While I’m generally quite dissatisfied with my current geographic location, spring and summer constitute my favorite time of year in central Virginia. In celebration, I’ve compiled a series of photos featuring my favorite scenes from around here (and from all seasons).

Last summer’s blueberry haul…

My father, who could pass for a seasonal worker…

The beginnings of a Virginia downpour…

Early morning mist spreading from the river and over the trees…

Souvenirs lined up at Colonial Williamsburg….

A slab of ice floating over the river in December…

Fast frozen water over a chain link fence…

The window at a Greek Orthodox church…

Slightly Plausible Things

It’s that time again. Mostly because I’m running out of other travel-related material, but also because I’m restless. I have just under three (or just over two?) weeks of vacation left in the year, and while I don’t think I should take it all at once, I am going to try to use some of it to go somewhere. I realize that if I can do this, I’ll be pretty lucky to have been able to fit a trip in, financially as well as time-wise, so it must be awesome.

I’ve managed to make (three!) sets of possible destinations, carefully arranged by likelihood that I will be able to visit before the year’s out:


  • Madagascar
  • India
  • Australia
  • Cambodia

Slightly More Plausible:

  • Greece
  • Argentina

Much More Plausible:

  • Dominican Republic
  • Belize

To be honest, I’m already leaning toward a decision. I just really like making lists. The very last item, Belize seems both feasible and excellent. My intention in visiting the small central American nation would be to visit any and all Meso-American ruins in the fashion of Indiana Jones, Carmen Sandiego (well, I’m not going to try to take a temple with me), or similar. I took (read: almost stayed awake for) a Meso-American History course once, so that at least I can pronounce things like Tikal and Oaxaca and Tenochtitlan, even if I can’t remember whether it was related to the Mayans, Aztecs, or extraterrestrials.

The one obstacle is that accessing these ruins will probably require some sort of guided tour, the kind which usually make the trip more expensive. Well, I’ve got time to research (most of which will probably be done on WikiTravel three days before my departure.)

A Very Significant City

Avila is extremely significant. I visited it, and I went to a Catholic university, so I should probably be able to tell you why it’s significant (there was some lady named Teresa who used to live there, I got that much). But you can Google it just as easily as I can, and I’d rather just upload some pictures anyway. In one of my few trips outside of Madrid, I joined some friends — one Peruvian, two Swedes, somehow no Spaniards — on a mini road-trip to the medieval walled city of Avila one ominously overcast spring day.

My strongest memory was standing in the shadowy insides of a massive cathedral, utterly dwarfed by pillars the size of redwoods and a floor constructed from stones the size of SUVs, while the two Swedish women, mother and daughter, snickered at me. “We forget,” they said, when at last I could prise an explanation from them, “that you don’t have things like this in your country.” Meaning that they, as Europeans, were slightly more adjusted to buildings that had been standing a couple centuries before the Declaration of Independence had been a twinkle in our forefathers’ eyes. Fair enough.

The Catedral del Salvador… I think.

Of course, despite the fact that the walled city was several centuries old, it was still Spain, and there were still wide plazas to be found, such as the one below. Either Avila wasn’t a significant tourist location, or this was not the peak season for visitors. Either way, I like the guy below who’s either slumped over unconscious or trying to retie his shoes.

At the end of a long afternoon of exploring, the four of us stopped for dinner at a restaurant within the city walls, where my friend ordered a steak the size of Portugal, and we took the traditional three hours’ of Spanish afternoon mealtime to watch him eat the entire thing (he did).

As our day drew to an end, I had one last goal: I was going to have to follow this sign just to find out what a parador was. Regrettably, time was short, and the mystery remained (until I went home and looked it up).

Reprioritizing (and Kickboxing) and Traveling

Sure, I haven’t posted in two weeks, but at least I’ve included this excellent photo.

You may or (ahem) may not have noticed my mysterious silence over the past two weeks. I wish I could say that my sudden disappearance had something to do with an exciting, last-minute trip to the remotest parts of our planet (clearly the parts where internet access is limited). Alas, however, the only thing I have to report after the hiatus is that I came down with an epic case of lazy.

I did however start some new things. I cleaned my living space, top to bottom, throwing out several bags of trash, donating multiple bags of things that (hopefully) weren’t trash, and taking many trips to the recycling bins. Very cathartic. I’ve also begun a kickboxing class with some coworkers, demonstrating once more that my competitive spirit is rivaled only by my lack of coordination. I’ve gone to see a couple of movies (or one movie, a couple of times). And I’ve done some thinkin’.

When I started this online writing thingamajig we call a blog, the idea was to save up as much money as I could so that at the end of the year, I could quit everything and leave, travel for an indefinite period of time. Actually, the idea was to start a blog to ensure that I would follow through on that dream. I don’t know if it’s working.

Vacation bids are coming up for work for the second half of the year, and I’ve got around two weeks left in the balance. Despite the fact that shelving the dream is initially what I was trying not to do, I’m thinking I might use some of the funds I’ve saved (probably all of the funds, since the whole failing vehicle incident cleaned me out) to go on another short-term trip. The good news is that this feels a lot more likely. The better news is that I get to start looking at possible destinations right away. Let the fun begin (again).

Dreaming of the Dead

Otherwise ignoring the fact that today is el seis de mayo (meaning, obviously, that yesterday was Cinco de Mayo), I’ve moved my focus to another holiday, one that really doesn’t have anything more to do with America but that receives much less attention (at least, as far as I can tell): the Day of the Dead. El Dia de los Muertos.

The celebration takes place around November 2, and mostly in Mexico. Thus far, I’ve tried to avoid sticking to specific dates for my travel plans, but in this case, I’d really love to make an exception. I envision parades of individuals dressed to resemble skeletons and full parties of extended family members walking, lit candles in hand, down open streets under deep purple sky, bringing plates of rice and tortillas and cups of tequila to graveyards, the stones and statues layered in brightly colored flowers. And me, taking pictures like my camera’s about to join the dead and buried.

I’ve never been to Mexico, and it seems to be one of those areas on my map unmarred by my feverish push-pinning. Given the current headlines, I’m honestly more nervous about traveling to Mexico than I was about traveling to Colombia. That said, again, I could probably suck it up if I had the right invitation (yup, fishing for one) and if Mexico would have me. The holiday also seems to have a lot to do with remembrance of family and friends, of which I have neither in Mexico, so it might be an awkward time to be a tourist. Would my presence be disruptive or would I be able to witness only the public half of the celebration?

I’m not sure if there’s a specific city or area where the celebration of the holiday would be at it’s most traditional or most popular, but the good news is that I have quite some time to research that (or just book a flight and see where I wind up). This is one travel dream that I hope I really follow through on.

Portal Portraits

As I browsed once more through my old travel photos (because clearly I have no need to write anymore), a series of pictures exclusively featuring doors made me think. Mostly, it made me think how many freaking pictures I’ve taken of doors, but there was also something metaphoric about doors, passageways, how much I’d like a new opportunity to go, uh, to another country (well, I mean, I’d have to go out the door to get there). And, also, how many freaking door pictures I have. Seriously, I might have some sort of architecturally-triggered disorder. So you enjoy. I’ll be over here, contacting a therapist.












South Africa:











Fine. Virginia:

Back to Morocco (either I’m lost or these are really out of order):



Mosaics. This is the beginning of the post, the part where I explain how much I like colorful tile patterns from all over the world, why I like colorful tile patterns from all over the world, and how this is the perfect moment to post pictures I’ve taken of colorful tile patterns from all over the world. Or we could just look at the pictures. These two are from Morocco:

The picture on the left was taken on the balcony of a restaurant overlooking Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh, Morocco. The other was taken on a tabletop in Dar Atif B&B in Ourika, Morocco. And that thing on top is an ashtray.







And then, in Barcelona, I struck the mother lode. Parc Guell, which had been designed entirely by a fellow by the name of Gaudi, but outside of that was also the cradle of life for intricate tile patterns. Observe.

Even the benches are fancy.



Spiderwebs and Graffiti

I didn’t really see Barcelona coming. As I’ve mentioned before, I was kind of the passenger on this particular trip, my brother leading the way with his guidebooks and actual sense of direction. I’ve also written about my adventures in Spain before, it’s just that I have these pictures leftover — er, it’s just that it holds such a special place in my heart.

During our meanderings (or what I perceived to be meanderings) through the city streets of Barcelona, I found a bit of poignant graffiti, which might be a misquote from Cicero. “That which is unnecessary, though it cost only a cent, is expensive,” or some such.

Rounding another corner, through the tall, narrow alleys that are my favorite part about European cities, I found my other favorite part about European cities — buildings like this, just popping out of nowhere.

Sometimes those buildings held cavernous auditoriums, and sometimes they held courtyards, like this. I’m pretty sure I was actually trying to take a picture of the spiderweb running across the middle.

Arequipe and the Andes

Continuing my series of brief vignettes coupled with past travel photos that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to use any other place, either due to questionable quality (they’re my memories and they’re precious — kind of like a funny-looking offspring) or to the fact that they just really don’t fit any other category, I’ve posted yet another set.

One of my favorite things about traveling by road in Colombia is the number of opportunities available for snacking, whether due to the hop-on/hop-off vendors hawking everything from empanadas, buñuelos, sodas, meat, and popsicles (so it sounds kind of sickening when you say it altogether like that) or to the omnipresent roadside shacks, such as the one below, selling solid, cracker-like snacks in all shapes and sizes (more or less the same taste as Goldfish crackers, just molded into any shape you please) and the caramel, ambrosia goo known as arequipe.

Of course, even remote destinations like this snack shack weren’t without their townies. (Yes, this is the second cat photo I’ve used in as many days. But the internet loves cat photos!) We were traveling from a small central city back to Bogota, a three-hour drive in all, when our bus (van) elected to take a quick snack stop at around sunset, catching this local off-guard.

All stocked up, we were ready to hit the road, back to winding through majestic terrain like this, seen through the back of a grubby bus (van) window.

Spiced Eggs and Fanta

For the coming week (or at least for today), I’ve elected to put down a short series of some of my travel pictures, accompanied by what I’m able to recall from those moments. These are not necessarily prime examples of the travel photos I took (see example below, the lamp smack in the middle of what would otherwise be a lovely landscape,) which is why I hadn’t found a use for them before, but they come with a good memory or two.

These were taken in Ourika, Morocco, at a dinner with my two travel companions after a long afternoon of hiking the Atlas Mountains (and being driven around them in the back of a taxi, but mostly hiking). I’m not able to recall how we heard about this restaurant, though given the (dinky) size of the town where we were staying, it may have been recommended to us by the owner of the B&B. The restaurant was a little ways up the street, and the three of us walked, single file up the dusty shoulder, a few cars and motorbikes buzzing past, loudly, so that we had our eyes closed against the whipping dust half the time. From the street, the restaurant was small, a tiny garage-like building built into a row with others, but a quick inquiry at the front window led us to the realization that the restaurant was actually behind the building, a red dirt floor set up with plastic tables under the shade of tarps. The place was crowded, not with tourists (I honestly don’t think there were any more of those around), but with Moroccan families, more than I would ever have guessed lived in the small town, and we were led to the table at the far edge of the ground, overlooking this.

At the table, a cloth was put down, and we were served what looked like hangover food, spicy, egg-based meals, with olives, tomatoes, salt, extra spice (which we weren’t sure how to transfer from its ash-tray sized plate to our own dishes without looking like idiots), and glass bottles of the ubiquitous orange Fanta.

Under the table, throughout the entire meal, was this.