China – 2011

As you may have guessed from the title, our most recent trip was to China. It was a truly amazing experience and one that I feel pretty fortunate to have had. To western eyes, China seems quite alien. (And to Chinese eyes, westerners must seem alien too, because you get stared at A LOT when walking the streets there.) I have been blessed with a sister-in-law, who is from China and was thrilled to give me a fantastic tour of her former home. Outside of an organized commercial tour, it would have been exceptionally challenging to get around and to have seen as much as we did.


The forbidden city as seen from Tiananmen Square.


The White Pagoda.


It’s very hard to adequately describe the Great Wall. We chose the section of the Wall at Mutianyu, which is less touristy. This section runs along a mountain line and is pretty challenging to walk, but the views are incredible!


By the way, almost all of the Wall that you’ve seen has actually been re-furbished. This is what much of the wall looked like before being rebuilt. If you ignore the “Do Not Enter” signs (as we did) you can walk along these unpatched areas of the Wall.


Sorry to keep butting in, but… I typically like to get away from urban centers when traveling. Usually I’ll be up at 5:00 am or so local time to photograph the countryside in the early morning light. (See the Ireland photos below.) Circumstances prevented that in the case of China, so I shifted to street photography to capture a little of the environmental feel of the experience.


If’ you’ve been to Disney World, you’ve seen this at Epcot. It is the Temple of Heaven.


We flew from Beijing about 400 miles west to the city of Xian – home of the Terracotta Warriors.


And now the food. Truly some of the most amazing food on the planet!


Ireland Occasional – Doolin & Aran

Sorry for the brief text today, time is a little short right now. This is the tiny village of Doolin. It is the location of our last B&B. Cute isn’t it?

By the way, this is our B&B, and a few more images from around the town.

The Aran Islands were our first destination of the day. They are just 40 minutes off the coast near Doolin. These are among the little surprises to be found there.

After the Aran Islands we took the ferry to view the unbelievable Cliffs of Moher This tiny image really doesn’t do these massive structures any justice. But here you are.

Ireland Occasional – Gallarus Oratory

So today we leave Portmagee. It will be missed. One more early morning walk around the place.

Crab pots – 5:30 AM.

Later in the day it was off to one of my MUST DO sites in Ireland, the Gallarus Oratory. It has stood for over 1000 years, virtually undamaged by time. While no mortar was used in the stones, the fit is so precise that it is actually waterproof. It has never been restored because it simply hasn’t needed it. The Oratory, by the way, was an early Christian church.

The Gallarus Oratory

Not too far from the Oratory stands the ruins of Kilmalkedar Church. Another ancient building that had to be seen. While the main church is younger than the Gallarus Oratory the site has a number of artifacts that are as old. Those include a sundial, and a giant stone cross, each of which predates the church building by a number of centuries.

Ireland Ocassional – Skellig

Today’s Ireland Occasional is a tale of two islands. Skellig Michael and Small Skelig. Skellig is the Irish word for “rock”. If you’re going to be in the far south west of Ireland, and you get lucky, (the number of people allowed to visit the Skeligs, and the time allowed on the island, is very limited in the name of preservation), I can’t recommend this journey enough.

So onward. Your journey to the islands begins in a boat just like the one below. You’ll get no safety talk, or directions on where the life preservers are, nothing. The skipper of the boat will simply undock and off you go.

This is your destination – the Skellig Islands:

Skellig Michael

Small Skelig

While it may appear that Small Skellig shares the white stone appearence of the Cliffs of Dover, that is not the case. The white is entirely due to the copious droppings of the Island’s main inhabitant – the Gannett. In fact, it is the largest Gannet population in all of Europe.

A little closer view:

Just beyond Small Skellig is the larger (and less shit covered) Skellig Michael. About 1400 years ago an intrepid group of monks wanted to build a monestary that would be isolated from the world. They found Skellig Michael which is about 8 miles of the coast of Ireland. When you finally arrive, your journey has just begun. It’s 660 stairs to the monestary site. No guardrails, and at times a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to jagged rocks just a few inches beside you. It was a glorious day!

Oh, by the way, if anyone was worried was worried that we wouldn’t get to see any Puffins.. We’ll lay that to rest first, then get on to the monastery.

The Ireland Occasional

I thought I’d begin the Ireland Occasional with a lady’s view. In fact, that is what the location is called, “Lady’s View.” Supposedly, it was named thusly because Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting so loved the view during a visit in 1861. And I’ll go with the ladies on this one.

And while were doing landscapes here’s another from above section of Kenmare Bay.

Our B&B is in the remote fishing village of Portmagee. This is just a brief view of Portmagee at 5:30 am.

More soon.