Such a lot of world to see.

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Gallery Update: Chicago

I’ve updated my gallery of Chicago with pictures from a recent stay – lots of architecture, streetscapes, and colorful views of this marvel of a city. Here’s a link, with some highlights below.

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Photographs from the Pacific Southwest.

I’ve updated the Las Vegas and Los Angeles galleries with new pictures.

The renowned architect Frank Loyd Wright once said “Tip the world on its side, and everything loose will land in Los Angeles”. LA is a city of dreams, stars, and freeways. It can be a surreal place to visit, partly because even if it’s your first time in the City of Angels, you feel a nostalgia for the city.  These sights,  you’ve seen before countless times on television. This feeling of bright warm sunshine, the palm tree lined streets, the Hollywood sign in the background – it feels so familiar. Los Angeles is certainly one of the most culturally influential cities of the world. Hollywood has become synonymous with the movie industry as well as celebrity culture, but it’s also a city of creativity and new ideas – the motion picture industry that took hold here was more of a consequence of this creative ideology than the precursor to it. The scale of America’s second largest city is too daunting to take in, but scaled down to it’s famous neighborhoods, beaches, and landmarks you’ll find LA’s true identity.

Four hours east, in the middle of an inhospitable dessert lies the city that seems impossible. A towering billion dollar strip of megahotels, with regal recreations of Paris, New York, and Egypt among others hundreds of miles from any major city. The landscape is martian. You’d imagine a soulless city built by the Mob as one big red light district would be completely unrewarding to a conscientious traveler – but surprisingly, you’d be wrong. There is great people watching, fascinating feats on engineering, and reliably warm weather aside from a short winter. The city conveys a surprising story, of people and money from all over the world arriving in a city of the old west. The unfathomable city, with its often tacky exuberance, is unique in the world. There is nothing like Las Vegas.

 

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Stars, fishing, and remote wilderness.

The universe can be a humbling place. So countless are the stars in the night sky, that the concept that each one of them having it’s own solar system is unfathomable. Some scientists suggest as many as 700 million trillion planets exist in the known universe – that’s a bigger number than I can comprehend.

Canada, in its vastness, can also be humbling. Just a short drive from where I live in Winnipeg, the great wilderness of the Canadian Shield takes over this country’s geography. Civilization is sparse. Even 5 minutes into a pontoon flight from Kenora, you see the signs of humanity dwindle. No towns, no roads, no people. A group of friends have found a favorite lake in the area: one that you can only get to by plane, and if you rent out the cottage for the week, an entire set of lakes in the area is exclusive to you. Days are spent fishing, and if the sky is clear, you might end staying up late into the night watching the spectacle in the sky. Staring out at the limitless universe, from the vast wilderness…humbled.

Hit the link!

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Offshore in the Caymans

Looking insignificant in an Atlas, Grand Cayman is the largest island of the tiny Caribbean nation called the Cayman Islands.  The island is known for two things: the wealthy offshore banking economy and the unbelievable beaches. It’s a generally quiet island, where tourists spend days relaxing on the beach rather than at late night parties. If calm, clear, idealistic blue water is your priority, there may be no better place to visit. Either that, or click the link for the gallery. 

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Aruba

A small island some 29 miles off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is one of the Caribbean’s driest islands. Though initially colonized by the Spanish during the conquests of the 16th century, the island would eventually find itself under Dutch control in 1636. Ever since, it has been considered part of the Dutch Caribbean. The remarkably warm and dry climate has helped Aruba develop a large tourism industry – three quarters of Aruba’s economy comes from tourism or related activities. The turquoise waters and white sand are typical of an island paradise in the  Caribbean, but for many who visit, the guarantee of warm sunny weather year round is the reason to return to Aruba.

Aruba is truly an island in the sun, a great place for a guarantee of perfect weather for those of us that like it hot and dry. Check out a small preview below, and follow the link to the full gallery. 

Harachi

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Short Take: Philadelphia

There was no city more important than Philadelphia during the birth of the United States of America. From the initial meetings of the Continental Congress in 1774 to the signing of the Declaration of Independence 3 years later, Philadelphia seemed like a natural capital for the new nation. For 10 years congress indeed met here, until creating a federal district in Washington in the year 1800.

As much of American revolutionary history is indebted to Philly, a square mile of land in the city center full of georgian/colonial architecture dating back to that era. Independence Hall (1753) is the star attraction where the most pivotal moments in the country’s history played out, but you can also sit in the pew of Christ Church (1744) where George Washington sat on Sundays when he was the first president of the United States, or gaze upon the first national bank of the United States (1791).

With all that said – that was over 200 years ago. Philly has changed a lot since then. From the bustling Great Migration in the first half of the 20th century, to the decline of the city’s economy in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, the city now feels right where it should be. It’s a city that knows it’s been through a lot; its gritty and often tattered, but walks with a prideful swagger. Click Here for a short look at Philadelphia.

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Temples and Monuments: Washington D.C.

It was only on this recent trip to Washington D.C. that I came to the (perhaps unsurprising) realization that in America, the country’s historical leadership stand shoulder to shoulder with God himself. Temples suitable for Zeus or Apollo, are in this case for Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. In a fresco where at the center you’d expect to see a painted Christ, in Washington you’ll find George Washington at the top of the rotunda at the United States Capital.

Washington D.C. is a spectacular tribute to America’s rich history. The temples and monuments are remarkably enlightened with messages appropriate for the challenges the American hegemon faces today. As a whole, the city is beautiful and educational. I hope that my photos here show some of D.C.’s greatest charms; A seat of power with a storied history, the brilliant city of lights, and the temples fit for its Gods.

“Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” – Thomas Jefferson July 12th, 1816.

Follow the link to the gallery. 

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Istanbul

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One of the great historical cities of the world, Istanbul is the largest and most important city in Turkey. Istanbul is a (relatively) new name for a very old city: Constantinople and even earlier than that, Byzantium. Prior to invasion of the Ottomans in 1453,  Constantinople was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the city flourished for a thousand years, literally. More recently after that date, the city has been called the “stronghold of Islam”, and for the past 500 years under the Ottomans and Turks, the city has flourished yet again.

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Why is this ancient Christian Mosaic hidden under the walls of Hagia Sophia, one of the city’s oldest mosques?

You can see history play out in architecture. Hagia Sophia did not begin as a mosque; it was in fact constructed as a massive orthodox Christian church in 537AD, when the city was still called Constantinople. After 1453, and nearly ever since, it has been a mosque. Only after secularization of the country was it possible to pull off layers of paint and plaster to reveal these ancient artworks.

Istanbul is a modern metropolis at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East. It’s a city of hundreds of mosques populating the ancient city’s canopy, with a new and modern skyline rising across the Bosporus, indicative of the city’s success as a modern business economy.

Enjoy the gallery by clicking here. 

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Santorini

In southern Greece, the remains of an ancient volcanic eruption have formed an island like none other. Santorini. Steep cliffs in a 12km semi-circle around an old volcano is now what they call the Caldera, and it provides the trademark view of the Greek islands. An apartment/hotel in a white Cycladic house built into a cliff of volcanic ash is unlike anywhere you’re likely to stay. Santorini feels like it was built by a different civilization on a different planet. Being nearly 1000ft above the sea, the views are spectacular and the sunsets are epic.  Enjoy the pictures by clicking here. 

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Finding that perfect Greek island.

Naxos has beauty that is postcard worthy. But so do many of the other Greek islands, so why did we end up in Naxos?

Naxos was once the center of the Cycladic culture. Plenty of ruins exist from this Bronze Age culture that prospered even before the Greek Empire.  Today its an island of beautiful beaches, crystal clear water, old churches and white Cycladic cubic houses. The beaches are lined with a strip of local “tavernas” or restaurants with simple rooms for rent on the second floor. Naxos has that postcard scenery with a quiet atmosphere – in a place where you can rent an apartment right on the beach for less than your paid for the ferry ticket.

Click here for the Gallery. 

I loved Naxos. It was perfect. We split our time in the Greek islands between Santorini and Naxos and were rewarded with the decision. Santorini is undoubtedly a special place on this world like none other. It’s spectacular. People come from all over the world to experience the Caldara views – I’ll have a post on it soon.  Naxos was just the perfect opposite. Our beachside apartment was beautifully unremarkable; A family run establishment on the second floor of a grocery store /souvlaki restaurant. The beach with the clearest, bluest water you can find anywhere was just outside our window. There’s not much to do other than relax, listen to the lapping water, and decide in which tavernas you’ll end up at for dinner.

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