Travel Archives

These posts are about the act of traveling, moving from one place to another, often going someplace to see something.

Oaxacan Beetles

When traveling in a new place, I’m drawn to the backgrounds, the negative spaces, the tapestries of color and texture that exist just behind the people and cars and advertisements and graffiti. That background is what differentiates one place from another; it’s what makes a place a place. But it can be hard to photograph [well] because there’s all that other stuff in the way. And I didn’t have the weeks or months, let alone days, to immerse myself in the buzzing energy of Oaxaca enough to anticipate those moments of perfect urban composition.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a handy conceit. I was struck by how many Volkswagen Beetles were plying the cobblestone streets of the old city. So I took a photo of one or two—I love the juxtaposition of an old car against an interesting facade. I found that the familiar and graceful shape of the Beetle was a convenient foil for my true intention—to capture something of the place behind it. So what started out as a whim, turned into a sport, and I began walking the streets of old Oaxaca intent on collecting Beetles in their natural habitat.

Oaxacan Volkswagen Beetle

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

As part of our Thanksgiving desert pilgrimage, Stephanie and I drove down to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on the border with Mexico. The park protects the desert wilderness surrounding the northernmost range of the organ pipe cactus. We had just enough time to drive the mostly unpaved, 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive, before heading back to Phoenix to catch our flight home to San Francisco.

Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Ajo Mountain Drive

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Sabino Canyon

Last Thanksgiving, like the one before it, Stephanie and I made our annual pilgrimage to the desert. We spent this one in and around Tucson, Arizona—sort of a do-over of our initial visit (when Stephanie fell ill en route to our container ship in Philadelphia). Of course we returned to the incomparable Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and we went on a short walk in Saguaro National Park, but the real standout was the Telephone Line Trail in Sabino Canyon. The weather was beautiful, the sky was clear, and the late afternoon, autumnal light was golden. We really enjoyed hiking among the giant saguaro cacti. Many photographs were taken. Here are a few.

Stephanie and Justin in Sabino Canyon, Tucson, AZ
Excited to get our cactus on

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A hike in the French Alps

It’s incredible that you can be in the French Alps after only an hour and a half drive from Cannes—and yet Stephanie and I had never been to the mountains on any of our previous visits. So in preparation for our September trip, we suggested to her mom and aunt that we all visit Saint-Martin-Vésubie and spend a couple of nights at a bed and breakfast there.

Collage of the open drain that runs through Saint-Martin-Vésubie
An open drain runs through the center of Saint-Martin-Vésubie

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Skirting the Esterel

On our approach to Nice, the plane flew over the Mediterranean just west of Fréjus. As it banked to the east over the sea, I was rewarded with a tremendous view of the Côte d’Azur. I didn’t have a map or a camera, but I made a mental note of a beautiful bay that resembled a Mandelbrot set, and nearby, a sizable red rock separated from the mainland by a narrow, shallow, teal blue strait. I wondered if one could swim (or even wade) out to the rock?

That evening I described to Stephanie what I had seen and suggested that we go find it. After a quick survey on Google Maps, I discovered the bay to be the Rade d’Agay, and the rock to be the Île des Vieilles (named after a Mediterranean fish called a wrasse in English). The following Saturday, Stephanie and I decided to go to Agay in order to rent a kayak and with any luck, reach the island.

Map of the Côte d'Azur coastline around Agay, France

Map of Agay and the Île des Vieilles

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