Month: September 2014

Finding Florence

Finding Florence

Rome, Venice, Florence.

Venice, Rome, Florence,

Florence, Venice, Rome.

(Echineri1 Flickr Photo)
(Echineri1 Flickr Photo)

In any order you choose to place them, this triumvirate of Italian cities beckons travelers to come and “Mangia, mangia!” by taking in glorious food, art, architecture and history, gastronomically and visually.

During our month-long virtual trip across Europe in August, we didn’t make it to Florence. Today we’ll spend just under five minutes there, enough to whet our appetite for Florentine food and culture to be enjoyed during a longer, in-person visit.

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Travel Photo Thursday: “Reader Photos”

Travel Photo Thursday: “Reader Photos”

Many U.S. newspapers publish trip photos submitted by readers after they’ve returned from vacation.

In fact, my career as travel writer was launched when a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about glacier touring in Southeast Alaska was published a few months after this photos of two dogs eye-balling tourists in Ketchikan ran in the Sunday Travel section of other San Francisco Bay Area newspapers.


It’s a delight, of course, to see your trip photos appear in in your local newspaper.

But it’s also fun when you discover that a paper has run photos by other travelers that are similar to ones that you’ve taken during your own vacation trips, and which bring back fond memories of your visit to those places.

(Los Angles Times Travel Reader Photos)

And that was the case when I read “The Times’ favorite summer vacation photos from readers in 2014” story by Los Angeles Times Travel Editor, Catharine Hamm, in this past Sunday’s online edition of the paper.

Here are my photos (top) that are counterparts to those (bottom) submitted by Los Angeles Times readers.


The shipwrecked Point Reyes has rested on the shores of Tomales Bay for ages. The parking lot for the Inverness Store is a handy pull-out that has let untold numbers of visitors headed to nearby Point Reyes National Seashore to stop and take a photo of what has become an “iconic image” of this section of the California coast just north of San Francisco

Point Reyes Shipwreck IMG_0071

I’ve photographed the Point Reyes many times over the last four decades, often during the drive home after hiking out at the seashore. My shot was taken from the boat’s starboard side, the one from the Los Angeles Times from the port side.

A Yosemite Classic

I first stood gazing open-mounted into Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View pullout in February of 1968. This shot was taken 37 years later in February of 2005. Somewhere tucked away in a closet in my home are boxes and trays of photographic slides taken on many other trips to California’s most famous national park that must contain other images from the same viewpoint.

Tunnel View 5 Edited

The mountains along the margins of Yosemite Valley stand out in my shot, while clouds and a serendipitous rainbow are the highlights of the one the Times ran.

Yellowstone’s Surreal Color Palette

Old Faithful geyser spews a stream of superheated “white water” skyward like clockwork, making it one of the most frequently photographed geothermal features in Yellowstone National Park.

But the most dramatic places in the park are pools of blue or green hued water of differing sizes, ringed by brilliant red, yellows or orange.

Morning Glory Pool

On a 2005 trip, I photographed one such colorful pond, “Morning Glory Pool,” not far from Old Faithful geyser.

The one in the newspaper’s collection of vacation photos was shot in the park’s West Thumb Geyser Basin.

 Castle Keep

King Henry II gave Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley south of Paris to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. But when he died, his wife, Catherine de’ Medici, took it for her own personal residence.

An overcast day in September of 2006 proved perfect for my shot depicting the châteaux’s serene setting on the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux where I spent two nights in a hotel before heading west to Normandy. Under such gray skies, you can almost imagine Diane de Potiers pacing back and forth inside of the castle, gloomily pondering her fate after learning of the king’s demise.


On the other hand, sunshine on a day like the one when Catherine de’ Medici moved into turned Château de Chenonceau into a Disneyland-like Cinderella castle in the photo published in the Times.

View Over The “Rain Barrel”

Crater Lake, formed when Mount Mazama blew its top thousands of year ago, is like a blue jewel set into the Oregon Cascade Mountains. It filled with water like a rain barrel.

In this photo shot on my last trip to the park in 2008, Mount Scott looms above the eastern rim of the caldera in which the lake lies.

Dear Snag, Crater Lake Rim
The photo of Mount Scott that appears in the newspaper was taken from a slightly different vantage point.

Canadian Rocky Mountain Highlight

Lake Louise, nestled a mile high in the Canadian Rockies, might be the most photogenic mountain lake in North America.

But nearby Moraine Lake, surrounded by a phalanx of high peaks, is the subject of this shot I took during my 2012 visit to that part of Canada.

Moraine Lake IMG_9525

I held my camera vertically, while the photo in the Times looks to have been shot at exactly the same spot, but with the camera held horizontally.

Be sure to check out all of photos in the Los Angles Times “portfolio” of vacation photos, especially those taken on Kauai and Maui, in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, at Ketchikan, Morro Bay, Rome, Venice, and Paris, and in national parks at Bryce Canyon, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Redwood and Sequoia, all places where I’ve “Been There, Shot That.”

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots.)

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Space Tourism: Which Ship To Pick For Your Flights?

Space Tourism: Which Ship To Pick For Your Flights?

Four and a half years ago when President Obama predicted that Americans would fly through space to Mars within 20 to 30 years my long-held dream of landing on the Red Planet seemed unlikely to be fulfilled in my lifetime.


And two months ago, I mulled over the possibility of getting there even if I were long gone from my earthly existence when the first spaceship carrying live humans reached that dusty, crimson orb.

But back in January of 2012, getting launched into space sooner rather than later looked “doable.” I simply had to raise the $200,000 “fare” for a trip aboard Virgin Galatic’s spaceship. (The price is now up to $250,000 and the flights won’t launch until sometime in 2015.)

Now NASA has announced that two companies, Elon Musk’s “SpaceX” and Boeing (which built the first commercial jet airliners that I traveled aboard nearly 50 years ago) will be constructing vessels designed to fly astronauts to the International Space Station and later, take space tourists like me into orbit.

That puts me on the horns of a space travel dilemma: Which of the two ships should I choose for my first-ever journey into space, the final frontier where this man has never gone before?

National Public Radio has kindly provided the answer for me, and Boeing, for whom I briefly worked at its Renton, Washington aircraft assembly plant two years before Neil Armstrong took his small but giant step onto the surface of the Moon, is going to be disappointed.

While from the outside, both the Boeing and SpaceX ships seem like a knock-offs of the capsules astronauts rode in during the long-past NASA Apollo program, like CNN’s Rachel Crane, it’s the SpaceX “Dragon” all the way for me because inside it looks like “real” spaceships that flew across the star-filled galaxies, long, long ago, in all of those sci-fi movies and TV shows I loved to watch.

 (To learn more about the two NASA spaceships of the future, listen to or read this NPR story.)

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