Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is the most populous city in the state of Virginia. Located on the southeastern coast of the Commonwealth, it has a population of about 450,000. We recently spent a few days there as part of a larger trip of exploration of the South East. 

Although relatively large, Virginia Beach tends to be rather suburban in character. It is also a huge vacation destination spot that gets visitors from all over. The beach itself is very commercialized, like Seaside in New Jersey. The boardwalk, ringed with hotels, is paved with separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists who charge along with all the caution of New York City cab drivers. 

There are lots of restaurants and bars, as you would expect, but there appeared to be a paucity of high-end gourmet type establishments. We were there (coincidentally) for most of the annual Sand Soccer tournament. This tournament has a match between established teams in a temporary beach stadium. Other matches—they go on for two days—are between teams of similar age participants who form teams ahead of time and register for the tournament. 

The participants play on the beach—hence the Sand Soccer name—and the temporary playing fields stretch for many blocks accompanied by food and beverage stands. 

All and all an interesting place, but like Seaside it’s a bit on the tacky side. 

Virginia Beach, VA, USA — June 6, 2019. Colorful hotels line Virginia Beach by the boardwalk.
Virginia Beach, VA, USA — June 8, 2019. A photo overlooking a match in progress in the annual sand soccer tournament held in Virginia Beach.
Photo of Virginia Beach in late afternoon after people have left the beach.
Virginia Beach, VA, USA — Vertical wide-angle shot of the Virginia Beach boardwalk as storm clouds gather on a late spring afternoon.

JFB

The Big Easy

Well, we are back from a long Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans with friends. The Big Easy is an interesting town, especially if you are in the mood for food and music, and lots of it. There are bars and restaurants everywhere and there are jazz bands playing everywhere. This doesn’t leave out pop or any other type of music. 

But it’s jazz and blues that dominate the city’s musical history. And it is a colorful history. Titular control of New Orleans, the Big Easy, went back and forth between Spain and France in the 17th and 18th centuries before Thomas Jefferson bought it in 1803. The Louisiana Purchase included a lot more than New Orleans. All told it was a vast amount of territory that amounted to 828,000 square miles. Soon after purchasing it, Jefferson commissioned the Lewis and Clark expedition to exploration the land he had purchased for the United States. 

To this day New Orleans proudly displays its French roots. Over the years it kept and developed its unique brand of French culture, while still assimilating into the broader culture of the U.S. There probably is a lesson there.

While we were in town we visited the New Orleans Jazz Museum, went to some historic above ground cemeteries, went for a ride on the Mississippi River on a paddle wheel boat, toured the French Quarter and (of course) went to some fine restaurants. 

Some photos from our trip are included below. You can click on the photos to see bigger, high resolution versions.


New Orleans, Louisiana, USA — May 27, 2019. The paddle wheel tourist boat Creole Queen on the Mississippi River.
New Orleans, LA, USA — May 23, 2019. Photo of an entrance to the New Orleans Jazz Museum in the French Quarter.
New Orleans, LA, USA — May 23, 2019. Tourists down a street against a backdrop of the architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans; a police woman observes.
New Orleans, LA, USA — May 26, 2019. Photo taken of marble tombstones at St Louis Cemetery #3 on a hot sunny day.

Thanks for visiting.

JFB

Summer Travels

A busy summer for traveling lies just ahead. We recently got back from D.C. (not really travel–it’s around the corner) where we attended the commencement ceremony at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, where our niece Keelin O’Loughlin graduated. Congrats to Keelin (and parents Steve and Ellen O’Loughlin). 

Washington, DC , USA — May 19, 2019. A large audience of parents, friends and relatives watches as new graduates of Georgetown University file in at the beginning of the commencement ceremony.

Soon we will be on the road again, first to New Orleans over Memorial Day Weekend; then later in June we are off to Virginia Beach and then Duck, North Carolina before returning to Reston via Charlottesville VA. After a brief rest we make our way in July to Stockholm, Sweden where we begin a couple of weeks touring Helsinki, Copenhagen, St. Petersburg, Tallin Eastonia and Schwerin Germany before ending the trip in Amsterdam.

I will be bringing my Nikon Z7 Mirrorless camera on these jaunts. I expect to give it a full workout by taking a lot of photos and posting some of them here. Stay tuned.

JFB

Easter 2019 in Spring Lake

Spring arrived with Easter in Spring Lake, NJ. Some trees, like the cherry blossoms, are in full bloom. Others are just beginning to sprout. The severe rain storms that were supposed to hit Spring Lake didn’t show up, at least not with the advertised ferocity. The water was a bit rough at the beach and there was a lot of fog on the boardwalk. Here below are some photos taken over the weekend that include a long exposure photo of the beach, flowers in bloom and the Constitution Gazebo in Potters Park. 

Clicking on a photo will take you to Evocative Photos where the photo can be licensed.

A long exposure photograph of the beach in Spring Lake tha reveals a dreamy, ethereal vision.


A stone path through the grass leads to the Constutition Gazebo in Potters Park in Spring Lake, NJ.
Close-up photo of a cherry blossom flower in full bloom in Spring Lake, NJ.
Buds on the trees in Potters Park begin to bloom.

Quick note: We also have some trips around southern Virginia and North Carolina coming up, as well as a trip to the Baltic’s and St Petersburg later in the summer. Photos from those trips will be posted here as they happen.

JFB


A Very Special Wedding

We spent this past weekend in Baltimore for a very special occasion. We attended the wedding of Jennifer Rynda and Mark Sapienza. Jen is the daughter of our very good friends Rich and Anne Marie Rynda. Jen and Mark were married in a beautiful ceremony on the waterfront, followed by a reception on the waterfront. Amazingly enough, no one went into the harbor. 

Before the wedding we got a chance to spend some time with our good friends of many years, Ron and Ethel Thau, along with their two daughters, who were also in town for Jen’s wedding. So we all walked around the Fells Point section of town for a bit. Fells Point is a landmark historical district where the architecture dates back to colonial times. Complete with cobblestone streets, the area is full of shops, restaurants and boutique hotels. It’s quite charming (as befits Charm City) and vibrant—even if you are not on your way to Jen’s wedding. 

Here (below) are a couple of shots from our brief walkabout around the city. More photos are at Evocative Photos.

Four Seasons Hotel Lobby
Thames St, Baltimore, Maryland, USA — April 13, 2019. Photo taken on Thames Street in the popular Fells Point Section of Baltomore with its boutique hotels, shops and restaurants.
Baltimore, MD, USA –April 13, 2019– People walk along on the promenade; a man dressed in a red shirt and sneakers feeds the pigeons.
Baltimore, MD, USA –April 13, 2019– A Baltimore City fireboat sails into the waters of the inner harbor.

Peak Bloom for the Cherry Blossoms

The Cherry Blossom Festival runs every year from March to April to commemorate the gift of 3,000 cherry trees the Mayor of Tokyo donated to the United States in 1912. The trees were meant to symbolize the friendship between the Japanese and American people. Located mainly around the Tidal Basin, the festival attracts large crowds to D.C. each year, especially for “Peak Bloom” which occurs when 70% of the Yoshino Cherry trees are open.

A Potomac Park morning with the cherry blossoms in peak bloom.

The festival includes walks, tours, concerts and a kite flying festival.  However, the peak bloom period lasts only a few days, so people pack the District to celebrate the event during a narrow time window. This year predicted peak bloom is April 1, so Mary Anne and I headed out to the District to catch the sights and some of the celebration. 

Washington, DC, USA — March 30, 2019. The Washington Monument seen through blooming cherry blossoms on a Spring morning.
Washington, DC, USA — March 30, 2019 A woman takes a photo of two friends under blooming cherry blossom trees by the Potomac.

Washington, DC, USA — March 30, 2019. Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin display their pink flowers as thy approach peak bloom.


Washington, DC, USA — March 30, 2019. The Jefferson Memorial on a clear spring morning.

Sure enough there were large (mostly polite) crowd there to celebrate. And it is sure worth celebrating. The scenery is just spectacular. So: Here  are a few shots taken today at the fesitivities.

JFB

Florida in February

We took a short trip down to the Tampa-St.Pete area on the Gulf Coast to celebrate my sister’s wedding. The weather in February was perfect. St. Petersburg is a vibrant town with impressive parks, restaurants and spaces for art. 

St Petersburg, FL, USA –February 15, 2019. Boats are moored in a Florida marina on a February morning.

We stayed at the Don Cesar, a first rate hotel, and met some friends who live nearby for dinner.

The Don CeSar Hotel

We also headed out to visit Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde. It’s the largest park within Pinellas County. It is made up of 5 interconnected islands and encompasses 1,136 acres. It has 7 miles of waterfront that includes 3 miles of sandy beaches; there are campsites, a museum, a ferry service, food concessions, birdwatching, swimming, nature trails—you name it. And if you don’t have a car, you can just Uber over and back. 

 

Beach chairs and lounges decorate the beach at dusk

 

Fort De Soto Park, Florida — February 17, 2019. Photo of three men fishing off a pier into the Gulf of Mexico.

Beach at Ft De Soto Park in Florida

Fort De Soto Park, Florida — February 17, 2019. Photo of a long pier in the Gulf of Mexico with fishermen and tourists.

JFB

 

Colonial Williamsburg

We took a short trip down to the historic triangle which encompasses colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. This is not a trip to be missed. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the new land and the place where the mighty British Empire established its first presence. Not surprisingly, Jamestown served as the first capitol of the Colony of Virginia, from 1618 until 1699. It was also the home of the county’s courthouse.

 

Williamsburg, VA, USA — January 9, 2019. Actors in period costume, surrounded by tourists, put on a mock trial in colonial Williamsburg.

It is difficult in the modern age for us to even imagine the dangers and hardships the settlers endured. For instance, from 1609 to 1610 over 80% of the settlers perished from disease and starvation, in what came to be known as the “Starving Time”. During this time the the settlers dug graves for the fallen, but hid the site so the Indians wouldn’t realize how weakened their position had become. 

A simple gravesight, recently discovered, secretly established by early settlers of Jamestown VA.

It was also in Jamestown that the first Africans arrived—aboard a Portuguese slave ship. Thus began America’s long history with slavery, which was not to end until the civil war (1861—1865).  But some effects linger to this day. 

Yorktown, VA, USA — January 10, 2019. Photo of a small reconstructed wooden building that served as slave quarters on a Yorktown farm during the colonial era. Four to six people would have been housed here.

Virginia is a living museum to the American experiment in self government, and the historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown tells an important part of the story. 

Williamsburg, VA, USA — January 9, 2019. Photo of horses, carriage and drivers in period dress by a hitching post by shops on the streets of colonial Williamsburg.

 

Williamsburg, VA, USA — January 9, 2019. Photo of shops, pubs and Inns in colonial Williamsburg, VA on a cold and cloudy winter day.

 

JFB

Autumn Arrives

Fairfax County Virginia has an extraordinary system of public parks. There are lakes and nature trails everywhere you turn. In addition, Great Falls National Park in McLean Virginia features a spectacular series of waterfalls in addition to picnic grounds and hiking trails. Now that the end of October has arrived, the trees are bursting with fall colors; kayakers are braving the rapids of the Great Falls and fishermen are casting for perch and bass in the lakes. Have a look below at recent photos taken in the parks. 

JFB

 

Gone Fishing

Royal Lake in Fairfax County

Tree Leaves Turning Color by Royal Lake

Man in a Maelstrom

Long Exposure Shot of the Falls

Picnic Area in Lake Fairfax Park