Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Photo of the Day: The Seven Lakes Region, San Martin de Los Andes, Patagonia, Argentina

Luis and I spent several weeks in December and January 2010 (summer in the southern hemisphere) busing, hitchhiking and sailing our way through Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia to meet up with our dear friends, Nils and Preeta, in Torres del Paine National Park on the southern tip of Chile. En route, we hiked and camped through the gorgeous lake region of Bariloche, Junin de los Andes and San Martin de los Andes. One sunny Sunday, we took a day trip by boat to Los Siete Lagos (The Seven Lakes), one of the most stunningly beautiful regions of South America. Given the unparalleled scenery of the continent, that's no small statement; the vistas were breathtaking: tall, verdant cliffs, slate blue lakes, rolling fields of wildflowers alive with humming bees and butterflies and powerful, icy waterfalls.
We stopped for lunch and a cold beer on one of the beaches and watched the more ambitious paddle by us in kayaks or swim laps in wet suits (the water is literally glacial). After lunch, we hiked into the hills to visit the many cascades and local farms before reboarding our small boat to depart for the next breathtaking spot.    

Photo of the Day: Musicians on the Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic

Musicians on the Charles Bridge, Prague, Czech Republic (photo by Simone Cannon)

The heartbeat of the city almost always lies within its musical scene: local musicians, buskers, innovators, street dancers. In Buenos Aires, it's the tango dancers who perform for the tourists at the Sunday San Telmo antiques fair; in Rio, its the capoeira performers who practice at local academies, and in Prague, it's the street bands that congregate on the Charles Bridge, playing for tips. Tourists and locals delight in the creativity and spontaneous style of the musicians, who, while working to scratch out a living, add a stratum of joy and lightness to a city with a rich and difficult past.  

I visited Prague in July, 2005 with a straight-laced friend from Texas who was scandalized by the Bohemian lifestyle, the easy access to the hallucinogenic liqueur, absinthe, and visits to art museums filled with saintly looking maidens wearing nothing but their smiles...quite a culture shock after her sleepy hometown of Tyler. To her, the Czech Republic gave new meaning to the catchphrase "it's like a whole other country".

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Photo of the Day: Multnomah Falls, Oregon, USA

Multnomah Falls, Oregon, USA (photo by Luis Bastardo)

Last July, one of our friends decided to cycle from Seattle, WA to Portland, OR in the annual STP race. Luis and I promised to meet her at the finish line and decided to make a long weekend of the trip. We drove the four hours down to Portland, Oregon, stopping on the way to explore the area. One of our stops was the stunningly beautiful Columbia River Gorge, a 4,000 foot (1219 meters) deep section of the Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest region of North America. The area is under federal protection as the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, which spans two states, Washington and Oregon and encompasses 292,500 acres.   

Multnomah Falls, a double cascade on the Historic Columbia River Highway, is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States at 620 feet (189 meters). One of the most popular attractions in Oregon, the falls receive almost 2 million visitors a year. Although the falls can be seen from below, they are even more impressive up close. Luis and I hiked up to Benson Bridge, which sits atop the first tier, then continued the hike up to the top of the falls, which has a lookout that allows visitors to experience a dizzying look at the entire cascade, as well as spectacular views of the gorge.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Photo of the Day: Lupin and Bee, Junin de Los Andes, Argentina

Lupin and bee, Junin de los Andes, Argentina (photo by Luis Bastardo)

In the summer of 2010, after living for almost five years in Buenos Aires, Luis and I decided that it was time to return to the United States the following spring, so decided to spend our last months exploring as much of Argentina and Chile as we could. We bought our first tent together, deciding to go for the smallest, lightest two-person version since we would be backpacking and would need to carry all of our supplies and gear on our backs while potentially hiking for hours or wandering around new towns trying to find an available campsite. With only the loosest of travel plans (as usual), we took a series of long-distance buses first to the west, then to the south of Argentina, with the objective of crossing paths at the beginning of January with our fellow globe-trotting friends from New York, who, at that very moment, were making their own way down through Bolivia and Chile to arrive at Torres del Paine National Park in the southern end of Patagonia.

On the way to our rendezvous, we found ourselves in the lovely town of Junin de los Andes on Christmas Day. Junin (pronounced hoo-NEEN) is a cozy community of tidy, colorful homes with flower-filled cottage gardens, a leafy central square bordered by cafes and crystal clear, frigid, fast-running rivers swimming with fat, shimmering trout. Our campsite was carpeted with roses of every variety and we woke each morning to the lovely perfumed air and the hypnotic collective hum of buzzing bees. Every home and storefront was edged with flowerbeds of every variety, scent and color; especially prevalent were the lupins, usually deep royal blue or purple, but also seen in lemon yellow, pale pink or deep fuchsia. Luis caught one of the bees in action pollinating a lupin one afternoon and snapped this lovely photo which, even in its simplicity (or perhaps, especially), captures the mood of Junin exactly.       

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Photo of the Day: Independence Day, Buenos Aires, Argentina

At the celebrations at el Obilisco, avenida 9 de Julio, Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo by Luis Bastardo) 

On May 25, 2010, Argentina celebrated its Bicentennial, the 200th anniversary of the first truly Argentine government. The date commemorates when Argentinians gathered together in the May Revolution (la Revolución de Mayo) and decided to oust the Spanish rulers, replacing them with la Primera Junta, the first national government.

 We were living in Buenos Aires at the time and parties and celebrations started months ahead of the official date. It all exploded (well, in the cultured way of Argentinians, meaning symphony concerts, elaborate wine-drenched parilla grilled steak dinners and tasteful firework displays and parades) on the actual anniversary. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny autumn day (since Argentina lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere), and the crowds were out in full force. Luis captured the moment when this young girl decided to shield herself from the light, heat and crowds with the Argentine Flag, an unintentionally dramatic and patriotic action on her part.   

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Travel Photo of the Day: Snoqualmie Falls, Fall City, Wa, USA

Snoqualmie Falls in the Snow, Fall City, WA, USA (photo by Simone Cannon) 

This week in Puget Sound, we had the first snowfall of 2012 and so decided to drive down to Snoqualmie Falls to see the winter wonderland with our friend, Elyse, who was visiting from the other Washington (D.C.) For those of you old enough to remember, the falls were the setting for the popular 1980's TV show, Twin Peaks, and they are still one of the most popular tourist destinations in Washington with 1.5 million visitors a year. The tall cascades are spectacular, the highest in Washington State and just as beautiful in the winter as in the summer.

I snapped this shot from one of the few overviews still open in the winter and decided to send it to NWCN local news, who added it to their newscast and showed it every half  hour for the rest of the 15 minutes (or so) of fame! Sitting (quite literally) over the falls, is the lovely, cozy Salish Lodge, a popular romantic weekend getaway for local couples. The falls also serves Puget Sound Energy, providing electricity to area residents. Washington's Snoqualmie Tribe considers the site of the falls sacred and central to their belief system; the falls traditionally served as a burial site where prayers were carried to the Great Creator via the waterfall's ethereal mists.