Photo Locale of the Month – September 2018

Do you ever feel like disappearing into the mountains for a few days as a way of leaving your troubles behind? Yeah, I do, too. A few days of breathing clean – but thin – mountain air and taking in sub-alpine vistas can really cleanse one’s soul, and even though the journey doesn’t truly offer a permanent escape from whatever ails you, the trip can at least help put life’s crises into manageable perspective.

I lived in California for 12 years, and “escaped” into the mountains whenever possible. The 65-mile Backbone Trail, which I have section-hiked countless times, was no more than an hour’s drive from my apartment. That being said, there isn’t a single hiking experience in California that is on par with hiking in the High Sierra. Yosemite National Park, Inyo National Forest, Sequoia/Kings Canyon…these are special places.

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Photo Locale of the Month – August 2018

In many ways, Scandinavia is the best region of Europe in which to travel. It is safe, clean, and progressive. The fish is fresh, the summer days are long, and the green space is plentiful. Finally, the level of spoken English is often better than even, it sometimes seems, what you’ll find in the United States…making travel here a breeze.

Last month’s photo entry about Suomenlinna, near Finland, was only the first blog post about the wonders of the region; a tremendous narrative oversight by yours truly. For August, let us cross the border to the east into Sweden, my favorite country in the region. The coastal town of Kalmar, which ranked number one on my list of the top ten small cities and towns in Europe, is home to one of Scandinavia’s greatest wonders, Kalmar Castle.

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Photo Locale of the Month – July 2018

July is a terrific month for visiting Scandinavia. For one thing, the long daylight hours mean that sidewalk cafes and public squares bustle as late as 9 p.m. or even later. For another thing, kids are off school, so museums aren’t mobbed with the usual field trip crowds. For another thing still, the weather is quite pleasant in mid-summer, so it makes it easy for those of us who do not hail from there to see why countries such as Norway, Denmark, and Finland rank so high on quality-of-life meters.

Take Finland. I had a chance to visit that country’s capital, Helsinki, on part of a much longer trip in 2009 that also included time spent in South Africa, Greece, and Russia. It was early July when I arrived, and except for one rainy day, I had mostly sunny skies and long afternoons rife for exploring at a time of year when the sky didn’t grow dark until 11 p.m. One day even found me taking a dip in the Baltic Sea! (Please don’t try that at home, Loyal Reader.) The highlight was taking a ferry past some of the city’s outlying Susiluodot Islands to its fortress and museum complex of Suomenlinna.

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Photo Locale of the Month – June 2018

China has been in the news a lot recently – and for all the wrong reasons. It seems that China’s current premier, Xi Jinping, continuing the efforts of his predecessor, Hu Jintao, to bring the country into the 21st century, has enraged the U.S.’s own orange Cheeto, one Donald J. Trump, with his bullying stance on trade. Not only that, it has long been suspected that China has sold weapons to dictators like Kim Jong-un and Bashir al-Assad, further infuriating his pompous orangeness.

But forget that for a moment. China, already an old nation when Greece was in its infancy, is a treasure trove of history and sightseeing riches – never moreso than in its ever-changing capital, Beijing, home to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.

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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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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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Photo Locale of the Month – March 2018

Although this recent winter has been one of the stranger ones in memory, spring is right around the corner. While nights and early mornings are still quite cold, dogwood trees are in bloom and the rainfall has turned the rolling hills of East Tennessee into a verdant quilt of green. Meanwhile, summer is waning in the Southern Hemisphere, where January = July and June = December.

Some below-the-equator regions, however, such as Central Chile and Northern Argentina, enjoy a mild year-round climate, and you can visit cities like Santiago and Buenos Aires well into April and still enjoy what I call shorts-and-sandals weather. It was in March, 2011, in fact, when I found myself enjoying two warm, sunny days exploring downtown Buenos Aires. 

This obelisk, with eight lanes of traffic on each side of Avenida 9 de Julio (the widest street in the world, and named after Argentina’s Independence Day), is the defining symbol of Buenos Aires.

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Photo Locale of the Month – February 2018

The Olympics are in full swing and the South Korean city of PyeongChang – certainly not to be confused with Pyongyang, in the North – is enjoying an influx of tourists, athletes, and advertising dollars. At press time, the medal count is Norway 17, Germany 15, and Canada 13. The U.S. is in fifth place, with 8. These standings will surely change.

Although I’ve never been to PyeongChang – nor to Pyongyang, for that matter – I have been to Seoul, the vibrant capital of South Korea and part of a greater metropolis that, all told, is home to almost 26 million people, according to worldpopulationreview.com. Seoul is a teeming city that never sleeps, but, like Tokyo, Beijing, and other East Asian mega-cities, its skyscrapers are punctuated by verdant green spaces. This month’s gallery pays homage to Seoul’s urban gardens and palaces.

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Photo Locale of the Month – January 2018

As a Northern Hemisphere denizen, I cannot help but mention the weather in any wintertime photo locale post in which the location is in a warmer clime. After all, with bomb cyclones and polar vortexes having placed much of the U.S. and Canada in a deep freeze for the first week of the new year (even Florida had snow for the first time in 30 years!), it only makes sense to write about some place warmer.

For this month’s entry, that place is Granada, Nicaragua. This jewel of Spanish colonial architecture in Central America, Nica’s one time capital and the country’s most conservative city is one of the most vibrant towns on the planet. I can hardly believe that it was exactly one year since my visit.

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Photo Locale of the Month – December 2017

It is going on the last day of the year as I write this. And what a year it’s been! Weather in East Tennessee has been unusually cold of late, even for December, and I know that states to my north have it worse. Put it this way: I’m glad I don’t live in Minnesota right now.

As such, I wanted to feature pics from a place with warm weather 24/7/365. I immediately thought of Cuba, where I was just nine months ago. The island nation, which suffered heavy rains and flooding this past September from Hurricanes Irma and Maria yet recovered quickly, will be forever in my heart. And the grand seaside boulevard of its enticing capital city, Havana’s malecón, is the locale in question for this month’s entry…my last post of 2017.

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