Day 19 – Cabot Trail

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There were storms on the island of Cape Breton. Lightning lit up our hotel room all night long. Cynthia slept like a log but I watched from the window for a while. It was pretty to watch, but was dashing hopes for a good day on the trail.

We got up and had breakfast and got on the road. We immediately hit some fog and also road construction.

Fog On The Cabot Trail

As we drove we went in and out of the fog as we went up and down the mountains. It was not encouraging. But we kept driving. Eventually we did clear the fog and the rain stopped. And the view improved.

Cabot Trail

We kept driving and decided to go ahead and take the entire loop around the Cabot Trail. That’s over 200 miles in total so it was a full day.

We had a good time, stopping now and again to see what there was to see

Inukshuk On Cape Breton Island

And even to goof around

Cynthia Moose

Jay Moose

It turned into a beautiful day and we had a great time

Cabot Trail

When we finally returned to the hotel that afternoon we took a hike on the Middle Head Trail that is on the grounds behind our hotel.

Middle Head Trail (Ingonish)

Middle Head Trail (Ingonish)

Middle Head Trail (Ingonish)

It was beautiful, but we were pretty tired so we only walked for a mile or so before turning back. This was a find end to this fantastic journey. Tomorrow we drive back to the Halifax area so we can pack up and get ready to catch our flight home.

Day 18 – Baddeck To Ingonesh The Long Way Round

Tonight we’re staying in Ingonesh, but Ingonesh is only 2 hours away from Baddeck so we opted to take a trip around the Cabot Trail via the western side.

Cabot Trail< We had to stop by the park office to get a pass to allow us to drive in Cape Breton Highlands National Park which contains much of the scenic drive. Cabot Trail

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, stopping frequently to enjoy the scenic vistas and take some photos

Cabot Trail

Cynthia On Cabot Trail

We also took two detours to travel down some rugged gravel roads to see some waterfalls. Sadly, they were not all that spectacular and were not really worth the effort it took to get to them.

Mary Ann Falls - Nova Scotia

We took most of the day to make our way to Ingonesh and get checked into our hotel. This is the final phase of the trip and we will use tomorrow to explore the park some more before packing up and heading back to Halifax for our flight home.

Day 16 – Around Lunenburg

Today the weather was great to we set off to explore the ara. The first stop was Blue Rocks which was recommended by our guide book. A small but scenic little village that offered some great photo opportunities.

Blue Rocks - Nova Scotia

Blue Rocks - Nova Scotia

Blue Rocks - Nova Scotia

We then proceeded to drive the Lighthouse Trail toward Peggy’s Cove. Stopping in the town of Mahone Bay we were met with more beautiful scenery.

Mahone Bay

We drove on toward Peggy’s Cove and made a few stops along the way

Sadly, by the time we reached Peggy’s Cove it was overrun with tourists and we decided to make it a quick pass and headed back to our B&B in Lunenburg. Once there we decided to call it a day and took the opportunity to rest up for our drive to Baddeck the next morning which was going to take us about 5 1/2 hours without much to see, really. This was the final step to position ourselves for exploring the Cabot Trail.

Arrival St. John’s, Newfoundland

We had a 7:00 am flight from Houston to St. John’s with a connection in Toronto. Flying Air Canada our bags were checked through to to our final destination without the need to claim them and recheck them. We grabbed our rental car and made our way to the hotel and got checked in. A great day of travel without incident.

After checking into the hotel we drive up to Signal Hill, the sight of the reception of the first transatlantic wireless transmission on 12 December 1901.

Signal Hill, St. John's

Signal Hill, St. John's

There’s a great view from up there of Fort Amherst, St. John’s

Fort Amherst, St. John's

We even saw a giant Newfoundland dog

Newfoundland Dog

From there we went back to the hotel and had dinner and we’re calling it a night. Tomorrow we drive to Witless Bay to take a boat tour to see whales and puffins.

Superb Owl Season

I was watching TV when I heard the very plaintive squawking of a Mockingbird in distress coming from tree in the front of the house. The last time I heard something like this it was a Blue Jay trying to fend off the neighbor’s cat that was stalking her baby who had fallen from the nest. The Mockingbird was very agitated and did not fly away when I approached. I could not immediately sort out the threat until I peered into the tree noticed a mottled lump amongst the branches. I ran inside to grab my camera and a flashlight and was able to capture these images of what I found staring back at me. Cynthia quipped “It appears you have been accepted to Hogwarts

Baby Screech Owl

London – Day 10

London Eye

Another bright, beautiful day in London. Temps are in the upper 30’s so it’s quite brisk. We had intended to go to St. Paul’s today, but it’s only open for services on Sunday so perhaps tomorrow.

London Eye

Today we took advantage of the weather and took a spin on The London Eye. It’s a bit pricey for a 30 minute ride, but the views are spectacular.

London Eye - Big Ben and Parliment

London Eye

From there we made our way to The British Library via King’s Cross Station.

King's Cross

King's Cross

No photography allowed at The British Library, sadly, as there are some very cool exhibits there including a Gutenberg Bible and some original hand-written Beatles song lyrics. We even got to see an inverted Jenny in the philately exhibit.

After that we just enjoyed some more walking about and taking in the sites before heading back to the hotel.

I should note that subway travel has been complicated as the Central and District lines are not running while they undergo maintenance.

St. Pancras London

London – Day 6

Horseguards

We’re feeling the effects of our extensive hiking about London. This morning we walked to Buckingham Palace and then on to the Royal Horseguards to watch the changing of the Horseguard.

Horseguards

I think this one horse knew I has dined on his cousin in Iceland

Horseguards

Horseguards

We did have some more sunshine so we walked about in the early part of the day taking in the sites.

Big Ben - 12 Noon

Westminster Cathedral

Being tired and it being Christmas Eve we went back to the hotel. And though it was not our intention, we ended up taking a nice nap before heading out to The Grazing Goat where we had dinner reservations. From there we made our way back to the hotel and are wrapping it up for the day.

Ireland – Day 8

Today we set off to drive the Dingle Loop around Slea Head. We knew it was going to be a good day when we spotted a double rainbow over the Dingle Whiskey Distillery.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

This drive was, hands down, the most beautiful and scenic drive of the entire visit to Ireland. The sun was shining brightly and the skies we blue with few clouds. The sea surrounding the peninsula was sparkling with waves crashing on the rocks. The road was quite narrow most of the drive and became exceedingly so at various points along the way.

road2

road

We drove for hours and hours, stopping frequently at many scenic overlooks just to take in the view. Cynthia was a little worried about some of the more adventurous photo opportunities I was taking.

risk

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

Every turn, around every narrow corner brought us to another fantastic site. Fortunately, there were plenty of places to pull over and park so that we could enjoy the view and take some pictures.

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

The Slea Head Drive - Dingle Peninsula

We wrapped up around 5:30 back at the B&B and took a short nap before heading out in the evening for some food and to listen to some live music. We ended up having dinner at Murphy’s Pub and got to see a local Irish band called Tintean.

Tintean - Kerry based Irish band

They were quite good. They played many of the songs you would expect, but also several we had never heard before.

Tomorrow looks a bit cloudy and rainy, but we hope to make the best of our last day in Dingle before making the trek back to Dublin

jayandcynthia

La Crema Las Fallas 2013

This is the event that the whole Las Fallas festival leads up to. All those fantastic Falla sculptures are burned to the ground. There’s no way to see them all. You pick one you want to watch and stake out a spot. We chose the one named “Que se mueran los feos” which translates to “May the ugly ones die”. It cost over 100,000 Euro to build. It is located just north of the dry river bed and is easy to get to from our hotel and has the added benefit of not being in a cramped little street corner or the one in the city center, all of which are very difficult to get to and very, very crowded.

This is what our Falla looks like in all of its pre-Crema glory

Before it was Burned

We arrived just before midnight to stake out our spot. The burning was only about 20-30 minutes late as we waited for the fire men to get in to position. There was a sudden detonation of some aerial fireworks and then the lights went out and this happened.

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

Las Fallas - Crema

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And POOF!

Las Fallas - Crema

All gone!

We walked back to our hotel exhausted, but satisfied. Tomorrow we head off to Madrid to spend the night and the fly back to Houston for some much needed rest and relaxation.

Crimson ProjeKct Warehouse Live July 8, 2012

I almost missed this show entirely. Horribly under-promoted and under-attended. Adrian Belew, Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto representing King Crimson rounded out with Tobias Ralph, Julie Slick and Markus Reuter.

The “project” has been touring as the opener for Dream Theater but since Dream Theater didn’t get booked in Houston we were treated to three hours of fantastic music, including an all King Crimson encore.

The first band was Stickmen featuring Tony Levin, Tobias Ralph and Markus Reuter. The second band was Adrian Belew with Pat Mastelotto and Julie Slick. The encore was all 6 of them.

Stickmen + Belew Trio

Tony Levin

Adrian Belew

Take A Bow

Tony Levin

More photos here
Houston Press review here

Rome – Day 4 – The Pope

St Peter's Square

As a lapsed catholic, the significance of Rome and Vatican City is not lost on me. After all, it is the very heart of the Roman Catholic Church. But oddly, it is Cynthia who seems to have the most interest in seeing the Pope when travelling to Italy. And she is not even remotely Catholic.

The last time we were there we attended the Papal Blessing on a Sunday. The Sunday blessing features The Pope appearing in a window of the Apostolic Palace and speaking to the crowds that gather in St. Peter’s Square. Thousands gather to receive his blessing, or simply gawk.

This visit we were not going to be in Rome in time to attend the Sunday blessing, but we were going to be there on a Wednesday. And, as it happens, Wednesday is the day the Pope conducts his Papal Audience where he actually comes down to conduct a service.

Depending on variables I am not certain about, the audience can either be right in St. Peter’s Square in front of the basilica or they hold the event indoors at the Paul VI Audience Hall.

Cynthia expressed a strong interest in attending and I thought it would be a good opportunity to grab some interesting photos.

Prior to our departure I went online and requested tickets for seats at the event. To do this you simply go to the Web site of The Church of Santa Susanna and fill out a simple form. A week or so prior to your selected date you will be notified if you have been granted tickets.

About two weeks before our departure I received an email confirming our tickets for May 2 at the Paul VI Audience Hall.

There were two disappointments in this email. The first was that the audience would be at the Paul VI Audience Hall so no dramatic outdoor shots. The second was the date. We would not be in Rome on May 2. We would be there on May 9.

Unfortunately I did not realize there was a discrepancy in the date until AFTER I emailed Cynthia with the good, but inaccurate news.

I went back to the Web site and resubmitted my request. We received another confirmation right before we left for Italy. This time with the correct date and confirmation that this audience would, indeed, be in front of the basilica. w00t!

The email confirmation instructed us to go to Santa Susanna during some set times to pick up our tickets. As it turned out, Santa Susanna was only a few blocks from our hotel so finding it and getting there was a total breeze.

When we went to pick up our tickets the priest who met with us asked me what parish I attended. I figured I would be asked something like this and happily told him I was a member of Mt. Carmel. Which is technically true. At least when I was younger. I have attended mass in over 3 decades. As it turns out, the priest knew Mt. Carmel and used to live in Houston. I was quickly put in to a position where I had to admit I was a very, very lapsed Catholic. He smiled and said perhaps our visit would change that.

We got our tickets and made the suggested donation and skedaddled out of there before I was asked anymore questions.

On the day of the audience we got up early and had breakfast and then caught a cab to St. Peter’s Square. The audience was scheduled for 10:30 am and it was suggested we get there early if we wanted good seats. We got there around 8:00 and were able to get about 5th or 6th row. Not too shabby.

The weather was sunny and the skies were blue. And as the time approached for the Pope to appear the crowds in St. Peter’s grew and grew. It was definitely a photo opportunity deluxe.

Cardinals

Waiting On The Pope

Waiting On The Pope

Waiting On The Pope

Waiting On The Pope

Waiting On The Pope

Swiss Guard Detail

Waiting On The Pope

Waiting On The Pope

Waiting On The Pope

The wait time went quickly enough and then the big moment arrived. The Pope entered the square

The Pope - 4

I could see his head and shoulders gliding effortlessly above the crowd. At one point I suggested he was coming in on a Segway to the guilty laughter of those around us. But no, he was not on a Segway, he was on the Mercedes “Pope-Mobile”

The Pope-Mobile - 2

I was happy to have brought the 70-200mm lens. Even though we were in a good seat, it was still nice to have the reach

The Pope - 2

After riding around the square and greeting everyone he eventually settled in to his seat at the top of his podium and addressed the crowd.

The Pope - 3

It was quite a spectacle. I don’t think I will be going back to mass anytime soon, but it was kind of special and I am glad to have witnessed something like this in person.