Thursday, July 28, 2011

Canvas Photo

About a month ago, I delved into the world of Groupon when I bought a coupon thingy to buy a discounted 16x20 photo canvas.  While I have until October to use it, I hope to get it ordered in the next few weeks.  Now comes the hard part, picking a photo to have printed!  I've narrowed it down to 10 choices, most from our travels or the wedding, but I thought it'd be interesting to get your opinion about what we should hang on our wall (when we get a wall to hang it on of course).  So, which photo do you think we should have printed?

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

Temple of Poseidon, Sunion, Greece

Pompey's Pillar, Alexandria, Egypt

Water treatment plant, on campus

Engagement photo

Wedding Photo 1

Wedding Photo 2

Wedding Photo 3

Wedding Photo 4

So, what's the verdict?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kandy: Peradeniya Royal Botanic Gardens

The Peradeniya Royal Botanic Gardens are actually west of Kandy, so we decided to take a local bus to the garden instead of the tuk-tuks we'd been riding around in for most of our trip.  I think we've mentioned it before, but the bus system in Sri Lanka is a mad house.  All of the buses leaving Kandy left from two public square type areas, and very little signage was around to point us in the right direction.  Unlike bus travel in Florence, where they had specific stops, a list of times posted, and a small map of the route, in Kandy all we had to rely on was strangers pointing us (hopefully) to the right bus.  After we found the bus and got our tickets (all of about 40 rupees or less than 40 cents) we patiently waited and hoped we would know when to get off the bus.  Not knowing when to get off of public transportation is probably my least favorite part of any trip on a new transportation system.  Thankfully, the ticket seller was incredibly nice and let us know when we got to the right stop.  The entry fee was pretty steep for foreigners, but for the first time, we were able to get student discounts!  Student discounts were pretty rare in Sri Lanka, which was unfortunate as we enjoyed the reduced prices we got in Greece and Italy.

After we got into the gardens, almost one of the first strange trees we came across was the double coconut palm trees or the Coco de Mer.  The coconuts on these trees were nuts! They were easily 2-3 times longer than Steve's hands and according to the signs can weigh up to 30 kg (66 pounds)!  They also take up to 8 or more years to grow, so a lot of the coconuts had dates written on the from when they started growing. These only naturally grow in a very limited area in the Seychelles (a teeny tiny island group north of Madagascar), so the coconuts were actually discovered floating in the ocean many years before they found the trees.

Along with big coconuts, there were also a lot of big trees. I don't remember what kind of tree this was, but it had been growing in the garden for a very long time.

These wavy pine trees are called Cook pines, and I have no idea why they're crooked.  They looked super sweet and made the path they were growing along seem a little off, since most of them were growing at crazy angles.

They had over 20 varieties of bamboo in the garden, but our favorite was the giant bamboo.  Most of the big stalks were 6-8 inches in diameter and were hollow so they made music of sorts when you knocked on them in various places along the trunks.   It also grows pretty fast at 2-3 cm (about 1 inch) each day.

For a little bit of scale, this was the grove of giant bamboo that was growing in the park, and you can see the two tiny people sitting on a bench in the lower left corner.

Along with the strange crazy plants, there were also many trees and plants that didn't look so unusual such as these that surrounded a small lake in the garden.

While we were walking along the crazy pine path, we decided to walk out to the giant Java Fig tree, but halfway there the sky opened up and it started pouring.  It wasn't a complete surprise, because it was monsoon season in Sri Lanka, but after days of carrying around both ponchos and umbrellas with no rain, we only brought one poncho and one umbrella.  We managed to get under the tree and get out the poncho and umbrella, but they did little good against the rain.  After awhile, we made a break for the nearby restaurant (back right of the photo) and spent a nice lunch drying off and staying out of the rain.

Steve and I both liked these trees with the big sweeping branches and snaking roots. In these trees there were huge colonies of fruit bats called flying foxes. We estimated that there were at least a thousand of them in each of several roosting trees. While they were huge and there were truckloads of them, we still didn't get a good picture of them. The bats made a horrible ruckus the whole time we were near their trees.

We made it to the far side of the park before we saw these storm clouds rolling in.  We didn't have much time before it was going to start pouring again so we quickly moved through the rest of the park, hoping to make it to the enclosed orchid building before it started raining on us again.

On the way to the orchid building, Steve found this skinny tree and wondered why it had such a skinny trunk at the bottom and thick trunk on top.

We managed to spend the rest of our visit bouncing between the indoor growing areas trying to dodge the rain.  We weren't the only ones doing this, and by the time we made it to the orchid building, a huge school group was also milling around.

With the rain falling, even lightly, we decided that waiting for the bus to take us back to Kandy just didn't strike our fancy, so we negotiated for a tuk tuk to take us back instead.  This was definitely a time where paying more for faster transportation was completely worth it!

Check out the rest of our Sri Lanka travels:
Kandy: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, 2
Kandy: Udawattakele National Sanctuary 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Kandy: British Garrison Cemetery and Royal Palace Park

Two more Kandy sites today, the British Garrison Cemetery and the Royal Palace Park.  Both of these were nice places to visit, albeit out of the way.  They were both tucked in among other busier sites with the cemetery behind the Temple of the Sacred Tooth, and the Royal Palace Park located up at the top of a very steep climb.

Almost all (or all of) the gravestones in the British cemetery were from the 1800s and showed various states of wear and tear.

Many of the graves were for multiple children of the same family, and many of them died as children, 

This is the island in the middle of Kandy Lake. From what we read, the old kings used this island as a personal retreat, complete with many pretty young women.

A Japanese field gun from World War II displayed in the Royal Palace Park.

The park was a VERY popular destination for couples. We tried not to take pictures of them, but they were all around the park. It didn't look like they were making out, but almost every bench was taken by a couple.

There were ducks running around in the green space around the small pond where the gun was displayed.  We weren't sure if they were pets or just passing by for some food, but they were fun to watch anyway.

View of the Golden Roof from the park.

Steve next to one of the many massive trees in the park. Steve says these reminded him of the Sitka Spruce he saw in the northwest of the USA.

This fountain topper amused Steve, especially from this angle because it looks like the swan is choking on the red pipe and the little angel is trying to strangle the swan.

A view of a nearby peak.

Check out the rest of our Sri Lanka travels:
Kandy: Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, 2

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Italy Day 8: Wrapping it up

One last post about our fabulous time in Florence!

We had so many great meals in Italy, including excellent pastas and pizzas.  It's really not fair that the food there is so good, we both ate way more than we should have.

Relaxing in a park near the Fortezza de Basso.  Originally we wanted to go into the Fort, but it was either closed, or we couldn't find the right entrance so we hung out in a nearby park for awhile (and I took a nap).

They had really cool light fixtures in the park.

There were scads of ducklings motoring around the pond too.  These guys were seriously quick and hard to photograph.

After relaxing in the park, we walked down this nearby stream headed for a few last sights.

We passed a Russian Orthodox church. 

Finally we ended up at Liberty Plaza where there are two arches and a big fountain in the middle.
We couldn't get very close to this arch because it was roped off with caution tape, apparently bits and pieces tend to fall off of it.

Porta san Gallo, part of the old city wall.

Follow the rest of our journey:
Day 7: Day Trip to Pisa
Day 7: Pisa Part 2

Friday, July 22, 2011

Inspiration Board

There have been so many things I've missed doing, eating, and making while we've lived in Saudi Arabia, and since we're both returning without jobs for the time being, I'm going to indulge in a lot of what I have missed.

In an effort to resist the inevitable "I'm bored" that is going to come once we're home and I have nothing that I have to do beyond finding a job, I came up with this idea board of all the goodies I want to do.  This really isn't everything I would want to do, but it's a good start and I can always add to it after I get a better idea of how long joblessness will last.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Italy Day 8: Market, daVinci Museum, Duomo

We are quickly drawing to a close with our posts about Italy (about time right?) but we've still got one or two left.

While wandering around looking for a site we had apparently already been to (Santa Maria Novella) we found the Mercato Centrale and decided to explore inside.  They had all sorts of stalls selling a really wide variety of food stuffs including many meat stalls.  There was also a huge outdoor tent set up outside where a lot of the produce was sold.

A stall inside selling dried fruit!  We both love dried fruit, especially pineapple so we got a few different types.  Coconut and pineapple were great, while kiwi and strawberry were kind of strange.  In the outdoor tent, we managed to buy a few nutmeg nuts to take back with us because it isn't sold anywhere (that we can find it) in Saudi.  This was quite an adventure since we didn't speak italian and the little old lady didn't speak english, but it worked out in the end.

After exploring the market and eating tasty snacks, we walked to the Macchine di Leonardo, a great little museum all about Leonardo da Vinci.  They were playing a History Channel documentary about him and the museum attendant started it at the beginning just for us.  We watched for over an hour before we got tired and wanted to see all the cool displays.  It turns out he had a pretty interesting life.
Water wheels and cool triangle spheres were only some of the awesome displays.

This clock is cool because it uses swinging weights to turn the gears for the clock.  The weight wraps around the two poles at the top and the back and forth motion moves the clock.  Check out this youtube video for a better idea of how it works.

Water wheels to move water.  Everything was assembled using these ropes or big metal staples, but I'm not sure if those are accurate or if it just looks cool.

This was cool because as you crank the handle (not shown) the tube spins and moves water from the bottom basin and deposits it into the top basin.  This was used a lot to move river water apparently.

Robot drum player!  By cranking the handle at the waist, the pulleys moved the string so that the sticks beat against the drum head.

After many hours at the museum, we decided to walk back to the Duomo and go inside, since we only went inside the Campanile before. 

I totally want this 24 hour clock.  I can just snatch that up right?  Plus, did you notice that it ticks just like a backwards clock! Double bonus.

Interior of the Duomo.

Looking up into the dome.

Follow the rest of our journey:

Day 7: Pisa Part 2