Going in Circles

Gran Hotel Bolivar | Lima, Peru - Version 2

These days everything seems to be about circles. Social circles … calling circles … crop circles.

The circle is a natural form that’s appealing to the human eye. We seem to be enticed by rounded curves … and leery of sharp corners.

As you know, we did our own circle thing, traveling around the globe. And when we looked back at our photography, we realized we’re obviously drawn to rounded patterns – circles, spheres, ellipses, spirals, cylinders – you name it. We learned that even the most mundane round objects can be interesting – from piles of tomatoes to stacks of plumber’s pipe.

Handmade sticky rice cakes cling to an upright bamboo drying frame in Luang Prabang, Laos. First the rice is steamed, then formed into disks and placed on the frame. They stick! Once dried, the patties will be deep fried and served as a tasty snack. You may think you know rice cakes, but trust me, these are not your usual, diet-staple rice cakes.

Brilliant Chinese lanterns hang at the entrance to a Buddhist temple in Singapore. Traditional red lanterns symbolize Buddha’s power to dispel the darkness. The color is significant because it represents happiness and good luck.

Shiny copper pipe on display in a Singapore hardware store. For us in the West, there is nothing more common than potable water. We just go to the sink and turn on the tap. However, it’s not that simple in parts of the world. Copper tubing traces its origins back to ancient Egypt where it was found in the temples of rulers, and remains in excellent condition today. Surprisingly, copper has an antibacterial property that helps to ward off microorganisms that cause Legionnaire’s disease.

Mound of Costoluto Fiorentino Tomatoes at The Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s Central Market. These Italian heirloom tomatoes are deeply ribbed, meaty, firm, juicy, and one of the best tomatoes for making spaghetti sauce. Is it a fruit or vegetable? Well, In 1887 the US Supreme Court ruled that tomatoes were vegetables. Hmmm … not sure that applies in the rest of the world.

Traditional Hmong silver collar necklaces are worn by Hmong women of the nomadic Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Southern China. They believe that evil spirits dislike silver, and wear their jewelry to bring good luck to themselves and their community. These large, breastplate necklaces are reserved for special ceremonies. Dragons represent power and strength; fish symbolize prosperity and fertility.

Broccoli Romanesco adds a colorful touch to this greengrocer’s display in Rome. This lime-green, alien-looking vegetable, with florets shaped like spiky Balinese temples, is used by mathematicians to illustrate logarithmic spirals and fractals.

Rounded stones adorn a Balinese public toilet wall. The people of Bali have perfected the art of creating beautiful patterns from natural materials, often involving rounded stones and flower petals. In Bali, even the bathrooms become art!

We lovingly refer to this Barcelona treasure as “The Eyeball House.” It appears to be covered in giant, all-seeing orbs. Are they really security cameras, or just someone’s tongue-in-cheek reminder that “Big Brother” is always watching?

Tangle of electrical wires above a busy Bangkok street. The circles seem to represent a harried electrician’s stab at creating order in the chaos … or he just had a lot of extra wire.

I’ve always enjoyed photographing repetitive patterns, but had no idea that circles were such a favorite until I looked at my photos. Psychologists have theories as to why a circle is naturally appealing, but no concrete answers. Research with infants has shown that we are born with a desire to look at circles – so the lesson from this experience is that my inner child must be alive and well. And without thinking about it, I still look at the world with a child’s sense of wonder.


Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

39 thoughts

    1. Thank you Meg. We were so surprised by the “eyeball house” in Barcelona. We were just strolling along, turned a corner, and stopped dead in our tracks! We both just burst out laughing. Have you ever seen anything like it? So glad you stopped by. ~Terri

  1. I loved this ’round’ the world tour and I am afraid you have brought on a serious flare up of wanderlust. 🙂 My favorite photos just has to be the eyeball house. That would make me smile all day long.

    1. Thanks Sue. Isn’t that house a hoot! I was on a Barcelona forum the other day and someone had a photo of a different “eyeball house” in town, but we never saw it. Have you ever encountered one in your travels? ~Terri

  2. Haha “Eyeball House” is a good name. We saw this eyeballs on some buildings while we were in Barcelona, and were wondering what they were. Was fun circling round the world through your photos.

    1. Thanks Kan. I saw a different eyeball house online, built of stone. But I didn’t see it in Barcelona. Did you take a photo of your eyeball house? I’d love to see it. 🙂 ~Terri

    1. That’s amazing Vilma because that’s what the researchers found. Circles seem to calm children down. No wonder you’re such a great Mom! 🙂 How do your children react to circles? Terri

    1. Thanks so much Florian. We took it in the rotunda of the Gran Hotel Bolivar in Lima, Peru – it’s a beautiful stained-glass dome over the area and pretty spectacular. Have you seen a dome like this before? So glad that you stopped by. ~Terri

    1. Many thanks Kelly. Ever since I realized I was photographing circles everywhere, I’ve tried to shoot lots of different shapes just to see the patterns. I still keep getting drawn back to the circles. 🙂 ~Terri

  3. Love the stone patterns in Bali! And the tomatoes look luscious. It is tomato season here in New Jersey. They are delicious, but not as beautiful as the ones you photographed!

    1. I must admit Shelley, that I love just about anything they do in Bali. Their attention to detail constantly amazes me. We live on the Georgia coast where it’s also tomato season – but they’re just about to burn up given our recent heat. I hadn’t seen the Costoluto Fiorentino Tomatoes in the States. Do you have them up in New Jersey? ~Terri

  4. What a fascinating collection of unusual circles, Terri! You put that trip to good use, didn’t you? I love those sticky rice circles, and the fabulous looking tomatoes. I’d say I must be hungry but the Balinese stone wall appeals as well 🙂

    1. Thanks Jo – and yes, we just snapped away on that trip. I’d like to say we’re a little more discriminating now, but I’d hate to tell a fib. 🙂 We still just snap away. The rice cakes were amazing. All the frames were stacked vertically, and the rice cakes just stuck! It was like magic. ~Terri

  5. I love the broccoli romanesco photo. Looks almost like some sort of strange sea creature; very odd but beautiful. Thanks for recently liking a post at our blog.
    All the best!

    1. Hi Kim! I was so surprised when I came upon the broccoli romanesco in Rome, so of course I had to try it. Delicious – a mild crossover flavor between the tang of broccoli and the nuttiness of cauliflower. But I have yet to see it in the States. Do you have any in North Carolina? So glad you stopped by. All the best, Terri

  6. Quite a unique collection of circles. I guess the child is in me too, as I’m drawn to circles, but love curvy patterns, too. I was impressed with Bali’s stonework, too while there and I may have taken the same picture. 🙂

    1. Thanks Lynne. It sounds like both our inner children are alive and well. 🙂 In addition to the beautiful stonework in Bali, I fell in love with the intricate flower petal designs they created in the huge bird baths. Did you see those? ~Terri

    1. Well that’s interesting, Marie. I’ve seen some beautiful sculptures made from copper pipe … or maybe wind chimes. 🙂 At least you know you won’t get Legionnaire’s disease. 🙂 ~Terri

  7. Stunning photos as always. It does cast things into a different light when you group them together like this. Who’d have expected Barcelona and Singapore to have so much in common? (Who’d have even thought to photograph the piping here – and yet it is a big topic of conversation in many parts of the world, including here, being one of life’s most basic necessities.)

    1. Thanks Bronwyn. We truly didn’t realize we had taken so many pics of circles until we were flicking through our photos on the iPad and saw a pattern. After that it was fun to pull out all the circle shots. And you’re right – who knew that Barcelona and Singapore had so much in common. I guess everyone likes red balls. The copper pipe display was really fun because I’d never seen anything like it. I guess I’m just drawn to bright, shiny objects. 🙂 ~Terri

  8. What a wonderful way to combine so many of your travels. I’ve heard the eye can only perceive as much as the soul is open to recognizing… your eyes seem wide open. 🙂

    1. Jennie, I love your philosophy that “the eye can only perceive as much as the soul is open to recognizing.” I can’t believe that I’ve never heard that, but it rings true. James and I talk about your concept as we travel – especially when revisiting a place after several years. We seem to see it through different eyes – I guess our souls are opening up. That’s comforting. 🙂 Thanks. ~Terri

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