Category Archives: Photography

These posts are meant to display photographs I’ve taken.

Touring Wales

The gallery with photos of this day is Touring WalesThere are many more photos of Bodnant Garden than I’ve included here.

The sky was reasonably clear when the ship pulled into Holyhead harbor in Wales, but that was very early, and it didn’t last.

Breakwater, Holyhead harbor, Wales

For most of the day our bus drove under overcast skies, although I don’t recall any rain.  Our initial destination was Bodnant Garden, a National Trust property.  We drove through some very rugged and rocky hills, although some areas were clearly used for farming.  I saw a similar field full of sheep but couldn’t get a clear photo from the bus – they came out as little white blurs.

Farming in the Welsh mountains

Like many big gardens in the U.K., Bodnant began as a family estate.  Here’s the front of the house:

Family home at Bodnant Garden

As you look through the photo gallery, you may see plant photos labeled “Bodnant Garden.”  (“Gardens,” actually, but that’s an error I haven’t corrected!)  If there is no name on the plant, neither I nor my husband the amateur botanist could identify it.  If you recognize an unlabeled plant, please comment on the photo and tell me what it is! 

The first place the tour took us was through the laburnum alley:

Bodnant Garden, Laburnum Alley

After that we walked through lots of garden, occasionally interrupted by an ornamental pool.  I liked the reflections in this one.

Bodnant Garden, ornamental pool

Shortly, we came on a much larger ornamental pool with a sculpture:

Ornamental pool with willow sculpture

The willow sculpture is called Unbind the Wing, and was created in 2018 by Trevor Leat, to celebrate women’s suffrage.  The linked article contains more detail about how the sculpture was built and how it’s supported; it’s 18 feet high.

In the gallery you’ll see photos of several Very Old Trees, including one the family kids used to climb on:

Bodnant Garden, Very Old Tree, the kids in the family used to climb on it

The building below was a pin mill – yes, a factory where workers made pins out of lengths of wire.  On the estate.  Actually, it wasn’t originally a pin mill – and it wasn’t originally on the estate at all.  It was built around 1730 as a lodge or garden house, at an estate called Woodchester in Gloucestershire.  It was later used as a pin mill, and later still to store hides for a tannery.  In the late 1930s the then lord of Bodnant, Henry McLaren, 2nd Baron Aberconway, bought the derelict building and had it taken down, moved to its current site and reassembled, with some repairs and alterations. 

Bodnant Garden, the Pin Mill

Since Bodnant is actively managed, occasionally they get new flower beds.  This is a new ornamental perennial garden.  You can see that the plants are all very young.

Bodnant Garden, new ornamental perennial garden

We spent a lot of time in the bus that day.  From Bodnant Garden we went next to Llandudno, on the coast, where we were scheduled to hear a performance by a Welsh male chorus in St. John’s Church, and have a group lunch in a local hotel.  The chorus’ voices were all very good but they sang with almost no emotion, even doing Bridge over Troubled Water.  They were also, frankly, all older men except for the young female conductor.  They ended with an American medley – Dixie, Battle Hymn of the Republic, and All My Troubles Lord.  Which was an Elvis Presley favorite.  He did it with more emotion.  (If I sound critical it’s because I’m a choral singer myself.)  The church was interesting because of a window memorializing John Wesley.

Window about John Wesley, St. John’s Church, Llandudno, Wales

After the performance we all adjourned to the St. George Hotel for a huge lunch, which I recall as pretty good for a group that large.  And after lunch, back in the bus, and on to Caernaerfon, which is usually Anglicized as Caernaervon so that’s what I’ll do.  Caernaervon Castle was one of several castles begun by Edward I of England, during his 13th century attempts to bring Wales firmly under control of the English throne.  I don’t think it was ever really finished; you built castles a piece at a time, when you had the money; and Edward I was chronically short of money. Here’s the castle today, an exterior view from across the street (please excuse the traffic signs).

Caernaervon Castle, Caernaervon, Wales

Under English rule, Caernaerfon, and this castle, were effectively the capital of north Wales.  I’m flabbergasted to read in Wikipedia that the normal garrison of this castle, which is much bigger than it looks here, was about 30 men.  I was never far enough away to get a photo of the whole castle, but this more distant photo, from Wikipedia, will give you a much better idea of the size:

Caernaerfon Castle, western view at low tide

The next 2 photos are the two ends of the castle interior, taken from the middle:

Caernaervon Castle, upper ward; Black Tower is on the right, North-East Tower on the left

Caernaervon Castle, lower ward, Queen’s tower (left) and Eagle Tower (right)

I enjoyed poking around the castle, castles always fascinate me.  I found I’d developed a fear of the internal spiral staircases.  They’re quite steep, with a rope on the inner wall, nothing else to hang onto; scary.  I had been convinced that spiral staircases (which were part of the castle defenses) always rotated counterclockwise, so a right-handed swordsman coming down the stairs would have his sword hand free to swing against a right-handed swordsman coming up the stairs.  The guy coming up would have his right hand against the inner wall and much less room to swing his sword.  In this castle I learned I was wrong – it has both kinds.  In the Well Tower it was counterclockwise; in (I think) the King’s Tower it was clockwise.  Maybe the king was left-handed?  I don’t know.  This stop got me really interested in Edward I; if you’re interested you could try the very well written account of his life which I found when I got home:  A Great and Terrible King:  Edward I and the Forging of Britain.

Having managed to climb the stair all the way up to the ramparts, I got some photos of the area from the castle walls, here’s a sample.  There are more in the gallery.

From the ramparts of Caernaervon Castle

After we left the castle, it was back on the bus, and back to the ship to eat and sleep. 

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Waiting for the Ferry

After a pleasant weekend visiting our friends in Powell River, we drove off toward Vancouver.  Powell River being where it is, our first stop was the Saltery Bay – Earl’s Cove ferry terminal.  On a Monday morning, it wasn’t very busy, but the view was nice.

Saltery Bay Ferry terminal

Having nothing else to do, I got the camera out and went looking for things to photograph.  By gum, I found a bald eagle perching in a tree next to the terminal.

Bald eagle

He eventually flew down and landed on the sandbar, where I couldn’t get a decent shot of him.  I watched a 6-person canoe or scull paddle by:

Paddling down the inlet

Eventually the ferry came in:

Ferry arriving at Saltery Bay

The Saltery Bay ferry takes you just over the inlet to Earl’s Cove, after which you drive the length of the Sunshine Coast to the Langdale-Horseshoe Bay Ferry, which you take to the mainland.  Then you drive on into Vancouver.  I regret to say there are no reasonable photo ops from the Sunshine Coast Highway; it’s just a highway, mostly surrounded by tall trees on both sides.  Pretty; hardly photographic.  The drive takes about an hour and 20 minutes (79.8 km or not quite 50 miles). 

I took some photos from the ferry, of the area around the Langdale ferry terminal, and of the trip among the islands as we traveled down to Vancouver; if you’d like to see them, the whole gallery is called Ferry to Vancouver.

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On to Powell River

Janet, a girl I went to high school with in Napa, California, married in the late ’70s, and she and her husband Wes moved to Powell River, British Columbia, where they stayed and raised 2 children.  When we’re in the area, we often go to visit them, and so in 2016. 

Where, you ask, is Powell River??  Well, it’s on the B.C. coast, just north of the “Sunshine Coast” (which I normally associate with rain).  From Vancouver it takes 2 ferry rides and about a half day driving.  From Victoria, still a half day driving but only 1 ferry ride, from Comox to Powell River.  It used to have a paper mill (Macmillan Bloedel), but that closed; now it’s mainly tourism.

Here’s the view across the strait from the Comox Ferry terminal, waiting for the ferry:

View from Comox Ferry terminal

The ferry looks like a ferry; there’s a photo in the gallery, to see the whole gallery click here

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Medieval Prague

Most of Prague, of course, is thoroughly modern.  If you leave the castle plaza on foot, though, you can walk down the New Castle Steps.  According to Waymarking.com, the New Castle Steps date to the 13th century, and paradoxically are older than the Old Castle Steps.  However, they don’t give a date for the Old Castle Steps (and since I don’t read Czech, my research was limited).  Here we are starting down the New Castle Steps, which have 220 steps and are 160 meters long.  I believe the little indented windows on the castle wall are arrow slits but I could be wrong.  I’d expect an arrow slit to be broad on the inside of the wall, where the archer was, and then narrow down to a small slit in the outside wall where the arrow could go out.  These are the wrong way round, if they’re really defensive.

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Exploring Prague – Castle and Cathedral

July 1 was our last full day in Europe.  Could we sleep in?  No way – the bus to the Prague Castle, where we had guided walking tours set up, left at 8:30 AM.  And yes, I’m willing to get up early to tour a medieval castle dating back to the 9th century (rebuilt multiple times, of course)!  In fact, we didn’t get into the Castle at all; we spent most the tour of the hilltop in St. Vitus’ Cathedral, a Gothic building.  The first interesting thing I saw was this wall:

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Yes, it’s an optical illusion – no matter how it looks, that wall is flat.  It’s etched in a technique called sgraffito, to give the impression of a wall decorated with diamond-shaped plaques.  It’s flat.  I put my hand on it. 

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Prague Performances

On this stay we performed the day after we arrived – twice, in fact.  Our scheduled concert was at 6:30 PM, in the Church of the Holy Saviour, near the Old Town Square in Prague; but we had an appointment around 1 PM at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence (the address is Ronalda Reagana, Prague 6), to perform at his Independence Day Celebration and attend the following reception.  This was on June 30, in case you’ve been counting, and I still don’t know if  he had the celebration early because we were in town or not.

On the 29th, we went out for our usual tour dinner at the cafe of the Municipal House, which was within long walking distance of the hotel; the walk took us through main downtown Prague.  The restaurant was an absolute Art Deco classic; I remember the restaurant as very noisy and the pork schnitzel as tough, but my was the room gorgeous.  In fact, it was gorgeous enough that we went back and had a much quieter lunch on the last day, during our exploration of Prague.

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Driving to Prague

We all packed up again, piled into the now familiar black bus, and hit the road for Prague.  I was surprised to find that, once we got out of Vienna, we were largely traveling on secondary roads – well paved and all that, but not freeways.  This gave us a better look at the countryside, and the countryside between Vienna and Prague is gorgeous. It’s some of the most beautiful, immaculately maintained farmland you could imagine, and almost all rural.  The photo below is just across the Czech border. (As always now, clicking on a photo will take you to the full Smugmug gallery.)

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Czechia (the new name for the Czech Republic) had more woodsy areas interspersed with the farms.  But I kept wondering about the road, until someone reminded me that, until the Soviet Union fell, Czechoslovakia (as it was then) was behind the old Iron Curtain, so you can drive from Vienna to Bratislava on a highway (Slovakia was not Soviet), but to Prague, you take back roads because nobody’s built the highway.

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Eisenstadt and Esterhazy

The date stamps on my photos suggest that the last photo I took at the Schönbrunn Palace was time-stamped 10:53 AM, and the first photo I took at Eisenstadt was time-stamped 2:19 PM.  We didn’t spend 3 hours on the road to Eisenstadt, as I remember grabbing a sandwich at the cafe in the palace courtyard and eating it outdoors; but we may well have spent 2 hours, including collecting, loading, and unloading all 70-odd of us.  Google Maps says Eisenstadt is either 62 or 68 miles from Vienna depending on which road you take.

Music historians will already know why we went to Eisenstadt, but for the less informed (didn’t know this before the tour), Joseph Haydn is buried in the Bergkirche (which means “mountain church”), in the town of Eisenstadt, which was the family seat of the Princes of Esterházy, whom he served most of his life.  He lies there now, along with both of “his” skulls, and if you’ve never heard that story (I hadn’t), you really must read the Wikipedia article on Haydn’s head.

Our first stop in Eisenstadt, after we found the Bergkirche, was – the restrooms, which were out at the back of the church, and not very large.  Here is the line for the ladies’ room.  All of these women are on the tour.

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Christmas Day Walk

Yes, I know it’s May.  2016 has been an extremely weird year, and one of these days I’ll blog it.  But I recently got the photos sorted, processed and uploaded from the walk I took around Lake Temescal, in the Oakland hills, on Christmas Day 2015. In a sense, this was the calm before the storm, because 3 days later, I came down with an awful cold (took 3 weeks to get rid of), which was the start of all the things that have gone wrong so far this year.

But back to the lake.  Here it is.  Click on this or any other photo to go to my Smugmug account and see the whole collection.

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Vienna and the Schönbrunn Palace

The day after the Stephansdom concert, we had a bus tour of the Ring, followed by an organized group tour of the Schönbrunn Palace, then a drive into the countryside to visit Eisenstadt, where Haydn is buried, and Esterhazy Palace, where he lived and worked.  Jim and I toured Schönbrunn Palace in 2012 with the Viking River Cruise, and we considered skipping it; but after a little thought, we realized there would be no way to catch up with the bus to take the rest of the tour.  So we got on the bus with everyone else.

If you want to see more photos on any subject, just click on one that interests you; you’ll be redirected to the photo on either my Smugmug site or Jim’s, depending on the photo, then you can move back and forth in a slideshow to see others.  In every case, there are more photos there than I show here.

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