From Blue Herons to Driftwood Sculptures

When I got my first camera a little over 50 years ago, I enjoyed working in B&W, when one actually had to thread B&W film into your camera.  One of my COVID pandemic resolutions is to starting doing more B&W photography.

In August, Leila and I escaped our home isolation for the first time since early March to enjoy four wonderful days staying at a friend’s cabin on the Olympic Peninsula.  These B&W photos, from Marrowstone Island (near Port Townsend) and Dungeness Spit, are the results of my attempt to focus on recovering my past interest.

View from Marrowstone Island

Blue heron on the hunt for food

Driftwood sculpture 1 from Dungeness Spit

Driftwood sculpture 2 from Dungeness Spit






Years of wear at East Beach park on Marrowstone Island

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Souks, Roman Ruins and Dinosaur Tracks: Country of Contrasts

Tourists in Morocco tend to stay in the old parts of the cities.  These medinas contain a labyrinth of narrow passages that include the souks (shopping areas) and riads (usually houses of past upper class citizens recently converted to hotels – think high end bed and breakfasts).

Path to riad


Leila exploring souk











Wood worker


Waling in souk














It’s easy to get lost in the souks, so we opted for guides in both Fez and Marrakesh to help us navigate the maze of passages. They also advised us on the methods to negotiate the best prices for items, as haggling over prices is a must.  Embroidery, metal work and ceramics were high on our list of items to purchase.



Metal works

Walking the souks was often like being in a vast farmer’s market, with each shop having its specialty.

Fish in market

Chicken sales

Man selling parsley

Scarfs in market

I was most taken by the colors and geometries.

Lemon and olive stand




Lemon geometry










Spice stand in Fez

Tower of spices








Piles 0f goods

GarlicPeppersRoadside fruit

The narrow streets presented challenges not seen outside the medina.

Small tractor

Donkey cart

While there was a vast array of transport (cars, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, donkeys and donkey carts), one piece of modern technology was often seen being used by the riders.  Everyone seemed to have a mobile phone, which of course required many cell towers.  A number of these were disguised as palm trees.

Palm cell tower

Another pervasive modern technology was television reception dishes, seen on top of even the oldest structures.  Residents pay a onetime $50 fee and then have ongoing access to television, thus television dishes were everywhere.

Televsion dishes

When you overdosed on the crush of people, bartering and noise, you step into your riad and leave it all behind.  The quiet central courtyard and atrium usually has a water feature and a display of flowers that contrast with what is just outside your door.  After a rest in your room, a quiet dinner awaits you.

Riad in Fez 2

Flowers in riad

Dinner in riad

The medinas house many traditional communal functions.  Women prepare bread daily for the family, which require taking the leavened, but unbaked, bread to communal ovens.

Communal Oven

Tourists can easily come away thinking that this traditional view of life in Morocco is the norm. But many people move away from the medinas to enjoy the advantages of the “New Town.”  Townhouses with modern conveniences, such as individual ovens in each house, and modern shopping areas that look like your local grocery store and Home Depot.

New Housing

Grocery store

Home Depot

Our guide in Marrakesh, Hajja, not only navigated the souks for us, but showed us the architectural sights – mosques and palaces that made us feel like we were back in southern Spain.  This made sense, since many of the Moors who were driven out of Spain in the fifteenth century moved to Morocco and continued to build similar structures.

Two women in old palace


Main mosque

Moorish pillar

Moorish courtyard

When Hajja learned that I wrote dinosaur books, she convinced us to change our plans for the next day to go see dinosaur tracks that were a few hours outside of town.  What she didn’t tell us is that she hadn’t been there in 10 years and didn’t know exactly where they were – but she was sure there would be a sign.

There was no sign, so we drove right by what used to be the sign.

Missing sign for dino tracks

We did get some great views of rural villages during our hunt for dinosaur tracks.

Berber town

She finally had someone tell her we had come too far, so we went back, just to find that since she was last there a wall, with locked gate, had been built around the dinosaur tracks.

Gate with lock

While we walked along the wall, trying to see if we could get a glimpse of the tracks, Hajja ran into some young boys who just happened to have the key to the gate in their house.  We never did understand why 10-year-old boys would have a key to the gate.

Boy with key

The tracks were extensive and a delight to discover as we walked over the rocky surface.

Three dino tracks

Single dino rack

What was most fun is that the adventure turned into a dinosaur lesson for the owner of the key and some of his friends.  They knew there were tracks inside the fence, but did not know from what kind of animal.  You could tell from the size of the tracks that it was a good sized animal and probably a theropod.

Dino Lesson

While we were talking with the children, we got to see local Berber farmers pass behind us on donkeys carrying feed for their animals.

Berber farmersOf course food had to fit into our itinerary in some way, so we took a daylong Moroccan cooking class — that was also a contrast of new and old.  We made bread in a traditional clay oven.

baking bread

But then entered a high tech cooking area with video projection systems so we could see the master chef.

HIhg tech cooking class

Leila and I made individual servings of chicken tagine, and several salads.

D and L after cooking

We even got to keep the tagine pot when we finished eating our meal.

Meal at cooking class

After four days in Marrakesh, we moved on to Fez, with more time in the medina, souks and riads.

Leila in Fez souk






Farmers market for sweets













My fear of stinging insects was challenged in one market area filled with sweets


















It may look like the second photo is a delicacy covered with raisins, but each dark spot is a bee.  It was not possible to capture the hundreds of swarming bees that filled the air.  As you can image, we did not buy any sweets and moved on quickly.

A highlight of the being in Fez was a visit to the Roman ruins in nearby Volubilis. The ruins not only provided insight into life when the Romans ruled the area 2,000 years ago, but a look at the beauty of the Moroccan countryside with its many olive groves and vineyards.

Roman Ruins from afar

Roman ruin panarama

Roman ruins

Roman ruin mozaic






Roman Column











Roman ruins two arches

View of countryside

This was our first excursion on the African continent, but not our last.  In June we will visit South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.

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Cathedrals, Castles, Palaces and FOOD!

If you’re into any of these, plus intricately designed ceramic tiles and 2,000 year old Roman ruins, then Spain is the place for you.  This fall Leila and I spent several weeks in Andalucia, Spain, and Morocco.  Both areas had amazing culture, art and food but they were very different and very challenging to include in one post, so I’m only going to deal with southern Spain in this post.

The cathedral in Seville is probably best known to Americans as it houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus.  As with many churches in this region it is built upon and/or incorporates a former Muslim mosque.

Columbus tomb

It is hard to get a great view of the outside of the cathedral because it is surrounded by other buildings.

cathederal outside

You get a better view of it from the bell tower (former minaret), where you can also see the Moorish Alcazar (Palace) in the top left of the photo – more on the Alcazar later.

View from Sevilla cathederal

Inside the cathedral one is overwhelmed by the intricate art that seems to cover every surface.

Sevilla cathederal 2

But then there is the FOOD.  Where else can one get two glasses of vino tinto (red wine) plus olives and chips for $4 in a delightful outdoor setting?

Leila at cafe

The cathedral in Granada was also spectacular.

Cathederal in Granada

But the prize for cathedrals goes to the Mezquita in Cordoba. Mezquita means mosque in Spanish.  The site was originally a church, and the mosque construction started in the 8th century when the Moors controlled much of Spain.  The mosque features 856 red and white striped arches that make you feel like you’re walking among an Escher painting. When the Moors were pushed out of Cordoba in the 13th century, it was turned back into a Christian church and a Cathedral was constructed in the middle of the mosque.

Mezitha 3

Mezquita 1

During Moorish times, it was said that more than a thousand people could pray among the arches at one time. The Muslim influence is seen throughout the cathedral.

Mezquita 2

But of course there was the FOOD. A delicious spread of ham and cheese served directly to your table by the chef.

Cheese and ham dish

Ham carver

A trip to Segovia is a must. It not only has the famous Roman aqueduct,


L and D at aquaduct

but also the spectacular Alcazar von Segovia castle which many believe was the inspiration for Disney’s castle.


Many of the houses in Segovia featured beautifully sculptured walls.

Textured wall 1

Textured wall 2

But then there is the FOOD


A delightful pate before trying the Suckling Pig – a dish made famous in Segovia. Something worth trying once, it is five-week-old baby pigs that are cooked before they stop suckling.

Suckled Pig

Palaces are also plentiful in Spain. The La Granja of San Ildephonso palace outside of Segovia was built by Philip V in the 18th century.  It now houses government offices, but parts of the palace and the vast grounds are open to the public.

Palace 1 Segovia

Palace 2 Segovia

The most famous of the palaces is the Alhambra in Granada.  The best view of the palace is from across the valley during sunset.  We stayed in a former mansion that has been turned into an inn not far from where the following photos were taken in the Albaicin neighborhood.

Alhambra at sunset -1

Alhambra at sunset 1

Alhambra at night

Of course, the best way to watch the light change on the Alhambra is over FOOD and a glass of sangria or vino tino.

Panarama of restaurant and Alhambra

Leila with Alahambra reflected behind her

Sangria with Alhambra

The Alhambra, built and added to over the centuries, strongly shows the influence of when the Muslims ruled the area.

Reflection of building in pond



Of course, there is only so much palace watching one can do before you need more FOOD.  Found a great outdoor setting in Granada with a fixed price menu, including a cappuccino.



But Leila and I agree that the palace we enjoyed most was the Alcazar in Seville.  The palace is fairly nondescript from the outside, since it is surrounded by other buildings in the center of Seville.

Alkazar from front

But has beautiful gardens inside.

Water feature in Alkazar

Alkazar garden 2

Alkazar garden 3

And spectacular ceiling and tilework throughout the palace that contrasts the differences between the Muslim and Christian occupants.

ceiling and room


Ceiling close up

Close up of ceiling shown above



Under Muslim rule only tiles with geometric shapes or Arabic wording were allowed



During Christian occupancy, the tiles could feature human and animal figures, many x-rated

After so much straining to look up at the architecture, we of course needed more FOOD – gelato for two.

ice cream for L and D

We could have gotten a pumpkin spice latte at Starbuck, but we are not sure why anyone would opt for an expensive Starbucks drink, when the local espresso is half the price.  Although I did break down and buy a Sevilla Starbuck cup.  It is now my coffee cup of choice for my afternoon cappuccino at home.

Starbucks sign

But there is more to visiting Spain than going inside spectacular buildings. Plenty of street entertainers.

Fleminco in Granada

Violin Player


Flaminco in Sevilla

And views of the countryside with rows and rows of olive trees.

Olive trees

But then there is the food.  We actually spent a morning on a walking tour of food experiences in Madrid, where churros dipped in chocolate is standard breakfast faire.



Spent time in the local market that is like Seattle’s Pike Place Market on steroids.  The olive stall

Olive Merchant

Is next to the butcher’s stall, where he will prepare lamb’s brain for you if you wish,

Lamb butcher

which is next to the ham shop where there are more than 10 different types of ham you can buy.  The ham from the black-footed Iberian pig which eats acorns in rangefree conditions only goes for 128 Euros a kilogram (~$60 a pound).

Ham butcher

A morning in the market of course makes you hungry for more food, so its time to stop for some tapas.

Tapas 1 in Madrid

Tapas 2 in Madrid

Finally, a visit to southern Spain would not be complete without a day trip to Gibraltar.


This British enclave certainly is a change from Spain, but its strategic position controlling the entrance to the Mediterranean and the famous monkeys of Gibraltar make it a must see – at least once.

Big Monkey

Gibraltor top


The monkeys are protected because Winston Churchill declared that the British would control Gibraltar, as long as the monkey existed on “The Rock.”  Consequently, the monkeys are plentiful and have learned the art of thievery.  Leila was mugged by one of the primates right after buying a bag of potato chips.  She was still in the gift shop where she bought the chips when a monkey raced in and snatched the unopened bag . I think I was lucky enough to capture an image of the culprit lying in wait for an unsuspecting tourist.

Monkey thief

But you don’t go to Gibraltar for the FOOD.


Our waiter made it clear that hamburgers only come Well Done.

Spain was great, but our following week in Morocco was more exotic.

Two women in old palace

Stay tuned for the next blog



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