Tag Archives: Travel

Champagne baby, Yeah!

Now personally I am rather partial to Côtes du Rhône, love a Gigondas, and delect over a delicious German Riesling. And I go crazy for a 2005 Ciaccipicolomini, the best red ever! But occasionally Mrs P needs bubbles, and there’s only one thing to do – a road trip to Champagne!

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And it really is like a road trip. Frankly the driving is a joy. Three and half hours on empty roads from coast to vineyard – I drive fast – a dream compared to the M25, where are all the people? (in the south of France is the answer – I mean, if you can why wouldn’t you!). I should be in a sports car with the top down, but hey, I need the space in the boot for the bottles, and I respect Mrs P’s barnet, so we’re in the people carrier.


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Épernay is the destination, and it’s the Fête du Champagne this weekend. We are meeting friends, so the party is on. We shall do some private tastings at micro-Champagne houses, and then go for the big boys at the Fête. It’s party time!


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Did you know that there are 100 million bubbles in a bottle of Champagne (count them if you don’t believe me). Le Champagne is the drink, La Champagne is the region. And the Côtes des Blancs is so because of the Chardonnay grape, not the chalky soil.


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See that little straw in the barrel above. They take that out to let some air in when they bottle from the barrel so that the wine doesn’t disturb the sediment at the bottom of the barrel. Amazing how easy it is to learn stuff when you’re having a little drink…


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Bouquin-Dupont Blanc de blancs. Creamy and dry at the same time, like a crème brulée zapped with an electric current. Awesome, and a steal if you buy direct from Dominique, the grower, at 15€ a bottle. And we did, buy that is… Lucky I had the space in the boot of the car for all 50 odd bottles. Should keep Mrs P happy for a week or two.


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(All photos with the iPhone – who needs a Leica..? Me, I do, I do, I do!) Santé! Prost! Cheers and Happy Christmas to all! Joyeux Noel as we say in French. May all your festivities be filled with bubbles! À la prochaine…

Arizonan Curves and Colour

When I was growing up I never, ever, thought I would say something like this: I love a good rock. But it’s true. Some of the most spectacular awe-inspiring things I’ve photographed are… rocks! Look, here’s a lion bursting out of the rock…
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What happened to my rock and roll youth? It must be age (middle, I hasten to add, and only just…), a greater awareness of surroundings, context, time. And a growing appreciation of natural beauty.


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These curves, swirls, and flows all come from the slot canyons near Page in Arizona. The rocks look alive, full of movement and colour. These pics aren’t tweaked – this colour is real. One of the most spectacular places on the planet – almost not of this planet: otherworldly.


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I loved photographing in this place so much that I’m going back there in Oct next year to lead a photographic workshop. Check it out if you’re interested: http://www.aspect2i.co.uk/intermediate-level-yosemite-national-park-photography-ID115.html  Six guests plus two workshop leaders (myself and Paul Gallagher). It’s going to be awesome!


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Rush, rush, rush and no time to stare

Sometimes you just have to rush to catch the light. This was a rush shot. Rushing from the car park (leaving the family in the car ‘cos they’re all too lazy to shift themselves), rushing down the squelching slope, rushing to get the tripod up, and the right lens on – a tilt shift 24mm in this case, and then rushing to whack a grad ND filter on the front. Focus, tilt, focus again, test shot, check focus, adjust, make final image, breathe sigh of relief that something’s in the bag… One day I will be there in good time, and not have to rush…
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Even this was a rush – in this case because I was up early, but knew I had limited time to get back for breakfast and not incur the wrath of the family who were at that precise moment snoring away in blissful ignorance. Ah, but what did they miss! All this lovely light and colour. Sleeping is for later in life.



Now for this one below at least I had the family up, out and stretching their legs on the path. Mind you, they were of course 400 yards ahead of me because I’d stopped to make this image. So I had to rush to catch them up. It never stops.



Rushing here, rushing there. I’m sure there are some photographers out there who manage to take their shots with a calm serenity. But that’s not me. How do you learn to slow down? I wish I could, I’m sure it would improve my images. Never mind, at least I have made the effort, and whatever ends up in the camera, I have the experiences that go with the shots.

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Got to rush – Match of the Day about to start…

(Images from the Lake District: Blea Tarn, Stockghyll Force just outside Ambleside, Rydal Water and back to Blea Tarn)

Fog and Ashes at York Minster


I know I keep showing pictures of York, and particularly the Minster. A bit repetitive maybe? Apologies, but it does repay the revisit. It’s one of those places I can’t leave alone. Well, I did grow up here, the roots go deep.

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I left York at 18. The day before I left a new Bishop had been consecrated in the Minster. He had questioned the literal truth of the Virgin Birth and that night a storm raged over the city, lightning struck the South Transept and the roof was engulfed in fire. That morning, as I made to leave I went to have a look at the ruins. Charred wood smouldered a metre thick on the floor. The papers wrote of the Wrath Of God. I turned my back.

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These are not images of smoky hellfire and damnation cursing the unfortunate Bishop’s apostasy. Merely a bit of fog early on an October morning. Makes everything look a bit eerie though…


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I don’t turn my back anymore. And I love how beautiful the Minster looks. No ashes here. And no idea what happened to the Bishop…

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Lake Windermere and dogs…

We’ve decided at long last to get a dog. So, whilst on a quick trip to the Lake District, we rated every dog that we passed, with a view to working out which actual dog we want. We got some weird looks as dog walkers strolled past and we would call out “four”, seven”, “eight”, “two”… I just want a dog that likes coming with me early doors on my photography trips. Anyway, here’s a few pics from Lake Windermere, as I said, early doors.








Dog photos will no doubt follow…

Ojai Valley Inn, an oasis within an oasis…

Mrs P is quite adamant, and Ms P is in full support: A holiday needs some luxury, or else it’s not a real holiday. And luxury means spa treatments, shopping and cocktails (although we try to hold Ms P back from the latter, as she’s only 14…)

And there’s no better place for all these indulgences than a real American country club retreat. So we went to one. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, in California. Rather nice, too.



The eagle eyed may spot a sign to the ‘Fragrance Courtyard’, an oasis within an oasis, where ladies can create perfumes, bottle them and bring them home, for a small fee.







Whilst the girls were being girls, the boys stuck to being boys. So leaving the ladies to their olfactory creativity, Grandad, Peck Jnr and I smacked a few balls round a fantastic golf course (I won – and that may be the only time I’m able to write that so I’m taking the honours whilst I can). All topped off with exquisite meals in exquisite restaurants.


45 ft putt, and GD gets it in!

45 ft putt, and GD sunk it!


Whilst others slept into the morning I rose early to make the most of the delightful swimming pool. Swim a mile in the morning means there’s no harm in indulging in a mojito or 6 in the evening.






Refreshment by the pool was frozen grapes, cold and sweet. Heaven in the high nineties.




It was difficult, almost painful, to tear ourselves away from this Eden. The golf, the perfume, the restaurants, the pool, the mojitos, the frozen grapes – they are all calling us to return and one day we shall. Like the ex-Governor of C, I’ll be back….




Oh yes America! We are all Stars!!!

Oi, Kim! Hands off my boy! He’s too young for you! Well what can you say. Three exclamation marks may well be too much for a first line, but I mean, the cheek of the girl,…..! (4)


She's stalking my boy!

She’s stalking my boy!

And then there’s Grandad… He’s a bad boy. Cuddling up to the big stars. He’s got that LA look about him…!

He's a rapper...

He’s a rapper…

But in this family it’s the girls that really strut their stuff. I mean look at Granny. She’s showing leggy RuPaul how to do it. Too many nights at Madame JoJo’s if you ask me (Granny that is, not RP)

What legs!

What legs!

This sort of behaviour has clearly been passed down through the generations. Here’s the next one down. Cleavage or what!

Mmmm, impressive.

Mmmm, impressive.

Not to be outdone (frankly, Immy is never going to be outdone) comes the current generation. All technophile and selfie obsessed. Narcissus-like.

Ur-selfie? Selfie squared?

Ur-selfie? Selfie squared? Who’s looking at whom?

I’m not getting left out! Yes, I want my own 15 seconds (I don’t get minutes) of fame. Yes, Justin, it’s you and me! Stuff the Beliebers, where are the Peckerettes?!?!?!?!

Cool dude, definitely!

Cool dude, definitely!

(19 exclamation marks in one short blog. Surely that’s a record?)    ! (20)

Bear Grylls – Don’t feed the animals!

I keep telling my family that actually I’m Bear Grylls – I even have a t-shirt that proclaims such – but to no avail. Much chortling and ironic laughter comes my way, and I am roundly ridiculed. This is the inevitable lot of the pater familias, and I treat the sarcasm with much forbearance…

Brown bear, Yosemite

Brown bear, Yosemite

Nevertheless, I do try to prove my point, and on our recent Californian holiday I pointed out to the sceptics in the family the abundance of wildlife around them. Yosemite was all about the bears. I saw 6. The family saw none – too lazy, looking the wrong way, too loud. Scared them all off. I ask you!

Pooh, off for a stroll

Pooh, off for a stroll


(We have lots of deer in Epping Forest too, but no mountains)

(We have lots of deer in Epping Forest too, but no mountains)

Better luck was had in Monterey. The whales took pity on the rest of my non-Bear Grylls family and came up close so the family couldn’t miss them. This was about 100 yards off the beach!

Humpback whale, humping its back

Humpback whale, humping its back


Dolphins riding the bow wave

Dolphins riding the bow wave


Fulmar, so fat with fish it can't take off

Fulmar, so fat with fish it can’t take off

HEY! did you see the BBC show from Monterey Bay just recently? The Big Blue. That’s where we were. The BBC’s been following us! OK, so they got pics of Gt Whites and Blue Whales which I didn’t. But they shamefully skipped over the Elephant Seals, which I forced the sceptical family to admire…

Blimey, they stink and they snore!

Blimey, they stink and they snore!


Dust bath

Dust bath

And being very Bear, I loved the hummingbirds as an antidote to all the hugeness everywhere else in California.

Breakfast with hummingbirds

Breakfast with hummingbirds


So, having suffered much abuse, mockery and derision, I think it very Bear of me still to feed the rest of the family. Careful of course! Feeing the animals is dangerous, especially as they can bite.


Scofferette… what an animal!



Half Dome – from dawn to dusk

OK, everyone’s seen pictures of Half Dome before. Ansel Adams did some quite good shots, Galen Rowell took a few snaps, it may even have become a bit of a cliche… But I don’t care! Here is my HD portrait, from dawn to dusk, and I’m proud of it…

Dawn breaks in Yosemite

Dawn breaks on Half Dome


I was just setting up this pic below when a bear swam across the river behind me. Missed the shot completely – so much for my action photographer skills…


Half Dome and Merced River

Early morning Half Dome and Merced River


I think some quite well-known photographer made this view famous. No clearing winter storm to light my pic, a slightly murky August day instead.

Midday Half Dome from Wawona Road

Midday Half Dome from Wawona Road


What a lump of rock this is! The closer you get, the bigger it gets. Not bad for a bit of granite.


Half Dome profile from Washburn Point

Half Dome profile from Washburn Point



It’s distinctive, like a face. This is more portrait photography than landscape…

The face of Half Dome

The face of Half Dome

Reflection at dusk

Reflection at dusk

The valley in shadow

The valley in shadow


And if the Yosemite Gods are kind then you get a bit of cloud for a final sunset image.

Half Dome from Olmsted Point

Half Dome from Olmsted Point

What beauty in a lump of granite. Spectacular…




Sunny days in Alcatraz – Scarface’s holiday home

Going to Alcatraz is one of those weird experiences: Macabre tourism. An exquisite shiver and a delight in the horror of others. Clearly we’re fascinated – you have to book months in advance to get a ticket – to visit the incarceration home of some of the most repugnant people in history.


Alcatraz in the sun

Alcatraz in the sun

This is not a nice man...

This is not a nice man…

Take Capone. A syphilitic cold blooded murderer, extortionist, pimp and bootlegger. Look at those eyes… not a pleasant man, best avoided. But we love the frisson of visiting his prison cell. And it’s all the weirder when the weather is warm and the sky is blue. Horror in heaven – it’s a Hollywood wet dream!

'Broadway', Alcatraz

‘Broadway’, Alcatraz

Cell block amenities

Cell block amenities

I loved the story about the showers: The prison governor, wary that cold showers would acclimatise the prisoners to the cold and thus possibly give them reason to test the San Francisco Bay waters in an attempt to escape, mandated hot showers only. The food was pretty good too. The company was not.

Communal showers

Communal showers


The sun shone when we were there. It really did feel like a summer excursion, the warmth, the boats and the sea. But the place itself… There’s a chill that hangs over Alcatraz, justifiably. I think the San Francisco fog is much more apt for this visit. It should be cold. Clammy. And ever so slightly threatening…

The view to the mainland

The view to the mainland

The watchtower, in summer sun

The watchtower, in summer sun

Penitentiary, now that's a word to describe this place.

Penitentiary, now that’s a word to describe this place.