A Camera’s View of the Alamo

The iconic facade of the Alamo

The iconic facade of the Alamo

A visit to San Antonio means a must-see stop at the iconic Alamo. The rainy weather served to highlight the stone features and added to the ambiance. Overall, the famous battle location was more than the typical tourist attraction I expected.

Welcome gate at the Alamo

Welcome gate at the Alamo

Old stone and wood mixed with desert landscape and lush gardens created an intriguing space where I could quietly contemplate the long and varied history of the Catholic mission turned military fort.

Carved stone showing niches.

Carved stone showing niches.

So how did the Alamo get its name? At one time beginning in the early 1700s (possibly earlier), the Spanish opened a mission (San Antonio de Valero) and a good number of Catholic converts were housed within its walls. In the photo above, you can see the niches (those would have held statues) left over from the mission days.

Old stone and wood walls inside the mission. I believe inside this building is a small museum.

Old stone and wood walls inside the mission/Alamo. Inside this building is a small museum.

The stone work of the walls within and the wood give that old Texas feeling.

A cannon in the courtyard.

A cannon in the courtyard.

In the late 1790s and early 1800s, the population of those living within declined and the mission was left in the military’s hands.  The French (in Louisiana) and American forces posed threats to the Spanish in Mexico, so they moved troops into the mission grounds.

The Mission Bell

The Mission Bell

The Spanish troop that arrived came from Alamo de Parras. Over time the compound simply became called the Alamo. A large population of family members came with the troops. A need arose for a hospital which they placed in one of the mission buildings. It became the site of the first hospital in Texas.

Close up of a frieze from 1936 showing the story of the Alamo.

Close up of a frieze from 1936 showing the famed men from the battle at Alamo.

The rest of the story, of course is history, and thus came the slogan “Remember the Alamo.”

The colors of a desert garden.

The colors of a desert garden.

I visited in late spring and found many things blooming in the gardens.

A single bloom. Pretty to look at, but not so wise to eat.

A single bloom. Pretty to look at, but not so wise to eat.

An agave and cactus (prickly pear) garden.

An agave and cactus (prickly pear) garden.

Texas and the Alamo are located in hot and usually dry country. The cactus garden appeared quite happy in its Alamo environment.

A tree in the middle of the grounds.

A tree in the middle of the grounds.

A sculpted tree with trunk darken by rain.

A last glimpse at the historic Alamo.

A last glimpse at the historic Alamo.

Plan a visit and don’t forget your camera. You never know what might intrigue you.

Also don’t forget about other close-by missions around San Antonio, all easy to see in a day visit. Check out my blog Stone and Weathered Wood- Mission San Jose for a few photos from those missions.

If you’re a history buff, this city link offers more information on the history of the Alamo.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

 

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Galapagos (Giant) Tortoise

Studying science in college opened my eyes to the unique creations of our world and the men, like Charles Darwin, who have studied nature’s secrets. So when I had the chance in Spring of 2010, I grabbed my camera and headed for the equator. The Galapagos, discovered in 1535, is an archipelago (a collection of volcanic islands) in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. The best way to experience them is to fly in and live on board a boat. While my stay was short and I made it to only half the islands, it is a place I never imagined getting to see firsthand.

Coral I. Our floating home while in the Galapagos.

Coral I. Our floating home while in the Galapagos.

One of the first stops I made was Santa Cruz Island where the Charles Darwin Research Station is located. The results of Darwin’s 1835 study of the Galapagos flora and fauna were published as “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.” People from around the world have become involved with saving these land tortoises and other natural species of the Galapagos. For more information check out the Giant Tortoise Recovery Project part of the Galapagos Conservancy.

Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.

Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.

I did have the chance to see one the islands most famous inhabitants, Lonesome George, a Giant Galapagos Tortoise. These tortoises made an easy meal for whalers and others who visited the islands in the 1700 and 1800s and almost became extinct from over-hunting. George recently died at over a 100 years old, and originally was thought to be last of his kind. Genetic studies started in the last few years have been done on young tortoises similar to George and provide evidence that hybrids of George exist and have been born within the last 15 years (since George had been in his safe reserve). Are there more of George’s family (subspecies) still out there somewhere?

One believed the last of his subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises.

Lonesome George. So named because he was once believed to be the last of his subspecies of Galapagos Tortoises.

There are actually 14 subspecies that have been discovered over the years although according to “Birds, Mammal, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands An Identification Guide” by Andy Swash and Rob Still, only 11 still exist many unique to a particular in the Galapagos Islands (remember these are land tortoises, not the Green Sea Turtles which also inhabit the islands and love the water). There are two categories into which these tortoises fall and that is determined by the carapace (body shell). One is a dome-like carapace and the other is called saddleback.

Dome Carapace

Dome Carapace

Saddleback Carapace

Saddleback Carapace

The Charles Darwin Research center (Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center) on Santa Cruz Island is hoping to restore the tortoise to the island where their habitat was wiped out by an introduced goat population. The photos below come from the rearing center.

Galapagos Tortoise hatchlings being raised in their pens at Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise hatchlings being raised in their pens.

Growing up is so hard to do. It takes tortoises about 25 years to reach maturity.

Growing up is so hard to do. It takes tortoises about 25 years to reach maturity.

Darwin studied not only the creatures of the Galapagos, but also the flora. The two prickly pear trees in the photos below survived perhaps by necessity by growing tall. They are quite unique to the islands.

Perhaps to escape being eaten prickly pears grow into almost tree-like form on the islands.

Perhaps to escape being eaten prickly pears grow into almost tree-like form on the islands.

Look at the long trunk of the unique cactus plant.

Look at the long trunk of the unique cactus plant.

The following photos give you an extra insight into the physical appearance, slow movement, and daily life of the Galapagos Tortoises. Enjoy. If time and money ever permits, I’d love to go back someday and visit the other islands that I missed.

Galapagos Tortoises are large reptiles that move slowly.

Galapagos Tortoises are large reptiles that move slowly.

Notice the claw-like toes on this tortoise.

Notice the claw-like toes on this tortoise.

This tortoise knows how to pose for the cameras.

This tortoise knows how to pose for the cameras.

A drink at the water hole.

A drink at the water hole.

Ah, content.

Ah, content.

Full face close-up.

Full face close-up.

Move over. You're such a camera hog!

Move over. You’re such a camera hog!

Exotic Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands. Their unique flora and fauna once captured the attention of Charles Darwin and led to his writing the “The Origin of Species” in 1859. If you ever have a chance to go, take a camera and a video recorder. The photos below are from my trip (and require permission for use of any kind). You’ll be within feet of magnificent creatures and watch mother sea lions suckle babies, giant turtles swim, thousands of colorful fish swirl in the ocean, and giant birds play, nest, and court. Their antics are fun, amazing, and memorable, like the Blue-footed Boobie below.BlueFootedBoobie

We flew to the islands from Quito, Ecuador on Aero Gal. The airport on Galapagos is understandably small and open; a place to simply congregate for flights and check into the island on arrival.

AeroGal Airliner taxiing in after landing on the Galapagos Islands.

AeroGal airliner taxiing in after landing on the Galapagos Islands. Notice the frigatebird near the tail.

The number one way to get around in the Galapagos (a province of Ecuador) is by boat. Tourists often stay on one of many small yachts. Ours held about twenty people (there are large and small ones) and had a dive platform to ease getting on and off dinghies that would take us out to the islands.

These are the type boats typical in the islands.

These are the type boats typical in the islands.

The volcanic islands rest on the equator 960km from Ecuador. The black basalts are visible just about everywhere and create dramatic landscapes.

A nice little cinder cone peaking up from the island.

A nice little cinder cone peaking up from the island.

The first stop was at the National Park to see several different species of the big turtles and the nursery set up to study and nurture babies.

Galapagos National Park

Galapagos National Park

Galapagos Tortoise

Galapagos Tortoise

During our short stay we stopped on only half the islands (unfortunately I didn’t record the names of the particular ones we visited- lesson learned). One in particular had stunning basalt cliffs. Nazca Boobies, Marine Iguanas, sea lions, the largest breeding bird in the islands (the Albatross), and endless numbers of smaller creatures like lava lizards and crabs.

Basalt Cliffs

Basalt Cliffs

Large Marine Iguana

Large Marine Iguana

Marine Iguanas are well-camouflaged on the black basalts.

Marine Iguanas are well-camouflaged on the black basalts.

Beautiful sea scapes on the island.

Beautiful sea scape on the island.

Nazca Boobie's nest on this island.

Nazca Boobie’s nest on this island.

Two boobies with waves crashing in the distance.

Two boobies with waves crashing in the distance.

Parent and baby Nazca Boobie.

Parent and baby Nazca Boobie.

Blow Hole near nesting site.

Blow Hole near nesting site.

The sea lions had no fear of people. Kids in our group came across several sunning themselves on the beach and lay down with them, mimicking their sunbathing. Another day a sea lion launched himself onto our boat platform and worked himself up to the saloon. One of the crew eventually coaxed him off the boat.

Baby Galapagos Sea Lion nestled in the warm rocks.

Baby Galapagos Sea Lion nestled in the warm rocks.

Sea Lions on Beach

Sea Lions on Beach

The sea lion who climbed onto our boat.

The sea lion who climbed onto our boat.

Other islands had weathered down and provided interior marshes that were home to flamingos, smaller crab species, rays in the bay areas along the beach, and species of finches and other smaller birds.

I believe this is a Yellow Warbler. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

I believe this is a Yellow Warbler. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

Sea Urchins and echinoderms.

Sea Urchins and echinoderms.

Beautiful red crab.

Beautiful red crab.

One of the most fascinating islands gave a hint as to what awaited us as we approached the island. Cyclones of circling birds turned out to be frigates. Below the swirling birds, hundreds of nests were positioned in the rough scrub on the island.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

Nesting area of the frigatebirds.

Nesting area of the frigatebirds.

Nesting frigate.

Nesting frigate.

Frigate baby.

Frigate baby.

The frigate island had huge Sante Fe Land Iguanas. We stood within 15 feet of a pair facing off, positioning, and enacting half-lunges. This was the trip of a life time and one if time permits may take me back to see the rest of the Galapagos Islands.

Santa Fe Land Iguanas facing off.

Santa Fe Land Iguanas facing off.

The Old, the Classic, The Modern Moroccan Village

While doing research today I was looking through my Moroccan photos from last year’s trip and came across this one I call the Old, the Classic, and the Modern. Along a stream in the barren desert of Morocco, life comes from water. The lush green of an oasis stands out in this eroded valley.

Old, Classic, and Modern Morocco

Old, Classic, and Modern Morocco

On top of the cliff is a modern town built up along a relatively new road to the area. Those houses maintain the old look, but are now built of concrete block, making them both less cool and less warm depending on the season. The tradeoff is the lower need for maintenance. The photo below shows a cut out of the modern village in the photo above.

A modern village in Moroccan desert

A modern village in Moroccan desert

Across the stream and lower down is the classic ksar (fortified town). Protection was provided in the way the homes were built together within tall walls and around a central open area. The walls were built from clay and straw and had to be maintained (new mud added) about every four years. The photo below is an enlarged cut showing the ksar from the top photo.

Classic Ksar

Classic Ksar

The old village is much harder to discern. It is underneath the modern town and can be seen by carefully looking along the cliff. The homes there were built in exactly the same building material as the classic ksar. Time is taking its toll and eventually the walls will disappear back into the earth from which it was built.

Crumbling Old Village Walls

Now go back to the top photo and pick out the progression of all three states of this village. That’s a lot of history in a small space.

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Sandy has a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. The one for February 2013 is on. It’s a short month. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. Your choice. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Stone and weathered wood: Mission San José, San Antonio

Sometimes man and nature combine in ways to create a feast for the eye and mind. Twists of gray wood against angular yellow and burnished stone took me back in time without requiring a plaque to announce the date. Paneled doors, crudely constructed, hid under a sturdy wood lintel that has stood the test of time. I found these photos I took during our visit to San Antonio a few years ago to attend my sons flight training graduation nearby. There is a certain allure in old wood that I find similar to drift wood along the beach.

Mission San José

Mission San José

Although much of Mission San José was reconstructed in the early 1900s, it still accurately portrays the layout of the community that made up the Catholic mission to serve the Coahuiltecan Indians in 1720 (source: Wikipedia).

Mission San José, San Antonio, Texas

Mission San José, San Antonio, Texas

In the next photo, the crude skeleton of an awning is softened by green, new growth around the poles and the wispy trees in the background. The trodden pathway of numerous visitors can be seen by the barren stretch of soil along the wall.

MSan JoseWall

This symmetry of the last photo is perhaps too perfect, but I find it fascinating the way it draws my eye right to the center of the photo and the delightful weathered wood.

A Mission Door

A Mission Door

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Sandy is starting in January 2013 a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Birds of South Africa, the North West Province

On a trip to South Africa in 2008, one of our stops included several days at a wonderful safari lodge in the North West. Needless to say, the abundant animal life had my camera (including a 300mm lens) at my side and I constantly snapped anything that moved…no matter how big…or how small.

Elephant at Madikwe National Park

Elephant at Madikwe Game Reserve

Armored Ground Crickets

Armored Ground Crickets

I live in Florida, where birds are a common part of the landscape. I discovered this province quite similar in flora and the number of unique birds. I’m not a bird expert (they are simply fun to watch), but took photos of many I saw and then attempted to properly identify them. While I have a book of Bushveld birds and a list of birds our guide rattled off during our trips in the bush, the task has left a few photos without proper identification. It didn’t help that I went through my notes at the end of the day with a Springbok (drink made with layers of kahlua, peppermint liquor, and Amarula cream) or a sweet Jerepico aperitif (loved it, but can’t find it in the US). If you recognize a bird, or find one I’ve mislabeled, please let me know.

The Lilac-breasted Roller.

The Lilac-breasted Roller. Small, but pretty. The colors are so perfect on this bird, it almost doesn’t look real.

Not wishing to have the pretty ones take center stage a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill moved into the picture.

Not wishing to have the pretty ones take center stage a Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill moved into the picture.

The vulture. Big, ugly, and a necessary scavenger. I can’t tell from its position and this photo what type. African White-backed or maybe Hooded Vulture?

The vulture. Big, ugly, and a necessary scavenger. I can’t tell from its position and this photo what type. African White-backed or maybe Hooded Vulture?

The long wispy tail of this Shaft-tailed Whydah is rather unique.

The long wispy tail of this Shaft-tailed Whydah is rather unique.

A Pale Chanting Goshawk. Note the orange beak and legs.

A Pale Chanting Goshawk. Note the orange beak and legs.

Starlings are found around the world, but this one certainly had a beautiful blue. Burchell’s Starling.

Starlings are found around the world, but this one certainly had a beautiful blue. Burchell’s Starling.

Helmeted Guinefowl. Love the blue and red head.

Helmeted Guinefowl. Love the blue and red head.

Birds of a feather flock together. Helmeted Guinefowl.

Birds of a feather flock together. Helmeted Guinefowl.

Kori Bustard. Not the best photo, but it shows their rather “prehistoric” head and body shape.

Kori Bustard. Not the best photo, but it shows their rather “prehistoric” head and body shape.

Bee-eater. Tiny, beautiful, and hard to see as it blended in perfectly.

Bee-eater. Tiny, beautiful, and hard to see as it blended in perfectly.

These were some nests I encountered.

This one I believe belonged to a Weaver of some type.

This one I believe belonged to a Weaver of some type.

These two photos show a remarkable collection of giant nests from a bird I can’t identify. Someday I’ll have to contact the lodge where we stayed and ask, as they have it posted in their website gallery from a bunch of photos I left behind after our visit.

Nest2

The head is not clearly seen in this photo (or another taken at the same time), but it appears almost completely black (unlike ospreys). Its body size is that of a large bird like an eagle.

A larger angle showing the entire tree and multiple nests.

A larger angle showing the entire tree and multiple nests. The bird’s head is also twisted forward while preening and again appears all black.

I think hubby found my photo taking a bit amusing and snapped this photo with his pocket-sized digital.

Sandy at Madikwe National Park. A kid in a photo candy store.

Sandy at Madikwe National Park. A kid in a photo candy store.

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Sandy is starting in January 2013 a monthly drawing taken from those who comment on her blogs. Comment and your name will go into a drawing for a free ebook of Repossessed by Sandy Parks or one of author Julie Moffett’s Lexi series. You’ll have a month after names are pulled to check back and see if you are a winner. Good luck and  hope to hear from you.

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Lights of Morocco

In a country with sunshine aplenty, I found the indoor lighting to be purposefully subdued. Intricate lanterns with detailed metal work hung from ceilings or were fastened to the walls. My first photograph is from the Riad Kalaa in Rabat. We had a two-story room and this lantern hung in the stairwell to the first floor. Note the beautiful wood beams on the ceiling.

RoomLight

The more rounded lanterns hung beneath the arches of the walkway along the courtyard. The arch is a bit unusual. The tooth-like design is made of local sandstone.

Hanging lanterns with stone arch

Hanging lanterns with stone arch

Also in the Riad Kalaa courtyard, long brass lanterns hung from curved arms attached to sandstone columns. The door in the picture is an excellent example of the two door system you find everywhere in Morocco. You can see the smaller door, that when open by itself has a keyhole shape, is now attached to the larger door.

Long brass lantern on arm

Long brass lantern on arm

The ultimate sky light was this open decorative metal arch constructed over the riad courtyard.

Riad Kalaa Courtyard

Riad Kalaa Courtyard

Across the roof terrace you can see my husband relaxing along a wall with two long, glass covered lanterns. I believe those are papyrus growing in the tall pot. I included two closer looks so can see how the lanterns are hung, note the opaque glass, and see the detailing in the brass.

Riad Kalaa

Riad Kalaa

CloseupHangingClear

Closeup2Longlantern

The next lantern, in a night setting, hung in the courtyard at another beautiful riad we stayed at in Marrakesh.

Brass Sconce

Brass Sconce

The following photos are from mosques, schools, and famous riads in Morocco.

MosqueCandleabra

RoundSetLanterns

SpookyLight

This intricate ceiling has beautiful skylights to let in natural sunlight.

Intricate Sky Light

Intricate Sky Light

Street lights from the medina in Fez (Americans spell Fez with a “z” while in Morocco we saw it spelled with an “s”) or the streets near the market in Marrakesh.

Street Light

Street Light

Lanterns in Fez

Lanterns in Fez

MarrakeshStreetLight2

Street Light in Marrakesh

The last photo is a candle and rose on our dinner table as we ate in the courtyard of our quiet and beautiful riad. Photo taken with my cell phone. Stay tuned for future blogs on more aspects of Morocco and other countries.

Candle and Rose

Candle and Rose

I hope you enjoyed the pictures I put together. COMMENT on this blog (Comment tag is at start of the blog near title) and your name will go into the hat for a drawing (ending mid-night Dec 11) of an eBook by REPOSSESSED by Sandy Parks or NO ONE LIVES TWICE by Julie Moffett (both award-winning authors). I’ll post the winning name later this week, so you’ll have to check back. Thanks for dropping in.