Zundert Bloemencorso (2017)

"Chased Away" by team Laarheide. Designers: Brian Boot & Joeri Huijbregts.

"Chased Away" by team Laarheide. Designers: Brian Boot & Joeri Huijbregts.

Now in it's 81st year, the Zundert Bloemencorso is the oldest and most elaborate flower competition of its kind. 2017 marks the fifth occasion in which I've had the opportunity to participate in the building of a large dahlia sculpture. Neighbourhood team Laarheide's entry this year was entitled "Chased Away" and it ranked in seventh place.

Survival is imperative for the large gorilla attempting to escape the destructive path of a habitat destroying forest fire. This animated flower sculpture is executed to initially appear as billows of smoke from which a gorilla's head emerges and transforms out of the plume. Additional effects of smoke and burnt trees added to the overall ambience and impression.

The above image titled "Final Inspection" placed seventh in the 2017 fotowedstrijd Corso Zundert photography competition.

"Carried on a Pedestal" by team Schijf. Designers: Huub van Caam, Sander van Hooydonk, & Maikel van de Korput.

"Carried on a Pedestal" by team Schijf. Designers: Huub van Caam, Sander van Hooydonk, & Maikel van de Korput.

The 2017 overall winner was "Carried on a Pedestal" constructed by neighbourhood team Schijf. Over one hundred animators dressed as tribesmen carried the large reclining Emperor throughout the streets of Zundert. The Emperor's head turns from side to side as his eyeballs open and close to sneak a glimpse of the audience. During the emperor's grand procession the tribesmen beat their drums while chanting. It was also awarded the first Public's Prize.

"Under Attack" by team Helpt Elkander. Designer: Louisa Joosen

"Under Attack" by team Helpt Elkander. Designer: Louisa Joosen

The colourful and emotional subject matter of "Under Attack" was created by team Helpt Elkander. The large sad faces of refugees peer out from behind barb wired fencing and screened glass. Led by masses of refugee animators walking with the few belongings they have in the street ahead; it was awarded second place also second Public's Prize.

Musée Océanographique

Musee Océanographique

The Musée Océanographique in Monaco-Ville first opened its doors to the public in 1910. This impressive museum was built by Monaco's Prince Albert the 1st but it is often associated with famed French explorer and naval officer Jacques Cousteau, who served as the museum's director from 1957 - 1988. Cousteau's little yellow submarine still sits on display in front of this massive stone building, which is dramatically perched on the cliff side overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The lower-level aquarium area is home to 4,000 different species of fish (starfish, seahorses, turtles, jellyfish, crabs, lobsters, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, eels, etc.) including a massive shark tank which can be viewed from all sides. On the upper floors of the museum one can view a variety of interesting displays from Prince Albert and Cousteau's collections including model ships, animal skeletons, tools, and weapons. It's easy to spend a few hours here and still not see everything.

Le Jardin Exotique

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The tiny principality of Monaco never ceases to amaze me with all it has to offer. On my fourth visit to this lavish area of the world, I finally manage to find my way to what has eluded me all these visits, Le Jardin Exotique du Monaco. Le jardin exotique was first opened to the public in 1933 and boasts over 1,000 species of plants from tropical locations around the world (Mexico, South Africa, and the Middle East). The collection of plants in these gardens actually began earlier in 1895. Perched high-up on a cliffside, the exotic gardens provides soothing breezes and amazing glimpses of the sparkling turquoise ocean (Baie des Anges) and Monaco-Ville (The Rock). Winding down the cliff on a series of winding pathways, I take in the details of hundreds of giant cacti and succulents on this hot sunny afternoon. There is no right or wrong way to navigate through the gardens, as all paths lead you down to an observation deck and a huge cavern in the cliffside. I await the tour guide who brings me down a staircase and deep into the grotto. Inside, stalactites and stalagmites hang from the cavernous ceiling. Approximately 100 steps back up to the surface proves to be a challenging hike but well worth the visit.

Return from the Blue Lagoon

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We arrive in remote Keflavik (Iceland) on a red-eye flight from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. From the lack of sleep and time difference, fatigue settles in quickly during the early bus ride into a barren and rocky landscape. In the distance we see steam rising near a mountain range. On this sunny June morning, we arrive at the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa where we experience the exclusive lounge. From our private room we enter the warm lagoon and exit through a side door out into a turquoise landscape. Enjoying the cool Icelandic air and steam as we swim through a rock cave and under a bridge out into the open waters. We apply the white muddy silica to our faces and float around in the mineral-rich seawater for a few hours. Under the high morning sun, a drink at the floating bar and rinse under the waterfall finishes off the experience. A perfect way to kill a ten hour stopover.

Later, at the Lava Restaurant, we take on the lunch buffet of whale, salmon, herring, roast lamb, and an assortment of Icelandic specialities. A rooftop patio provides a panoramic view of the spa and surrounding area. We head back to the Keflavik Airport well rested and refreshed for our next leg of the journey, the Netherlands.