Archive | May 2012

I’m thinking Monet…

I'm thinking Monet... by Webminkette
I’m thinking Monet…, a photo by Webminkette on Flickr.

This beautiful pond is part of the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey. Best known for its arboretum, it has many interesting nooks and spaces.

The pond is home to a vast number of orange/brown fish, ranging in size from small to massive. They can be coaxed out, from under the lilly-pads, with bread crumbs. Groups of excited children stare with fascination at the teeming hoards.

There is a spacious cafe in the relatively modern buildings which offers welcome refreshment after a stroll around the grounds.

Currently, the grounds are show-casing a varied collection of sculptures which add to the enjoyment of a visit.

American Castle

American Castle by webmink
American Castle, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

Dusk in Chicago is a great time to enjoy the architecture. This is the Chicago Tribune building, with its gothic flying buttresses and ornamentation yelling permanence and wealth to you. Let’s hope the newspaper can survive the onslaught of new technology better than the mediaeval european buildings it mimics…

Pilgrim Memorial, Southampton

Pilgrim Memorial, Southampton by webmink
Pilgrim Memorial, Southampton, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

It’s possible that you think the Puritan colonists who settled the US east coast departed from Plymouth, but that’s only partly right. It turns out their journey was already fraught by the time they got that far.

The Mayflower (together with the Speedwell) originally departed from Southampton with the Pilgrim Fathers (and presumably some Pilgrim Mothers as well) – Elizabethan religious misfits whose departure probably went unremarked at the time. After stops at Dartmouth and Plymouth to repair storm damage the Mayflower went on to the New World – the Speedwell was too damaged to make the voyage. And the rest is history. More details can be seen on the plaque at the bottom.

What would you protect?

What would you protect? by Webminkette
What would you protect?, a photo by Webminkette on Flickr.

These fortified walls in Venice form part of the defence of the old Arsenal, where the shipyards and armouries were located. In those days its power and wealth came from its ships and its ability to control trade in the Mediterranean as well as the trading routes to the East.

Having wandered round most of Venice, where being islands seemed to be protection enough, it was surprising to come across such solid defences. It was even more mind-blowing to realise they enclosed an old harbour…

The wall really made me think about Venice’s history and what was important to its people.


Bodie Wagon by webmink
Bodie Wagon, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

After visiting Yosemite a few times, one gradually becomes aware that there’s more to see if you travel further afield. Just outside the eastern entrance to the park, a few miles to the north of Lee Vining up US-395, there’s a very well preserved gold rush ghost town called Bodie.

While it was already know as a ghost town before the first world war, it was still occupied until the last mine closed during the second world war and as ghost towns go, it’s pretty modern – there is even a well-preserved gas station. There are full streets of “wild west” wooden buildings in a good state of repair, and you can definitely imagine the spirit of the place when it was a bustling and rowdy mining town.

It’s definitely worth a visit if you venture out of Yosemite, as is Mono Lake (visit the Mono Lake Committee store) and, much further to the south, the small town of Bishop where you’ll find Mountain Light Gallery, the photography base of the late Galen Rowell.

Contrasts in Amsterdam

Nesting by webmink
Nesting, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

I spent a half-day walking around the centre of Amsterdam following a speaking engagement. I can never decide how I feel about this city.

It’s a place with many scenes of great beauty – water, trees, long vistas with distant vanishing points, interesting and colourful buildings. Yet at the same time, there’s so much that’s ugly – prostitutes and the men looking for them, clouds of skunk-smelling smoke from seedy cafes and equally seedy passers-by, over-dense human population and the mess that accompanies it, endless junk food served by people with scorn for their customers.

Walking back to the station, I saw this swan nesting in the best material she could find in central Amsterdam. She seemed to me to sum up the paradox of the town – great beauty nesting in filth and making the best of it.

As a meta-comment on all this, my favourite photographer, Galen Rowell, explained in his book Inner Game Of Outdoor Photography that you can never photograph what you see, as it is always a montage of many views that your brain assembles from your eyes, and the camera lens can’t see the same thing. He recommended reflecting on the experience of what you see, envisaging an iconic image that sums up the experience and then photographing that when you see it.

Pool of water

Pool of water by Webminkette
Pool of water, a photo by Webminkette on Flickr.

Surprisingly, when the weather turns hot, we long for shade and water. Many of our favourite sites include water in one form or another. It was a pleasure to discover this public oasis of peace and calm in Malaga’s city centre.

In climbing the hill and admiring the castles, we had encountered our fair share of glorious sunshine. On our return to the lower levels, it was delightful to discover our way back went through this beautifully laid out park. It was full, to our eyes, of exotic trees and shrubs and vibrant coloured flowers.

This pool, with its constantly moving middle, gave an illusion of stillness. A perfect place to stop, contemplate, reflect and renew our energy. Eventually, the little footbridge over the escaping streamlet encouraged us to explore further.

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde Cliff Palace by webmink
Mesa Verde Cliff Palace, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

One of the most extraordinary places I have visited in the US is Mesa Verde. It is a town abandoned intact by its residents about 700 years ago, located in the canyon-riven plateau foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the south-west of Colorado. The town stretches along canyon walls and reflects the 700 years that the Anasazi lived there. It’s thought that climate change forced them eventually to leave and move south.

It’s an amazing place, as any 700-year-old town would be even if it hadn’t then been abandoned for another 700 years. The living spaces, ceremonial spaces (kivas) and towers seem much more recently built and left. They are hidden in the overhangs of the canyon, hard to approach from the plateau but with easy access to the valley floor.

Mesa Verde National Park is a must-visit if you’ve ever the time to get there – a day or so of driving from Denver.

Chicago Park

Chicago Millennium Park by webmink
Chicago Millennium Park, a photo by webmink on Flickr.

The OSI Board meeting was held in the offices of ThoughtWorks, which are high in a tower overlooking Chicago’s centrepiece downtown Millennium Park. It’s a large, green place with formal gardens, sports areas, urban art and an open-air theatre. It’s worth clicking through to the original and taking a closer look.

This panorama (stitched together from three photos) is unusually quiet, even for a Sunday. The NATO summit was being held in the large building at the end of the park (top left) and the roads approaching it were either closed or heavily patrolled. The harbour next to the event was also cleared and patrolled by gunboats.

English Countryside

English Countryside by Webminkette
English Countryside, a photo by Webminkette on Flickr.

There is nothing better than to drive out of the city and to walk along ancient tracks admiring the pleasant countryside.

This is Old Winchester Hill, only a short drive from Southampton or Winchester (about 11miles) and the site of an Iron Age fort and Bronze Age barrows. In 2009 it became part of the South Downs National Park and it has fantastic views of the surrounding countryside, we spotted several deer whilst we were there. Various ancient, long distant footpaths cross the hill’s summit.

I love to see the profusion of wild flowers and butterflies that exist in our chalk downlands. Although this photo was taken in August, there was a strong breeze – this made taking individual close-ups of flowers difficult, as they would not remain still. However, this view along the path captures some of the abundance that faced us.

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