Basel, Switzerland

The ancient history of Basel is beyond the scope of this photography-centered post. However, I personally enjoy having a little historical context around the places I am exploring. Briefly, Basel was touched by the Celts as early as 100 BC to 50 AD, followed by the Romans in the 1st and 2d century. After that, Basel came under the control of the Old-World kingdoms that have now evolved into France, Germany, and Hungary. In 1500, Basel joined the Swiss Confederation and is now one of the three largest cities in Switzerland.

Basel, like many cities, has an “Old Town”. Much of the old-town architecture of note seems to come from 1300 – 1700. Your approach into Old Town Basel will likely begin with a crossing of the Mittlere Bridge.

Mittlere Bridge
View from Mittlere Bridge
View from Mittlere Bridge

Mittlere Bridge crosses the Rhine at a point that is one of the oldest crossings on the Rhine. The bridge we see today was built in 1905 and replaced the original bridge built in 1226. A copy of the old bridge chapel – the Käppelijoch – was added to the new bridge. In the middle ages, criminals were sentenced to death at the Käppelijoch.


After crossing Mittlere, you have some great destinations to choose from. I began with Marktplatz which is the central square of Old Town. Dominating the view in this square is the vibrant red Basel Rathaus (old town hall). The center portion of the building was built in the early 1500’s with the tower and left wing (as you face it) added in the 1800’s. If you zoom in on the second image, the detailed art on the building is amazing. Marktplatz is filled with shops and places to eat…and I ate plenty.

Leaving Marketplatz, I next set my sights on the old city gate and the walk there was filled with vibrant colored homes.

Approaching Spalentor Gate

Spalentor (c. 1370) is a medieval city gate and all that remains of what was once the fortified city walls of old town Basel.

Located near Spalentor is Saint Peter’s Church built in the early 1300s.

After visiting Spalentor, I turned towards another key city square in Old Town. Munsterplatz is a square surrounding the historic Basler Munster (Basel Minster) church.


A Roman fort one stood on these grounds in the 2nd century. Most of the existing buildings today were built in the 1700s. Off to the right of picture below (not shown) is a nice park area with benches to relax and enjoy the scenery. The church is certainly a focal point in this square as it has been throughout the ages regardless of which city-state or nation controlled the area.

As you can see in the photos below, Basler Munster (Basel Minster) has tall spires and vibrant roof top tiles. The church was built and expanded between the 9th – 13th century. Partially destroyed by an earthquake in 1356, it was rebuilt in the Gothic style we see today.

Basler Munster sits upon the highest point in Basel. The Rhine river was of critical importance for trade and movement of supplies so the city and waterway needed to be defended. The elevation of this point optimized defensive positions. The presence of a fort and soldiers drove the need for a place of worship upon this plateau.

This is just a small sample of things to do and see in Basel, but they were points of interests that captured my imagination in the limited time I had available. Basel is on the border of France and Germany and within relatively short train rides to Zurich and Geneva so it is a central location for day trips to other areas as well.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

The Amalfi Coast is a breathtaking stretch of rugged coastline and vibrant villages. Located between the larger towns of Sorrento and Salerno in the Campania region of Italy, the Amalfi Coast has been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My family’s trek to the Amalfi Coast began with a train ride from Naples to Salerno. Once in Salerno (which is a charming town as well), we had the option of riding a bus through tight mountain roads to the smaller towns or taking a ferry. As you can see below, the ferry offers sweeping views of dramatic coastline, vibrant villas, terraced vineyards, and cliffside lemon groves.

Our time was somewhat limited so we were only able to spend time in the villages of Amalfi and Positano. Here are some of my favorites from Amalfi taken in the village and from the ferry.

From Amalfi, we hopped on another ferry and made our way to Positano. While already part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, my daughter informed me it is also a premier spot for a coveted Instagram photo. Let me tell you, it isn’t an easy shot to get. As you are gaining access to the beach, I wouldn’t mention anything about taking a photo.

Our time was cut short in Positano by rain and rough seas. The last image is where the ferry docks to load passengers. Somehow, the captain managed to get us loaded for the last ferry out. If you are planing a similar trip the Amalfi Coast, there are ferry options out of Naples as well as Sorrento which, in hindsight, may have been the most scenic option. The only real downside for taking the ferry is weather. If the forecast is good, go for it.

U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are an American territory in the Caribbean known for beautiful sandy beaches, coral reefs, and sparkling clear water. Some of the islands are mountainous due to their volcanic origins. Others are relatively flat and formed by exposed reefs as ocean levels lowered. The latter is how the Florida Keys were formed as well.

Note: The photos don’t really follow the narrative…just sprinkling them in.

Basking in a tropical climate, temperatures for the Virgin Islands average temperatures hang around 90 degrees all year long during the day and dip into the mid-70’s during the evening. The three main islands are Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas. There are a number of smaller islands as well.

Archeologists believe the Virgin Islands were originally settled by Native Americans originating from South America around 1,000 BC. Europeans first discovered the islands in 1493 during Christopher Columbus’ second exploration of the New World. Over the next few centuries, Spain, Britain, France, and the Denmark would each stake claim to these islands.

Denmark established settlements on St. Thomas and St. John in the late 1600’s and purchased St. Croix from France in 1733. The islands officially became colonies of Denmark in 1754 with sugar plantations being the primary economic driver. Most of those plantations exist today only as ruins and are scattered about the islands.

The United States eventually purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917 after 50 years of ongoing negotiations. Today, tourism is the primary economic driver of the Virgin Islands’ economy. Rum production is also notable (along with its consumption).

Sunset at the Marriott Resort on St. Thomas

Charleston, South Carolina – The Battery (Homes)

Founded in 1670 and originally named Charles Town in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina. South Carolina was one of the original Thirteen British Colonies. By 1690, Charleston was the fifth largest city in North America. Charleston adopted its present spelling with its incorporation as a city in 1783 at the close of the Revolutionary War. Charleston remained one of the 10 largest cities in the U.S until 1840.

Modern Charleston offers visitors small-town charm but is filled with big time attractions. This Southern city has a rich history, well-preserved architecture, top-notch restaurants and bars, and friendly people filled with Southern hospitality. This makes it a popular tourist destination often mentioned among top-cities to visit in the world by travel magazines such Travel and Leisure and Conde Naste Traveler.

The Charleston Battery

My focus today is on the area of Charleston known as the Battery. Visiting the Battery today you will see locals and tourists alike enjoying views of the Charleston Harbor and antebellum mansions, walking their dog, or enjoying a leisurely walk or run through White Point Gardens.

The Battery’s origin dates back to 1737 as a landmark defensive seawall and promenade. Given Charleston’s prominence and importance as a port in early American history, it was necessary to have a place for artillery to defend the city and harbor. It saw action in the American Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the American Civil War. War memorials as spread throughout the park.

A Few Featured Homes

The Edmonton-Alston House (1825) is now a museum open for tours. It was one the first mansions homes built along the Battery and featured a Federal styling. Originally built by Charles Edmonston, the home was sold to Charles Alston and remains in the Alston family. Mr. Alston updated the home with Greek Revival stylings.

Edmonston-Alston House

The William Washington house (c. 1768) shown in the image below on the left is the only pre-Revolutionary house on Charleston’s Battery. It was built in the Georgian style by Thomas Savage. In December 1785, Mr. Savage sold the home to Revolutionary War hero William Washington.

William-Washington House (left side of image)

The Roper House is a Greek Revival home built in 1838 for cotton planter Robert William Roper. His father donated funds for Roper Hospital which is still serving people in Charleston. Mr. Roper died of Malaria in 1845 and the home has exchanged hands several times. I found it interesting that Solomon R. Guggenheim (Guggenheim museum in New York) once owned the home. Several former U.S. Presidents and international leaders have visited and stayed in this home.

The Roper House

The antebellum mansion called “Zero Water Street” (c. 1837) is one of twelve historic homes on the “High Battery”. In the image below, it is the center mansion of the first three shown. The third floor suite is available for vacation rental –

The Charles Drayton house (c. 1885) features Medieval European and Chinese architectural references. Drayton came from a family that had made it’s wealth from a rice plantation (Drayton Hall Plantation). After the Civil War, Charles turned his attention to a successful business venture in mining phosphate from the Ashley River near his family’s plantation.

Charles Drayton House

Two Meeting Street Inn is a popular bed and breakfast on the Battery.

Two Meeting Street Inn

This post will continue to evolve as I gather more photos and interesting facts about the Battery in my travel to historic Charleston. In the meantime, time to catch a carriage and enjoy the ride through the rest of a city with so much still to see.

Where in the world…

Englischer Garten – Munich, Germany

Established in 1785, Munich’s Englischer Garten (English Garden) is a beautiful oasis within walking distance of Marienplatz (the historic city center). Covering 910 acres – including 6 miles of winding streams, a lake, and miles of winding paths for running, walking, and cycling – the Englischer Garten offers a respite from city life.

While staying in Munich city center, I enjoyed several several runs in the Englischer Garten. It was breathtaking.

In 1972, a Japanese garden was created on an island at the southern end of the garden to house an authentic teahouse. It was a gift to Bavaria for the 1972 Olympics from Soshitsu Sen, head of the Urasenke tea school in Kyoto. Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies takes place here regularly. I wasn’t looking for this specifically but believe I caught the island and edge of the teahouse in the photo below. The fall foliage had me distracted and also covered much of the teahouse from my angle.

Monopteros is a Greek-style temple built in 1838. I took the second image while standing in the temple and looking down into the park.

Running along a stream, I unexpectedly came across surfers in the garden at the Eisbachwelle.

Surfing on….

There is much more to see in the Englischer Garten to include the Bavarian National Museum (located at the edge of the park) which contains medieval Bavarian sculptures and tapestries. If only every day were bright and sunny…

If you are in Munich, it is worth carving out several hours to visit the garden (probably best explored on a bike due to it’s size). An early to mid-morning or late afternoon to early evening visit would be best to capture the natural beauty in the best lighting.

Munich is located in Bavaria which is one of sixteen German states. Bavaria once existed as an independent kingdom with a distinctive history and became part of a unified Germany in 1918.

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

Located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu and south shore of Honolulu, Waikiki is the primary hotel and resort area for Oahu. Yes, it is touristy but that is because it is beautiful and filled with so much to enjoy. During my first trip to Oahu I stayed at both the Marriott and Hilton Resorts. Both offer unique experiences and you won’t go wrong with either one.

I took the first photo below from the balcony of my Marriott ocean-view room. This was an incredible way to see Waikiki at different times of the day with a bit of elevation. In that same image, you can see the tree-lined walkway that runs along the shoreline between the beach and Kalakaua Ave. It is a wonderful path for jogging or more leisurely strolls along the beach and is well lighted in the evenings.

The view from ground is incredible as well. As you would expect, the golden times for photos are early morning and sunset. If you are facing the water, the sun will be rising from behind Diamond Head volcano to your left and setting forward and to your right.

You may have noticed in the above photos that part of this beach is protected from breaking waves. This provides a calm, lake-like feeling and is a great place for you or a little one to swim. The other part of the beach is open to surfers with surfboard rentals and instructors close by…open sunrise to sundown. I took the first photo during a morning run. The sun is rising behind Diamond Head volcano and lighting the clouds. The second photo is obviously a gorgeous sunset and, by this point in the day, I definitely wasn’t running.

In the photos below (taken at different times during the sunset), I walked out onto a stone pier to capture a different angle of the beach. You can see the protective barrier taking a good pounding in the late afternoon. What a view though.

Strolling along Waikiki, you will likely come across the 9-foot bronze statue of Duke Kahanamoku. The Duke is known as the father of modern surfing and was also a highly accomplished Olympic swimmer. He won gold and silver medals in 1912, 1920, and 1924. As an ambassador for surfing, he helped spread its popularity around the world along with the spirit of aloha. People come here nonstop with leis to honor his memory and pose for photos. I was fortunate to catch him alone.

Waikiki Beach also offers a wonderful view of the now dormant Diamond Head volcano (Mount Leahi). Most of my photos in this post were taken at locations closer to the Marriott. However, I took this one from the Hilton Resort.

If you are looking to get away from the beach, there are plenty of shopping and dining options within walking distance in Waikiki. Who knows, you might even find yourself enjoying a sunset drink with friends while treated to an unexpected and delightful performance by a former Miss Hawaii.

Hawaii offers a lot of options and I certainly have much more to explore. However, if you are a first-timer to Hawaii, staying at Waikiki is a good place to start. With Waikiki as your base, you can visit Pearl Harbor and Iolani Palace (both within 30 minutes). You can also rent a car (as I did) and make day trips to the other less developed beaches and state parks across Oahu.


Florida Keys – The Conch Republic

Music for the Florida Keys – Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet

The Florida Keys (also known affectionately as the Conch Republic) are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost part of the continental United States. The population is a little under 100,000 with Key West being the most populated island and most visited by tourists.

Islamorada – Florida Keys

This photo for this post features images taken during a trip to Islamorada and a stay at the Cheeca Lodge and Spa.

The Florida Keys have a Caribbean climate with average highs ranging from 75 – 90 degrees throughout the year. Unlike most Caribbean islands which were formed by volcanos, the Keys are the exposed top of an ancient coral reef exposed when sea levels lowered. The Keys are relatively flat with rich tropical flora.

Soothing Vistas

Peaceful Sunsets

Conch Republic – Behind the Name

How did the Keys come to be known as the Conch Republic? This is a fun story. On April 23rd, 1982, the city of Key West (unofficially and in a lighthearted manner) seceded from the United States. While secession was a light-hearted publicity stunt, the frustration was real and stemmed from a US Border Patrol checkpoint established in Key West that greatly inconvenienced residents and tourists.

This act appeared to Key West officials as if they were being treated like a separate nation since no other U.S. cities had Border Patrol roadblocks. This stunt did capture the attention of the US government and the roadblock was removed. The Conch Republic celebrates its “independence” every April 23rd with a multi-day festival filled with humor, warmth, and respect…along with a lot of tequila, rum, and beer.

On September 20, 1995, another incident arose that added to the lore of the Conch Republic. The US military was conducting a training exercise off the coast of Key West but never notified Key West government officials. The Conch Republic mobilized by dispatching vessels of the “Conch Navy” to meet a Coast Guard vessel which they then assailed with water balloons, Cuban bread, and Conch fritters (a favorite local food).

The gesture was apparently taken in stride and considered a humorous moment by all involved. The Department of Defense apologized to Key West officials for not notifying them of the military exercise. Military leaders involved in the training exercise apologized the next day saying they “in no way meant to challenge or impugn the sovereignty of the Conch Republic” and submitted to a light-hearted surrender ceremony.

The term Conch Republic has been expanded and now refers to all of the Florida Keys and has been maintained and celebrated as a state of mind and tag for tourism.

Origin and Economy

Originally settled by Native Americans, the Keys were discovered by Ponce de Leon of Spain in 1513. The Keys eventually became part of an early trade route between the Bahamas, Cuba, and New Orleans. Pirating and the looting of wrecked ships were common in the early settlement and economy of the Keys. The Conch Republic’s economy is now driven by fishing, festivals (party central), ecotourism, and scuba diving.

Getting There

You can travel the length of Keys by car via the 127-mile Overseas Highway (a section US Highway 1). The highway includes part of what was once the Overseas Railway built in the early 1900’s and destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. Key West also has a small airport that has regular connections through Miami. Regardless of how you get there or how long you stay, the spirit of the Conch Republic will always be with you.