TPC: Crawling Creatures of the Sea

I found a new photo challenge in my reader the other day. It’s hosted by Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo. This week the topic is ‘crawl‘.

I already posted once with a couple of photos of insects. I found a couple more of some sea life. Here goes…

I took all of these at the aquarium. This first one is a close up of a sea urchin (from underneath it). It was crawling slowly up the side of the tank when I got this shot.

This is a beautiful blue starfish, I wish my photo could show the true blue color, it’s really much brighter.

This little hermit crab was crawling around its tank for a while, he finally stopped and stared at me through the glass. I remember growing up on the beach in Florida when we used to see these guys all the time. I don’t see them here in Texas. I wonder why not?

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FOTD: Anthurium

Here’s another one of Cee’s photo challenges: Flower of the Day. This one is for “Anthurium“. I don’t see these around very often, but I did get a couple of shots a while back up in Houston.

If you want to see what everyone else is doing, or join in yourself, just click the link here.

TPC: Crawl

I found a new photo challenge in my reader tonight. It’s hosted by Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo. This week the topic is ‘crawl‘.

I have a few that will fit the challenge…

I took this photo a while ago at Moody Gardens in Galveston. I used to have a membership and so went fairly often. I gave that up a couple of years ago when I got laid off….

I took this one at the Houston Zoo. They have a ‘bug house’ with a couple of dozen terrariums with different kinds of insects. I believe this one is called a ‘blue death feigning beetle’ which is native to Texas (though I haven’t seen any wild ones around here).

I took this one at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It’s a tarantula. Bigger than my hand (I’m estimating, I didn’t pick it up). I go there and to the zoo a lot when I get up to Houston. I have memberships to both so it doesn’t cost me anything. Both the museum and the zoo always have something new and interesting to see.

I went again last Friday night, hoping to spend a little while looking around the museum before the event I was going to (Biophilia). Sadly, they had the entire place blocked off so I just had to wait around, bored, for 45 minutes until they let us in to the exhibit. It was worth the wait.

The amazing creativity of the artist was incredible. The museum did a great job. They had a few tables set up where we could make our own art magnets, check out some of the insects they keep around downstairs, and talk to some of the docents. I got to pet the tarantula, it was silky soft. 🙂

They also had free food (pulled pork sliders, chips, pecan breaded chicken skewers and cookies). Drinks were available too.

There was a pretty decent crowd, the tables were full of people eating before or after looking through all the beautiful artwork. I loved the bright colors and fantastic designs. I never would’ve thought to make something so beautiful out of a bunch of bugs. Even tho when you look at almost anything in nature close enough you can find beauty.

They’re having another event at the museum tomorrow, but even if you can’t make it the exhibit will be on display for a while. Don’t think you have to go only if you can go with someone from the museum. It’s definitely worth going if you like anything to do with art, nature, design.

Sunday Stills: Fire at MC 252

This post is for Terri’s Sunday Stills. This week the topic is “fire”. I don’t have many photos of fire. It’s not something I see very often (and not hoping to see more of). I’ve tried to take photos of campfires and they turned out as just one giant glob of white against a pitch black background.

I have been trained in fire-fighting. So I have fought quite a few fires during that training. I’ve taken the basic fire-fighting course at least a dozen times since my first in 1978. I’ve taken the advanced class a couple of times too. The US Coast Guard recently decided we have to take both of these courses a minimum of every 5 years (another painful expense due to STCW). Now, I teach it sometimes. It’s very rare that I can get a photo during the classes.

that’s me- 2nd from the left, back row

I was still working full time during and after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Luckily I was working as second mate/SDPO onboard the Helix Producer 1 (HP-1). I say luckily because President Obama declared a ‘moratorium’ which forced hundreds of boats into lay up and thousands of people to lose their jobs.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster was the worst oil spill in the US Gulf of Mexico (but not even in the top ten worldwide). 😦

for some it’s just another day in the oilfield- check out the guy getting his exercise walking the helideck!

I have read some of the investigations results, watched the movie, read a couple of good books, and I have my own ideas about what caused it. President Obama and his moratorium tried to come up with some ideas to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. Although they did come up with some ideas and some changes have been made, I don’t think they’ve actually done much to get to the root of the problem (and Trump’s revisions won’t make much difference either).

I was Senior DPO on the HP-1 throughout the major response to the Macondo incident. That means I was in charge of the bridge and my job was to keep the ship stable and on position. The HP-1 was brought out to try and capture the oil that was spewing out of the blown out piping at the bottom of the ocean, about 5000 ft down.

HP-1 from the air

The HP-1 is a specialized type of ship. She’s a Floating Production Unit (FPU). Ordinarily she sits on top of the designated location, stabilized by the use of a dynamic positioning (DP) system. She’ll be attached to a series of marine risers (floating hoses). Those risers are flowing raw product (crude oil) from various production platforms in the area. The risers come aboard the HP-1 through a specialized buoy. As the product comes onboard, it is diverted through the ships systems to separate the oil from the water and other contaminants and then sent back through the buoy to facilities ashore to further refine the product.

We succeeded in connecting up to the well. We were only a small part of a massive response to the disaster. There were entire fleets of boats out there working to contain and clean up the mess. It looked like a major city all lit up at night. It was pretty hairy sometimes trying to maintain position so close to all those other vessels, especially when the weather kicked up. The SIMOPS and the people involved were incredible!

a few of the vessels responding to the blow out

We sat there for weeks, bringing what we could of the flowing oil up to our onboard facility. There was another similar vessel stationed on the far side of the drillship Discoverer Enterprise (which was stationed directly over the well). On the HP-1, we took what we could, we separated the gas from the fluid and flared (burned) the gas.

#flaring the gas off the stern of the #HP-1

We did not have a whole lot of storage capacity on our ship (a FPSU- floating production and storage unit) would have much more. Instead of storing it ourselves, we passed it on to a tanker. The shuttle tanker Loch Rannoch sent their hose over to us with the help of a couple of smaller boats. We would connect it up and pump over the oil and they would bring it in to shore for processing. They would go back and forth every couple of days as long as we were there.

Loch Rannoch getting ready to send over her transfer hose with the Seacor Rigorous

After they finally got the well capped and the oil stopped flowing, we were released, along with most of the other vessels that were still out there. We had to go to a shipyard (in Tampa) where we could get hauled out of the water for cleaning. We had been coated with oil all over our hull from the spill. Once we were all cleaned up, we went back to our buoy. As far as I know, the HP-1 has not had to leave it again since. I wish now I hadn’t quit that job!

LAPC: Landscapes

I found another cool photography challenge in my WordPress reader. This one is by the Lens-Artists. They have a challenge every Saturday. The topic for this week is Landscapes.

I don’t usually take a whole lot of ‘landscape’ photos. If anything I take ‘seascapes’. I take more photos of ‘things’. Like animals, or plants, or flowers, or boats, or even people (tho I’m not real comfortable taking photos of people yet).

I recently took a long trip overseas. Part of it was a week long photo safari in Tanzania. The animals were amazing, but I have to admit I was equally impressed by the landscape. It was just so wide open. Miles and miles of nothing but the tall grass waving in the wind. Maybe a lone tree on the horizon. Or a herd of buffalo slowly making their way across a river.

I loved how everything seemed so wide open. There were so many miles of space with no sign of mankind (even tho of course we did see towns and villages full of people while passing through). The landscapes sometimes seemed empty, but if you looked harder there was always some sign of life. Maybe an ostrich popped up from under that lone tree. Or a lioness wandering by a herd of wildebeest, or a bird hiding in the grass or basking in a far off lake.

I don’t get to see so many wide open and interesting spaces around here. Even tho Texas probably has more of them than most. My neighborhood is on the wide coastal plains but full of homes and businesses (mostly chemical plants).

I do have some wildlife around my house: raccoons, opossums, owls, squirrels, bats, rats, etc. We even see an occasional coyote around the beach. Somehow it’s not the same. Compared to the African landscape, the one around here is pretty boring. 😉

RDP: Fish

I was skimming through my WordPress Reader and came upon this prompt by curioussteph at Ragtime Daily Prompt. You can click on the link to check out what’s happening and join in the fun. Todays prompt is FISH. Since I grew up on fishing boats and still work on them occasionally, I figured I should have plenty to say about fish and a few good photos, so here are a couple…

I took that one while I was wandering along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok. There were thousands of these catfish swimming around near the ferry docks. I suppose people coming and going on the boats must feed them. I saw a few people fishing nearby, I wonder if it would be safe to eat the fish in this river. It didn’t look very clean, I doubt it would be healthy.

I took that one on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul. I wasn’t doing the fishing, but the entire bridge was crowded with locals who were. On the bottom level, there were restaurants serving up the catch. I’m not sure what kind of fish they are, but the silver ones look like some kind of mullet.

I’m not sure what kind of fish this cute little orange guy is. I took this photo at the Houston Zoo a while ago. I’m a member and I like to go up there and spend the day taking photos. It’s really hard to get good ones, since none of the fish ever stays still!

Surfside Food and Art Festival

Today I went to the 2nd annual Food and Art Festival at Surfside Beach. I showed up around 1400. There were cars parked all along the highway, filling up both parking lots and even the old convenience store down the road. I found a place to park and headed for the music.

Stahlman Park was as busy as I’ve ever seen it. The beach was full of people with surfboards and kites. It was a beautiful morning, the sun was out and the sky was blue. By the time I got to the beach, it had clouded up and was grey and clouds covered the sky. It was windy enough for the kites. There were a lot of people having fun with them. I saw a lot of different kinds. My favorite was the dragon. 🙂

The Surfside Volunteer Fire Department was out with their fire truck (and mascot). They were cooking up a storm. Art car by Bonnie Blue was parked out front. Downstairs there was a live band playing, people were dancing, and the chili was cooking. Upstairs the artists were set up. The whole place was crowded, a few of the booths were completely sold out. They even sold out of hot dogs. Good news for the SOBA and St Patricks Day folks. 🙂

I was glad to see such a large crowd. The vendors I talked to said they were selling a few things. I had a booth myself last year. There weren’t many people then and I didn’t sell a single thing all day so I didn’t bother to get one this time (I also thought I would be back to work by now, but still stuck trying to find a job).

They had a lot of interesting stuff for sale. Everything from cupcakes and honey to home made soaps and cremes, jewelry, pottery, paintings, wood carvings, and more. They even had a ‘community art project’ where everyone was welcome to join the fun and add their own personal touch to a large canvas near the front entrance. I liked to see that the whole thing was very dog friendly too. I saw quite a few people brought their dogs along and they were welcome everywhere. Nice.

There was a man by the front door who built model ships. He had a couple of really large models, one finished and the other still needed a few details added. It looked very time consuming! Tiny little pieces everywhere. I would never have the patience for that, but it looked like a good hobby for some.

The Fort Velasco people had a table there too. I drove by later and saw they’ve got signs up prohibiting metal detectors and a round wooden palisade. Looks like they’re making some progress but I didn’t stop to talk to them this year.

There were quite a few teams entered in the chili cook-off too. Everyone looked like they were having a blast. I’m not a big chili fan so I didn’t try any myself, but it must’ve been popular since a few of the teams were already sold out.

There was also a craft beer tasting that looked interesting, but I can’t take any chances on that so had to skip it. I think the chili and beer definitely helped the attendance this year. I hope they’ll keep on adding more things like that to the festival. It definitely increased the crowds by a lot this year!


Monochrome Monday: Vulture

I was bored and looking at my WordPress browser and came upon this new challenge. It’s Monochrome Monday XIX from Hadd Hai Yaar. You can click on the link to see what everybody has come up with and join in. 🙂

I took this photo of a vulture in Tanzania last November, on a photo safari with GEP. There was a whole bunch of them feeding on a kill some other predator had recently finished with. There were 3 different kinds of vultures, I’m not sure what type this one is (anybody know?). It was fascinating watching how they interacted with each other. Watching and waiting for their chance to move in and get their share. Fighting over scraps and challenging newcomers to the scene.

I’m still new to photography, so I don’t know how I managed to get this shot to come out so nice. Most of the rest I took of these birds did not. I took it with a Panasonic Lumix ZS70 which I had just bought for the trip. F 6.4, ISO 1/320. I almost always leave my cameras on automatic, so pretty sure it was for this shot too. One of these days I’ll have to read the manual. 😉

CFFC: Pairs

Cee always has great photography challenges going on. This one is for her Fun Foto Challenge- Pairs. Pairs of anything at all. Like or unlike. Click on the link and see what everyone else is posting. Join in. 🙂

Here’s my entry…

pair of ornaments
pair of tulips
pair of turtles

I really love to take photos. I always have my camera with me and take pictures everywhere, of anything. I ran out of room on my walls a loooong time ago. Now what can I do with them all?

Post them on to Cee’s challenges! 😉

FOTD: Waterlily

I haven’t been online much lately. I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the real world instead of spending time in the virtual world. I’ve been loving it! Now that I’m back home again I’ve been able to catch up a little bit and take a look around the blogosphere. Cee always has great photography challenges going on. This one is for yesterday’s flower of the day- waterlily challenge. Click on the link and see what everyone else is posting. Join in. 🙂

I’ve always loved waterlilies. I’ve been trying for years to photograph them. We don’t have many of them around SE Texas where I live. I can never get a good shot, they’re always so far away so my photos turn out blurry. I got this nice shot in Hoi An, Vietnam. I was there for a writing workshop. We went out a few times for ‘research’ during the week. This waterlily was in a pot outside of a bookstore we were looking at and ducking into during the rain. So far, it’s the best I’ve ever got of a waterlily. 🙂

Thanks to another blogger’s post (with some great poinsettia photos) on Cee’s FOTD page, I was reminded of these photos I took of Monet’s famous waterlily paintings at the Orangerie in Paris. It was just wonderful, to be completely surrounded by these huge, wall to wall paintings of his.

Safari!

Ever since I went on my first photography safari with GEP in November 2016, I’ve been saving up and hoping to go on another. I just returned from a fantastic long vacation and my second GEP safari was the catalyst for the entire trip.

If I hadn’t made the decision to go on the safari, I wouldn’t have stopped in Paris on the way over. Or Bangkok on the way home. Or gone to the travel writing workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam.

I tried again to make sure that I was ready for the safari. Awake and alert from the beginning. Last time I did a layover in Istanbul, so I could avoid flying direct to Arusha and getting no sleep for 2 days. This time, I did the layover in Paris. I even flew into Arusha a day early so I could rest up. It helped a lot. I was only up for 24 hours beforehand instead of 48+. I felt much better for the first couple of days of the safari, before the early mornings started to get to me.

We started out from the Lake Duluti Serena lodge, about an hour outside Arusha. It was a beautiful place, with flowers and gardens everywhere. My flight from Paris arrived at 0600 on November 15th. I had been up for over 24 hours, so I spent most of my time there sleeping. If I had more time, I would’ve taken them up on some of their suggestions for things to do like hike around the lake, or have a spa treatment. Instead, I just spent the day chillin’.

I met up with the GEP group over breakfast on the 16th when the safari trip actually started. We even met our first wild little visitors who wanted to join us for coffee and biscuits. 🙂

We had our first official meeting from 0800-1000, for introductions and orientation, then loaded up the jeeps and took off for Tarangire National Park. We sped along the highways, passing small towns and farms. Beautiful Mt Meru (continued on page 2)…

Happy New Year 2019


Well, it’s over- 2018 is done! Hard to believe isn’t it? To start 2019, I’d like to say thank you for sticking with me- I know I haven’t been very consistent on here lately. Some days I just don’t feel like doing anything. Writers block or just plain laziness? Both, I think. Last year seemed to drag on forever, but now it seems to have gone by so fast.

I have to say, I’m very thankful that 2018 was better than 2017. My computer wasn’t giving me near as much trouble (until just recently- I wonder if the bats have returned). I was able to get a little bit more work. Not enough, not nearly enough to satisfy me and get me to the point of being comfortable, but enough to survive on. I was even able to dig myself slightly out of the hole the last couple of years of basically no work had put me in.

I actually had work every month last year (except Nov-Dec when I decided to take my long planned trip instead of hope for work). It wasn’t all offshore, well paid work. Some months, the only job I had was my role player gig at Maersk Training. But even that little bit kept me from having to use up the last of my savings.

I also sold a couple of articles (with photos) and paintings. That was a real boost to my confidence (tho not so much to my bank account).

I was able to take that 2 month long trip and still come out a couple thousand dollars ahead of where I was on New Years Day 2018. 🙂

So, I’m thankful, very much, that 2018 was better than 2016 and 2017. I was able to get enough work and even to take a couple of trips (not including work). In March I went to Roy Stephenson’s travel writing/marketing class in Seattle. In September I attended GEP’s Travel Writing & Photography Workshop in Austin. I spent November and December traveling around the world, stopping in Paris, Tanzania, Bangkok, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I may be ‘greedy’, but I’m really really really hoping that 2019 turns out to be even better than 2018. I sure as hell don’t want a repeat of 2016-2017 which just sucked! I hate being broke and watching everything I’ve worked so hard for just slowly disappear.

I hope things will pick up offshore so there is more work this year and the agencies actually have more than a single job to fight over! It feels great to get 3 calls in a day from 3 different recruiters, but it really sucks once you talk to them and realize they’re all pitching the exact same job.

I don’t know what to think now. I had a job lined up before Christmas. It was supposed to start on the 3rd. Friday I asked about details and was told the job was cancelled. 😦

I got another call yesterday. It sounded like a good job, but I felt I had to turn it down. I just don’t feel confident that I could handle the particular position on offer. I’m hoping tomorrow will bring some business. There have been some hopeful signs in the news lately.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year. I never seem able to follow through on them. They’re always the same: lose weight, clear out the house, write more. I never make any lasting progress.

Instead, I think about the things I would like to do. Top of the list this year: get residency visa for Mexico and make that first move, find a decent room-mate (which will make that move to Mexico SO much easier), take my bicycle in to get it repaired and adjusted so no more excuses not to ride, have at least one garage sale and get rid of unused stuff cluttering up my living room!

If I manage to cross those things off my list, and if I manage to find enough work to strengthen my finances a little more, I’d love to do some more traveling. Next big trip I’d like to take is a cruise to Antarctica. 🙂

How about you? Do you have any New Years resolutions? Any trips planned? Where would you most like to go and why?

FOTD: Tulips

I’ve been busy traveling so haven’t been spending much time online. Last night I took a look at my WordPress Reader and saw this post from Cee. She always has these great challenges for all of us to get involved with and she has some fantastic photos on her blog.  

Today’s (Dec 8- yesterday) flower of the day is “tulips”. I haven’t seen any of them lately, but I was in La Conner, Washington in April for their annual Tulip Festival (actually I just missed it but the flowers were still blooming and I got some wonderful photos). 

Bangkok: Shanghai Mansion

Bangkok Thailand is an exciting city, I think Chinatown is one of the more interesting parts of town. I was looking for some rest and relaxation but also a place where I could just wander around and soak in the atmosphere. The Shanghai Mansion was perfect.

The taxi from the airport ($15 + $1 tip) dropped me at the hotel and the doorman immediately took my bags inside where they offered me a cold eucalyptus scented towel and welcome drink. They explained a few things about the hotel and showed me to my room. Very nice, even a free mini bar- with sodas, chips and beer!

It was a nice size with plenty of storage, lit by large stained glass windows and  paper lanterns. They even put a birdcage in the bathroom (with a fake bird). It got a little dim at night, some would say ‘atmospheric’ but I like a bright light to read by.

I went down for a late lunch and a beer. The menu offered many Chinese treats. Lots of seafood, including shark fin specialties (very popular in the area). I try to avoid seafood unless I have no other choice. After years of having nothing else to eat, I just don’t want any more of it. I had a BBQ pork sandwich with french fries.

They did a good job with the fries, so many places come out with cold, soggy french fries- yuk! These were thick, but still hot all the way through and nice and crispy. The BBQ sauce was good, not too spicy like so much of Thai food. The bun was hot, fresh and just a little bit sweet. Very nice. The beer went down perfectly with the BBQ. 🙂

After the long trip from Tanzania, I was ready for a nice long nap. It was only about 1600, but I was still so tired from the week of getting no more than 5 hours of sleep during the safari. I headed to bed and slept until 0930 the next morning.

They told me when I checked in that they offered 3 ‘complementaries’ for me during my 4 night stay. Free stuff! A 20 minute massage, high tea, and a Chinatown walking tour. I started with the ‘high tea’.

They offered a choice of jasmine or oolong tea, I chose the oolong. It was OK, but not nearly as strong as I expected. They brought a whole pot and I finished it off while working on the 3 layers of little plates they brought out to sample.

I’m not sure if there was supposed to be any sort of protocol, so I just tried everything in random order. The top plate had 3 types of fruit: pineapple, dragonfruit and cantaloupe. The middle one had 2 sticks of very hot spicy beef satay (I tried to pick off the pepper seeds, that did help some) with a little bowl of soy sauce and some green vegetables that tasted a little like celery flavored spinach.

The bottom plate was the most interesting. It held a small bun that looked just like an ordinary corn muffin. When you bit into it you found it filled with a sweet, golden yellow ‘yolk’. Kind-of messy to eat and a big surprise when you bit into it.

There was also a piece of shrimp spring roll (which I didn’t eat), some delicate rice noodles, and another ‘bun’ made of starchy outside and minced meat and veggie spiced stuffing inside. That one was full of interesting tastes and textures. 🙂

I enjoyed the experience of trying all those different foods. I usually live on satay in Thailand since so much of their food is so hot with different types of pepper. Chinatown was a good choice for me in that too.

After ‘tea’, I went walking again. I found a big Chinese temple and Wat Traimit just a couple of blocks down the street. All around the Shanghai Mansion little back streets led to shops, temples, homes and restaurants. People filled the streets selling everything you could imagine: food, drinks, socks, shirts, jewelry, Christmas decorations, good luck charms, lottery tickets, shoes, birds, flowers, and on and on and on.

I am trying to avoid shopping ’til the end of my trip since I don’t want to lug any more ‘stuff’ all over Asia, but it was interesting to look anyway. You could bargain and get a decent price on pretty much anything you wanted. The people weren’t too pushy either. If you just tell them “no”, you’re not interested a couple of times they leave you alone.

I did go on the hotel’s walking tour one morning. I probably should have done that the 1st morning, since I had already walked by myself to the markets and temples it covered. The guide was very friendly and knowledgeable, but it was hard to hear her most of the time and tho she tried hard to explain things I missed a lot of it.

My last night in Bangkok, I took them up on the massage. I probably should have skipped it. I got a Thai massage in Phuket a few years ago. That little girl was rough! This one was only a head and neck massage, but it still left me sore and aching! Those Thai women have some strong hands! I know some people really enjoy a Thai massage, but I think I’ll skip them from now on. 😉

I didn’t even try the highly rated spa or Red Rose Restaurant at the hotel, they both looked beautiful and if I had more time I would be sure to check them out. Just hanging out in the sitting area near my room was really nice, the hotel had some amazing scent going for it- incense with jasmine, ylang-ylang, a tiny bit of cinnamon? I’m not sure what-all they had in it, but it smelled sooooo good!

Yes, I was happy staying at the Shanghai Mansion and almost hated to leave, but my next adventure in Hanoi was calling.

Tanzania to Thailand

Every day during my Tanzanian African safari I meant to catch up and write, but each day was just so packed with cool things to see and do. I didn’t want to miss anything at all. Some of the people I was with were smarter than me. They took advantage of the amazing camps/lodges we stayed at and took much needed breaks from our daily adventures.

I, on the other hand, pushed myself until I was pretty much totally exhausted. Four of the 8 days of the trip were “early” days. We had to be up, dressed, packed and in the jeeps by 0545. The other days we got a break and had until 0700 until things got started. I haven’t got many photos online yet, so I’ll write all that up later.

We all flew out of the Serenera airstrip at around 1000 on the 23rd. Flew into Arusha and had a last lunch together before we all went our separate ways. We had a really nice lunch at “George’s”. A nice Greek restaurant none of us expected to find in the middle of a fairly small city in Africa. I had a huge pork gyro with properly cooked french fries. Others had the calamari and loved it. The stuffed avocados were bigger than grapefruit.

A few of us had the early flight out of Arusha, so we left the rest of the group having lunch and took off for the airport. My flight left at 1710. After a layover in Doha, Qatar I arrived in Bangkok at 1200 on the 24th.

I was so tired, I didn’t really want to deal with anything but a big air-conditioned bed. I took a cab from the airport to my hotel in Chinatown (500 baht ~ $15 with tip), had a little lunch in their bar/restaurant and passed out by 1600. I slept in til around 0930 the next day and felt SO much better!

I’ve been to Bangkok a few times before, so didn’t feel obligated to make the rounds of the usual tourist sites- the Grand Palace, Emerald Buddha, Wat Po, Chatuchak market, etc). Instead, I decided to just wander around. I’m staying pretty near the river which is a major traffic artery here so I decided to try to follow it along.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. The streets are not all marked, they’re not formed in a grid, they wind around in different directions and the names change. I was in no hurry tho, so I just kept on walking and taking it all in.

The smells- of roasting chestnuts, seafood sizzling over charcoal fires, kim-chi, coriander, cinnamon and pepper – the sounds,- of ringing bicycle bells, trucks and tuk-tuks passing by, vendors calling out to passers-by- the sights-golden Buddhas, complicated carvings covering Chinese temples, bright red party favors, intricate tile work covering important Thai buildings, miniature spirit houses filled with daily offerings, neon lighting up the streets at night as the traffic streamed by, overflowing stalls offering intriguing fruits nuts and spices, smiling people everywhere.

I walked through the back alleys and watched people cooking and having their meals sitting at tiny plastic stools on the street. They all smiled at me tho I’m sure they were wondering what was the crazy white girl doing passing by their back doors.

At the Rachawong ferry pier, I watched the swarms of catfish along the seawall and the long-tailed boats zip by as I enjoyed the breeze off the river and took a little break. My map showed a flower market not too far away so I kept on heading towards it.

I started passing trucks unloading bunches of flowers along the street. Plastic bags of golden marigolds and dozens of roses wrapped in newspaper were stacked waist high while men with hand trucks struggled to get them to their final destination inside the market.

The market was immense. Open areas covering blocks with 30′ high ceilings, filled with rows upon rows of fresh, beautiful, sweet-smelling flowers.  Roses, marigolds, chrysanthemums, tuberoses, orchids, and so many more. I certainly can’t name them all. People were buying everything from huge bags of marigolds to individual little arrangements of orchids or bamboo.

I took a while wandering around, it turns out there was more than one market. Theres one on the river side of the road and another on the opposite side. There’re also a couple of fruit and vegetable markets. I doubt if I could identify even 1/4 of the items they had on offer. I always enjoy seeing what other people like to shop for and these Bangkok markets were really pretty interesting.

After spending most of the afternoon at the markets, I headed back towards my hotel and took a little detour through the back streets of Chinatown. My hotel is on one of the main roads (Yaowarat Road), there are all kinds of winding little back lanes all around. It’s a great place to just wander around and see what there is to see.

There is another huge market almost right across the street. People are selling everything you can imagine: clothes, food, fabric, hair ties, shoes, hardware, clocks, ribbons, Christmas decorations, handbags, tea sets, and on and on. The tiny little lanes are crowded with all kinds of people, including traveling ice-cream hawkers, blind karaoke singers, and every couple of minutes a motorcycle rider comes through.

After a while, the crowds started getting to me. It got to be downright stifling after the sun went down. Some places got so crowded it was hard to walk and I’m just not up for that. I picked up a few sticks of satay from a street vendor- one of the ones with a place to sit along the sidewalk- and had a beer to go with it for dinner.

I still wasn’t really back to normal after being so tired for so long, so I headed back to the hotel for a fairly early bedtime. I was sound asleep by midnight. 🙂

This post is running pretty long, so I’ll have to finish up on the next 2 days tomorrow. I’ll be heading to Hanoi, Vietnam tomorrow evening, so have to leave the hotel here by 1300 latest.

Versailles

The weather cleared up so I took a ride out to Versailles. It was about 40 minutes on the train/metro from my hotel (Les Halles/Chatelet). Exiting the station, the palace was only about a 5 minute walk. Once you got there, the line took about an hour to get inside (there’s no advantage to the museum pass since the line is for security- they have security everywhere).

I picked up a free audio guide which was very helpful since there were very few labels in English and I didn’t hire a guide or take a tour. It was very crowded, I hate to imagine what it would be like during the season, or even on a really nice day. Even so, the palace was very much worth it. It was humongous! Full of huge rooms full of enormous paintings, long halls full of statues, and outside were beautiful formal gardens and acres on acres of lakes, ponds and forests.

I’m sure I didn’t see everything there, I don’t like crowds and they were getting to me so I hurried through some of the rooms and skipped listening to the audio guide in those. After a while it got to be pretty repetitive anyway. I mean how many big rooms full of old paintings can you look at before you get bored with it all? No matter how gorgeous and impressive they are at first?

Of course, I did see the famous “Hall of Mirrors”.

I escaped to the gardens. It was nice and cool. The sun was out for a while but it turned overcast again later in the afternoon. The terrace was still pretty crowded with tourists from all over the world taking selfies. I took a walk down the steps towards the lake and a snack.

The map showed a snack bar in each of the small forests near the terrace, but the first one I tried was closed. I headed back out to the one on the other side. They had nothing left but hot dogs and baguettes with cheese and tomato (I hate tomatoes). I had the baguette and picked off the tomatoes. There was hardly any cheese on it but the bread was good. Maybe I should’ve got the hot dog, they seem to be really popular here. I’m just trying to try more French food in France and hot dogs are American to me. Maybe they’re different here?

Wandering around the gardens was a nice change from the Paris cityscape, especially once I got further away from the main palace and the crowds there. I walked over to the smaller Trianon area. It was a pretty walk through the forests with the trees all changing to their fall colors.

The smaller house/palace had a few rooms full of furniture to look at. One of which was “Napoleon’s favorite study”. There was a restaurant next to the old guardhouse and you could go through to more gardens. I’m sure they must be more showy in the Spring when the flowers are blooming, but they were still beautiful and serene with the leaves changing on the trees and the streams and lakes with ducks and swans to watch.

And here, finally, I saw the rats. My god, they were huge!

This shot was taken from about 1000 ft away, they must be at least a foot long (not counting tails), maybe even 2 ft? I didn’t want to get any closer, but one guy was over there trying to sneak up on them to get photos. I love taking photos of pretty much anything and everything, but I’ll skip these guys. No thanks!

 

Paris: 3 Great Museums

I spent Wednesday museum hopping. I bought a 4 day museum pass on arrival and wanted to get good use out of it, so I decided to go to 3 of the most popular museums my first full day in Paris.

I took the metro to the Concord station and walked through the Tuileries gardens to the  Orangeries. This museum is really all about Monet, although there are other artists represented there (Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and more). The main focus is on 2 large oval rooms where Monet’s huge water lily paintings are displayed. Even with the crowds, you could still enjoy being surrounded by those beautiful paintings.

From there, I walked across the bridge to the Musee d’Orsay. It used to be a train station and you can tell if you think about it. It’s huge, filled with paintings, sculpture, and other art objects dating from mid 1800’s to early 1900’s. It has the largest collection of impressionist and post impressionist art in the world. It’s right on the river and easy to find. I spent almost 4 hours there and could probably have stayed longer but they were closing (at 1800).

I really loved the art deco. They had entire rooms full of art deco style furniture. One even had its wall paneling done in that style. The huge open space was really nice for showing off the dozens of large sculptures, even including Rodin’s famous Gates of Hell.

The space itself was impressive. It has 6 floors, but there’s nothing on the 6th floor but toilets. The 5th floor has a restaurant where you can eat lunch while looking out through the clock facing the river (there’s another restaurant on the 2nd floor). Most of the art is on the first and second floor.

When they chased me out of there, I headed down the river to the Louvre. It’s open til 2200 on Wednesday’s so I still had a few hours left to check it out. It’s huge! It’s the largest art museum in the world. I figure there’s no way I could see everything there even if I spent days, so I’d just hit the highlights and call it good. It’s filled with all kinds of art dating back from the earliest times to the 21st century (tho I didn’t see any modern art).

I wandered around, enjoying the fantastic collection of art, taking a closer look at anything that caught my eye. It was pretty crowded in the more popular sections, around the ‘must see” pieces of art: the Mona Lisa, the Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory), the Apollo Gallery where the ceiling is covered with paintings and carvings.

Of course I did not have time to see everything. I only saw a few of the galleries in the Denon Wing: Roman, Greek, Etruscan and Egyptian antiquities and paintings from France, Spain and Italy. The Sully Wing: Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern antiquities and European decorative arts.

They also had an exhibit on how the museum came to be. It was created out of the former  Louvre Palace, originally built under Phillip II as the Louvre Castle in the late 12th-13th century. You could go downstairs and walk around the original tower of the castle and see some of the foundation walls still standing.

I would like to go back someday and explore some more, but I think 3 museums in one day is enough for me!

 

Paris!

I made it to Paris! I’ve never been here before. It’s been on my bucket list for a while and I’m so excited that I finally got a chance to come and explore. 🙂

I left home Monday morning at 0800 and after a 4 hour layover in Toronto, arrived in Paris around 1000 on Tuesday (local time).

It took me a little bit of time to do a couple of things at the airport. I found the tourist information booth and bought a museum pass (4 days) and I bought a “Navigo” Pass from the transport desk downstairs (its good for unlimited travel within Paris for a week Sun-Sun). After that I was ready to take the train into town and find my hotel.

It was super easy. It only took about 40 minutes, I didn’t even have to change trains. The train was pretty empty, it was clean and there was even a guy playing dixieland jazz on his clarinet for most of the way. There wasn’t much to see going this way tho.

My hotel was right around the corner from the train/metro station. I found it after only a few minutes of going the wrong way around the block. They weren’t ready to check me in yet, told me to come back in an hour, so I left my luggage there and went for a walk.

My hotel is in Les Halles and it’s only a few minutes walk from Notre Dame. I was still pretty tired from the long flight and wasn’t ready to deal with the crowds there so I left it for another day and kept walking. The area on the Left Bank around Blvd Saint Michael is called the Latin Quarter. It’s full of winding, stone paved, medieval looking lanes with interesting little shops and delicious smelling restaurants and bakeries.

 

I found another interesting old church just over the bridge, just around the corner from the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Saint Severin Catholic Church is one of the oldest churches still standing in Paris and amazing inside. It has gorgeous stained glass windows all around, tall gothic arches hold up the roof over the central isle. The outside aisles are filled with alcoves that each have stained glass windows. Some have statues, carvings, religious paintings, etc.

 

There’s a nice little garden/park behind it, with great views of Notre Dame across the Seine. There are signs on the gates, something about rats (wish I could read French). I didn’t see any, but it was about noon when I was wandering through. Maybe they only come out at night?

I crossed back over the bridge onto Rue Sebastopol and took a look at the Tour St Jacques. Interesting history there. It used to have a church, but they tore it down and only left the bell tower. There were more signs about rats on the gates (I didn’t see any).

On the way back to my hotel (the Hotel Agora), I stopped in and looked at a couple more beautiful old churches. There are so many around and they’re all just gorgeous!

Paris-3

I was starting to fall asleep on my feet, so headed back to the hotel to get checked in and get some rest. I fell asleep by around 2000. In the morning I felt so much better and ready for a long day of museum hopping. 🙂

Paris-7

CFFC: Things People Drive (or pilot- or captain- or sail)

I might be a little late for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, but I’m jumping in anyway. I just got in from work (offshore) where I have minimal internet access and I’m ready to catch up. Here are a few photos of ‘things people drive” on the water…

drill ship

PS- the last one is of me ‘driving’ one of the drill ships. I think it was the Ocean Rig Poseidon. I don’t get to do as much actual ‘driving’ as I used to since I’ve been working more as a DPO than anything else. Dynamic positioning takes all the fun out of ‘driving’ a boat. 😉

CFFC: Things We Grow

The theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is: things people grow. Here’s my entry…

Fresh fruits…

Vegetables…

And fields of flowers…