Ireland – Day 5


Today we made the trek to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.

The weather forecast showed rain for the day, but we went anyway as it’s our only real opportunity. We decided to take the tour bus tp the ferry landing which was about an hour. Another hour on the ferry and we were on the island.

We stopped at the Pier House Guest House for some lunch. As luck would have it, the entire island was without electricity due to some maintenance going on with the power line that feeds Inishmore from the mainland. It was still a good lunch and we felt fortified for the adventure ahead.

We opted to rent a couple of bicycles and find our way to the ruins of Dún Aonghasa.

Cynthia Bike


Cynthia hadn’t rode a bicycle in over 20 years and was worried she might not remember how. She quickly learned that the old adage “it’s like riding a bike” is not just a figure of speech and soon we were on our way.



The rain was constant and there was a fairly strong headwind. We made it about 2 miles before coming to the realization that we might have bitten off more than we could chew with this bike riding adventure. We puttered around for awhile but eventually decided to return the bikes and hire one of the tour vans that circles the island.

This ended up being a much better plan. We went on to Dún Aonghasa and climbed the 20 minute hike up to the ruins. At this point we were especially glad we didn’t ride the bikes all the way here, only to have to ride them back.


We explored the ruins, but the rain and fog spoiled the view of the cliffs so we made our way back down.


After the tour we stopped by the cafe and had some hot coffee before heading back to the ferry to catch the bus and the ride back to Galway.

The weather made photography difficult, so we don’t have many photos of the adventure. In fact, most all of the photos in this post were taken by Cynthia as I was reluctant to pull out my own camera in the rain. It was a good time nonetheless. Inishmore is a starkly beautiful place, even on the rain.

Tomorrow we plan to drive around Connemara and find the Kylmore Abbey. Hopefully we’ll have better weather karma.

Ireland – Day 3


Today we drive from Portballintrae to Donegal Town via Londonderry. 85 scenic miles of twisty and often narrow roads.

We stopped off in Londonderry to visit historic walls.

Via Wikipedia

The Walls were built during the period 1613-1619 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. They provide a unique promenade to view the layout of the original town which still preserves its Renaissance style street plan. The four original gates to the Walled City are Bishop’s Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Butcher Gate and Shipquay Gate. Three further gates were added later, Magazine Gate, Castle Gate and New Gate, making seven gates in total. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse.

Canon on The Walls of Derry

We stopped at a coffee shop and the climbed the walls and walked them the entire way round. It rained a bit and was sometimes cold, but it was good to get out of the car and walk around.

From there we drove on to Donegal and found our bed and breakfast and got checked in and then found our way to the city center to get a late lunch and visit Donegal Castle.

Donegal Castle is a quaint wee castle, but not much to look at, really. We poked around and then just wandered the city for awhile. We were both pretty tired from the day’s journey and headed back to the B&B. We rested up for a few hours.

It was during this time that something very interesting happened.

Outside our B&B window is a small flock of sheep in a neighboring field. Cynthia noticed one one of the sheep nearest to the B&B hadn’t moved since we checked in. It was just laying there while the other sheep grazed in the field.

This was causing Cynthia to be a little concerned so I went outside and climbed up the hill behind the B&B to have a closer look. That is when I noticed that the poor guy was trapped in a thorny bush and couldn’t free itself.

I was about ready to climb over the barbed wire fence to try and free him and then thought better of it. Last thing I need is to get tangled up in barbed wire out in the middle of nowhere.

Going back inside I found the B&B owner and asked him if he knew who owned the flock of sheep in the back and he said he did.

I told him what was going on and that the poor guy was stressing Cynthia out a little. And it was stressing me out, too…if I’m honest.

The owner said he would ring up the owner of the flock and let him know. About 30 minutes later we saw the owner of the sheep come over the hill and free the poor, stuck little guy. As we watched the sheep rejoin his flock. We thought that was that and were happy for a happy ending. But that was not the end of the story. As we watched the owner tend to the flock a rainbow appeared over the field. It only lasted a few minutes, but you should have seen Cynthia jumping for joy. It was Cynthia who captured the moment in this fantastic photo…


Now THAT is a happy ending.

After that we decided to go back into town and find some dinner. We stopped at The Olde Castle Bar & Restaurant and enjoyed some pub grub. We went in search of some live music, but didn’t find any and decided to call it a day,

Tomorrow we’re off to Galway.

Ireland – First Full Day


We got up bright and early and had ourselves the full Irish breakfast. Mmmmmm, blood pudding! Cynthia’s feeling much better after the whole incident with breaking my glasses.


We only chose to stay in Dundalk because it wasn’t far from the airport and made for a good jumping off point to head north.

After breakfast we packed up our gear, loaded the car and headed off to drive to Belfast and then link up with the Causeway Coastal Route.

The first place we wanted to see was Carrickfergus. We stopped to see the castle and take in the view of the sea. It was a pleasant stop.


The coastal route takes you along the upper north coast of Northern Ireland and is something to see. Beautiful landscapes along a winding, twisty road that sometimes gets down to a single lane for two way traffic. This can be quite intense as you drive along, having to yield to oncoming traffic with practically nowhere to go. To make matters even worse, there was a bike rally of some kind going on and we had to carefully and frequently pass cyclists along the way.

We made our way to Ballygally Castle around lunchtime and stopped to get some food.


We also paused to take a few photos.


Head of Ballygally Bay

Coastal Road Rest Stop

From there we continued to wind our way to Portballintrae where we had a hotel reservation for a few nights. We got checked in and cleaned some of the road from our weary bodies and went for dinner at the Porthole Restaurant. The food was fantastic. We both had locally caught salmon and shared a bottle of wine to toast our success.


For now we say goodnight to Portballintrae

Ballintrae Bay

Tomorrow we visit Giant’s Causeway, The Rope Bridge, Dunlace Castle and The Bushmill’s Distillery.

Valencia – Day 5

Cynthia continues to improve. We got up relatively early so we could go to the Cathedral and see the progress on the Virgin Mary.

She’s coming along quite nicely.

Cynthia is hanging in there. Waiting on the doctor.

A photo posted by Jay Lee (@baldheretic) on

We took the day and walked around the area near the Ruzafa district where there are some magnificent Fallas

That night we stumbled upon the most magnificent Galician restaurant called A `Peregrina which is Spanish for “Of The Pilgrim” or something similar. The whole restaurant is themed in a style you might expect to see if you were walking the Way Of St. James, a famous pilgrimage Cynthia and I would like to walk some day.

Cynthia had said she just wanted some soup for dinner, but soup is not a common menu item so we decided to see what we could get here. Right after we were seated, the waitress brought us each a bowl of complimentary hot vegetable soup. It was, in a way, a miracle and set the tone for the evening.

Once again we had found a fantastic restaurant with wonderful food and a great atmosphere.

Valencia – Day 3

Today Cynthia woke up in pretty bad shape. While the one eye is getting better, the other is starting to have trouble. She is very fatigued and in need of rest.


We had scheduled lunch with our friend Manel who we met during our first visit to Valencia. When he arrived at the hotel Cynthia simply didn’t have the energy to accompany us. This was unfortunate as Manel speaks little English and I speak little Spanish. Cynthia usually acts as the translator, but today we were on our own.

Manel and I had a good time using our iPhones to make the more difficult translations and it was a fun morning, if not slightly comical.

We made our way back to the hotel so I could check in on Cynthia and so that Manel could make his way to his other commitments. When I check with the desk clerk, Cynthia had left a note saying that she was feeling better and had walked over to the park to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air.

When she did make her way to the room she was looking to be in pretty good spirits, but confided that while sitting on a park bench and enjoying the various dogs and birds passing and flying overhead she apparently looked so sad and pathetic that a passing cyclist stopped and offered her food (which she politely declined).

Suffice to say, she was mortified. It took me some time to convince her that she did not look like a wretched, diseased homeless person with a bad eye.

Since Cynthia was feeling better we decided go for a walk and get some lunch. We enjoyed sitting outside the restaurant and soaking in the sunshine.

After lunch we went back to the room and had a siesta.

When we woke up we were both feeling a bit better. I wanted to go to the City of Arts and Sciences to take some photos and Cynthia was going to go see some things she wanted to see. I ended up making a short trip of it as the City of Arts and Sciences was having some kind of event and I couldn’t really get the shots I wanted. When I got back to the hotel I ran into Cynthia who was excited that she was able to photograph an unusual pigeon we had spotted a few days ago.

Painted Pigeon

We suspect he has been painted by someone. The bird seems ok and flies around the plaza without a problem.

We took the rest of the afternoon and evening to do some more site seeing. We’re still not 100% but we’re not giving up.

Fairy Falla

Laurel and Hardy Falla

Ruzafa Lights

Tomorrow and Monday are the days of the Ofrenda when the women of Valencia parade in to the Plaza Of The Virgin and offer to her their prayers and carnations. The carnations are used to make Mary’s gown. It’s quite a site.

Preparation for Ofrenda

Madrid – Day 5

We’ve expended a lot of energy over the last few days. And we still have Las Fallas in Valencia to look forward to. With that in mind we took it rather easy today. We decided to catch the subway to go see the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, writer of the world famous story of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his trusty squire, Sancho Panza.ña

From there we made our way to the Naval Museum for a nice dose of Spanish naval history. The museum is very nice and well laid out. I was especially fascinated by the models and miniatures featured in the museum.

Spanish Naval Uniforms - 3

After visiting the Naval Museum we found our way to the Barrio de las letras (the literary district) to take a walking tour of the neighborhood which is filled with wonderful old bars, restaurants and shops decorated with ornate tile work.

While we were there we stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Miau where I discovered that I really like grilled pulpo (octopus).

We wandered the area at a leisurely pace and once we had our fill we headed back to the hotel and had a nice, long siesta.

When we awoke from our siesta we relaxed in the hotel room before heading out to find some dinner.

All in all, a very nice day and a chance to regain our strength as we get ready to wrap things up here in Madrid.

Gran Via @ Sunset

Madrid – Day 4

Today is March 11 and is the 9th anniversary of the terrorist bombing of the Atocha Train Station in Madrid. The explosions killed 191 people and wounded 1,800. The official investigation by the Spanish judiciary found that the attacks were directed by an al-Qaeda-inspired terrorist cell.

At the Atocha station there is a memorial dedicated to the victims of the explosion.

Atocha Station Memorial - 2

From Wikipedia:

The Atocha station memorial is a memorial monument located at Atocha station in Madrid, Spain, that commemorates the 191 victims of the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings and the special forces agent who died when seven suicide bombers blew themselves up on 3 April 2004.

The 11 m tall (36 ft) cylinder stands above Atocha station, the destination of the four trains that were attacked. Thousands of messages of condolence made in the days after the attacks are inscribed on the inside of the tower. The messages of grief can be seen from a chamber beneath the hollow monument.

Atocha Station Memorial - 1

It was a somber experience visiting this memorial on the anniversary. Something akin to visiting Ground Zero in New York, I would imagine.

From there we walked over to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to view some more art. Because when you are travelling in Europe, you can’t see enough art. Visiting the Thyssen completed our Madrid Museum trifecta.

After this we were fairly tired and headed back to the hotel to readjust and then get some lunch. After lunch it was back to the hotel for a nice siesta.

When we woke up we made our way west to watch the sunset and take some night shots of the Temple de Debod, an ancient Egyptian temple that was rebuilt in Madrid.

Temple de Debod

It was cold and windy and we were anxious to get back to town where it might be a little less breezy.

Having had a rather substantial lunch, we were not all the keen on a large dinner. So we opted for some Churros con Chocolate at the famous Chocolatería San Ginés which first opened its doors in 1894.



It was delicious, in case you were wondering.


After that I wanted to stop by the La Torre del Oro which is a bar dedicated to bull fighting. Many bull heads on the walls and photos of fighters getting gored quite gruesomely. It’s an interesting experience to say the least.



After that we we’re pretty much spent. Tomorrow is another day.

Madrid – Day 3


Today, to our surprise, the sun came out again. There was still enough cloud cover to indicate that rain was still a possibility, but we ventured out without our raincoats or an umbrella anyway.

We decided to go to the Reina Sofia to see Picasso’s “Guernica” painting. This was our second opportunity to see this painting and it always moves me. Sadly, no photos allowed.

From the Reina Sofia we made our way to The Prado to see even more masterpieces.

Museo Prado Ceiling

This museum contains the definitive Goya collection. It is also home to Las Meninas by Velázquez which is always worth seeing in person. Sadly, no photos allowed in this museum.

We walked down Paseo del Prado taking in the sites. We stopped and had some lunch and the went off in search of the Caixa Forum to see the living art wall which is an outdoor vertical garden green designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc. This wall of green has 15,000 plants of 250 species covering a 460 meter square wall.

Caixa Forum

While we were admiring the wall it started to rain a bit so we made our way to the subway to go back to the hotel and have a siesta. I have to say, the siesta is now my favorite Spanish tradition.

After sleeping for a few hours we made our way to the Metropolis for some night photography.


(thanks to Cynthia for this photo!)

It was cold, but we had a great time shooting the Metropolis and the Plaza de Cibeles


Plaza de Cibeles

After the photo session Cynthia and I found our way to a lovely tapas restaurant and had a fantastic dinner and a bottle of wine. We sat down around 9:30 and left around 11:30. Dinner comes late in Madrid.

Madrid – Day 2


We woke up to rain this morning. We decided we would go to Atoche Station and get our train tickets to Valencia. As we made our way there the sun came out and blue skies were punctuated with moody clouds.

We walked around the train station and wanted to see the Atocha station memorial which is a monument that commemorates the 191 victims of the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings and the special forces agent who died when seven suicide bombers blew themselves up on 3 April 2004, but it was closed for maintenance. We hope to get back and see it. The 11 March 2004 bombing is the equivalent of the 9/11 attack in the U.s. and the anniversary is coming up on Monday so they are making ready for that.

Laboratorio De Electro-Mecanica

Since the sun was out we headed over to Retiro Park to take in the sights. We visited the Fallen Angel Fountain, possibly the only monument to The Devil in the world.

Fallen Angel Fountain - Retiro Park

After the fountain we visited the Crystal Palace which is a spectacular glass structure in Retiro Park.

Crystal Palace  Madrid

Crystal Palace - Madrid

We wandered over to the Monumento Alfonso XII after that.

Monumento Alfonso XII - Madrid

After touring Retiro Park we took the subway to Puerto Del Sol and walked over to Plaza Mayor.

Plaza Mayor

Right off the main square of Plaza Mayor is a restaurant called Casa Rua which serves the best squid sandwich you can imagine.



After Plaza Mayor we walked west to the Royal Palace, but by now we were getting pretty tired. We turned around and headed back to Puerto Del Sol and caught the subway back to the hotel where we enjoyed a 2 hour mid-afternoon siesta.

When we woke up we walked over to El Corte Ingles to pick up some soft drinks and toiletries.

For the evening we met up with some friends for a leisurely dinner and a few bottles of wine.

All in all, a very good and very productive day. But now we’re beat. It’s near midnight and we’re turning in. Tomorrow is open, but we may try to hit up the museums.

Beware The Internet

In December of 2008, as I was getting ready for a vacation trip to Brussels, I posted a self portrait of myself sporting my new winter coat to my Flickr account.

My new jacket

I didn’t think much of it after posting it and I’d pretty much forgotten about it over the years.

Today, as I was reading some discussions about people having their photos used to create fake online identities I decided to use Google Image Search to see if any of my self portraits could be found anywhere on the vast Internet.

Honestly, I was not expecting to find anything. It was more of an expression of idle curiosity that I thought would amount to a few minutes squandered before moving on to bigger and better wastes of time.

Imagine my surprise when I found this “interpretation” by a Flickr user called Leeber

Christmas Monster

I have no idea who Leeber is or why he chose my picture to transform. But unlike *that* previous experiences where I have had a photo I created used without permission, I’m not really offended nor am I seeking to have the photo removed. Mostly because I am amused.

A similar incident came up with this photo I took of my dentist

Dr. Silberman

Years later I found this posted as a winner of a Photoshop contest at


Again, I’m not so interested in asserting my copyright because I find the work creative and amusing and I don’t see that the person is profiteering off of my work.

I guess it just goes to show that you can never fully tell what people may be doing to the content you post to the Internet or how they might be using it.

Munich – Day 5

It has been snowing pretty steady now for the last few days and it is building up. The city is covered in white. I have not had any experience with this much snow and I have to say, it is a lot of fun. Of course I don’t have to deal with it in any practical sense, being as I am a tourist and will soon be returning to balmy Texas soon enough.

Today we decided to go to some art museums. We hit up the Munich Glyptothek as well as the Alte Pinakothek and the Pinakothek der Moderne.

Joey, do you like to watch gladiator movies?

The Glyptothek is a museum which was commissioned by the Bavarian King Ludwig I to house his collection of Greek and Roman sculptures. It makes for an interesting stroll. It’s not too big and it is well laid out.

From there we headed back in to the snow to walk to the Alte Pinakothek which is one of the oldest galleries in the world and houses one of the most famous collections of Old Master paintings on the planet. Suffice to say, we saw some really amazing paintings. Notable artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens and El Greco to name but a few. Check out the link above to read more about the gallery and the works that are housed there.

Cynthia @ The Alte Pinakothek

After taking in all that the Alte Pinakothek had to offer we made our way to Pinakothek der Moderne which is a modern art museum.

Pinakothek der Moderne

Now frankly, I don’t get modern art. Most of it is not very compelling. But it was interesting to walk around this space and see the exhibits.

Pinakothek der Moderne

I will confess, I was rather amused at one display which was part of a modern design exhibit that featured 80’s era computers.

Apple Lisa

And I was mildly excited to get to see a few original Andy Warhol paintings. I suppose mostly because it was a name I recognized.

By the time we had finished touring these galleries it was rather late in the afternoon. We found our way back to the area near our hotel and found some food.

I will say this, walking around in the cold takes it out of you. Between the freezing temperatures and the wearing of pounds and pounds of winter clothing combined with moving in an out of the cold it wears me out.

We rested up for a few hours then went back out to just walk in the snow amongst the booths in the Christmas markets. It is still very idyllic with the snow on the ground and the warm lights glowing from the booths.

Market In The Inner Square Of New Town Hall

Munich – Day 4

Camera on the floor in the Antiquarium

Today we visited the Munich Residenz, the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs in the center of the city of Munich, Germany.

We first stopped by St. Peter’s Church, but they were holding services so touring the church was not allowed.

We moved on to the Munich Residenz to tour the facility and also to visit the Schatzkammer der Residenz (Residenz Treasury) where they keep the crown jewels.

Cynthia in The Antiquarium in Munich

Fot me the best part of this destination was that Antiquarium. Since we are early risers, we managed to beat the crowds which allowed for me to take some of my best photos of the trip.

Antiquarium - 1

Antiquarium - 2

I even took a photo where I placed my camera on the floor and set the timer and walked away. This allows me to properly expose the photo without motion blur. Much in the same way you would do if you used a tripod.

Ceiling Of The Antiquarium

This and many others can be found in my “Camera On The Floor” set.

After the Antiquarum, which was a very long tour as it turns out, we headed over to the Schatzkammer der Residenz to see the crown jewels.

Crown Jewels in Munich

Since it was practically next door and well after noon we decided to try our luck again at St. Peter’s Church. By this time the services were over and we figured we could have a look around. I particularly wanted to see the jewel encrusted skeleton of St. Heilige Munditia.

Jewel Encrusted Skeleton Of St. Munditia

We found her right where the guidebooks said she would be. Unfortunately, she was behind a metal grate. I had to push my camera through the bars to get a reasonable photograph. I am just lucky I didn’t drop the camera.

After our tour of the church we headed back to the room.

After resting for a few hours we went back out (in the snow) and found some dinner. When we were leaving the restaurant we noticed it was no longer snowing so we went to the hotel room and grabbed the tripod so I could try some night shots at the Marienplatz

Christkindl Markt - Munich

Christkindl Markt - Munich

It decided to start snowing again so we came back to the hotel room for the night. All in all, today was a VERY good day.

Last Day In Salzburg

This was our last day in Salzburg. Tomorrow we catch the train back to Munich. I think I have seen enough Krampus to last me a lifetime.

Today we woke up to snow. And it was snowing hard.

Jay In The Snow

Cynthia In The Snow

We headed out to Linzergasse which is north of the river from us. We had walked past an archway that looked interesting and thought we would explore it.

On the way across the bridge I wanted to take a photo that captured the conditions we were walking in. Note that this is a color photo. The snow blotted out all the color and left me with what appears to be a black and white image.

Snow Blind

I continued to shoot some pictures of the area to try to capture this snow even the best I could. This is the result of shooting the same scene at three different exposures and merging them together.

Snow In Salzburg

As you can see I was able to coax a little color out by using this technique.

We reached Linzergasse and found the archway and entered. As it turnes out, there was a road and some steps leading up the side of the mountain.

It didn’t seem overly treacherous and the snow was not falling so hard so we climbed.

This photo was actually converted to black and white, though it didn’t have much color to begin with.


Like the day before, the climb took us up above the city for some spectacular views. But this time there was snow on the ground and snow on the city which made it look very pretty.


Hohensalzburg Castle

We continued along the trail, enjoying the views and the snow. We even stopped to make a snow-krampus

As we walked the trail was getting a little tougher. Steps leading up and down, covered with ice. We thought we would come to a point where we could go down and off the mountain. Then we can across this sign


I don’t read German and neither does Cynthia. But we took it as a sign (no pun intended) that we might want to check our map. As it turns out, we had found our way on to a hiking trail that looked to go all the way around the mountain. We decided to head back the way we came and get off the mountain. No sense breaking a leg on the side of frozen mountain in Austria with spotty cell service.

We found our way back and had some lunch and rested up a bit before doing some more wandering that included attending some kind of Krampus for Kids event in front of the cathedral. The event included several dozen school children all dressed in home made Krampus outfits.

Children Dressed As Krampus

Kris Kringle came out with a particularly large Krampus with a basket on his back and the children posed for pics with St. Nick while sitting in the Krampus basket. I wish I was a kid and could get my photo taken in a Krampus basket!

We knocked around for a bit more and found some dinner. Snow came and went. Mostly it was nice, but there were some icy patches and I tried to wipe out one time. But I was able to recover before falling on my butt. It was a close call.

Tomorrow we catch the train back to Munich.



Tonight was Krampusnacht. The word Krampus means “claw” so this literally translates to Night Of The Claw.

Cynthia and St. Nick on Krampusnacht

The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on December 6. In Alpine countries like Austria, Saint Nicholas has a devilish companion named Krampus. On the preceding evening, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St. Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses. The Saint usually appears in the vestments of a bishop such as the mitre, and he carries a ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles.

In Salzburg, it is a big deal. I counted at least 50-75 Krampus in the city center for tonight’s celebration. They all gathered at the front of the Salzburg Cathedral for what appeared to be some kind of Krampus award ceremony. Possibly for the best Krampus costume or something. I really couldn’t tell. I would hear some german words being spoken over the PA system and a fantastic Krampus from the Krampus horde would jump up and get on stage and do his Krampus thing.


I had to really work to get up to the area where all this was happening. It was very crowded, but it was a site to see!



Krampus Time





You can see the rest of my photos by clicking here.

After watching all the Krampus mayhem we decided to get some dinner and get back to the hotel for some rest. But, as fate would have it, Krampus was not done with us.

St. Nick and a handful of angels and Krampuses invaded the restaurant.


A Krampus even took my seat and tormented Cynthia


It was a perfect ending to a pretty perfect day.