Wildlife Wednesday – Paso Fino Horses at Playa Negra

Springtime and warm weather always remind me of summer days spent at the beaches in Corpus Christi (my hometown).  Some of my best memories from growing up are of days spent at the beach.  Living in the Texas Panhandle really makes me miss being near the coast.  Since moving to the Panhandle I’ve been able to take two amazing, summertime, beach vacations to Vieques, a small island off the East coast of Puerto Rico.  Vieques is an amazing place to visit — it’s on my list of trips to blog about, so I won’t discuss it much here.  What I will say is that the people are friendly, the food and weather are great, and the beaches are beautiful and devoid of people.

During our first trip to Vieques, Bryan and I made the hike from one of the main highways down to Playa Negra.  Playa Negra gets it’s name from the black particles that get washed down onto the beach during rainstorms, making it appear like a black sand beach.  As we exited the jungle and made our way on to the sandy shore, I told Bryan, “The only thing that could make this beach more picture perfect would be if there were some horses on it.”  After saying that, I turned around and saw this mare and her colt — what a wonderful surprise!  Remembering that conversation always makes me laugh, and it makes this one of my favorite pictures from our first trip to Vieques.  I’m definitely ready to go back for a third time!

Paso fino horses roam free all over the island.  It’s not unusual to have to stop and wait for them to cross the road or to be forced to drive around them when they refuse to get off the road.  Sometimes you’ll see locals (known as Viequenses) riding them bareback or on small, thin saddle pads.  The horses are descendants of horses originally brought to the island by European colonizers.

Wild Horses at Playa Negra (Black Sand Beach) - Vieques, PR

Pointe-du-Hoc

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The fourth and final stop on our Normandy D-Day road trip was Pointe-du-Hoc.  The Fighting-Texas-Aggie in me had been looking forward to visiting Pointe-du-Hoc all day, as it was Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder who led the Army Rangers to victory at Pointe-du-Hoc.  Rudder retired from the Army as a Major General and was the third president of Texas A&M University.

Pointe-du-Hoc was an important strategic location for the Germans, as it was the high point between Omaha Beach and Utah Beach.  A victory at Pointe-du-Hoc was crucial for the Allied forces in order to prevent the Germans from using Pointe-du-Hoc for observing both Utah and Omaha Beaches.  The 2nd Ranger Battalion was to scale the cliffs by using ropes, ladders, and grappling hooks.  Out of the 225+ American men who landed at Pointe-du-Hoc, 135 died.  The Americans were at a clear disadvantage — imagine being expected to scale cliffs while enemy soldiers stood atop them, armed and shooting downward at you.


Ronald Reagan Quote

Grappling Hook

“The officers said everyone that even gets close to the cliff out to get an award.”

Lieutenant Colonel James Earl Rudder

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Monochrome Monday – Cotton Bolls

Fields of defoliated cotton always call out to me, but before taking this photo, I had never stopped to get a closer look.  There’s something appealing about the fluffy, white bolls — contrasting starkly against the brown, dead stems.  That contrast is what drove me to convert this to a black and white photo (good black and white photos have both black and white in them…not just shades of gray).  If memory serves me correctly, this particular cotton field was just outside of Abilene.

High CottonBlack & White Cotton Bolls

The following picture is of the same field, taken at the same time.  The stories that old house could tell!

22828590304_9507465e6e_oAbandoned Farmhouse

I figured that this would be as good a place as any to go ahead and share the following photo, as well.  I was with my parents (driving somewhere I don’t remember), and we drove past a cotton field in bloom.  It dawned on me that I had never seen a cotton blossom up close, so Dad pulled over for me to get a closer look.  The flowers looked pretty…in a strange sort of way.  I never would have guessed that they were pink.

Oh, the things we miss when we’re zooming by in our cars.

Cotton FlowerCotton Blossom

“That was where my dream began to take hold, of not havin’ to pick cotton and
potatoes, and not havin’ to be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold.That
in itself had driven me to try to find some better way of life.” 
-Buck Owens

Longues-sur-Mer Artillery Battery

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The second stop on our D-Day road trip was a German artillery battery at Longues-sur-Mer.  Construction of the Longues-sur-Mer battery was completed during April 1944, and the battery was an important part of Germany’s Atlantic Wall coastal fortifications.  The battery housed four, 152mm (6 inches!) guns and is located between Omaha and Gold Beaches — two of the D-Day landing zones.  On the night before D-Day, the battery was hit with 1,500 tons of bombs, though none of the guns were disabled by the time D-Day landings began.  British cruisers, Ajax and Argonaut, eventually managed to destroy three of the four guns; the fourth was finally destroyed at 7 PM on D-Day.  The crew of the battery surrendered to the United Kingdom’s 231st Infantry Brigade.

A Field of Shasta Daisies

152mm Gun & Casemate

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Musée d’Orsay – The Building

Musée d’Orsay is housed in Gare d’Orsay, an old train station (and hotel) that served as the terminus for the Paris-Orleans Railway.  Gare d’Orsay was the first electrified rail terminal in the world and opened just in time for the 1900 World Fair (Exposition Universelle).  By 1939 the station’s platforms were too short to accommodate the the longer trains now used for long-distance travel; however, it was still used for some suburban trains.  The hotel closed in 1973; the building was reopened in December 1986 as a museum, Musée d’Orsay.  The building is beautiful, and after learning it’s story, I’m so happy that the French government decided to give it new life.

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Flower Friday – Bluebonnets & An Indian Paintbrush

On April 13, 2014, I was given the opportunity to take the bluebonnet photograph of my dreams.  Seriously — I’d wanted to take a photograph of bluebonnets with a fence behind them for YEARS.  This shot could not have matched what I had envisioned in my head any better.

Quintessential Bluebonnet PhotoPerfect Fence & Bluebonnets & A Lone Indian Paintbrush
taken somewhere in Texas…

“28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” – Matthew 6:28-30

Musée d’Orsay – Van Gogh Collection

Musee d'Orsay

I’ve loved Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings since I was in elementary school.  My elementary school P.E. coach, Georgia Moore, was passionate about art and literature, and all of her students benefited from her knowledge.  I have vivid memories of our Friday Humanities classes (Humanities replaced P.E. on Fridays).  I remember learning about Shakespeare, Matisse, and Van Gogh.  I remember going home and telling my parents about The Starry Night — they bought me a framed copy of it shortly there after for getting all As on my report card.  In addition to The Starry Night, I specifically remember learning about his sunflower paintings, Bedroom in Arles, and Self Portrait with Pipe and Straw Hat.  At the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam I learned that he painted so many self-portraits because he wanted to practice painting people but couldn’t afford to pay people to model for him.  His work didn’t become highly regarded until after his death.

I had never heard of Paris’ Musée d’Orsay, but upon finding out about their many Van Gogh paintings, I know that the Musée d’Orsay had to be part of our itinerary.  We visited Musée d’Orsay on our second day in Paris, and the museum, as a whole, was fantastic.  We got there right when the museum opened, so it wasn’t very crowded.  I relished being able to examine the Van Goghs in near-solitude (much unlike when I saw The Starry Night at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City).

The photographs in this post were all taken at Musée d’Orsay.  Someday I’ll have to write additional blog posts about the other Van Gogh paintings I’ve had the opportunity to see.

This self-portrait (below) is suspected to be Van Gogh’s last self-portrait.  He painted it during September 1889 and gave it to his beloved brother, Theo.  He died on July 29, 1890.


Self Portrait
September 1889

Bedroom in Arles [third version]
September 1889


Portrait of Dr. Gachet [second version]

1890

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