Photo Locale of the Month – February 2017

Asia is the largest continent and home to 60% of the world’s population, according to UN estimates. If you visit worldometers.info, you can literally watch the population “uptick” by one person per second. Despite these statistics, however, I have spent less time in Asia than I have in most other regions of the world. This needs to change.

One Asian country that I have had the pleasure of visiting is Thailand. The country, a peaceful monarchy east of Myanmar and north of Malaysia, is famous for its warm waters and sandy beaches, often backed by towering cliffs. There is so much more to see, however. Elephant camps, jungle villages, steamy urban cities…and temples. Lots of temples. I was particularly taken by the Buddhist temples of Bangkok.

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Photo Locale of the Month – January 2017

León is the longtime liberal stronghold of Nicaragua, and the nation’s second-largest city. Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, León, 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean, has for centuries battled with older Granada, on the western shores of Lake Nicaragua, for ruling supremacy. They took turns assuming the role of capital of Nicaragua for centuries, until neutral Managua, somewhere in between the two cities, took over the role permanently.

But the León of today is different than the Leon of the 16th century. Modern León, in fact, sits 20 miles east of León Viejo (Old León), destroyed by an earthquake less than 100 years after its founding, and subsequently buried under layers of volcanic ash by nearby Momotombo, the still-active volcano that sits across another lake, Lago de Managua, from the ruins.

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Photo Locale of the Month – December 2016

Nuremberg, Germany recently celebrated its 950th birthday. (Eat that, Dubai!) My love affair with the Franconian capital and home of sausages, lebkuchen (holiday gingerbread cookies) and Nazi War Crime trials began when I was still a child. My father spent three years of his life (“The best three years,” he sometimes claimed) in the U.S. Army, stationed on a base just a short train/bus ride from Nuremberg.

Although my dad’s Army time was during the height of the Cold War and his station was less than 60 miles from the border with Communist Czechoslovakia, his time in the Army went without incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis call to arms notwithstanding. My dad raved, throughout my childhood, about how much he loved Germany, the German people, and medieval Nuremberg in particular.

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Christmas Markets of Europe

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There is nothing quite like the Christmas markets of Europe around this time of year. Cities like Chicago, with its Daley Plaza Christkindlesmarkt, do a fair job recreating the atmosphere, but the surrounding skyscrapers don’t quite carry the same ambiance as the centuries-old brick homes and cobblestone squares of Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and elsewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Below is a series of pictures taken from my visits to various European Christmas markets during my travels. Bundle up, sip some mulled wine, and enjoy!

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Photo Locale of the Month – November 2016

Delhi, India. The capital of the fastest-growing nation on earth has a treasure trove of culinary and cultural treasures. According to Wikipedia, the population of Delhi is 10 million, based on 2001 census data. According to Indiatoday.in and Thehindu.com, however, NCT (National Capital Territory, aka Delhi) is home to 25 million inhabitants, making it the world’s second largest city.

Whichever figure you choose, Delhi is huge. I had the pleasure of visiting the city in 2011, and found it to be a sprawling, captivating hodgepodge of rich and poor, opulence and squalor. Old Delhi, in particular, is a place to be experienced in person. The photos below only hint at its enchanting mix of chaos and charm.

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Onward and Upward: Four Years of Blogging

November has, thus far, been rife with disappointment. On a personal level, I have slowly been making peace with my mother’s passing, less than two months ago, while weathering a relationship break-up that felt like a sucker punch. Regarding the former, it took several weeks to even register the fact that my mom was gone. As for the latter, I’ve been trying to assess what I must have done wrong, but am slowly coming to the conclusion that I will never know for sure. All I can say is that I haven’t been sleeping well.

On the world stage – and for the second occurrence in my lifetime – the better candidate for the United States Presidency won the popular vote but lost the election. And the other day, I logged onto social media to learn that one of my favorite mood poets, Leonard Cohen, had passed away at age 82.

At times like these, I tend towards the melancholy. I spent much of yesterday doing some archiving and came across a few blog posts from 2013. I realized that it was Election Day, 2012, when I moved to Mexico City and established gringopotpourri.com. My blog has changed a lot over the years. For one thing, the writing is better now than it was then. Darker, perhaps, but also better. The regionality of the content has also shifted from being mostly Mexico-focused to being largely Tennessee-focused.

To “celebrate” my blog’s four-year anniversary, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts for you, along with comments on how those posts either came to be or how they hold up today. And as always: Thanks for reading!

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Photo Locale of the Month – October 2016

China. Legendary setting for the adventures of Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, and other larger-than-life historical figures. This “Far East” country, at press time the most populous in the world, is the starting point for the Silk Road, watercourse for the Yangtze River, site of the Great Wall and of vertiginous karst hills that doubled as Wookiee land in the Star Wars films, and location of what is currently the largest city in the world (Shanghai).

China features more points of touristic interest than perhaps any other place on earth. Most travelers make it to Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Fewer, though, make it to Shanxi Province. Datong, an industrial city of 3.3 million people, is the gateway to Inner Mongolia. It is an overnight train ride (or one-hour flight) from Beijing. The city’s western outskirts are home to one of the country’s most remarkable sites: the Yunggang Caves.

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Cemeteries around the World

Fall is my second favorite season. Autumn leaves, crisp morning air, cool, foggy nights, haunted houses, S’mores, the list goes on….

During my travels I grew to love cemeteries. Sounds morbid, yes? But hear me out. There is a sort of peace in these places, walking amongst the tombstones, alone with your thoughts. Fall is an especially great time of year to visit cemeteries. For one thing, fallen leaves will crunch beneath your feet (hopefully the only sound you’ll hear besides, perhaps, the hoot of a screech owl). For another, your imagination gets carried away with memories of a gazillion horror movies come to life. (Especially if you visit after dark.)

Here is a collection of images from some of the more interesting cemeteries I’ve come across during my travels. Not all pictures were taken during fall, but the season, along with my mother’s recent passing, has found me reflecting on life…and death.

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Photo Locale of the Month – September 2016

It amazes me sometimes how quickly time flies. Five years have passed since I visited this month’s photo locale – a mountain retreat for kings and queens of old, and one of Mediterranean Europe’s most undiscovered gems.

Sintra, Portugal, which sits in the mountains roughly 30 minutes inland from Lisbon, was the longtime resort getaway for Portuguese royalty. A series of castles and palaces, some whimsical, some stately, some medieval, dot the hilly landscape. They are a shutterbug’s delight, and a simple day trip (which is all that many tour bus travelers get) is nowhere near enough time to take in all that Sintra has to offer.

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Urban Graffiti around the World

I spent part of last Saturday afternoon walking around downtown Knoxville. It was a perfect summer day, with non-threatening clouds and a gentle breeze. As I headed from Gay Street towards Market Square, one block away, I passed an alley that travels between the two…and did a double take.

Graffiti, alive with color, adorned both sides of this urban alley, and a dozen or so tourists were snapping pictures. When in Rome, the saying goes…and so I did.

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