About this time every year, our yard bursts with colors with these big fragrant blooms. These are peonies, and their flowers only last for only two weeks at the most.
Even though it’s not officially summer yet, we are having a “heat wave” for the next several days as Iowa weather is fickly. These flowers wilt fast and they don’t like the heat so we decided to harvest them early. This also provided a photo op.
My wife agreed to be my model for this photoshoot.
We will definitely appreciate their beauty, even for just a few days. I mean the flowers. The model, that’s timeless.
Bonus: While we were harvesting the peonies and doing the photoshoot, someone else, uninvitedly though definitely welcomed, came in to the scene. Here’s the video:
Today is a nice day to be out, and I am off on this weekend too. But after two weeks of being in-charge of the ICU and with all the craziness at work we have been dealing with, I’m just too lazy to do anything, except to sit and stare outside. I also would like to write something noteworthy on my blog, but again my mind is too exhausted to be creative.
So instead, I just took a photo of what I am staring at. And just like the book in the photo, it’s mere “Great Expectations.”
(*Great Expectations is a classic novel by Charles Dickens)
I know many parts of the world still have travel restrictions currently and some areas are just coming out of lockdown from this COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t know if world travel would ever be the same again, however I just wanted to feature a long overdue post about a trip that we made some time ago. In fact, we made this trip exactly a year past already, in May of 2019.
We rode the Bernina Express. This is touted as one of the most scenic train rides in the world and it runs on the highest railway accross the Alps. We boarded the train at Tirano, Italy and traveled to St. Moritz, Switzerland.
By the way, in this time of pandemic and limited travel, I saw that there are virtual train rides around the world that you can experience (see this link) right now. Bernina Express is one of them.
The Bernina Express travels through the UNESCO World Heritage site via the Rhaetian Railway. When we say World Heritage Site, it is a landmark or area, that is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and that it is legally protected by international treaties.
And off we go….
The train has comfortable seats and is roomy inside. The glass windows are huge and are up to the ceiling, offering uninterrupted views of the breath-taking landscapes.
We passed through bridges and tunnels, mountains and valleys, towns and even lakes. No underwater tunnel though.
Photo below is the Lago di Poschiavo, a naturallake in the Poschiavo valley near Miralago, Switzerland.
The landscape gradually changed as we went higher and higher in altitude. Not too long from then we were coursing through the Alps. We were on top of the world!
After a little more than 2 hours, we finally arrived at St. Moritz, Switzerland where we boarded off the train. We spent only a shortwhile there, perhaps only to take some photos, and then we headed back to Italy.
This is an instance that the journey is as good, maybe even better, than the destination. A wonderful ride indeed.
Here’s a short video clip of the train ride as we were navigating through the snow and glaziers that it was like the Polar Express:
Every month of May there is a place in Iowa that turns into a tulip town. And even though there’s still a scare of the pandemic, we went to visit the place. Of course we practiced precautionary measures and social distancing while we were out.
As their landmark says, it is “Tulip Time.” There is supposed to be a parade also during this festival that showcase the town’s Dutch heritage, however due to COVID-19, it was cancelled for this year. But we can still admire the tulips.
Also popular in this town is the famed Dutch bakery where the baked goods are as colorful as the tulips. The most sought after item though is the Dutch Letter, an S-shaped pastry that taste so delicious. S stands for Sinterklass, the Dutch Santa Claus.
Here are some more photos that does not necessarily feature tulips, nonetheless, they caught my fancy.
The temperature in our part of the world is warming up. In fact last week, there’s a couple of days that it felt like summer as we topped 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The leaves and flower buds are appearing. The grass has turned green and growing. Many of our neighbors have already started mowing their lawn. But not us, we’re not that anxious to start mowing.
Just as you thought spring has fully sprung, then we are hit with this……..
The snow did not stopped me from going out for my morning run. It is after all a balmy 32 degree Fahrenheit (0º Celsius), and the ground is not slippery nor icy.
This lonely goose does not seem to mind the snow as well.
This is crazy Iowa weather. People who grew up here told us when we moved here, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait several minutes, it will change.”
(*photos taken with an iPhone)
Post Note: Below is what the first photo looked like in the afternoon of that same day with all the snow gone. Crazy weather indeed!
Because of this COVID-19 pandemic, as a defense it is now advised that everybody wears a mask when going out. However, there is a shortage of masks available and other personal protective equiptment in many hospitals. Dark times indeed.
Thus, I’m wearing my own respirator mask to work.
“You are unwise to lower your defenses.” – Darth Vader
(*Warning: not a true protective mask. Rest assured for I am donning an officially prescribed PPE when dealing with patients.)
January and February are usually the coldest months here in Iowa. It is too cold to run outside, at least for most people. The last time I went out to run was back in December, and it was actually Christmas Day as we had a spring time weather that time.
But today is different. By the way, it is 02 02 2020, how neat is that? Even though it is February, our temperature is above freezing (40º F), which is unusual for this time of year for us.
So I decided to go out for a run.
It is a sunny day and our big pile of snow is starting to melt. It may take several days of “warm” days like this to melt them all down though.
Then I met some flocks of wild geese. They usually fly south for the winter, but I am seeing more and more of them staying here in our place even for the winter months.
These geese are equipt for the cold anyway, as they have down feathers which we even use to insulate our jackets. In fact goose down jackets are one of the warmest jackets you can get and has the advantage of being lightweight. But I know they can be expensive.
Here’s more geese coming for a landing.
There is more cold weather forecasted for this coming week, and we will be back to subfreezing temperature, and more snow as well. But for a day, I enjoyed going outside with the wild geese.
We Filipinos are fond of fairy tales. The wedding of celebrity doctors Vicki Belo and Hayden Kho in 2017 was nothing short of a fairy tale. At least in the place and setting where it happened.
I was waiting for my invitation to that great event but I think the mailman misplaced it. On second thought, maybe I was not really invited.
So I did the next best thing, I visited the place where the wedding reception was held. It was in the Opera House in Paris, or also known as Palais Garnier.
This 19th century architectual masterpiece was built by Charles Garnier and opened in 1875. Today, it is home to Paris Ballet, and besides being a venue for great art performances, it is also open for visitors to tour. Well, I guess it can be rented for a wedding reception too.
It was almost closing time when we got to the Opera House, and so we did not have much time to roam, but just enough to get a feel of this grandiose place.
Here’s the majestic staircase where Belo and Hayden did their magical wedding dance.
Of course I had to climb up those steps as if I’m in a fairy tale story too. My wife and I did not dance though on those stairs for we might stumble and fall, and end up in a tragic tale instead.
Here’s the grand foyer (photo below) where the wedding banquet and tables were set up. The newly wed couple and their guests dined under these intricate painted ceilings and opulent lights.
As I said, this is an Opera House, so here’s the auditorium that can sit 2000 people and where the real magical performances are happening.
Below is an interesting Christmas tree made up of ballet shoes which was displayed during our visit. I have no idea what the golden tractor tires are for.
There is also a mystery surrounding the construction of this palatial edifice that facts and fictions are blurred. The famous tale of the “Phantom of the Opera,” a classic novel by a Frenchman, Gaston Leroux, a story that was retold in so many ways was inspired from the history of Palais Garnier.
We roamed around the halls perhaps looking for traces of Belo or perhaps searching for the phantom, until a lady with a bell called everyone still inside the opera house announcing that it was time to close. We were among the last ones who exited the place that night.
I know this place was already enchanting even before Belo rented this place. Maybe someday I’ll have my birthday bash or a wedding anniversary here. Alright, I’ll dream on.
From Belo’s wedding reception place, albeit two years too late,
(*photos taken with an iPhone at Palais Garnier, Paris)