Where in the World

Where in the World? Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver is a lovely city on the West Coast of Canada. We visited in the spring of 2008. In a number of ways it reminds me a little of San Franciso with lots of lovely parks, a large bridge over the bay and plenty of water surrounding the city. It’s also one of the ‘greener’ cities we’ve visited with plenty of hybrid taxis, electric buses and bike lanes.

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Where in the World? California Poppies, California, USA

I’ve finally gotten around to uploading some photos from our trip last month to the California Poppy Fields. We headed off with not much of a plan other than to go in search of wildflowers. We’ve had quite a lot of rain this year, and the desert has bloomed like I’ve never seen before. Stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it. Fields upon fields of fluorescent orange poppies. Pictures can’t do it justice.

Where in the World? Aircraft Boneyard, Arizona, USA

In 2008 I visited the place where military aircraft go to die. It’s called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), but it’s more commonly known as the ‘Boneyard’. It houses at least one of every plane flown by the U.S. armed forces since WWII and it’s believed to be the largest airplane graveyard in the United States.

You can also see some pictures from Google Earth which show the amazing variety of aircraft here.

I wonder how I’ll explain these aircraft to my grandchildren. They might never get to experience what it is to fly. And here I am, an Aerospace engineer taking it all for granted. Somedays, it does my head in.

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Where in the World? Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

This week’s ‘Where in the World?’ features the middle east. The Pyramids of Giza had long been on my ‘must see’ list and I finally got to visit in 2005.

If you are anything like me, you probably imagine the pyramids to be quite isolated, rising like mirages from a sandy desert. The truth is much less romantic. They are literally in the middle of the suburban sprawl of Cairo. You can eat your lunch at Pizza Hut while enjoying the view. Dissapointing I know.

Nonetheless, if you have a good enough imagination, you can block out the tourists and the dirty skyline and imagine you are in Ancient Egypt, when these pyramids were first built.

It helps the imagination to have some camels around. It doesn’t help when the camel rider constantly bugs you for baksheesh. Baksheesh can be described as “lavish remuneration and bribes, rudely demanded but ever so graciously accepted by the natives in return for little or no services rendered.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Regardless, my visit to the Great Pyramids is one of the highlights of my life. I’d been fascinated with Ancienct Egypt since I was a kid and finally getting to see these massive symbols of this fascinating ancient culture was a dream come true. If only our modern culture weren’t so ugly as to ruin the experience.

Where in the World? Eagle River, Alaska, USA

Last winter Brendan, my Sister-In-Law and I went to Alaska to visit long-time friends. Having come from Southern California (or Australia in my SIL’s case) the cold was a shock, but everything was just so beautiful blanketed in perfect snow.

A highlight of our week was visiting Eagle River, named for the bald eagles which are abundant in the area.

These are truly magnificent birds and it was a real honour to see them in the wild.

They are also quite massive, something these photos can’t really depict.

Once a week in winter, one of the local ladies throws out some salmon, and a feeding frenzy ensues. There were literally hundreds of bald eagles waiting in the trees for the weekly ritual.

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Where in the World? Greenwich Village, NYC, USA

In early 2008, my friend and I spent four days in New York City. We both had high hopes for our visit to one of the most famous cities in the world but unfortunately we were both a little underwhelmed. Perhaps our expectations were too high. Perhaps we’d both seen too many superior cities in our lifetime. Perhaps we didn’t like shopping enough (which seems to be what most people love about NYC).

Having said that, one of the areas I quite liked the feel of was Greenwich Village (sometimes known simply as the ‘The Village’). In the late 19th to mid 20th centuries Greenwich Village was very much the bohemian capital and although gentrification has taken place in recent years, it still has a good vibe.

Greenwich Village was once a rural hamlet, so its street layout is more haphazard than the grid pattern of the newer parts of town. Many of the neighborhood’s streets are narrow and some curve at odd angles.

Most parts of Greenwich Village comprise mid-rise apartments, 19th-century row houses and the occasional one-family walk-up, a sharp contrast to the hi-rise landscape in Mid and Downtown Manhattan.

We were in town not long after the economic crash of ’08, and signs of the times were visible all over town.

There were lots of cats and dogs on the streets, and being an avid pet photographer, I couldn’t help snapping some shots to add to my collection.

I love old architecture. I think most new buildings are missing a soul, so of course wandering around ‘The Village’ was a real treat after a couple of days trapped among skyscrapers.

The skyscraper <.> is the human stable, stalls filled with the herd, all to be milked by the system that keeps the animals docile by such fodder that as it puts in the manger and such warmth as the crowd instills in the crowd. ~ Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s Tomorrow 1932.

New York City seemed very dog friendly. So many people were out walking their dogs at all times of the day and night. As in the rest of the USA, take out coffee is also popular.

Plenty of interesting ‘wall art’ to be seen. The ATM looks a little out-of-place here.

Just like in the movies: Basketball courts can be found on street corners, where locals gather for a friendly game.

Greenwich Village NYC 9

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Where in the World? Avebury, England

Avebury is the site of a large henge and several stone circles surrounding the village of Avebury in southern England. Aged at about 5,000 years old, Avebury is one of the largest Neolithic monuments in Europe. It is even older than the more famous Stonehenge which is 32 kilometres (20 mi) to the south.  Comparable sites of a similar date are only a quarter of the size of Avebury.

Avebury’s existence indicates that a stable agrarian economy had developed in Britain by around 4,000–3,500 BC.  There were originally 98 standing stones, some weighing in excess of 40 tons. Many of the original stones were broken up or removed from the early 14th century onwards at the behest of the Christian Church to remove the association with pagan rituals, to make room for agriculture, or to provide local building materials. Only 27 stones of the Outer Circle survive.

The best thing about Avebury is that is hasn’t become a complete tourist attraction like Stonehenge. Brendan and I were able to quietly wander through the stone circles and imagine what life might have been like those many thousands of years ago.

What was even more interesting is that a village has been built within the stone circles. We had lunch at the pub to warm up and for me to recuperate from slipping on the icy cobblestones. Thankfully my pride was wounded more than my backside. I think that yellow warning sign in the picture was meant to indicate that walking through there might be precarious. Don’t you love the thatched roof?

Also on site is the Avebury Manor and Garden which is a National Trust property consisting of an early 16th-century manor house and its surrounding garden.

The present buildings of the house date from the early 16th century. Ancient walls and clipped box hedges contain the ‘rooms’ of the garden.

As you can see from the photos, it was a gloomy day when we visited Avebury, but personally I think it added to the mood of the place. With the little village home to only about 400 people I found it a very quiet and quaint little place; the sort of village you imagine finding in southern England.

In the afternoon we visited Stonehenge, but after Avebury I was a little disappointed. A huge chain link fence surrounded the site which was swarming with tourists. You could not walk among the stones like you could at Avebury which I think ruined (pardon the pun) the experience. Nonetheless I’m glad we got to witness these ancient wonders while we were in England.

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Where in the World? Sequoia National Park, California, USA

We were watching a documentary the other night which featured giant Sequoia trees, so I was prompted to go and find my photos of a visit we made in late 2008. These beautiful giants are the world’s largest trees in terms of total volume. The oldest known Giant Sequoia is 3,500 years old! This tree was alive well before the peak of the Roman Empire. Isn’t it incredible to think how much human history has passed in the lifetime of one tree!

While in this National Park I saw my first coyote. They are much smaller than I was imagining, about the size of a slim labrador retriever. I guess my only reference was the old coyote and road runner cartoons I watched as a kid. This one was wary of us, but did not seem to be overly concerned about our presence.

Mum also enjoyed visiting the giant trees, and took the opportunity to be a tree-hugger.

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Where in the World? Engelberg, Switzerland

In May of 2009, Brendan and I spent eight days in Switzerland. I had a couple of days work on, but after that we spent some quality days visiting little villages and hiking in the mountains. Honestly, this is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. I’d live there in a heartbeat!

All photos taken by me. Please do not copy without permission.

Click photos to embiggen.

Although I had the beginnings of a horrible cold, this day remains one of my favourite ever. We awoke in the morning to this view from our hotel balcony.

We decided to catch the gondola to the top of one of the surrounding mountains and hike down. Usually we would have chosen to hike up, but I wasn’t feeling 100% and those Swiss mountains are steep! We caught an enclosed gondola halfway up the mountain and then a chairlift the rest of the way. By the time we reached the top we were in dense fog/cloud and once the lone base jumper had launched, we had the entire mountain to ourselves.

We located a trail which would take us back to the village and we started on down. All hiking trails in Switzerland are really well marked; it must be virtually impossible to get lost. Even if there isn’t a sign, you just have to keep a lookout for the painted markings as seen in the photo below with Brendan. They can be on rocks, houses, fences or even trees.Eventually we had descended enough to come out below the clouds and were rewarded with this view.

If I ever have any trouble relaxing or sleeping at night, the photo below is the happy place where I take myself. It is the most perfect place I’ve ever been to. Some people love the beach, some love the desert. Brendan and I love mountains and green fields. These mountains were full of spring flowers and softly lowing cows with jingling bells. Have I mentioned how much I love cows?

We stopped here to eat our packed lunch and have a little sleep in the warm sun before hiking the rest of the way down into the valley.

The fields throughout the Swiss Alps were full of animals enjoying the spring weather. Each animal has its own bell, sized to suit. Sheep have small bells which tinkle like wind chimes. Cows have larger bells which clang as they move about. The combination makes for a beautiful symphony.

After looking back through these photos I’ve become inspired to take some more active vacations. Forget rushing around, spending long days travelling and packing on the pounds from too much food. I want to travel slow. I’ve already mentioned potentially hiking a portion of the Appalachian Trail later this year, but now I’m also thinking of hiking the Amalfi Coast in Italy for a week or so next Christmas. It looks fantastic!

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