For those here because of the L.A. Times/UPI thingy

I’ve long wanted to upload some of my favorite pictures, and the L.A. Times thing asking me for seven cool places I’ve visited seems like a good excuse, especially since all of these places appear briefly (very) in the new book:

1. The Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

St. Sophie's place

The above was taken with my back toward the Blue Mosque, near a tea vendor with a giant metal contraption strapped to his back.

Inside, below, notice the Arabic script for both Muhammed and Allah (I think), sharing stage time with the Virgin Mary looking down with Jesus from above.  It’s
two, two, two churches in one.  (Actually, it’s now a museum,
reflecting almost 1500 years of Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and
Islam, now in one cool secular building.)

St. Sophie's

2. The Cape of Good Hope, Western Province, South Africa

Dang, that's a cool cliff

Dang, that’s a cool cliff.  The baboon thing was about twenty minutes later.

Double rainbow

Not on the cape; just a cool double-rainbow I saw driving to Johannesburg, so, well, here.  I swear I haven’t tinkered with the color — and it was like that from horizon to horizon.

3. Bruny Island, Tasmania, Australia

Fairy penguins as viewed through night-vision goggles.  You must do this sometime.

Beware the Demon Bunny!

Beware!  It’s the Giant Demon Bunny of Bruny Island!  Run for your lives!  (Actually, it’s also known as the albino wallaby.  Sounds a lot less scary, though.)

4. Besakih Temple, Bali, Indonesia

Besakih temple

Bali.  Words fail.  A difficult place, though, because even months after the bombings everybody seemed to be palpably hurting.

Traffic circle

I’m pretty sure this was actually in the middle of a traffic circle.  Bali is what you might call a god-rich environment.

The Man Sarong: A Look I Will Not Pursue

Incidentally, the Man Sarong, while mandatory in the temple where this was taken, is not a look I intend to pursue.

5. Avana Harbour, Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Supposedly a bunch of Maori guys hopped in their canoes near this spot and paddled across open ocean all the way to New Zealand.

Welcome to Screensaver Island

Hard to see why anyone would leave, though.

Rarotonga airport

Although, sadly, I had to eventually myself.  I was glad not to be using a canoe.  This is the Rarotonga airport, or most of the terminal, anyway.  And those bags were actually more than I needed for the whole trip.  Pack light.

6. Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, Finland

Looking straight up Sibelius' ah-OOH-gah

Sibelius monument, proctology view.

Sibelius monument

A better angle.  The teeny blob at left holding up a cell camera is my former Jeopardy opponent and now dear friend Leslie Shannon, whom I adore.  The game where we met is in the book.  (We actually had our first conversation onstage at Radio City Music Hall.  How much fun is that?)  Also she laughs like this: giggiggiggigg.  Man, she’s cool to hang with.

7. Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Upsy daisy

Upsy-daisy…

Inside the Batu caves

Is this a great place for a Hindu temple, or what?  And look, over there! — it’s Harrison Ford being chased by a boulder!

Wanderlust.  Coming.  Back.

Must.  Go.  Now.  To.  Airport.