Butterflies and More Flowers

Well, I met my friend at the Flower Festival, again. We wanted to try going on a weekday and early enough to possibly have a few “people-free” shots. Dare to dream! Of course it didn’t go perfectly, but it was a huge difference compared to the previous time. Since we had seen the birdies the first time, we decided to skip them this time and enjoy the ability to move without bumping into people.

This time we headed to the butterfly garden. There was one last year, but I didn’t go at all last year. And that’s why I really wanted to go this time. I also happen to love butterflies. I used to joke that there were only a total of 4 butterflies here because we just don’t see them that often. This gave me a chance to see more variety as well as hold a butterfly in my hand which I hadn’t done since childhood.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I kept holding my hand out, hoping one would land. Instead one landed on the bridge of my nose. But it didn’t stay long enough for me to get a picture though I would have loved to have gotten one. Truth be told, I would have been happy to spend most of my time there. But, we were there to also shoot the flowers, with our cameras of course! As we were leaving, we noticed one rogue butterfly that was determined to be free. My friend kept telling it to go the other way, but it fluttered its way out.

IMG_9569-2

It tried to hide between flowers as it continued on a journey of escape, but I saw it.

We left the butterfly garden and walked around, stopping here and there to take more photos. I changed lenses multiple times. I’d see something I like and then move a few feet and think that I need a different lens for a different shot. Indecisiveness, but that’s neither here nor there.

We took pictures, lots of pictures. But I won’t bore anyone with those because there were some in the last post.

When it started getting dark, it didn’t stop us. We used whatever light was available and made the best of it. It’s truly great to see how different things look when you take away the light. As you may guess, I like fountains. More specifically, the water rather than the design of the fountain.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was time to go home. My battery was getting low and I had forgotten to take my backup. My friend and I parted ways and I headed out, with the following as the final shot for the day.

IMG_9649-2

It was a good day.

Yanbu Flower Festival 2018

It has been quite some time since I actually wrote about life in Saudi Arabia, so what better time than the present? And what better topic than the annual Flowers and Gardens Festival held in Yanbu Alsinaiyah? It attracts people from various cities which is still strange for me because it’s where I live.

As I said before, it’s an annual event though I did not see it at all last year. I couldn’t be bothered even though people I know raved about it. So, this time I decided to ask a friend and colleague what she thought about this year’s. I trust her judgment and she’s also into photography so her opinion really counted. She told me not to miss it because it’s lovely. And lovely it is. The only problem? I decided to meet her yesterday, Friday. Note to self: Do Not under any circumstances try to go anywhere on a Friday, especially any “events” or the like which may be taking place.

To say it was crowded would be an understatement. It was as if everyone woke up at the same time and decided to meet me and my friend. It made taking photos a challenge. We both like to have shots without people in them. That was nearly impossible yesterday, but I did my best.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last year there was also a butterfly garden which I’m hoping to see on a different visit. And this year, there’s a bird “thingy”. Again it was, it was super crowded but we managed to get a few shots after bumping into a few people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Those who know me well enough know that I love birds, especially as a photography challenge. My favorite shot was of an Amazon Parrot that was apparently not feeling his handler/owner. He took off flying, as birds do from time to time. The handler was calling him, telling him to come back but he couldn’t be bothered.

Amazon
See you, suckas!

I followed as best I could and managed to get the shot above. He seemed to enjoy the fact that he was driving his handler crazy. And seeing this was probably the highlight of my time there.

Hopefully, I’ll get to make it back again when there is less of a crowd.

Newbie Kayakers at Spencer Glacier

After a wonderful experience seeing Columbia Glacier in Valdez, we were back in Anchorage. The official Alaskan holiday was over, but we spent a few more days there to relax and enjoy Alaska just a little bit more.

On July 11, my parents took a scenic train ride and my husband and I took a train from Anchorage to Spencer Glacier. We set out at 6:30am and were treated to a very different view of Seward Highway. We were quite fortunate that day also. It was cool, but that was okay. The best thing was that it didn’t rain and the water was nice and calm.

Once we arrived to Spencer Whistle, we had a kayaking adventure with Chugach Adventures.¬†We had met our guide, Corey, on the train and were ready to go. Corey was a big help and seemingly made it easy for us to get through the experience. This was our first kayaking experience, and I hope it won’t be the last especially since it was by all accounts a success story. Hey, we didn’t tip ourselves over, so that is most definitely a win.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Being new to kayaking, we were in a tandem kayak. And it was definitely the best thing for us. Also, since I was in the front when we canoed in Canada, it was only fair that my husband be in front this time which he enjoyed. We got somewhat close to a fairly sizeable iceberg and all I could think about was just how big it really was. A lot of people may not know that the ice we see above water is only 10-15% of the ice. The majority is under water. We were able to move across the lake and even had a chance to walk on the glacier. It wasn’t something I ever imagined myself doing. But, I also never imagined myself in a kayak.

Once we got back across, we had lunch and then a scenic train ride before heading back to Anchorage by motorcoach.

Lessons learned from this trip? Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid of a little adventure. And if you live in North America, even if you don’t, Alaska is worth every penny and the time and energy spent to get there.

Columbia Glacier Cruise from Valdez

On July 9, we set out on our last trip/activity for our Alaskan tour. And it was the third and final cruise. The night before it rained non stop. It was real nippy out, and I really didn’t know whether anyone would want to go on the cruise. I told them all that they could stay in the hotel if they didn’t want to take this last cruise. I was afraid they were sick of cruises, long cruises. I have to say, we saved the best for last. I can honestly say that I enjoyed all three and they were all special in their own ways. But this was really different.

First of all, this cruise was operated by Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruises. All crew members were actually living in Alaska unlike the other cruises we had been on. The boat wasn’t full so we had a more intimate experience as the captain, Alan, invited passengers to come talk to him and ask questions or just to get a better view.

Second, we didn’t see as much wildlife as the first cruise. We did see the ever-elusive porpoises, stellar sea lions, birds and seals. I guess we DID see a lot.

One of the most amazing things about this cruise was watching how the scenery changed from, “I can’t believe this is Alaska” to “Oh, I’m really in Alaska.”

I can’t believe this is Alaska.

 

Now THIS is Alaska!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On this cruise, we got to see more ice. Sure we had seen glaciers and seemingly small icebergs, but this time we got to see much more floating ice. Larger icebergs and the ever impressive Columbia Glacier. Once we got closer to the face of the glacier, I felt like that was the Alaska I had been dreaming about. We were freezing and it was spectacular. I stayed outside a lot because I just couldn’t resist the scenery around me. Seeing that towering mountain of glorious ice was an experience I won’t soon forget.

And now more of Columbia Glacier…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

Bye bye, Denali

When we got back from our Denali adventure, we were finished. And by finished, I mean we were completely out of energy. We were hungry and tired. It was 8:30pm and all we wanted to do was eat and sleep. We ate, but when we wanted to sleep, my husband asked about the activity for the next day. I was sure it was a free day to drive back to Anchorage at our own pace. So, I decided to check the itinerary and lo and behold, we did have a scheduled activity for the next day. What?! That’s all I could say. What was worse was that it was an early morning activity which might have been interesting had we not been so tired. We all agreed that we simply wouldn’t go. It was paid for, but we were willing to take a little hit to get some rest. And so we did. And then the next morning we got a call from the front desk reminding us that we had a trip. My husband calmly said, “We canceled it. We all canceled.” We were a party of four and not a single one of us could be bothered. We decided to sleep and then get ready to head back to Anchorage.

Even though we didn’t go on our scheduled river float down the Kantishna River, we most definitely enjoyed the views on our way back to Anchorage.

We saw a moose along the roadside as my dad zipped by. There was no way to stop. But, it wasn’t a problem because I did get shots of one in Denali NP. So, by this point just seeing one was enough.

After 4 hours, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and made our way to the hotel which was the same hotel we stayed in when we first arrived to Anchorage. Funny thing was that my husband and my parents didn’t seem to get that fact. My parents both said, “I’m sorry but I liked the hotel we stayed in when we first arrived.” And it took everyone a minute to realize that it was in fact the same hotel. From that moment forward I had to start watching what everyone was drinking :).

IMG_0562.jpg

Kenai Fjords: Part 1

Sea life, glaciers, waterfalls, mountains and more! Where to begin? I guess at the beginning. First of all, I have to say that this was one of the best cruises of this type I’ve ever been on. It was 6 hours and I had my concerns. Would I get bored, cold? Would my mom complain that it was too long or too cold? By the time we got started, I didn’t care. But please don’t tell my mom that.

We took the MMT Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. Even before we boarded, I was happy. It was cloudy and it looked like there was a 100% chance for rain. There was no need to worry which I knew from a previous experience in Malaysia. It was sprinkling. It was super cloudy. There was fog. It was everything that had the makings of a potentially miserable trip. But with an enclosed area, we knew we’d at least be warm and dry.

 

Sitting on the boat waiting to get moving, I snapped pictures of boats. What a shock! But as we sat there waiting, we also saw sea otters. I think they were sea otters. Or maybe there was one sea otter and one seal. Honestly, they confuse me at times. Not to worry, there would be plenty of wildlife I did actually recognize. For example, bald eagles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of a pair of bald eagles because there were just too many people to compete with. I do believe my dad got one, but he did not share it with me.

As we moved through the water, we alerted to any wildlife that was spotted. And one of the first we saw was the puffin. I managed to get a few shots of them, but I am much too embarrassed to post those here because the pictures suck :). But we also saw steller sea lions, porpoises, and whales. And it was magnificent. The porpoises were much too quick for me to catch though I may have a picture of some water they splashed in. But the whales, oh the whales! We went on two different whale watching trips in the past couple of years and managed to see one whale on each trip. We saw at least seven humpback whales on this one. I was so excited. Though I enjoyed our previous whale watching experiences, this was definitely on a whole other level. Most of the whales we saw were in pairs as seen below.

IMG_9915

We also got to see glaciers and one in particular which often calves. The blue hues in the glacier were brilliant. I didn’t know that “ice” could be so mesmerizing. As we moved closer to the glacier, glacial ice seemingly hopped on deck. People were grabbing ice, taking pictures. We could hear the ice moving which was surreal. Looking at it, you’d never imagine that the ice is actually moving. And it calved! Twice! And all I managed to see was the movement in the water because as my dad said, “By the time you hear it, it’s already in the water. I present to you “Holgate Glacier“.

 

 

You know what? I was really liking this Alaska trip at this point. And this was only the first part of the cruise. It doesn’t include the trip back to Seward.

Scotland: Will Stop for Photos

Here I am in Scotland in the chilly month of January. Chilly of course is an understatement. I worried about my ability to live in the cold since I’ve been in “warm” Saudi Arabia. And at the same time I really wanted to experience a proper winter.

So, early in the morning, which wasn’t that early since sunrise is just before nine, we set out. I was excited to see frost. Can you imagine? I was even more excited to see that we’re in the middle of winter and the frost I saw sat neatly on green grass. If I didn’t know any better I would’ve thought it was a first frost. Of course I knew that wasn’t possible since temperatures had been circling around the drain for quite some time long before I got here. And the forecast? Snow!!! Oh how I’ve wanted to see snow. We were on the road traveling from Brechin and making our way to Oban where we’d catch a ferry to Mull¬†Island.

As cold as the road was, I was nice and comfortable in the heated seats. I had great conversations with my hostess along the way. It was nice that she also enjoys seeing snow. We saw snow along the way and I snapped horrible photos as the car moved on. But then we reached a loch which was absolutely stunning and warranted a short stop. What can you take away from this? Scotland is so much more than simply the “land of castles.”

Loch
The stunning beauty of Scotland.

 

And who wouldn’t want to stop for this? It’s awe inspiring. I was so excited and secretly wished we could stay longer. But we had a ferry to catch. Any delays would mean catching a late night ferry. The drive itself was enough, not that I was the one driving. But add to that a person with jetlag and try imagining a longer wait well into the night. I certainly didn’t want that.

And so we pressed on. We stopped a little longer for a restroom break and lunch on the run. But it wasn’t what you might expect. Charlotte, my hostess, had made delicious sandwiches. We had crisps as snack along with cake and hot tea. While we were having lunch, I noticed these little birdies. Apparently they are common in Scotland, but for me it was the first time seeing them. I haven’t gotten a picture yet as they mock me and fly away.

We got back on the road. I marveled at the sun glistening the snow draped trees. It was a dream come true. And I’m not even frozen yet. But I am quickly approaching.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑