Eastern Provence

Exactly three months ago today I was in France (just outside of the village of Monthoiron to be exact) standing by the side of the road waiting to see the Tour de France riders cycle past. Three months. I can’t believe how fast time is passing. Sadly the trip is beginning to feel like a distant memory. With it currently being school holidays, I’ve finally found some time to get back into editing my photos from the trip and it has been wonderful to revisit and savour the memories from our amazing time away. This post picks up where the last post finished as we made our way around the French countryside.

Following our stay in the stunning Bourg d’Oisans, we headed south to the region of Provence, with a short stop in Sisteron to drop Mum and Dad at the train station. Sisteron is a beautiful place but don’t attempt to source a late lunch in the middle of summer! The further south we travelled the hotter it became – we’d finally found summer! From Sisteron we drove east for an hour or so to our base for the next two nights at Moustiers Sainte Marie. Our reason for visiting this region was to explore the beautiful Gorges du Verdon. I first saw the Verdon Gorge in the 2015 Tour de France (stage 17 to be exact) and knew that it was another place to add to the list of places to visit next time we found ourselves in France. The Verdon Gorge is a river canyon that is described as Europe’s most beautiful. When booking the accommodation, I picked Moustiers Sainte Marie due to its proximity to the gorge, not knowing how gorgeous the village itself would be. Wikipedia describes Moustiers Sainte Marie as one of the most beautiful villages in France. We stayed just down the hill from the village in a B&B that had a pottery studio attached to it. Moustiers Sainte Marie is home to many pottery artisans, with the village itself containing many pottery shops. The owner of the B&B (and studio), Franck, kindly gave us a tour of the pottery workshop. He didn’t speak much English but we were able to get the gist of it.

Our time in Moustiers was spent exploring the nearby gorge as well as the village. The Gorges du Verdon certainly is spectacular, with the water an amazing blue/aqua colour…

moustiers-1

This is the actual gorge:

moustiers-2

The village of Moustiers Sainte Marie

moustiers-3

moustiers-4

moustiers-5

moustiers-6

This area of Provence is home to much of the lavender that is grown in the region. We decided to venture out late one evening just before sunset (around 8:30pm) to photograph the lavender fields during golden hour.

Not a lavender field but still a beautiful view…

moustiersforcalquier-1

moustiersforcalquier-2

moustiersforcalquier-3

moustiersforcalquier-4

moustiersforcalquier-5

moustiersforcalquier-7

moustiersforcalquier-8

Following our stay in Moustiers Sainte Marie, we headed east for the next two nights to stay in a farmhouse just outside of Forcalquier. Forcalquier is still part of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Forcalquier besides relax (which we did). We did, however, stumble upon a couple of flowering sunflower fields which were spectacular. Seeing fields of sunflowers were something that I always wanted to see and fortunately we were able to do this. Later on in our trip we saw plenty more fields of sunflowers, particularly around the Loire Valley, but it was too early in the season for them to be flowering, so this ended up being our only opportunity.

moustiersforcalquier-9

moustiersforcalquier-10

moustiersforcalquier-11

moustiersforcalquier-12

moustiersforcalquier-13

Forcalquier was certainly very beautiful and peaceful, however, in hindsight, we probably wouldn’t have missed it and could easily have stayed longer in Moustiers and then in Gordes (our next stop). Despite this, it was good to unwind quite a bit after nearly three weeks on the move.

Stay tuned for part two of our visit to Provence!

 

Bourg d’Oisans and Alpe d’Huez

After a short but sleepless overnight flight from Iceland and several hours on multiple trains, including 2 extra hours thanks to catching the wrong train (oops), we made it to the French Alps and specifically Alpe d’Huez. For those who missed my initial trip blog post (click here), one of the things I was most looking forward to about this trip was having the opportunity to ride Alpe d’Huez. Alpe d’Huez has featured in many a Tour de France and is one of the most iconic climbs in the sport of cycling. Despite having only cycled for 8 months, I was up for the challenge, along with Ian and Dad (who has been cycling for a lot longer but not as much recently).

We spent our first night staying in Alpe d’Huez itself and the view of the surrounding Alps was pretty spectacular.

Bourg d'Oisans-1

Having had very little sleep the previous night due to travelling, I awoke on the day of our epic climb feeling rather tired and somewhat apprehensive about what was to come. Thankfully the weather was perfect, if not a tad warm, and we set off down the mountain to meet Mum and Dad and pick up our hire bikes.

We had all agreed that we weren’t out to set some amazing time to get to the top of Alpe d’Huez – our goal was just to reach the top no matter how long it was going to take. For those who are interested, the fastest ever time up Alpe d’Huez is 37’35” set by Marco Pantani in 1997 (however there are drug suspicions surrounding Pantani so it’s possible that his rapid ascent of Alpe d’Huez was assisted). Before starting out, I was quite concerned that I wasn’t going to make it. I had driven up the mountain – I knew how hard it was going to be.

With our bikes ready to go, there was no turning back. We departed just after midday and had to have the bikes back by 6:30pm (so we sort of did have a bit of a time limit). The following photos are all from my iPhone as there was no way I was lugging my DSLR up Alpe d’Huez!

At the start:

IMG_8828

For those unfamiliar with the Tour de France, the red polka dot jersey I’m wearing is for the King of the Mountains classification. Fitting for our ride up Alpe d’Huez.

IMG_8387

At the actual start: Km 0

Alpe d’Huez is composed of 21 hairpins, each of which are labelled and have the names of past and (some) recent Tour de France stage winners. The first two hairpins (21 and 20) are by far the hardest, with a gradient of 11%. By the time we got to hairpin 20 (the second one from the bottom), I thought I had no hope of reaching the top. It was really hot and I was probably the thirstiest I’d ever been in my life. After a bit of a break in the shade, chatting with some English cyclists and taking on board some fuel and water, we set off again. Thankfully the spectacular views made up for the pain.

IMG_7150

One of the many things I enjoyed about our ride up Alpe d’Huez is the camaraderie among many of the cyclists. For example, for much of our time riding up Alpe d’Huez, we were riding near the group of English cyclists I mentioned above, so we were always encouraging each other to keep going.

TOM24706

Photo by Griffe Photos

We slowly continued uphill, eventually passing the time trial (chrono) finish of Alpe d’Huez, being cheered on loudly by our English friends who had finished ahead of us and were enjoying a cold beer in a cafe. I had wanted to finish at the proper Tour de France finish which is about 1.5km further uphill from the chrono finish, so Dad and I continued on (sadly Ian couldn’t join us as we were now running out of time and he headed downhill to pick up the car to pick us up). Unfortunately the TdF finish was not all that well signposted and we actually rode too far, eventually finding it on our way back downhill (which was a pleasant way to finish). All up, it took us 2 hours and 12 minutes of riding and about that again with rest breaks.

IMG_1225

IMG_2685

IMG_1846

Getting to the top was the best feeling ever. I still feel stoked to have been able to achieve this. Yes, it was extremely hard and there were many times I had to tell my legs to shut up, but the views were spectacular and the closer I got to the finish the stronger I felt (it also helped that the gradients were slightly less than the start of the ride). My many months of training had paid off. It was also really special to have been able to ride Alpe d’Huez with Dad who I can blame for my love of cycling. Riding Alpe d’Huez is something that he has wanted to do for a while so it was a privilege to have had the opportunity to cycle it with him.

The day after our ascent was spent fairly quietly as were were all pretty exhausted from our efforts. We took a wander around Bourg d’Oisans which is the village at the base of Alpe d’Huez. It is surrounded by the Alps and is beautiful.

Bourg d'Oisans-2

Bourg d'Oisans-3

You might be able to see a line running across the top third of the mountain in the image above. It is a road from the village of Huez and also excellent to ride along…I have plans 🙂

Bourg d'Oisans-4

This field of poppies was just outside of our B&B

Bourg d'Oisans-5

After our night in Alpe d’Huez, we spent the next two with Mum and Dad at a great B&B called Cycling Ascents (yes, a B&B targeted at cyclists) in Bourg d’Oisans. As you might imagine, there was plenty of cycling talk at the breakfast table as everyone shared where they had ridden the previous day and where they were headed that day. I loved it.

I felt a little heartbroken to leave Bourg d’Oisans. It is one of the few places I’ve visited that I think I could happily spend the rest of my life. I loved the scenery and the strong cycling culture (in winter it becomes a base for skiing). I loved what I was able to achieve by cycling Alpe d’Huez but it has left me hungry for more. The area is home to several other famous climbs such as the Col du Galibier, Col du Glandon and Col de Telegraphe to name a few, so there is plenty more cycling to be done in this area. Being immersed in the cycling culture and having the opportunity to test myself physically by cycling Alpe d’Huez has left me wanting more. We’ve already talked about coming back for a longer stay to tackle some more epic ascents by bike. I’m not sure when, but I’ll definitely be back and I now have some big goals to keep training for!

P.S. Shoutout to the awesome team in L block! Have a great holiday 🙂

East to West Iceland

We’ve had a couple of big days and before any further time passes, I need to do my final Iceland blog post! We said farewell to Iceland 5 days ago and I still need to blog about what we saw from East Iceland across the top to West Iceland and back to Reykjavik, so here goes!

We left the glaciers behind as we travelled north along the eastern coast of Iceland from Hofn to Seydisfjordur, a stunning little village set at the end of a 17km long fjord. Several scenes from Walter Mitty were filmed around Seydisfjordur, including the skateboard scene. Here are a few photos of Seydisfjordur.

Myvatn-1

Myvatn-2

Myvatn-3

Not too far from Seydisfjordur was a village home to a colony of puffins. Not wanting to miss the opportunity of seeing puffins in the wild, we took the 2.5 hour round trip to Borgarfjordur Eystri. Thankfully our trip paid off – there were heaps of puffins and they were adorable!

Myvatn-4

Myvatn-6

Myvatn-5

From Borgarfjordur Eystri we headed west to Myvatn. It is amazing how different the landscape is in the north of Iceland compared with the south. As you may have seen in my previous posts, southern Iceland is quite lush and home to many waterfalls and glaciers, whereas much of the north is quite barren and desolate. There are large lava flows that give the landscape quite an alien feel. Myvatn is quite a geologically active area and is quite similar to Rotorua in New Zealand, especially in its sulphurous smell.

Myvatn-8

Myvatn-9

After some long walks and many hours sitting in the car, I was started to feel quite sore so convinced Ian to take a dip with me in one of the geothermal pools that Myvatn has to offer. It was about 11 degrees outside and the smell wasn’t particularly pleasant, however, the pool was 38 degrees and incredibly relaxing. You can’t really come to Iceland without having a swim in a geothermal pool!

Our journey continued west from Myvatn, passing through the the gorgeous little town of Husavik and also visiting Godafoss (another waterfall).

Stykkisholmur-1

Lighthouse outside Husavik

Stykkisholmur-2

Church in Husavik

Stykkisholmur-3

Godafoss

Our final night in Iceland (if you don’t count the one spent at an airport) was at Stykkisholmur, another charming sea-side village.

Stykkisholmur-4

Hotel Eglisen – our hotel for the night

Stykkisholmur-5

This building was used as the pub in Walter Mitty (just before he jumps into the helicopter). Our hotel is in the background.

Stykkisholmur-6

Stykkisholmur-7

Our final day in Iceland was spent exploring the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. It was a spectacular day – sunny and warm. Despite it being only 14 degrees, it was warm enough to not need a jacket. The cold in Iceland (in summer) feels much different to the cold in Sydney. 14 degrees in Sydney would have me wearing multiple layers! I even managed to get a little sunburnt on a similar day earlier in the trip.

Hellnar-1

Kirkjufoss 

Hellnar-2

Kirkjufoss with Kirkjufell in the background

Hellnar-3

Church in Hellnar

Hellnar-4

Another cute church, this time in Budir.

That pretty much summarises our trip to Iceland for now. As I wrote previously, there are plenty of photos to be edited and blogged when I have some more time to do them justice so this will not be the end of what I share about Iceland.

I loved our time in Iceland and am so blessed to have been able to see it. I’m not sure how much the country will change over time, particularly as tourism grows, but I fear that as more people visit there will be less access to some of the sights that we were able to enjoy. If a trip to Iceland is something you’ve considered, do it!

My next post will be about the equally stunning Alps in France.

Ticking items off the bucket list

Things have been pretty quiet here lately, however, the blogging hiatus has finally come to an end as we are just about to head off on our next big adventure. On Saturday (tomorrow!) we will be departing for four weeks overseas, spending 11 days in Iceland and the remaining time in France. As with our previous trips, I will aim to blog as regularly as possible, so I thought I’d start by writing a bit about our plans.

Our trip will actually start with a 6 hour stop-over in Copenhagen. Depending on how tired we are when we arrive, we are hoping to kill some time by exploring downtown Copenhagen before our flight to Reykjavik, Iceland.
Iceland has been on my bucket list for quite a while now. I can’t remember when it ended up there. Watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty certainly helped (coincidentally, we saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a couple of days after we returned from our last big overseas trip in 2014). If you haven’t seen the film, please watch it! The majority of it was filmed in Iceland (including the Greenland and Afghanistan scenes). Iceland has recently become a popular destination with photographers due to its amazing natural beauty so I cannot wait to experience and photograph it for myself.
The map below shows all of the places where we will be stopping (overnight) in Iceland. As you can see, we will be circumnavigating the island, travelling in an anti-clockwise direction.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 1.10.44 PM

(Click here for an interactive version of the Iceland map https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zpuXMQF4TnOE.kYRCzss6CAt8&usp=sharing)

I can’t really say that there is anything in particular that I’m most looking forward to in Iceland as the whole trip is going to be fantastic. Our visit will coincide with the summer solstice so we will have 24 hours of daylight for the entirety of our visit. As we will be just below the Arctic Circle, the sun will set (around 12am), rising again around 3am, however, it’s not going to ever get dark. This will be perfect for many hours of photography and Ian will get to enjoy his longest birthday ever (as opposed to the shortest day he usually has in the southern hemisphere)! I’m also hoping to be able to see and photograph some puffins while we are in Iceland.

From Iceland we head to France for the remainder of our trip. After flying into Paris, we will be catching a train to Grenoble where we will meet Mum and Dad, pick up a car and head to Bourg d’Oisans and Alpe d’Huez.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 4.42.21 PM

(An interactive version of the France map is available here https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zpuXMQF4TnOE.kkPZuIAJFahs&usp=sharing)

At this point in the blog post I need to delve into a bit of a backstory. If you’ve been following this blog for a while (or see me regularly in real life) you would know that I quite enjoy my sport and keeping active. For the last couple of years this has mostly taken the form of running. After being a long time fan of watching cycling events, last October we finally got around to buying some decent road bikes and there has been no turning back. I love cycling. I’ve still been running very occasionally but cycling is now my preferred fitness pursuit and I could do it all day, every day (almost). Having watched cycling events such as the Tour de France for some time, I was aware that one of the most iconic mountain climbs to ride is Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps. So, while planning our trip, we decided to add it to our list and attempt to cycle our way to the top. For those who aren’t familiar with Alpe d’Huez, it has 21 hairpins and an average gradient of 8% over the 13 or so kilometers to the top. It’s going to smash me. It will most certainly be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do physically, even more so than the half marathons I’ve run. I’ve been training as much as I can for the last couple of months (albeit mostly on the indoor trainer trying to fit it in after work) and while I could always have done more training, I’m fairly happy with what I have done as I’ve seen some positive improvements out on the road. I guess I’ll find out how much the training has helped on June 24. Honestly, I’m a little scared about this but also excited for the challenge. The penultimate night before our little ride will not contain much sleep as we have a 1am flight out of Iceland followed by several hours on the TGV once we arrive in France to get to Grenoble. Hopefully the lack of sleep won’t have too big an impact.

For those who are interested, below is a video of the Alpe d’Huez climb so that you can see exactly what we’re in for, as well as a view of the profile of Alpe d’Huez.

Velo viewer

Following our climb of Alpe d’Huez, we will have a few days in the Alps before heading south to Provence for a week. We will be spending a couple of days in the Verdon Gorges region (thanks to a previous Tour de France for highlighting the beauty of this region), followed by a couple of days in Forcalquier and then Gordes. We spent a week in Provence during our last trip in December 2013 so I’m really looking forward to experiencing it in summer. Seeing (and, of course, photographing) fields of lavender and sunflowers has been on my bucket list for a long time so I’m quite looking forward to experiencing this while soaking up some sunshine and warmth (even though it will be summer in Iceland, the temperatures will be colder than an average winter’s day in Sydney).

After our week in Provence, we head north for a week in the Loire, where we will be reunited with my parents as well as my sister and brother-in-law. This will be Mum and Dad’s third visit to the particular B&B we will be staying. Enjoying a week in the Loire at Sambin together as a family was the catalyst for this trip in the first place. While in the Loire we will visit several of the numerous chateaus the region has to offer as well as seeing two stages of the Tour de France (also on the bucket list). Our plan is to be at the finish in Angers to see the end of Stage 3 on July 4 and then be somewhere along the route during Stage 4 the following day. In addition to doing the touristy thing and seeing the Tour de France, we are hoping to do some cycling while in the Loire as well as having a bit of down time as we will be on the go for most of the trip.

At the end of our week in the Loire we head north to Mont Saint Michel on the Normandy coast. Growing up, I had a photograph of Mont Saint Michel stuck to the back of my bedroom door and so seeing it in real life is another item on the bucket list that we will be ticking off. We will only have 24 hours there, after which we head back to Paris for one night before beginning the long journey home.

This trip has been almost one year in the planning so it feels quite surreal to be less than 24 hours away from departure. Again, if you’ve been following this blog for a while (or see me regularly), you would know how much I love to travel and so I’m really excited to have the opportunity to experience some new places and revisit some old ones (although in a different season). As with the previous trips, there will be a lot of photography that will be done on this trip (which I hope to blog as much of as I can) and hopefully even some video as Ian is now equipped with a GoPro. In addition to experiencing and photographing more of God’s awesome creation, I’m looking forward to having a break from my every day life. Life has just been getting busier and busier over the last few years to the point where we are both burning out and are exhausted, so we’ve agreed that during this trip we will re-evaluate our priorities and hopefully make some plans that will improve things. At this point I’m up for anything.

I think that pretty much summarises our plan for the next month. Stay tuned for the next blog post from somewhere in Iceland!

European dreaming

It’s hard to believe that we have now been home for five weeks – almost as long as we were away on our European adventure. Between work, lots of exercise (I’ll save that for another post) and our regular commitments, time is flying by at a rapid pace. I’m gobsmacked that it will be March at the end of this week….how did that happen?? Ian has been quick to remind me that we were away for half of January which is contributing to the speed with which this year feels like it is passing by. In my final trip blog post about our time in Rome, I wrote that I was planning on shortly posting a big review of our trip. Sadly, between the busyness of home and exhaustion of travelling for six weeks followed by going straight back to work, I haven’t had time to do that post justice. It is definitely still coming – I want to make sure that I properly reflect on our trip, not only as a way of documenting my own memories, but to also share with you a few things that haven’t yet been shared (including images!). So, I’ll slowly plug away at it bit by bit and the post will eventually grace this blog.

Amidst the busyness, at times I have found my mind wandering back to our trip and all of the wonderful memories that we created. In many respects I’m sad that I haven’t had more time to sit and reflect on our trip as I want to hold on to the memories before they slip away into the distant past. After arriving home from Europe on a Saturday morning, I had three full days at home before heading back to work and since then it doesn’t feel as if things have stopped. Going into the trip, we knew we wouldn’t have much down time after the trip as we wanted to maximise our time away. And while I have been working hard on some of my goals for 2014 that I wrote about here, frustratingly it often my photography that has been pushed aside simply because there is no time left. This is something that I’m going to be working harder on over the next few weeks because I have big dreams in this area and they aren’t going to magically happen without lots of hard work! I’ve found that I thrive on being creative – taking photographs, editing them and even writing these posts. When I don’t have time for these things, I feel like I’m missing part of myself.

One part of the trip that I did not particularly enjoy was the 14 hour flight from Dubai to Sydney. I disliked it on our first Europe trip and despite having a little more room on the A380, I wasn’t feeling great and that flight felt like it lasted forever. I was so happy to be able to walk off that plane in Sydney and enjoy solid ground, fresh air and simply being home. For a while, the thought of getting on another plane did not interest me in the slightest, no matter what the destination was. Five weeks later, however, that feeling has changed. Yesterday morning I was up early and out running when I saw Emirates flight EK412 in the distance, preparing to land in Sydney. That was the same flight we arrived home on. Out of the blue and certainly not because I was cold (I was about 6km into a 12km run), I had goosebumps. The passion to travel and photograph the world is back, just as strong as before. While we do have more travel plans for this year, it may be some time before our next big overseas adventure. In the meantime, I’m going to be saving my pennies, dreaming of the fantastic experience we just had in Europe and contemplating our next grand adventure.

To wrap up this post, here is an image that hasn’t yet seen the light of day on this blog. It was taken on our last morning in Positano, Italy when I awoke to the sight a beautiful sunrise which I jumped out of bed to photograph.

Trip-Review-1

 

P.S. While the blog may have suffered a bit of neglect over the past five weeks, I have been busy tweaking my website a bit. Massive thanks to Ian for helping me out with some of the trickier tweaks. While there is still a little more work to be done, I’m really happy with how this site is looking. If you haven’t had a look around for a while, please check it out and let me know what you think!

Rome

Our European adventure wouldn’t be complete without one final post of our brief time in Rome. After leaving Capri, we caught a taxi, ferry and train to get us to Rome, our final destination for the trip. We didn’t have a huge amount of time in Rome – we arrived mid afternoon on the Wednesday and flew out on Thursday evening. As we needed to do a bit of a repack of all our gear, we kept things quiet on the Wednesday afternoon, knowing that we would have a bit of time to explore on the Thursday morning. Fortunately we were able to arrange a late check-out from our hotel, so we could spend the morning exploring without needing to leave our luggage somewhere. Plus it was lovely to be able to enjoy a shower just before heading to the airport and spending the following 25 (or so) hours travelling home.

Our final day in Italy was overcast and threatening rain. On our previous trip, Ian and I had both seen quite a bit of Rome, however I had never visited the Spanish Steps. So, we ventured out, with our first destination being the Spanish Steps. It was fairly quiet and I was able to get a tourist-free shot of the steps…

Roma-1

 

Next stop – the Trevi Fountain!

Roma-3

And yes, we made sure we threw some coins in to the fountain to guarantee a return trip 🙂

Roma-5

Roma-6

Unfortunately by this stage our time was running out and it was time to return to the hotel. Our time in Rome was short and sweet, a bit like this blog post! But don’t worry, I’ll be back again soon! I’m planning on posting a ‘recap’ post of our big adventure in the next day or so with a few new photos that have yet to grace the blog. Until then, here is one final shot from Rome. Even despite the gloomy skies, there is still so much colour. I love that about Italy!

Roma-2

Capri

Ian visited the island of Capri in 2010 and having loved his visit here, it was only natural that it was included in our itinerary for this trip. Capri is located a short distance off the coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea, about a 1 hour ferry ride from Naples and around half an hour from Sorrento. There are two towns on the island – Capri (which shares its name with the island) and Anacapri, located 200 metres above Capri town. The island is quite small but it is surprising how mountainous and rugged it is – the highest point on the island, Mount Solaris, is 589m. When researching accommodation options in Capri, we knew that not much would be open as this is the slow season. Capri is a very popular summer destination so the winter is when many of the locals take their holidays. Most of the viable accommodation options for us were located in Anacapri and so we found ourselves a cozy B&B to stay in. It turns out that not much at all is open in Capri (town). Fortunately there have been several restaurant options for us to choose from each night here in Anacapri and many of the shops have been open. Capri (town) is certainly the more glamorous of the two towns, with many of the ‘real’ Caprese living in Anacapri. Along with most of the hotels on Capri, many of the popular tourist destinations have also been closed. Despite this, we’ve still been able to enjoy the sights of Capri while making the most some valuable relaxation time. So far we have been on Capri for three days and the weather has certainly been quite variable as you’ll see in the photos below.

We started our first full day in Capri by visiting the Villa San Michele – a beautiful garden located on the edge of Anacapri, overlooking Capri 200m below.

Capri-3

 

Capri-4

 

The view down to Capri. The road linking the two towns isn’t for the faint-hearted!

Capri-5

The Caprese are well-known for their beautiful ceramics and incorporate them into many street signs, or in this case, street furniture!

Capri-1

Capri-2

Later in the afternoon of our first full day, we took a walk to view Faro Lighthouse on Punta Carena. The ruggedness of the cliffs was quite spectacular to behold.

Capri-6

Capri-7

In the opposite direction to Punta Carena were the Faraglione – rock formations just off the main island…

Capri-8

Capri-9

It’s amazing the difference that a day makes! The images below were taken yesterday – a breathtakingly blue sky and warm winter’s day. Let’s just say, after seeing Capri on a day like this, I could better understand the attraction of Capri to the thousands of visitors who come here each year. Here is the view from Capri (town) back towards Anacapri (which is on top of that rocky outcrop).

Capri-10

The Faraglione (a little closer this time)

Capri-11

Capri-12

Looking towards Marina Piccola which is tucked away just behind the cliff in the foreground.

Capri-13

We decided to take a bit of a walk to see another landmark, the Arco Naturale (Natural Arch).

Capri-15

Capri-17

Capri-18

Some more views of Capri…

Capri-14

Capri-16

Capri-19

And of course, no main square in an Italian town would be complete without at least one of these!

Capri-20

Sadly the weather today is probably the worst we have experienced on this trip. We’ve been fortunate that the other wet days have been when we’ve been travelling so it hasn’t bothered us too much, however, today is cold, very wet and windy….the perfect excuse for staying indoors and relaxing before we make the long journey home to Australia. It is hard to believe that we only have two more nights left in Italy (but it is still four more days until we get home). This trip is very rapidly coming to an end. As I’ve written before, this has been an amazing trip and I’ve loved the opportunity to visit some beautiful places, however, after almost six weeks of travel, the comforts of home are beckoning. I cannot wait to enjoy summer (the cold is starting to get to me), I will be thankful not to have to lug all of my clothes and camera gear around with me every day (my suitcase was 23kg when we left Australia. It’s definitely a little heavier now and we had to buy another smaller suitcase. My backpack which is full of camera gear is around 14kg). I will also never take for granted my clothes dryer. They are a rarity in this part of Europe which makes drying clothes in winter a bit of a process.

Tomorrow morning we will catch a bus to the marina, ferry across to Naples where we will then catch a train back to Rome for a night. Depending on how things in Rome pan out (i.e. whether we can wrangle a late checkout) we will try to do some sightseeing on Thursday morning before our night time departure to Dubai and then Sydney. I hate to write it, but this could well be my last post from Europe 🙁 I will certainly blog any photos from our Roman adventures as well as a few more ones from other parts of this trip that I haven’t yet blogged. And post-trip, I will continue to be blogging on a more regular basis.

To all of you who have been following along on our adventure, thank you! I’ve loved receiving your encouraging comments and sharing this trip through my photography with you.

Ciao!

Positano

After a rather long day of travel, we arrived in Positano late yesterday afternoon. Positano is located on the Amalfi Coast and is a very popular tourist destination in the summer. Being winter, it is very quiet with many hotels and restaurants closed for the season. After being in Venice where you could spend weeks exploring every street and canal, Positano is very small and it doesn’t take long to see all that there is to see. The town is built on a very rugged hillside and many of the streets in Positano are in fact stairs (we discovered when we arrived that our hotel wasn’t in fact on a street but at the top of a set of stairs!). Similarly to Manarola in Cinque Terre, it is somewhat mind boggling to think how the original occupants constructed Positano given such a steep and remote hillside. However, it is a beautiful place to visit and I’m glad that the first residents of Positano went to so much effort!

We spent a few hours today wandering around, photographing the sites and enjoying a bit of a picnic lunch by the water. Here are a few photographs from today’s exploration of Positano.

Positano-2

 

Positano-1

 

Apart from the beach, the only real “tourist attraction” in Positano is the church – the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. Here is an image inside the church…

 

Positano-3

 

There are several mosaic artworks around the outside of the church.

Positano-4

And here is the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. The dome is made of tiles and is quite impressive to look at.

Positano-6

Positano-5

Positano-7

Positano-8

This afternoon the sun decided to pop out for five minutes and we were able to photograph Positano bathed in some golden sunshine. This image was taken from the balcony of our hotel room. As you can see, it is a spectacular view and would be perfect in summer –  I can imagine spending many hours on the balcony, soaking up the view with a good book in hand. Unfortunately the weather at the moment is not conducive to those kinds of activities. I guess we will just have to come back during the summer!

Positano-9

Even though it isn’t summer and we can’t enjoy swimming in the crystal clear water or soaking up the sun on our balcony, it has been great to visit Positano. It is a beautiful part of Italy and the benefit of visiting during winter is that there are hardly any other tourists around.

Tomorrow we are off to the island of Capri for four nights. We will make our way to Sorrento tomorrow morning and will catch a ferry over to Capri. Similarly to Positano, Capri isn’t very big and much of it will be closed for the winter, so I’m looking forward to a bit of R&R before we head home next Thursday. I’ll be sure to post an update from Capri with lots of photographs from our adventures there.

Venice – Part 2

After our big day exploring Burano yesterday, today was much quieter. The fog that we awoke to yesterday remained but that didn’t stop us from getting out and meandering through the streets of Venice. Earlier today we were chatting to the lady working on reception in our B&B and she said that the fog was caused by warmer winter temperatures. Apparently if it is colder, the sky is usually clear as there isn’t enough heat to condense the moisture in the air.

Fun fog facts aside, here are a few photographs from today’s exploration. We did quite a bit of walking, venturing from our B&B just behind St Mark’s Square, across the Rialto Bridge, over to the Accademia and then back to St Mark’s Square. Here is the view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge:

Venice-Part2-1

 

Venice-Part2-2

 

Venice-Part2-3

Venice-Part2-4

Venice-Part2-5

And finally, the view across to San Giorgio Maggiore through the fog…

Venice-Part2-6

Our time in Venice is just about over now as we leave early tomorrow for the next leg of our trip. Prior to arriving here in Venice, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that excited – I was keen to revisit Burano but wasn’t looking forward to the crowds, however, I’m so glad that we included Venice in our itinerary. The crowds haven’t been too bad and as I wrote in Part 1, there is something so magical about Venice, even in the fog. Ian discovered that Emirates flies direct to Venice (via Dubai) so we’ve already started dreaming of our next visit, perhaps incorporating the Greek Islands? But then we’d love to revisit Cinque Terre and Provence as well…looks like there is lots more travel on our horizon 🙂

Tomorrow we have a big day of travel, involving a variety of transportation! We will start with a ferry back to the train station, followed by almost 5 hours of train travel to get us to Naples, which will then be followed by a shuttle bus to Positano. I’m looking forward to a quieter day sitting on the train tomorrow – we have done a lot of walking over the last three days! I also can’t wait to get to Positano. I’ve never been there but have seen many photographs and it is another spectacular place that I cannot wait to explore and photograph. The weather in Positano is also a bit warmer and sunnier, so that will be a pleasant change after the cold and fog.

Sadly tomorrow is the start of our final week in Italy and of this trip! I can’t believe that we are so close to the end now and it seems to be approaching rather quickly, however, when I think back to the start of our trip in Nice and Provence, that seems like a really long time ago (it was 5 weeks ago). We still have some fantastic places to visit on this trip – Positano and then Capri, so there is plenty to look forward to. As much as I’ve loved this trip and wish it could continue, I am looking forward to getting home and back into a normal routine. As I mentioned in my New Year post, I’ve set myself some big goals for this year so I’m keen to get stuck into achieving them. Stay tuned for my next post from the beautiful Amalfi Coast!

Burano

I had the opportunity to visit the island of Burano on my previous trip to Italy and it was love at first sight. The brightly coloured houses were a delight to photograph and I could have spent the whole day exploring the island (you can read about my previous visit here). Unfortunately my first visit only lasted around 2 hours, most of which was taken up by lunch in one of the many seafood restaurants. It was a great meal but didn’t allow much time for exploring the island afterwards. When planning to visit Venice on this trip, Burano was at the top of our list of places to visit and we made sure that we had plenty of time to spend on Burano. After a spectacular day weather-wise on Monday and with a favourable forecast for Tuesday, I was readily anticipating my return visit to Burano.

We awoke bright and early on Tuesday morning in order to beat the crowds to Burano and discovered that unfortunately the weather wasn’t going to be on our side – the fog had rolled in and didn’t look as if it were going to dissipate any time soon. Regardless of the fog, I was still looking forward to revisiting Burano and was keen to see the different dimension the fog would present (photographically).

It was certainly worth the early start as the island was pretty much devoid of tourists when we arrived – it was only the locals who were out and about. It didn’t take long to recognise some of the streets that I walked along on my last trip and we reached the spot where I took one of my all-time favourite photographs – one which I still use as a desktop wallpaper image today. Here is a comparison of the same scene – the one on the left was photographed in April 2010 while the one on the right was photographed yesterday:

IMG_1326_edit

It was interesting to notice that a couple of the houses had undergone a colour change and obviously it wasn’t as spectacular to photograph it in the fog, but to me it didn’t diminish it too much – the colours were still just as beautiful and the fog added quite an interesting mood to the images. I hope you enjoy some of my favourite images of Burano (this is just a small selection – I took a lot of photos yesterday!)…

Burano-2

Burano-3

Burano-4

Burano-5

I love the range of colours in this little street…

Burano-6

There were lots of interesting details to photograph in addition to the houses.

Burano-7

I thought that it was rather optimistic that people had hung their washing out to dry. It wasn’t at all warm and the mist added quite a lot of dampness to the atmosphere!

Burano-8

Burano-9

Burano-10

Burano-11

Burano-12

Burano-13

Burano-14

You can just make out the bell tower through the fog in the following photo. The tower has quite a lean to it!

Burano-15

Burano-16

Burano-17

Burano-18

Burano-19

Burano-20

By this stage we had been wandering around for about an hour and a half and I was starting to feel the cold. I stopped to take a photograph, took my lens cap off and as my hands were a little numb, clumsily dropped my lens cap where it bounced on the footpath and then rolled into a canal. I don’t think I could think of a better place to lose a lens cap – I’ll happily think of it sitting at the bottom of a canal in Burano (and wishing that I was still there…although not at the bottom of a canal!).

Burano-21

Burano-22

Burano-23

Burano-24

Burano-25

Burano-26

Burano-27

Burano-28

Burano-29

Burano-30

Burano-31

Burano-32

When researching the best way to get to Burano I came across a blog post mentioning that one of Jamie Oliver’s favourite restaurants was on Burano and that it was definitely worth a visit. Fortunately the restaurant – Trattoria al Gatto Nero – was open and I was able to make a reservation for lunch. I had deliberately not eaten anything after breakfast so that I would have a good appetite for an awesome lunch. Trattoria al Gatto Nero certainly did not disappoint – if you ever find yourself on Burano, make sure you pay Gatto Nero a visit! Here’s a shot of the restaurant:

Burano-33

My handsome date for lunch:

Burano-34

Primi – Tagliolini alla Grancevole (Tagliolini with Spider Crab). Oh my goodness, it was delicious and worth every cent of the €$25 per person that it cost (my mouth is watering just looking at these photos…if only photos could capture scents)!

Burano-35

Secondi – Grigliata Mista (Mixed Fish Grill). Also delicious and some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten! I commented to Ian that if this was the last meal I ever eat, I’d be more than happy with that. The fish actually came out from the kitchen whole (bones and all) and the waiter very skilfully (and swiftly) deboned it for me, using only a spoon and fork. Ian recorded a video of it – hopefully he will be able to post it online so that you can marvel at the skill and precision of the waiter!

Burano-36

Even the packets of sugar were customised for Trattoria al Gatto Nero!

Burano-37

After lunch we did a little more exploring of Burano before we decided that we had seen (and photographed) everything and that the fog wasn’t likely to disintegrate into a beautifully sunny day (which it didn’t). Here are a few more photographs of what we saw…

Burano-38

Burano-39

Burano-40

I’ll end with one of my favourite shots from the day – I love how the scene fades off into the fog.

Burano-41

I loved my return visit to Burano and will happily return again some time in the future. It was a little unfortunate that the weather wasn’t quite on our side but at the same time, I loved the misty dimension that the fog provided. We didn’t have to worry about harsh shadows caused by the sun and there was no bright blue sky to compete with the gorgeous colours of the houses. Burano is a place that has well and truly captured my heart (and now also one of my lens caps!) and it was even better to explore it with Ian by my side.