Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Photo Club in Cefalu

This past Saturday the Sigonella Photography Club went to Cefalu, one of my favorite towns in Sicily. Many of the photo club members hadn't been there before so I was happy to introduce them to the area.  The day started off beautiful and sunny.  When we arrived we all went our own directions to explore with plans to meet up again for lunch.

Medieval Washroom

Medieval Washroom

Gatti Siciliani - I have no idea what they were looking at!

A tower of the Duomo

Inside the cloisters of the duomo

Inside the cloisters, looking up at a tower of the duomo

Entry of the duomo

We met up with the rest of the group for lunch at a kebab shop that we had seen on our drive into town.  It was delicious!  I love Italian food but the chance to get something other than Italian is always a treat!  After lunch we stuck together as a group.  We went in search of gelato and took a few more photos along the way.

Piazza Reflection

After gelato we were contemplating which direction to go next.  I took a look at the sky and it was starting to look a bit ominous. I suggested that we meander our way back in the general direction of the cars because it looked like it could rain soon.

Perhaps 15 minutes later we felt the first sprinkles which soon became a substantial rain.  Instead of meandering we starting walking with purpose back to the cars.  Although the day was cut a tiny bit short because of the weather we had a great day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day Two in Venezia

On our second day in Venice Les had some work to do so I headed into town on my own.  I decided to check out San Giorgio in Isola, one of the islands in the lagoon.  It is home to the San Giorgio Maggiore church which was designed by Andrea Palladio which houses famous paintings by Tintoretto, and has magnificent views of the rest of Venice from the bell tower.

San Giorgio Maggiore

Tintoretto's (1518-1594) Manna from Heaven

Choir area behind the main alter

Tintoretto's Last Supper

Main Alter of San Giorgio Maggiore, topped with a bronze globe of the world

Statue of an angel that once stood atop the bell tower
Made of wood in the 18th century, destroyed by lightening in 1993 & pieced back together.  The angel that now stands on top of the bell tower is a replica.

After exploring the interior of the church I ascended the bell tower to take in the fantastic view of Venice.

Campanile, Doge's Palace, & Piazza San Marco

La Salute Church

A massive panorama, click on it to view the detail

Les called me soon after I'd finished my tour of San Giorgio Maggiore and said he was on his way.  I caught the next vaporetto to Piazza San Marco and did a bit of shopping and window shopping while I waited.

The window of a glass shop with a reflection of Basilica San Marco

Once Les joined me we grabbed panini to-go from a nearby cafe (a much cheaper way to eat in Venice) and then plopped ourselves down on the steps in the piazza to people watch and eat.  Once we finished we decided to visit the inside of the Basilica San Marco.  No pictures were allowed inside, but it was fantastic.  I wish I could have taken photos.  So beautiful!  The only photos I took were once we were out on the balcony overlooking the piazza.

La Quadriga (The Bronze Horses)
The orignals are actually inside the church now, these replicas stand atop the church's facade.

Torre dell'Orologio (The Clock Tower)

Piazza San Marco

Overlooking the Piazetta and out to the lagoon, the Doge's Palace is on the left

Detail of the Doge's Palace

A side door to the Basilica San Marco

Once we were finished at the Basilica we decided to follow another Rick Steves walking tour, this one from Piazza San Marco to San Zaccaria.

Church of San Zaccaria

The top of San Zaccaria's facade

Once we finished the Rick Steves walk we just meandered for a few hours.  Venice is perfect for getting lost.  Its hard to keep track of its tiny streets that snake around with no apparent organization, and you can't get too lost, it is only an island!

Eventually we found ourselves in the part of town where the Venetians live.  It definitely had a more comfortable, lived in feel.  People were carrying grocery bags instead of cameras; stores sold fruits and vegies as opposed to scarves, purses, and glass; and there was an abundant amount of laundry drying balcony wash racks.

Our last day in Venice wound to a close.  We grabbed dinner at a place that turned out to be fantastic and reasonably priced (for Venice). I had a plate of tagliatelle with shrimp and zucchini and it was delicious.  We also got to chatting with a lady sitting at a table near us.  She was Venezuelan, worked in Rome for an American company, and was taking a few days holiday on her own.  I really enjoyed talking with her.

After dinner we contemplated taking a gondola ride, but after asking the price (100 euros) we decided not to.  They did come down to 70 euros after walked away, but I couldn't stomach paying more than 50, and already that is a lot of money.  We decided to get back on the Vaporetto, find an outdoor seat, and cruise the grand canal that way.  That was our gondola ride :) Much cheaper!  It was cold and windy but we enjoyed the ride.  Once we were chilled through we got off of the Vaporetto at the train station and headed back to our hotel.

The next morning it was time to pack up and head home.  We had a wonderful time in Venice.  I hope to go back again one day, but I figure I'm lucky to have been there twice now. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The most beautiful tourist trap in the world

So, where is the world's most beautiful tourist trap? Venice! Venezia! Yes, it is divinely beautiful, but overrun with so many tourists. For two days I was one of them.

This was my second trip to Venice, Les' first. I was there with my mom nine years ago. While the city itself hasn't changed much, the atmosphere has. It has become much more commercial and there are so many more people (many more visitors, fewer locals)!

For example, my mom and I visited during July of 2001, right smack dab in the middle of tourist season. It wasn't too bad, crowd wise. This time, however, I was somewhat shocked to see how many people were traveling in October. It has started getting cold and rainy, usually not peak tourist time; and yet the city felt a bit crowded at times.

And yet, with the crowds, I still loved Venice. I saw the city through new eyes this time. Nine years ago I wasn't into photography, my mom wasn't into it much back then either (now she is a fabulous photog!). We shared one point and shoot 35mm camera, got lots of pictures to remember our trip, but few of them were frame worthy, and those that were I'm certain she took. Needless to say, Venice looked a lot different through my viewfinder. I LOVED it!

Our first day in Venice was cold and windy. Les & I, being acclimated to the Sicilian weather, weren't quite prepared for the chill in the air. We bundled as best as we could and set off on the train to Venice.

Once we arrived we purchased our Vaporetto (water bus) tickets and set off towards Piazza San Marco. I took lots of pictures as we cruised down the Grand Canal.

Eventually we made it to Piazza San Marco. It had rained a bit on our trip down the Grand Canal, but it has mostly stopped by the time we got off the boat.

The Campanile

The Doge's Palace

Entryway to the Basilica San Marco

Basilica San Marco

We walked a short way around the Doge's Palace to see the Bridge of Sighs. What we saw made me a bit angry.

The Bridge of Sighs...covered with a Geox Ad

When I mentioned earlier that Venice was more commercial than I remembered this is a classic example.  Perhaps there was construction under all of that, but really, a Geox ad?  That is NOT what I came to Venice to see.

After that disappointment we made our way back through Piazza San Marco and went out the other end in search of some lunch.

We wandered some of the little streets and then stumbled on to Ristorante Bonvecchiati, a charming place on right next to a canal.  The prices on the menu weren't too bad, considering it was Venice so we went in.  We ordered our meals and house wine. The food was fantastic, as was the wine.  However, it turned out to be our most expensive meal of the entire vacation.   Let it be a warning that vino locale in Venice doesn't get you the inexpensive house wine!!  Yeah, our wine cost nearly as much as our food and nearly doubled what we had expected the bill to be.  Good thing the food & wine were delish and the atmosphere fabulous.  Here is what We had for lunch:

My yummy lunch

And Les' Yummy Lunch

After lunch we wandered our way back to Piazza San Marco where we visited the Doge's Palace.

Looking out from the Piazzetta at San Giorgio in Isola

While photography wasn't allowed inside the palace I took a lot of pictures in the courtyard.

Scala dei Giganti (Stairway of Giants)

Les & I explored the palace separately.  He likes the audioguides when they are available, I like to follow Rick Steve's tours in his books.  I finished up my tour about 15 minutes before Les did so I sat outside the gate and watched people and just enjoyed where I was.

I think this is my favorite picture from my time in Venice :)

After Les finished up in the Doge's palace we took a meandering route to the Rialto Bridge where we planned to grab a Vaparetto back to the train station and head to the hotel for dinner. On the way, of course, more pictures! :)

San Moise' Church
Since the Basilica has become more of a tourist attraction, this is where the Venetians worship.

Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Built in 1499, an external staircase for a palace

Eventually it was time to head back to the hotel.  We had a wonderful first day in Venice! One more day of vacation to go, I'll post those pictures & stories soon!