Wild weekly photo challenge: Sunsets

I’m participating in the Lets be Wild, online adventure travel magazine competition.

For the competition, bloggers are invited to share their favourite sunset photographs.

I just had to include some of our magnificent Florida sunsets. I never cease to be amazed at how beautiful and varied they are. These were taken after rushing out of my kitchen whilst preparing the evening meal. It’s so important to get ones priorities right. 🙂

This stunning sunset was taken during ‘happy hour’ at our local golf course.

If you go to Hawaii, it’s almost compulsory to visit Sunset Beach, pick your perfect spot and wait patiently for that sunset to arrive.

Venice Lagoon is also  a great place to capture that memorable sunset,

These photos were taken from the Island of San Clemente, on which our hotel stood.

From the motor launch taxi, we got this shot of the setting sun, highlighting the 17th century ‘Basilica Maria della Salute’, which stands in a prominent position between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco.


A visit to New England in the Fall, is supposed to be all about leaf peeping, but after a rainy afternoon, it can yield a delightfully surprising sunset moment.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my sunset pics. If you would like to be kind enough to vote for me, please visit this link. http://www.letsbewild.com/photo-challenge/wild-weekly-photo-challenge-6-sunsets/

Ailsa’s Travel theme: Mystical

Ailsa says, This week’s theme is inspired by a beautiful photograph Vlad posted over at Wind Against Current. Click the link to see his photo, and when you pick your jaw up off the floor, come on back over here and join in this week’s challenge.

Mystical is an evocative term with many nuances. I chose this word because it can be interpreted in so many ways. It can mean spiritually symbolic, otherworldly, ethereal or mysterious. I also love how this word sounds when you speak it aloud, and I can’t help but associate it with mists that conceal the everyday, cloaking the mundane in a veil of mystery. The verb ‘to mystify’; to make mysterious or obscure, is derived from the words mystic and mystery. Ooh, the possibilities are endless.”

I have found myself in a few mystical situations, and usually when we were experiencing less than perfect holiday weather. Some trips seem to be all sunny skies, ice cream and beautiful sunsets, but when we visited Phuket for the second time earlier this year, we were very disappointed with the weather, and especially on the day we were due to take a boat trip across Phang Nga Bay. The tour leaflet advertised “Sail to verdant limestone islands, honeycombed with caves and aquatic grottos, which soar perpendicularly to heights of 984 feet or more, from almost perpetually calm waters.” Well the “perpetually” part fell away when the morning of our trip arrived. This is the best black and white photo I’ve ever taken in colour. 😀 It certainly looked dark and foreboding, and I was more than a tad worried.

Sailing across the bay, those “verdant islands” just looked grey and mystical, but there was no mystery as to where the water which was pooling on our table, was coming from. The boat’s tarpaulin roof had more than a few holes in it. The sea wasn’t at all calm either, but my dad used to be a sailor, so no problem there. 🙂

At one point, we transferred to a canoe, and were taken into one of the ancient grottos. This was definitely a very otherworldly experience, and the fact that there were many bats clinging to the roof of the cave, made it especially eerie for me.

Despite the incessant rain, and paddling ankle-deep in muddy water through the Sea Gypsy Village, the boat trip was a memorable, if  somewhat soggy mystical experience.

Now, I’m sure you won’t object if take you on a little detour to the Grand Old Lady of Venice. On our first evening there, we had a half hour motor launch “Magical Venice” tour of the Grand Canal and some of its side alleys, ending up in Piazza S. Marco. It was so peaceful just sitting in the boat, with just the lapping of the water and the purr of the motor, as we slowly sailed past the decaying grandeur of the ancient palazzos and restaurants. Every so often, we would hear distant church bells ringing, and that together with the fact that we were in total darkness, really made me feel that we were on a magical mystery tour.

Our evening gondola tour, a couple of days later, also turned quite mystical and rather spooky, when we left the main canal, and sailed into the narrow, silent smaller ones. We passed between tall apartment buildings, some with their stone steps half hidden under the water. The plaster had fallen off the outside walls long ago, and their once magnificent facades were looking extremely distressed. As a bell tolled in the distance, I couldn’t help imagining those prisoners of long ago, locked in their tiny cells under the Doge’s Palace, hearing that same bell, every day and night for the duration of their incarceration, which was probably until they died.

Lastly,  I’ll never forget seeing the 386 metre grey columns of Devils Tower appear through the mist, as we drove through Wyoming, on our way to Mount Rushmore. Part of Steven Spielberg’s science fiction movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was shot here, and you really don’t get much more mystical than that. 🙂

Well, those are my most mystical travel experiences. If you want to see what other bloggers have come up with for Ailsa’s theme, just click here.

Architecture…. Hola Spain!

Jake’s Sunday Post theme, architecture, made me think of all the different and varied styles of buildings I’ve seen on my travels. I could of course do a real hotchpotch of  a post, and show you examples from many countries around the world, but I decided to limit my photos to Spain, a country renowned for its art and architectural excellence. Spanish architecture is an exotic mix of early Moorish influences and surreal modernism.

Talking of surrealism, one cannot visit Barcelona without marvelling at the astounding imagination and genius of Antoni Gaudi. Here is the Casa Mila, better known as La Pedrera, meaning ‘The Quarry’. It caused quite a sensation when it was being built,  because of the bold form of its undulating stone facade and the wrought iron decoration of the balconies and windows,

This is one of the sculptures on the roof of the Casa Mila.

and this huge mirror cleverly reflects another part of the roof.

The design of the beautiful windows of the Casa Batllo, is astonishing. This house was nicknamed ‘The House of Bones’ because the balconies at the lower floors, have bone-like pillars, and those on the upper floors look like pieces of skulls.

Surely his absolute masterpiece though, has to be La Sagrada Familia, ‘la cathédrale des anges’, which was started in 1882, and when we were there in 2004, was still not completed. This is the original old part.

and here is the newer construction. Which do you prefer?

The Royal Palace in Madrid, is the official residence of the Spanish royal family, although now it’s only used for State ceremonies.

The palace has 135,000 square metres of floorspace and contains 3418 rooms, making it the largest in Europe. The interior design and decor and was just breathtaking. Just take a look at all those chandeliers!

I could just imagine myself sweeping down this magnificent staircase, not in my jeans and t-shirt, but in a sumptuous, bejeweled ball gown, and with a diamond encrusted coronet on my head. 🙂

Of course, Granada is famous for its absolutely stunning Alhambra Palace. I posted some pics of the gardens yesterday for the green theme..

It was so delightful to walk around this beautiful place.

Some of the detail was really exquisite,

and around every corner, there was something new to admire.

In Cordoba, we visited the Mezquita, the Great Mosque-Cathedral, which was begun in 600 AD, and is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Islamic architecture. When I walked into this vast hypostyle hall, I was absolutely dumbfounded.

I felt so tiny as I gazed up at those 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble and granite.

The richly gilded decoration of the cathedral in its centre, defies description, so here’s a photo instead. 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at some of the architecture I saw on my trip. To see more interpretations of Jake’s theme. just click here.


WordPress challenge: Green

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.  Lao Tzu                                                                                                Click on any image to get slide show. To see more entries for this green challenge, just click here.

The cell phone dance

 Can you remember life before cellphones? I resisted getting one for quite some time after they first made an appearance in South Africa in 1994.  “Whatever would I need one for?” I asked myself, and besides which, I’d never be able to perfect the steps of that cell phone dance which users apparently have to learn. 🙂  My sister once related a story to me of when she and her husband were in England on business. It was before cell phones came to South Africa, so not owning one, he had hired one.  She said she was so embarrassed to be seen with him in the street, talking on this brick of a phone, complete with aerial, that she made him go into a telephone booth to make his calls.  They were in Hampton Court gardens one day when his phone rang. In my sister’s own words,  “I was mortified, and walked away, totally disowning him. It just seemed so stupid to be standing outside chatting on the phone.”

How times have changed and I don’t know how I ever survived without one.  I am very geographically challenged and often get a bit lost, so it helps tremendously to be able to call my hubby and describe exactly where I am, so that he can direct me home. (of course, there is now GPS, so I can at least find my way to various local destinations). Most people can’t function without their mobiles, and I’ve heard various one sided conversations in the supermarket,  “Was it baked beans or green beans you asked me to get?” and in restaurants, “I’m here. What time did we arrange to meet?  Oh, it was Friday; I thought you said, Tuesday.  Ok, I’ll have to go home and cook. See you Friday.”  Of course, the one phrase we all have off pat, is “I think you’ve got the wrong number.”  I said this to someone after waking from a deep sleep about midnight one Saturday.  I’d forgotten to switch my phone off, and when I sleepily answered it, someones teenager, informed me, “Okay Ma, the party’s done. You can come and pick us up now.” Maybe they’re still waiting to be picked up. 😀

Cell phones have had quite an influence on our lives. For example they’ve messed up every movie plot ever written. Those spooky thriller movies where the damsel in distress finds herself stuck all alone in a really desolate place on a rainy night, with a flat tyre and/or no gas, and the plot thickens from that point on, are no longer plausible. If she’d had a cell phone, she would simply stay  in the car,  and call the nearest garage for help, instead of having to stumble through the dark woods in the pouring rain, with her low-cut, wet T-shirt clinging to her breasts. Yes, cell phones have certainly made screen writers become far more creative. 🙂

They do have their disadvantages though. Being constantly in touch, can get very tiresome. I was once in a Barnes & Noble coffee shop, and at the next table was a guy in a business suit, enjoying a coffee and a sandwich. His cell phone rang, and he proceeded to tell his boss the biggest pack of lies. “I’m waiting to see a client. He’s busy right now, but as soon as I’m finished up here, I’ll head right back to the office.” He grabbed his sandwich and scooted out of there like a bat out of hell.

Nowadays, errant husbands have to explain to their wives why they were unreachable because their cell phones were switched off. Teenagers know that if they’re late coming home at night, dad will be on the phone demanding to know why. You simply can’t get away from the phone. So many positives and negatives, depending on which side of the fence you are.

Cell phones have revolutionised the way we communicate, and are now ‘de rigueur’ and ubiquitous. We all depend on them for social and business contacts.  Do you think that one day in the not too distant future, we will evolve into human beings with iPhone attachment? Is it possible that babies will be born with the latest model fused to their ear, and as they grow up, the model will keep updating?

Stockbrokers seem to be getting younger and cuter all the time. 🙂

Pic stolen from my son’s FB page.

Thursday’s Windows: Singapore

Whilst on a stopover in Singapore a few years ago, we did the ‘Hop on, Hop off’ bus tour to take in some of the city’s sites. This is a marvellous way to see the rich ethnic, cultural and historical heritage of the city. I was very excited to see ‘Raffles’ one of the world’s most famous hotels. This hotel, built in 1887 was the first modern building with electricity in Singapore. The hotel survived the second World War, and was used as a transit camp for prisoners of war. It was declared a national monument in 1987, and in 1989, was renovated at a cost of S$160 million. We had tried to book into Raffles for the weekend, but it was fully booked up for an international conference, but I would love stay there if we go back again. It’s such a beautiful building, and those windows are lovely, aren’t they?

Along the streets of China Town, Kampong Glam and Little India, there are quaint ‘shop houses’. We saw this beautifully renovated one, overshadowed by the massive high-rise apartment block behind it. What a contrast in window styles for sure. The one on the right of it was still being worked on, hence the skip outside.

Singapore is mix of old and new, but one thing’s for certain, there are so many windows to be seen. This is the Elizabeth Hotel on Orchard Road, where we did manage to get a booking.

As I was doing this post, it occurred to me  that window cleaning must be a really dangerous business here, and I was right. I read that Singapore has recently tightened the rules on window cleaning, after nine maids fell to their deaths this year from high-rise apartments. The Manpower Ministry said that seven of these deaths were due to dangerous window cleaning or hanging of laundry.

One maid was fortunate enough to be rescued as she fell from her employer’s 12th floor apartment window. 😯

(pics from Google)

We just had to take this next photo because of the name, even though the man after whom it’s named, is no relation.  The name “Shaw” pops up all over the place in this city, as Chinese born Runme Shaw is greatly revered as a great philanthropist and contributor to the movie industry in Southeast Asia.

This post is in answer to Sandra Conner’s “Thursday’s Windows” challenge, week 9. Why not pop over to her blog and join in the windows challenge every week?

Blog of 2012 award.

When I started blogging here  in January of this year, I felt that in the huge ocean which is WordPress, I must surely be like the smallest fish known to man. The Paedocypris progenetica, is transparent, and the size of a large mosquito The head doesn’t have a skeleton, leaving its brain vulnerable to its surroundings. This sounds like a good description of me as I was flung into the sea of colourful, eloquent and quite frankly, scarily good bloggers.

So I was very pleasantly surprised to find that there were people out there who not only noticed me, but actually enjoyed what I was blogging about. I have received many awards, some of which, (mea maxima culpa) I still have to properly accept. I’m not making excuses, but I’m sure that many of you find that it’s all you can do to keep up with all the blog posts you read and comment on, as well as doing your own posts, and award acceptance posts are very time-consuming.

Yesterday, I was shaken out of my lethargy, when Dallas of “Crazy Train to Tinky Town” nominated me for the “Blog of the year 2012 Award.” If you’re not familiar with her writing, let me tell you that Ms Dallas will have you laughing, crying, and screaming for more. You will not be able to help yourself from becoming addicted to her blog posts, so do yourself a favour and pay her a visit.

The ‘rules’ for this award are simple:

1 Select the blog(s) you think deserve the ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award

2 Write a blog post and tell us about the blog(s) you have chosen – there’s no minimum or maximum number of blogs required – and ‘present’ them with their award.

3 Please include a link back to this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award – http://thethoughtpalette.co.uk/our-awards/blog-of-the-year-2012-award/   and include these ‘rules’ in your post (please don’t alter the rules or the badges!)

4 Let the blog(s) you have chosen know that you have given them this award and share the ‘rules’ with them

5 You can now also join our Facebook group – click ‘like’ on this page ‘Blog of the Year 2012’ Award Facebook group and then you can share your blog with an even wider audience

6 As a winner of the award – please add a link back to the blog that presented you with the award – and then proudly display the award on your blog and sidebar … and start collecting stars…

As a little fish in a big pond, I am happy to nominate the following bloggers whose posts I’ve come to love, admire and look forward to. If you don’t appear in the list, watch this space, I have more awards still in my secret cupboard. 🙂

Movin’ on

The urge to wander

lucid gypsy

Cornwall-A Photographic Journey

Phil Lanoue Photography



a nomad in the land of nizwa




Russel Ray Photos

Bella Remy Photography

Ron Mayhew Photography

Scott Marshall

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

Jake’s theme: Surroundings

This week, Jake wants to see our surroundings, so I decided to share a few pics taken from around where I live.

This pretty drive will take you up to the entrance gate, and as you may notice, it had just been planted out with hybrid Impatiens. When they really get going, it will be a riot of colour.

Just outside my house, is a lovely lake, which isn’t a huge surprise. In Florida, everywhere you look, there is water.

Last year, we had a Mr Smiley who was very much a part of our surroundings,

but now we just have Lizzie, who likes to sit outside my bedroom window or on the garden spray, watching for insects.

Many birds come to the water to do a  bit of fishing by day,

and even at night.

The people who live here use their surroundings for really strenuous activities, like riding around on golf carts,

or sunning themselves next to the pool. 😀

As well as water, we are also surrounded by palm trees.

If you’re feeling peckish, you could grab a bite to eat at the poolside restaurant.

You especially might want to do this, if your oven is sitting in the middle of the lounge area, as mine is at the moment.

At present, in my home, I’m surrounded by tools, piles of wood flooring,

and kitchen units waiting to be assembled.

I suppose I could go and sit by the pool and read a book, but then who would make hubby’s coffee and his well deserved lunch? I just hope that I can find somewhere to prepare it. 😀

I hope you enjoyed looking at my surroundings. If you would like to see other bloggers’ interpretations of  Jake’s theme, just click here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

This is a lovely challenge, and I see that many bloggers have posted beautiful nature pics for the theme.

To my mind, renewal means a bit of respite from the daily grind, and if one is very lucky, even a holiday.

Yesterday, we were on our way to Home Depot for the umpteenth time, to look at ‘stuff’ we need for redoing the kitchen. I spotted a Starbucks along the way, and we pulled in there for a bit of rest and renewal in the form of a cappuccino for hubby and a chai latte for me. I really don’t know why that chocolate brownie is sitting on my keyboard, but it seemed a shame not to eat it. 😀

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my home in South Africa. The summer holidays are coming up, and then the town and the beach will be swarming with work-weary holiday-makers, who have come down to the coast for a bit of well-earned renewal.

Moms will have time to sit under an umbrella and read, whilst dads will become little boys again, as they play sand castles with the kids.

Older couples may prefer to find renewal away from the crowds, and sit contemplating the waves in peace.

Dogs just love to run free along the beach. Their joy and exuberance just says it all.

Some companies send their employees down to the ocean for a few days, for a bit of renewal in the form of ‘Team Building’ activities.

At holiday time, I like to stay far away from the ‘madding crowd’, and find renewal just sitting at the top of our beach steps, watching the ever changing pattern of the waves.

What does the word “renewal” mean to you?

To be taken to more posts on the theme, just click here.