Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer at Mount Washington

About three hours north of where we live in Victoria there's a ski area called Mount Washington.  It's also a pretty summer destination with its boardwalk around the alpine meadows.  That's where I went with some of the members of my book club this weekend to celebrate our 20th(!) anniversary.

In normal years there would be lots of nice walks in the meadows in the middle of July.  But not this year.  This year Mount Washington had a record snowfall.  Someone told me that it was 57 feet of snow.  So much snow that they were still skiing on the first of July.

Here's what the boardwalk looked like on the 23rd of July.  Still lots of snow.

That didn't stop us from having fun and enjoying some nice walks, although we weren't really expecting this kind of terrain.

It's a beautiful place and as winter segues into a late spring there are lots of plants and flowers to photograph.

The Paintbrush in several colours.

Something called a Marsh Daisy (I think), which seemed to thrive in the snowmelt in the meadow.

The lovely Lupine.

 And the wild Columbine with its delicate ballerina costume look. 

I guess if spring is here in mid-July, can summer be far behind?  Here's hoping so!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Italian wells and fountains

One of the things that becomes apparent in old cities is the pivotal importance of water sources.  Every place we went in Italy had many wells and fountains as central features in their public places. And I'm not talking about the fancy fountains in the famous piazzas in Venice and Rome, but the smaller ones in every little square and towns where people still get water.  When you think about it, the well would have been the meeting place for people in a time when there was no running water in houses.

Here are a few of the water sources I found. 

This one is in Florence, right in the busy part of the city.  Not sure if it was for laundry or for filling water buckets--but it still functions beautifully.

These are from Venice.  Here every little square has a cistern type well, all of them capped now.  But in many places here there are also functional fountains.  Apparently Venice's water now comes from the Alps and is very good for drinking from its many fountains.

Here's the only photo I have of a fountain in Civita, the little town atop a pillar across from our farmhouse.  One of Civita's many cats takes a drink.

Next we go to Rome, and I'm not going to show you the Trevi Fountain or any of the famous ones in the Piazzas because you've probably seen those photos many times before.   But there are smaller fountains everywhere, many of them very beautiful.  Like these two.

But Rome also has many functional fountains like this one in the center of the Campo Fiori fruit and vegetable market, here being used by a young woman to rinse her pan.

And this photo of a well and fountain is from Ostia Antica, the two thousand year old ruin of the harbor city outside of Rome.  The spouts are at the top of the marble column to the right of the photo and more spouts for filling buckets are underneath the lip.

My final photo was taken in Lucca, a lovely town in Tuscany that is still completely surrounded by its Medieval walls and ramparts.  Inside the walls are a number of wells--and you can see that this one still gets a lot of use as a source of drinking water and a meeting place.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ruby Tuesday ruins

For Ruby Tuesday I'm giving you this photo of poppies growing in the fields at Ostia Antica, the ancient Roman harbour that is now a ruin--and a fascinating place to explore.  We spent a day there last month and it was one of the highlights of our Italy trip.  Soon I'll do an entire post on this peaceful place.

Visit Work of the Poet to see many other takes on a ruby red theme.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What the bee sees

The other day I took a walk with Callie along the road by our Saturna cabin.  We wanted to take a look at the gorgeous fox gloves blooming there.  They are late this year and that's good because I got to take some photos of them in their prime. I love these flowers, not just for their poetic name, but also for the way they beautify the woods and roadsides with their tall flowering stalks.

But yesterday I saw this common flower in a different way.  We had just seen seen a movie about the honey bees with stunning closeups of the bees crawling right inside the flowers.  The photo below shows how the fox glove looks to the bee.  Enticing, no?
It looks like a tiny orchid even.

The movie gave me a whole new appreciation for these incredible insects.  One commentator mentioned that the aesthetics of the bees match those of humans: we are both attracted to the same colors and scents of flowers.

The documentary is called The Queen of the Sun, what the bees are telling us, and it looks at the collapse of the honey bee colonies caused by pesticide use and other issues.  But it's also a hopeful and inspiring look at the way people around the world are getting together to address the problem.

Here's a link to a page on the website:  Ten things you can do to help the bees  Did you know, for example, that bees are thirsty and benefit from a dish of water placed in the garden?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Italian terrain

One of the coolest things about traveling around Italy was seeing the landscapes of the Renaissance paintings come to life.  The terrain is soft and rolling in many places with fields and trees that seem to have changed little if at all in hundreds of years.  Here's what we saw from train and car windows as we wandered around.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Complementary colors

Aren't these flowers just brilliant? These two flowers, the delphinium and the rose, exemplify the most intense versions of these complementary colors: orange/yellow and blue/purple. I love the way they complement each other, one so vibrant and warm and the other so deep and cool.

By the way, I will be posting some more Italy photos in upcoming days.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Lagoon Islands

In contrast to sombre Venice, here are some images from the Lagoon Islands Murano (famed for glass blowing) and Burano (famed for lace making).  Here the canals are wider and the buildings softer and brighter.  We spent a day visiting these beautiful places using Venice's vaporettos.  Aren't they lovely?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Views of Venice

We've been home nearly a week and have settled back into our life.  It took a while to find the things we tucked away to clear up the house for our dog sitters.  I've managed to get my photos onto the main computer and want to show a few highlights of Venice.

I never actually thought I would get to Venice and in fact last year when we spent one night in Las Vegas it was the Venetian that we visited because I wanted to see the Rialto Bridge and the grand canal.  I have to say that the tourist area around Saint Mark's square and the Bridge of sighs kind of reminded me of a more crowded version of the Venetian Hotel experience, except it was real.

This is high tide at San Marco and you can see that the water actually does rise right into the piazza.  Apparently a few years ago they took up every stone and added several inches of sand to raise the level but still this is what happens at the height of the tide.

Nobody seemed at all concerned about it.

My favorite part of Venice though, was the backwaters.  Once we got into the little canals we could see the real Venice.  Here the gondolas aren't just for tourists, they're used for transportation. I took some walks early in the morning and kept having to retrace my steps because the narrow stone alley would just end at a canal.  In some cases there are little bridges but in others there is just the water or perhaps steps going down into the water so you can get into a gondola.

I became somewhat obsessed with taking pictures of gondolas and canals.  here are few that give an idea of the beauty of this unusual city.  It just continued to amaze me that the buildings rise right out of the water and that people manage to live their daily lives in such an environment.  There were no cars at all.  Everything is delivered by boat and handcart.
The mood of this city is sombre and quiet in spite of the tourists.  The tarps over the boats and the poles indicating a gondola stop are the brightest colors you see.  Occasionally there are flowers in window boxes but there is a dreamy stillness everywhere with the still water and the reflections of the ancient stone buildings in the water.