Just got back from a business trip through Auckland, New Zealand...and I was lucky enough to find some time to explore!  The pictures pretty much sum it up! 
It had been many many years since I visited the Los Angeles Zoo last.  While photographing the various exhibits, under clear blue skies, I was totally captivated by the chimpanzees.  Their human-like characteristics are somewhat eery.  And beyond the physical resemblance to humans, their social organization is obviously very complex.  I spent at least thirty minutes observing them.  If you recall, several years ago, the chimpanzee genome was sequenced and found to be around 96% similar to that of the human genome.  Whether or not this should be surprising is probably still up for debate.  Of the relatively few mammals with sequenced genomes, the dog (Canis familiaris) is one of them.  In 2005, a twelve year old boxer named Tasha was fortunate enough to have her DNA fully sequenced.  While no specific percentage was given, human and dog DNA is remarkably similar according to the experts.  Eight of the top ten human diseases are shared by dogs.  So despite dog's lack of resemblance to humans (for most of us at least!), they share an incredibly complex social hierarchy, just like chimps.  But of course, if you are a dog owner, then you've already developed this appreciation!       
There are few experiences that top the Bracebridge Dinner in Yosemite.  Nestled in the valley of granite monoliths lies the historic Ahwahnee Hotel.  Built in 1927, the Ahwahnee Hotel has attracted its share of dignitaries and socialites.  In that same year, The Bracebridge Dinner was born. 
  • "Celebrated annually since 1927, the Bracebridge Dinner transforms The Ahwahnee into a 17th century English manor for a feast of food, song and mirth. The inspiration for this yuletide ceremony was Washington Irving's Sketch Book that described Squire Bracebridge and English Christmas traditions of that period. The Bracebridge Dinner is an elegant and artistic four-hour pageant of classic carols, Renaissance rituals and entertainment of the Middle Ages. More than 100 players create the roles of the Squire and his family, their servants, the Lord of Misrule, minstrels and other performers. The Ahwahnee Dining Room serves as the Great Hall and stage for the festivities and is decked with magnificent wreaths, an elaborate squire's table, large banners and traditional Yuletide decorations. The centerpiece of this revered event is a seven-course banquet of rich and wondrous dishes prepared by The Ahwahnee’s world-class culinary staff." - click here for more info.
Add the company of good friends and the Bracebridge Dinner is a weekend that you'll never forget. 

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