This is the La Piccola Cuccagna Restaurant in Rome, Italy. La Piccola Cuccagna means little but plenty. After the red checkered table cloths is another little restaurant so you see it is small. La Piccola is located about a block from Piazza Navona which translates to mean Big Ship Plaza.
This plaza is located on the site of the stadium of Domitian, the hated Roman emperor of the first century AD. This stadium followed the form of the Roman open face stadium. You might wonder why the plaza is named Big Ship. It is because the Romans used to flood the stadium and hold naval war games there. Plaza Navona is arguably Rome's most beautiful baroque square and is the epicenter of Christmas in Rome.
Like most people I walked the plaza and photographed the fountains as well as the buildings facing the plaza. But unlike many others, I also chose to explore the small streets leading from the plaza where you find the locals. This is where I found the La Piccola Cuccagna Restaurant. In Europe people eat all hours of the afternoon so the place was busy even at 3 PM. My eye was attracted to the old building containing the eating establishment with tables outside along the street. I stood across the street for perhaps ten minutes and photographed people passing and those sitting at tables in the restaurant. Several groups stopped to view the menu board outside. Most moved on but a few stayed to order. Finally, the couple in the photo stopped and discussed the menu selections. I particularly like the placement of the couple and the fact that they did not block my view of the menu. Then a waitress came out to clear a table and it all came together. I had the picture that I wanted. It reminded me of the many paintings of quaint little sidewalk cafes so popular in Europe.
I now wish that I had hung around to see if this couple stayed to have something to eat. I like to think that they went to a table and ordered. What do you think?
Midway Atoll Sand Island
*On this site, 140 nautical miles from the international dateline, this cross marks the world's last Easter morning sunrise*.
Midway is a coral atoll only six miles in diameter with three islands; Sand, Eastern, and Spit. The World War II facilities that remain at Midway are remembered for the historic role they played in a crucial WWII battle in the Pacific Theater of operation. It was a turning point for the allies.
My first visit to Midway was October 2002 when Margaret and I were on a 33 day cruise on the Regal Princess. This cruise was marketed as a WWII cruise from Vancouver to Osaka, Japan. We made stops at Hawaii, Midway Island, Majuro Atoll, Guadalcanal, Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Hiroshima, and Osaka. Of all the 100+ cruises we have taken this was probably the most meaningful. What made it so special were the WWII veterans onboard who shared their time spent on these islands during the war. At that time these men were age mid-70s to late 80s. Here is an example of the itinerary procedure: The sea day before landing at an island, let's use Guam, a time would be set aside in the ships theater for anyone interested in Guam to attend. Those veterans that served on Guam were encouraged to say something about their experience there. After hearing these men and a few women talk, we went ashore the next day looking at the place with new insight and new meanings due to hearing first-hand experiences of those who served there.
In February 2012 I made a return trip to Midway and stayed a week photographing mostly the WWII sites and wildlife, especially birds. It was a unique experience. There are only a few places where a person can actually step over a nesting bird on the ground and the bird look up at you as you pass. The Galapagos Islands and perhaps the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia Island come to mind.
At the end of 2012 Midway Island was closed to visitors and is still closed. Before I departed I did manage to get a picture of Wisdom. Wisdom is a Laysan albatross that hatched about 1951. In 1956 her age was estimated to be five and she was then tagged by scientists. She made headlines December 3, 2014 when she laid an egg at the Midway Atoll. This egg was estimated to be number 36 over her lifetime. Albatrosses lay one egg per year and have monogamous mates for life. She is likely on her second mate. The tracking device indicates that in her 63 years she has flown over three million miles and as of this writing is still going.
As we approached the Inle Lake in Myanmar (old Burma), I was awestruck by what seemed to be acrobatic dancers on small boats. I'd never seen anything like this before. The acrobatic dancers were in reality some of the Intha people who live on the lake in stilted houses. They grow their own food in floating gardens and eat fish as their regular diets. The Intha people pray in Buddhist temples built on the water. Intha translates into sons of the water, therefore, without the lake, the Intha could not exist.
The Local Intha people are known for practicing the distinctive rowing style which involves standing at the stern of the little boat on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar. It is said that this unique style evolved for a reason. The lake is covered by reeds and floating plants. It is difficult to see above these plants while sitting so the one legged rowing allowed the rower to see above the reeds. This style of rowing is only practiced by men. The women row in the conventional style using the oar with their hands while sitting cross legged at the stern.
Inle Lake is located somewhat in the center of the country and at 44 square miles is the second largest freshwater lake in Myanmar. It is not a particularly deep lake at about an average of 7 feet during the dry season. It is, however, one of the highest in elevation at an elevation of 2,900 feet. The people of Inle Lake live in small villages along the shores in the lake. Most of the houses are simple structures made of wood and woven bamboo on stilts. Boats are their main means of transportation. For longer distances, boats with motors are used.
I have attached two pictures showing two different fishermen. I particularly like the picture of the man dressed in white and yellow and the reflection of the colors in the lake. He has a basket of laundry which adds the perfect complement of color. He is probably taking his clothes to someone who does laundry. While he does have a fish basket in his boat he did not appear to be fishing. The other boat shows a man who is fishing with his fishing basket in the water at the end of his pole.
Let me bring you up to date. It was about 1998 when Margaret and I took a river cruise in Russia. We went from Moscow to St. Petersburg stopping at small towns and villages along the way. This was and still is a wonderful way to see parts of Russia. We were on the ms Russ, a river boat operated by G.T. Corp., a Russian company. At that time it was not a very polished operation serving mostly typical Russian food to European clientele. The boat did have some English speaking interpreters. When we got home I was looking at slides (this was before digital photography) and after showing Margaret some of my slides we both agreed that I had much better pictures than the ones used in the ship’s brochure. I wrote G.T. Corp. and asked if they had any interest in my pictures. They were receptive so I sent twenty duplicate slides for them to review. After receiving the slides the company wanted to purchase usage rights for the next brochure. We worked out an agreement and for probably seven of the next ten years I went back to Russian and photographed several weeks each summer. I liked to go late in the season and do two cruises back-to-back because the last of the season usually went south of Moscow to Rostov on Don and visited Volgograd. Volgograd (old Stalingrad) has the most impressive WWII memorial of any that I have seen anywhere in the world.
G.T. Corp finally went out of business. About three years later I received a telephone call from Oleg Malinkin in Moscow who said that he was now Hotel Manager with Poseidon Arctic Voyages, and they were going to the North Pole. Would I be interested in going and exchange my photography skills for a $25,000 trip? You bet I would! They had leased the nuclear ice breaker, NS Yamal and would do two trips from Murmansk, Russia. Each trip took two weeks with side trips to Franz Joseph Land and Novaya Zemlya. Oleg advised that I should plan on going on both trips because the weather in the Arctic is very unpredictable. By doing two trips my odds of getting the pictures they needed were increased. This did turn out to be true. When the Yamal entered broken ice followed by solid ice it took about three days to reach the pole. The power of the Yamal was impressive. I had been on diesel ice breakers before but never a nuclear icebreaker this powerful.
There seems to be a misconception concerning the North Pole. People have asked me if there were any buildings there. They ask are there trees, birds, and animals? Who lives there besides Santa? And the list goes on, so let me clear up any confusion. There is nothing at the North Pole but ice. And the ice is moving. What you see today will be somewhere else tomorrow. So why would someone be willing to pay at least $25,000.00 to go there? Good question and my only answer would possibly be to go were few people have been. When I went in 2006, according to Russian records, only 17,366 people had stood on the ice at the North Pole. And yes, I took the polar plunge and swam in the open water our ship made. The temperature was 28.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The Russians have not kept any records for the Polar Plunge but for sure not many of the 17,366 are also members of the Polar Plunge Party. I will not do that again.
The Yamal could keep up a steady pace busting through ice six feet thick day and night. Pressure ridges in the ice presented the greatest challenge. It was non-stop crunching and banging until the ship finally reached 90 degrees north. The Yamal spent a night sitting at the pole and it was so quiet that I could not sleep. Attached is a picture of the Yamal at the North Pole taken from our onboard helicopter and a picture looking out from the deck of the Yamal across the North Pole. Another picture is included showing how the Yamal can plow through solid ice at about 10 knots or 12 MPH. Our expedition leader to the North Pole was Victor Boyarsky. Victor is the current director of The Russian State Arctic and Antarctic Museum located in St. Petersburg, Russia. This is largest museum of its kind in the world. There may very well be leaders as good as Victor, but in my opinion, none better. I dare say that no one knows the Polar Regions better than Victor Boyarsky.
Yamal is one of the Russian “Arktika” families of icebreakers, the most powerful icebreakers in the world. These ships must cruise in cold water in order to cool the nuclear reactors, thus they cannot pass through the tropics to undertake voyages in the Southern hemisphere and Antarctica. The Yamal has a double hull. The outer hull is 48mm (about 2 inches) thick and it has a polymer coating to reduce friction. There is water ballast between the inner and outer hulls which can be shifted in order to aid ice breaking. Ice breaking is also assisted by an air bubbling system which delivers air from jets below the water surface. Ice breaking can be accomplished going forwards or backwards.Yamal carries Zodiac boats and a helicopter. The Zodiacs were never used because Victor found that utilizing the helicopter was much faster and more efficient. We made landings at Franz Joseph Land and Novaya Zemlya. Franz Joseph Land is an archipelago located in the Arctic Ocean, Barents Sea and Kara Sea, and inhabited only by Russian military base personnel. Novaya Zemlya is an archipelago in the Arctic Ocean in northern Russia. Nuclear test were conducted there by the Russians beginning in the 1960’s.