Lunch On The Beach

When the tide goes out, the beaches are a bird watcher’s paradise in Florida.  Simply called “beach birds” these small birds are having a feast fit for–well–a bird.

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Lunch anyone?

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Morning Sky

Is there anything more beautiful in nature than the morning sky?  Here are two views of the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, in Palm Beach, Florida.  Each one is more glorious than the other.

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For The Birds

Pelicans are among nature’s most unusual birds.  They look prehistoric, dinaourish in fact. Graceful in flight, pelicans are cartoonish on the land.

If you want to see pelicans up close and personal, visit Florida.  I photographed this handsome specimen at Lake Okeechobee.  Half the size of Rhode Island, Okeechobee is the largest fresh water lake in Florida.  For reasons unknown to me, tourism is nearly non-existent around the lake.  When we visited a nearly abandoned dock there were a dozen or more men and women fishing for supper.  The birds and the fishermen occupied the dock in harmony, presumably with the birds anticipating scraps of food.  It made it relatively easy to get a few photographs of these wonderful birds.  DSC_0153

Passing Of An Era

Terry discovered this rickety old house as we were driving along Highway NN near Slater, Missouri.  Perched on a hill in the middle of the country, it is surrounded by rusting farm implements, a rusted out barbecue grill and evidence of agricultural activity that continues around it as it slowly sinks into the earth.  It looks to me as though it could have been the inspiration for one of the sets for the Harry Potter movies.

As rickety as it appears in this photograph, it is almost impossible to capture the image as we first encountered it.  The debris surrounding the house, and the utilitarian farm buildings built almost on top of it, detract from a more distant image.

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In her heyday she must have been a beauty.  Now she has been abandoned and is literally falling apart at the seams.  While not the only house we saw in a shambles, she was the most elegant.  As such, she captures most effectively, the tragic death of an elegant country residence and, at some level, the changing way of life in rural Missouri.

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She was a grand lady.

Goodbye Havana

Our trip to Cuba ended much as it began. We were overwhelmed by the beauty and the poverty of this tiny island nation.  But now, after months of preparations, days filled with visual images we will never forget, and photographs that will end up in posts far into the future, it was finally time for us to pack our bags for the journey home.

As we were preparing our bags Saturday night for an early morning departure, I watched the hustle and bustle of Havana.  Neither the city’s great beauty, nor its decay, were visible in this nighttime shot.  Left to admire is just the vibrancy of the city.

It was a memorable experience.  While our visit only touched the edges of this wonderful country, I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience its rich culture, wonderful people and incredible beauty.

If you haven’t experienced Cuba, put it on your bucket list!

Old World Architecture Graces a Cuban Harbor

The Palacio de Valle is located in Cienfuegos, the second largest harbor in Cuba.  Sometimes referred to at the “Pearl of the South”,  Cienfuegos was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005 as a result of the blending of old world architecture and modern urban design.

The Palacio de Valle is a masterpiece of styling, art and history.  When Amparo Suero married a wealthy Cuban businessman, Acisclo Valle, her father gave them Palacio de Valle as a wedding gift.  The couple renovated the property between 1913 and 1917, at a cost of 1 1/2 million pesos.

Italian architect Alfredo Colli, created this masterpiece, incorporating Italian and French into a building which is dominated by the unique character of Moorish style, carvings and color.  The Moslem crescent moon and the words Arabic words meaning “Only God is God” from the Koran, solidify the Moorish influence.

The construction of the building itself relies heavily on Carrara marble, alabaster, Venetian ceramics, Spanish ironwork and the carvings of renowned Spanish artist, Antonio Barcenas to blend much of the beauty of the old world  combining the best of Spanish, Muslim, Italian, French and even Egyptian design.

The exterior reflects the beautiful carvings seen throughout the Arab world.  The Sphinx guarding the main doorway reflect Egyptian symbols.

Bronze railings of Spanish design are seen throughout the interior and exterior of the building.

The art reflects the interconnections of the Muslim and Christian beliefs.  This lovely painting of the Magi, ie. the “Three Kings from the East” focuses on the Magi themselves, relying on the crown to symbolize the Christ child.

This tile Crusader depicts a Christian in full battle attire presumably prepared to fight the Moors.

There is little to explain the reasons for this combination of clashing cultures, representing the images and art of all the involved cultures with beauty, accuracy and respect.  Yet the flow of interweaving of the best of the old world, works effectively, playing the grace of Venice with the power of Spain.  It is not surprising then, that this building, now a restaurant, is itself recognized as a National Heritage Memorial.

By the standards of any religion or influence, the Palacio is a masterpiece.  While the cultural aspects of the building predominate our visit, the timeless beauty of the rooftop bar, with its view of Cienfuegos and the ocean, completed the experience for all of us.

Habana: Sunrise Over a Once Forbidden City

Habana, Cuba.  In the states we refer to the city by the name Havana.  But it is their country and it seems they should receive deference in how to spell it.  Long forbidden to U.S. citizens, it is a place like no other.  Just 90 miles from the United States, it is shrouded in mystery.

The sunrise over Habana Harbor on the second morning of our visit was as dramatic as the city.  The sun was an intense reddish-orange and the clouds were dark as night.[1]

As I watched, the sunlight produced a softer image of the city around us illuminating the sky and the Atlantic Ocean in muted shades of grays and blues.

Within just a few additional minutes, the colors and the texture of the city were in full view.  This photograph reveals the contrast of the beauty and the decay that have enveloped Havana since Fidel Castro’s revolution. A revolution that has resulted in changes that continue to dominate life in Cuba more than 60 years later.

I had anticipated our trip to Cuba would be an exciting and a constantly changing experience for me, and for all the members of our tour.  I was right.

Our journey had really just begun.

[1]  These photographs were taken with my Nikon D5100 camera using a Tamron telephoto lens.  They are not altered or enhanced.  Their beauty and their flaws are all my own.  To stabilize my camera for these slow shots, I leaned against the railing on my 17th floor hotel room and held tight.