Sunday, March 24, 2013

Egypt (Part II) - A "Somewhere Sunday" Post

Note:  This is the last post in our "Somewhere Sunday" series for now as we'll begin a four month adventure in Europe next week and there will be lots of posts and pics along the way.  We want to thank everyone who sent us such positive comments and e-mails regarding the "Somewhere Sunday" series.  We're so happy that you've enjoyed them!


Last week's "Somewhere Sunday" post featured ancient Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza and the Necropolis of Saqqara.  Today, we're taking a walk around modern day Alexandria.

The modern day city of Alexandria is frequently described by comparison to its past.  One comes across such phrases as "once among the greatest of cities" and descriptions of Alexandria's " faded charms" of days gone by.  It must be difficult being modern day Alexandria, constantly viewed through the prism of history.  True, Alexandria was once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Times change, the city has changed, but people are the same.  Doing the best they can to live the life that they have. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Winding Down in Morro Bay

Our short stay here in Morro Bay is coming to an end.  It has been a great stop over, allowing us the time to recharge and catch up with family and friends.  It has also kept us in compliance with the U.S. tax codes...gotta pay those taxes!

Our tasks are finished and we are soooo ready for Europe and our next house sitting adventure.  One month house sits in Italy and Scotland bookend the trip and we plan to visit eleven other countries in between. We promise you lots and lots of great posts and photos along the way as we continue our journey traveling the world one house at a time.  

First up in Europe?  Roma!  We'll be posting from there late next week.  Until then...

Ciao baby!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Egypt (Part I) - A "Somewhere Sunday" Post

Pyramids at Giza

This week we begin a two part series visiting Egypt.  In week one we'll look back in time with a visit to the Pyramids at Giza and the ancient Necropolis of Saqqara.   Next Sunday we'll take a walk around Alexandria  for a more modern day glimpse of Egypt.

The ancient Egyptians devoted tremendous energy, time and resources to making elaborate preparations for the afterlife.  For 3,000 years massive mastabas and pyramids were constructed for the 31 dynasties that ruled ancient Egypt.  While the common people probably sought the afterlife, only rulers and the most revered and wealthy Egyptians had the ability to construct these grand funeral chambers and plan for a life after death of such extravagance.   The Great Pyramid, constructed for Pharaoh Khufu around 2560 BC, took an estimated 20 years to build and required 2.3 million limestone blocks.  Enormous even by today's standards, it stood as the tallest man made structure in the world for 3800 years.  

Examples of the smooth casing stones that once covered the pyramids can be seen at the top and base.

Surface detail of the underlying limestone blocks.

Pharaoh Menkaure's Pyramid is the smallest of the big three on the Giza Plateau.
The even smaller pyramid structure beside it is one of the three Queen's Pyramids.
The structures to the right of the pyramid are examples of mastabas or "eternal houses"
Both a forerunner and a more modest alternative to a pyramid, they too house funeral chambers.
Mastabas are constructed from either stone or bricks made of mud.

Father and son entrepreneurs offer camel rides around the pyramids.

Modern day Giza, a city of over 7 million people, lies at the foot of the pyramids.

The Great Sphinx is one of the great enigmas of ancient Egypt.  Its original name is not known - Sphinx being the name bestowed upon it 2000 years after its construction (translating to "the terrifying one" in Arabic).  Nor is anything known about its creation or its purpose. Theories abound, but the half man/half lion whose gaze is forever fixed upon the desert horizon is a mystery waiting to be solved.  Dated to 2558-2532 BC, it is carved from a single stone making it the largest monolith statue in the world.  

The Necropolis of Saqqara was the funerary complex of the rulers and elite residents of nearby Memphis, Egypt's Old Kingdom capital.  Sixteen kings are known to have constructed funeral chambers here.  The most famous structure at Saqqara is the Stepped Pyramid constructed for Pharaoh Djoser, ruler of the 2nd or 3rd dynasty.  Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is the first known monumental structure made of stone and that its architect is believed to have been Imhotep - the man credited for being the first architect, engineer, and physician in early history.  A man of great intellect, he was so well respected and valued by Egypt's rulers that it is believed he has his own yet to be discovered tomb located somewhere at Saqqara.

Stepped Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser at Saqqara.

Dig underway at Saqqara funerary complex.
Entrance to the tomb of Idut, grand daughter of Pharaoh Unas.

Building details at Saqqara funerary complex.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hearst Place

view of Morro Rock from bay with sailboats in foreground
Morro Rock

We've been recharging our bodie's batteries here in Morro Bay, California before we tackle Europe and our upcoming house sitting assignments.  This funky little waterfront town is just what we needed to rejuvenate ourselves and prep for four months abroad.

Morro Bay is a town of about 10,000 people, situated along the Central Coast, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Morro Rock, located at the harbor's entrance, is 578 feet tall and sits like a sentinel watching over the town.  The bay itself leads into an estuary that fills and empties with the tides.  At low tide you can occupy hours in the mud flats watching the birds (a stop on Pacific Flyway, the town hosts a major bird watching festival in January) and at high tide it's great kayaking.  If you're lucky you'll spot a sea lion or an otter or two.

The otters tie up in the kelp to rest.  That darker brown baby is lying atop its mama.
This sea lion was looking for a free lunch from local fishermen.

While tourism is the major industry here, it's the beach, so it's low key.  Lots of people "discover" Morro Bay almost by accident.  They are here to drive the world renowned Highway 1 to Big Sur or to see that famous guy's big house up the road...a.k.a. Hearst Castle.  Those fortunate enough to make a stop here will find many family owned restaurants, some good seafood, a variety of shops and galleries featuring the work of local artists, little coffee houses and plenty of places to stay.  If you're into breathing some fresh sea air there is an 18 hole golf course with panoramic bay views, plenty of waves for surfing and a long stretch of beach perfect for walking.  With two state parks within the city, a Museum of Natural History, and an elegant, old movie theater downtown thrown into the mix there is something for everyone to enjoy.  But, as much as Morro Bay may offer the tourist, it's much more than just another beach side tourist town.  It's a place filled with people who've been here forever and have no desire to leave.  Why would they - they have the very best of California right here.

Morro Bay's a fun town for walking and shopping - with "totally killer deals" to be had. 

Artist Kim Van Nordstrand's mermaid welcomes you to her Main Street shop ArtSea.

After dark, the Fuel Dock rocks with live music.

It's really not possible to walk past Crill's Saltwater Taffy without stopping...really, we've tried.

The Morro Bay power plant may be considered in eyesore by some
but it has been around so long that's it's hard to imagine the waterfront without it.
It would be sort of like Morro Bay without Morro Rock.
By the way, those two little black specks on the far right tower are people!

The birds don't mind sharing the bay.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Festival del Caballos - A "Somewhere Sunday" Post

This week we journey to Baja California Sur, Mexico for the Festival del Caballos de Todos Santos.

Nestled half way between tourista packed Cabo San Lucas and the more laid back La Paz lies Todos Santos.  An official "Pueblo Magico" it is known as an artist's colony, a surfing paradise and as a palm tree laden tropical oasis.  It is also the location of the annual Festival del Caballos de Todos Santos where dancing horses, trick roping caballeros, and beautifully costumed young women perform the perfectly timed Escaramuza - a synchronized horse ballet.  

The event begins with the Cabalgata - a parade of horsemen (and women and children) who ride into town from distant ranches.  Once assembled at the show grounds, a procession forms and riders and horses alike are blessed by the local padres.  This is a celebration of both horse and rider - a proud acknowledgement of a interdependent history and culture.  It is a celebration of life on the Rancheros.  

Riders performing at the Todos Santos Festival del Caballos


Male and Female costumed dancer at the Todos Santos Festival del Caballos