Autumn 2017

Type in #Autumn and 52,549,646 people have used that hashtag on fall-related photos! 

Who doesn't enjoy taking pictures of a season that fills our senses with crunchy leaves, reds, yellows, apple cider donuts, butterflies everywhere sipping up extra nectar for the long flights south, the shapes of pumpkins and squash, a trees heavy with Honey crisp apples?

The day was brilliant sun and warm.  time with this charming family was full-on fun!!

 

"It was an absolute pleasure working with Julie --             knowledgeable, thoughtful and professional!  She did a wonderful job working with our family (including two young kids) and captured some phenomenal images."

                                                    ~ Michael and Jaime

Thank you!

This photo was selected to be part of a 2016 Art Gallery, followed by hanging on a conference room wall at Tradition Companies Office in Edina for one year.   What an honor!  And because that lovely little girl is our grand daughter the large print sits on our living room mantle.  The photo was taken in Blaine, Minnesota in October, 2015. 

A special thank you to the Art of Edina for including my photography in the art installation and to Tradition Companies for their ongoing commitment to supporting local artists. 

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Summit Ave. Garden Stroll

Summit Avenue is a famous street in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is located in a heritage district where the homes are grand and preserved to retain their architectural foundation. Several of the houses are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is a gorgeous 4.5 mile walk during any of our four seasons and what draws my attention even more than the stately homes is the landscaping. The variety of plants and trees feed my passion for gardening and landscaping. If you have an opportunity to drive or walk or jog down Summit Ave you will be in for a memorable day.

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These photos were taken during the Summit Ave Garden Stroll, June, 2017. The event allows you to walk around and behind the private homes, often meeting with the homeowner and hearing the pride they take in tending to their fruit trees, annual flowers, perennials and vegetable gardens. The next garden stroll will be held Summer, 2019.

 

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Thanks to the residents for the warm welcome into your yards!

my kurt jorgensen band journey

You hadn't heard of Brianna Tagg and Kurt Jorgensen? 

Consider yourself introduced to two of the greatest musicians you could discover.  They will charm and wow you and that's a guarantee.
 

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My brother Steve and I have been on a live band music kick for the last year.  We were in his big black truck and Steve says "listen to this."  He puts in Jorgensen Tagg's CD titled "Love Wins" and I fell in love with the sound after the first three songs.   I tried to bribe my brother into letting me 'borrow' the CD.........ummmm, no.  But, he says, let's go over to P.D Paddy's Music Bar in Stillwater so you can hear them live.  Better yet, Steve says, I will email Kurt to make sure they have their newest CD there for sale and I will buy you the "Love Wins" CD.  Deal.

Two weeks later I am sitting next to the stage and fell deeper for their music.

The full band has opened for acts such as Foghat, America, The Little River Band and Joe Cocker; big venues and outdoor festivals.  But here's the thing.  They perform in small places every month which makes them accessible to watch up close, dance near the stage or sit within feet of their sound.   Their fan base is clearly strong when band members spend time chatting with familiar faces during breaks.

We are fortunate in the Twin Cities to have a ridiculous amount of talented musicians.  Add The Kurt Jorgensen Band to your list of must-see groups; both the full band and when Brianna and Kurt play as an acoustic duo. 

Is it the lyrics?  Definitely. 

Is it the soulful magic blend of guitars lead by Kurt?  Yes. 

It is their retro relevant looks?  Naturally.

Is it the life time commitment to making exceptional music by all the band members?  For sure.

Is it Brianna's powerhouse voice?  Absolutely.

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Kurt Jorgensen - Vocals, Acoustic, Nashville Tuning, Resonator, Bass, Electric and Classic Guitar, Mandolin and Percussion

Brianna Tagg - Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitar, Mandolin, Hammond Organ, Piano and Percussion

Jeff King - Alto and Bass Sax, Flute

Lars-Erick Carlson - keyboard

Brenda Lee King - Bass Guitar

David J. Ross - Drums

C Harris - Conga/Percussion

Their website is evolving and it is an honor that some of my pictures will be part of their branding and legacy as musicians.  Find the list of upcoming shows here.

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All images property of Julie Oliver Photography, taken Sunday August 30, 2017.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord. Forever. Psalm 23

The pastor said, "Keep taking pictures.  They will be an important part of healing and comfort."

I wasn't going to take more than a couple distant shots as people were gathering for my nephew Todd's memorial service in May, 2017.  I wanted to assure this fine pastor that I would definitely not take pictures during a sacred service.  He responded with, "You definitely should....keep shooting, girl."  

I wasn't going to share the pictures either but with the families encouragement, I share these images to continue the mission to de-stigmatize depression.  Todd's life and death could be any of ours.    

 

My husband gathered various woods from our workshop to make this box for the ashes. 

My husband gathered various woods from our workshop to make this box for the ashes. 

I'm glad I did this for our family.  They are valuing the visuals of a day that was a blur with tired brains and heavy hearts.  I'm also glad I did this as a photographer because seeing genuine emotion, the most raw kind, is the place I want to be.

 

It is a wonder how flowers can bring deep feelings when let go with love.    

Todd, we honor your life with love and respect.

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An April Photography Gallery: What I know to be true about women.

During the month of April, 2017, I wrote brief narratives about women that have been important in my life.  Several of the women I have known for a long time with a few newer friends that I am thankful to have met. 

What prompted me to do this project was recent thinking about how women are absolutely unique yet share many qualities, appreciating the beauty that resides in every woman, and the unrest I was feeling about the change in presidential leadership with a desire to feature the important roles of women.  

My second published article, EXPLORING THE HALLMARKS OF WASHINGTON STATE, for Amazing Travel Beauty with heartfelt thanks to our editor Hannah Veldkamp for once again guiding me through the process!

Messages from Co-founder Wayne Moran to further introduce you to the travel magazine team (paraphrased)......... "We are compulsive wanderers, international food-lovers, and aspiring do-gooders. We currently live across the USA and Europe. We share incredible images and chronicle our travels, eats, shops, stories, and key learnings.  Along the way, we want to help you travel with a purpose!"

exploring the Hallmarks of Washington

april, 2017

You won't get bored in the State of Washington.

We have family that lives in different regions of Washington State so every few years we fly out for a long weekend and see something different every time.  This trip was all about steel head trout fishing, the Museum of Glass and seeing if I could catch a fish at the Public Market.  Of course we had to make time for one winery because, come on.....it's Washington!  

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It was two long days of fishing for some of the family; David, Nicole, Steve, Grant and Terry.  They were often cold and rained on but enjoyed every hour of being together.  Two shoreline lunches over a fire helped warm them up and dry their gloves out.  The best advice is connect with a fishing guide who will have all the equipment needed, know how to navigate the water and where to go, and maybe more importantly coordinate pole placement so no tangled fish lines! 

The Museum of Glass is an afternoon well spent.  I was surprised that most of the finished sculptures were not behind glass; even the most intricate fragile pieces are highly accessible for viewing and taking pictures.  In the huge art studio which is housed inside a 90-foot stainless steel cone, is the 'Hot Shop' side.  'Hot' as in kilns, molten glass, torches and sweaty bodies.  Some of the world's best glass blowers come to Tacoma to use this space.

Featured Artisan John Miller and Crew Leader

Featured Artisan John Miller and Crew Leader

The team of glass blowers designed and formed a giant glass of Guinness including the use of white powder to represent the beer foam.  Notice how the top is always kept heated so it stays pliable.  If the glass cools too much, slicing off the top to create the wide open mouth of the glass would result in the whole piece of art shattered.  

Welcome to Stottle

If you enjoy wine, a stop for wine tasting is a given in this beautiful state.  Visiting Stottle was less than a two hour visit including travel time from Lacey.  The business is primarily the dream to reality and hard work of Winemaker Josh Stottlemyer.   After leaving web development and internet marketing, Josh along with his wife Amy, ventured into the wine making business.  Tasting Room Coordinator, Lucy, was so welcoming and jovial I didn't want to leave our conversation.  

"Josh and Amy bought the winery in Yakima Valley specifically for the exceptional grapes nearby.  Yakima Valley is east of the Cascades which is significant to winemakers on the western coast.  The damp winds are blocked by the Cascade Mountain Range to the east which assists with keeping the vines drier and the sun warmer.  Some grapes like cooler temperatures but too much moisture and inadequate sun is definitely not good for grapes."
~ Lucy

I tried a combination flight of reds and whites.  A personal favorite is The Lucille Late Harvest, a dessert wine named after a grandmother on Amy's side of the family.  A little bubble wrap and I brought five bottles of wine home in my checked luggage.  That trick works every time. 

Stottle's retail space and tasting room is part of the Urban Winery Movement, keeping access close to buyers and tasters.  The store is tucked into an industrial area rather than more traditional wineries on a winding road in a rural setting.  The Urban Winery strategy caters to wine lovers that work and live in Puget Sound.....or in my case, a girl out for a drive looking to experience local flavor.

 

Pause long enough to enjoy a State Park

Seattle’s hustle and bustle is a big draw for visitors.  However, you can move ever so slightly in any direction from the big city and you will find Washington’s abundant beauty.  The obvious choices are to go to a mountain range and climb parts of Mt Olypus or Mt Rainier.  I love every minute we can get near a mountain side.  Yet the lush forest greens and rolling lake waves have a particular pull for me. 

I have to balance any trip with time in nature.  With more than 100 state parks it is easy to find a place to slow down and savor quiet time.

Saltwater State Park is located in King County.  I found it by googling ‘parks’ because I wanted to have a solo adventure but only had a couple hours available for a respite.  Since we were staying in Auburn, WA, Saltwater State Park popped up as the closest destination.  I didn’t have time to explore much of the park’s 87.4 acres but it was satisfying enough to walk a trail and wander down to the shore.  I finally shut off my phone, parked it on a log and just listened.

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Recommendations for a day trip:  Dress in layers because within any given hour it can be sunny, rainy, warm and chilly, especially near the water and changing altitudes; take a kite to run along a beach; bring a camera so you can revisit the remarkable views; pack a picnic of fruit, cheese and crackers to go with one of Washington’s exceptional wines.

Iconic Seattle Public Market

Aren't outdoor markets energizing?  Between the vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables and flowers and the unique handcrafted tee shirts to cutting boards there is, in fact, something for everyone.  I am partial to the street musicians.   

If you get to Pike Place Fish Market we highly recommend asking if you can catch a fish.  .Just ask for one of the fishmongers that has the best quarterback arm and Bam! you can catch a salmon thrown from 25 feet away.   

Thanks to Jaison Scott for having a great arm and not throwing THAT at me!

 

Till next time, Washington.  We love ya!

Rosie turns three!!!

Soon to become three years old, Rosemary.

Our love for you shoots to the starry heavens, circles the moon again and again and returns home. 
                                                                                                                         Bamma & Papa Bestafar

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The American Swedish Institute's 'Winter Solstice Celebration'; December 2015

 

Baltimore over Labor Day Weekend; September 2015

 

The Norway House; Minneapolis, December 2016

Happy Birthday, little love!

a winter carnival snow day

Snow was hauled into the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for one of the newer events of the St. Paul Winter Carnival.  I love seeing the fairgrounds used year round and the mass of the sculptures and snow slide were perfectly suited for this space.   The sculptures were created in a couple days with judging completed on January 29th.    

It was a classic cold Winter Carnival day with bags of Carmel Corn and cups of cocoa galore.  The bright sky didn't warm things up much but that was in the favor of the sculptors that required chilly weather.   

Brothers Kurtis Klett (left), Keith Klett (right) and Mike Leider (not picutred) won the Sculptor's Choice Award and Vulcan's Choice Award.  This was their fourth year in the competition. 

Congratulations, gentlemen!

 

Thanks for organizing a fun family day, Saint Paul Winter Carnival Vulcans!

a Holiday Glogg Tour at The American Swedish Institute

December 11, 2016

It was the most picturesque visit imaginable!! 

Pulling into the American Swedish Institute is a personal highlight at least once a year because each visit to this grand property is unique.  The staff and caretakers ensure the grounds and building are immaculate; I have yet to see a single bulb not working or smudged windows or complete order in the gift shop.  It's as if a few unseen elves scurry in a few times a day to keep everything in order.

Tonight's visit was special for two reasons: time spend with darling friend Stephanie Olson and my first time on a private tour of the mansion.  The tour was guided by Scott Pollock, Director of Exhibitions, Collections & Programs.  They served glögg – a warm, mulled wine – and a few appetizers from traditional Nordic and Jewish cuisine but it was the storytelling that made this a memorable evening.  Mr. Pollock explained how the rooms are a dedication to five Nordic countries-- Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland.  Each room was decorated with holiday symbols to honor the customs of Hanukkah as well as the countries they represent.  The glassware and table settings are reason enough to wander each room.  Add the views from several rooms with freshly fallen snow and it felt like walking into a fairy tale.

 

In the Swedish Room, there was an emphasis on the handcrafted glass pieces with plates recently used at the Noble Peace Prize dinner that honored Minnesota native Bob Dylan. 

 

A 1965 Volvo was on loan from Morton Minneapolis Volvo for an uber quaint courtyard.  

Stephanie was completely charmed by the car and elves.  Just beautiful; the woman and the setting.  We were glad we braved the cold to spend time outside.       

Stephanie was completely charmed by the car and elves.  Just beautiful; the woman and the setting.  We were glad we braved the cold to spend time outside.       

Our tour guide explained the home construction that began by the Turnbald Family in 1904 took four years to complete.  Swam Turnbald came from a small village in Sweden at the age of 8 with his family.  They originally landed 50 miles south of where the Turnbald Mansion would be built.  Swam was an ambitious young man and tired of farming.  Rather than being discontent, he went to work for the Svenska Amerikansak Posten, a Swedish newspaper, as a typesetter.  Within 10 years he owned the most widely circulated Swedish language newspaper in America.  The newspapers popularity took off when they began using color print for adult and children's cartoons, which was trendsetting in the newspaper publication industry.  Mr.  Turnbald acquired significant wealth and originally built the imposing structure to be a private residence.  To read more about the years the family lived in the mansion and when it was donated to the American Institute for Swedish Art, Literature and Science click here.  

Next year they may tackle a skating rink!  My family would be thrilled to glide around the American Swedish Institute courtyard on skates.  Followed by hot chocolate with whipped cream, of course.

 

 

Ms. Anastasia Hoff

Esthetician, Nova Lash Extensionist, and Certified Yoga Instructor

Anastasia works at Aveda and her passion is focused: to help others look beautiful and feel their best.  The instant we met I sensed her positive energy and a sweet beauty that radiates from within.  We met at Silverwood Park on a cool October day, thankful for the remaining colors on the property.  She has used the photo shoot images for business cards, New Reflections Aveda Salon (Minnetonka Ridgedale Center) Website and studio where she is a yoga instructor. 

Namaste, friends.

 

Contact Anastasia at 612-644-4679 or hoff.anastasiab@gmail.com or via New Reflections Aveda Salon at 763-559-3185

   

Friends that travel together: lake superior

September 22-25, 2016

They are rare, those fine gifts of friendship.  The people that can travel together and have the times of their lives. 

These friends; we are refreshingly candid, laugh till tears run, pray together, thrive on adventure, and don't want to go to our respective homes for at least one more day.  Recent travels took us to the north shore and the Lake Superior Barn located in Maple, Wisconsin.

Keith Kuch

Keith Kuch

Allene Kind

Allene Kind

Amy Kuch

Amy Kuch

Marc Glass and Chuck Kind

Marc Glass and Chuck Kind

Kyla Glass

Kyla Glass

David Oliver

David Oliver

Margie Slingsby

Margie Slingsby

Phil Slingsby

Phil Slingsby

Julie Oliver (Photo by Kyla Glass)

Julie Oliver (Photo by Kyla Glass)

The deciduous trees were not changing much yet in mid-September.  Still the north shore is always rich with pointy pines and rock face and paper birch.  Places to explore and hike.

We stayed at The Barn.

Like Phil described, "It's highly unique because it comes off as an old barn that's actually new.  It's warm in the regard of feeling like a home big enough for many yet cozy."  It is the vision of Tom and Nicole Wolfe, built from red elm, white elm, white ash, black ash, hard maple, red oak, white oak, hemlock, southern white pine, heart pine, tamarack - a patchwork of lumber from six different barns.  Rough suspended beams and barn doors included.  With all that wood there are some spaces such as the bathroom and shower areas that felt too dark.  The main living areas have the advantage of large windows and most of the bedrooms have great corner windows. 

We somehow managed to fill the downstairs and main level large refrigerators....imagine that with all the good cooks in the group.  Plus going out to restaurants wasn't on the agenda this trip.  We all liked that aspect of the space; a full kitchen with quality appliances(that dishwasher was a blessing!) plus a washer and dryer that was used given the muddy clay trails.  

Saturday was misty grey so a road trip was perfect.  We indulged in Betty's Famous Pies on the way to Gooseberry Park and Palisades Island.  Strongly recommend sharing the butterscotch pie at Betty's place! 

At Palisades, Amy spotted rock climbers.  Of course I needed to shimmy out on my belly to see what was going on.  Capturing all those colorful carabiners and that fab ponytail on climber Ben and his nearly identical brother was fun.

 

We felt the accommodations were good but it's the views and terrain that made this long weekend with best friends one of our favorites so far.

A Warm Minnesota Welcome at Orchestra Hall

A drizzling traffic-congested ride to Orchestra Hall made me tense, knowing I was behind schedule.  The moment I walked into the Lobby, I took a deep breathe and felt better.  I was enthused about the potential for the evening and have been to Orchestra Hall numerous times so it felt blissfully familiar.  I sought out Emma Smith, Minnesota Orchestra Associate Marketing Manager, for a friendly hug, gave her my apologies for being late, grabbed a drink from the bar and pulled out my Nikon with a 50mm lens. 

The evening was a rare opportunity for local Instagrammers to meet Minnesota Orchestra musicians on stage and wander the gorgeous Hall to take pictures.  A collaborative between Minnstameets and the Minnesota Orchestra with the following goals as outlined by Emma Smith:

  • ·         Curate an interactive social media experience that increases Instagram followers

  • ·         Collect professional photos for future Symphony in 60 marketing materials

  • ·         Develop relationships with amateur and professional photographers in the Twin Cities

All Musicians are full-time, learning new music and practicing independently.  They are expected to arrive for final rehearsals fully prepared.  On occasion, there is a single full symphony rehearsal prior to an evening performance!  Only the best of the best are capable of that level of greatness.  This gentleman is Associate Concertmaster, chamber musician, author and extraordinary soloist Roger Frisch.   

Brilliant talent and charming Kristen Bruya, Principal Bass, joined the Minnesota Orchestra in February 2015. 

The friendly Viola Player, Kenneth Freed, is a conductor, chamber musician, educator and social entrepreneur. 

MN Youth Symphony Cello Student Ruth Stokes was enthused to meet Principle Cello, festival performer and educator Anthony Ross

There are about 150 performers and administrative staff plus 350 Ushers.  Ushers are paid and they are always looking for additional Ushers. 

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Principle Conductor Sarah Hicks and Julie Oliver

Principle Conductor Sarah Hicks and Julie Oliver

A heartfelt thank you to Emma for being a gracious planning partner.  Emma has refreshing ideas and such enthusiasm for finding new ways to introduce people to the symphony experience.  The organization is fortunate to have her! 

If you have been to a concert at Orchestra Hall, you are well aware of the remarkable world-famous talent that comes together to form the Minnesota Orchestra.  If you have not gotten to a concert yet there is no better time than now to look over their 2016-2017 season schedule and make plans to go.  

Truly, there is something for everyone.  I am already counting the years until I can take our grandchildren to their first concert at Orchestra Hall.  In the meantime, tickets to 'Inside the Classics: Love in a Time of War (Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet)' with Sarah Hicks, Conductor, and Sam Bergman, Viola and Host, are on my January calendar. 

      

Camera Care

  Try to keep your phone camera and camera equipment away from heat.

  1. If you are outside on a hot day, try to keep equipment out of direct sunlight when not in use and toss a towel over the camera.
  2. Take your camera with you instead of leaving it in the car or the trunk. 

Water is damaging as well.

  1.   Leave camera equipment in the bag until you are really ready to shoot.   
  2.   Use a filter and lens hood. 
  3.   Wipe it down with a clean dry towel/sweatshirt/t-shirt if it gets hit by moisture.
  4.  Cell phone pouches (see image below) are super cheap.  We've tried them.  They work great!
  5.   In a pinch at the beach, lake and swimming pool a Ziploc bag actually works for phones.  OK, you can't talk into the phone but you can still type and scroll through the plastic!

Amazon - a pack of 4 for $16

Clean the lens.

  • Use a dedicated lens cloth.  If you are using the same cloth used on eyeglasses or sun glasses the oils from your skin will transfer to the lens.  
  • A washable multi-pack of cleaning clothes pretty much guarantees you will have one when you need one.

Amazon $8.99 (Pack of 6)

Always keep your camera away from sand and salt.  

  1.   Avoid changing the lens at the beach.
  2.   Wipe camera equipment with a damp towel after time at the beach.  
  3.   Keep your bag off the sand.  It's better up on a table or chair.
  4.   Use the strap.
  5.  Always change lens over a blanket or a camera bag.  I learned the hard way thinking I had a firm grip on the camera body and lens and it slipped out of my hand....not good!
  6.   If you think your camera has been exposed to sand or was dropped in the sand, turn it Off and take it to a camera specialty store for guidance. 

The Robin Family

It is Springtime in Minnesota. 

In a basket next to our front door, a Mama Robin built a beautiful cradle to lay and nurture her babies. 

April 18th

April 18th

Twigs arrived on Saturday, they are about 6 inch pieces. 

Mama Robin weaves grasses among the twigs and quickly places her belly in the middle to ensure a strong cradle is in progress.  It needs to be comfortable so twigs are not sticking out which would make the babies uncomfortable. 

Her favorite trees for hopping back and forth into the nest are the River Birch lined along the driveway.  She makes hundreds of trips to find materials and instinctively creates a sturdy bowl-shaped space.  This nest is four feet above the patio floor, in a wire basket protected from rain and heavy winds.  

Before flying into the nest, she consistently makes a quick stop on the neighbors roof to see if it is safe to approach our porch.

April 20th

April 20th

We have gone from two eggs, then three the next day, to now four eggs! OK, they are tiny, tiny but I am protecting them like they are my own!!  When Mama Robin has to leave the nest I'm on watch-out. And picture taking.  

April 27th

April 27th

Hatching

Of all the possible days to begin breaking out of their eggs it is Mother's Day when the first arrives!  It takes nearly a whole day to chip out of their shell.  It's hard work.  They are pale pink with only a few tufts of fine hair.  We think they look funny. 

The eggs usually hatch a day apart in the order they were laid.

May 8th

May 8th

The whole brood and all four appear to be doing fine. 

May 12th

May 12th

Their appearance changes quickly.  I like how they often prop their beaks on the edge. 

 

May 13th, Nicole, Alex, Brooke, and James are seeing the sleepy snugglers for the first time. 

Brooke did not want to leave her post but we knew the Mama was eager to return to her brood. 

Brooke did not want to leave her post but we knew the Mama was eager to return to her brood. 

 

Feeding and watching is constant work.  The mama and daddy bird take turns sitting on the nest to provide warmth, protect the nest with loud sounds if someone approaches and getting worms to feed their babes.  

May 16 th

May 16 th

One by one they get ready to fly. 

And then there are three. 

One remained and looks a little lonely without the others.  Or perhaps is enjoying the space! 

May 20th

May 20th

We were a little sad to see them leave our special place on the front porch but we sure had fun watching each step.  We're grateful for this up-close opportunity to learn and love the Robin Family.   This is the last one to leave the nest on May 22, 2016.

The End

To Learn more, read The Story of Robin Eggs. 

Destination: French Polynesia

Bora Bora

The first week of our trip was spent in Bora Bora, acclimating to the gorgeous topography, listening to two dialects, Reo Maohi (Tahitian) and French, dodging rain and sleeping in bungalows about 12 feet above the sea!  We snorkeled around the property but our planned snorkeling trips were cancelled due to high winds and poor water visibility. 

I've kept editing to a minimum so you can see the surroundings as we saw them.  With all our heart we wished we had seen more sunshine.  But a tropical depression had settled in.  Clearly it was still a remarkable adventure and we are grateful we were safe and had the opportunity to see this magical place.

Travels with my Dad and Eva were extra extra special for us.

Travels with my Dad and Eva were extra extra special for us.

Raindrops

Raindrops

Toasted Coconut, a popular appetizer.

Toasted Coconut, a popular appetizer.

The island was originally called Pora Pora!  The letter 'b" does not exist in Tahitian but it was mistakenly pronounced Bora Bora, which means "first born", by Captain James Cook.   More about him when we get to Moorea.

Approximately 9,000 people live on this majestic 17 square miles.  From a local tour guide we learned the island sits in a gigantic lagoon and is very very slowly sinking into its hole.  It is projected that in a million years Bora Bora will no longer be above water.  That's an uber long time away but still difficult to imagine.   

Tourists are encouraged to talk with tour operators or taxi boat operators about which islets can be explored because so much of the lagoon is private land.  The only public beach is Marie Point.  The beach is located around the corner from Bloody Mary's Restaurant, an iconic place where you have a shot at seeing Johnny Depp or Marlo Thomas.  Wearing shoes is optional since the floor is fine white sand.  Don't you love a restaurant that casual?

Bloody Mary's Restaurant has groovy t-shirts so we stocked up here! 

Speaking of celebrities, this was Marlon Brando's hideaway hut.  It is now a famous place to drive by and available to rent.   


Jack Nicholson owned this one just a couple huts away.  Can you imagine the parties they had?!!

 

After a restful week in Bora Bora, we embarked on a cruise for eight days.  David and I have never been on a cruise before so we had quite a bit to learn.  It's something we would do again.  

We boarded a Windstar sailing yacht in Papeete, Tahiti on February 19th and made a giant oblong circle to explore Moorea, Tahaa, Raiatea, back to Bora Bora for a couple days, Huahine and returning to Papeete on February 26th. 

The service was first-class and the food beyond exceptional!  

It was a real treat to have personal time with Executive Chef Klaus; touring the Galley and learning about the layout required of a mid-size vessel and techniques specific to making food on a boat that consistently sways.  Chef Klaus also held a cooking demonstration featuring the local dish "Poisson Cru" which was grand for David, the best chef at our house.

Details of the yacht were fascinating.  I couldn't get enough of the textures, the size of the masts, the wooden handrails and on and on.  It truly is a beauty.

If we could have changed one thing on board it would have been the cabin room.  We would have enjoyed having a sliding door and balcony.  We've heard there are disadvantages to larger cruise ships such as long lines to disembark for day trips but there are two reasons I think we should try a larger boat - - having a room with a sliding glass door would have felt more open and there would likely be less turbulence.  There were two nights where we, along with most of the passengers and even the sailing crew, had bad sea sickness.  Walking wobbly in the hallways and holding yourself up using every stable piece of furniture around is fun for the first hour.  After that, it's just a feeling of being ill and nausea.  Thankfully we got prescribed motion sickness patches before the trip but the storms settled in for days making prescription meds only mildly effective.             

 

Moorea

Moorea's beauty was the paradise I imagined when I thought of the Polynesian Islands.  The ship anchored in Cook's Bay, on the northern side of the island.   Explorer James Cook anchored there in 1769, as did Europeans Samuel Wallis (1767) and Louis-Anthoine de Bougainville (1768).  Captain Cook was an expert at making maps as he circumnavigated the globe twice and is credited with drawing the first accurate map of the Pacific.  Before being brutally killed in Hawaii (1779) because of his mistreatment of the people of Hawaii, Cook's Bay was Captain Cook's final voyage. 

Tourism and a pineapple growing center are Moorea's primary economic drivers with a population of 16,000 residents.      

From our ship, boats transported passengers (roughly 20 at a time) into the smaller bays where the water made me think of sapphire jewels.  I would have liked to have spent more time on this island, make contact with local residents.  

The tour and history lessons of Moorea were extremely interesting to us.  Opunohu Bay, also on the northern side of Moorea, was a trip highlight and where we found some of the most breath-taking photography opportunities.  The Bay has been used for commercials and movies (Mutiny on the Bounty, South Pacific) because it is so pristine.   Moorea was the inspiration for James Michener's book, Tales of the South Pacific, and ultimately the mystical Bali Hai from the musical 'South Pacific'.  Filming in that bay is popular because it is easy to access and beautifully unspoiled. 

Moorea is lush and dense, an island formed by volcanoes.  It would be difficult to maneuver without an experienced guide and a trail-tough 4X4 or safari vehicle.

 

Belvedere Lookout is located toward the center of the island and has remarkable views of Cook's Bay and Opunohu Bay. 

 

Raiatea and Huahine

More thick forests for sure.  These were days designed to explore the villages, and get a feel for Tahitian lifestyle. 

Ra' iatea is the second largest island in the Society Islands and about 145 miles from Tahiti, the largest piece of land in the chain of islands.  Current population is about 12,000 and the area is considered to be a crucial economic driver for the islands.  There seemed to be fewer tourists here, perhaps due to the lack of beaches and activities.  The ship docked in the center of the main town, Uturoa.  Vanilla, pineapple and coconut are primary exports.  And all of the islands have several black pearl farms and boutiques. 

We wandered the large market; a combination of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, oils, pearls, jewelry and colorful attire for sale.  We picked up a couple fun souvenirs but without a specific tour that day we found it to be a mellow afternoon.

Our time on Huahine was quiet and nothing particularly unique.  We were hot and getting tired so maybe our lack of exploring was a factor.  Merely my opinion, if you are trying to sort out where to spend time in French Polynesia, these are two islands that could be skipped.  Of course the views are gorgeous and if you want pure lounging on some sand they are good places to escape.  David and I just found the other islands to be more engaging.  So we returned to the ship early to catch a tour with Dad and Eva of the Bridge.  

I was surprised at how available the staff and on board spaces were to passengers.  Windstar staff made us feel welcomed in all of the ship areas.  We had such a great time in the Galley learning about food preparation we figured learning about the Bridge, the command and navigation space, would be great too. 

It was terrific!    

Of course I asked permission to take pictures.  They said, "sure you can."  The longest windshield wipers I'll ever see...                       

 

We traveled with my father, who still loves international travel at 84 years old and wears a Pareo and Tahitian tee like a cool cat, and his girlfriend Eva.  Such a great experience.  The time with dad was really precious.  He knows enough Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Thia, Tagalog, and Chinese to be able to communicate with a lot of people.  It's quite amusing to watch him light-up any time he can practice one of these languages.  This rather shy, extraordinarily caring, master inventor, deep thinker, highly-successful man has been remarkably supportive of David and I over the years, he is the father I adored as a child and that has never changed.  

Love you, Dad.     

An ancient legend says that Raiatea and Tahaa were originally one island until a giant eel swallowed a young girl.  Possessed by her spirit, the enraged creature broke through the earth surface, causing the sea to gush.  The impact of the water cut the island in two and Raiatea and Tahaa were created.     

 

Tahaa

Tahaa Island, the view from the yacht.  

Tahaa Island, the view from the yacht.  

This was our favorite cruise day.  A full afternoon of lounging on a tiny island and abundant sunshine.  The crew planned a great day.  Arriving by a small boat, we were greeted on the island with a coconut beverage and BBQ for lunch. 

Several passengers brought their own snorkel equipment. 

We thought about it.  I read several blogs and consulted Trip Advisor about traveling through the various islands before we left.  Nearly all said to bring your own snorkel equipment because cruise ship equipment can be beat up.  But the equipment is a heavy load in the luggage so we decided no.  I'm glad we didn't bring our own because our snorkeling time was limited with the rough water and the equipment provided by the ship was in excellent condition.  The other tip was to purchase water shoes before the trip.  We did this and would highly recommend it!!  The beaches are more rugged than other beaches we have been to because they are never groomed so broken shells and rocks are the norm.  I'd read that finding aqua shoes on an island can be difficult and expensive so look locally before you go.  Dick's Sporting Goods had the best selection to try on.  I anticipated we would be in these shoes often so fit was important.  My favorites are pictured below and only $14.99.  We tried on several Speedo water shoes but honestly the less expensive DBX brand were the most comfy.   

I got that pair of floral rubber walking shoes pictured below too.  I wore them A Lot!  On and off the sand, now a new favorite sandal from Target.  I took my old Crocs along and was happy to have them.  One pair of strappy high heels for dressier evening attire was enough for me.  David took tennis shoes, his Birkenstock's for everyday and a couple pair of dressier loafers.   Oh, and we both brought cushy slippers!  Take slippers you love because after a day of exploring and walking the boat getting into a robe and slippers is bliss.  Happy feet are important.      

 Back to this dreamy visit to Taha' a. 

We had massages side-by-side near the water, under a wind sheet for shade, and that was divine...something we had not done before.  Loved it!!  And several of us smiled through an entertaining cocktail-making demonstration.  A day to treasure!

Utterly enchanted.  A trip of a lifetime.