U Are Alive street art

Foto Friday: U Are Alive

U Are Alive mural

This mural spoke to me when I first spotted it on the Internet. When I learned that it is in Dublin, I set out on a quest to track it down to see it for myself, and I did. Unfortunately there’s always a car parked in front of the best bit.

The mural simply says:



*avail of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity


Such a simple sentiment, but so profound.

Foto Friday: Eating Ice Cream in Bariloche

Bariloche Ice cream

It’s a reality of travelling that some days are going to be effed up no matter how much you have your act together. Those days call for ice cream.

It was going to be great. It was unusual to have much free time during our tour of South America, but on this day in Bariloche, Argentina, we had a huge block of it. I was going to whip off the article I owed my editor and then head out and explore for hours and hours!

The Internet gods were having none of that. The hotel’s internet connection unexpectedly devolved into glacial mode and instead of my work taking half an hour to complete, I spent hours wrestling with a bad connection, cajoling it to work, pleading with hotel IT people. Finally I had no other choice but to decamp to McDonald’s and use their wi-fi to submit my work.

With only an hour or so of free time left, I did what any sensible person would do. I took a walk and went for ice cream.

Admittedly, seeking chocolate and ice cream is my default response to stress and frustration, but if there were ever an ideal place for me to be stressed out, Bariloche is it. This town in Patagonia is famous for its chocolate and there is a heladeria (ice cream shop) on almost every street street corner. I went for milk chocolate, white chocolate and dulce de leche, which were all tremendously satisfying choices. Plus, I conducted the entire conversation, albeit a brief one, in Spanish with no pointing required whatsoever. It’s the small victories that count.

Foto Friday: Another Rainy Day in Glasgow

Rainy Day in Glasgow

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Foto Friday post, partly because it was distracting me from doing “real” posts, but mainly because nowadays I have difficulty remembering what day it is. But today I felt inspired and it is indeed Friday for once, so here you have it.

It might come as a surprise to you to learn that it rains a lot in Scotland. At least it did when I visited in October. It rained almost every day I spent in this otherwise delightful country. I snapped this picture while walking back along the Clyde on my way home from the Riverside Museum. Hey, the sun is coming out!

Foto Friday: Royal Botanical Gardens

Sometimes you just need to be around living things. A few weeks ago, just as the seemingly endless winter was finally fading away, my buddy Rob and I took an outing to Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario.

There wasn’t a whole lot going on just then as it was still the off season botanically speaking. Perhaps I should have been more insistent that we wait a few weeks, but the city boy was super enthusiastic and who am I to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm?

Is there no end to this?
Is there no end to this?

The Bulb Room was worth the price of admission in itself. After such a desolate, ceaseless winter, the sight of all kinds of colourful tulips, daffodils, and other flowers was a huge lift. The greenhouse had lots fascinating cacti and succulents. We were constantly dodging the members of a wedding party who were getting their pictures done (seafoam green dresses and all!) but I think we both managed to take some good photos while staying out of wedding albums (despite being tempted to photobomb them on a few occasions.)

Royal Botanical Gardens also had a large dinosaur exhibit, which is not something I expected. We weren’t all that enthralled by it, but it probably had far more appeal to pint-sized nerdlets, which is the age group it’s aimed at. We did have some fun playing with the mutoscope, which is a device that foresaged motion pictures. Essentially it’s like a giant flipbook and when you turn the crank the cards in a giant rolodex thingy flip past and it forms an animation.

Without further ado, here are some photos:

Even just the small part of Royal Botanical Gardens that we saw was worthwhile, and that was only a fraction of their hundreds of hectares of gardens! I can’t wait to pay a return visit and photograph more amazing plants.

Eveline Rapa Nui Easter Island

Foto Friday: Badass Eveline


Meet Eveline. She’s a badass.

Eveline is an indigenous Rapa Nui from Easter Island. She is fiercely proud and protective of her homeland. Eveline does not suffer fools gladly. If you make fun of her language or giggle over someone’s loincloth, she will call you out on it. She wants you to know the facts about Easter Island and the Rapa Nui people and will fill your brain with as much knowledge as you can handle and then some more for good measure. She can dance the traditional dances, sings traditional songs, and rolls her own cigarettes.

When you live in one of the most remote places on Earth,  a speck of land amid a vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, badassery seems to come with the territory. Survival on Easter Island has never been easy and periods of confinement and enslavement that nearly wiped out the Rapa Nui only made them tougher.

Eveline has a warrior spirit and, though it does not make for the most easygoing of tour guides, I think that’s awesome. She grated on the nerves of some of the people in my tour group, most of whom only ever travel on group tours like this one. You get the sense that she is on an urgent mission to preserve and disseminate Rapa Nui culture and history to the world, which may not always make for a breezy, lighthearted tour. The reason that’s awesome is that with Eveline you know you’re not getting the touristy treatment. Unlike the some of the hokier cultural shows we saw in other places, there’s no way in hell that Eveline’s going to pander to the tourists. She is there to show you things as they are, rather than what you would like to see.  Amen to that, sister.

Foto Friday: Chrysalis

Anticipation and expectation are all around. It seems as though everyone in my life is waiting for something right now. Spring has taken its sweet time arriving this year, so we are left waiting for signs of life. My sister is embarking on a new career and is waiting for certain pieces to fall into place that could rearrange her family’s lives completely. I await some news that will shape my travels this year. Anticipation is building for TBEX — which is only six weeks away now — and the excitement and opportunities it may bring.

So it seemed fitting that I should post this image of chrysalides captured at the Butterfly Conservatory in Niagara Falls two weekends ago. Inside each of them a caterpillar is quietly, patiently transforming into a butterfly.


Foto Friday: Live From the Sambadrome

Nerd At Large at the Sambadrome

We looked at each other and spontaneously exclaimed in unison “Let’s do this.”

Ten minutes earlier, Roseitta and I had arrived along with the rest of our tour group at the Sambadrome, which is the purpose-built stadium used for the samba parades during Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, and were shown to the “museum”. It was the last stop of the day, following on the heels of our exciting ride up Corcovado to see Christ the Redeemer, and the group’s energy level was flagging. The so-called museum wasn’t all that impressive. It was merely two rooms no bigger than your average storefront, with costumes from last year’s parade displayed on the walls and a less-than-riveting video playing on a small TV at the back of the room. Nobody looked terribly impressed.

On the way here, our tour director, Marcela, had mentioned that you could try on the costumes and have your photo taken for about $5. At the museum everyone else was too cool for school, and the folks in our group seemed to be more interested in where their next glass of red wine would be coming from than samba. For me, the samba parade is the first image that comes to mind when I think about Rio, so the stop was turning out to be a disappointment, especially because no one else seemed to have any interest in trying on the costumes. It was all feeling a bit meh.

But then in a moment of pure spontaneity Roseitta and I just looked up at each other and our body language betrayed what we’d both been thinking but been too shy to say aloud, “I want to wear a costume!” and that is when we made our pact. In the next breath we told Marcela we wanted to do it, and she hurried us over to the attendant. Apparently we were scheduled to leave in a couple of minutes. What happened next was just amazing.

The attendant sprang into action and was simultaneously whipping garments off the wall with one hand while festooning us with them with the other. I couldn’t help but get into the spirit and began moving my hips and shoulders to the rhythm of the samba music. Suddenly there were at least 40 people watching us, and some of them began moving to the music as well. They started smiling and clapping to the beat as we put on a show of getting our costumes on. We sambaed our way through the crowd and went outside for our photo. It all happened very quickly, as Marcela was getting anxious about being late, but as we rushed back inside to return our regalia and pay, I noticed a dozen people putting on costumes. The ice had been broken.

And that is why these 90 seconds were my favourite moment of the whole trip.

Foto Friday: Santa Monica Pier in Black and White

We got carried away at Santa Monica Pier. The pier was the first real sightseeing outing that Roseitta and I took during our trip and we kinda went crazy taking photos that day. Carnivals are one of my all-time favourite subjects to photograph, so it came as no surprise when I downloaded my pics that I’d shot over 1,000 images during our day surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, a mesmerizing Ferris Wheel, fascinating characters, fun and games. It was amazing to see how different everything looked as the light changed from afternoon, to evening, to night.

Lately I’ve been rather taken with black-and-white photography, which has surprised me given how crazy I am about colourful things. I recently offered to do a guest post for The Planet D on Los Angeles in black-and-white, and while I was compiling the photos for it I was drawn to so many of the images I shot in Santa Monica. So I created this photo essay for Foto Friday to show you some of the pier’s finer details in monochrome. In a way, black-and-white is also fitting because it was so frizzin’ frazzin’ cold when we were there!

Click on any of the images to view the whole dealio as a slideshow.

Easter Island bunny

Foto Friday: The Ridiculous Easter Island Bunny

You can tell from the expression on my face that I wasn’t an entirely willing participant in this production. No, I didn’t lose a bet. A dare is more like it, but even doesn’t quite fit. The story behind this photograph is actually kind of sad.

Easter Island bunny

This isn’t the time or place to tell the whole tale just yet, but in a nutshell it was important to take this photo of me impersonating the Easter Bunny on Easter Island because I promised Roseitta that I would.  Even though I felt silly, and fretted that it might offend the locals, it was the least I could do given that she never made it to Easter Island like we planned. A friend who wouldn’t sacrifice a bit of her dignity to keep a promise isn’t worth having, right?

So, I hope this brings a smile to your face, and Happy Easter if that’s your thing. Springtime greetings to one and all!

Foto Friday: A Taste of Easter Island

I’ve made you wait long enough. There will be oodles of posts about Easter Island to come, but here are a few photos to whet your appetite for this incredible destination. This barely scratches the surface of what I saw. I’ve spent half a day organizing and editing photos, and had to stop when I realized that I had only reached the half-way mark of our first day on Easter Island!

Most of these images are from Ahu Tongariki, where there is the largest concentration of restored moai, and Rano Raraku which is the quarry where the moai were carved by the Rapa Nui master craftsmen.

I’ve been experimenting with the layout and would love to hear what you think. Click on any photo to enlarge and view as a slideshow.