Greece is the Word

I have been doing my Photo Locale of the Month feature (click here for the latest entry on the subject) for three-and-a-half years now, and sharing general travel memories via this blog since November, 2012. Yet somehow, I barely even mentioned anything about Greece, or the three wonderful weeks I spent there in 2009.

I took a gander through my Greece photo galleries – Athens, Rhodes, Crete, Santorini, Olympia, and Delphi (in that order) – and was delighted to “rediscover” the birthplace of olives and the Olympic games, of grape leaves and ouzo, of crumbling amphitheaters and restored Minoan palaces, and of azure Aegean waters and the stunning Samaria Gorge.

A few of the photos were of people, places, and experiences I had long forgotten about. Talking about “the American situation” with a stumblebum in an Athens park (who then asked me to buy him a drink). Getting lost on the way back to my hostel from Lykavitos Hill (where I had gone to watch the sunset). Taking a boat ride to hot springs off the coast of Santorini, only to learn that said springs were a half-mile swim from the boat and that I had to jump overboard to even attempt the trip (and to find that the springs were barely lukewarm, let along hot).

Greece doesn’t get as many tourists as other Mediterranean countries such as France, Italy, and Spain. According to the World Tourism Organization, even Turkey received more international tourists than Greece in 2016!

But while I love Paris, Florence, Barcelona, and Istanbul as much as the next person, there is something special about Greece. From its bustling cities to its sleepy villages to its pristine beaches to its craggy peaks, “Greece” is the word this summer.

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Botanical Gardens around the World

Last weekend I visited, for the first time, the Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum. The nursery-turned-gardens, sloping up a hillside southeast of downtown Knoxville, span 47 acres and offer views of the distant Great Smoky Mountains.

As botanical gardens go, these are by no means best-in-class, or even best-in-state. They have plenty of trees, but few flowers. The lone drinking fountain on the grounds was still not turned on for the season, even though temperatures were in the mid-80’s. The site’s much-photographed Big Red Adirondack Chair, pictured below, needed a coat of paint.

Still, it was free, the view was lovely, and I had the place more or less to myself. I would like to return in the spring, when the neighborhood’s pink dogwood trees are in flowery bloom. In the meantime, here, in alphabetical order, are a few of my favorite botanical gardens from around the world:

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People around the World: Europe

This third post in a series, following entries on Africa and Asia, takes us to Europe, which, with or without Russia and Turkey, is the sixth-largest continent in terms of geographic size and the third-largest in terms of population.

I hope you enjoy the photos below. Leave a comment about which picture is your favorite…and thanks!

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Photo Locale of the Month – May 2018

A common theme of my monthly photo locale features is the concept of time. Namely, where has it gone? Of course, I haven’t traveled much these past few years, a reality that I hope to change as my salary grows.

With that in mind, it hardly seems possible that nine years have passed since my first trip to sub-Saharan Africa, during which time I took a whirlwind “taster” trip to several countries in the region including Botswana, home of the unforgettable Okavango Delta, and South Africa, home of the granddaddy of game parks, Kruger National Park.

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Ten More Great Sports Movies (11-20)


Two years have passed since I composed my original top ten list on this subject, charting my picks for the ten greatest sports movies of all time. If you haven’t read the list you may want to check it out for some context against part two, below; otherwise you may wonder why, seemingly, such classics as “Raging Bull,” “Jerry Maguire,” and “He Got Game” aren’t mentioned. Remember, today’s list starts at #11, although that film, as you’ll read in just a moment, should have made my original top 10 list instead. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.

Here is a new ranking of ten more great sports movies (and a few more besides). Thanks for reading!

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People around the World: Asia

Last month’s feature, People around the World: Africa, was the first entry in a series of round-the-world portraits, some staged, some not, some intimate, some not. My goal: to show the world – and the people in it – at work and at play.

I have enjoyed poring through my photography archives, and smiled with delight upon rediscovering many of the pictures in last month’s gallery and in today’s as well.

Today, we visit Asia, the largest continent on earth!

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Photo Locale of the Month – April 2018

Are you a desert rat? I don’t ask that question to be rude; it’s a sort of compliment, actually. Desert rats – the two-legged, humanoid variety, anyway – are my kind of people. These are people who prefer sunshine over rain, and dry heat over humidity.

If you consider yourself a desert rat, you might find yourself at home in the western United States, where places like Monument Valley, Joshua Tree National Park, White Sands National Monument, and the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve punctuate the parched landscape, making the desert more than just a vast expanse of sand.

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Top Ten Marvel Films (So Far)

“Avengers: Infinity War” opens soon, and set a box office record a few weeks ago in terms of opening weekend pre-sale tickets…breaking the record set by none other than the previous Marvel film, “Black Panther.” Suffice to say, expectations are high.

If you are a MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) newbie with plans to see “Avengers: Infinity War” at theaters, count on being in over your head. By my count, there have been 18 films preceding this one, their stories ultimately interconnected, their protagonists’ fates intertwined. Even such seeming stand-alones as “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) and “Ant-Man” (2015) tie in to the decade-long ramp-up of characters and events that began with 2008’s “Iron Man” and culminates in what looks to be a two-part battle for the fate of the universe.

Some Marvel films and characters – Deadpool, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four spring immediately to mind – exist in their own separate universes. But for the connected MCU mega-verse that is presided over by Nick Fury’s Avengers, audiences have gotten to enjoy an uneven, but mostly fun, cinematic ride. Here are my choices for the Top Ten Marvel Films (So Far):

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People around the World: Africa

Any self-respecting photographer will continuously try to better him/herself. Ways to do this include taking classes, buying manuals, upgrading equipment, and, quite simply, practicing. (That’s how you get to Carneghie Hall, man.)

One category of photography that I have wanted to become better at is photographing people. My travels are usually to see places, not people, but it so often is the people themselves that become the “attraction” that lingers longest in my memory.

I am starting a new feature – People around the World. Each installment will focus on a particular region of the globe. Geography notwithstanding, the recurring element of these pictures is the presence of people. Headshots? Not really. Close-ups? Sometimes. Action shots? Often. Staged? On occasion.

For today’s post, my first entry in the series, I’m sharing pictures that I took on my travels to Africa. Although I like each one of these pictures, some are better than others, and all of them could probably be better.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Semana Santa in Guatemala

There are often days when I feel like shutting down my blog because I’ve told all the stories I have to tell. On the other hand, there are days when I stumble upon a picture or piece of writing from my blog, and that discovery ignites a whole ‘nother fuse of memories worth sharing.

Earlier this week, I came across my 2014 post Passion Runs High in Iztapalapa, one of my better entries from my time in Mexico City, and a fun read about the annual Good Friday Passion Play from CDMX’s Iztapalapa delegación. Give it a read and let me know what you think, okay?

But 2014 wasn’t the only time I got to take in the alternating solemnity and joy of Semana Santa (holy week). 2012 saw me spending Easter in El Salvador, and witnessing a procession of penitent worshippers literally march through the streets of San Salvador, and over alfombras, which are colorful sawdust carpets featuring images of peace. Just one year earlier, I spent several pre-Easter days in Andalucía, Spain, observing similar processions from afar in Granada and Sevilla (scheduled processions in Sevilla were rained out, a bummer considering that every hostel and hotel in the city raised its rates for the anticipated crowds).

The Semana Santa memory that lingers largest is the collective series of days I spent in Antigua, Guatemala, in March, 2005. Here, in the one-time capital of Guatemala, where earthquake-toppled churches nestle in the shadow of surrounding volcanoes, the entire community comes together each Semana Santa for a daily series of processions, alfombras, and church services leading to Resurrection, aka Easter Sunday. While not a believer myself, I have always been fascinated by religious rituals. Spending a week in Antigua and experiencing them firsthand was not disappointing.

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