About Me

My photo
Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Friday, April 28, 2017


It's Friday once again, and this week's libation is from Kendall's Brasserie in downtown Los Angeles.

Located on the street level at the landmark Los Angeles Music Center, the brasserie caters to lunchtime business crowds and evening theater-goers.

Try the french onion soup, it's superb.

Chopin vodka.


Thursday, April 27, 2017


A stunning natural formation, Canal Rocks is a short trip away from the WA's famous Margaret River wine district, . It's a beautiful and serene location, with impressive waves crashing through a series of rock formation, which nature has carved into a nearly straight line - the "canal" of the name.

The shot below is one of the side-formations, where the visitors can view the waves as they tumble through and around the rocks. The core portion of the canal can be seen running from left to right in the upper third of the shot. There are a couple of paths and man-made bridges to get you around.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


A filter-modified image which I've been working on this morning. 

New York City in a late fall light rain.

A few new images for the online store being uploaded today. Use the link to the left of the entry title above to check out what we have available, or click on the link below. Large canvas prints with a number of available images.

Just perfect for your house. That bare spot I can see over your shoulder behind you looks like a good place for some artwork.

This image was taken in 2005, and I've modified it to reflect a painter's eye and approach.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Tuesday. Running well behind schedule after being awake all night. 

You'd think that would have helped.

The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art has a fabulous Impressionist collection.

Here a group of visitors gather under the watchful children of a Renoir painting.

Monday, April 24, 2017


The sunset at Key West is included in many, many bucket lists, and for good reason. 

It's a rare combination of bohemian party, and serious moment of reflection.

So grab your cameras and head over to Mallory Square for the festivities, 
then watch the boats drift across the horizon as day turn into night.

A gentle thought for your Monday.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017


This week's martini is from Cat Cora's grill at Salt Lake City International.

7000' Vodka

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Just before dusk in the Piazza San Marco, Venice. It's a gigantic architectural spectacle which will overwhelm the casual eye. Where to look? What to see? Should I stop and stare or move on?

Your choice.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


Many readers may have seen the Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins, which takes place in a  romanticized and fictionalized London. One of the most striking scenes in this memorable musical is the haunting and beautiful Feed The Birds

In the song an elderly woman gently begs for money to feed the dozens of pigeons which gather around the square in front of London's majestic St. Paul's Cathedral.

It's a memorable moment.

If you find yourself on the steps of St. Paul's and are familiar with the song it's not hard to hear its soft tune in your head as you sit quietly, watching the world go by.

On the steps of St. Paul's

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Any time you fins a large enough body of water it's likely you will also find someone fishing there.

Off the southeastern coast of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, stands a lone fisherman with a pair of rods.

Not sure what he was planning to catch, but here's hoping it was good eats.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Whales come to this area of the Hawaiian Islands for the warmth 
and relative safety in order to birth their calves.

Keeping a respectful distance, tour boat operators give visitors the chance to follow these leviathans and learn a little something about the world of these gentle giants.

Sunday, April 16, 2017


For those of you who celebrate Easter: HAPPY EASTER!!

For those of you who do not, Happy Sunday! ;-)

Either way, thank you for dropping by and supporting the Thumbnail Traveler.

(And next year I promise to have my own Easter-related image to share.)

Saturday, April 15, 2017

MY KIND OF SHOW: BAZ - STAR CROSSED LOVE at the Venetian Las Vegas

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." 
                                                     - the song Nature Boy by eden ahbez

I am a fan of the Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. Have been for years, citing the film Moulin Rouge as one of my all-time favorites.

And so it was with a real degree of excitement we discovered a (relatively) new show in Las Vegas built upon the worlds that Baz has created for his various films: BAZ - STAR CROSSED LOVE.

Using the music from his films, and characterizations based upon his pro- and antagonists, the production is a very large, open example of pushing the envelope for a Vegas stage production.

Fortunately for audiences, the Las Vegas stage experience has reached adulthood - the prediction of which many watchers in the 1970s and '80s would have openly ridiculed. But with the arrival of Cirque du Soleil in 1993, followed by Blue Man Group and a variety of transplanted Broadway productions (Spamalot, Avenue Q, the Jersey Boys), Las Vegas has become perhaps the second leg of challenging and/or original American stage production after Broadway. Certainly the money is there.

But the beautiful thing about it is that Vegas production teams seem to be willing to stretch themselves and put together shows which are a far cry from the glitzy glamor extravaganzas of the past. Today's productions are original and approach the audience with something new and challenging.

BAZ, now playing at the Venetian Hotel and Casino, is such a production.

The theater is arranged in such a way that the stage spills down into the audience, essentially putting the people in the front part of the theater in the show itself. The actors cavort around the tables as if you're at the club which forms the main "set" for the show. To add to the impression, a handful of tables are on the stage itself, blurring the line of the proscenium completely, pulling the audience quite literally into the story before the very first notes are sung.

The actors are top professionals, and bring the characters from Luhrmann's productions a genuine humanity as they tell the triple doomed-love stories of Romeo and Juliet (from the film of the same name), Satine and Christian (Moulin Rouge), and Satie and Jake (from The Great Gatsby), all of which is hosted by "The Maestro" (essentially Harold Zidler from Moulin). The three couples form the basis for the storyline, which jumps from one time period to another, both musically and visually. And yet completely tied together.

(If that hasn't confused you enough, let me say this: like the films of Baz Luhrmann themselves, BAZ is an experience you simply have to let wash over you until the various pieces begin to coalesce and make sense. By the end of the production you'll have it, but the opening scene can be a bit of a sensory overload. It's a good thing and just go with it.)

Vocally the cast is spectacular, with the seven leads performing beautifully together and in their solos. The backup band is excellent and it's a nice thing to see them onstage and getting some credit for their skills.

And the dancing. Wow. The dancing. All of the primaries are skilled terpsichoreans, but the ballroom couple - which is how I've come to refer to them - is extraordinary. My wife and I met many years ago as members of the professional ballroom world. (Our wedding waltz was choreographed by the man who was, at the time, national ballroom champion.) So we know our stuff when it comes to the sort of thing you may recognize from Dancing with the Stars.

The ballroom couple in BAZ are the real deal, by which I mean they are clearly experienced and trained in ballroom, not dancers from some other forms of dance who are going through ballroom steps. (At one point one of the other cast members joins in a routine, and the difference is obvious. He is very good, but lacks the extra snap of a trained latin dancer.)

All in all, we were stunned by the wonderful evening and have to highly recommend that anyone heading to Las Vegas think seriously about seeing this show. It's different. It's fun. It's stylish. It's certainly worthy of your hard-earned cash (in ways the slot machines are not). It really is a "must see", to use an entirely overworked phrase. But it is.

Recommendation is to sit at one of the proscenium tables, not on the stage itself. Get a glass of champagne (very pricey) and just let the whole thing wash over you like a tide. It's an experience, not just a show, so treat it like one.

BAZ is a strikingly well done production which deserves much more attention outside of Las Vegas than it seems to be receiving. Let's hope it catches on.

(All photographs were permitted and encouraged by the production before the show began.)

Friday, April 14, 2017


Yep. Off to a slow start this fine Friday.

But I've got a really, really good martini for your this week: from Javier's in Newport Beach. Excellent Mexican cuisine, with a really elegant and fun atmosphere. If you go, spend some time in the bar examining the sculpture on the wall.
(Do it BEFORE your first drink. Trust me.)


Have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy a few martinis.

Responsibly, of course.

(And, as always, please check out the sample chapter from my book CHASING MARTINIS.)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


We usually talk about the Strip. 

This is the other side of Las Vegas casinos, downtown's Fremont Street.

Gone are the $5 buffets, but you can still find $20 crab and shrimp.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


One of the most charming "Old Towns" in the United States and territories is Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico. The area is both historic and modern at the same time, with cafes and boutiques sharing the streets with old-style hotels and residences.

It's a vibrant and lovely place, full of alleys and one lane roads to explore and experience. 

Monday, April 10, 2017


I start this by noting I am not in possession of all of the facts surrounding this situation, and therefore am only expressing an initial commentary of what, on the surface, appears to be very, very bad judgment and customer service on the part of United Airlines.

Yesterday, Sunday, a man was forcibly - and I mean forcibly - removed from United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago to Lousiville, Kentucky, refusing to give up his preassigned seat after he was already seated. The airline had overbooked the flight and been unable to entice enough passengers to take later flights so that everyone could be accommodated. The passengers who desperately needed to board were apparently United employees, themselves heading for work in Louisville.

I do not know why it is the airline declared their own employees to be more important than the seated passenger, but the gate crew decided, at random, that four seated passengers would be removed from the flight in order to seat the employees. One bumped passenger, a doctor, refused, stating he had urgent medical business to attend and could not be rebooked.

On the face of it, this is a stunning lesson in bad customer service.

To be fair, here is the statement from the United CEO, and I will comment additionally following his post.

That said, the video from the incident on Flight 3411 is appalling. In the video, seen here, a paying passenger is physically dragged from their seat by authorities summoned by the airline's gate personnel. The flight was oversold, and the customary attempts to find additional passengers willing to volunteer to take a later flight were unsuccessful.

Four passengers were selected -- at random -- to leave the flight. Keep in mind, this entire event is United's fault. They overbooked the flight. They boarded this passenger and allowed him to sit before forcibly removing him. They did not offer what appears to be sufficient incentive to encourage volunteers to deplane and take a later flight. United bears full responsibility for the actions of the gate crew, and for creating the situation in the first place.

That much cannot be logically disputed.

United also bears responsibility for their passengers' complete safety in all circumstances.

The video shows the passenger being physically removed from the flight and dragged down the aisle. Again, keep in mind this passenger did nothing wrong. Nothing. Yet they are treated like a criminal in every sense save being placed under arrest.

This is, in every way, unacceptable behavior from an airline. Or virtually any place of business.

Yes. I acknowledge that airlines customarily overbook their flights. Yes, I acknowledge that they can require passengers to leave the light under those circumstances. But to forcibly remove them in this fashion is certainly behind the pale and an unacceptable assertion of authority.

I do not blame the officers, though they behaved more like jackbooted thugs than would seem ton have been required by the circumstance. Had the passenger initiated the conflict the situation would be different. But this was entirely United's fault through their own direct actions.

Unless they can show differently, and the onus is on United not the passenger. They are responsible for the actions of their crews and gate personnel. And in that, United failed this - and every passenger on the aircraft - utterly and completely. (And frankly, for the CEO to refer to the actions as "re-accommodating" the passengers is both absurd and a lesson in doublespeak. The passengers were not "reaccommodated", they were forcibly inconvenienced because of the airline's business mistake.)

A public apology to this passenger is only the first step. I strongly urge all other airlines to learn from United's fiasco and ensure that nothing like this happens at American, or Delta, or Jetblue, or Alaska, ...or, or, or...

And certainly United ought to make damned sure they never do anything this offensive ever again.

Until that time, I am officially removing United from my list of useful airlines and recommending my followers avoid them as well.


I'm all about Las Vegas, and travel there a few times a year for both work and fun.

A few people don't have it quite so lucky. Beyond the north end of The Strip lie some pretty rough neighborhoods and definitely low-budget motels. Like any city, really, Las Vegas has its urban blight and a homelessness issue. 

But in Las Vegas it's a little more stark. In the shadow of the gleaming towers and beautiful
palm-laden avenues lies a separate world most of us never see. And the Vegas visitors bureaus
do their best to avoid. But they're there.

Roll up your windows and lock your doors. 

Friday, April 7, 2017


It's Friday, time for the weekly martini!

They go with everything, including peanuts.

From the Roadhouse Grill, Long Beach. Barton's vodka.

Have a great weekend!

And don't forget to check out the sample chapter of Chasing Martinis if you haven't already!)

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Today marks the 93rd anniversary of the completion of the 

Marking this historic event shows how, in less than 100 years, we went from the early days of flight to today's use of aircraft as mass transit allowing millions of people each year to make journeys up to and including our own modern-day circumnavigation. 

Four aircraft and eight men took off from Santa Monica Four men and two aircraft (named Chicago and New Orleans, respectively) completed the entire journey.

I have yet to make my own such trip, but it is in the early planning stages. You will, of course, read about it here when it does come to fruition.

But first, a toast to the very first. Members of the American armed services, you have to wonder what they would think of today's giant jets, capable to journeys across the globe. I know they'd be proud to have helped usher in the true age of flight.