Thursday, January 17, 2013

From Rome to Paris (via Spain)

We left Rome after two days so that we could meet Jean-Marc in Montpellier France. We were originally planning to drive up the Mediterranean coast, but after accounting for the tolls and fuel prices we realized it would be quite a bit cheaper to take the ferry to Barcelona and drive from there.

I was expecting something more like the smaller Alaskan ferries I'd been on. Instead it was the largest ship I've been on and a nice change of pace from driving.  
It was also the emptiest ship I've been on. There was only one other table in use at the lounge while we were there.  

Happy to be out of Barcelona we decided to drive through the Pyrenees on our way to Montpellier. That gave us a nice empty winding road to drive... We saw several people riding bikes, but few cars. I'm pretty sure mountain roads are good for my soul.
Seems the winter has been a bit dry this year
Corrie in the Pyrenees.
Jean-Marc took over navigation between Montpellier and Paris so we got to see a lot more of the country side and some interesting little towns. I also discovered all kind of new cheeses.

An old Chateau & Village in Auvergne
Jean-Marc and I at a random bird watching blind we found. 
Moldy bread in Roquefort. They use only this kind of mold to make their cheese.  We we'ren't allowed to take pictures in the cheese aging room. Roquefort is a little strong to eat straight, but pretty good on bread. 
There are an amazing number of castles still standing in rural parts of France. 
Seriously, they are everywhere.
Jean-Marc at the base of the castle above
 Viaduc de Millau, the tallest bridge in the world. The two pillars in the center are taller than I Eiffel tower...
Looking up from the base.

I'm about to board a plane for Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro in a few days. I'm not sure what I will have for internet when I get there so I may fall behind on posting again the next few weeks... 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Catch up posting delayed for Northern Lights

We stayed the last two night at a cabin just outside of Skibotn with Corrie's uncle Steve. It's darker there and a little drier which we hoped would improve our chances of seeing the aurora. 

For my Alaskan readers: This is a monument to Gunnar Kaasen and Balto of the 1925 Nome serum run. It turns out Gunnar came to Alaska from Skibotn, Norway.
On the road to Finland.
The sunset in Finland looking south into Sweden at about 1:15 pm.
You may want to adjust the brightness of your monitor for these next photos. 
The Big Dipper is finally in the right place again...
Sadly pictures can't show the way the ribbons of light move and dance.
There was some neat interplay between the clouds and the aurora that I don't remember noticing when I was younger. I only remember seeing good aurora on perfectly clear nights in AK. 
The bright spot between the branches is Jupiter.
We forgot about getting ourselves in a picture until the show was almost over. 
We learned how to play Backgammon while waiting for holes in the clouds.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Tromso Sunrise or sunset?

Sometimes in the arctic it's hard to know if you're looking sunrise or sunset... This one was taken before noon, so it's technically sunrise:
Looking over the inlet from the balcony

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Two days in Rome was a bit short, but we did get to see a few things. Seeing all the ancient structures that are still standing left me wonder which of the buildings and monuments from our era will still be around in a thousand years or more. I'm pretty sure Hoover dam and Mt Rushmore will still be there, but I doubt any of our stadiums will be...

I thought the Christmas tree in front was a nice touch.

The inside of the Pantheon dome
Experimenting with camera settings
Corrie took this while I was taking the pictures of the dome. I thought the reflection was neat.
There are a lof interesting ceilings in Rome
St Peters dome
The inside of the dome
A rainy day doesn't really call for Gelato, but I figured if I was in Rome I should buy some kind of an indulgence...  
Early in the tour of the Vatican's art collection
This at least gives a suggestion of the scale of the Vatican museum

Monday, January 7, 2013

From Pisa to Florence

From Turin, we traveled through Pisa, Vinci, and Florence on our way to Rome.

Crossing the Arno river in Piza
It wouldn't be as famous, but the tower would really be just as impressive if it were not leaning. 
The cathedral and baptismal from the tower

The front of the church is nearly as impressive as the tower.
Pizza in pisa. It was really good. I'm humoring Corrie's insistance that I be in the picture here. 
We made a side trip to Vinci to see the Leonardo museum. Unfortunately they did not allow any photos, but museum was a good reminder of why documentation matters. Leonardo documented things really well, even stuff other people designed that he thought was important. It was really helpful in understanding the progress in technology and thinking of the era.

We found a free place to park in Florence and it had a good view too!
The Old Bridge over the Arno in Florence

The Duomo
The Galileo museum was one of the most interesting place we went in Florence. They had a lot of scientific instruments from the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. Now I know where hollywood get's their inspiration for mad scientist props.

Two of Galileo's telescopes.
How did the vogue thing for the wealthy to do fall from this to making a reality tv show about themselves? 
Apparently magnets and electricity weren't always just for nerds
Not exactly the standard desktop model
Late eighteenth century water pump for firefighting