Monthly Archives: November 2009

Il Duomo, Firenze

Fantastic job Missy, Ursula, and David! This is, in fact, Il Duomo — Brunelleschi’s dome — in Florence, Italy. And wow, you guys know your Renaissance art! David, I’m particularly impressed by your response. Thank you for teaching us all a little somethin’ about Renaissance Italy. Ursula, if you have any additional photographs to contribute, please do!

Thank you JESSI for providing us with this week’s mystery snapshot! She writes:

“I passed Il Duomo, the city’s landmark,  nearly every day during my summer in Florence (2004) but only entered it one time — the day I captured this picture. It was only my second day in Florence. I refused to be a ‘tourist’ while living there, so I had to fit this in early. I guess I should have taken more advantage of this beautiful space. This is the dome of the cathedral, adorned with a fresco painting. Those fresco paintings… the Italians certainly didn’t suck at that.”

Yes, Jessi. The Italians did NOT suck at frescoes.

With that, I wish you all a very happy and wanderlust-filled Thanksgiving.


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Jessi White’s Mystery Snapshot!

Today, I have something special for you…

I present Travels with Tavel’s FIRST mystery snapshot contributor! Jessi White has provided us with this beautiful photograph:

JW Mystery Snapshot

Please make Jessi feel right at home by guessing:

1) Where the photograph was taken. (City, country, specific building if you can.)

2) What is represented in the photograph? (Artist, work of art, subject matter of the art, style, etc.)

3) If you really know your stuff, give any more information you can about what you see. Teach us something!

As a reminder, I’m always looking for mystery snapshot contributors, so please dig through the photographs from your last trip and find an image that has just enough mystery and just enough hints to make the guessing game fun.


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Just Add Salt

Congratulations Sarah Z. and Missy (Rob, you were close!). Last week’s mystery snapshot was of the salt flats (Salinas Grandes) near Purmamarca in the Jujuy province of Argentina, very close to the Bolivian border.

As you can see, coming across the salt flats makes for a very striking site. Argentineans LOVE their salt, but this is a bit much, don’t ya think? Imagine a floor of salt as far as you can see, surrounded by mountains. The salt has crystallized into hexagonal blocks, making the floor appear like a kaleidoscope of white so bright you can’t look right at it.

Approaching the salt flats

Here, you can see how the salt cracks into sections:

Cracking of the salt flats

We arrived by van. You can also rent a car and make the trek yourself, but it was a family vacation, so hey 🙂 Plus, with seven Tavels, we pretty much need our own bus. Here are my sisters stepping foot on the salt flat for the first time. As you can see, there is no real road, you just sort of drive right from the highway onto the salt, which looks like ice. It took me a few seconds to trust that we wouldn’t break through.

Hi Sarah and Amanda! Lookin’ GOOD!

Sisters arriving at the salt flats

The layer of salt that you walk on is actually only 10 cm thick, but feels very solid under your feet. The surface is scratchy, and you can smell the salt in the air. Rectangular pools for harvesting the salt sit with salt mounds nearby. The pools are an incredibly pure and striking blue.

Salt pools and mounds

Because of the vastness of the white salt flat, we discovered the fun you can have with optical illusions. Here are some photos of me and my family playing. Please notice how cute my parents are (mom – you get a shout out for being such a loyal reader):

My mom and dad, playing with optical illusions on the salt flats of Argentina

Robo and me, playing with optical illusions on the salt flats of Argentina

Here are some sculptures made purely out of salt. Cacti and alpacas are abundant in the region just beyond the flats.

Salt sculptures

Salt table and benches

As you can see, the flats are a really unique site and a lot of fun to experience. The surrounding view of mountains and a perfectly blue sky don’t make the experience any worse. That said, if you ever have opportunity to visit the salt flats (either in Argentina or Bolivia), I have three words of advice for you:

1) Sunscreen (especially for all you gringos)

2) Sunglasses (white salt + sunshine and NO shade = very, very bright)

3) Water (not just because of the SALT, but because of the altitude, not to mention the distance from civilization… The last thing you want is to end up on a salt flat really thirsty, with nothing but mountain air and salty pools of undrinkable water)

Feel free to comment on your own experience with salt flats! And get excited, because the next mystery snapshot is going to come from a mystery contributor!


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White and Blue

I think this is going to be an easy one, but the photos (and place) are just too cool to skip.

NEW: I would like YOU to provide next week’s mystery snapshot! Please email me ( with your OWN mystery snapshot. Unfortunately, I haven’t been everywhere (yet), and I KNOW there  are many  more beautiful and exciting places worth sharing. So, please contribute! Let’s spice this up.

For this week’s photo, tell me:

1) In what region of what country was this photo was taken?

2) What is it that I am standing on?

3) Any additional information/facts you might know about what you see.

As always, if you’ve been there too, feel free to add a little commentary and talk about your own experience.

Happy guessing, my wanderlust-ing friends! (And yes, that’s me with my brother Robo 🙂 )

White and Blue


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