Retrospective 2015

January

We celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a great dinner at La Croix.

2015-01-08 19.27.43

The weather was snowy for much of the month.

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This photo became the core of our holiday card for 2015

Our semesters started uneventfully this time, in contrast to the weather disaster that greeted the first day of school for Dimitrios last year.

We celebrated Dimitrios’s birthday both with an intimate dinner at Suzanne and Kevin’s and then a small gathering of good friend at our house. The following mirthful “selfie^2” from the latter gathering makes us smile every time we see it again.

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February – March

We finally took the plunge and arranged with a travel agent the longest and most expensive vacation trip of our lives so far. In the spirit of seizing the day and overcoming inhibitions (D’s dread of long airplane flights), we planned a trip to Sonoma, CA, Oahu, HI, and Bali, Indonesia, with short stops at Narita, Japan, on the way to and from Bali. We coordinated with our photographer friend, Novita Listyani, who lives in Bali via the Web, and were hoping we would not be too much of a burden to her and her family when we arrived in Bali. Although we had been considering her a good friend for some time, we still had never met face to face.

Another important event happened in late March: a young man Dimitrios knows since he was a baby had his graduation recital at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, where Marianne was an undergraduate and Dimitrios was a PhD student. We flew to Rochester for a couple of days and had an excellent time reconnecting with good friends, attending the recital, and also visiting for the first time ever (!) the Eastman Kodak museum. Oh, and we had a little snow storm there too, naturally.

Evan graduation recital photo 2015-03-27 18.45.20

Not exactly a compact camera!
Not exactly a compact camera!
Marianne in front of the George Eastman House (now a museum about photography)
Marianne in front of the George Eastman House (now a museum about photography)

April

April’s notable events included a nice Easter celebration at Suzanne’s, but then a stomach virus attack on Dimitrios. The weekend after Easter we were able to spend a few days with our good friends in Ocean City.

May

The latter half of May and the first 10 days of June are when our big trip happened. Brace yourself: this section of the retrospective is long!

Dimitrios’s digestion was giving him trouble, usually in the form of pain in the middle of the night, but also frequently after meals. There was a veritable paroxysm of this right before we left on our grand vacation, but the GI specialist gave Dimitrios just the right medicine the day before departure. To this day, the medicine is doing its job and Dimitrios’s health is back to a good steady state.

On May 17, very early in the morning, we got on a plane to San Francisco at the Philadelphia airport. Although we had packed everything (!) in carry-on bags, the flight was so full that the airline asked for volunteers to check bags free of charge, so we did that.

Once in Sonoma, we started the process of unwinding from the stress of the academic year that just ended and Dimitrios’s GI troubles (which we were not quite sure yet were ending). Scenery like this helped:

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Visits to various wineries and excellent restaurants also helped us unwind.

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After Sonoma, we flew to Oahu for a week in Waikiki Beach in the Royal Hawaiian hotel. We had an excellent time in Oahu, starting with a sobering visit to the Pearl Harbor memorial.

At the Pearl Harbor memorial
At the Pearl Harbor memorial

The oil still seeping from the submerged USS Arizona gives a special somber note to the memorial.

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We took part in two tours of note while in Oahu. The first was a photography tour. The second was a food tour. Both were great, but the photo tour gave us more opportunities for photo-taking, naturally, so here is a tiny sample of the ones we made on that tour.

View of Oahu and Diamond Head
View of Oahu and Diamond Head
This bee was too fast for anyone on the photo tour but Marianne to capture; she captured it using her special clip-on macro lens for her iPhone.
This bee was too fast for anyone on the photo tour but Marianne to capture; she captured it using her special clip-on macro lens for her iPhone.
HDR version of a mountain vista
HDR version of a mountain vista
Volcanic beach panorama
Volcanic beach panorama
This pig, when younger, was a star in surfing videos on YouTube, we were told
This pig, when younger, was a star in surfing videos on YouTube, we were told
Panorama of Hanauma Bay
Panorama of Hanauma Bay

In the rest of our stay in Waikiki beach we had some fabulous dinners, walks on the beach and a some swimming, and a nice sunset cruise on a catamaran.

Last sunset we saw on Waikiki Beach, May 28
Last sunset we saw on Waikiki Beach, May 28

After that sunset, we got on a plane to Narita, the large airport near Tokyo. Our friend Mike Leeds met us there, which was a great comfort especially given the culture shock. We went to visit a shrine in Narita and spent the night at the Narita Hilton, where we also experienced an earthquake, which was not severe, but was large enough to wake us at 2 am. The next morning, we boarded a Garuda Indonesia flight to Bali, and discovered that Garuda’s economy class richly deserves the international accolades it has received.

Mike and Marianne in Narita
Mike and Marianne in Narita
First morning in Bali. View from the main pool of the Fairmont hotel in Sanur.
First morning in Bali. View from the main pool of the Fairmont hotel in Sanur.

The second morning in Sanur we were picked up by our friend Novita and her daughter Seraphine for a sunrise photo shoot in Serangan Island, a short drive from our hotel. Seraphine, Novita and later her hubby were extremely nice to us and we can honestly say we fell in love with that family during our trip to Bali, where they drove us everywhere and endured all sorts of hardships like very early mornings and traffic jams to show us Bali from the eyes of artistically super-talented insiders. We have now a lingering nostalgia for those days of bonding with them.

Sunrise in Serangan Island. Getting up at 4 am was made easy by the big time zone shift from Oahu.
Sunrise in Serangan Island. Getting up at 4 am was made easy by the big time zone shift from Oahu.
Heron in tranquil waters. Serangan Island at dawn.
Heron in tranquil waters. Serangan Island at dawn.

And here is the lovely welcoming post by Novita, with her version of this very sunrise: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+NovitaListyani/posts/HPupvddRyZA

June

Sanur sunrise the next morning.
Sanur sunrise on the first day of June.

Dogs are free to roam everywhere in Bali, and are quite nice to strangers. Here is a photo of a horse rider with horse and curious dogs in Kuta Beach:

Horse and dogs on beach 2015-06-03 16.51.16

On the next day, we were in Kuta beach for an afternoon swim and sunset photography. That was one spectacular sunset. Here are only two views of it; it was really hard to select only two.

This zoomed in intense scene from the sunset on Kuta beach was begging for the title I gave it: Vulcan's Fire.
This zoomed in intense scene from the sunset on Kuta beach was begging for the title I gave it: Vulcan’s Fire.

Sunrise was often stunning when viewed from our hotel balcony, too:

The banner image of this blog is also taken from a photo of the same sunrise.

Our visit to Bali came at the end of the Durian season. This famously ill-smelling fruit (although we did not think it smelled all that badly) is a surprisingly delicious treat, with the texture of soft-serve ice cream, once you get inside its prickly, hard shell. Where do you find it? At roadside, in the evening. Novita’s hubby drove up and down Denpasar, the capital of Bali, several times until he spotted this vendor’s truck and we all split one Durian. Here is a photo of us that Novita took with my iPhone, which clearly had some focusing issues in the low light.

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And here is Marianne with an expression of sheer delight doing some body surfing:

Body surfing. Photo by Novita Listyani
Body surfing. Photo by Novita Listyani

After five nights in the Fairmount Sanur hotel, we went to Ubud and checked in at the Maya resort for four nights. Here is a photo of us Novita took in front of the rice terraces of Ubud.

In front of Ubud rice terraces 2015-06-04 03.13.01

Later that same afternoon, we went to a rice field to see the arrival of thousands of white cattle herons to net on the treetops after a long day of flying all over the island in search of food. Novita let me use her camera and instructed me on the use of the servo auto-focus mode so I could capture the birds flying overhead. Here is one of the hundreds of photos of herons I made that afternoon.

Heron DD with NL camera cropped good _MG_0479

And here is Dimitrios ready for action:

Photo by Novita Listyani, whose camera Dimitrios is holding
Photo by Novita Listyani, whose camera Dimitrios is holding

During our wait in the field for the arrival of the herons, Novita made some fabulous portraits of Marianne. Example:

MM by NL cropped _MG_0389

And when I was photographing herons flying overhead, Marianne was photographing two charming boys who were playing with a kite that was bigger than themselves.

Kite flying boys

The next day our indefatigable hosts drove us to Bedugul Botanical Gardens, a gigantic garden at the top of a mountain.

Pink orchid at Bedugul 2015-06-05 00.24.25

The gardens have an extensive orchid exhibit and Seraphine, being a big fan of orchids and an avid learner of anything nature-related, taught us a lot of things about orchids we did not know.

Before we left the gardens, we had a picnic on a grassy slope overlooking one of the three lakes in the immediate area where we saw a monkey cavorting in the trees in the distance. Even though there were clouds over the lake, it still was quite the sight to behold.

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The next day was a Saturday. Our hosts took a break from driving us around Bali and we took the hotel shuttle to the town of Ubud where we wandered about, had a nice dinner, and attended a classical dance performance accompanied by a gamelan orchestra, before taking a cab back to the hotel.

Ubud dance 2015-06-06 20.21.14

The next day we visited Tulamben for snorkeling and, on the way back, stopped at a tourist attraction built about 50 years ago, the Water Castle.

Novita's photo of us getting ready for snorkeling.
Novita’s photo of us getting ready for snorkeling.

Seraphine made several short videos of the snorkeling adventure with a GoPro camera. Here is one of them: Seraphine’s snorkeling video clip

Marianne at the Water Palace.
Marianne at the Water Castle.

The next day we all went to Tanah Lot, where Novita had booked a double suite for all of us for our last night in Bali.

Marianne and Seraphine try out some gamelan music-making in the Nirwana resort in Tanah Lot.
Marianne and Seraphine try out some gamelan music-making in the Nirwana resort in Tanah Lot.
Tanah Lot_1
A great portrait of Marianne by Seraphine, made while Novita, Y, and I were photographing the sunset.
Another great portrait of Marianne by Seraphine.
Another great portrait of Marianne by Seraphine.
Sunset in Tanah Lot, June 8.
Sunset in Tanah Lot, June 8.
A daytime view of the Tanah Lot temple.
A daytime view of the Tanah Lot temple.
With our fantastic guides to all things fascinating in Bali, right before we departed the Nirwana resort in Tanah Lot.
With our fantastic guides to all things fascinating in Bali, right before we departed the Nirwana resort in Tanah Lot.

Our last day in Bali was June 9th. We spent the morning at the Tanah Lot resort, with Marianne and Seraphine having fun in the pool and water slide, and Dimitrios and Novita taking it easy but also making photos and videos. We caught one more sunset in the Club 66 area of the long beach that contains Kuta beach and Seminyak. Here is Novita’s capture of that sunset and warm words of farewell: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+NovitaListyani/posts/LLXtqJxGmFS

Our flight to Tokyo left at 12:30 am (!) on June 10. It was hard to stay awake at the airport but we managed. On arrival we were greeted by our friend Eva, Mike’s wife, who had by now joined Mike in Tokyo. She guided us to Tokyo on the train, we visited their apartment for a quick lunch, and then we visited the Mori tower and the Imperial Gardens, had a light dinner nearby, and managed (after some trouble; Japanese addresses are practically indecipherable to anyone who is not a trained Japanese postal service worker) to find Yuga Kurita‘s photo exhibit at the Island Gallery, where we admired the amazing photos of Fuji and nightscape this photographer has created and bought a small print to bring home. If it were not for Novita’s notice to us via Google+ which we read on arrival in Narita, we would not have known about this exhibit at all.

Marianne in the Mori tower with an iconic view of Tokyo.
Marianne in the Mori tower with an iconic view of Tokyo.

Shortly after returning home, we bought a new car, about a year ahead of schedule. Our old car was involved in an accident while parked (nobody was hurt) the day before we left on our big trip, so it was time to replace it.

We are Forester people now.
We are Forester people now.

July

At the end of June we started a two-week stay at a big rental beach house in Ocean City, NJ, with many friends, continuing a tradition we started in 2007. A great time was had by all and our eyes and cameras feasted on some more good views.

Great sky during a speedboat ride on the bay of Ocean City.
Great sky during a speedboat ride on the bay of Ocean City.
On the morning of Marianne's birthday.
On the morning of Marianne’s birthday.
View from the Music Pier in Ocean City.
View from the Music Pier in Ocean City.

As a belated birthday present, I got Marianne a big girl camera. Here she is on our first photography excursion with the new camera.

M the photographer 2015-07-25 14.49.23

August-September-October

During August and also September and October, we kept doing excursions for photography to hone our skills, and we also took photography classes. Since this post is already photo-heavy, here are some of our social media posts with our photography from this period. The one from August 7 is special: our first photo walk, in Philadelphia, organized by Trey Ratcliff, a very successful globe-trotting photographer.

D’s photos from the Philly photo walk

D’s photos from a visit to the Morris Arboretum

One of D’s photos from the photo walk, after some editing

M’s evening photos from Arcadia University

D’s photo from Meadowbrook Farms

M’s photos from Bryn Athyn

D’s photos from Bryn Athyn

October started with a very nice event for Dimitrios. His first doctoral student, Jeff Coons, has succeeded very well in finance, having become president of a successful financial institution. Temple University honored Jeff in its annual Gallery of Success event that honors alumni that make the university proud.

November

The big event every November is the Thanksgiving dinner at Suzanne and Kevin’s. This year was no different, but on November 15 there was a new kind of happy event involving Suzanne: she had her first solo exhibit of her oil paintings at the Jenkins Arboretum and Gardens. We were delighted to attend and to be able to buy some of her beautiful artwork. We also took the opportunity to make some photos in the arboretum, and some of them turned out OK, despite the lateness of the season.

Marianne at the Jenkins Arboretum

Some photos by Dimitrios at the Jenkins Arboretum

After Thanksgiving, we were again able to go for a long weekend in Ocean City with good friends. Some photos from this follow. The deserted beach and boardwalk are quite strikingly different from what we normally see in Ocean City.

Empty boardwalk.
Empty boardwalk.
From the music pier. Compare and contrast with the photo a couple of screenfuls up.
From the music pier. Compare and contrast with the photo a couple of screenfuls up.

December

December came with exceptionally warm weather, as did November as a matter of fact. We finally wrapped up our courses for the semester and, as I am writing these words, Marianne is doing some final grading. Tomorrow we are scheduled to fly to Florida for a first for us: a Christmas in a warm place, just the two of us. I expect to make another post here before the year is out with some photos from this trip.

For now, I leave you with this photo of a tree decorated with beautiful light spheres in Longwood Gardens, taken a couple of weeks ago.

Tree of light.
Tree of light.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!