Amsterdam

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Here is the final (finally) post on the British Isles Cruise – and not a minute (er, week) too soon. In just a couple weeks we are off again to another Mediterranean adventure, this time in Spain and along Italy”s northeast coast. So, more to come in the not too distant future. In the meantime, this one is a couple days late. We have just begun a major renovation project in our Florida home, and the main part of the house will be – at times – inaccessible, making my computer difficult to reach. Stay tuned …..

Amsterdam was our port of departure from the ship, and so we had to disembark, and get our luggage to our motel near the airport for our flight out the next morning. We were all pretty tired and we purposely had not made any plan for tours that day. Instead, we went down to the center city and walked around. Amsterdam has always kind of been known as the “anything goes” city, and we at least had to stroll down the “Red Light” district, and walk around to see the marijuana dispensaries. It is a pretty wild scene. And we were there during the day. I can only imagine how it ramps up after dark. In that part of the city, you can smoke in any of the bars, and there are shops everywhere, so that the smell of marijuana smoke was pretty obvious, as we walked though that part of the city. As you can see, even though we have now “legalized” canabis in many of the states here in the U.S., we have a lot of “catching up” to do to get even close to the marketing now done in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In spite of all the craziness, most of the city is comprized of things you would expect to see in many other European cities. Along with Bruges, Amsterdam is considered part of the “Venice” of the north. Situated along the eastern shore of a peninsula which separates the North Sea from a large, protected inlet (Markermeer and Ijsselmeer – “meer” translates roughly from Dutch as “broad” or “large” lake), eventually feeding a large canal that ultimately crosses the entire peninsula and empties into the North Sea (at the very northeastern end of the English Channel). This allow for an impressive canal system within the city, and it is known for its Dutch Architecture lined canals. The buildings all have “false front” gables, and in general, each individual gable has its own characteer, distinguishing it from the adjoining buildings.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There are also some rather grand buildings in the main downtown area of Amsterdam, as well as a couple very striking museums and other municipal buildings, replete with flowers and fountains one might expect in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Like most larger cities, there are also some quiet back streets that border the busier areas, with local bars, and restaurants.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

One thing that kind of stood out to me what how much less ostentatious most residents are with their modes of transportation. Though we saw alot of this throughout Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands, the bicycle was an extremely popular mode of transportation. This was more prevalent in Amsterdam than in the other places.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I also noticed that Amsterdam seems to have a firm commitment to alternative energy sources. There were charging stations for electric vehicles available right in the downtown area.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam appears to be a significant hub for flights and connections throughout Europe, and I suspect we will be their again – perhaps for a longer period of time. I will Look forward to that, based on our very short time there.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges

Bruges, Belgium

We ancitipated Bruges, which our research touted to be “The beer capital of the world.” We had a 1/2 day tour scheduled at the beginning, which in addition to some historic sites and buildings, was to also include some chocolate and beer tasting. Belgium is know for its chocolate, its waffles, and its beer. Unfortunately, we recieved a call from our guide who was driving from Brussels, as we waited out by the cruise terminal. He was tied up in traffic from a major accident and it didn’t look good that he would be arriving any time soon. We ultimately cancelled and took a taxi into the city. Even though it doesn’t seem far on the map, it was a good 1/2 hour drive, and during that time our driver – whose English was excellent (though his native language is Dutch), gave us some historical context.

Port of ZeeBrugge
Burges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges, was perhaps one of the earliest Belgian cities, rising in medieval times and becoming a major trade center at the Renaissance emerged. It was strategically located near the sea (our port of call was Zeebrugge, which means “Bruges by the Sea”).

The Markt
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There is a continuous canal from the port in to the center of the city. Its most prominent feature is the Markt, a large oval plaza, surrounded by colorful and impressive architecture; today mostly retail establishments catering largely to tourists. Our cab driver dropped us off on a quiet street directly behind the Markt and we made arrangement for him to pick us up and return us to the cruise port later that afternoon. As we walked into the open plaza, it became immediately obvious that this was a photogenic scene. Lining the plaza on one side are some very colorful buildings with Dutch Colonial architecture, belying strong Dutch influence. There are some pretty impressive historic buildings, including a belfry that dates back to 1240, once the center of the town on the other perimeters.

The Markt
Brussels, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Belfry is about 272 feet high and it towers over the surrounding buildings.

The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
The Belfry of Bruges
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges City Hall also faces the Markt and is an impressive building.

Bruges City Hall
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

WWe arrived between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., to a city that – surprisingly – had not seemed to have awoken yet. We walked around some of the surrounding streets where there were no vehicles, few people, and shops that had yet to open.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Bruges is also a city with numerous canals, and has been referred to as the Venice of the North. Having spent a fair amount of time in Venice, I can say that while the canals in Bruges (and Amsterdam) are impressive and lie in beautiful surroundings, they are very different from the canals of Venice. Notably, there are automobiles everywhere. Having said that, I will be among the first to agree that Bruges’ canals are photogenic.

Rozenhoedkaai Canal
Bruge, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Canal
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Indeed, canal tours are among the most popular thing to do in Bruges, and certainly afford a great way to see the city.

Canal Tour Boad
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In addition to tasting some of the local brew and chocolate, we did walk around the old city and saw a few other nice sights as we walked.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ultimately, we found some beer, we found some chocolate, and we ended up a nice, rather relaxing day in Bruges at Cuvee Wine Bar, where we had a couple nice wines, and some cheeses and meats, before heading back to the cruise port. Back at the cruise port, as we sat on the back bar enjoying the late sun, a drink and the sail-away, I wasn’t sure whether to feel safe, or threatened, given that the ship moored directly behind us was most certainly not a pleasure cruiser. It appears that they make them a bit smaller than we do stateside. 🙂

Military Aircraft Carrier
Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The 7-Year Itch?

A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image
A solid support is crucial to sharpness and detail in this early morning light image

There is an old thought about relationships known as the “seven-year-itch” (something about getting an itch to try something new in the 7th year, which ultimately in most cases, terminates the former relationship). Before anyone gets alarmed, I have been happily married for 30 plus years now – that 7-year thing is well behind us. 🙂

Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont Copyright 2010  Andy Richards
Craftsbury Common, Craftsbury, Vermont
Copyright 2010 Andy Richards

But, just trying to come up with a clever title for this blog, it came to mind. Next month, I will have been writing this blog for 7 years. So this coming year could be the year I decide it’s over and move on. Given my history, I probably won’t. Besides, I really enjoy writing this thing (the opening image is my very first posted image here).

Stone House; Manassas Virginia Copyright  Andy Richards  2010
Stone House; Manassas Virginia
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

I really enjoy writing this thing

In the winter of 2008, I began a series of “tutorial” e-mails to one of my sisters who had taken up DSLR photography. I was trying to explain the technical aspects of exposure, depth of field, etc. to her in steps. About the same time, a friend from Vermont began to ask questions about her point and shoot camera, and shortly, she acquired her own DSLR.

Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia  copyright 2011  Andy Richards
Glade Creek Gristmill; Babcock SP, West Virginia copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Between the two of them, and some others, I spent a fair amount of time writing and editing and responding to questions and clarifying, and it dawned on me that maybe I should save these “writings” (mainly so I wouldn’t have to re-create them later). About that same time, I hired a company to create a photography website for me to showcase my own images. The idea of a blog seemed a natural follow-up and since everybody was doing it, and there was no cost to set it up, I decided to give it a whirl.

Bernard Maine copyright  Andy Richards 2009
Bernard Maine
copyright Andy Richards 2009

I started the blog as a Google Blogger site, but migrated to WordPress a few months later, as WordPress seemed to offer both a more pleasing theme and more versatility for photographic blogging. Since moving to WordPress, the blog has had more than 50,000 views, and currently has 50 followers – not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening.

Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX Copyright Andy Richards  2010
Texas State Capitol, Austin, TX
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

not exactly “viral,” but nonetheless very heartening

Over time, the blog has gradually evolved from my “tutorial” writings (there is only so much of that, and mine were specifically “conversational,” and certainly not intended to compete with the myriad of books and website offerings by the professionals out there), to more of a combination of a travel images blog and the occasional philosophical or political musing, with the stray tutorial thrown it. I have also spent some time reviewing equipment – primarily that which I have owned or used.

Ketchikan, Alaska Copyright  Andy Richards  2010
Ketchikan, Alaska
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

Perusing my “offerings” from the beginning, I was amazed to see the territory covered. Since the first writing, I have traveled and photographed fairly extensively in the United States, including (in addition to my home state of Michigan – upper and lower peninsulas and my new “home” away from home state of Florida) Texas, Alaska, San Francisco and Northern California; Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks from Jackson Hole, Wyoming; Virginia, West Virginia; New Mexico; Minnesota; Acadia National Park and surrounds in Maine and Vermont.

Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN Copyright Andy Richards  2010
Split Rock Light; North Shore, Lake Superior, MN
Copyright Andy Richards 2010

It has gotten harder to do this

I have Traveled out of the country to Canada, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and Greece, as well as 3 trips to the Caribbean. In 2015, we will travel to Japan, the Mediterranean again; and I will go to Vermont again in the fall. So hopefully, there are many more images to come. In some of the places that I have visited multiple times, the challenge will be doing something unique.

Chili Ristra, New Mexico   copyright 2008  Andy Richards
Chili Ristra, New Mexico copyright 2008 Andy Richards

There have been some milestones over the 7 years. In March of 2010, I bid a bittersweet goodbye to my best buddy and fellow shooter and traveler, Rich, whose career took a sharp left turn, as he moved away from Michigan. While we knew we would try to stay in touch, it was not certain that we would. Over the following year, we did. Then, to my great delight, his career took yet another turn and he moved back here to Michigan. We will live to shoot another day!

San Francisco Night Skyline  copyright 2011  Andy Richards
San Francisco Night Skyline copyright 2011 Andy Richards

As I looked for images that seemed to make an impression on me from the places I visited, it ocurrs to me that 2010 was a huge travel and photography year for me in the U.S.

Copyright 2012  Andy Richards
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

the challenge will be doing something unique

I cannot even count how many times I have mentioned the word “Nikon” in my blog. I have been a loyal Nikon user for thirty plus years. As my more recent blogs have noted, I have completely moved to another name and system in the past few months. I still think Nikon makes top quality DSLR bodies and lenses. But they haven’t moved toward the mirrorless system in a way that fits my thinking.

City Center Rome, Italy Copyright 2013  Andy Richards
City Center
Rome, Italy
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

On a couple occasions, I mentioned New Year’s resolutions in my late December posts. In one case, in 2011, I noted that I don’t make them (because I don’t keep them). In 2012 I made one (and didn’t keep it).

Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Copyright 2012  Andy Richards
Oxbow Bend; Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Copyright 2012 Andy Richards

It has gotten harder to do this. I still enjoy it, but inspiration for subjects or topics are tougher to come by.  For those who have read, followed and commented over the past 7 years, I am very grateful. I will be traveling again in the next couple weeks, and so may not be consistent with my weekly input. I guess it is one of the nice things about the nature of a personal blog. I can post when I want to.  🙂

The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola Copyright 2013  Andy Richards
The quintessential symbol of Venice is, of course, the Gondola
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Until next time ……….

Venice Outliers

Murano has been known for its Glass Making industry since the 13th Century Copyright 2013  Andy Richards
Murano has been known for its Glass Making industry since the 13th Century
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

The administrative region in Italy known as Venice is popularly thought to be that compact area where over 100 small islands, interconnected by canals, lies. However, there is part of Venice on the mainland of Italy, as well as a number of other islands. Two of are particular note. Murano is world – famous for it glassmaking.

Murano, like the main “island” of Venice, is actually a (much smaller) series of islands interconnected with canals and bridges. At one time Murano was its own administrative municipal division, but is now part of Venice. Originally a fishing village settled by the Romans, in the 13th century, all of the glass makers in Venice were forced to move to Murano, due to the risk of fires from their foundries. In the ensuing years, Murano became Europe’s primary exporter of glass – particularly glass beads, mirrors and later the famous lighting and chandeliers is may be now best known for. Murano glass (and “fakes” if you are not vigilant) is found in many of the shops on the island of Venice today. The glassmakers are talented and produce many tourist items such as figurines, bowls, plates, vases, and jewelry.  Murano also houses the very small, but fascinating glass museum.

The Talented Artists in Murano's Glass Factories seem to be able to make nearly any figure or shape Copyright 2013  Andy Richards
The Talented Artists in Murano’s Glass Factories seem to be able to make nearly any figure or shape
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

The Venice vapporetto system has several stops on the island of Murano, which is only about 1 1/2 kilometers North of Venice, in the Venetian Lagoon. We traveled over there 2 times, on our multi-day vapporetto passes. Like all of Venice, its ubiquitous canals and boats, as well as the unique architechture, is familiar to a visitor who has already spent some time in Venice.

But for its colorfully painted buildings, Burano would be just another back street or canal of Venice Copyright 2013  Andy Richards
But for its colorfully painted buildings, Burano would be just another back street or canal of Venice
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Burano, probably settled near the same time, again, probably by the Romans, became famous, early on for it cloth, and particularly, lace and lace-making. Further away from Venice, and much small that Murano (Wikipedia describes Burano as an archipelago of only 4 islands, again separated by canals and connect by bridges. Like Venice and Murano, there is no vehicular traffic on Burano. We visited one afternoon (it has its own vapporetto stop), and walked along the quieter streets and wandered into some of the shops to see the lace, even making a small, “touristic” purchase for a friend here at home.

Burano is known by artists for its colorfully painted structures Copyright 2013  Andy Richards
Burano is known by artists for its colorfully painted structures
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

For the photographer, what Burano is better known for, is its colorfully painted buildings lining the streets and canals. Aside from this color, it would be hard to differentiate Burano from many of the small side streets in Venice. But the color is splendid and makes it very photogenic. I am also told it is popular with painters.