Santa Barbara, Naturally

Santa Barbara, Naturally

Traveling alone has never bothered me, and I often seek out the opportunity to wander through cities almost anywhere in the world. Coastal towns like Southern California’s Santa Barbara are more family and couple oriented, so on this visit I was more comfortable gravitating to the many stunning areas of natural beauty that surround the city.

The Santa Barbara Courthouse was completed in 1929. Its Spanish Moor designed complex is beautiful in of itself, and it offers the most jaw dropping views of the city, mountains and sea from the top of  its 85 foot “El Mirador”clock tower.

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A wealth of natural beauty: Climb into your car and head for the Pacific Coast Highway. Head south on the iconic 101 and take 150 towards Ojai Valley which is known for its hippy vibe, or drive north to the exit for Calif. 1 toward Lompac and experience the stunning Valley of Flowers, a nickname for an area known for producing most of the world’s flower seeds.  For a wonderfully detailed overview of the Santa Barbara area, along with suggestions for travel routes and destinations, you might enjoy reading Road Trip, researched by National Geographic writers.

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The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden deserves its own post, and I look forward to researching and writing one someday soon. Founded in 1926,  the SBBG’s mission is to display native California plants in natural settings. Highlights include a lovely redwood forest, a dam constructed in 1806 by Native Americans, as well as almost 6 miles of hiking trails. It is one of the prettiest gardens I have ever explored, and my visit was one of the most pleasant mornings I’ve spent anywhere, and if I were a local Santa Barbaran, I’d be a member.

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A trip to any coastal town requires a sunset at a favorite beach, so I chose Hendry’s on a busy Saturday evening. I love this photograph because it timeless. It captures a scene that is reminiscent of the 1900s, as well as the here and now, or maybe twenty years in the future. Our pull towards the sea is universal, and I often wonder as we stand there entranced looking far beyond the last breaker, if we’re all waiting for a some signal from the great mother ship.

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Like most places I’ve visited for the first (second, third…) time I felt as though I’d only scratched the surface of Santa Barbara. Next time I (we) go however, it will better planned with a more complete list of things to do. I need to check out the booming arts district and the wine tasting bars representing various local vineyards. And yes, I’ll make sure my husband double checks his calendar and see how he likes this hotel, The San Ysdiro Ranch, which looks to me like the perfect combination of peaceful retreat and vacation resort. While we’re on the subject of fabulous Southern California Beach towns, have you checked out Grace and Frankie on Netflix? Its kind of fun watching this older cast romp around their ageless life issues, and the setting is fabulous. The house where it’s filmed is as big of a star as the cast, and found some fun information on this interesting blog “Hooked on Houses.” Until next time…

Crossing the Celestial Equator

Crossing the Celestial Equator

On Wednesday, September 23rd, the sun’s rays began to shine directly over the Earth’s equator marking the beginning of the Autumnal Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Fall’s arrival reminded us here in the U.S. that the days are growing cooler, that it’s time to dig out sweaters, find the forgotten rakes, and to pick fresh apples and start baking them in pies. It’s the season of leaf peeping, pumpkin carving and cheering through hours of football. It is a time for counting blessings and gathering our families to celebrate all that is good in life, for cherishing our friends and remembering those who passed. This year, remarkably, the sun’s rays also guided a humble man of the cloth to our country, a Pope named Francis, who taught us that kindness and humility, acceptance, and caring for those less fortunate than us remains our daily priority. This year, when the sun crossed the equator, it delivered hope.

Los Angeles Daily Life

Los Angeles Daily Life

Yesterday, our daughter shared that the L.A. area was finally drenched with much-needed rain, and then of course came the funny stories. Everyone walking around campus soaking wet because no one owns an umbrella, athletes puddle surfing on the wet practice fields, the freeways coming to a standstill because water was falling from the sky. You get the picture. The thought of rain quenching the parched area inexplicably made me miss the ocean and the balmy breezes of Southern California, and the people who live there who are wise to enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds them. And of course hearing from her made me miss her very much, our little firecracker, who when she walks through a room, laughter isn’t far behind.

The Radical Design of Eiffel’s Tower

The Radical Design of Eiffel’s Tower

People are known for their resistance to change, and most find a preference for things that have been around longer, especially in the cities they call home. The Guggenheim Museum in New York was compared to a lavatory basin by Woody Allen, the Louvre Pyramid was referred to as “a scar on the face of Paris,” and a Londoner declared that the Tower Bridge, built in 1886, was “excellently situated for our ugliest public work.” Ouch! But perhaps the loudest protests over an urban construction project unfolded after the proposed centerpiece to the 1889 World’s Fair threatened the familiar horizon of Paris.

Many Parisians didn’t want to share their skyline dominated by the dome of Les Invalides and the towers of Notre Dame with the unusual skeleton-like design of the Eiffel Tower, and hoped that the “giant eyesore” would be torn down in 20 years as originally planned. They were most likely influenced by some of France’s most famous and powerful artists and intellectuals, who in a letter to the newspaper, Les Temps, protested that this “dizzily ridiculous tower dominated Paris like a black and gigantic factory chimney, crushing all beneath its barbarous mass.” French writer Guy de Maupassant was openly annoyed by the tower but still went to its restaurant every day. When asked why, he said it was because it is the only place in Paris where one cannot see the structure.

IMG_2667Happily we all know that since its completion in 1889, Gustav Eiffel and his tower won over even its most ardent critics. Paris’s beloved monument is an iconic image of modern times, an enduring symbol of Paris and a remains a great source of national pride.

Interested in the history behind the construction of the tower and the 1889 World’s Fair? Then you will love the highly praised book by Jill Jonnes, Eiffel’s Tower.

 

Also fun to read: 10 Things You May Not Know About the Eiffel Tower.

Back to the Garden, and a Monday Walk

Back to the Garden, and a Monday Walk

Hot summer days, lots of haze and a need for a local escape landed me in the north Georgia mountains to a favorite little garden center where I go to take walks, fool around with my camera and to enjoy the scenery. I like it here because it’s usually a few degrees cooler in the summer, there are lots of paths to hike around the wooded naturalized gardens or some that head off toward the more centralized more formal designs. It’s a friendly environment and the air has the cool freshness that comes from being near the mountains. One of the things I look forward to seeing here are the resident garden cats. They happily hop up from their place in the shade to welcome unsuspecting visitors in a confusing tangle of leg rubbing and twisting around the ankles until everybody’s on the ground for a belly rubbing session. Being on the receiving end of a cat’s love is one of life’s simple pleasures I think.

Every Monday my friend Jo welcomes bloggers to walk along with her on her wonderful travels. This week she showcases the coast of Seaton Sluice, a beautiful rural area where the channel meets the sea in Northumberland England. You can see her beautiful photography here: Jo’s Monday Walk: Seaton Sluice. Meanwhile, I hope you’re enjoying your summer, and wherever you’ve landed make sure to stop now and then to enjoy all that’s beautiful around you.

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My cat friends at Gibbs Gardens made me think of another blog I’d like to recommend. If you are a cat lover, and enjoy horses and the world of equestrian competition, you would like my friend David’s blog, “Through the Viewfinder” His life stories are a joy to read, his photography, wonderful.
Click on the link if you’d like to read more about North Georgia’s Gibbs Gardens.

Solstice

Solstice

New seasons, new beginnings. Warm days, star-filled nights and hope. Beaches beckon, families gather, food grown fresh finds its way to table. Hammocks are hung, porches swept, flags curl in the breeze. The sun rises, memories are made and tucked away. We celebrate our fathers, cherish our friends and honor those passed. We reflect. Happy summer, happy fathers. Be safe.

Big Sur and the Fabulous Mr. Fog

Big Sur and the Fabulous Mr. Fog

My husband and I  woke up in our cozy hotel room in Carmel, California to the clamor from the heating unit under the window, and to a sunless gray sky beyond the checkered window curtains. A single day was our allotted time during a side trip from San Francisco, and our plan to spend it on the coast in Big Sur was threatened by a persistent drizzle and a fog that seemed to float in and out on a blanket of whispers.  A travel article I had read advised not to rush when driving along the stunning stretch of coastline between San Simeon and Carmel, that Big Sur should be explored leisurely so as not to miss the many sites between the curves and valleys.  We  had time constraints, but with this scenic stretch of coastal wonderland at our doorstep, the alternative of choosing another spot for the day was simply not an option. BIGSURBIXBY3There is a certain freedom that comes with the realization that you have 90 coastline miles of one of the most popular and beyond beautiful tourist destinations in the world to yourself, an aloneness that was almost guaranteed by the early hour and gloomy weather. Each mile driven further into “el sur grande” or “the big south” that morning defined the beauty of the area despite the mist that clung to it. The landscape’s tumble toward the sea was so captivating that my husband and I became victims of what I call the stop and go syndrome, the uncontrollable act of pulling over, jumping out of the car, running around in circles in wonder, and repeating every half mile or so. We spent a full day there, which is enough to experience the greatness of Big Sur, but two days would have been perfect.  Here are a few thoughts if it’s on your trip list:

  • Plan ahead. Get to know the area and the highlights. If you’re a hiker, there are a variety of hiking trails, (see Hiking Big Sur) or a tree lover, the Redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are a must. If you love the ocean…you’ll feel as though you’ve come home.
  • Leave as early as your body clock will allow. Big Sur gets crowded, and if you’d like a little alone time on a bluff overlooking the Pacific you’re more likely to get it at 9:00 am vs. noon.
  • The weather is generally moderate year round, and I can’t imagine the area being anything but gorgeous no matter what the day throws at you.
  • Cell phone service is non-existent for many miles along the Big Sur Coast.  Print out hard copies of directions for your wish list, or screen shot them so you’ll have them handy on your phone.
  • The top attractions are the tops for a reason: Mcway Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Bixby Bridge to name a few.
  • Pfeiffer Beach was my favorite, but the most difficult to find. The long dirt road to the sea is hidden, and we had to pass by the turn off a few times before we realized where to go. Parking is limited and there is a fee, but the amazing views, purple streaked sand, and giant rock formations were awe-inspiring.
  • For lunch, the charming Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant served the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever devoured, and the bakery goods reminded me of a weekend at Grandma’s.
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“The details, that’s what the world is made of.”

BIGSURLIGHT2 My feature header picture is of Point Sur Lighthouse located on the Northern end of Big Sur. It’s retro vibe reminded me of the 70’s styling of a Wes Anderson movie, one of my favorite filmmakers.  Tours of the park are available on scheduled days of each week. For more information see Point Sur Historic Park and Lighthouse.

We Are Golden

We Are Golden

It’s hard to imagine visiting San Francisco without the great anticipation of a sighting of deep orange steel from the Golden Gate Bridge from almost anywhere you turn. Like the iconic Eiffel in Paris it teases, playfully peeking around street corners and waiting patiently for admirers to view it from the hilltops or from the hazy windows of the tallest of buildings. If I played a game where the rules read to avoid looking at it for an entire visit, I would come up losing. Have I seen it a hundred times? A thousand? I couldn’t possibly keep track. Generous, the structure’s form and color bring out the best of its natural surroundings, and as it reaches gracefully over the bay, the bridge completes the city and makes it whole.  It is timeless.

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

WP Blur Challenge: Or, How I Learned to do this on Purpose in Photography Class

The ability to enhance your blog with beautiful photography seems like a no-brainer, until you actually attempt to master beautiful photography. After gamely trying to self-teach myself over the last few years, I finally caved-in to taking a few classes after someone innocently remarked that I had a good eye, but needed to master the technical. Shortly afterwards I was standing in the middle of a busy parking lot in downtown Atlanta adjusting my shutter speed for Lesson 2 on “panning” of my Photography class. It’s hard to adequately describe the visual of our cute young instructor gamely running from one end of the lot to the other encouraging our small group to freeze her motion with our cameras as we moved our bodies side to side, all in unison. After several attempts no one was successful, but I’m pretty sure it was due to mutual concern that our instructor, for all her enthusiasm, was going to hurt herself. Two weeks later, after lesson 4, I stood alone in the dark next to my car and started panning the cars passing by, trying not to focus on the fact that I was standing alone in a parking lot in the dark. My first three attempts were fine. I was relaxed, feeling the motion, and following through with my body just like your arm should after hitting a tennis ball. About to call it a night, a saw the flash of red before I saw the car, a red Porsche driving down the street fulfilling my dream of photography Nirvana. Not a technical masterpiece, but not too bad for a mid-session Photo2 student. Photo Challenges the Daily Post: Blur