Happy Holidays


I am taking the next two weeks off, so let me take this moment to wish you a joyous and safe holiday season. And Happy New Year!

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Austin City Lights


Taken at a shop in the SoCo area of Austin on one of our many trips there. It’s not my style of decorating, but I love the colors.

Hope your week’s going well so far. I helped my son move some stuff to San Francisco this weekend, so it’s been kind of hectic around here. Still not ready for Christmas!


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Lunch at Kiala Manor


Kiala Manor (Kiala gård) was first mentioned in the 14th century. It was owned by Stålarm family from the 1300s to 1600s. The current wooden main building dates from 1796. Carl Axel Lewin established a distillery, which is where we had lunch after visiting Old Town Porvoo.


I didn’t take any photos of the distillery, maybe because it wasn’t noteworthy, or I didn’t have time? Can’t remember now, but it had the same bricks as the gift shop shown above.


I thought this was an interesting setup outside the gift shop. Haven’t seen geraniums like that since I lived on the East Coast!


They host a lot of events here, so I’m guessing this was for some kind of party.

Lunch, by the way, was fantastic. No photos, because sometimes you just want to enjoy the company and the food, you know?

Great weekend, everyone!


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It’s That Time Again


Since it’s snowing on WordPress, I thought I’d post a more fitting photo taken outside a local Pottery Barn Kids store. I think the display is so sweet.
I’m not even close to being ready for Christmas. How about you?


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Old Town Porvoo

Porvoo is Finland’s second oldest town, 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Helsinki.
In 1346 Maunu Eerikinpoika (Magnus Eriksson) then the King of Sweden, visited Porvoo and granted the town rights there and then.

We stopped in Porvoo right before lunch, so the light was terrible, but I hope you can make out the date here.



We weren’t there very long–just enough time to stroll through the Old Town and buy some chocolates.


The place on the left is where we bought the candy. The Brunberg Candy Shop was established in 1871 after A.W. Lindfors started a bakery in Porvoo. Their stuff is very good!


Talk about sweet. I loved the way the children’s clothes were displayed.


Most of the buildings are wooden and the streets are paved with cobblestones.


The town is situated on the Porvoo River.


Outside a toy store and a restaurant.




A Finnish stop sign.


I did enjoy the colors of Porvoo. All in all, a pleasant experience. The shopkeepers mostly spoke English and were very friendly.

Great weekend, everyone!


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Travel Scans: Bath Revisited

Oh, I see that WordPress has turned on the snow again. :)

When I did the original post on Bath, I promised more photos in the future. That was over a year ago. Sorry about that. Life just keeps flying by.

There is a legend that Bath was founded in 860 BC when Prince Bladud, father of King Lear, caught leprosy. He was banned from the court and was forced to look after pigs. The pigs also had a skin disease but after they wallowed in hot mud they were cured. Prince Bladud followed their example and was also cured. Later he became king and founded the city of Bath.


The Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the Avon River, and Bath became a spa with the Latin name Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”) around 60 AD! According to Wiki, the site of the Roman baths’ main spring was dedicated to the goddess Sulis, whom the Romans identified with Minerva, the goddess of healing. Latin messages to Sulis were scratched onto metal, known as curse tablets, because they cursed people who had wronged the writers.





Bath’s historic spas were finally restored and revived in 2006. The new Thermae Spa offers visitors a chance to soak in the historic 95-degree waters in a state-of-the-art complex. I’m just amazed that the place has held up this long.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


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Night Falls on San Diego

The view of the San Diego skyline from Coronado Island is so beautiful. We were there at sunset . . .


and afterwards.


Great weekend, everyone!


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Autumn Bouquet

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking photos at a dear friend’s wedding. I thought her bouquet was beautiful, and perfect for this time of year….


I’d like to say “Happy Thanksgiving” to all who celebrate, and a happy Thursday to everyone else!


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The Winter Palace and Hermitage, Part II

OK, back to the Hermitage. I won’t be able to identify everything, but I’ll do my best.


This shows you why it would take nine years to see everything in the Hermitage. There are fine paintings, along with beautifully crafted details on the ceilings as well as the walls. The floors are exquisite too….



A lapis lazuli table with gold details, and a huge malachite urn.

A real highlight for me was the Da Vinci Room:





Da Vinci’s “Madonna and Child” and “Benois Madonna.”


Can you believe the intricacy?



A closer look at the detail on the fireplace above.


Love those cameos on the wall.


I zoomed in on the plaque with Photoshop, but still couldn’t read the name of the painter.

Even more beautiful ceilings:





Finally, St. George’s Hall, or the Great Throne Room:




According to Wiki, this hall was the setting for the opening of the First State Duma by Nicholas II, in 1906. The Tsar was forced to agree to the establishment of a Duma as a concession to his people in an attempt to avert revolution. However, the Imperial family saw it as “the end of Russian autocracy.”

If you visit St. Petersburg, this is an absolute must-see. Allow more than a few hours, though.

Great weekend, everyone!


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The Hermitage and Winter Palace, Part I

Sorry about the delay. I shot a wedding on Friday and that set me back a little bit. I have quite a few photos of the Winter Palace and Hermitage, so will be breaking the post into two parts.


The Winter Palace, which houses the Hermitage, was built between 1754 and 1762 and was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the same person who designed the Catherine Palace. You’re probably noticing the similarities now. The exterior facades are 656 feet (200 m.) long and there are one thousand rooms. The Palace was built for Empress Elizabeth.


Love that blue.


Our tour group was allowed to enter the Hermitage early, but you can see that it was still quite crowded.

Again, we had to walk very quickly to keep up with our tour guide, but the place has 2.8 million objects to see. My guidebook says it would take nine years to see everything. I was fortunate to view an exhibition of Hermitage paintings in Washington D.C. years ago, so I wasn’t upset about missing stuff. We still saw a lot.

This is the first art museum that rivaled the artwork for me. The opulence is staggering. If you love great art and architecture, you would probably want to spend days here. At the very least, get a good guide who can show you the highlights. You’ll see what I mean in the photos that follow.

The sneak peek I posted last time is from the Jordan Staircase. This is the most beautiful stair hall I’ve ever seen and I took as many shots as I could….






I wasn’t able to find out the name of the painting or the artist. It was fairly challenging staying with the group while trying to listen to the guide and take pictures. What a luxury it would be to walk at a leisurely pace and see everything.

Next, we moved on to the Pavilion Room, which was equally amazing:





This hall houses one of the main attractions of the Hermitage: the Peacock Clock.


Grigory Potemkin commissioned James Cox, a London jeweler and goldsmith, to make a monumental automaton with a clock for the Empress’s Hermitage in 1777.
Four separate mechanisms are combined in the clock: three of them set the peacock, owl and cockerel in motion, while the fourth is the actual clock movement. These mechanisms are linked by a system of levers that ensures their operation in the correct sequence.

We were not there at the time of the movement, but there was a large video screen that showed it. I took this shot off the screen:


Looking back at the photos now, I see that just about every inch of the place was embellished with some kind of artwork. I especially liked a lot of the doors….



I believe tortoiseshell was used here.


Can’t imagine how long it took to do these.

More in Part II. I’m going out of town this weekend and won’t be back until Monday night, so hope to post again next Wednesday or Friday.

Hope you all have a great weekend!


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