2008 Hyères Flower Festival

On 5 and 6 April 2008, the southern French city of Hyères hosted its annual flower festival with an open day event at SICA (Société d’intérêt collectif agricole) / Marché aux fleurs d’Hyères. 500 growers produce over 180 million flowers a year, making it the largest flower market in France and the fourth largest in Europe. With information booths, wine and flower tasting, and a flower parade, it was a fascinating look at this colorful aspect of the Hyérois community.

Plastic is taking over

I guess this is old news, but somehow it completely passed me by. 40% of the world’s oceans is covered in garbage – primarily plastic – concentrated in 5 enormous gyres, or vortexes. I can’t even wrap my head around the staggering amount of garbage this represents. There’s a stretch of land between Casablanca and Rabat, Morocco, that is just covered in plastic bags as far as the eye can see. It’s the place where Plastic Bags Go To Die, or so I thought. Apparently, it’s just a stopover on their way to join their brethren in the oceans.

Plastic bags are absolutely everywhere. In both Morocco and Costa Rica, they’re stacked high in shops, and it’s not uncommon to walk out of a store with $10 worth of groceries in 3 or 4 bags. Even though we bring bags with us, the baggers always seem to be trying to give us more bags, as if to make us feel we got our money’s worth. In the US, the “paper or plastic?” debate was never really resolved. Even our local natural foods store offerred both – though at least they were usually reused.

I don’t know. It’s not as if I have some amazing insights to share on this subject, but I just couldn’t bear to ignore it. Here’s more info, if you’re interested.

The Plastic Sea
Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic… Are We?
North Pacific Subtropical Gyre Garbage Map

Howler Monkeys

Howler MonkeysSome of the most visible – and audible – wildlife here in Costa Rica are the howler monkeys. They travel through the trees, and their “howl” is far deeper and louder than their appearance suggests – sort of a cross between a growl and a moan. They tend to howl when they feel threatened or are unhappy, and one of the things that seems to make them unhappy is rain, which means they howl a lot. When several howl in unison, the sound can be pretty creepy – like something out of a horror movie. Continue reading

Taos Pueblo and Peacock (days 9 and 10)

Peacock in TaosTaos was a very long drive, made longer by the snowy mountains we drove through, but the sky was clear and sunny (albeit cold) the next day. We stayed at American Artists Gallery House for two nights, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Our room was charming, breakfast was delicious, and the resident peacock flirted with us throughout our game of Scrabble on the patio. Continue reading

Arches National Park, Four Corners, Mesa Verde (days 7 and 8)

Arches National ParkThe next morning, it took us a long time to drive up to Arches National Park, due to sleet and road construction, but then it cleared up for a couple of hours. We hiked to one arch, but on our way to another, it started raining and got very cold, so we headed back.

Mesa Verde - Cliff PalaceOur next stop was Kelly Place, a bed + breakfast and retreat center near Cortez, Colorado, where we enjoyed chatting with a hiking club from California. The next morning the weather wasn’t very nice, so we drove many miles out of our way to Four Corners to experience being in four different states at once, then drove back to Mesa Verde and got a great look at Cliff Palace.

Grand Canyon, Canyon de Chelly (day 6)

Rainbow BridgeIn looking over our itinerary, we realized that we had just enough unallocated time to zip over to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon before heading east, so that’s what we did. We didn’t have time to hike down into it, but we did stop at several viewpoints, including a lookout tower. Then we drove through the Hopi Indian reservation, which was one of the things I had really wanted to see. Continue reading

Leaving Las Vegas, Zion, Lake Powell (days 4 and 5)

During our three days in Vegas, we didn’t do any gambling – other than, apparently, with our lives each time we left our car in a parking garage. According to the B+B owner, there have been some robberies and you should *never* park in a garage. We found them well-lit and full of people, so we “risked” it anyway.

Rainbow BridgeOur next stop was Zion National Park where it was, unfortunately, cold and drizzly. We took the scenic bus and watched the movie at one of the stops, but we weren’t able to take any pictures or walk around at all. Then we drove to Page, AZ, where, the next day, we took the Rainbow Bridge Cruise on Lake Powell. It’s a scenic 7-hour trip, but I still think it was too expensive (well over $100 each).

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