Sunday, July 23, 2017

Where the Bears Are

I had been hearing a lot about this new place in northern Arizona that opened back in 2010 called Bearizona so I decided it was about time I checked it out form myself.

The place functions as a drive-through wildlife park with over 160 acres of land and a variety of animals along with the bears.

Visitors drive their own vehicles through the grounds to view the animals or if they prefer, they can board a bus with a guide to take them through.

I drove my car through as did almost everyone else who was there at the same time.  While within the sections reserved for bears, vehicle windows must be kept rolled up at all times.  So excuse the quality of some of the bear photos, they had to be taken through the car windows.

Visitors are told that if a bear begins to approach the vehicle to please move on.  It seems that some of the bears have decided that climbing on cars is good exercise.  This one was too busy taking a nap to climb on cars.

In fact, while I was there, none of the bears seemed very interested in the slow moving cars that were quietly rolling along the roads.

It was a very warm day so this handsome fellow decided that taking a nap in his tank of water would be a good way to cool down.

Other drive-through sections contained buffalo and white buffalo and there were mountain goats and big horn sheep too.

In addition to the drive-through section, there is also a walk through area with large enclosures for some of the smaller animals.  I think the bobcat was my favorite in this area because it so obligingly posed for me.

This hat wearing bear seems to have slipped from his enclosure but, no seemed to be too concerned.

On the way out, I saw that the obligatory "selfie" station was being well used.  In fact, there was a line of people waiting for their turn.  It was an enjoyable experience and a good way to view the wildlife in very natural surroundings.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Tucson Treasure

I learned about the Arizona Inn some fifteen years ago when my good friends Julie and Dave got married there.  That was the first time I stayed at this wonderful place but it certainly wasn't the last.

The Arizona Inn is located right in the heart of Tucson, in a residential neighborhood.  It's a perfect location to enjoy the peace and quiet of the well maintained grounds and to make every visitor feel like they are a guest in someone's home.

The Arizona Inn was the creation of Isabella Greenway, Arizona's first Congresswoman (in 1932) and a lifelong friend of Eleanor Roosevelt.  In the late 1920's, Mrs. Greenway started a philanthropic business called The Arizona Hut, a furniture making shop that was created to help disabled World War I veterans.  After the stock market crash of 1929, the business ran into some financial trouble so instead of laying off workers, she created the Arizona Inn in order to create enough demand for furniture to keep the shop going.  Mrs. Greenway's ancestors still own and operate the inn.

Today the inn still has a cabinet shop where master craftsmen restore the old "hut" furniture as well as create new custom pieces for the inn.

Inside the main building there is a fabulous restaurant and a cafe and bar as well as a beautifully furnished sitting room and a well stocked library where guests can relax.

It's such a cozy and warm environment that I can't help spending time in there just to soak up that "homey" atmosphere.

After learning of Isabella's achievements at a time when women in business and government was a rarity, I was inspired to learn more about this amazing woman.  After reading her biography I was simply in awe of her and the life she led.  (The biography is called "Isabella Greenway, an Enterprising Woman".)

Isabella's descendants are still the owners and operators of the Arizona Inn and they lovingly maintain the resort and have successfully kept it's southwestern atmosphere and hospitality.

Every time I've stayed at the inn, I get up early and stroll around the resort admiring the southwestern style of the buildings and their decor.

I like to find a quiet spot to sit and think about the amazing and incredibly strong woman who created this magnificent place and left such a substantial legacy.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It's Important to Look Up

Walking the streets of London is very much like touring a huge sculpture garden.  Most of the city's buildings are adorned with artistic elements.  On my last trip to London, I was determined to "look up" and admire as many of the flourishes and artistry as I could.  What I didn't realize when I started photographing all these interesting things is all the fascinating things I'd learn about what I saw.

One of the first to catch my eye were these statues situated in a dome-like niche above the entrance to a building I later learned was called "Bush House".  The building only dates back to 1923 but what impressed me the most was that the building was designed by an American architect and the two handsome statues were sculpted by Malvina Hoffman, a female, American artist who had moved to Paris to study with Rodin.  The figures here represent British and American men holding the torch of friendship.  An American connection that I didn't realize when I took the photo.

When I returned to London from my short trip to Paris, I took a taxi from St. Pancras station to my hotel.  I spotted this row of caryatids and snapped a photo through the taxi window.  I later learned that they line both sides of the St. Pancras New Church, a Greek revival style building situated on a very busy street. That splash of red below the statues has a sort of Asian look to it to me.

While wandering around the Temple area just north of Fleet Street, I saw this statue of Sir Thomas More located over the entrance to a beautifully decorated building.  My research found that it was sculpted by George Sherrin to appear above the More Gate entrance to Lincoln's Inn, one of the four "Inns of Court" that house the British legal professions.

More who was once the Lord Chancellor of England stands overlooking the royal courts of justice.  That seems appropriate for such a distinguished legal mind of his time.

Another statue I found embedded into the wall of a building was this one of Ernest Shackleton, the Antarctic explorer.  He's tucked away on a side wall of the Royal Geographic Society's building.  He appears standing in full Arctic gear from head to toe.  You might recall that Shackleton was planning to cross Antartica but, his ship the Endeavor was crushed in the pack ice. He is remembered for his leadership in extracting his crew without losing a single man.  This sculpture was created by Charles Sargeant Jagger.

It took a bit of digging to find out who this man atop a church steeple was.  It turns out to be George I and he stands tall above St. George's Church which also happens to house the Museum of Comedy.  (What an interesting combination of uses.)

He shares his esteemed place with a lion and a unicorn.  The statue is humorously described by Horace Walpole in this rhyme:

When Henry VIII left the Pope in the lurch,
Protestants made him the head of the church.

But George's good subjects, the Bloomsbury people
Instead of the church, made him head of the steeple.

Oh, the wonderful things there are to learn when one travels and observes.

I have many more of these little historic oddities to share in future posts.  It was just as much fun to research them as it was to see them in person.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Crystal Cove

For the past 10 years, I've been fortunate enough to spend a few days in southern California during the month of August to cool off a bit from the extreme summer heat of Arizona.  One of the places that I manage to visit every year is Crystal Cove State Park.

There is a lot more to Crystal Cove State Park than beaches and trails, this special place has preserved a bit of California beach-life history that can't be found any longer along the California coast.

You see, way back in 1864 a man named James Irvine acquired a very large swath of what we would call today "prime" property.  His son James Irvine II turned that land into an agricultural empire known as the Irvine Company.

The beaches on the Irvine property became a favorite spot for Irvine II and he allowed his friends, family and some employees to build cottages on the site forming a community called Crystal Cove.

Over the years, the cottages were renovated and slowly it became permanent homes to a number of people who began leasing the land from the Irvine Company around 1940.  The settlement became a favorite spot for artists, actors and writers.  In 1979, the Irvine Company sold the property to California State Parks and that sale started a 26 year legal battle with residents who wanted to stay on the property.  In the end, the state won the battle but, rather than tear down all the cottages, they agreed to preserve and restore them so they could be enjoyed by everyone visiting the park.  

Today when you visit, you will find a museum that displays one of the 1920's to 1940's era cottages giving visitors a peek into that long gone beach lifestyle.  There are a total of 46 cottages, 21 of which have been renovated are now available for vacation rental.  

The most famous of the cottages on the site is the "Beaches" cottage which was used in the Bette Midler film by the same name.

One of the cottages has been turned into The Beachcomber, a great restaurant that sits about as close to the crashing waves as a restaurant can get.  Over the years, I've enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner  there and have always enjoyed every meal.

Of course the beach is what draws many people to the site but, I have to admit that the wistful feeling I get when I walk along the beach and look at all those ramshackle cottages is what draws me back time after time.

One year I even stumbled on to a photo shoot with an attractive model all decked out in 1940's clothes and hair style.  The background of those old cottages must have been perfect for these shots.

I suspect that I'll be back again for another visit come this August.  After all, I can soak up some California history, enjoy the flora and fauna and savor another delicious meal.  And then there's the BEACH!  There is always the BEACH!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Adventures in the Andes

Last week I told you a little about a tour into the Andes Mountains in Argentina that took us almost to the border with Chile.  This week I'll show you some of the other things we stopped to see on that drive.  We had hired a driver and guide to take us from our base in Mendoza into the mountains.  The above photo is of Puente del Inca (The Inca Bridge), a natural arch that has formed over the Vacas River.  It was formed by hot springs rich in sulfuric waters that have caused that sort of rust-like sediment.

At one time there was a spa and resort located here that was used for curing illnesses.  The remains of parts of the spa can be seen sort of fused into the mountain by the sediment and water from the spring.

Off in the distance I spotted this little church that looks like it might be still active today.

While we were stopped to see the natural bridge, I saw this mountain guide with his pack mules headed out.  I wondered if he was joining a climbing team who were going to attempt their own somewhat riskier Andes adventure.

Another stop we made was at the Andinistas Cemetery sometimes called the Climbers Cemetery.  

It is the final resting place for many mountain climbers, some who died trying to reach the top of Aconcagua, the tallest peak in both the southern and western hemisphere.  Other graves here were climbers who just wanted their final resting place to be here in this beautiful and remote location close to the mountain they loved. 

I do have to admit, the views from the cemetery were pretty spectacular.

In every direction we were surrounded by breathtaking vistas.  

The last stop before returning to Mendoza was to see the Uspallata Vaults which date from colonial times.  They are dome-shaped structures that were used at one time for melting gold and silver that was mined in the nearby mountains.  

The trip into the Andes Mountains was an adventure full of historical sightings but most of all sublime beauty in every direction!