Sunday, September 28, 2008


We took a long weekend trip to Branson, Missouri a few weeks ago. Branson is about 4.5 hours drive from St. Louis. We stayed at the Hilton on the Landing, by the waterfront. Among the displays in the lobby of the hotel that featured natural wonders of the Ozarks was the above art work showing wave of butterflies during their annual southward migration. A hotel employee commented as I was taking the photos, "Don't these look like flying clams." I smiled just to be polite but did not respond to his comment. I understand everyone looks at things and interprets what he sees differently, but this person must have a beyond-this-earth imagination to be looking at this particular display of little creatures, on the wall, stretching towards the high ceiling and thought these were "flying clams". Perhaps he was the person who started the phrase "flying pigs" or buffalos with wings.
There are scupltures of butterflies being placed around town. It reminded me of the scupltures of cows seen around New York City. The above butterfly was in the vestibule of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church.

We did not have time to visit the Butterfly Palace. According to the brochure we picked up from the hotel, the Palace features thousands of exotic butterflies, imported from Costa Rica, Malaysia, Africa and other countries, under strict control by the USDA. Visitors were promised a unique opportunity to see butterflies and birds in their natural environment. As always, I thought of my family and how I wished NYC was within an hour of driving distance. An afternoon with my nephew, Mom and Sister at the Butterfly Palace would have been nice. The two scupltures below are displayed in front of the hotel. In the bottom photo, you could see my husband and his T-bird.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


By now most of my adoring fans or faithful readers/followers know that when the word "happy" appears in my blog, the entries usually would be associated with hockey and the Detroit Red Wings. I have been singing "It's almost the most wonderful time of the year" all evening. The Red Wings began the 2008-2009 season tonight with an exhibition game against the Montreal Canadiens. I don't have any photos from the Canadiens, so photo of the postcard I purchased from the Hockey Hall of Fame would have to do. It kind of bring back bad memory that I accidently erased the memory stick from the New York Rangers v. Canadiens game last December.
With all the negative stories in the world, the crumble of giant financial institutions, the up and down of the market, the oxygen draining & stealing individuals and smooth, dispensing promises to all, talking out of both sides of their mouth politicians, the only thing I know for sure is my passion and love of hockey. Here is to another great NHL season and my beloved Detroit Red Wings!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


As you could see in the photo above, a child smiling, looking very excited as he ran towards the totem. We watched as other children started to climb up the totems and had a great time playing around the sculptures. As always, I thought of my nephew, JL, and how much I would love to be able to spend time with JL on the weekend, taking him to the garden or to the zoo. Both adults and kids enjoyed looking at these colorful, creative giant totems created by Niki de Saint Phalle.

Niki de Saint Phalle was born in 1930 near Paris, grew up in New York City, travelled throughout Europe, lived in California until her death in 2002. Her famous "Nanas" series, oversized female figures, were made of wire, fabric, brightly painted and playful. The Tarot Garden, a monumental sculpture park, in Tuscany, Italy was Niki's work over a span of 20 years. The sculptures were made of rich colors and materials from fiberglass, stones, and colorful glass. The totems range up to 18 feet tall, others weigh up to a ton or more. Children are able to touch, sit, climb, explore and even play upon some of the works.
Larger than life, colorful and playful sculptures are the well-known signature of Niki as the modern pop artist. She wanted her art to be interactive and the outdoor setting in the garden would encourage people to enjoy art and nature all at the same time.

Nana (photo above) is one of the dancing women in fanciful outfits sculptures in the series called Nanas, a French slang for "chicks" or "babes". The sculpture below is Nana on Dolphin, stands at 12 1/2 foot, is so full of life. I hope to take photos of other sculptures, displayed throughout the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, before the exhibit closes on October 31st.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I developed a new found interest during our recent vacation with taking photos of door knobs. Prior to our trip, I read in the travel guide about decorated doors and windows in Tunisia, specially about Tunisians using the color of blue as symbol of the Mediterrenean sea. As I started taking photos of doors, entrance archways, and windows, I also noticed the door knobs. Included in this entry are a few interesting door knobs from Tunisia, Malta and Rome. We were walking along an alleyway, near Spanish Steps, going in and out of various shops when I saw the doors (photo above) of a private home, tucked between a clock and a souvenir shops. I called out to my husband to tell him about the handle in the shape of a hand. In my excitement, I picked up and then let go of the handle to show CP how it worked. Luckily no one came to the doors as I was sure it was not the first time strangers accidentally knocking without the intention of knocking! Notice the open slot for mail, what happened if the postal person was short and could not slide the mail in the slot? When I was about 10 years old living in Viet Nam, I almost caused my neighbor a heart attack when I knocked on her door, yelling, "Please open the door". That evening my mother told me to take an empty tray that was cleaned, back to the neighbor and to thank her for giving us some bakeries the previous week. I knocked on the door, waited and waited but no one came to the door. I decided to knock harder and yelled real loud. I did not know that the neighbor was conducting illegal gambling and when she heard me she thought it was a raid from the police. How she did not recognize the voice that of a 10 years old girl was a mystery to this day? Suddenly people started running out the back door, then the alleyway, all because of my yelling. I apologized to the neighbor in front of my parents when she came over later to air her unpleasant experience.
I took photos of the door knob above and the next two below from the homes I saw on the way from the hotel to Metro station or around Rome.

The two door knobs (one above and one immediate below) were from Valletta, Malta. I like the one above because it was in the shape of a fish as I thought it was a clever design. The one below looked like it was made specifically for one of the Knights in the St. John's Order. The last (bottom of the entry) door knob was from Tunisia from a house near a market place. You could tell the design was influenced by Arabic culture.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


These are a few photos we took from the Allee des Stars in Cannes. These were the hand prints of famous people, mostly movie stars, along the sidewalks in front of the Cannes Film Festival building. It did not look like the sidewalks were well taken care of or washed often. A few hand prints were not readable because they were so dirty. I only took photos of those I thought were interesting as I did not want to spend too much time looking for any particular celebrities or reading all the hand prints.

Each hand print or a set of hand prints also included signatures and the year the imprints took place. It was kind of the way rich and famous people leaving their marks instead of the poor people carving their names onto the trees or spraying grafitti on the wall.
Putting my hand next to the hand print of Sophia Loren was the closest I ever came to being a celebrity. No, I did not put my down on the dirty, sticky ground, just low enough for my husband to take the photo.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


After a well rested nap and much needed showers, we walked from Hotel Giulio Cesare to a Metro station. From Lepanto, it was only two stops and we got off at Berberini station. We visited a corner shop for our first slice of Roma pizza (pizza al taglio) after a short walk of a few city blocks. Mine was the standard cheese, tomato and basil. CP had different toppings with sausage and big chunk of mozzarella. Then we continued our walk, a few more blocks, turning the corner, coming out of a narrow alley, and there it was, the world famous Fontana di Trevi, designed by Nicola Salvi, completed in 1762.
We stood among the crowd of tourists and of course the hidden threat of pick-pockets, wondering what Salvi were thinking when he designed the Fountain and the whimsical rendition of mythical sea creatures admid cascades of splashing water. According to the guide book of Rome by Rick Steves, the fountain was built to take full advantage of the abundance of water brought into the city by Rome great aqueducts. Salvi used the palace behind the fountain as a theatrical backdrop for the figure of Ocean (the statue in the center) who represents water in every form, rushing from 24 spouts and tumbling down into the base of the fountain. From there, the water would find the way at Bernini's Four Rivers Fountain at Piazza Navona.
I took photo of this fountain on the way to Citta del Vaticano, but unable to find out the exact name of the square. We were rushed to get to the Vatican to meet our tour group. That was Monday morning, July 7th. After we completed our breakfast at the hotel, we saw the newspaper article in the lobby mentioning that the transit workers were on strike that day. We had no choice but to walk from our hotel. Actually it was not too bad because even if we took the Metro it would be only one stop from Lepanto to Ottaviano.
One of the nice things about Rome was the availability of many public drinking spouts. We carried plastic water bottles and refilled them often. We were drained by the summer heat and constant moving. Photo above showed my husband enjoyed the clean cold fresh water. I was unsure at first but after taking a small sip, I found the water rather refreshing.
At the base of the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) the Fontana della Barcaccia (Fountain of the Old Boat) - photo below- is a popular spot for young Italian men looking to befriend with foreigners, specifically lovely young ladies. This Fountain was not for drinking. On a hot day, it was very tempting to jump right into the fountain just to cool off. If it was the Fountain of Youth and I jumped into the fountain, could I "do-over", going back to 1980, starting over as a 19 years old Vietnamese refugee coming to America? There would be no regrets because I knew exactly what I should do with my life. I would choose the right major in college, picked the right job in the right industry and not spending too much time on silly things such as dreaming of finding the right person to fall in love with. I would be a better daughter, a better sister and took better care of my parents, sister and brothers. I could have been doing something important such as saving the world and keeping peace among all nations, instead I became an unknown blogger posting useless information and meaningless stories no one cares!
My husband and I did what most of the tourists would when visited the world's most spectacular wishing well and one of the most crowded sites in Rome, we each tossed a coin into the fountain to ensure that we shall return to the Eternal City. I wondered what Salvi thought of the mind-less 21st century mass busy taking photos without any knowledge or real appreciation for his masterpiece.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I was so excited when I found the patch of the shy leaves (la mac co) during a recent visit to the Garden. I told my husband how as a child living in Viet Nam, I had a lot of fun playing by touching the foliage and watched the plant leaves closed up. That was the reason we Vietnamese named the plant "the shy leaves". I looked up on the internet but could not find much information about this plant. I only learned that it is called Neptunia, a kind of foliage within the subfamily of Minosoideae.
Photo above showed the foliage before the contact and photo below showed the leaves closed up after being touched (those were my husband's fingers). I would love to hear from any of my adoring fans or readers if you could provide more information about the Neptunia and wish to share stories how you also enjoyed this wonderful reactions of nature.

Monday, September 01, 2008


This weekend we attended the annual Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Open to the public in 1859, the Garden is the oldest continously operating botanical garden in America. I always enjoyed taking photos of the water lilly, the floating glass by Dale Chihuly and my husband was so amazed by the giant lilly. I hope you enjoy these photos. Please check back for photos of interesting sculptures by Niki de Saint Phalle.


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