Wednesday, July 18, 2012

LONDON June 2012

Assistance on the trip by Travel Pavillion in NJ.  Gladys Rappoport at 732-812-0173

Travel Wed / Thur  After landing, Paddington Express Subway Train to Paddington Station.
Heavy Rain, took a cab to Hotel Indigo two blocks away.  Cab ride is circuitous due to one ways.  Easy walk when no deluge.  Arrive at noon Thurs.

I LOVE Hotel Indigo.  It is insane in these days of dumbing down and emotional culture that you see wall paintings of Math related Fibonacci rules and Golden Equations.  Stunning celebration to intelligence and provable concepts as opposed to emotional crap so pervasive.

Room not ready.  Eat lunch at hotel.  Arthur Treacher Fish & Chips is better in the US.  Sorry, the Brit's can't do food.  Their INDIAN food is superb!

Boarded the BIG BUS TOUR to get the "lay of the land."  Rain mostly and poor photo opportunities.  Bus Schedule changed and had to learn the street map well.

Dinner at RYATH Indian Restaurant near the hotel  -  Shrimp & Lamb served with a dry Muscadet.  Management very attentive and caring.

Rain.  Breakfast.  Le Bistro.  Good Breakfast.

Purchase Underground OYSTER CARD.  Take Underground to Westminster Abbey, spend the morning there.  Saw the graves of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.  Literally standing on history.

LUNCH at Fullers Ales & Pies.  Had lamb pie.  And a Fullers ESB beer.  It is SO GOOD there.  Rarely found here in good condition.

Citi River Cruise Tour from Near Big Ben, up and down the River.

DINNER  Frontline Restaurant  Terrific.  Steak Tartare, Fish Cake, Shiraz.

DAY 3  Forecast, first day of no rain.  HEAVY DUTY DAY.  PERHAPS A WORLD RECORD OF ACTIVITY.
Tour of Stonehenge, Oxford and Windsor Castle.
6 am Breakfast at McDonalds.  No one else open until 7am.
7 am on the Underground to Victoria Station.  It is a walk from the Underground.
8:45am on the Bus for the Evan Evans Tour arranged by Gladys
10:00 am At Windsor Castle. Buy box lunch in the neighborhood at the Castle.
12:00 Noon back to the bus for the drive to Stonehenge.
1:45 - 2:10 at Stonehenge
2:10 drive to Oxford
3pm - 5pm tour Oxford.
DINNER Indian very very near Paddington Station Indigo Hotel. Staff falling asleep.
8pm LONDON EYE ferris Wheel for photos & shoot Parliament & Big Ben at dusk

DAY 4 - No rain in forecast
Kew Gardens - 250 year old Botanical Gardens
LaTaza Kosovo Breakfast.  Noon at Kew gardens
Lunch at Kew
World class Botanical garden.  Out at 4:30 pm

Dinner at Pride of Paddington pub.
Pride of Paddington Scottish brew and T-Bone steak.  Cocktail: Pimms on the Rocks

BREAKFAST Pride of Paddington pub  Eggs Benedict
Museum of Britain
Rosetta Stone, Easter Island
Lunch at Museum.  Blood Pudding.

Dinner: Flavors of INDIA

Breakfast at Le Gourmet - Mediterranean Breakfast
Get on Waterloo W trains to Hampton Court Castle -  Henry the VIII hangout.
Lunch near the castle at Pizza Express.  Gorganzola and Pancetta Pie.  Very good.
Dinner Thai River Restaurant near Paddington Station.  Terrific Authentic Thai.

Breakfast at COSTA  - had a koffta at Le Bistro
Went to St apuls and walked around Fleet street.
Check out Hotel Indigo and by cab went to Leicester Sq.  Crazy driver.
Lunch ALL BAR ONE  terrific.

Walk around Trafalgar square.
Dinner at local pub, great Sam Smith beer.
Walk the square and ice cream dessert.

Breakfast at Pompidou Salmon and bagel.
Photos in St James park on the way to Buckminster Palace.
10 Downing St
Churchill War Rooms
Multiple trains to visit Canary Wharf  (former colleagues are here)
Tower of London- Amazing stuff.  WOW.
Lunch at NorthWest Chinese Cuisine Walamuchi in Leichester Sq.  Served SE Thai style.
PORTRAIT Gallery of London
ALL BAR ONE for dinner, Duck, Calamari and Mushrooms as tapas.

Outta here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Day 1 arrival at Portland International Airport.  Killer deal with Advantage car rental via Travelocity.  No hassles.  One week rate for a full size car was about $123.  Dinner @ Jakes Seafood.  Dungeness crab claw entree.  Just claw meat sections drenched in butter. Yum.

Day 2  Drive to Columbia river Gorge, Vista house, waterfalls, hiking, bird photography.  Lunch at Multnoma Falls.  Stayed at Best Western Plus Columbia River Inn with hot tub.  Dinner nearby at Skamania Lodge.  Wine: local Willamette Valley Pinot noir from Argyle. 

Day 3 Bonneville Dam tour.  Chinook salmon running up the fish ladder right now.  Followed by fish hatchery tour..  Saw 11 foot sturgeon named Herman.   Bought Mt St Helens park pass ($5).  Drove back to Portland.  Checked into Hotel Monaco.  Lunch at DeShuttes Brewery.  Pear & chevre pizza plus their IPA.  Powell's bookstore next door afterwards.  One of the worlds largest bookstores.  Dinner at Ringside Seafood. Superb.  Wine: local Willamette Valley Pinot Gris tasted more like a White Burgundy.

Day 4:  Lan Su Chinese Scholars Garden. Similar to the one in Staten Island.  Superb craftsmanship and garden.  Lunch at the tea house on the grounds.  Not the predictable greasy banquet food we have come to see in every strip mall.   unique teas, rice noodles with mushrooms and smoked firebird ( turkey ) and green tea pumpkin seeds.   Afternoon at the Portland Art Museum.  Dinner at Greek / Cretian place:  Eleni’s.   Lamb wrapped in phyllo dough.  Wine: a Santorini white.

Day 5 breakfast at Voodoo Donuts for a Bacon donut.  Drive two hours to Mt. St. Helens Hummocks Trail.  Very unusual hike around the debris field from the eruption 32 years ago. Vegetation has mostly grown back.  Very healthy area now.  Herds of Elk in the area and tons of birds.  Did not see the summit due to clouds.   Drive back to Portland.  Dinner at Ringside Steakhouse. Wine: Rosso de Montalcino was an excellent value.

Day 6 Departure.  Breakfast at Morningstar Cafe.  Eggs with boar sausage.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, January 2012

January 2012
Just got back from New Orleans, assisting with Mardi Gras preparations (eating and drinking). See the related Fun Stuff Post.
Here is the skinny on the current situation and places to see and places to eat:

Hotel Monteleone - on Royal Street, one block from the action on Bourbon Street and offers some quiet from the din.

RESTAURANTS- Unless specified, all locations in the French Quarter
  • Cafe Biegnet: two locations Royal Street and Bourbon Street - Terrific Biegnets (French Donuts similar to Zeppoles), Crawfish Omellet, Cafe Au Lait.
  • MOTHERS - on Poydras near Harrah's Casino.  Classic style, old time NOLA breakfast spot.  Famous for DEBRIS (Last nights Roast beef with gravy on a biscuit), Smoked Sausage, Hot Sausage, and Po-Boys.  A MUST DO.  Don't expect pleasant service, this place has plenty of attitude.  Hit 'em back with big smiles.
  • MR B's Bistro - On the corner of Royal & Iberville. Terrific Seafood Gumbo
  • Reginelli's Pizzaria - Magazine Street near the Zoo.  Pizza and Abita Amber beer on tap

  • GK FINS on Bienville St. - Incredible seafood.  Among the best in the country.  Raw oysters served on 500 degree oyster shells, they cook on the shells.  Gulf coast fish like Butterfish.  Not like the East or West coast butterfish,  it is closer in character to Chilean Sea Bass but is not threatened. Excellent wine list.
  • PALACE CAFE on Canal St - Part of the Dickie Brennan empire.  Great INNOVATIVE NOLA food.  Farm Raised Redfish with Andoullue crust.  YUM.  Good wine list.

  • Dickie Brennan's Steakhouse on Iberville St.  Wow.  What a treat.  Great aged steaks with a choice of classic or NOLA tinged sauces.  Sides like Sauteed mixed mushrooms, starters like fried Portobellow sticks.  Excellent wine list.

There is no accounting for taste.  Just stroll up and down Bourbon Street unless you want the history of Preservation Hall.  The new Jazz district is Frenchman Street.  But this is out of the French quarter.  Click here for NOLA Jazz updates.

But you need to check out Steamboat Willie at Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street.  He has been there 7 nights a week since 2004 and plays 1920's, 1930's and some 1940's favorites.  Since Al Hurt is gone, Steamboat is a modern day institution.

This was a quick trip, so couldn't go to the AQUARIUM because it is closed on Monday as ALL the Audubon attractions are.  However, take the St Charles Streetcar from the French Quarter for $1.25 to the Zoo.  Enjoy the Garden district views of the Mansions.  Wait for the Zoo Shuttle at The Tulane Stop or walk the mile through the Audobon Park to the Audubon Zoo.  HINT: walk the park if you are able.  The zoo has many birds and photogenic furry friends.  Very hazardous to your hard drive, bring lots of memory cards.

On Poydras & St Peters.  Slots, etc.  Played for an hour and won!  Put in $5.00, left with $5.01!

Plan to shop inside the Riverwalk on the rainy days.  It is on the river toward the Convention Center.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great White Sharks - GUADALUPE ISLAND, Mexico

Trip aboard the Nautilus Explorer live aboard dive boat.

Land in SanDiego, take a shuttle bus to their designated hotel at the airport with your equipment and stash it in the locked Nautilus Storage room.  Have dinner before.  Recommend close by Mitch's for casual Fish & Chips, etc.   Gather back at the hotel for the three hour bus ride at around 6pm.

You will clear Mexican customs on the way to Ensenada.

Board the Boat in Ensenada.  Depart Ensenada around Midnight for the 20 hour or so ride to Guadalupe Island and arrive around early evening the next day.

Spend three days diving with the sharks to 40' for about 40- 45 minutes total.  Water temperature will be as cold as 64 F.

Return logistics are the same.  You will leave around 2pm? from Ensenada?   Ask if you can stop at a local store for some beers and munchies for the trip :). Clearing Customs back into the US involved dragging your equipment about a quarter of a mile.  

You can go right to SanDiego airport or stay in town.

Comfort Inn Gaslamp is INEXPENSIVE and convenient to the Gaslamp district.

We hit Candelas high end Mexican for dinner.  The LOBSTER is out of this world.

Click here for Part 1 of How to Photograph Great White Sharks.

Click here to see the Shark Galleries

 Click here to see the YouTube post.


Friday, December 17, 2010

PARIS Sept 2010

With 24 rooms, Hidden Hotel is a DELIGHT.  English speaking FRIENDLY STAFF, they will help make your trip, help you negotiate the easy Subway and HARD Trains (to Versailles).   Get the GREAT BREAKFAST.   Rooms are smallish by US standards but much more lavishly equipped with 4 poster beds and great lighting and plumbing.

This place also cross promotes the amenities they provide like the Italian shampoos, soaps and bed linens.  Not a thing guys usually notice but you come away addicted to the way you have been treated.  The Cypress Lotion and "Eurica sativa" shampoo should be outlawed.

Very good restaurants nearby, grocery stores to get Belgian Ales, French Beer, Wine, Cheese and snacks. 

Almost insane trying to recommend Parisian Restaurants. This will evolve to include Dr Kevins recommendations.

Le Trimilou:  A Dr Kevin Recommendation.  On the Seine across from Isla la Cite.  The best duck with prunes. OUTRAGEOUS.  A great first night dinner as Kevin recommended while you are still jet lagged.  Get the house wine.  Incredible photo ops before and after dinner.  English is not happening.  Hand gestures and pointing to the menu with smiles will get you a great meal.

RECH:  Alaine Ducasse temple to SEAFOOD.  5 Minute walk from Hidden Hotel.  Ducasse bought it 7 years ago and instead of the "Seafood Platter"  they offer the "Crustacean platter" with six varieties of shrimp and crab.  Or the Mollusk platter, you get the idea.  Not available in the USA.  They speak reasonably good English.

Seine River Cruise " Batteaux Parissean"  Pick up at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.  Photography problem, only worthwhile at the stern of the boat (back).  Elegant but not haught cuisine up front through the glass.


Isle la Cite / Notre Dame / Concierge

Eiffel Tower

Lourve / Park

Sacre Coure & Moulin Rouge walking tour (Montmart)

Dinner Cuise on the Seine (boats at the foot of the Eiffel Tower)

Museum of Science & Technology

La Defense (New Paris)

Versailles (edge of town)

Etoille / Arc de Triomphe
See this at night.  Thanks to Lisa G for the the recommendation.  There are staircases that let you go up after hours and see the lights with far fewer crowds than the Eiffel Tower.  You shoot the Eiffel Tower from here.  Bring a tripod.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Check out my article in on Photographing Manatees.

Best Season is January to March.  Colder water, 68F, brings in more Manatees from the Gulf.
Snorkelling only, no free Diving down.  Wet suits necessary, can be rented on site.
Fly into Tampa - car rentals can be very expensive, even for Florida.

320 N.W. Highway 19
Crystal River, FL  34428
Run by Bill & Diane Oestreich  for 20 years
800 771-2763
Get to the store / Dock at 6:15 am  Store is open till the boats leave. Dock is at the side of the store.

HOURS Shop is open 9-5 every day year round.

Rhonda, Christine (boat Guide), Marty

$35 per person per day
Morning trips are the best  6:15 am & 11am
reservations are required.

This year 150 at 3 Sisters,  Kings springs  maybe 250

Hotel: Holiday Inn Express about a mile form the Dock / Store.  Mention Birds Underwater for a discount.  THERE IS A HOTEL right next to the Store as well.  See the Birds Website, they have a ton of info.

Having your own boat makes no difference, and may make crowded conditions worse.  At Three Sisters, after leaving the boat, you are moving past a roped sanctuary and up a barricaded stream to the 3 sisters spring. It is a five minute swim. It has two foot openings to allow Manatees and kayaks and not much else.  Photographers with long strobe arms should have arms extended and pass cameras sideways.  Strobe arms are a consideration.  See the DOs and DON'Ts section below.  Visitors are required to view the Fish & Wildlife Video on Manatee behavior and proper conduct.

A Commercial Photo Permit is required for Kings Springs if you will be publishing photos as a professional.  If you are using Three Sisters, a permit not required as of this writing, but this could change in the next couple of months.  The permit costs $100 and can only be made by check or money order.  They prefer to have the fee mailed ahead of time.  Florida Fish & Wildlife is near the Dive store and the fee can be dropped off if necessary.  For more info, contact Ivan Vicente of Florida Fish & Wildlife, at 352-563-3088 x 213.  All shooting for this article was at Three Sisters.

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, they offer a discount for Birds Underwater customers, we paid $85 a night.  Wi-Fi is included.  It is a mile or so from the dock.  There are also a Best Western close by and a Plantation Inn.  The Holiday Inn Exp is diver friendly, we were routinely walking through the lobby in wetsuits.

Crystal River has lots of casual dining, it does not have a Nobu or the accompanying prices.  Charlies Fish House is next to the dive store, and on the water,  and has Stone Crab Claws.  Crackers Restaurant, also on the water, is a little further North on Route 19 and also has good seafood.  Reservations were not needed when we were there.  Wine is frequently served by the bulk carafe in Crystal River.  You may need to do some coaching on opening a bottle of wine.  Get a cultural grip and remember you are here for the Manatees.

There is a Publix supermarket a mile or so past the Holiday Inn for essentials and wine and beer.

Since you will be chilled after a couple of hours in the water in the morning, you may want to do some terrestrial activity in the afternoons.  Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park is a few miles south on Route 19.  This park has a great assortment of rehabing Mantees, local birds, exotic mammals and other critters (technical term).  I got some of my best flamingo portraits here.  This is easily a half day and is family oriented.  The day we were there, almost every bird seemed to think is was spring and there was courting behavior all over the place despite the cold snap.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Been going for years.  Here are some favorite areas.  Activities: Hiking, Guided nature walks,Canoeing, Biking, Photography,  Mount Washington visit, scenic drives, eating.

FRANCONIA NOTCH  Off Route 93 near Littleton
1) The Flume - boardwalked Waterfalls and cataracts - easy walk about a mile circle.

2) The Basin - nice pools, VERY easy Walk

3) Cannon Mountain - take the gondola for the view (Wild Black Bears up there too)

Mount Washington Hotel / Breton Woods Ski Area - Good hotels in the area.  Upper crust.

Some of best views and short hikes.  Hike Mt Willard about 1/2 hour for a breathtaking view of the Crawford Notch Valley.

Appalachian Mountain Club - Highland Center at Crawford Notch - BIG facility, free activities, Nature walks, guided tours.  This is the Southern branch of what happens at the the main facility in Pinkham Notch.  Mount Washington lies in between the two facilities.  Maybe they are an hour apart by car.  

- The pond in the back is a great sunset walk, takes about an hour.  

- Starting point for Mount Willard a 45 minute hike to see one of the BIGGEST BANG FOR THE BUCK VIEWS in the White Mountains.

Arathusa Falls  Crawford Notch
- 2.5 hour hike one way to GORGEOUS 200' waterfall.  Medium difficulty trail, medium steepness, some small streams to cross. Tip toe on a few rocks. Climb over branches.

BARTLETT  / Attitash Ski Area - 302, South End of Crawford Notch
Hotels and condos here good base of operations - should have reasonable prices.

White Mountain Cider Co  - New Restaurant / Shop and deli.  Restaurant looks REALLY good have not tried yet.  Not Upper Crust stuffy, but looks like hip Greenwich Village Innovative.

Grant's Food market at the intersection of 16 & 302 - good selection & quality for a small market.

BASE CAMP at Applachian Mountain CLUB  Route 16

Mount Washinton is a big deal and dominates the area.  Major Facility.  Get your bearings here at the Base Camp. Go here on your first day of activity to get a good orientation to the area.  Guidebooks for sale and maps / Weather / Safety info. Courses in all kinds of outdoor stuff.    Plan activities around the weather.  It always rains some days.  Base for the hike to the summit of Mount Washington - 4 hour up, 4 hours down.  Not a beginner hike - over a mile high.

Short, easy hike with FABULOUS Waterfalls.  Across the street from AMC Base Camp.

Take the Auto road for a difficult and BREATHTAKING "white knuckle" drive.  Narrow, no guardrails.

Alternates - take the Guide bus.  Bring camera and lots of film and jackets and pray for clear weather.  Temperature drops quickly up there.  Highest winds on earth - ever - were recorded there.

You could also take the Cog Railway back in Breton Woods on the other side of the Mountain near Breton Woods.

JACKSON   off Route 16, South of Pinkham Notch
The Inn at Thorn Hill  Have not eaten here yet but it reminds one of the Pitcher Inn in Vermont.  Upper crust. 

Wentworth - Inn and Restaurant and Country Club  Elegant & Expensive Hot tubs / fireplaces   Upper crust.

Thompson House Eatery - loud pub atmosphere, Innovative menu the way Wildcat Tavern USED TO BE.

Wildcat Tavern -  Hotel and Restaurant.  Used to be a great place, now serves Mac & Cheese.  Used to be owned by THREE CHEFS, they sold it several years ago.  New owners have made it into a "Disney Cuisine" place.

Ravenwood Curio Shoppe  - Like the unusual, strange and weird.  This is for you.

Outlet heaven/hell
Shopping and choking traffic jams on weekends plan on an hour to go 3 miles.  Some OK restaurants.

Shaws Grocery shopping at the south end of town.

Loon Ski Area should have good hotels condos

Scenic switchback highway.  Great views, go slow and enjoy the views, stop at the overlooks.  Not central to the rest of the area.  Easy to head home from here.

Bear Notch road is an important connecting road to 302 that will cut off an hour by allowing you to bypass CONWAY.

Accomodations - Try to stay central like Bartlet / Attitash or Jackson for the Food and Inns