Monthly Archives: December 2012
2012: A Year in Photography
2012 was a busy travel year for me. I visited all seven continents, 18 countries and flew over 150,000 miles. I was exhausted for much of the year, but on the upside I came away with some amazing photos. I made some great strides as a photographer in 2012. I improved my mastery of Lightroom and have have worked on going out of my way to get better shots. My gear didn’t change much during the year. I purchased a new carbon fiber tripod in March and replaced the 18-200mm lens I had been using since 2007. I also celebrated my 5-year anniversary of publishing my daily photo and released my iPhone Travel Photography app.
It was a good year for photography and I plan on making 2013 even better!
2012: A Year of Travel by the Numbers
As 2012 comes to a close, I thought I would give an overview of my last year of travel. Rather than giving a month-by-month summary of everything, the math major in me thought it would be interesting to look at the numbers I racked up this year.
This was an especially intensive year of traveling for me. So much so that I have no desire to do it again. It has fundamentally changed how I’m going to go about traveling in the future. I have put on more miles in 2012 than I have in several of the previous 5 years combined.
Without further ado, here is the numerical summary of my 2012!
December 2012 Question and Answer
It is that time of the month where I answer those burning questions that world has been dying to ask. This month I have something special. I received a question which seemed very simple at first, but as I began answering it, I realized that the explanation would take up all the space for this month’s Q&A. Nonetheless, I think that the question this month is so important that it deserves it’s own post.
6 year old Claire asks: Why haven’t you gone to the North Pole? Then you could see Santa.
My Most Memorable Hotels of 2012
For the second year in a row, I’m posting the list of my most memorable hotels of the past year.
As before, this list isn’t necessarily a list of the “best” hotels. I don’t go out of my way to find hotels to review and I’m not a hotel reviewer. I don’t have a checklist that I go through in each location. My list ranges from luxury hotels to youth hostels. I would recommend all of the properties listed, but often for very different reasons. I stayed at least one night in every one of the locations listed. Simply visiting a hotel is not sufficient to get put on the list no matter how cool the hotel might be.
My choices when I look for accommodations are almost always pragmatic. I don’t really care about luxury rooms and usually just want something clean with good interent. Some of these were paid for by myself and some of them were comped. The vast majority of comped rooms I got did not make this list.
Without further ado, here are my most memorable hotesl of 2012!
The Quest For The Perfect Bag
UPDATE: I have posted an update listing which bag I purchased and how it has held up after 9 months of travel.Whether it is a suitcase, a backpack, a duffle-bag or a rollaway, the bag is probably the quintessential item for travel. No matter where you go or how you travel, you have stuff and that stuff has to go in something if you want to be able to transport it. Even hobos would use a bindlestiff when tramping from town to town.
That being said, after almost 6-years of traveling, I have never been satisfied with any bag I have used. You would think that I’ve settled on the perfect bag after all this time, but I haven’t and it is an endless source of frustration for me.
UNESCO World Heritage Site #190: Landscape of Grand Pré
From the World Heritage inscription:
Situated in the southern Minas Basin of Nova Scotia, the Grand Pré marshland and archaeological sites constitute a cultural landscape bearing testimony to the development of agricultural farmland using dykes and the aboiteau wooden sluice system, started by the Acadians in the 17th century and further developed and maintained by the Planters and present-day inhabitants. Over 1,300 ha, the cultural landscape encompasses a large expanse of polder farmland and archaeological elements of the towns of Grand Pré and Hortonville, which were built by the Acadians and their successors. The landscape is an exceptional example of the adaptation of the first European settlers to the conditions of the North American Atlantic coast. The site – marked by one of the most extreme tidal ranges in the world, averaging 11.6 m – is also inscribed as a memorial to Acadian way of life and deportation, which started in 1755, known as the Grand Dérangement.
If I you didn’t know the story before hand, you could pass by Grand Pré without every knowing its significance. At first glance it is nothing more than farm land that happens to be on the banks of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. However, there are several things about the site which make it significant.
1) It is the ancestral homeland of the Acadian people. The Acadians were French speaking people who lived in Nova Scotia (which they called Acadie or Acadia). During the French/Indian War (aka the Seven Year’s War) they were asked by the British who controlled Nova Scotia to take an oath of loyalty. Even though they were French speaking, they didn’t consider themselves French and claimed neutrality during the conflict. The British eventually deported the population of Acadians who were set all over the world. Their descendants include the Acadians in New Brunswick and the Cajuns in Louisiana.
2) Grand Pré later became famous as the setting of Longfellow’s famous poem Evangeline. Even though it was fictional, the poem cemented Grand Pré as the focal point for the Acadian diaspora as well as turing it into a tourist destination. Today the poem is still celebrated with an Evangeline statue and an Evangeline trail.
3) The agricultural challenges of growing crops next to the Bay of Fundy, with the world’s highest tides, required a great deal of ingenuity. The farmers of Grand Pré created a system of dikes which allowed them to expand the cultivatable area of the region. Those dikes and drainage controls are still in place today.
It is an interesting and subtle area. It will not jump out at you like other World Heritage sites like the Great Pyramids, but there is plenty here to discover if you are willing to look.
Grand Pré can easily be visited via day trip from Halifax. The visitors center at Grand Pré National Historic Site is open every day in the summer months.
View my complete list of visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
UNESCO World Heritage Site #189: Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites
From the World Heritage inscription:
The Stonehenge, Avebury, and Associated Sites World Heritage property is internationally important for its complexes of outstanding prehistoric monuments.
It comprises two areas of chalkland in Southern Britain within which complexes of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments and associated sites were built. Each area contains a focal stone circle and henge and many other major monuments. At Stonehenge these include the Avenue, the Cursuses, Durrington Walls, Woodhenge, and the densest concentration of burial mounds in Britain. At Avebury, they include Windmill Hill, the West Kennet Long Barrow, the Sanctuary, Silbury Hill, the West Kennet and Beckhampton Avenues, the West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures, and important barrows.
Stonehenge is unquestionably one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. There are few people who can’t immediately recognize it from a photo. It is often placed on lists of world wonders and was even commemorated in song by Spinal Tap.
The actual site of Stonehenge wasn’t quite what I expected. There is a road which passes surprisingly close to it, but you never actually see it in photos. Also, the impression of large megalithic blocks is somewhat toned down by the fact that you can’t actually get close to the stones anymore. You can only walk around the structure at a distance.
As I write this in December 2012 they are in the process of replacing the current visitor center and removing the road which passes by. By 2014 the entire area should be green pasture with the visitor center about a mile away, out of sight.
Stonehenge can easily be visited by day trip from London. You can often find trips that will take you there for £30, not including admission.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.