One of the things I wanted to do on this trip was experiment with long, daytime exposures using ND filters. These photos of The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland were taken during the day and each exposure is approximately 30 seconds. The NDX 400 filter allows for this without overexposing the shot. The long exposure causes the crashing waves to appear as fog or smoke while the rock formations remain clear and detailed. I would have preferred a more sunny day, but the overcast skies actually aided in the final look and feel of these images.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Today was a good day. The morning started off with thick fog. But as the sun came up, it burned off and we were treated to some very nice sunny skies.
Our first stop of the day was the World Heritage Site known as The Giant’s Causeway. There was still some fog around so it was a moody visit in terms of weather. We were quite happy that we remembered to bring our hiking boots. The terrain is quite rocky and treacherous. Though I suspect it would have been far worse had it been raining.
It is a fantastic site to see and we had some fun climbing around the site.
After hiking around The Giant’s Causeway we headed over to the Carrick-a-Rede, a rocky island connected to the cliffs by a rope bridge.
Getting to the bridge is a hilly climb, up and down the hillside. But the reward is a frightening opportunity to cross a bridge made of rope that spans 20 metres (66 ft) and is 30 metres (98 ft) above the rocks below.
Cynthia was petrified and said that she waited 55 years to cross this bridge and once was enough. When pressed, she said if she lives to be 110 she would repeat the experience. Must remember to set a calendar reminder 🙂
Seriously, though. This WAS her idea. And it was actually a lot of fun.
From here we made our way over to Dunluce Castle to see the ruined structure before it completely collapses into the sea.
All in all, it was a fantastic day. When the sun was shining, short sleeves were just fine. But when the clouds began to return in the evening we were once again glad we had our heavy coats.
Tomorrow we check out of our lovely hotel and make our way to Derry and on to dear old Donegal Town.
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.
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
Tomorrow we visit Giant’s Causeway, The Rope Bridge, Dunlace Castle and The Bushmill’s Distillery.
The Cabalgata del Fuego (Fire Parade) is one of the highlights of the festival. The Falleras parade down the street followed by an amazing group of pyrotechnic specialists who put on one heck of a fire show. Words can’t really describe this event. Hopefully my photos will convey the spirit.
We were pretty tired after this, but we needed to stay up for the Crema which happens at midnight, give or take. That will be in the next update.
Cynthia did the smart thing and rested most of the day. We did go out in the afternoon as the Ofrenda was beginning. It seems all the marching bands pass right by our hotel so sleeping was futile.
The Ofrenda is when all the people of Valencia put on their traditional costumes and parade in from all corners of the city to offer flower to build the statue of the Virgin Mary in the cathedral square.
After chasing the Falleras for awhile we decided to go to the City Of Arts And Sciences so I could take some night shots.
Later in the evening we found this restaurant called Alma del Temple that was simply fantastic.
Everything was presented well and the restaurant itself had a nice atmosphere. Oddly, the music playing over the sound system was 80’s gothic new wave. Bands like The Cure and Joy Division with some Brian Ferry and the like sprinkled in. I enjoyed it quite a lot and asked our waiter about it. Turns out it was his selection of music. I let him know I appreciated it and that seems to please him to no end.
We had a bottle of wine and enjoyed our meal and finished the evening off with a coffee and postre (desert)
After this we were pretty beat and called it a night.
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.
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.
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.
Sad to say, we are still quite under the weather. Last night was the worst. To make matters even more gruesome, Cynthia’s right eye is having some issues. We suspect a scratch on the eyelid that was likely inflicted during all the tossing and turning last night. She’s a little stressed about it, understandably.
It’s up and down. We sleep and it’s fitful. We get up and move around and we get back to something approaching normal. I think we are on the mend, but it’s slow going. Perhaps tonight we’ll sleep through…if we’re lucky.
We’re keeping our spirits up. The festival is still amazing and it’s picking up steam as the fallas continue to be set up all over town. And the crowds are growing.
You can tell the festival is truly getting underway as the explosions are happening with greater frequency. Festival goers, armes with fireworks the size of M80s and larger, are detonating at will all over town and all day long. The explosions bounce of the stone walls and echo down the streets. Tonight will not be quiet, but I don’t recall it being all that bothersome. You actually kind of get used to it.
On the plus side, I am getting some great photos.
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.
From the Reina Sofia we made our way to The Prado to see even more masterpieces.
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.
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
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.
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.
Jimmy Buffet @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. On assignment for the Houston Press. The review can be found here
It’s a little on the cold side, but the sun was out when we woke up with some clouds here and there. We decided to make our way to Tibidabo, the tallest point overlooking the city of Barcelona. The trip involved catching a short train ride to the outskirts of town, then catching the Tram Blau up the hill a ways to the funicular and then on up to the park.
We caught the train OK but found that the Tram Blau only ran on Fridays and Saturdays so we were left taking a bus up to get to the funicular. No problem, it only took us a bit to sort it out.
When we got to Tibidabo the clouds started gathering and there was a brief rain shower. We took shelter in Temple del Sagrat Cor and grabbed some photos.
Once the rains passed we walked around and took in the view, which is pretty amazing.
You can see all of Barcelona and on to the port and the ocean beyond.
Once we had our fill, we headed back down the mountain the way we came and all was going swimmingly until we got on the subway train to go back to the hotel. Without warning the train just stopped dead in the middle of a dark tunnel. All the power was just gone. Now keep in mind that Cynthia HATES being underground. She deals with it, but she simply doesn’t like it. To have the train just stop dead in a tunnel deep underground is one of her worst nightmares.
Fortunately, the power outage only lasted about 30 second or so and we were back on our way. I think Cynthia would have cracked if it had lasted too long.
Once we got back to the hotel and regrouped we decided to head out to Park Guell, a park designed by Antoni Guadi.
One of the things Cynthia really likes about Barcelona is the wild Quaker Parrot population. There are everywhere, but really show up in large numbers at Park Guell. And since Cynthia has a tradition of dropping one of the feathers she has collected from her dear departed Mr. Zippers she thought Park Guell would be a good place to do it.
Getting to the park was not so easy. The subway drops you off nearby and you have to hike up a very steep, San Francisco like street to get to some escalators which then take you to another climb up the back of the park. All in all it was pretty exhausting on our already travel weary feet.
After we dropped the feather we walked around the park a bit before heading back down the hill and to the hotel.
At this point we’ve been on the vacation awhile and we had home the day after tomorrow. That’s one full day left. We’re pretty tired so we were in for the evening. Tomorrow we’ll give Barcelona a last “hurrah” and pack up to come home.
The City Of Arts And Sciences (Valencian: Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Spanish: Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias) is an amazing architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela and it is THE thing to see if you ever get to Valencia Spain.
We took a trek out to the complex on our visit two years ago and I got some pretty good photos so I was keen to give it another whirl with my new gear and my (hopefully) improved photographic skills.
This time I decided to get there before sunset and shoot during what is known as the “golden hour of photography” which is that time between when the sun goes down and it gets fully dark. I think the results are pretty good overall.
This first shot is straight out of the camera with no post processing
The reset of these were done using HDR processing where I combined three separate exposures and combined them using tone-mapping software.
All those falls so beautiful, so incredible, so expensive to build. Tonight they burn. The Crema is the big finish to the event that is Las Fallas.
We set out around 10:30 to stake out a falla to watch burn. You have to get there early as the crowds form up pretty thick by the time they start to ignite these things.
We had originally thought we’d go to a falla near the dry river bed, but it was not that interesting of a falla and I thought it might be more interesting to see one burn in the city center. We ended up at this one.
The crowds were already pretty big and lively, but we felt this would be manageable. According to the program, the fallas burn at midnight. As it turns out, the burning of the fallas DOES begin at midnight, but not all falls are burned at the start. They seem to go in waves. The first thing that has to happen is that group of Valencia firemen have to be present to hose things down and ensure nothing goes horribly wrong. Some of the fallas are over 6-10 stories tall and most are wedged in between buildings.
But there are only so many firemen so they make the rounds. There’s no pre-published schedule, the falla burns when it burns.
Sadly, for us we ended up waiting till almost 2:00 am for our falla to burn. The crowds got thicker an thicker and more and more intoxicated. We were jostled, squished and basically trapped till it was over.
At long last, the firemen did arrive and and started hosing things down and without much warning things just started exploding. The falla caught fire pretty quick and was fully engaged in a matter of minutes.
Now look at that top picture. You can see many people crowded in close. I’m not sure what these people are thinking because when a falla burns it puts off a LOT of heat. Sure enough, at one point the crowd up front surged backward and the crowd behind us barely gave ground so the entire crowd became a little more densely packed for the duration of the burn.
It’s a good thing they did move back because not only would they have been flame broiled, but the arm of the woman in the falla pretty much fell in a flaming heap at one point, right where some people were standing before the surge.
The Pinocchio character in the falla was the very last to go. His continued presence in the below series of photos strikes me as particularly odd and humorous.
Here is the burning from pretty much the beginning to right before the firemen pushed the Pinocchio character into the smoldering heap.
When the falla had mostly burned the crowd began to relax and start to thin out which made it possible for us to finally move again. And we used this movement to find our way back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.
On our way back to the hotel there were smoldering heaps that were once majestic fallas everywhere you looked.
Tomorrow we make our way back to Barcelona on just a few hours of sleep.
After such a great day yesterday we were a bit disappointed to wake up to rain in Valencia. Not a lot of it, but enough to dampen our spirits somewhat. We grabbed some breakfast here at the hotel and went back to the room. We were still tired from the night before and with the rain we decided to take a nap. That ended up being a great idea because we slept soundly for a few more hours and when we woke up the rain had stopped.
We set out exploring and as it approached 2pm we decided to attend the daily mascleta which is a daytime fireworks display designed for percussive effect rather than visual. Thousands of festival goers jam in to the central square to be as close to the event as possible. When it goes off it is so loud you can’t hear yourself even if you shout. The display goes for a full 5 minutes.
I recorded this on my cell phone. It does not do the event justice, but it gives you an idea
After the mascleta we went back to the room to re-organize and then went to have a late lunch at our favorite restaurant, Pappardella.
After a nice meal and a bottle of wine we took to the streets where we encountered a procession of Falleras apparently leaving some event and going back to their respective neighborhoods. This provide Cynthia and I with a few hours of photographic fun
After this we went back to the hotel room once more to get ready for the evening where we planned to go find the legendary light displays of the Ruzafa district.