Escape to the Alps

Usually around mid February, Chris and I like to get away somewhere warm for a bit to escape the seemingly endless New England winter. Last year, we explored the gorgeous country Nicaragua. However, this year brought about a change. A childhood friend of mine from home (that’s England, in case you didn’t know) Steve, is expecting twin boys in a couple of months – well his wife Sam is, but you know what I mean!

Living so far apart now, we don’t get to see each other nearly as much as we’d like, and with the little ones on their way we decided we needed to see each other before his life became consumed with dirty diapers and round-the-clock feedings!! So, we decided an action packed ski trip in the Alps was in order. It was a quick trip, just 5 days in St. Anton, a quaint ski town nestled in the Arlberg region of the Austrian Alps.

The big difference between skiing in the Alps and skiing in the US is that in the US you are typically confined to one mountain, whereas when you are in the Alps you have a whole mountain range to explore. For example, you can ski to a different town in the next valley for a mid morning coffee, zip over few peaks to another town for lunch, head to another town further up the valley for a afternoon hot chocolate, then make your way back to camp before the lifts close and leave you stranded somewhere in the middle of nowhere!! It really is an amazing experience. Because of the vastness of it all you never really have to ski any run twice in one day! And with our friend Owes in charge of the trail map we didn’t!

I started off my trip by flying into Zurich, Switzerland where I had the pleasure of spending the day before my friends showed up later in the evening.

l0001.jpg

Called the “little big city,” Zurich is a beautiful and very walkable city, which was great since I only had one day to spend there. After picking up a very helpful walking map from the tourist office, I headed to the popular and beautiful Bahnhofstrasse, or Old Town. My walk took me through picturesque alleyways, past beautiful churches, impressive 16th and 17th century houses, quiet courtyards and of course, the infamous shopping district, where some of the world’s finest watches are made.

l0015.jpg

Next, I headed to the Lindenhof, a peaceful square that provides a great view of the whole city and the very distinctive Grossmunster church:

l0002.jpg

The Lindenhof is a haven for serious chess players. These guys found it quite amusing when I lay on the floor for this one, although you’d never tell from their faces. Deep in thought!

l0003.jpg

Here’s a cool view of the Old Town. I just love the rickety bikes everyone cycles around on.

l0004.jpg

After Steve and Owes turned up we jumped in our car rental an drove over the border into Austria to St. Anton in the Arlberg region. And the next morning we hit the slopes bright and early!

l0005.jpg

I am the lonesome snowboarder on the lift!

l0006.jpg

Everywhere you look are mountains. It is so peaceful. These red arrows can be seen on several of the peaks. From what i gather they are to warn aircraft that there are lift lines crossing the valley. Now that would be frightening seeing a plane heading for you as you dangle from 500ft!!

l0007.jpg

One of the many cool little restaurants dotted around the mountains:

l0008.jpg

Morning coffee for Steve as he plans where we will be heading to next. Lech, Stuben, Zurs?

l0009.jpg

Taking a breather and soaking in the sights

l0010.jpg

If you are an extreme skier or boarder, which we are not, you can take a small cable car that holds about 4-6 people to the top of Valluga (9400 ft). If you feel like trying this crazy venture you must be accompanied by a guide. Fortunately you can head up to the top unaccompanied to chill out and take in the views and watch these daredevils! Thats what i did!

l0011.jpg

Steve and Owes ripping it up!

l0012.jpg

By the end of the first day, I was beat. There was more snow than I knew what to do with and trying to adjust my riding to off piste runs was exhausting. By the end of the day, it was hard to stay vertical…..

l0013.jpg

Ahh, thats more like it! The apres ski was worth the wait! And the Weis beer … lovely! Steve thinks he’s getting all three! Think again mate!

l0014.jpg

For those of you interested in seeing the trail map, check the Arlberg trail map here.

Ideas Worth Spreading…

Have you discovered TED yet? If not, then you are really missing out on a good healthy dose of inspiration.

Chris and I stumbled upon TED – Technology, Entertainment, Design – about a month or so ago and are now completely hooked. TED, an “organization devoted to giving millions of knowledge-seekers around the globe direct access to the world’s greatest thinkers and teachers”, has been around since 1984 but has only recently started to stream video from their site due to its popularity.

Each year, 3 inspirational people are awarded the TED prize and in appreciation for their good work they are granted one wish. A wish to change the world. The video clip below is of 2007 TED prize winner, James Nachtwey – a phenomenal war photographer who bravely witnesses and documents the things most of us are too afraid to see.

“I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.” ~ James Nachtwey

As wedding photographers who often see and capture life’s finest moments, times when love rules and the ugly side of humanity dares not rear it’s ugly head, it’s easy to forget how cruel we can be to one another and James courageously reminds us that we must not forget. We love this guy!

This clip is about 20 minutes long, but absolutely worth watching!

Another incredible person is the 2006 TED award winner, Jehane Noujaim – a passionate woman and someone we’d love to sit down and chat with, Jehane is the inspiration behind Pangea Day. The goal of Pangea Day is to “create a worldwide network of caring and concerned citizens who are making a difference.” For the first time ever, on May 10, sites around the world will be video conferenced live to produce a 4 hour program of powerful films, visionary speakers, and uplifting music. What was her wish? “A global acceptance of diversity, mediated through the power of film.” What a cool idea!!! Here she is:

There are over 200 other talks online at ted.com. Be prepared to get sucked in!

Buried under plastic bags

Okay, so this is kind of an off-topic post for us, but it’s been something we’ve both been thinking about for a while and I saw an article today that I just had to share. (Hang on; we’ll get to that!)

Have you ever been driving down the highway and suddenly become aware of the alarming number of discarded plastic bags you see caught in trees or just blowing across the interstate? Ever go swimming at the beach and get spooked by what you think is a giant jellyfish only to discover it’s a plastic grocery bag? How about lose your cool trying to close the cabinet door under your kitchen sink, but you can’t close it because it’s overflowing with all of those stupid plastic bags that don’t really seem to serve a very useful purpose because they inevitably end up with holes by the time you unload your groceries from them, but, you don’t have the heart to throw them away so they get stuffed in a cabinet?

Well, we’ve been there and it got Andy & me thinking about how we can do our part to cut down on the usage of plastic bags. I swear those darned baggers at the supermarket have stock in the production of plastic bags because they refuse to put more than one or two items in a bag. And, after a week’s worth of shopping you end up with dozens of the flimsy little good-for-nothing polluters.

Our first step in cutting down on our plastic consumption was to purchase some of those reusable cloth bags at the supermarket and use any leftover plastic bags we still have under our kitchen sink for household trash rather than buying new trashbags. We also decided it might be fun to make an art project out of it (no, not a plastic bag sculpture….we don’t have quite that many bags saved up). Instead, we thought it would be fun to put together a photo series showing all of the places that these menacing bags seem to find themselves.

I admit, we haven’t progressed very far with our photo project and we sometimes forget to bring the cloth bags with us to the supermarket, but, we’re trying. And so is China. Yesterday, China’s State Council announced that starting this summer all shops can no longer provide free plastic bags to their customers and production of the super thin plastic bags is strictly forbidden….I think they might be on to something. Of course, they use lead paint to make children’s toys, so they don’t earn huge points from me, but still…it’s a start. Here’s the story:China Bans Plastic Bags

As for us, we’re still working on gathering photos for our plastic bag project, but we thought it might be fun to get some help. If this is something you’ve ever thought about, or even if you haven’t but it sounds interesting to you, help us by sending us some cool photos of plastic bags you see in places where they shouldn’t be and hopefully later this year we’ll have a cool collection to show you.

Here’s a couple to get us started….we took these with our little point and shoot camera on the one day we made it to the beach this past summer. It was a really windy day and in the first shot this tattered bag was hanging on to the lifeguard chair for dear life.

img_1487.JPG

The beach grass made for a great net for several bags, but we choose to photograph just this one…What really struck me was that the bag appeared to be new and unused. I imagine someone brought it to the beach to collect all of the trash they accumulated, but the wind took it away and they either didn’t notice or couldn’t be bothered to run after it.

img_1490copy.jpg

Don’t worry, we picked up all of the plasic bags we saw and took them home with us to throw away. Let’s just hope they don’t end up blowing off the trash truck they’re carried away on!

** ADDENDUM **

Since at least a few of you (thanks Sandee, Patrick, Linda & Andrea for your comments…you guys rock! Can’t wait to see what you capture Andrea!) seem to have some interest in our plastic bags photo project, we thought we’d up the ante and make it more interesting by turning the project into a contest. Contest means prizes and who doesn’t love free stuff!

We need at least 20 submissions to pull this off, so all you photo lovers grab your cameras and get out there and start shooting plastic. Here’s what we want…send us your best photo of a plastic bag found in a place where it shouldn’t be and we’ll put all of the entries on our blog. Then, we’ll let you, our loving blog readers, vote on the one you like best. The shutterbug behind the winning photo will receive a free portrait session. The contest isn’t limited to clients, so have some fun people! And depending on the response we get, we may add additional prizes.

Well, get out there and start shooting. The contest ends on Earth Day, April 19, 2008, so you have plenty of time. Please e-mail your photo submissions to contest@bellophoto.com and don’t forget to include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address so we can contact you if your photo is chosen! And, have fun!!! Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!