Category Archives: TRAVEL

Into the Blue: Tim Button Visits the Galápagos Islands

I haven’t had a solid two-week vacation since 2001, so it was wonderful when a longtime client gave my wife and me a 15-day trip to South America from Overseas Adventure Travel, a Massachusetts-based company that conducts small-group tours to off-the-beaten-path destinations for people 50 and older. The package comprised  eight days in Ecuador (Quito and the Galápagos Islands) and seven days in Peru (Cuzco and Machu Picchu). Since in March and April the desert-like Galápagos are warm while mountainous Machu Picchu is chilly, it was like taking two separate vacations. I’ll describe the excursion to the Galápagos here and do a separate post on the mainland portion of our adventure in a later post.

Flying into the Galapagos Islands

Flying into the Galápagos to start our five-day cruise around the archipelago of volcanic islands that straddle the Equator 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

The islands, famed for their vast number of endemic species, were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle, which contributed to his inception of the theory of evolution by natural selection. A province of Ecuador, the Galápagos have about 25,000 permanent inhabitants, 80% of them involved in the tourist industry (which is highly regulated for ecological reasons), although there is some farming and coffee growing. But most of the archipelago and its surrounding waters are a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising a national park and biological marine reserve.

Overseas Adventure Travel boats cruising the Galapagos Islands

No more than 30 people may enter most nature sites at one time, so our party cruised the Galápagos, which are mostly dry and desertlike, in this pair of small boats that could each accommodate up to 16 passengers.

Upon landing, we made a short bus transfer to the dock, where we boarded our passenger boat for the four-night cruise. As required, not only had our cruising itinerary been filed with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park (park biologists can make changes to plans to minimize their impact on the ecosystems of the islands) but also our trip was led by a certified Galápagos naturalist, from whom we learned a lot.

The desertlike landscape of the Galapagos Islands

The typical Galápagos landscape has a rugged and barren beauty. 

Our cruise centered on land tours that got us up close to the extraordinary flora and fauna. The birdlife is specially bountiful, the most ethereally beautiful being a subspecies of the Great Blue Heron.

Great blue heron in the Galapagos

 A Great Blue Heron, perhaps the most beautiful of all native Galápagos birds.

The islands’ most famous seabird is the Booby–there are three species on the Galápagos: the Blue-footed Booby, which is the most common; the Red-footed Booby, the only one that nests in trees; and the Nazca Booby, the largest of the three.  The the English name “Booby” is thought to originate from “Bobo,” the Spanish word for clown, which was given to the birds due to their comical ungainliness on land.

A Galapagos Nazca Booby

A Nazca Booby, the largest of the three species found on the Galápagos.

None of the wildlife is afraid of humans so it’s possible to see the various birds, reptiles, and sea mammals up close.  The marine iguana, found only on Galápagos Islands, has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to live and forage in the sea. They grow more than five feet long, and look a bit like Godzilla or some other monster, as Charles Darwin evidently thought back in the 19th century when he wrote:

The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2–3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them ‘imps of darkness’. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit.

A Galapagos marine iguana

A Galápagos marine iguana, the only lizard that lives and forages in the ocean.

The Galápagos sea lion is  another species that exclusively breeds on the islands. Beign numerous and social, they’re often seen sunbathing on sandy beaches and rock outcroppings or gliding gracefully through the surf. Their loud bark, playful nature, and athletic agility in water make them the “welcoming party” of the archipelago.

Galapagos sea lions sunbathing on a sandy beach

A colony of Galápagos sea lions enjoying the sun on a sandy island beach.

You don’t always have to trek into the hinterland to encounter the wildlife. Galápagos pelicans and seals gather round the fish market stalls in the harbor towns and are very comical as they scramble for food scraps.

Pelicans and seals

Pelicans and seals in the fish market at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. 

Next up: Our travels in Peru and Ecuador.



Hot Spot: The New Pérez Art Museum Miami

I can’t wait to visit the stunning new Pérez Art Museum Miami, located in a downtown park overlooking Biscayne Bay. Designed by Swiss starchitects Herzog & de Meuron, the three-story, 200,000-square-foot museum focuses on 20th century and contemporary art, as well as cultures of the Atlantic Rim, which it defines as the Americas, Western Europe, and Africa. The pavilion-like structure has deep, shaded verandas with native tropical plants that hang from the canopy like long green columns. Judging from photographs and early reports, the dramatic yet light-and-airy museum promises to become a major Miami destination.

A bay view rendering of the Pérez Art Museum Miami designed by Herzog & de Meuron

Designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the new Pérez Art Museum Miami is a three-story pavilion surrounded by deep verandas overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Perez Art Museum Miami north facade veranda with hanging gardens, photograph by Iwan Baan

 PAMM’s verandas include hanging gardens, designed by the French artist and botanist Patrick Blanc, where native tropical plants are suspended from the canopy like long green columns. Photograph by Iwan Baan

A gallery in the new Perez Art Museum Miami by Herzog & de Meuron. Photograph by Iwan Baan

A gallery at PAMM. Photograph by Iwan Baan 

Gallery window seating at PAMM with a view over Biscayne Bay.Potograph by Iwan Baan

Gallery window seating at PAMM with a view over Biscayne Bay. Photograph by Iwan Baan


Thanksgiving in Palm Beach

The Breakers, Palm Beach, lit up for the Holidays

The Breakers, Palm Beach, lighted for the holidays

For the past decade, my art dealer husband William Secord  and I have spent Thanksgiving in London or Paris. Our families would ask, “Are you coming for the holidays?” but we would head overseas. This year we’ll be eating our turkey at the house of friends in Palm Beach, where we’ll be spending the break in our West Palm Beach apartment with Rocky, our Dandie Dinmont terrier.

Bruce Bierman's Dandie Dinmont terrier, in the West Palm Beach apartment

Rocky, Bruce Bierman’s Dandie Dinmont terrier, takes it easy in West Palm Beach.

The living room of Bruce Bierman's West Palm Beach apartment. Sargent Architectural Photography

The apartment living room. Sargent Architectural Photography

As with all New Yorkers, our life in the city is incredibly hectic, and we plan to take it nice and easy down in Florida. But it won’t be all R&R. I actually have a client meeting at noon on Thanksgiving Day itself, as well as having three projects in Palm Beach that are all currently in the installation phase—a process that can be incredibly detailed, down to stocking the clients’ refrigerator (in some cases, even matching its content to that of the fridge in their New York apartment). The projects are located in two legendary Palm Beach resort properties: one is a penthouse in The Biltmore; the other two are in The Breakers, which I get an incredible view of from my 30th-floor apartment.

View of the Breakers hotel in Palm Beach from Bruce Bierman's apartment in West Palm Beach

 The view of Palm Beach and The Breakers from Bruce Bierman’s 30th-floor apartment in West Palm Beach.

But I have more than a strong visual relationship with The Breakers. I’ve actually designed six apartments (one of them twice) in the 40-apartment complex over the years. One client, who I’ve known for 30 years, is herself an interior designer but incredibly we did not disagree about anything!

Penthouse apartment in The Breakers, Palm Beach, by Bruce Bierman

 At The Breakers, the library in a penthouse Bruce Bierman designed for a client who is herself an interior designer