Sunday, December 31, 2017

Way Out of Africa

About 90 miles north of Phoenix is a wild animal park called Out of Africa.  It's a little different than most zoos in that most of the animals roam a large space and guests are driven through that space to get some close up looks.

Some get closer than others.  The driver of the open bus and another keeper have developed a good relationship with the animals and they come right up to the bus to greet the guests and of course get a little treat while they are at it.

The area where the bus runs contains all kinds of African animals.  There is a large group of zebras and they come over to the bus for a little hand out.

And as they go after the offering, there striped coats make beautiful patterns.

Even the young ones come over to see what is on offer.

This Gemsbok antelope watched us from a distance.

I thought the Emu was coming over for a treat.....

....but, what he really wanted was a hug.

In the walkable area of the park I saw lions, bears, hyenas and wolves but, I was mesmerized by the beautiful Bengal White Tiger.  

In another section, there was a selection of reptiles like this gila monster.  Just like a little kid, he had to stick his tongue out for the camera.

Out of Africa is an interesting place to visit where guests can get some up close animal experiences.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Windows

Retailers used to go to great lengths to decorate their store windows for the holiday season.  Where I live, I don't see that happening very much any longer.  But, when I travel to London during the holiday season, I can always depend on some wonderful window decorations.  I think the place that does the best job is Fortnum and Mason.

The last time I was there at the season was in 2013 so these aren't the windows you would see if you passed by the store today.  However, if you don't happen to be in London for the season, these photos will give you an idea of the things they do.  In my opinion Fortnum and Mason does Christmas window displays better than anyone else.

The theme for 2013 was a nostalgic one.  It was called "When Dreams Come True."

Windows full of carolers, tree trimming and holiday baking certainly are very nostalgic and dreamy.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Salisbury Cathedral

The first time I visited Stonehenge some 17 years ago, I took a bus tour from London.  Last year when I visited again, I knew I wanted to see a bit of Salisbury and the beautiful Salisbury Cathedral so I took the train there. Walking toward the church gives you a good image of its massive scale.  The cathedral boasts a lot of "bests" including the tallest spire in all of the United Kingdom.

The cathedral is constructed in what is called Early English Gothic Architecture.  The outside contains 130 niches, 73 of which contain statues.

The inside is long and narrow and unusually light.  The light grey stone of the walls helps to give the inside a bright, well-lit look.

One of the things that caught my eye inside this massive church was this new and modern Baptismal font that was designed by a British water sculptor, William Pye.  It was added to the church in 2008 in celebration of the cathedral's 750th anniversary.  The reflections on the smooth surface of the water seem to perfectly meld the old with the new.

In addition to the tallest spire in England, the church is also home to the oldest working modern clock in the world.  Looking at this box of gears and pulleys, you ask yourself, where is the clock face?  There isn't one.  Back in 1386 when it was built, clocks didn't have faces, they simply rang out the time with bells.  This one was originally located in the old bell tower but was removed when the tower was rebuilt.  It was fully restored to working order in 1956.

There was beauty in every direction inside the cathedral.  From inspiring chapels to beautiful monuments to notable men and women, there was something to see in every corner.

There was even the added attraction of a beautiful glass exhibit that was going on while I was there.  The colorful glass on display almost drew as much of my attention as all the historic elements.

Superlatives abound when describing the notable aspects of Salisbury Cathedral.  I've already mentioned the tallest spire and the world's oldest clock now I bring your attention to the best of the  the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.  The document is protected from light under a tent-like structure located in the Chapter House on the cathedral property.  Obviously, photographs of the actual document are not allowed but, I can say that viewing such an important and ancient document is a moving experience.

Yet another Salisbury boasting right, is the Cathedral cloisters and cathedral close.  It is the largest in Britain. All of these import "bests" and "oldest's" and "largest's" make Salisbury Cathedral a place well worth a visit.  I am so glad I made a point of seeing it for myself.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ancient Civilizations

The southwest of the United States is dotted with many remnants of ancient civilizations.  I've shown you Montezuma's Castle and Tuzigoot before.  Today I'm showing you another National Monument called Casa Grande.  You can probably figure out that the name translates to "great house".

The site has preserved what is left of what is called an irrigation community, a place where ancient peoples lived and worked along a network of canals that diverted water from streams to fields where crops could be grown.  The great house was completed around the year 1150 and was at one time four stories tall.

In addition to what remains of the great house, there are also the remains of walls of other structures situated around a central plaza area.

There is even evidence of a large ball court where games were played..  The walls above appear to be small living spaces.

The museum at the site has many artifacts that have been recovered around this settlement.  This large "olla" or pottery vessel was used for water and food storage.  It is amazing that it was unearthed completely in tact.

The museum also had a small display of what the inside of one of the smaller dwellings might have looked like.

The structure over the top of the "great house" was built to protect what remains of this ancient building from the relentless desert sun and wind and rain.

There is a large mound within the heart of the city of Mesa that is thought to be another large multi-storied structure like this one.   That mound just looks like a hill of dirt but, it is being preserved by archeologists for future excavation.  It is thought that as archeological techniques improve, scientists will be able to learn more from these sites than they have in the past.  So that site is awaiting future exploration.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

London, the Chocolate Mecca

I never thought of London as a place to source good chocolate but, while I was planning my last trip there I watched a television show highlighting all the exquisite chocolate shops that are available in London.  I took full notice.  In fact, I got a pencil and paper and started taking notes.

 One of the chocolatiers featured on the show was William Curley, a young Scottish fellow who has made quite a name for himself in the world of pastry and chocolate.  Unfortunately, the chocolate shop featured on the show had closed before my trip there but his chocolates were available from Harrods so I made a point of stopping there to pick up a box.  They were just as advertised, silky and delicious.

 Next on the list of purveyors of chocolate was a place called Rococo Chocolates.  This was another store that was prominently featured on the show I watched with the host raving about the creations of the owner, Chantal Coady.  Her shop in Belgravia was  pure delight to shop in.

I selected the colorful pieces above from the dazzling variety available and I'll be happy to report that they were as tasty as they look.

On past trips to London, I always picked up a special treat at the chocolate counter of Fortnum and Masons, one of my favorite places to shop in London.  This last trip was no exception.

I selected a box of beautifully decorated chocolates that were as yummy as they were pleasing to look at.

Another shop that was featured on the show was called SAID, a branch of a long established chocolate shop from Rome.

I stopped in to this shop and found myself surrounded by chocolate molds and mounds of chocolate truffles and buttons.  I walked out with a pistachio covered chocolate bar that was a sheer delight.

On the day of my departure from London, I packed all my wonderful chocolate treats in my suitcase and headed to Heathrow to catch my flight.  You might think my chocolate shopping spree had come to an end but there I was faced with row after row of airport "duty free" shops and with some room still left in my carry-on bag, I bought an elegantly packaged box of dark chocolate mint thins by the distinguished chocolate maker Charbonnel et Walker.

Who knew that London was such a mecca for the "food of the gods"?  I'm glad I learned that lesson.