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A View Of Santa Croce in Florence Italy

November 3rd, 2017

A View Of Santa Croce in Florence Italy

The thread of history and culture are closely intertwined in Florence Italy. Culture…as in 21st century popular culture. After I had decided to visit Florence, I happened to be on a plane flying from here to there when the movie ‘Inferno’ (based on the Dan Brown novel) was one of the movie choices. Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones were racing through many of the famous sites of the city. Naturally, that caught my attention! I read up more about what I wanted to see and do in Florence and then ended up watching the move two more times before my visit! By the time I got to Florence, I felt like I could follow in the footsteps of the characters in that movie! This view of Santa Croce is taken from the tower of the Palazzo Vecchio where the main characters in Inferno escape the bad guys through a secret door in the map room.

The characters never climbed the tower to enjoy the view since it would have been a dead end in their race to evade all the ‘bad guys’. In reality, the tower climb is a bit of a disappointment. There are a limited number of viewing points from which to see the cityscape of Florence, so you can’t just hang out and enjoy the view. You have to have your look, take your photos and move along. This view takes in the sights to the east, with the Basilica di Santa Croce most prominent, standing tall above the tangle of medieval buildings and narrow streets. It’s not just a church, and it’s not just a repository of art. It’s the resting place of a lot of famous people, from the sacred to profane. Michelangelo…Galileo…Machiavelli. All here. Viewed from afar you can begin to understand the power that the Catholic Church had over the masses. The cathedrals/basilicas/churches dominated (and often still do) the landscape. In medieval times you would be able to see them from miles away (you can STILL see them from miles away). Pilgrims making their way to the city would gravitate toward those iconic structures.

But on this day, I continued my quest to see the sites in the Palazzo Vecchio. I visited the Hall of Maps where Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones take a secret exit behind the map of Armenia into the space over the Hall of Five Hundred where the huge wooden trusses and beams hold suspended the spectacular works of art on its ceiling. Spoiler Alert: In the movie, someone falls off one of the trusses and through the ceiling, destroying the artwork. It’s fun to imagine that scene as you are standing there but if it ever happened (it didn’t!), the artwork has been miraculously repaired.

If you have read or watched Inferno, you feel like you are a part of Florence. When you actually visit, it all comes to life in a surreal amalgamation of the past and the present. Sometimes you can’t tell what is real from what is imagined.

Early Morning Pedicab Havana Cuba

June 26th, 2017

Early Morning Pedicab Havana Cuba

I was heading back from my early morning search for an espresso in Havana Cuba. Breakfast was on my mind. But then I spied this building under renovation. There was something very intriguing about it. At street level, it looked totally dilapidated and under-construction look. But just look up and you see evidence of some hardy individuals living in this building and hanging out the laundry almost like flags waving from behind the construction scaffolding.

I tried to compose a photo to reflect my interest in the building but the barrier at street level made for an uninteresting photo. Since there was a lot of foot and vehicular traffic passing by I thought I’d wait for someone or something to walk or roll by. First try…click click click….but someone walked right in front of the camera as I pressed the shutter. Second try, perfect placement of a pedicab, but then a truck rumbles by at the exact wrong moment. The minutes ticked by, the day got later, the traffic increased, and my quest was looking more impossible. Finally, I was able to click off this shot before some person or vehicle photobombed my shot!

Classic Car Restoration in Havana Cuba

June 24th, 2017

Classic Car Restoration in Havana Cuba

One of my favorite mechanics, Ray Magliozzi from Car Talk, visited Havana Cuba to meet the mechanics, owners and drivers who keep the fleet of classic American cars that populate the streets of Havana alive. An article in ‘Cigar Afficionado’,captured the essence of the classic car scene in Cuba. I have copied liberally from the article since it says better than I ever could the history and culture of the classic cars in Cuba. “The 1930s-, '40s- and '50s-era Studebakers, Hudsons, Chrysler Crown Imperials, Buick Century Rivieras, Chevy Bel Airs and Styleline Deluxes, Ford Edsels and Fairlanes, among so many other long-extinct Detroit models, are alive and well in Cuba. These so-called "yank tanks" have long been a ubiquitous part of Cuba's national landscape and cultural identity—and are now emerging as a critical component of the nation's steady evolution away from strict socialism toward a mixed market economy.”

Further, it says that “During visits to restoration garages and auto shops Magliozzi compared notes with fellow Cuban mechanics on make-shift clutches, jerry-rigged exhaust manifolds, front-end alignments, master cylinders and bell cranks—all repaired without access to original parts or modern machinery. "I've been constantly impressed by the cleverness and the sheer determination of the people who keep these cars going," he marvels. "It's amazing."” This is what we experienced during our visit to NostalgiCar, seemingly a must-do stop on a lot of people-to-people tours for Americans in Cuba. On the day of our visit, we watched for an hour or so as they worked in the heat
trying to straighten the frame of a classic car, welding various parts to get it exactly right. Each adaptation was followed by some discussion as to what the next step might be. It’s a process of constant adaptation. It didn’t hurt my photographic focus that this man was pretty easy on the eyes and made goggle downright sexy!

“An estimated 60,000 American-made cars are on the island—almost all of them dating back to the early and mid-20th century heyday of the big three Detroit automakers. "The narrow old streets are jammed with big American automobiles," The Nation magazine reported in January 1928 when President Calvin Coolidge became the first, and, until Obama, the last U.S. president to visit the island. By the 1940s and '50s when Cuba had become a playground for the American rich and famous, as well as the U.S. mafia, the country also became a national showroom for shiny, new, Detroit-manufactured automobiles. Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet and Cadillac dealerships lined Havana's leafy Prado boulevard. Indeed, Cuba gained the dubious distinction of importing more Caddys—Fleetwood convertibles, DeVilles, Eldorado Broughams—than any other nation in the world.”

But after the American embargo, this all ended. “Initially, as Magliozzi points out, the Cubans had spare parts on the island to repair cars. After those were used up, he says, Cuban mechanics cannibalized other American cars that were there "and when they ran out of what could be scavenged, they ran into ingenuity." For years, Cubans have molded and manufactured car parts by hand, using sheet metals, re-melted iron and plastic, even wood.” To me it recalls an era when we didn’t have so many new things so readily available. We all made do and fixed things the best we could to keep things functioning. Nevertheless, many of the old cars on the road are unsafe and dangerous from a health standpoint! I stood on a street corner for a couple of house to take photos of the old cars passing by and ended up with a budding case of bronchitis from the exhaust fumes. But the best of the vintage cars, lovingly restored, are less uncomfortable and dangerous and every tourist seems to want at least one ride in one.

To read the fascinating article in Cigar Afficionado, check here: http://www.cigaraficionado.com/webfeatures/show/id/cubas-classic-car-detente-18861

View of Levanto Cinque Terre Italy

June 23rd, 2017

View of Levanto Cinque Terre Italy

I talked with some other hikers who said that the hike from Levanto to Monterosso in the Cinque Terre region of Italy was very pretty so I decided to give it a go, except I elected to go in the other direction. There were two ways to get on the trail to Levanto. The first was to take a path that climbed steeply from Monterosso up to the ridge and then on to Levanto. The second was to first take a bus to a place called Colle di Gritta and hike from there. I had a hiking guide that said the second option was a longer hike, but that the views were better. Since I wanted to take photos, I elected for ‘the views were better’ route. I had no idea where Colle di Gritta was except as a listing on a bus route. I hopped on the bus, made sure it was going where I wanted and hoped the driver would tell me when we got there! At the top of the ridge at a T intersection in the road, the driver said that we were there! Aside from a small group of buildings that seemed to include a small inn and cafe, there was nothing else so I was happy to have the driver give me the heads up.

I fortified myself with an espresso at the cafe and set off on my hike. The first two hours of the hike were blissful! From Colle di Gritta, the trail winds its way high on the slopes through typical Mediterranean vegetation. First you get some sea views to the south but after about an hour there are some view points to the north including the town of Levanto seen in this photo. The blue of the Ligurian Sea is, as always, stunning! It isn’t hard to see why the entire zone of the Cinque Terre is called the Italian Riviera and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a national park. Evidently not too many took this route in late April/early May so I was quite alone in beautiful quiet and solitude, and the views were excellent! Considering the number of hikers who descend on the Cinque Terre region, finding a route where I saw no one for several hours was quite a treat! After this last tantalizing view of Levanto, I continued on to Punta del Mesco where this lovely peaceful trail merged with the main (crowded!) route between Monterosso and Levanto.

Cafe View of Lake Como Italy

June 20th, 2017

Cafe View of Lake Como Italy

Before I set off on a hike, I had a short walk through Varenna along the shore of Lake Como in Italy and noticed many cafes along a lakeside walkway. So after the hike up to the castle above Varenna and to the train station to check the schedule for my train trip back to Milan, all I could think of was finding one of those cafes, and sitting down for a rest and a nice cold beer! There were many to choose from and why I chose this one over another is anyone’s guess. You don’t necessarily want to pick a totally empty place because you wonder ‘what is wrong with this place that there is no one here?!’ and you don’t want to pick a totally packed place when you have a backpack, camera, and hiking poles to deal with. So like the three bears, this one seemed ‘just right’. I chose a table farther back from the waterfront, which ended up being just perfect since it allowed me to include one of cafe tables in the photo! As you can tell, it was late day and it happened to be my last day in Italy. It was the ideal time to just sit and think over the wonderful adventures in the past week and to dream of a return trip for more adventures!

Frescoes of the Piccolomini Library

June 10th, 2017

Frescoes of the Piccolomini Library

With only two days in Siena Italy, I felt I had to make the most of every minute even though I was jet-lagged from the overnight flight. Since the highlight of many towns is the cathedral, I headed there first. Siena’s cathedral dates from the 13th century. It has one of the most extravagant facades in all Europe, and straddles the boundary of the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture. Inside there are elaborate inlaid marble floors, a forest of striped marble columns, a coffered dome, stained glass windows and colorful art. As if that weren’t enough, there is a room off the side of the nave called the Piccolomini Library. It’s been described as a treasure within a treasure, and rightly so! Despite the fog and fatigue of jet lag, I felt energized by the bright room and its vivid colors. These Renaissance-era frescoes were painted between 1502 and 1507 and never restored! Their colors are said to be as brilliant now as they were when they were painted over half a millennium ago. Imagine the excitement these frescoes caused during the early Renaissance! The frescoes relate the story of the life of Siena's favorite son, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405-1464), who eventually became Pope Pius II. The various panels depict ten remarkable events from the secular and religious career of pope Pius II: as ambassador to European courts, paying homage to the new Emperor and then to the ailing Pope, becoming a bishop, a cardinal and ultimately pope. Pius II was the uncle of cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (the future pope Pius III), who commissioned this library in 1492 as a repository of the books and the manuscript collection of his uncle.

View from Punta Spartivento in Bellagio, Italy

May 29th, 2017

View from Punta Spartivento in Bellagio, Italy

After riding the ferry from Como for about 3 hours I was anxious to arrive in Bellagio, Italy, along the shores of Lake Como north of Milan and well on the way to the Alps. I had no idea what I would do once I was there since this had been a spur of the moment day trip from Milan but luckily there was a tourist information office right at the ferry landing. I got a map and a suggested walking route so I was off! The walk to Punta Spartivento was suggested as a ‘detour’. I’m not sure why since it is one of the highlights of the town!

Punta Spartivento means ‘where the wind divides’ and it is at the tip of the land mass that divides Lake Como in two. A lovely park sits at this point, the perfect place for some relaxation or a picnic with the serene and majestic Italian Alps as a backdrop. The Colico branch of the lake runs to the north in front of you with the town of Varenna on the right. Back behind you to the left and right are the Como and Lecco arms of the lake, respectively. Ferries ply their way along the lake including stops at Bellagio and Varenna.

Not so luckily for me, it started raining just when I got there so it was pretty dreary. I took a few photos between juggling the camera and an umbrella. Reluctantly, I left the park, knowing that the view could be infinitely better if only….if only….. So I continued my walk through the historic core of Bellagio. A couple hours later I was back at the ferry landing enjoying my daily gelato and I noticed that the weather was beginning to clear! I had enough time to hustle back to Punta Spartivento for some fair-weather photos! With the clearer weather, it was a glorious sight…the lake, the distant towns, the Alps just out of reach. The ebb and flow of the lake traffic is part of the charm. I reluctantly left the park a second time, heading off for the ferry and the town of Varenna. Needless to say, I felt much happier about my visit to Bellagio.

Our Lady Of Reggio Sanctuary Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

May 23rd, 2017

Our Lady Of Reggio Sanctuary Vernazza Cinque Terre Italy

Our Lady of Reggio Sanctuary in Vernazza in the Cinque Terre region of Italy became a REAL sanctuary on the day that I visited. The day before I had aggravated my ‘bad knees’ from all the steep downhill climbs. But after an overnight rest, I was feeling pretty good at the start of a hike from Saviore to Vernazza. Even with great care, however, my knees started hurting eventually. But no worries, I wasn’t in a hurry and I was enjoying the beautiful scenery. That is, until some dark storm clouds appeared on the horizon and worked their way closer to shore.

My choices were…hurry and have my knees be in pain or go slowly and get wet! I chose the second option. Luckily, I wasn’t too far from the Sanctuary when the rain started getting heavy. The door was open and inviting, true to the name ‘sanctuary’, and I was happy to duck inside before the real downpour began.

In the dim interior light, I tried to dry off a bit and put on some extra layers against the chill. I sat and gazed out of the door, trying to figure when the storm would pass. It wasn’t looking very hopeful. The rain was coming down in buckets, the wind was howling, and you couldn’t see past the end of the yard. The dim interior light was hardly enough to read so there was no use trying to read my hiking guidebook or my other guide books.

Comically, for someone who travels almost exclusively for making photographs, it took some time before I thought “I should be photographing inside this church!” It was pretty dark, just a few lights around the altar and the dim light from the doorway. I didn’t have my tripod but I did have a fast prime lens. So I played with the settings to get the lowest ISO I could with a shutter speed I could hold steady. With a 50 mm lens I shot at 1/50 sec at f2.5 and I still needed ISO 2000.

I killed some more time shooting the ceiling frescoes, a side altar with a crucifix, another side altar with a painting, a confessional, the marble pulpit….and soon enough the rain passed. All the while, I was by myself wandering around the tiny sanctuary in the dimmest of light. I felt the need to tiptoe so as not to disturb the quiet. I even put my shutter in quiet mode! The quiet and solitude were intense and unforgettable. I wondered what it was like centuries ago when pilgrims would make their way here. Was it as quiet and magical and welcoming as it was for me? Or was it a busier time for these sanctuaries in the hills? If the 11th century walls could talk, there definitely would be some stories!

Nesso on Lake Como Italy

May 22nd, 2017

Nesso on Lake Como Italy

On my day trip north from Milan Italy to Lake Como, I elected to take one of the ‘slow ferries’ from Como to Bellagio and Varenna. The slow ferries stop every few minutes at another small village along the lake. As the ferry approaches each town you get a good look at the town and landscape.

Since my day trip was a spur of the moment decision, I had no knowledge of any of the villages along Lake Como and loved the approaches to each village. The approach to Nesso was a complete surprise. From afar, you see the typical village built along the steep mountain slopes tumbling down into the lake. As we neared the dock in Nesso, we could see the quaint stone bridge right on the lake edge.

What we couldn’t see until just the last minute was the ravine and waterfall! That wasn’t visible until we were right in front of it. Luckily since I was already taking some photos of the bridge I quickly made some shots with the waterfall. And then it was gone.

Oddly, after the ferry pulled away from the dock, there must have been a question as to whether another passenger was coming. The ferry circled around for another approach and the photographers on board got a second try at the waterfall! This time we knew it was coming and we were ready.

Written by Giovanni Battista Rampold in the first half of the 19th century: “There are three places from which you can enjoy this waterfall – which is beautiful, majestic, and terrible at once. For the first, reach Nesso and go to the small bridge that looks over the river from the edge of the cataract: from there, you can see the thunderous water bounce off the waves of the lake; behind, you can see the Alpine riverbed disappearing between crumbling mountains. The majesty of the waterfall is right in its middle, where water abandons the cliff, forming a convex mirror, and overflows straight down.”

“To see how terrible it is you must get closer to the lake, which is so deep here, and jump from one rock to the next until you are at the bottom of the waterfall. Here, surrounded in splashes of water, you cannot avoid looking up and shivering down to the core; all you see is ruinous white water above you, mixed with darkened, corroded ravines.” I’m putting this on my wish list!

The Art of Terrazzamenti

May 15th, 2017

The Art of Terrazzamenti

The Cinque Terre region of Italy is well known for its hiking trails and there are many to choose from! During 2017 I chose some of the higher trails that went between towns and included the sanctuaries. This day’s hike was from Corniglia (the middle of five towns) to Manarola (the next town to the south) via the town of Volastra high in the mountains.

The hike starts well before the trail if you take the train to Corniglia! Corniglia sits up on a cliff and of course the train station is at sea level. You can ‘cheat’ and take the bus from the train station to the town or you can do one of the 10 ‘must-do’ things in Cinque Terre, that is climb to Corniglia via the Lardarina stairway with 382 steps. Of course I chose the Lardarina.

After a little sightseeing in Corniglia, I set off for Manarola via Routes 7a, 6d and 6, an 8 km hike. The route provides great views of the Ligurian Sea (what the Mediterranean is called in this little corner of the world) as well as both the towns of Corniglia toward the beginning of the hike and Manarola toward the end. This hike also takes you through the vineyards up on the hillsides where the ‘art of terrazzamenti’ is quite evident. Terrazzamenti simply means terracing, although it sounds more poetic in Italian. This part of the trail is particularly beautiful, letting you see the sinuous patterns of the terrace walls that seem to be in good repair and the new grape vines sprouting bright green in the springtime. Terracing is a solution adopted in agriculture to make cultivable areas out of steeply sloped hillside. The technique of building the walls in Cinque Terre to provide the terraces has been used for centuries but with the advent of tourism, some farmers have abandoned farming for more lucrative tourism.

This trail is narrow, sometimes with barely enough room for passing someone going in the other direction. At the viewpoints above this terraced area, there was quite a traffic jam since everyone stopped for photos! You definitely had to keep one eye on the scenery and one on the trail if you didn’t want to slip off the edge.

Although I am an avid walker and love to hike, the trails in Cinque Terre were a challenge to my previously and long ago injured knees. Uphill is a breeze, downhill is torture. On this day, I’d already had a morning hike so this was my second hike of the day and my knees weren’t happy! I alternately told myself ‘I must be crazy hiking with painful knees’ and ‘I came to 5terre to hike and I am NOT going to miss the opportunity!’. However when I spied the town of Manarola in the distance (in the upper right of the photo), I made up my mind that my first stop….even before gelato…would be at the trekking shop to get some trekking poles. I’d been at the shop previously and knew they had extensive supplies and selection. Until this day, I’d always thought hiking poles were more of a nuisance but at this point my knees needed help! I was trying to stay ‘in the moment’ and enjoy the experience but I was pretty much counting every step on the downhill!

The end of the story was I DID make it down, I DID get hiking poles, I DID have a gelato, I DID buy some Voltaren (topical NSAID which is OTC in Europe but Rx in the US) and….you might have guessed….headed off for my third hike to make it back to my ‘home’ town of Riomaggiore. I cannot say my knees were happy but the rest of me was.

View Of Cinque Terre From Path Number 1

May 14th, 2017

View Of Cinque Terre From Path Number 1

I talked with some people who said that the hike from Levanto to Monterosso in the Cinque Terre region of Italy was very pretty so I decided to give it a go. I had a hiking guide that described the hike, noting all the viewpoints and turnoffs but starting in the other direction. Since I was hiking by myself, I decided to go in the direction where I had the most information!

My choices were to climb steeply from Monterosso up to the ridge and then on to Levanto, or to first take a bus to someplace Colle di Gritta and hike from there. My hiking guide that said the second option was longer, but the views were better. It also said that there was less actual climbing on the second route since Colle di Gritta was already at the top of the mountain.

I had injured my knees (actually re-injured my 40+ year knee injury) several days prior and climbing doesn’t hurt so much as the descent. So the reduced climbing on the latter route was not an issue, I knew the pain was in going down, not up! But since I wanted to take photos, I elected for ‘the views were better’ route. The first part was the bus to Colle di Gritta. I was getting to be a pro on the small buses around Cinque Terre and I easily found my bus. The tricky part was figuring out when to get off. But the driver was helpful, and in the middle of nowhere, he announced that I was at my stop!

There was actually one building there, a little cafe/B&B type place. I fortified myself with an espresso and off I went. For 2+ hours I was quite alone on the trail, enjoying the views and the peace and solitude without any of the trail running groups, singing boy scout groups, and very determined hiking groups that seem to be common in the area! This view is taken from the part of the path along the eastern slope of Monte Ve Focone where you get a good view towards the south down the coast of the Cinque Terre. From here you see just a bit of Monterosso in the curve of the shoreline, some vineyards along the mountain slopes and in the hazy distance the town of Vernazza. The blue of the Ligurian Sea was, as always, stunning!

Hiking in the morning is always cooler and less crowded but in this instance you are facing into the sun. Not ideal for photos, but still wonderful for being ‘in the moment’. It isn’t hard to see why the entire zone of the Cinque Terre is called the Italian Riviera and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a national park.

If you are interested in the hiking path description of this section, here it is: “This sixth and last leg is 10 kilometres long with a height difference of 220 metres high, reaching maximum height at 460 metres at Monte Rossini. The average completion time is 3 hours. The walk again goes through pinewoods till one reaches Monte Rossini and then descends to Sella dei Bagari, a crossroads for various paths. At this point the path follows the ridge of Monte Focone towards Punta Mesco, along which one meets the path that leads to Monterosso and one takes a detour towards Levanto. Along the path one comes up against Casa Lovara and Casa Meridiana. One proceeds on an almost level path till one reaches the tarmac road to Mesco. Here one descends for a brief stretch until one reaches the path made up of large steps. One passes next to the house used by Guglielmo Marconi for his radio transmission experiments. After a little while one reaches the castle, where one can take stairs going to the sea promenade.”

At that point, I was obsessed with finding gelato!

Lake Como Above Varenna Italy

May 11th, 2017

Lake Como Above Varenna Italy

My day trip from Milan Italy heading north to Lake Como was a spur of the moment decision so I went without much of a plan except to take the train to Como and then ride the ferry from Como to Bellagio and Varenna. There are fast ferries (that make fewer stops) and slow ferries (that make a lot of stops). I opted for the slow ferry, mostly because that was the one that was leaving next! If there is an advantage to the slow ferry, it’s that you get a more close up view of the towns along the way! Despite that advantage, I was freezing by the time I got to Bellagio (my first stop). After a couple of hours here walking around town and yes, eating gelato despite being cold, I caught the ferry to Varenna.

As we approached Varenna, I noticed a castle high atop a hill. For someone who loves a good climb, this was the perfect way to spend my time in Varenna. My lack of planning led to some delightful surprises along the way. But first I had to figure out how to get there. I stopped at the tourist information office at the train station where a surly attendant gave me a map. And off I went. My first surprise was that the hike up to the castle was not just through the woods. There was a delightful little village along the way called Vezio. If I’d been in a car, I could have driven there and walked the short remaining distance. Which is apparently what a lot of people did because despite not seeing anyone on the trail, there were a lot of people at the castle (well, maybe a couple dozen…).

There was quite a nice cafe/gift shop where you purchase a ticket for the castle. Another surprise…..I thought there would just be some ruins to walk around. Once onto the castle grounds you might be treated to a talk (in Italian) and demonstration of falconry. However, to me the highlight was the view! You can see far to the north to the Alps, as seen in this photo, or far to the south along the two southern arms of Lake Como. It’s hard to drag yourself away. After drinking in the view for an hour or so, I made the trek back down the hill and headed off to find a beer before my train departed. Altogether a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Varenna is definitely on my list for a return trip someday.

Interior of the Church of Sant Andrea, Levanto, Italy

May 10th, 2017

Interior of the Church of Sant Andrea, Levanto, Italy

When I travel I usually do a lot of reading ahead of time so that I am somewhat familiar as to what to expect. However on my recent trip to the Cinque Terre region of Italy, I had some last minute changes in my hiking plans after hearing how nice the hike was from Monterosso north to Levanto. As a result, I knew nothing about Levanto when I arrived except that was where I changed trains for Milan.

After 5 hours on the trail I headed to the first gelato place I could find to fortify myself for some more walking! After just a little search, I spied that blue sign with the lower case ‘i’ indicated tourist information. Not only did they show me the map and some local sights, they gave me a booklet with some suggested walks. I was quite thankful for that because aside from being physically tired from the hike, I was mentally tired and not in mood to try to plan anything! So I just followed a couple of the pre-planned walks.

This is the church of Sant’Andrea or Saint Andrew dating from the 13th century. Many of the churches in the region use alternating stripes of white Carrara marble and a local greenish/black stone called serpentinite to construct the facade. This church follows that model, as does one of the churches in Monterosso. On the interior, you get a hint of what it looks like in the arches around the windows. It is always humbling to visit these old structures to witness the craftsmanship and care taken in the construction in light of what modern day people might view as limited tools and technology. It is also a treat to visit these places because they are often totally empty, giving you quiet and rest and solitude, regardless of your faith or beliefs.

Cinque Terre Travels 2017

May 9th, 2017

Cinque Terre Travels 2017

Getting to the Cinque Terre region of Italy from Dallas/Fort Worth is relatively straightforward but still a bit long. The hard part is wondering whether your flights will be on time so that you can make your train connections….leave enough layover time to account for contingencies but not so much that you spend excessive time traveling. Dallas to Miami to Milan, then catch the Malpensa Express to Milano Centrale for the train to La Spezia and a connection to Riomaggiore, my home for the next several days.

I was pretty tired from not having slept much on the flight and I thought I’d just go right to sleep when I arrived. But my first view of the aqua blue of the Mediterranean as the train made its way down the coast was intoxicating. My host Christina at I Limone Di Thule in Riomaggiore didn’t help matters, as she peppered me with suggestions of what I could do my first evening there! So I grabbed my camera and headed out for a couple of hours.

Going to the harbor is a natural first stop. As the sun was starting its descent, people were gathered on the rocks to watch the sunset. Like some other photographers, I was drawn to the boats pulled up in the tiny square next to the harbor. Once I started making some photos, the fatigue left and I enjoyed the rest of my first night out in Cinque Terre.

Welcome to my November Newsletter

October 31st, 2014

Welcome to my November Newsletter

Hi Everyone! It has been a busy autumn, that is for sure! But the last of the art shows for the fall is over and it was wonderful to meet some of you, and also to meet some returning customers from previous shows.

The highlight of October was a trip to Budapest Hungary! I stayed in a B&B about 2 blocks from the Hungarian Parliament Building, one of the visual highlights of the city. It was also 2 blocks from the metro and tram stops so it was a fabulous location, convenient to everything. The B&B itself is in an old classical building but everything inside had been refurbished and was only open 2 wks when I arrived. The people running it are delightful, and staying there really added to the enjoyment of the trip. It's called the Annabelle B&B if any of you are interested.

Since I resided so close to the Parliament Building, I got alot of pictures of it at all times of day! A couple that I have already posted at http://joan-carroll.artistwebsites.com/ include:

Hungarian Parliament Dawn
Hungarian Parliament Building Afternoon
Hungarian Parliament Building Night
Hungarian Parliament Building

Some of the other photos from Budapest are:

View from Fisherman's Bastion
Chain Bridge Gresham Palace and Basilica
Chain Bridge Night Traffic
Szechenyi Baths Budapest Hungary

My other October adventure was a couple of days in NY/NJ where I managed to fit in some lighthouse and covered bridge photography. Those are two of my favorite photographic subjects so I had fun with that. However, the biggest surprise to me was the wonderful view of the NYC skyline that you have from Hoboken NJ. I grew up in NJ and never thought that Hoboken was someplace you'd want to go. But it has been gentrified and is now a pretty 'in' place to be. I have only posted 2 photos from that trip so far, entitled

New York City Skyline
Forge Bridge

Looking ahead:

If you saw something at one of the art shows but didn't get it, and now you find you want it for a holiday gift, send me an email through this website, and if I still have it we can figure out a way to get it to you. Otherwise, I would be honored and pleased if you picked any of my works for any of your holiday gift needs. My only other local appearance this year will be at The Exchange at the Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth TX during the week of December 15. But you have to have a military ID to get on base so it's not accessible to all.

A winter vacation to Seoul Korea is also in the works which we are very excited about! Of course it always a 'working' vacation for me, but I never had such fun working.

Thanks everyone!
Joan


Welcome to my October Newsletter

September 24th, 2014

Welcome to my October Newsletter

We finally made it to autumn here in Texas, and a lovely 60 degrees it was this morning for my walk! Looks like there will be wonderful weather this weekend for the art show in Arlington, where I will be at Booth #2. Saturday is my 28th anniversary, it would make my day if you stopped by to say hello! It is the South Street Art Festival, Friday night, all day Saturday and until 5 pm on Sunday. The details are here:

http://fineartamerica.com/events/south-street-art-festival.html

October is a busy busy month! Right after South Street in Arlington, I am heading off to Budapest for some photography of course, and also for a taste of those famous baths! I've got my bathing suit packed so I am ready for the experience. When I get back from that, I'll be at the Fort Worth Arts Goggle on October 11. I have never been in this event but always heard it's fun and funky and eclectic. Can you believe, that is also my husband's birthday? Here are the details of that show, it's only one day on Fort Worth's South Side so come on out!

http://fineartamerica.com/events/1-arts-goggle.html

Right after that I leave for a few days in NY/NJ to visit some lighthouses along the Hudson River, maybe some covered bridges in southern NY, go to a HS reunion, connect with some old friends and family. It will be a whirlwind trip for sure but it should leave me with enough new material for some photos for 2015 shows.

Right now my final show of the fall will be the last weekend in October in Richardson TX, the Huffhines Art Trails event. We were there last year, it's a great venue located in Huffhines Park. I don't get as much of a chance to wander around the show as I'd like, but the variety of art is great, and wandering along the trails of the park to view the art is relaxing and fun. Here are the details!

http://fineartamerica.com/events/huffhines-art-trails.html

Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to my email list at

http://joan-carroll.artistwebsites.com/subscribewebsiteemaillist.html

to get other news, specials, and discounts! Have a great October, and I hope to see you at one of the shows.

Welcome to my September Newsletter

August 31st, 2014

Welcome to my September Newsletter

Welcome to my September newsletter! It's Labor Day weekend, and alot of people are wrapping up their summer holidays and looking forward to the fall! Same here....it's hard to stay inspired to go outside for photography in the Texas heat so some cooler weather. But I did manage a few Texas trips during July and August, the first to Austin and some Texas county courthouses on the way there and back. Check out my photos from Lampasas (Lampasas TX), Williamson (Georgetown TX), Hamilton (Hamilton, TX), Erath (Stephenville, TX) and Bosque (Meridian, TX) courthouses in my County Courthouse Gallery

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/joan-carroll.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=288092


My second trip was to Waco TX for some photos at Baylor University, and to College Station TX for some photos at Texas A&M University. I wanted to time my trip so that it was in between semesters so that traffic and parking would be easier. Of course that was a brutally hot week in August. You can see some of the photos from this trip in my Colleges Universities and Sports gallery. There are also some photos from the University of Texas in Austin from that trip in July:

http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/joan-carroll.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=263432


Upcoming in the fall are a few local art shows. The first is the South Street Art Festival in Arlington TX on the weekend of Sept 26-28. My 28th anniversary is Sept 27....what a way to spend an anniversary! This will be the first time I will exhibit at this show so I hope you will stop by if you are in the area! The second show is a one day event in Fort Worth TX, the Southside Arts Goggle on October 11. That happens to be my husband's birthday. Looks like all our celebrating this fall will be at art shows!


Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to my email list at


http://joan-carroll.artistwebsites.com/subscribewebsiteemaillist.html


to get other news, specials, and discounts! Have a great September.

Thrilled to be featured

August 5th, 2014

Thrilled to be featured

I am thrilled to be featured in the latest issue of Eye on Fine Art Photography! I've attached the pages regarding the contest on Fine Art America where my image of some of the architecture in Fort Worth won first place.

This is what the text says, if you don't feel like squinting: My twin loves of photography and travel emerged early in life. I remember being enchanted by rare trips to an airport to meet an arriving flight, and equally enchanted by a train trip on the California Zephyr from Denver to Salt Lake City. Clearly, I wanted to go places! On these trips I had my trusty Kodak Instamatic camera, with those funky flash cubes! But almost as soon as I could, I was out traveling on my own! Luckily this coincided with an interest in 35 mm photography which I learned on my own and from friends. I can remember taking dozens of rolls of film on every trip...black and white and color in every ISO I thought I'd need! Fast forward to 2008 after multiple academic degrees and a couple of careers...I found myself at the Beijing Summer Olympics. Two very memorable things occurred on that trip. The first was that a random picture taken of me showed a woman who was bursting with happiness. I was actually shocked when I first saw the picture for I had never seen myself look so happy....and I had just been laid off from my job! That had to mean something. The second was the amazingly inspirational nature of some of the sights that I encountered along the way in Beijing, Chengdu, and Shanghai (China) and Lhasa (Tibet). My love of photography reemerged and I decided to devote my time and energy to it. While I was first introduced to photography through landscapes, I began to find my niche in architectural photography, finding inspiration in urban scenes and urban architecture. In my hometown of Fort Worth TX, I have explored our historical, endangered, and modern architecture. Farther afield, I have come to love the amazing historical county courthouses of Texas as well as other iconic Texas landmarks. From across the US, you will discover in my portfolio my love of lighthouses! And from around the world you will discover in my works some of the wonders, large and small, from places such as Alaska, Colorado, California, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Washington DC, Florida, the Canadian Arctic, Fort Worth, China, Tibet, Australia, New Zealand, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Brussels, Berlin, Bruges, Antwerp, Ghent, Istanbul, London, Prague, Rome, Vienna, and Spain. I would be honored if you would browse through my portfolio!

Here is a link for the entire magazine if you would like to subscribe to the digital version: https://sellfy.com/CTPublications

What should I shoot in the DFW area?

June 17th, 2014

Do you have any great ideas for photo ops in the DFW area?

People at art shows often ask me "Do you have a picture of ____?" Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. And when I don't, it's a great opportunity for me to get out and find some new local treasure! It's amazing how many interesting places there are to go around this area, if you only know where they are!

If you have a favorite place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area you'd like to see a photo of, drop me a line and let me know at joan.carroll1992@gmail.com.

Do our schools kill creativity

June 11th, 2014

I happened to run across this link today...do our schools kill creativity? Without weighing in on that topic specifically, it got me to thinking about my days in elementary school and even high school. I don't feel that creativity was encouraged, not in the places you might expect it (like art class) or even in any academic subject. Different ways of looking at things were not the norm. I grew up believing that I was not creative, but that I was very logical, analytical, and objective. And while I still believe that I have these qualities, I have lately discovered that there was creativity lurking there all the while.

All it took to uncover this creativity was being laid off from a job! That may not sound like the ideal situation, and in many cases it isn't, but in my case it was the perfect confluence of events. I probably would not have quit that job on my own, electing the security of a paycheck and health insurance. But the payback has been happiness and health and a discovery of the creativity that was there all along, just waiting for the opportunity to emerge.

My last show of the spring season

May 4th, 2014

My last show of the spring season

Hot weather approaches in Texas, signaling the end of the outdoor art show season! We may love the warm weather here but we don't want to stand outside in it all day! My last show for the spring will be at the Allen Arts Festival in Allen TX on the weekend of May 9-May 11. That is Mother's Day on may 11 so this is the perfect opportunity to buy your mom some wonderful art....something made lovingly in the USA! Art is a lasting gift, so I hope to see you there!

Fun in Toledo Spain

April 1st, 2014

Fun in Toledo Spain

In Toledo Spain, I had churros and chocolate for breakfast at a place called El Cafe de Las Monjas, When I just looked online, it didn't get very good reviews and I have to say I didn't really disagree with the reviews. The cafe is on one of the main tourist drags so that is never a good indication of a place to go. Nevertheless I went there because the urge for churros and chocolate hit hard, PLUS they had this super-cute window display on the making of marzipan, part of which is shown in this photo. In Toledo, and probably other places in Spain, marzipan is made traditionally by religious orders in the convents. You can buy it in the shops but it is WAY more fun to go to the convents to buy it. If you don't speak Spanish, it is also a wonderful adventure rather than a routine transaction. You find the unpretentious doorway with a small sign saying to ring the bell for 'dulces' (sweets). When I did this in Toledo, a voice came over the speaker speaking rapidly (to me) in Spanish. I had no idea what they were saying but tried to tell her I wanted to purchase dulces. She kept talking and talking and I felt more and more helpless! Finally a lovely local person came by and talked for me. At that point I was buzzed into a dark foyer and I walked in what seemed a logical direction. Finally I came to a old cabinet with some examples of packages you can buy. While you are looking this over, a small door in the wall opens and a disembodied voice within asks you what you want. You tell them (you try your best to tell them!), you wait, and then the door slides open again and your selection is pushed out. You pay. It's way more fun than buying at the shops! I felt that I had been momentarily transported to another world. And Toledo marzipan is one of the best things you will EVER eat!

Just a little photo montage

March 22nd, 2014

Just a little photo montage

It's time to learn how to make a video of my photos. I started out by cheating with an Animoto video! Click on the button for the link to the video

Fish Market Transaction

March 19th, 2014

Fish Market Transaction

I took this picture in February 2012 on a trip to Istanbul. My husband was there with USA Track and Field for the World Indoor Championships but as the schedule worked out I never saw him the entire time! So I had a week on my own in Istanbul. This fish market was a bit intimidating....everybody hustling and doing business. But when I was brave enough to buy a fish sandwish, it was definitely the freshest of fish. Do NOT picture Pike Place Market in Seattle where the vendors often cater to the tourists as they throw the fish around! This was definitely NOT a tourist market! The market is located on the New District side of the Galata Bridge in case you are in the nieghborhood!

The Rocky Coastline of Maine

March 17th, 2014

The Rocky Coastline of Maine

I love looking through my older files to see things in a fresh way. This picture was taking in June of 2013 when I was on a 'lighthouse tour' in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. On my own personal tour, I was attempting to see as many lighthouses as I could in only 3 days. Needless to say, I am not easily distracted while on my quest. But the classic rocky shoreline of Maine slowed me down and got me to stop and smell the salt water! This photo was taken close to Pemaquid Lighthouse, an historic U.S. lighthouse located in Bristol, Lincoln County, Maine, at the tip of the Pemaquid Neck. Fun fact about Pemaquid....it's image is on the back of Maine's quarter. The rocks around the lighthouse are equally dramatic as you can see in these other two photos of mine:

http://joan-carroll.artistwebsites.com/featured/pemaquid-light-joan-carroll.html

http://joan-carroll.artistwebsites.com/featured/waiting-for-their-ship-to-come-in-joan-carroll.html

Thanks for having a look!

Back to Rome

March 12th, 2014

Back to Rome

I had someone ask me today about one of my images from Rome, so afterwards I decided that my digital darkroom efforts today would be of another Rome image. Rome is an amazing place and if you have been there you know what I am talking about! Especially to an American, where something 150 years old is astounding! Here in this picture is the Arch of Constantine which was erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312. I guess I didn't realize when we were there that it was almost exactly 1700 years later that we stood on that spot! One interesting fact about the Battle of Milvian Bridge is that prior to the battle, Constantine is reputed to have look up to the sun and saw a cross of light above it and with it the Greek words translated as 'in this sign you shal conquer'. Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol and thereafter they were victorious. So not only does this Arch commemorate his victory, but in a way commemorates the the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire.

Bruges Canal At Dawn

March 9th, 2014

Bruges Canal At Dawn

A great way to get 'nighttime' photographs is to go out early in the morning! Since I am a morning person and not a night person, this is a very appealing option for me. The only problem I ran into (in some European cities that have their buildings brightly lit at night) is that at some point the lights go off and the city goes dark. This was the case for one of the buildings I wanted to photograph (the Stadhuis) in Bruges. Also unfortunately, I had dragged my spouse out of bed early to accompany me and he is not a morning person! Luckily I was able to get a wonderful photo of Blind Donkey Alley, then just turning to my right, there was this wonderful canal scene just as dawn was beginning to break. Also luckily my spouse felt that getting out of bed early was not a total waste! Click on the button below to see more about this photo! thanks for stopping by!

Prague Castle and St Nicholas

March 7th, 2014

Prague Castle and St Nicholas

I'm not a late night kind of person so one of the treats of visiting Prague in the winter...if you like nighttime photography....is that the sun goes down about 4 pm! There didn't seem to be much twilight either so you can have full darkness by 5 to get going on your nighttime work! The view of Prague Castle from across the Vltava River is iconic and nightly lots of photographers line the riverbank for photographs....cell phone pics, point and shoot pics, 35 mm digital pics, you name it, it's all out there! This picture is taken slightly to the north of the location of the most common photo spot which has the Charles Bridge in the foreground. I liked this location to include St Nicholas church in the frame as well. It's so beautiful how all of Prague is lit up at night! I don't know what time all the lights go out but I can tell you they are not on in the early morning before sunrise! I thought I might do some pictures early in the morning of the castle all lit up but all was dark. Click on the link below to see more about this image.

Karlstejn Castle

March 6th, 2014

Karlstejn Castle

Here's a little of the backstory behind "Karlstejn Castle Doorway" (click on the button below to see the photo). Karlstejn Castle is not too far from Prague so is an easy day trip. We were there in December so you have to check carefully to make sure if and when it will be open for visiting. Apparently it's a very popular place so in the summer is pretty mobbed. Even in December there was a 'decent' crowd, but not overwhelming. It's a lovely walk from the train station to the castle with spectacular castle views from below the whole way. When we got there, we had to wait about 30 minutes before the next tour of the inside in English. Never one to sit around....I can do that at home....I started walking all over the grounds where I could for some photos. There were fantastic views of the valley looking down from the ramparts and fantastic views looking up at the castle! The simple scene in "Karlstejn Castle Doorway" appealed to me because of the soft winter sunlight and long shadows. Even though the picture was taken at 12:30 pm, the lighting looks like early morning. I could picture myself staying overnight at the castle (just dreaming, you really can't do that) then opening this door to the morning light and having my coffee. Sounds like a perfect TV commercial for coffee! I don't aspire to live in the northern latitudes where the sun sets at 4 pm and maybe even earlier! But I can appreciate the light quality when I am visiting.

Spring Art Shows

March 5th, 2014

I'll be at 2 local art shows this spring. The first one will be the weekend of March 29 and 30 in Frisco TX, the Arts in the Square show (http://www.friscosquare.com/aits). The second one is the Main Street Arts festival in Fort Worth (http://www.mainstreetartsfest.org/). Looking forward to meeting you there!