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We Interrupt Our Bali Blog…

With over 1500 photos of Bali to edit, it will take me a bit of time to resume my blog; but I promise I will.  In the meantime, I have arrived in Sydney for a few days of exploration. I’ve got a cute little flat in Darlinghurst, which I guess is considered a suburb, though it’s close-in: theoretically a 20-minute walk to the Opera House and Royal Botanic Garden, today’s destinations. Arriving after an overnight flight yesterday, I took a rest and walked the neighborhood to scope out places to eat, always a priority.

Confession: I really like hop-on, hop-off buses as a way to orient myself to a new city, so today I jumped on the Big Bus to start the day at the Opera House. This has to be one of the most-photographed buildings in the world.

Opera House.jpg

The tour is de rigueur, but well worth it. The vision for an opera house emerged in 1954, and the design, by the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, won the competition in 1957 from hundreds of proposals. There were issues from the outset, however, as his drawings gave no clue as to how it would be built or if it would actually stand. It took another two years for engineers to modify the plan and begin construction. Initially supported by the visionary premier of New South Wales, the political will that fueled the vision dried up with leadership changes in the mid-sixties, and the project foundered mid-construction. Eventually, it was fourteen years before it was completed and dedicated by Queen Elizabeth in 1973; the cost, originally projected at Au$7 million, ballooned to over Au$100 million. Sadly, the architect resigned amidst conflict with the new administration, returned to Denmark and never saw his masterwork completed. The drama surrounding construction of the Sydney Opera House is fascinating.

Up close, the sails provide endless photo opportunities.

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sunlight on sails

 

 

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One of the concrete beams supporting the sails…

supporting beam

There are seven theaters with performances for every taste, from opera to symphony to something decidedly unstuffy.

nothing stuffy

A short walk took me to the serenity of the Royal Botanic Garden, about 75 acres of pure tranquillity, with huge eucalyptus, fig trees, Chinese weeping cypress, wildflowers, and a host of trees and flowers I’d never seen in my life.

 

 

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flower meadow path

Not a clue what these are…

mystery plant

 

upside down flower tree

This Imperial Bromeliad made a dramatic photo.

imperial bromeliad-2

At the pond and its restaurant (where I had awesome fish and chips for lunch), these stunning ibis (ibises?) swooped around trying to steal food.

ibis at lily pond

On the bus back to my starting point, I caught some interesting architecture, including the Harbor Bridge and 1 Central Park, Sydney’s most unique “living” building.

harbor bridge b&w

 

Park Place.jpg

park place closeup

 

More tomorrow…

To the Beach!

An even earlier start took us to Sanur Beach before dawn. Though there were clouds on the horizon, we were rewarded with a pretty good sunrise, and were able to photograph a local fisherman throwing out his net.

hints of sunrise

tossing the net vertical

The celebration Nyoman found for us today was amazing. A parade of beautifully dressed women carried their offerings to the temple…

parade of offerings

At the temple, families gathered to eat, chit chat (they actually use this word in Balinese) and let their children run around, while elegant, identically-dressed women performed graceful dances.

 

And the beautiful children…

 

infant & grandfatherchubby baby

baby girl

 

This man almost begged me to take his picture, then followed me around smiling like we were new BFFs. Most of the Balinese people love to have their pictures taken.

my new friend

We were the only Westerners at this celebration, and people welcomed us with open arms, asking where we were from, and, in my case, even offering a delicious treat — sort of a round fritter covered with sesame seeds and filled with sweetened coconut. All of us loved this experience.

Rainy Season in Bali

Up at o’dark-thirty to photograph rice fields, and driving through the rain made us wonder if we’ll see sunrise at all. Alas, nary a sign of the sun or the volcanoes that rise in the distance. However, as we were preparing to run for cover from an approaching downpour, we were lucky to catch this view of mist rising through the palms.

dawn mist

After the rain, we were off to scout out celebrations, which are plentiful here. Our first stop was a temple in the midst of a multi-day celebration, where we watched people preparing offerings for the next phase. The process of preparing offerings is time-consuming, and many hands are involved. Single offerings are presented in these shallow baskets woven from coconut leaves. This young boy was proud of his suckling pig!

Women balance these towers of fruits and flowers on their heads.

offerings-3

We wrapped up the morning with a visit to Tirta Empul, the water temple, where anyone can go to be purified. I’m not happy with the water shots I got, but I’ll have another crack at it when we return with next week’s group. The temple itself is full of beautiful carved stone figures, gates and arches, and this gigantic woman’s head (Vishnu, I think) woven of bamboo.

gate at water templewoven head

one man at water temple

We have another early morning ahead…..

 

Missive From Paradise

Our workshop participants began trickling in, all arriving by Monday, when we held a welcome session over tea and cake, and a refresher class on the elements of composition. We have two from Australia (not related to each other), two from New Jersey, one from Minnesota, one from Indiana, one from Phoenix (who lived in Australia for thirty years), a couple from DC, and my partner, who’s from Portland — so a geographically diverse bunch of really nice people.

Our first outing was just next door, to the Sacred Monkey Forest, where I managed to shoot dozens of blurry photos of monkeys running around. Maybe next week I’ll do better.

One of the things you notice immediately here are the vast numbers of carved stone statues, some immense, others just small details on gates or doorways. Wood carving is also a fine art here, with most family temples adorned with intricate designs rendered by master craftsmen. Playful ganesh, Bali’s Hindu elephant god, are everywhere. He is the Lord of Beginnings and Remover of Obstacles. Door guardians like the one below put on a quite different face to all who approach.

stone elephantstone carving

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Even the doors to the hotel rooms are decoratively carved of wood.

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Day’s end, after a late afternoon shower…

To the Other Side of the World

A mere 27-hour trek, and here I am, on the other side of the world. The enervating humidity hit me like a wet sock, but who’s complaining, when the alternative is New England in January?

I’m doing one of my occasional gigs as the trip manager for a photography expedition — actually two groups back-to-back. We’re staying at a peaceful place called Alam Indah, where the only sounds you hear day or night are frogs, lizards and monkeys, along with assorted other unknown tropical creatures. There will be nine attendees in the first group and ten in the second, along with my partner in crime, Shelly, our photographer leader.

This morning we met with our local guide, Nyoman, who will take us everywhere. He is an amazing photographer, which is a real bonus, as he won’t treat us like tourists. The price to be paid will be getting up at zero-dark-thirty a couple of days to capture sunrises at the beach and the rice fields.

Otherwise I spent the day catching up on sleep and reading while listening to the rain and not-too-distant rumbles of thunder. Blood pressure reading must be 60/40. The photos below I took with my phone as I walked around getting my bearings. Shelly and I walked to town for dinner along a road next to the Sacred Monkey Forest right next door — we saw dozens of monkeys, but it was too dark to take pictures. We’ll have plenty of opportunities over the next two weeks though. In town we fell upon a restaurant called Monkey Legend with quite an eclectic menu: Indian, vegan, Tex-Mex, Balinese, burgers, pizza and more — something for everyone, and the food was excellent.

First impressions are how warm and relaxed people here are, but still the hotel staff quickly respond to anything we need. And two weeks without TV — what a gift!

A Special Sendoff

It’s nearly two months since we left beautiful Croatia, and I’m finally getting around to wrapping up this series of posts.

It was sad to leave lovely Opatije. I could have stayed another week just walking the Promenade, taking the sun on the rocks and ducking out to visit the picturesque towns of the Istrian Riviera — not to mention devouring more white truffle pasta. But our final drive back to Venice was not without excitement.

Once back in Italy, we stopped for our farewell lunch at Agriturismo Lunardelli, a family wine-making enterprise. Luigi, patriarch of the family, greeted us warmly and poured glasses of the best moscato I’ve ever had: refreshing and not too sweet. We toured the winery before lunch, and Luigi treated us to an impromptu concert (scroll to the bottom).

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Roberta, Luigi’s daughter, is the chef, and what a delectable meal we had! Antipasti of cheeses and homemade salumi, a perfect Caprese salad and gnocchi with pumpkin, sage and a hint of Gorgonzola. I could have eaten that gnocchi all day and into the night.  After multiple desserts and coffee, we trundled back into the car and made our way to Marco Polo International Airport, where we said tearful goodbyes to Ivana and Livio, who took such good care of us this week.

What a satisfying trip this was: for Jama, her first visit to Venice, and for both of us our maiden voyage to Croatia, a place to which we’d love to return and explore. And here’s Luigi, who as a boy wanted to be an opera singer, but his father didn’t approve. So he uses the wonderful acoustics of the winery to make his magic.

And so to the next adventure. Watch this space in January… or before.

A Walk to Opatije

Our walk this morning began in Mošćenice, a tiny village perched on a hillside on the east coast of the peninsula, where we were greeted by the mayor’s wife, who runs a little shop. Wandering the narrow, winding streets, we came upon a shop selling grappa, and had ourselves a morning pick-me-up. But this wasn’t the fiery liquid we associate with the name; rather, these two varieties were flavored with lemon and honey.  Grappa for Breakfast

A small museum offered an interesting snapshot of long-ago life here.

This medieval village is in two parts: the old town commands the heights and was the original fortified city, while Mošćenice Draga, the lower town, overlooks a crystal clear, stony Adriatic beach.

Garden Corner in MosceniceMoscenice DoorwayMoscenice Sidewalk

Moscenice DragaBeach at Moscenice

After a brief exploration of the lower town, we picked up the Promenade, locally known as the Lungomare,  for our beautiful walk to Opatije, where we would spend the next two nights.

This area is known as the Croatian Riviera, and once you glimpse the clear teal waters of the Adriatic, the reason is clear. In the late 1800s Opatije was officially designated a climatic health resort, and many of the gracious villas were converted to sanitariums or guest houses.

Opatije VillaVilla Mosaic DetailYellow Villa

Clinging Tree   Stone Piles Along Promenade-2

Opatije ArchitectureRocky Cliff

Our walk to dinner afforded a lovely view back to Opatije and a stroll among fabulous graffiti portraits.

Looking Back on Harbor