Paris, France


Architectural Detail, Paris


I rather unexpectedly fell into serious like with Paris.  I”m not much of a city gal but I found Paris to be charming and quaint for its size.  The people were very friendly (for the most part) but the main draw for me was its architecture.


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Because Paris wasn’t bombed during the war, it continues to carry its original charm on its sleeve like a well worn corsage.  Every turn of the corner revealed something simply grand showing just how much love was put into this city as it was being built.



Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette spent her last days


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Carousel at the foot of Sacré-Cœur Basilica




Museum signage



Paris oozed charm.

Unlike London, there are no towering modern glass skyscrapers, no new odd architecture to contrast with the original designs.  Where London was overwhelming Paris was charming.  Make no mistake, I love London.  However, this my first trip to Paris I was enlightened by the City of Light and enjoyed my stay there tremendously.

Tower of London Remembers

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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


We just returned from a month in London with side trips to Paris and Wales.  My hands-down favorite place in London is the Tower of London.  Since my last trip to London in 1986 this historical iconic site is now framed by modern buildings.  Offices across from the Thames are all glass in odd shapes, and reminds me a lot of downtown Dallas.  The sight created within me a dichotomy of emotions.  On the one hand, I’m at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge with all that bloody history, and overlooking it all are these slick, glass buildings that reflect the history away, acting as though it never existed.  That’s just the way it struck me.


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Sea of Red Poppies (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


The Tower of London is in the process of installing an exhibit called Tower of London Remembers the First World War.  888,246 ceramic poppies are being placed all around the Tower of London in what used to be the moat.  This number represents the number of Commonwealth fatalities during World War I.


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The Tower Bleeds (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


Ceramic artist Paul Cummins and Stage Designer Tom Piper were commissioned to create the exhibit.  Volunteers began placing the poppies August 5th.  The last poppy will be placed on November 11, 2014.  After the exhibit is over poppies can be purchased with proceeds going to charities.  Google the Tower Of London for details.


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A Volunteer Places a Poppy (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


The exhibit can be best seen from walkways on Tower Hill surrounding the Tower of London.  It was very crowded the day we visited.  However, except for low murmurs and the clicking of cameras observers were quiet and reflective.  It is quite a sight, hundreds of thousands of red poppies pouring out of the tower and pooling around its base.  One poppy per Life Lost.  Let that sink in as you look at these images.


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The Tower and the Poppies (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


Each day in the moat at sundown the names of 180 Commonwealth troops killed during World War I are read aloud as part of the Roll of Honor.  I’ve never seen a more moving display.


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Closeup of Poppies (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


888,246 poppies = 888,246 lives lost in World War I by the British Commonwealth.

Wild Geese


Opal Sunrise Copyright 2014 by Debi Bradford

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting,

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

From Dream Work by Mary Oliver


Sea Oats Copyright 2014 by Debi Bradford

Falconry at Dunrobin Castle


Dunrobin Castle and Gardens (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


Toward the end of our Scotland Adventure, we toured the amazing Dunrobin Castle, a majestic home in Sutherland in the Highland area of Scotland.  Dunrobin Castle is the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland.  It is about 5 miles south of Brora on the east coast of Scotland, overlooking the Dornoch Firth.  There are 189 rooms within the castle, making it the largest in the northern Highlands. Externally, the castle has elements inspired by the work of the French architect Viollet-le-Duc, such as the pyramidal roof over the main entrance. The French influence extends into the gardens, completed in 1850, with Barry taking inspiration from the French formal style of the Gardens of Versailles. The total landscaped area is 1,379 acres.



Gardens and Firth (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


Dunrobin’s origins lie in the Middle Ages, but most of the present building and the gardens was added by Sir Charles Barry between 1835 and 1850. Some of the original building is visible in the interior courtyard, despite a number of expansions and alterations that made it the largest house in the north of Scotland. After being used as a boarding school for seven years, it is now open to the public.  (Wikipedia)  The view, above, was taken from a window in the castle and only shows about a quarter of the formal gardens at Dunrobin.  The castle may have been built on the site of an early medieval fort, but the oldest surviving portion, with an iron yett, is first mentioned in 1401.



The Falconer and the Golden Eagle (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


A visit to Dunrobin Castle now includes daily birds of prey flying demonstrations at 11.30am, and 2.00pm on the Castle lawnThese spectacular shows feature golden eagles and peregrine falcons, both resident birds in the Scottish Highlands. Shown here feeding the golden eagle when we first arrived.  Additionally, he had Harris hawks, steppe eagles and goshawks on display.  Our show included a goshawk, peregrine falcon and owl.



The Falconer’s Son and Bongo (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


The falconer’s son is in training and already handled many of the birds.  A film crew was there filming the falconer’s son and another young boy. I talked with them before and after the show. At first I thought they were doing a film on the falconer and his son, but it turns out they are doing a film on an egg collector and HIS son, both who were there. Egg collectors (never knew there was such a thing) helped track down the reason for sharp declines in hawk and falcon reproduction – DDT – making the shells fragile, breaking before they could hatch.



Falconer and Goshawk (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


Andy Hughes, Dunrobin’s professional resident Falconer demonstrates and explains the different hunting methods used by owls, hawks and falcons in a series of fascinating aerobatic displaysAndy took this hawk through the motions. It was fascinating. The hawk had a little bell on him so that Andy could tell his whereabouts. Apparently, the hawk likes to sneak up on him.



Owl Games (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


We adored Bongo!  Andy had him skim over our heads many times so that we could hear (or not hear) just how quiet his flight is.  An owl is mostly feathers – his body is about a quarter of the size he appears.



The Peregrine (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


Falconry was originally developed as a means of hunting fast or difficult prey as food for the table, and is still practiced for this purpose in many parts of the world today.  This display of falconry was one of my favorite experiences in Scotland.  Not only was the setting breathtakingly beautiful, the display was more than I imagined.  Andy and his son were very personable, chatting with us all before and afterward, plus we were allowed to tour the area where the birds are kept.  It’s a humbling experience being around such graceful and intense birds.  Andy and his son treated the birds the highest respect.



Falconry at Dunrobin Castle (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


If you are ever in Scotland one of the tours you simply must do is the falconry exhibit at Dunrobin Castle.  Right after you see Eilean Donan Castle.  Well, it’s all good.  It’s all good.

Eilean Donan Castle


Eilean Donan Castle (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford

Eilean Donan Castle was my hands-down favorite castle throughout Scotland.  Picturesque beyond description, the castle is on a small tidal island located where three lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, in the western Highlands of Scotland.  The footbridge isn’t original architecture, but was constructed early in the 20th Century to connect the castle to the mainland.  Read more about the architecture, below.



The Grand Entrance (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


The castle, founded in the 13th century, is named after Donnan of Eigg, a Celtic saint, martyred in 617.  Eilean Donan, means simply “island of Donnán.” Donnán is said to have established a church on the island, though no trace of this remains.



Eilean Donan Portcullis (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


The castle was founded in the thirteenth century, and became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie and their allies the Clan Macrae. In the early eighteenth century the Mackenzies’ involvement in the Jacobite rebellions led in 1719 to the castle’s destruction by government ships. (Wikipedia)



Inside Castle Walls (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford


After lying in ruins for about 200 years, Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and proceeded to restore the castle to its former glory.  The castle was rebuilt according to the surviving ground plan of earlier phases.  After 20 years of toil and labor the castle was re-opened in 1932.



View from the Top (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford



Lush Countryside and Loch (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford



Alex and Shonna, Castle Docents (C) 2014 by Debi Bradford

I’ve never been more thoroughly entertained nor happily educated about Scottish lore, dress, warring, and All Things Eilean Donan Castle than I had on this day.  We shuffled into the grand entrance hall, where Alex entertained us with his witty monologue of how one enters castles, WHO can enter castles back in the day, castle secrets, castle defenses and a lot about the people who inhabited this place.  Once Alex gave us our leave we traveled upstairs to the dining hall where Shonna (A MacLeod, by the way) educated us as to the way of Scottish lassies and why they dressed as they did.  She also treated us to behind-the-scenes lore of castle life and named people in portraits, and explained about the decor.  These two people were wonderful additions to the castle tour!


Low Tide (C) by Debi Bradford

As we left I turned to see this incredible view.  Sun lowering, mist rising, the grasses an impossible shade of green.  I did not want to leave this place.


I was unable to come up with anything to post today, so sad I am about Robin Williams’ sudden passing. But I logged on determined to try, to post something, and I spied this post by my friend Cnawan. Perfect for reblogging….thanks, Cnawan.

Originally posted on Ethereal Nature:


“Koko instantly connected with Robin,” Koko’s longtime caregiver, Dr. Penny Patterson, said at the time. “Koko, like us, can sense a person’s nature, and in this case, she was quickly drawn to Robin’s warm heart.”

for those who haven’t already seen this video, it should not be missed:


And here is a shortened video that accompanies the news of Robins’ death:
Robin Williams & Koko
Robin Williams was one of the most famous people on the planet. And Koko the gorilla is one of the most famous animals on the planet. So, when the two first met in 2001, it made sense that they would naturally get along.

Koko is fluent in American Sign Language, can communicate in over 1,000 signs and can reportedly understand several English-language commands.

Williams was brought in to meet Koko at the Gorilla Foundation in northern California.

“We shared something extraordinary: laughter,”…

View original 292 more words


“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” 
Melody Beattie


I’ve determined that now it is simply my time to be quiet.  To be still.  To simply Be.
It’s a relief to come to a conclusion about it, frankly.
This means I can stop seeking the answer and just get on with the act of Being.

Now that that is settled I made a blogging decision.

I love photographing sunrises, as you know.
During my Breath Walk Meditation morning walks I sometimes take the camera in case there’s something to capture.
Today, this sunrise which was five minutes in between grey clouds.
A surprise sunrise.
The Unexpected Sunrise.
Preparing to blog I looked for an appropriate quote and found this:
“The biggest cliche in photography is sunrise and sunset”
Catherine Opie

I just laughed and laughed!  Thanks, Ms. Opie, for keeping me humble!