Swimming at Angkor (20060708)

Hitting a pond between temples, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Hitting a pond between temples, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Even at nine in the morning, the July heat and humidity at Angkor Wat is overwhelming. Unfortunately, I can't attest to the cleanliness of the large ponds on the road between temples. Fortunately, this young boy couldn't care less.

The Kangaroo Inn is Out (20051219)

Remains of the Kangaroo Inn, Furner, South Australia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2005. Remains of the Kangaroo Inn, Furner, South Australia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2005. Although the differences between Australia and America are numerous and well-documented, extreme heat has the same entropic effect everywhere: complex structures get reduced to dust. The Kangaroo Inn was an historical and apparently lively stopgap on the road from Melbourne to Adelaide. Now it's little more than a curious and ill-marked ruin next to the road, better documented by Web pages than by historical society plaques. From the unusual amount of gray dirt and uneven faded paint, I'd assumed that the Roo was brought low by fire, but according to the aforementioned Web pages, it was simply abandoned as railways took over mail delivery and patronage dropped. While were on the subject of Australian factoids, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll noted assistance from an unlikely source for his annual Christmas quiz last month. The questions are numbers 19 and 20, and the credit is in the paragraph following.

Honeysuckle Station (20051218)

Coonawarra Train Station, South Australia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2005. Coonawarra Train Station, South Australia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2005. "Coonawarra" is an improbable word meaning "honeysuckle." Aboriginal in origin, it bounces off the tongue like a hyperactive child introduced to his first trampoline. The location is nowadays far more famous for its red wines than its honeysuckle, and so when the FMA and I reached the end of the Great Ocean Road, we took a sharp right inland. Sixty kilometers later, and still nearly 300 km from our end-goal of Adelaide, we encountered one of the most renowned wine-regions in the world. Uniquely red "terra rossa" soil makes for some excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and cool-climate Shiraz, although the area specialized in mostly fortifieds from its start in 1890 to the 1950s. Coonawarra is also far enough off the beaten path in getting there you begin to get a taste of the Australian interior. Dilapidated buildings become more common, the Big Sky is in full effect, and any American who's traversed his own country will be reminded of nothing less than the breadbasket states, but with grapes instead of wheat and corn. This is all assuming, of course, that said American can pull his nose out of the wine glass long enough to see what's around him. Since wine tastings are free and the quality is unimpeachable, this is no cavalier quip.

Under a Barrel (20051121)

Wine barrels at Chambers Rosewood Winery, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2005. Wine barrels at Chambers Rosewood Winery, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2005. As a Californian who enjoys Californian wines, you're really missing out if you're one of the few people left who refuses to try Australian wines, or who thinks that Aussie wines are somehow inferior. Visiting Australia and not taking a wine tour is like visiting Japan and not trying the sushi. That's all I've got today. Have a good weekend.

80 East (20070331)

The San Francisco Bay Bridge from the San Francisco waterfront. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. The San Francisco Bay Bridge from the San Francisco waterfront. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. The Bay Bridge has always been the ignored sibling of the Golden Gate. It obviously doesn't try to compete: the coloring, design, length and even the impression it makes are all different. Although the pilot of the Cosco Busan might disagree, the Bay Bridge doesn't need to stand out from the dense fog of the Golden Gate Strait, and so it's not painted orange. The combined length of the eastern and western spans is shorter than the Golden Gate, though they often feel longer. It also opened six months before its sibling, although as a kid in 1987, I can tell you that my family and 300,000 of our friends were decidedly not on the Bay Bridge. Which, by the way, is not its official name. The full and proper title of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge, after the former San Francisco mayor and governor of Our Fair State. The poor thing gets so blindsided by the Golden Gate's popularity, it can't even get its real name out there.

101 North (20061019)

The North Tower and points beyond, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. The North Tower and points beyond, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. It's commonly known that 11 men died during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, falling to their deaths. What is less known is that 10 of them were killed as bridge was nearing completion. A manned scaffolding collapsed, and it crashed through the safety net below them causing it to fail. What is even less known is that the safety net that saved 19 lives during the bridge's birthing process was invented by the man who designed the bridge itself, Joseph Strauss, and that its first use was for the Golden Gate.

A Morning Cruise on the Ganges (20060305)

Children of a Ganges River boat driver, Varanasi, India. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Children of a Ganges River boat driver, Varanasi, India. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. Outside of Darjeeling, Varanasi remains one of the few parts of India that I visited that I want to return to. It's hot, uncomfortable both physically and because of the intense urban environment melded to the Hindi center of funerary rites, and it's extremely compelling. Even if you don't believe, the power of everyone around you focusing their beliefs on the dead is hard to ignore.

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