Christmas eve and scenes from Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem

Before one visits Bethlehem these days one must pass through a huge barbed wire topped wall, guard houses and all! Rather disconcerting.

“The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem, Palestinian territories, and is considered to be the oldest continuously operating Christian church in the world. The church was originally commissioned in 327 AD by Constantine and his mother Helena over the site that is still traditionally considered to be located over the cave that marks the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. The Church of the Nativity site’s original basilica was completed in 339 AD and destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts in the sixth century AD. A new basilica was built 565 AD by the Byzantine Empire, restoring the architectural tone of the original. The site of the Church of the Nativity has had numerous additions since this second construction, including its prominent bell towers. Due to its cultural and geographical history, the site holds a prominent religious significance to those of both the Christian and Muslim faiths.

The site of the Church of the Nativity is a World Heritage Site, and was the first to be listed under Palestine by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The site is also on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

First century holy site (circa 4-6 AD – 327 AD)

The holy site, known as the Grotto, that the Church of the Nativity sits atop, is today associated with the cave in which the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth occurred. In 135 AD, Hadrian is said to have had the Christian site above the Grotto converted into a worship place for Adonis, the Greek god of beauty and desire. A father with the Church of the Nativity, Jerome, noted before his death in 420 AD that the holy cave was at one point consecrated by the heathen to the worship of Adonis, and that a pleasant sacred grove was planted there in order to wipe out the memory of Jesus. However, some modern scholars dispute this argument and insist that the cult of Adonis-Tammuz originated the shrine and that it was the Christians who took it over, substituting the worship of God. Regardless, a trip to the Holy Land usually includes a visit to this Grotto

The antiquity of the association of the site with the birth of Jesus is attested by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165 AD, who noted in his Dialogue with Trypho that the Holy Family had taken refuge in a cave outside of town:

Joseph took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him.(chapter LXXVIII).

Origin of Alexandria (185 AD – circa. 254 AD) wrote:

In Bethlehem the cave is pointed out where He was born, and the manger in the cave where He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. And the rumor is in those places, and among foreigners of the Faith, that indeed Jesus was born in this cave who is worshiped and reverenced by the Christians. (Contra Celsum, book I, chapter LI).

The main Basilica of the Nativity is maintained by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It is designed like a typical Roman basilica, with five aisles (formed by Corinthian columns) and an apse in the eastern end, where the sanctuary is. The church features golden mosaics covering the side walls, which are now largely decayed.”
Information taken from Wikipedia

The basilica is entered through a very low door, called the “Door of Humility.” The original Roman style floor has since been covered over, but there are windowed areas in the modern floor which allows viewing portions of the original mosaic floor. The church also features large gilded iconoclasts, and a complex array of lamps throughout the entire building. The wooden rafters were donated by King Edward IV of England. The same king also donated lead to cover the roof; however, this lead was later taken by the Ottoman Turks, who melted it down for ammunition to use in war against Venice. Stairways on either side of the Sanctuary lead down by winding stairs to the Grotto.

Information taken from Wikipedia

The Skellig Islands– a UNESCO Site

On a recent trip to Ireland we spent a very wonderful week exploring the County Cork area.
One day we started out to visit Skellig Michael, arrived at the Visitor Center but the seas were to rough and the boat to the island was not able to make the trip. We did get to view the islands from the shore. Look up the websites listed below to learn about the long history of the island and why Great Skellig was designated a UNESCO Site.

The two Skellig Islands

The Skellig Islands as seen from a beautiful Ireland view point

“The Skellig Islands (Irish: Na Scealaga), once known as the Skellocks, are two small, steep, and rocky islands lying about 13 km west of Bolus Head on the Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry, Ireland. They are famous for their thriving gannet and puffin populations, and for an early Christian monastery that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Little Skellig

The smaller island is Little Skellig (Sceilig Bheag in Irish). It is closed to the public, and holds Ireland’s largest and the world’s second-largest Northern Gannet colony, with almost 30,000 pairs. It is about 1.5 km east-northeast of Great Skellig.
Great Skellig

Also known as Skellig Michael (Sceilig Mhichíl in Irish), this is the larger of the two islands, with two peaks rising to over 230 m above sea level. With a sixth-century Christian monastery perched at 160 m above sea level on a ledge close to the top of the lower peak, Great Skellig is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”

Cruising in Greece

Ship docked at Agios Nikolaos (Crete) Greece

There are so many amazing sites to see in Greece, here are a few sites visited on a recent trip.
Sunset at Katakolon, Ancient Olympia, and Ancient Corinth;

Katakolon is a seaside town in western Ilia in the municipality of Pyrgos. The town center is within a gulf overlooking the Ionian Sea. Katakolon is the gateway to Olympia (Greek: Ολυμπία Olympía), a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, the most famous games in history. The Olympic Games were held every four years, dating back to 776 BC. In 394 AD, emperor Theodosius I abolished them as they were then considered reminiscent of paganism. The first Olympic Games were in honor of Zeus. If one visits the large area that was Ancient Olympia, in the Spring, the trees are in bloom, if one visits in the Fall small pink flowers are sprinkled around the grounds.

Corinth, or Korinth (Greek: Κόρινθος, Kórinthos) was a city-state (polis) on the Isthmus of Corinth, the narrow stretch of land that joins the Peloponnesus to the mainland of Greece, roughly halfway between Athens and Sparta. Neolithic pottery suggests that the site of Corinth was occupied from at least as early as 6500BC, and continually occupied into the Early Bronze Age, and it has been suggested, the settlement acted as a center of trade. Skip ahead to the Romans in Corinth; Under the Romans, Corinth was rebuilt as a major city in Southern Greece or Achaia. It had a large mixed population of Romans, Greeks, and Jews.
Corinth is mentioned many times in the New Testament, largely in connection with Paul the apostle’s mission there. When the apostle Paul first visited the city (AD 51 or 52), Gallio, the brother of Seneca, was proconsul. Paul resided here for eighteen months

End of Historic Round Barn in Doniphan County, Kansas

Round Barn in Kansas

In 1999 James R. Shortridge wrote in his “Round Barns of Kansas” that there were 24 Round Barns in Kansas, presumably there are now only 23.
The CURRENT OWNER is Mark Burke who bought it about 10 years ago from Orlin Strum. There was on article in the local (Atchison, Kansas) paper ( about Mark moving hay and equipment that was in the barn.

SITE: NW quarter, Sec. 27, T4S, R19E; three and a half miles south of Denton, then a half mile west on Highway 20.
TYPE AND SIZE: octagonal without silo; 58-foot diameter.
DATES AND STATUS: built about 1914–1915; in good condition in 1999 although the main entry has been enlarged and the interior gutted for hay storage.

Fuhrken built his barn primarily to stable mules. It originally contained five double stalls, a single stall, two
granaries, a harness room, and a full loft. Two large hay doors project through the roof on opposite sides.
The roof is segmented and single-pitched and is supported by interior posts and braces. The walls—vertical
boards with battens—contain many small windows. Two gabled machine-shed additions extend to the northeast and northwest.

[The Fuhrken barn was featured in a 1992 television commercial for Budweiser beer. See Kansas Chief (Troy), September 3, 1992.]

Whether during the heyday of their construction in the 1910s or
now, round barns have always attracted public attention. Editors
and readers of farm magazines once engaged in spirited
debate over the advantages that this new shape might offer for housing
animals and for storing feed and equipment. More recently the appeal has
been based largely on scarcity and aesthetics. Fewer than fourteen hundred
round barns have ever existed in the United States, most of them in
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Kansas is on the fringe of this concentration.
A local survey begun in the 1980s has located forty-one such
barns built over the years for and by Kansas farmers and stockmen. Of
these, a mere twenty-four still remain on the landscape.”

The above information was taken from a publication entitled The Round Barns of Kansas by: James R. Shortridge

James R. Shortridge is a professor of geography at the University of Kansas, where he received his M.A. and
Ph.D. degrees. His recent publications include Peopling the Plains: Who Settled Where in Frontier Kansas (1995) and The Taste of American Place: A Reader on Regional and Ethnic Foods (1998). His active research in material culture led to his interest in and study of Kansas barns.

The Round Barn with a Photoshop “antique” look.
All photos of the barn before destruction taken in a 2011 Photoshoot by Doris Ford.

A Photoshop rendering of the storm that would destroy this Historic Round Barn little more than a year after after the picture was taken.

Interior of the Round Barn

Panama Canal

Our next stop in our trip around South America was through the Panama Canal. One of the Locks is Gatun Locks built in 1915.

Panama Canal Gatun Lock

Frigate birds- Did you know they can stay aloft for more than a week?

Many Buzzards flew around the Locks, mostly black headed.

Bocas del Toro Panama

Click on the picture to see “picture postcards” of the area. Then click each picture to see a few scenes of life on this island.

The next stop on the way to the Panama Canal and the west coast area of South America is Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is situated on Isla Colon, part of the archipelago that dominates Bocas del Toro Province. The province is located in the northwestern region of Panama, with Costa Rica just west of the border. It’s population of 90 thousand is a diverse ethnic mix consisting of descendents of banana and canal workers from Africa, Columbia, the French Antilles and Jamaica. There are also four indigenous Indian tribes along with a growing expat population from North America and Europe. In the 17th Century, Bocas del Toro was frequented by Spanish fleets and French Huguenot settlers. The 19th Century saw the arrival of black slaves and banana workers. Today, Bocas del Toro remains mostly unspoiled with natural beauty amidst a growing tourist economy. Isla Colon had few roads until recently, but now is filled with rustic wooden B and B’s, smaller hotels, waterfront bards and dive shops. Bocas Town is both rustic and quaint and visitors do not need to travel far to find peace ad solitude in at the nearby rainforests and marshlands. Diving, snorkeling, and fishing around Bocas del Toro are some of the finest in Panama.
As one can see from the pictures many buildings are brightly painted, and the sea and boats are all around.

Georgetown Grand Cayman

Georgetown is the capital of Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands, and known for its spectacular diving and snorkeling. The area is also know for exceptional clarity and color of the sea due to the fact that there are no natural rivers or freshwater draining into the ocean around the sea. We made a stop there on the way to the Panama Canal before heading down the West coast of South America. We did two one tank dives, and enjoyed our time in the water. Attached are some photos from under and over the water! Not the best underwater pictures, but perhaps you can get an idea of some of the beautiful fish and coral that takes me underwater every chance I get.
Click on the Welcome photo to see the gallery.

In 2004 over 80% of the buildings were either damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Ivan- the worst to hit the island in 86 years. However, because tourism accounts for the majority of the island’s economy, most business were quick to repair and re-open. Georgetown is home to to the Cayman’s financial industry and the town boasts over 600 banks! Points of interest for visitors include the turtle farm, and Stingray City, but the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful waters give Grand Cayman special allure.

Adobe Lightroom 4

On my travels I am repeatedly asked how I download and organize all my photos. In a word, LIGHTROOM! I use Adobe Lightroom for both organizing and cataloging, as well as any tweaking that a photo might need to look like what I saw when I took the picture. It is a powerful program, and now there is a great update.

Lightroom 4 is out, and the price is only $149!. If you have Lightroom 3 you can upgrade for around $79. I highly recommend this upgrade, as new things were introduced and other areas strengthened. There are free training videos on line, like the one from Adobe ( A quote from the Adobe site;

” What is Lightroom?

Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® 4 software provides a comprehensive set of digital photography tools, from powerfully simple one-click adjustments to cutting-edge advanced controls. Create images that inspire, inform, and delight.”

For more in-depth training I would highly recommend joining NAPP, ( and Kelby Training. Here is an excerpt from the Lightroom 4 Launch video on the NAPP site;

“Your hosts Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski have created 10 very helpful video tutorials on the new beta features that include improved video support, soft proofing, ability to email photos directly, new photobooks (Scott’s favorite), and some great new adjustments for making your photos look their absolute best.”

Google Maps and Lightroom 4

More fun with Google maps showing the sites we visited on a recent trip around South America, including the Antarctic, the Falklands, and a trip up the Amazon. I hope to share this wonderful journey with you on my website with pictures and storys. Our ship was the Princendam of the Holland America Cruise Line.

The new Adobe Lightroom 4 will automatically place all my GPS labeled photos on a map including how many pictures were taken at each Geo-location! Check out the NAPP website, or Adobe to learn about this great update to Lightroom.

This map was made with Lightroom 3 showing additions since the original map I posted on December 3, 2011. I plan to add at least one photo to so you could see what we saw at each pin.

View South America 2012 in a larger map


Rome- So much to see and do. History comes alive when visiting this amazing city.Here are a few pictures from a recent trip to Rome. More will be added–Stay tuned!

Patagonia and Penguins

Click on the penguins to see the gallery.
Have you ever been to the end of the Americas?– check out Punta Arenas Chile.
Punta Arenas Chile is located in Northern Patagonia, it is the Southernmost city in the World, and a very interesting city to visit on the way to Antarctica. Magellan penguins can also be seen nearby in Otway Sound.
The penguins are native to the Strait of Magellan in the cool climate of southern Chile, and each spring hundreds of Magellanic Penguins come home to their birth place to breed. Nests are built in earthen burrows and usually two eggs are laid. Incubation lasts 39–42 days, a task which the parents share in 10-15 day shifts. The chicks are cared for by both parents for 29 days and are fed every two to three days. Normally, both are raised through adulthood, though occasionally only one chick is raised.

Magellanic Penguins mate with the same partner year after year. The male reclaims his burrow from the previous year and waits to reconnect with his female partner. The females are able to recognize their mates through their call alone. They are able to make quite a racket when they want to!

Millions of these penguins still live on the coasts of Argentina and Chile, but the species is classified as a “threatened species”, primarily due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil spills, which kill 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year off the coast of Argentina. (Wikipedia)

An Evening in Florence

Florence is a fascinating city. Just a short walk one evening in October yielded these beautiful pictures. Walking along the Roman road and crossing the River Arno on the Pointe Vecchio is a walk back into history. The bridge was built in 1345, and is the oldest surviving bridge in Florence. The site that it fords dates back to Roman times. On the bridge are numerous shops, which formerly housed the blacksmiths tanners and butchers, and since replaced by jewelers and goldsmiths. Florentines and Tourist enjoy the walk and the views.

Google Maps

I have so much fun geotagging my pictures and then, from Lightroom, placing the locations on the Google map. I use a Nikon GP-1 that attaches to my Nikon D3 (or D300). As we travel it is interesting to note our longitude and latitude as well as the altitude. Sometime at sea level it registers as a minus elevation!
The GP-1 also elicits much interest from other travelers, as they wonder what is that little unit on the camera accessory shoe? The unit can also be mounted on the camera strap with the included strap adapter mount. A cable from the unit connects to the camera through the 10 pin terminal. GPS data will be recorded when the GP-1 is able to detect three or more satellites. The data is recorded in the metadata of each photograph, and can be seen on the camera display immediately.
I wish I had had the unit for trips taken years ago so my map would be more complete!
No matter what kind of camera you have this is a great addition.

View My Travels in a larger map

A popular tourist site near Barcelona

Have you ever visited Barcelona? A very interesting side trip is to the Mountain–The serrated mountain- Montserrat. The Monastery is sheltered and almost hidden in the rocks.

Santa Maria de Montserrat is a Benedictine abbey located on the mountain of Montserrat, in Monistrol de Montserrat, in Catalonia, Spain.The Virgin of Montserrat is a statue of the Virgin Mary and infant Christ venerated at the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery in the Montserrat mountain in Catalonia. It is one of the black Madonnas of Europe, hence its familiar Catalan name, la Moreneta (“The little dark-skinned one”). Believed by some to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the Church, it is more likely a Romanesque sculpture in wood from the late 12th century.
The monastery is Catalonia’s most important religious retreat and groups of young people from Barcelona and all over Catalonia make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat.

Legend has it that the Benedictine monks could not move the statue to construct their monastery, choosing to instead build around it. The statue’s sanctuary is located at the rear of the chapel, where an altar of gold surrounds the icon, and is now a site of pilgrimage.

Upon his recovery from battle wounds, Ignatius of Loyola visited the Benedictine monastery of Montserrat (March 25, 1522), where he laid down his military accouterments before the image. Then he led a period of asceticism before later founding the Society of Jesus.

On September 11, 1844, Pope Leo XIII declared the virgin of Montserrat patroness of Catalonia (Saint George is another patron saint.)
Santa Maria de Montserrat

A visit to North Carolina–Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Halifax Resolves (1776)

Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park is designed to give visitors an unforgettable up-close experience with over 1,500 ducks, geese, swans, and other exotic birds from around the world.

Multinational Aviary
Open to the public since October 2006, the 18-acre facility features large, walk- through aviaries displaying birds from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Tranquil gardens and lush natural areas enhance the beauty of the birds on exhibit.
Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park and Eco-Center in Scotland Neck NC is dedicated to educating people about the importance of conservation and research, focusing on waterfowl and wetland habitats.
The opening of Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in 2006 emerged from the legacy of one man—Mike Lubbock, affectionately known to many as the Waterfowl Man.

The moniker is well deserved. Mike Lubbock is considered by many avian biologists to be the most intuitive and prolific waterfowl aviculturalist in the world. From his early work in England at the Wildfowl Trust to his permanent move to America, where he founded Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Center in 1989, Milke Lubbock was single-minded in his mission to unlock the mysteries of breeding birds.

His landmark work resulted in 17 World First Breeding Awards, plus 15 awards for first breedings in North America—an unsurpassed accomplishment. Most importantly, his primary focus in breeding waterfowl is to assure the survival of those species that are disappearing in the wild, and those in peril even in managed collections around the world. Several prominent naturalists claim that without the dedicated efforts of Mike Lubbock and the staff at Sylvan Heights, a number of waterfowl species would already be extinct today. A few of those are shown here today. It is a wonderful place to visit, but next time I visit it will not be in July!

Halifax County Water tank

Here is something for all you Revolutionary War Buffs that I discovered on this trip to NC and if I ever knew it in school I have forgotten.

The Halifax Resolves, so-named because the North Carolina Provincial Congress met in the town of Halifax, were part of a movement in the colonies in which advocates of separation from Great Britain sought to mobilize public support for a declaration of independence. The primary impediment to declaring independence was that many delegates to the Second Continental Congress were not authorized by their home governments to take any action that would lead to independence. Advocates of independence therefore sought to revise the instructions of each congressional delegation and remove any restrictions regarding a declaration of independence.

The Halifax Resolves empowered North Carolina’s delegates to the Second Continental Congress—Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, and John Penn—to join with those from other colonies to declare independence from British rule. The 83 delegates present at the Fourth Provincial Congress unanimously adopted the resolves, which also encouraged delegates from all the colonies to the Continental Congress to declare independence. North Carolina became the first colony to explicitly permit their delegates to vote in favor of independence.

Although the Halifax Resolves permitted the North Carolina delegation to join in a declaration of independence, they stopped short of instructing North Carolina’s delegates to introduce a resolution of independence in Congress. This step was taken by the colony of Virginia the following month, with the adoption of the Lee resolution by the Virginia Convention. Two months later, the Second Continental Congress issued the United States Declaration of Independence.

Every year, on April 12, the Historic Halifax State Historic Site celebrates Halifax Day. Interpreters in period costumes guide tours of historic buildings, and demonstrate historic crafts and other colonial activities. Occasionally, reenactors portray Revolutionary era soldiers and demonstrate use of historic weapons during the Halifax Day events.

Salida Colorado and the Open Canoe Salom Nationals

The 2011 ACA Open Canoe Slalom Nationals & North American Championships that were to be held on July 6-8, 2011 at the Clear Creek Whitewater Park in Golden, CO, were canceled due to the anticipation of very high water at the race site on the schedule race weekend! The 2011 ACA Open Canoe Slalom Nationals and North American Championships were moved to Salida, CO, about 165 miles southwest of Denver. The dates remained the same, July 8-10, 2011 with practice prior to the event.
The Salida site is approximately 2.5 hours from Denver and features two large play waves and large shoreline eddies. A walking path goes along the length of the course. The Salida site annually hosts the Fibark slalom and downriver race. This year the event includes USA Wildwater Nationals and USACK Slalom Age Group Nationals. Kent Ford, the course designer, set a good open boat course at the high water levels. The course snaked down the side of the river, avoiding the center of the 2 large play structures using the numerous eddies along the sides of the river that are available at all water levels. The downriver was conducted on Friday morning on an appropriate section of the river dependent on water levels. This is a high water year in Colorado, so all were advised to come prepared for cold water from snow melt and high volumes. Salida also hosted an annual Beer Festival on the same weekend as the race.

See the event web site at:

RE-living a recent trip to Greece and Italy

Venice is such an interesting city and there is a picture with a story around every corner, and over every canal:

The original site of the ancient Olympics is an area well worth visiting. According to the accepted date the first Olympic Games were hels in 776 BC and continued until AD393. An institution with incredible longevity spanning 1,169 years, and 293 Olympiads

The Greco-Roman city of Corinth has some of the original Greek structures still visible, as well as the Roman influence including a “paved” road. The poppies in Corinth are a special vibrant red.

Pisa– what a collection of Beautiful buildings including the “leaning” Tower, now stabilized.

Lucca interesting city with a Huge earthen Wall surrounding the City