Hats in Old San Juan

         One of the most enjoyable stops during our time in Old San Juan was an old-timey shop called Olé which sells hand-made Panama hats fitted and accessorized to your specifications right their in the shop.  Pictured below is the owner fitting Allen’s choice, a Montecrisi, one of the finest Panama hats you can buy.  Also pictured, Allen Modeling another hat, and a tourist who kindly let me photograph her as she chose a hat of her own.

East Side Photo-Walk -12/21/14

These are some of my pictures from another of David Torke’s amazing photography tours of Buffalo’s East Side.

The main event was hiking to the top of the gigantic snow mound formed from the nearly 7,000 truck loads of Lake Effect snow that was transported to Buffalo’s Central Terminal from South Buffalo and the southtowns after the historic “Snovember” storm of 2014.  The mound is 40 to 50 feet high and provides a rare vantage point for shooting the Central Terminal and the surrounding neighborhood.  The Central terminal is now being restored, but parts of it remain abandoned and run down.  We made our way inside and explored as part of the tour as well.

Also pictured, scenes from the Belt Line and some neighborhood shots.

My Blue Highways – I

“A car whipped past, the driver eating and a passenger clicking a camera. Moving without going anywhere, taking a trip instead of making one. I laughed at the absurdity of the photographs and then realized I, too, was rolling effortlessly along, turning the windshield into a movie screen in which I, the viewer, did the moving while the subject held still. That was the temptation of the American highway, of the American vacation (from the Latin vacare, “to be empty”).”
― William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways
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Tour de Neglect featured in the Guardian!

When I first moved to Buffalo for my MFA in photography in 2000, I spent a lot of time photographing all over the city for a project I was working on about abandoned toys.  I found plenty of subjects for my project on Buffalo’s run down East Side and I became very familiar with the area.

Recently, when I saw a facebook invite from David Torke, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in his September edition of Tour de Neglect.   David is a Buffalo photographer, blogger and community activist whose efforts to bring much needed love and attention to the East Side have been getting some impressive press lately.  I’d read about past tours in various local publications and I was excited to get involved.

David’s efforts were recently featured in the Guardian and I am honored to have a couple of snaps I took on that ride included in the article by Ethan Powers.

Here’s a link to the article – The Tour de Neglect: a cycle ride through Buffalo’s deprived East Side.

Treasure Map of Prague – Part 2

On our second day in Prague we were still adjusting to the time change and ended up sleeping in a bit before grabbing a small bite in Siddharta Cafe at the Buddha Bar Hotel (Breakfast is included in the price of a room!).  We then set out in search of more adventures, guided in part by the New York Times Article (36 Hours in Prague) that Allen had folded up and tucked in his pack.

A requirement for us when traveling is finding good coffee that can be enjoyed in a pleasant atmosphere.  We would have been deeply disappointed if the only options were hotel coffee, or Star Bucks. The article recommended Original Coffee close to the church of Jan Hus at Betlemske Namesti.  It was a delightful option on a quiet street and the espresso had a perfect caramel colored creme.  We warmed to the place immediately and decided to make it a stop every morning for the rest of our stay.

More to come…

Treasure Map of Prague – Part 1

Original Coffee

Original Coffee

In hopes of acclimating ourselves quickly in Prague we brought along this handy article from the New York Times (36 Hours in Prague) which charts a 36 hour agenda for visitors who, as the article anticipates, will be pleasantly surprised to find that the city has much more to offer than cheap beer and beautiful architecture.  We didn’t follow the agenda precisely, but by choosing several recommendations in various neighborhoods in and around the Stare Mesto area, we managed to set ourselves out on a path that for the most part measured up to everything the article promised.  Between the NY Times article, our Lonely Planet guides and recommendations from friends, we felt as prepared as could be expected.  We had over 5 days to spend, and, as it turned out, we made numerous discoveries of our own in the coming and going.

On our first day there, we arrived around 11am, checked into the Buddha Bar Hotel, freshened up and then went out for a walk to check things out.  It was my birthday and we had reservations for dinner that evening at The Bellevue Restaurantan upscale venue that we discovered via Lonely Planet.  We decided to make our way there first thing as a dry run to get a sense of our surroundings.  We knew The Bellevue was located right on the Vltava River so we set out in that direction.  Unwittingly, we took the long way by walking in the direction we remembered seeing the river during our cab ride in from the airport.  This route took us due north to the Stefsnikuv Bridge, pretty much the opposite direction of the restaurant.  Our trek west and then south along the river brought many adventures consisting mostly of dodging tourists and taking in the wonders of our new surroundings.

praguecrash1Somewhere between the Stefsnikuv Bridge and the Cechuv Bridge where the river winds south, we witnessed a serious car accident involving a tiny European car and at least several oncoming vehicles.  We were strolling along a small path below the main walkway so our view was partly obstructed by some trees at the moment of impact.  After seeing the speeding car spin like a top down the busy thoroughfare into oncoming traffic and hearing the crash that followed, we quickly made our way to the main road to see if anyone needed help.  Miraculously no one was injured.  Five people had piled out of the tiny car, and were milling around aimlessly, probably in shock.  One woman was praguecrash2comforting another woman who was sobbing.  Others, from several cars also involved in the accident were standing near their vehicles looking on.  We asked a third woman from the tiny car if everyone was ok.  Yes, she said firmly as if to convince herself more than us.  There was nothing we could do, so we continued on silently at first, before puzzling together over what exactly we had just seen.  It didn’t take long and we were back to marveling over the sights, but from time to time throughout our stay in Prague we would revisit the conversation about the accident.

We passed The Museum of Decorative Arts, the Rudolfinum Prague (Czech Philharmonic), and the Klementinum, the largest and most historic complex of buildings in the Stare Mesto area of Prague, dating all the way back to 1232.  Finally we reached The Charles Bridge and we knew we were close to our destination.  When we arrived at the Bellevue Restaurant, it was closed for lunch so we peered in the windows to size it up, then perused the menu posted outside.  We agreed we had made a good choice for dinner and decided to head back to the hotel, taking a leisurely pace through the heart of Stare Mesto in the general direction of Old Town Square.

Tourist in Stare Mesto

Tourist in Stare Mesto

The cobble stone passageways presented a confusing maze of twists and turns that seemed to go on endlessly.  We felt lost at times but we pressed on, wandering in and out of the various shops that caught our eyes.  I photographed along the way.  It was easy to imagine Joseph K. or Gregor Samsa waiting just around the next turn.  In fact we stumbled upon the Kafka Bookshop in Old Town Square, but not before encountering the Old Town Hall Tower & Astronomical Clock, Tyn Church and St. Nicholas Church, the three main architectural characters of the square.

We made it back to the hotel in time to rest up before heading out again for The Bellevue.  I had planned to wear my favorite Frye pumps for the occasion, but tackling that cobblestone journey in heals seemed impossible.  The solution was easy and one I recommend for travelers.  I simply packed my pumps up into a fashionable tote and wore my walking shoes for the trek, then changed shoes for dinner.

More to come…