Sunday, December 13, 2009

Solomons Castle

About an hour away from where I live, in the middle of no-mans land, is a place that stands out among the mondane residence across Florida. Howard, the designer and builder of Solomons Castle has mastered 20+ trades and he utilizes them as an artist and sculpture. He built his castle, he made all the doors and windows (all windows are stained glass), and most of the castle is filled with his work. He lives with his wife in a very small portion of it. The place is incredible and the diverse nature of the work is fascinating and inspiring.

Bok Tower Gardens Oct 2009

Bok Gardens is this beautiful botanical gardens in central Florida that has a large bell tower as its centerpiece. I'd heard interesting things about it and since I'm now unemployed, I thought I'd try it out. The opportunities to take incredible photographs are around every corner - the place is gorgeous. The tower alone is a work of art. Its made from sandstone & marble (I think) and the ornaments at the

top are hand carved. The front door has 26 individual pictures into the gold material (can't remember what it was). My personal favorite was the iron works (having seen how those are made in Memphis, it makes me that much more appreciative of the work that went into it. Its surounded by a moat, there is a pond, flowers, swans, and just all kinds of cool things. It's also at an oddly high point (possibly the highest point in Florida) and the views are fantastic. Scattered around the grounds are some individual sculptures. Worth the effort if you are into pretty pictures, or gardens in general.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Costa Rica October 2009

We did 7 days in Costa Rica this year. We spent 3 days in the Tortugeuro Canals, 1 day at Arenol indulging in one of the hot springs, and 1 day doing a variety of fun smaller activities. 2 days were spent at my dentists, so I didn't take pictures there - however my dentist was hot enough to get a full page spread. Preferably naked. But I'll throw you a couple of pictures on here so you can live vicariously through me ;)
Our excursioned picked us up at our Guest House in San Jose and drove us to the boat for Tortuguero. On the way, we stopped at a Banana factory and Tropical Garden. Both were very interesting experiences.

This is a live rhino beetle that this gentlemen keeps around to entertain the tourists. As scary as it looks, it moves as fast as a koala bear and seems pretty harmless. I still didn't touch it.

After we picked up our first boat, we enjoyed a very leasurely ride into the canals. One of the farmers keeps a herd of water buffalo and they just kind of hang out in the river.

The Tortuguero Canals are now a National Park. It is a primary breeding ground for turtles and a large natural environment for a number of other creatures to survive in. It was Green Turtle season while we were there but due to the sensitive nature of these creatures, photography isn't permitted while they are laying eggs. The flashes are disturbing (its at night) and they are very vulnerable out of water, so the'd turn back around and hit the sea if they knew we were peaking at them. There are no cars and everyone gets around by boat. We spent 3 days exploring the canals by boat, exploring the small town of Tortuguero, and did one small hiking trail on our way back to civilization.

We stayed in small cabins within the National Park.

This is Gabriel. He was our guide for most of the three days. He was yummy.
We spent a bit of time on the beach. During the daytime it was less exciting, as the turtles come up on the beach at night, and most of the time the hatchlings arrive at night also. We were lucky enough to see every phase of the process, from the female pulling herself up the beach, to hatchlings popping up through the sand and crawl to the beach. In the pictures below, you can see what appears to be ATV tracks in the sand, but these are actually turtle tracks. The adults femals range about 500lbs and it is a huge effort for them to crawl up the beach, dig the hole, lay 100+ eggs, burry them, then work her way back to the sea. Its an amazing thing to watch. Tortuguero is one of the main laying grounds and the beach was covered in tracks and nests. The middle picture is what a nest looks like. The 4th picture shows hatchling footprints on the way to the sea - although you have to enlarge the picture to see it.

The rides throught the canals were full of interesting things. We had spider monkeys, howler monkeys, caymen, iguanas, JC lizards, birds of every size and color, and beautiful scenery. The only 'town' in the area was Tortuguero and it didn't look like much from the water, but it had everything a person (or tourist) would need.

On the third day in Tortuguero, we took a hike through a very interesting part of the forest. Here we saw a baby crocodile (although the picture doesn't really show you its only about 24 inches long), more monkeys, a python squeezing his dinner (look to the left for a lizard claw), eyelash viper, vine snake and taranchula. It was a fascinating walk.

Arenol Volcano
Arenol is usually a very spectacular volcano, but heavy cloud cover prevented a decent viewing of it. However, the hot springs were still hot, and they were beautiful.

On our final day of touristing, we went to Poas Volcano, a Butterfly Farm, Hummingbird Farm, coffee plantations and saw some fantastic scenery. I also think everyone should have a baby anteater, because seriously, I think this is the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Isn't this the coolest bathroom you've ever seen?