery of São Vicente, of course. [2009]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sofia, Bulgaria

Let the races begin! On a sunny summer Sunday in Sophia, Red Bull sponsors some fun for the kids (and their families). And lest you think the Americans are taking over, Red Bull grew out of a Thai-Austrian partnership. Once again, a simple scene offers a glimpse of globalization. By the way, what does 'racecar' spell backwards? [2010]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Platja d'Aro, Catalonia, Spain

Originally wild, now tamed by tourism: that’s Costa Brava. Where the Iberian Peninsula’s granite mountains meet the sea, they resist erosion, and Mother Nature becomes the sculptor. Platja d’Aro’s sandy beach is one of the most popular in Catalonia, but there are always a few sequestered coves where the crowds thin out.  [2005]

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Barns: Who could build the biggest? the best? the showiest? Those farmers who had the means to hire talented brick masons to design useful structures that also advertised the farm’s prosperity. In south central Pennsylvania and Maryland, that meant brick-end barns. Today, these former 'cow palaces' turn the rural landscape into a gallery of folk art. [1982]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

People have had fun playing chess for over fifteen centuries. We use the Persian word for the game (from 'shah'), but its origins are in northern India, and its Spanish name, ajedrez, is a product of the Arab conquest. It came to Mexico with the colonizers. The lesson?  If you know how to read the cultural landscape, you can read the history of the world. [2007]

Friday, October 22, 2010

Palmyra, Syria

The reconstructed tetrapylons ('four gates') mark Palmyra as a typical Roman city; they define the intersection of the main north-south and east-west streets. But what is a city doing in the desert? If you climb up to that castle and look back, you will understand. Palmyra sits next to the largest oasis in the Syrian Desert, hence the name, 'city of palms.' [1995]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

The magnificent Belfast City Hall (seen insinuating itself into the picture from behind) had to be the ‘big wheel’ in town, so the Belfast Wheel had to go.  It lasted for 2-1/2 years, but was never meant to be permanent. But, neither was the London Eye, the Thames-side spoke-ride that would have put a smile on George Ferris’s face. [2009]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

London, England, UK

Iconic images, together forever in London's Westminster.  The logo for the London Underground (as in 'underground railway') and the tower everyone calls Big Ben help to define the essence of London in the "mind's eye."  They brand the city and make it internationally recognizable.  And yes, purist, Big Ben is really just the great bell inside the tower.  [2003]

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chesapeake Bay, Virginia, USA

Here's what a perfect autumn morning looks like from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Lynnhaven Roads becomes a temporary parking lot for container ships as they wait their turn at the Port of Virginia. Note how high they are riding. In the distance is Cape Henry, its light tower barely discernible. [2008]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Encamp, Andorra

Do you travel with your tastebuds? If so, try honey, and try it as a ‘locavore’ (someone who eats only what comes from within 500 miles). Preserves are good, too. This native Andorran (recognize the 'flag'?) is selling both as he sets up for Encamp's ‘Festa Major' (Català, by the way). See what you can in Andorra, but also taste what you can. [2005]

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jerusalem, Israel

The place is the Mount of Olives. The year is 2000. The event is Palm Sunday. It’s a new millennium, the third of the ‘Christian Era.’ It’s also the year the Pope came to town, and these are his people. Note, however, that the procession is led by ersatz Ottoman authorities as protectors (a tradition that continued despite the collapse of Ottoman rule). [2000]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Istanbul, Turkey

Vitamins, minerals, and fiber are for sale all over Istanbul, here blocking the entrance to a former Roman Catholic church, now a mosque, Arap Camii, in the urban village of Karakoy. On one side of the wall you can find salve for the body, and on the other salve for the soul. [2010]

Friday, October 15, 2010

Paris, France

Before you set off to see the world, ditch your luggage. It holds you back, restricts your mobility, and adds expense to the trip. The less you carry the better, so try a backpack or anything under ‘carry-on’ dimensions.  If you take old clothes, you can ditch them as you use them, and pack in some souvenirs.  [2005]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Genoa, Italy

Genoa's Porto Antico seems not so 'antico,' especially with that futuristic 'biosfera' in the background. It's full of butterflies. But, I'll wager the butterflies in this picture are not confined to the sphere. [2008]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Pitched roofs are a response to climate, but the greater the pitch, the less useful the interior space. Hence, dormer windows evolved to expand headroom, provide ventilation, and let in light. So many elements of medieval architecture have been superseded by modernity, but not the dormers. They're not just medieval, they're modern suburban. [2008]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Two towers separated by a galleria:  that's Brookfield Place.  But it's this small courtyard that captures the essence of Canada.  Here, the cone-bearers of the great boreal forest pop up in the city as if they're seeding Toronto's 'greening.'  The majestic northern forest is Canada's largest natural region.  [2010]

Monday, October 11, 2010

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

After a season of adding splotches of color to Toronto's harbour, canoes and kayaks go into hibernation, but this year it was just a week too early.  Thanksgiving week-end was beautiful.  It is said that Thanksgiving is the only thing about nationhood that Canadians can all agree upon.  [2010]

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Morning glories don't bloom in a closet.  They flourish only in full sunshine.  Here along Church Street, they daily make their colorful contribution to a diverse urban landscape in which Canadians can take pride.  The banner in the background announces Toronto's newest musical:  Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.  [2010]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lake Simcoe, Ontario, Canada

Due north of Toronto and just an hour away is Lake Simcoe, the original heart of "cottage country."  Lucky urbanites have a cottage on the lake and a pier they can call their own.  Enjoy the sun through October, then get ready for winter when the lake freezes over and the ice shanties go up.  [2010]

Friday, October 8, 2010

Saydnaya, Syria

Tucked away in the mountain folds north of Damascus are some of the world's oldest, continuously inhabited Christian communities. Saydnaya is one of them. But it's not beyond the reach of western culture as the Pink Panther will explain as he sells you an Orange Crush. Could that be Inspector Clouseau's Syrian cousin in the door jam? [1996]

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Swansea, Wales, UK

Swansea castle looks like it could almost hold its own against the British Telecom tower. Castles are visual delights even when a few fragments are all that remain, but it’s hard to image fragments of modern office buildings commanding as much adoration a thousand years from now. [2005]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brighton, England, UK

Here along the English Channel, seaside stretches seem so much more salubrious than a mid-summer swim in the sea itself.  The water is just frighteningly frigid – unless you're English!  I wonder if these chaps are English enough to head for the surf after their jog.  [2009]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kjölen Mountains, Norway

Near the rail head of Myrdal, the Kjölen Mountains prove their usefulness and their beauty. Snow fields in the middle of summer remind the Norwegians that winter is never far away. The altitude is perfect for collecting snow, and the crystalline rocks are perfect for collecting water on the surface so it can be turned into electricity. [1984]

Monday, October 4, 2010

Brunswick, Georgia, USA

Spanning the broad mouth of the Brunswick River, the Sydney Lanier Bridge carried Glynn County into the new millennium. Its name keeps the spirit of Sydney Lanier alive in coastal Georgia. Here, "The Marshes of Glynn" look up to the 19th century poet who gave them a literary life in his famous poem. [2010]

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Toulouse, France

Canal boats used to be the freight-movers of Europe.  Now they are the tourist-movers  And they were never limited to the 'Low Countries'!  Toulouse, for instance, found itself at the hub of a waterway network that connected the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, making it the cardinal place of southern France west of the Rhône.  [2005]

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Auckland, New Zealand

Instantly, you recognize Auckland.  The Sky Tower gives the city a distinctive skyline that sears itself into the public consciousness.  The more cities converge in form and function, the more they yearn to set themselves apart.  They must offer something unique, and what could be more unique than a jump from 600 feet up?  [2005]

Friday, October 1, 2010

Valetta, Malta

A twosome takes time for a tête-à-tête, balanced on the parapet. Malta may be in the middle of the Mediterranean, but the Mediterranean is also in the middle of Malta, or at least its capital city.  Valetta's capacious harbor, and its location at the waist of the Mediterranean, have made the island a prime piece of real estate since pre-historic times. [2009]