Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Now What?

Doug and I went in quest of ancient walled hilltop cities this morning. We drove aimlessly until we stumbled across one and I drove through the massive stone gate into the narrow cobbled streets. I made a right onto a path which was too steep and too narrow even for the new me, and especially for my car. Down, down, down ahead of me I saw two buses stopped in a wide spot turning around getting ready to go back up hill.

In the act of casting my eyes skyward in prayer I noticed "it" above me. I feel like I've already used up all possible superlatives in this blog, so what can I say to describe what I saw? One of the cities of heaven? It was perfect. Our quest had ended.

I, of course, found a small indent in the cliff face into which I tucked our car as the buses roared past. Down and around a blind turn was a parking area, hooray. The walled town before us (Civita di Bagnoregio) was unreachable except by a path across a narrow foot bridge. For once, as we strolled along another web of unbelievably picturesque stone streets, we didn't have to dodge traffic. We had truly stepped back in time.

The only problem is, now that we've discovered the perfect walled city, what do we do next? We're already become accomplished at eating (way too much) Italian food. I guess we will simply have to wait and see what tomorrow brings...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Just a couple of snapshots from our town last night. Unlike our previous destinations, Viterbo completely shuts down by nine o'clock, and I mean completely. It was just us, this dog, and the policia driving by again and again and again.

Deep Inside

We jumped off a marble cliff into the ocean to begin our morning. A short swim brought us to a crack in the rocks which I had discovered a couple of days ago.

In we swam to discover a huge grotto (cave) with light streaming in through an opening high above. Wow! Doug, being the bold one, climbed up while I stayed behind treading water. Our newest discovery made us even sadder to check out of this great hotel (Delfino) and hit the road.

We now find ourselves in the Medieval walled town of Viterbo, where narrow streets twist between walls of stone. How retro!

Monday, September 28, 2009

On And On

My mistake, yesterday's race was more stock carish and definitely not formula 1. We hiked part of the race course this morning and appreciated the bounty of the countryside.

Everyone has olive trees and nets are strategically placed under each tree for the harvest. I had never eaten an olive fresh from the tree before and can now understand why they are only sold pickled. Still, they are good, but only in quantities of one. They have a sharp bitterness which you can experience for yourself if you buy a bottle of gourmet extra extra virgin olive oil, the really expensive kind.

We also saw lots of grapes being hand harvested and ate ripe figs which were hanging over the road. A magic spell is being cast over me by this place and it is growing stronger by the day. We had lunch on the hotel terrace and did not want to leave our table the view was so magical. At this moment church bells are ringing from just up the hill, small waves are quietly lapping against the cliffs and a warm breeze is stirring our gauzy white curtains.

I finally got into the ocean after lunch and was a little intimidated by unfamiliar jellyfish, so I contented myself with taking photos of them rather than going for a long swim. I know, I know, any excuse to avoid exercise. By the way, even though it looks phony, the photo of me and the jellyfish is real (I don't have Photoshop on my travelling computer).

Wow, all this running around and seeing the sights has obviously gotten to me. I usually have a hard time sitting still, but this afternoon I had the best time sitting in the shade reading a book. I want this vacation to go on forever.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Could It Get Any Better?

The road from our hotel was closed all day today for an automobile race, but that didn't matter to us. We had already planned on sailing to the island of Capri today for Doug's 55th birthday. It gets better. We found out that ours is the only hotel where the boat comes right up to the cliff steps to pick up and drop off passengers. Our boat was small enough that it circled Capri and pulled into two different Grottos, or sea caves.

We spent the day hiking the island the easy way - downhill. We took a bus across and part way up, and a chairlift the rest of the way to the summit. We practically flew down the trails, stairs and roads back to the harbor; stopping along the way for a Caprese pizza and Caprese Panini. Yum.

We are back in the hotel now, sitting on the lanai, gazing across the water at Capri. The sun is setting and Formula 1 cars are roaring along the cliff roads above us. How could it be any better than this?

Happy Birthday, Doug!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Main Squeeze

Shhhh! Don't tell anyone. And here I was finally beginning to feel comfortable with what Doug calls "organized chaos."

We drove to the ancient ruins of Pompeii this morning and walked and walked and walked and walked. Pompeii is huge. We all know everything about the place from what we've watched on the Discovery channel, the History channel, Fox news, etc., so there's really not much to add. What's cool, though, is that you actually walk on the same mosaics they walked on, and you could touch the frescos if you wanted to. In fact a number of tired tourists were leaning up against some very nice wall paintings.

Now back to the "organized chaos." First: I am not the one who hit the pedestrian this evening; the car is another matter...

To an American like me, driving here is unbelievable. Cars, and especially scooters, pass everywhere - including on blind hairpin turns. And we're talking about narrow, narrow streets with high stone walls on both sides. Dad, you would have loved to drive here when you were younger. What makes it all work is great kindness among drivers. Once I take a little initiative by pulling out into traffic, other drivers stop and let me in. In fact, I've even begun passing on blind turns myself. Which is where the problem happened. A car was parked in the very narrow road (an all to frequent situation) and there just was not enough room for me going one way and the truck going the other way to pass each other. So my car got a bit too friendly with the parked car. Oops. Fortunately, no one was hurt, unlike the pedestrian hit by the car in front of me, but that's a whole different story...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tight Squeeze

Steep and narrow were the roads to Positano today. Did I remember to say narrow? Both myself and the oncoming cars had to pull in our side view mirrors so that we could pass each other at some spots. The arduous driving was more than worth it for the amazing views.

We relaxed by jumping into the warm Mediterranean for a swim when we got back to the hotel. Glorious! The water was clear and I saw more fish in fifteen minutes than I do in an hour swim on Maui. No dolphins yet...

Thursday, September 24, 2009


We opened the french doors of our new hotel room and Doug started crying, stunned by the beauty. We are perched on the edge of rugged marble cliffs looking directly at the island of Capri. I was thrilled to find no less than three staircases cut into the cliffs which led to ladders into the ocean. Tomorrow I will swim!

I'm still not sure how we got here. I drove from Rome following the voice of our GPS through the narrow winding streets of Naples and Sorrento, and then along cliff roads to our hotel. I swear the GPS took us the scenic route and Doug was certain that death was imminent at least twice as I swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid obstacles in the road. Yet, here we are in a place more beautiful than we ever imagined.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On The Road

We saw lots of feral felines grooming themselves in the sun along the Appian Way today. That's where we visited ancient christian burials and maybe that's why they were called the cat-a-combs... It sounds like almost as good an explanation as the two entirely different ones we were told today. Every tour guide seems to have their own unique tale to tell and truth sometimes gets in the way of a good story. After all, it is only his-story.

We imagined Roman foot soldiers marching by as we sat under the shade of an olive tree along this ancient Roman road eating the best meal we have had so far. Chariots were bouncing along the cobble stones making a racket and the smell of cypress and wood smoke was in the air. All in all, an excellent day!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Climbing Churches

In an attempt to get closer to heaven, we climbed onto the roof of St. Pete's in Vatican City today. It all went well until the final claustrophobia inducing spiral staircase - oh my! Climbing up the outside of the dome was pretty cool too, having to lean in on the dome as we spiraled up around it.

So, am I feeling spiritually enlightened? My soles definitely are feeling something.

Ok, we've now seen all of the major sights of Rome. What to do tomorrow?

Ancient Ruins in Rome

The title says it all. Ancient Ruins in Rome.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

How Things Have Changed

Hey, the Colloseum is still standing! It has been so long since I was
last here, that I wasn't sure of what to expect. Some things have
changed, the Romans no longer wear togas...

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Spotted Anderson Cooper as he intently walked past us to board his
flight to JFK

Don Bloom at Tropical Light

Friday, September 18, 2009

All Roads Lead To...

And so begins our Glamorous Expedition to the Elegance of the Old World

Thursday, September 17, 2009


As much as I rail against the violence of sugar cane burning and processing, I realize we are witnessing the industry's dying gasps. Our Puunene mill is the last surviving sugar processing facility on Maui and its stench will not be with us much longer. Nor will those awesome billowing clouds of smoke. Somehow, I don't think I will mourn their passing.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hopping Fun

I was drawn by screams, shouts, giggles and lots of unrestrained laughter this morning. Corporate gatherings at the hotels often employ beach games as team building exercises - but they are always far more subdued (something to do with uptight executives). Today's sack race was part of the Wailea Marriott's celebration of International Housekeeping Week, and the mostly Filipino housekeeping staff was having a GREAT time. Even Maui's Mayor (upper right) was enjoying herself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Games We Play

I swam south toward a snorkel boat this morning in hopes of finding clearer water in which to swim. I got to the boat and, nope, not much better visibility; so I headed back north.

I wasn't sure, but through the gloom of murky water I thought I saw a large shape swim past. Yep, there it went again. Hooray, Spinner Dolphins! Playful Spinner Dolphins.

They were playing the leaf game. They catch a waterlogged tree leaf on a fin, nose or tail and carry it. Then they drop it, move off, and rush back to pick it back up before anyone else gets to it. A couple of times a leaf was dropped near me but they always beat me to it. I guess I better work on my underwater speed.

Two other swimmers joined me, but shortly after the dolphins headed off. Click HERE for more photos from today's swim.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Yer Out!

Strike One: When we got to the beach for our weekly Sunday swim, a local guy was washing the guts out of a (endangered species) turtle shell at the public shower. He said he found the shell on the beach already empty and that "Micronesians caught it last night and took all the meat." Which meant, of course, that any parts they didn't want had been thrown back into the ocean at our swimming area.

Strike Two: The water was incredibly murky from recent high surf and visibility was nil. Any sharks which might have been feeding on turtle guts wouldn't know what we were until too late. For us.

Strike Three: Fortunately, there was no strike three for us today. Bowing to group pressure, I swam anyway. The water cleared up a bit, but only a bit, after we got out quite a ways. Several people turned back early (smart, very smart people) and several more just a little later. Idiots that we were, we kept going. We didn't see anything, threatening or otherwise, because we couldn't see anything. We could barely see each other. I promise, next time I will "just say no!"

Click HERE for the few other photographs from this morning's swim.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Florist In Training

I'm not too bright - but I think most of you have figured that out by now.

Our house is surrounded by magnificent tropical landscaping. Yet, somehow, it hadn't occurred to me to bring that colorful foliage indoors. Thank you, Doug, for the beautiful floral arrangements you've made the past few weeks. Nicely done!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Like A Little Girl

Yep, it is a Centipede. One scary little (actually, not little enough) critter. This one was about six inches long and was scuttling all over the place. When I got close to take this photo, it stopped moving and even smiled for the camera, I think. Thank goodness! I know for a fact that if it had suddenly moved toward me, I would have jumped up and would have started screaming like a little girl. Worse, if the truth be told.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flying Away

I love the feeling of flying which I get when swimming in clear water where Spotted Eagle Rays always appear to be flying. In a week I will be flying for real and on my way to Rome.

Originally I was supposed to be traveling to Italy for a month of work, so I tacked on two weeks of vacation. My client contacted me yesterday to definitely and finally cancel the job, so I'm only left with the fun part of the trip. Yipee.

I will miss swimming in the warm clear Pacific waters, but now only have to go without for two weeks instead of six weeks. Hooray. Besides, I hear they have an ocean or something over there so, watch out Capri sea creatures.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Harp-Twanging Snarp

The Oobleck, Glunk, Snumm, were all impossible characters from the Dr. Suess books which sparked my life-long love affair with reading. I love creativity and a well-told story, and these books had both.

A great storyteller in my current life is my friend, Doug Ray. He can talk about the most ordinary happenings and make them extraordinary. His favorite topic these days: chickens. He has taken to raising chickens in his back yard; and where you have chickens, you have fertilizer. No - I meant to say: eggs. Dozens and dozens of eggs. We have become the lucky recipient of tasty organic free-range eggs.

And therein came the surprise. I knew about white eggs and brown eggs, but Green eggs? If there really are Green Eggs (and Ham) then maybe there really is a Whoville and a Harp-Twanging Snarp...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Not Me

Some of you have me all wrong. I am not a good guy. The only reason I did kayak escort duty at the Aumakua Swim Race this morning is because my photo shoot was postponed and I was bored. I was NOT helping out or being a nice guy. Get it right!

Click HERE for lots more photos from today's swim.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Different Direction

Where was everybody this morning? Sure, a lot of you swam the ten miles from Lanai to Maui yesterday, and even more of you will be doing the 2.4 mile Aumakua swim race tomorrow, so? I would think a nice little adventure swim is just what you all need.

And a nice little adventure swim is what we had. While out in the water, Lynne recounted her encounter with a large Tiger Shark in the same area. Then a few minutes later we found two White Tip Reef Sharks swimming around.

One of our visiting swimmers wasn't used to the little microscopic stinging organisms and thought she was having a serious allergic reaction to her sun screen. She was relieved to find out that she was only being attacked, nothing was wrong with her skin.

It was fun swimming a different route than our same old, same old Sunday swim. Thanks for the push, Jonathan. Who knows? Maybe you can get us to try another different course again next year.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Point of View

I guess it is all in how you look at things.

On days like today I feel like I lead the boringest, most humdrum of lives. I spent the entire day in front of my computer working - except for two brief moments outside. Is this how people are supposed to spend their weekends?

On the other hand, I walked out my front door to snap this photo of the sunset a few minutes ago. Enjoying nature's spectacular shows - this IS the way people are supposed to live!

Friday, September 4, 2009

You Win

Not that I'm competitive (yeah, right).

Net fishermen possess a level of patience which exceeds even mine (easily). They may wait thirty minutes or more before making their toss, or before moving on to another spot. Yes, I could have waited for that perfect photographic moment when the round net rotates through the air and settles into the water - but not today.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Alone Again, Naturally

The critters must be reading my blog. Today they all kept away and I only saw them from a distance.

A shark swam by almost out of sight, so I wasn't quite sure as to whether it was a "good" shark or a "bad" shark. Sometimes it is better not to know these things. A couple of big tourist snorkel boats passed by and I could hear the loudspeaker announcements about dolphins, but only saw a couple of leaps and splashes a few hundred yards away. I followed along for a while but never seemed to get any closer. An eagle ray zoomed by, but again just at the edge of my vision. Even the people I had met on the beach before my swim had disappeared before my return. Maybe if I utilize a little stealth...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The New Me

OK, here's how you can tell that I've been living on Maui for too long.

One of my (mostly) regular clients has asked me to photograph castles for them in Tuscany. All I had to do was pay the airfare, they would take care of the rest. Their executives flew in from foreign lands to meet with me, and they were so excited! I told them that over the four scheduled weeks I could photograph eight properties. They begged me to squeeze in more shoots, please.

After months of planning, lots of new equipment purchases, money spent on tickets, a new haircut, etc. they let me know today that they were unable to make the necessary arrangements and that the whole deal is off. Probably. Or not.

And guess what? I am not feeling the least bit upset (although I do have to confess to a small feeling of relief - no heading off into unknown territory, you know). I guess the islands have taken hold and I am now one Laid-Back Dude.

Whoa. How did this happen? When did this happen? I used to be a Type-A Control Freak. Don't even Think of crossing me - used to be one of my mottoes. And now...

...well, something good came out of it. I got a haircut!