Posted by ed on 26th January 2014

If a picture is worth 1000 words, how many words is a photosphere?

Posted on 26th January 2014
Under: Photo Sphere, San Francisco | No Comments »

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Posted by ed on 15th December 2013

I went for a wander around San Francisco today. The city is really getting into the Christmas spirit. Between the city decorations, SantaCon and Google Auto Awesome, I captured a few Christmas-y shots:

Snowman at Civic Center

For mor photos, check out the album on Google+ (including a video).

Posted on 15th December 2013
Under: San Francisco | No Comments »

European Adventure: Is This the End?

Posted by ed on 23rd July 2013

As we were preparing to leave Paris, we decided to plan out our final couple weeks in Europe. We had booked a flight from London to the US for June 25 so we could attend my niece’s’ wedding. We decided we could squeeze in 3 more cities in the time we had left. We chose Krakow, Warsaw and Berlin.

Krakow, Poland (inc. Auschwitz-Birkenau)

On June 12 we flew from Paris to Krakow. We had booked a nice hotel just off the main square in Krakow’s old town. The old town (pictured on left) reminds me a bit of Prague, which we had visited last Christmas. The central square is quite big and is dominated by the cloth market hall in the center, the old city hall tower in one corner and St. Mary’s Basilica (pictured on right) in the opposite corner. There are tons of cafes and restaurants around the square (and throughout the old town) with lots of sidewalk seating. There are various stalls inside the cloth market hall and horse drawn carriages for hire around the square. For me, the highlight of the square is the basilica. The interior is beautiful with patterned brick walls and a deep blue ceiling.

There are many old churches and other old buildings around the old town. At one end of the old town is the Wawel (pictured on left), a fortified complex on a hill overlooking the town and the Vistula River. The main buildings on the hill are the Royal Castle and the Wawel Cathedral. We visited the cathedral and did a tour of the Royal Apartments and Armoury.

While visiting Krakow, we did venture out to the Kazimierz neighborhood, which is the old Jewish quarter. We also took a day trip to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (pictured on right). Auschwitz-Birkenau is a sobering place to visit. The camps are huge, especially Birkenau. There are numerous displays describing the horrific things that happened there, but most of the site is empty buildings or ruins of buildings.

There are more photos in the Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau albums.

Warsaw, Poland

On June 16 we took a train to Warsaw. Warsaw is more spread out than Krakow, but it also has a nice old town (pictured on left). Warsaw’s old town was very heavily damaged during WWII, but has since been rebuilt in the original style. New Town is just past the rebuilt barbican of the Old Town. Next to the New Town is Multimedia Park with a cool water fountain display. A bit further afield, we visited Wilanow Palace (pictured on right) and Lazienki Park. Lazienki Park has numerous palaces and in the park we encountered red squirrels. Throughout the city there are memorials to some of the most famous Pols, such as Copernicus, Chopin and Marie (Sklowdowska) Curie.

There are more photos in the Warsaw album.

Berlin, Germany

We caught a train from Warsaw to Berlin on June 19. Unbeknownst to us, we were arriving in Berlin on the same day that President Obama was giving a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. As it turns out our accommodations were located a few blocks from the Gate (pictured on left) on the opposite side from the train station. We tried to catch the U-bahn, but the Brandenburg stop was closed. We tried to walk, but the roads and bridges were cordoned off. Eventually we were able to take the S-bahn to Friedrichstrasse and walk from there.

It was really hot when we were in Berlin. We ended up staying indoors for parts of the afternoons, but we still managed to see quite a lot. On the first full day we started at the Potsdamerplatz and did a self guided walking tour which included the Sony Center, Philharmonie, parts of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. On the next day we did another walking tour which included Unter den Linden, Bebelplatz, Berliner Dom (lower left), Museum Island, City Hall, TV Tower and Alexanderplatz. That evening we were able to visit the dome on the Bundestag and enjoyed the sunset from there. On the final full day we visited Charlottenburg Palace and spent our last evening around the Brandenburg Gate.

There are more photos in the Berlin album.

One June 23 we flew to London and spent the next day saying goodbye to friends and tying up a few loose ends. On the 25th of June we were heading back to the United States, more specifically, to Erie, PA to attend my niece’s wedding. We’re still in Erie as of the writing of this blog, but are heading to the San Francisco Bay Area later this week.

So, is this the end of our European Adventure? I guess we don’t really know. Stay tuned to see where we end up…

Posted on 23rd July 2013
Under: Travel | No Comments »

European Adventure: Friends in France

Posted by ed on 20th July 2013

We flew in to Bergerac, France on June 3 to visit some friends in the Lot Valley. We stayed for a few nights at Michele and Nigel’s place in Pericard. Michele and Chikako showed us around over the next few days. We met a lot of Brits and Americans living in the area. We also visited some of the towns and bastides (fortified towns) including Villeneuve-Sur-Lot, Bonaguil, Penne-d’Agenais and Pujols. One of the highlights was the Chateau de Bonaguil (pictured on left).

There are more photos in the Lot Valley album.

On June 7, we took a train from Bergerac to Paris where we met up with the Danners and the Zaidspiners. The Danners had arrived by train from Frankfurt where they had started their summer holiday. The Zaidspiners had arrived by car from Frankfurt where Dan was working for the week. We all met up near the Eiffel Tower (pictured on right). Over the next couple days we toured around the city.

It had been a few years since I’d seen Greg, and about 6 since I’d last seen Jacinda, Merlin and Cooper. We had a lot of fun wandering around Paris, eating good food (picture on left) and visiting such sites as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.

I had not seen Dan Z. for more than six years, and had never met his wife. It was really great catching up with them. 

It was sad parting ways with everyone, but each of us has our own roads to travel. The Danners were heading for further adventure in Munich and the Alps. The Zaidspiners were heading back to the States. Mary and I spent another day or two in Paris before moving on to our next destination: Poland.

There are more photos in the Paris album.

Posted on 20th July 2013
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European Adventure: Cruising the Norwegian Fjords

Posted by ed on 15th July 2013

As I mentioned in a previous post (Cruising the Eastern Med), we had the opportunity to take a second cruise during our European Adventure. This time we took a 10 night cruise on the Celebrity Infinity to the Norwegian Fjords. I have always wanted to see the fjords, and what better way to see them than from a ship. The cruise left from Harwich, England. So we flew from Venice to London, stayed a couple nights, then took a train to Harwich.

Infinity at Sea

The cruise left from the port of Harwich, England on May 24 at 5PM. After spending a couple days in chilly London, we were really concerned that we would freeze in Norway. As it turned out, aside from a couple rainy days, we had fantastic weather, warm and sunny.

The ship, Infinity, was very nice. However, our opinion of it suffered a bit due to our recent experience on the much newer Reflection. The ship was not as large, but still had plenty to offer. Our stateroom was an accessible room, so was large for it’s class. It was located in the middle of the stern on deck 9. We really had some fantastic views, especially when leaving ports.

During the cruise, we spent 2 days at sea, day 2 (May 25) and day 10 (June 2).

All photos of and on the ship are in the album Infinity at Sea.


On day 3 of the cruise (May 26), we reached our first port of call, Oslo. We arrived in Oslo not really knowing what to do. We had read about a couple museums that sounded interesting, so we set off to the tourist information center to find out some details. We ended up getting a transit pass and took a ferry across the harbor to Bygdoy to visit a couple of them. We started with the Norwegian Folk Museum, which is an open air museum containing relocated historical homes and buildings like the Gol Stave Church (pictured on left). It also contains a working farm and stages various cultural events throughout the year.

In case you could not tell from my website, I am very interested in Vikings! So we next we visited the Viking Ship Museum which houses 3 Viking ships in various states of disrepair: the Osberg ship (pictured on right), the Gokstad ship and the Tune ship. These ships were excavated from various burial mounds around Norway. In addition to the ships, the museum houses a number of other Viking artifacts.

After the museums, we headed back into town. First we went to Frogner Park to see the Vigeland statue installations. The park is full of sculptures, anchored by the Monolith plateau in the middle of the park. It was a hot, sunny day and the park was full of sunbathers.

Heading further into town we saw sights like the Royal Palace, Parliament (pictured on left), City Hall, Cathedral and Opera House.

There are more photos in the Oslo album.


Oslo is quite a ways from the main fjords of Norway, so on day 4 (May 27) we stopped at the port of Kristiansand. There aren’t any major sight in Kristiansand that we were aware of, but the town is nice. It was raining on this day, but we walked around the town and visited the church and harbor. We also stopped for a really good (and expensive) cappuccino at a cafe with the fastest free wifi I’ve ever seen.

There are more photos in the Kristiansand album.


Day 5 (May 28) brought us to Stavanger. The main site we wanted to see was the Lysefjord. To get there, we needed to catch a tour boat in the harbor. After standing in line for quite some time, we managed to get 2 of the last 3 tickets for the boat. It took close to an hour to get to the Lysefjord, but the trip there was quite scenic. In the fjord (pictured left), we saw sights like Pulpit Rock and the troll heart in the rocks. We also stopped to feed some goats and to collect water from a waterfall (which we got to taste).

There are more photos in the Stavanger album.


The town of Alesund was our port on Day 6 (May 29). It another pretty town where we visited a church and some shops. For the bulk of the day, we climbed up the stairs to the top of Mount Aksla and went for a few mile hike. It was a beautiful day and the views from the mount (see right) are fantastic. After our hike we stopped at a cafe then returned to the ship.

There are more photos in the Alesund album.


On Day 7 (May 30) we reached Geiranger. Geiranger lies at the head of the Geirangerfjord which is a branch off another fjord. In Geiranger we hiked up to a mountain farm then on to the Storseterfossen waterfall. There’s a trail at the top that goes behind the waterfall. On the way back down to the port we stopped at the mountain farm for waffles. The views from the cafe at the farm are terrific. The farm has sheep, goats and a few llamas. Sailing out of the Geirangerfjord was beautiful with cliffs on both sides, farms hanging on the mountains and numerous waterfalls (including the Seven Sisters pictured left).

There are more photos in the Geiranger album.


Day 8 (May 31) was one of the highlights of the trip. On this day our port of call was Flam. We left the boat early to stand in line for tickets for the Flam Railway then had time for a leisurely breakfast on the ship. When our time arrived, we boarded the train from Flam to Myrdal. It’s a beautiful 20km ride along the Flam River valley, including a very wet stop at Kjosfossen waterfall. We got off at Myrdal and hiked part of the way back through the incredible valley (picture right). Back in Flam we visited the Flam Railway Museum.

There are more photos in the Flam album.


Our final port, on Day 9 (June 1), was Bergen. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. The weather wasn’t great, so we spent a leisurely day visiting shops and cafes along the harbor.

There are more photos in the Bergen album.

On day 11 (June 3) we arrived back in Harwich. In Harwich we caught the train back to London, then connected to Gatwick for a flight to our next destination: Bergerac, France.

Posted on 15th July 2013
Under: Travel | No Comments »