• Andy’s E-BOOK — Photography Travel Guides

  • PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS!!

    All Images and writing on this blog are copyrighted by Andy Richards. All rights are reserved. You may not, without my express, written permission, download, right click, or otherwise copy my images for any reason. Copying an image and putting it on your blog, website, or even as a screensaver on your computer is a breach of copyright, EVEN IF YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE! Please do not do so.
  • On This Blog:

  • Categories

  • Andy’s Photography Galleries

    Click Here To See My Gallery of Photographic Images

    LightCentric Photography

  • Andy's Flickr Photos

  • Prior Posts

  • Posts By Date

    December 2019
    M T W T F S S
    « Nov    
     1
    2345678
    9101112131415
    16171819202122
    23242526272829
    3031  

Eze; a Medieval Walled City

[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a higher quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]

Eze, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Between Nice and Monaco, there are two major roads along the coast; a coastal road and a high road. They are both at the base of the Alps, both along the Mediterranean coast. On the high road is the medieval city of Eze. My friends who know me well, often groan at my old school use of the pun. But I can’t help myself 🙂 . So today, we did “Nice-n-Eze.” Seriously, Eze is pronouced with a so-called “short” e (Ez). With the possible exception of a perfume factory, Eze today, is essentially a tourist attraction. There is a very exclusive hotel which overlooks the ocean, but it appears mainly occupied by the very wealthy.

Eze, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

A completely walled, medieval village, it is photogenic, but challenging, as the entire village, built up onto a mountainside, is made up of narrow, steep, walled streets. This creates very tall, narrow spaces, with lots of lighting variations; especially shadows. While a took a number of photos as we walked through the walled village, I only made a handful that I thought enough of to post here, so this may be one of the shortest posts I have ever made.

Eze, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We only spent a very short time here (maybe about an hour, before we were on to Monaco). At one time, Eze was a fortification because of its commanding view of the sea from the very highest point in the village. We did not climb all the way up this trip. As I write this blog entry, I can see it is not very inspired. I guess I just wasn’t “feeling” this one. I do think the village is worth at least a short trip and does afford some uniqued photographic opportunities.

The French Riviera – Nice

[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a higher quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

No, that is not a play on words. 🙂 It is fair to say, though, that Nice is indeed, “nice.” Our next port of call was Monte Carlo, in Monaco, along the French Riviera. We had a long day there with our tour guide taking us to Nice, Eze, and Monaco. There is enough material here for 3 posts, so I will cover only Nice in this first installment. Monte Carlo is not a deepwater port and cruise ships (except for the very small ones), must anchor out and tender their passengers in. As we were to learn a day later, depending on the weather, this can be a challenge. In our case, the seas were calm and our French guide met us on shore where the tender landed.

It is fair to say, though, that Nice is indeed, “nice”

Whenever I have heard the term “French Riviera,” (or just “the Riviera”), I have thought of the south coast of France, and notably, places like Monte Carlo, San Tropez, and Cannes. I never gave much thought to the word, its meaning, or its origins. Until our guide asked us what “riviera” meant. At the end of or cruise, we were headed to what has been referred to in our cruise literature as “The Italian Riviera.” I thought it was simply their way of saying: “hey, our Mediterranean coast is pretty spectacular too.” 🙂

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our guide informed us (nobody in our group seemed to know) that the word “riviera,” meant “where the mountains meet the sea.” My later research concludes that it is more general than that and refers to coastline (though most of the places it is used are certainly mountainous). And, it appears that the word “riviera,” is actually an Italian word. The French are more likely to refer to this spectacular area along the southern coast of France, as “Cote’ de Azur,” (or the Azure Coast). And from what we could see, when the sun shines, the Mediterranean is certainly a splendid azure color.

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There appears to be no lack of scenic seaports and spectacular view along this coast and I would like, someday, to explore much more of it. For this day, we only had time for Nice and Monte Carlo. As we drove out of Monaco and into France, toward Nice, we passed the picturesque coastal town of Villefranche. We drove by and there was no opportunity to photograph or explore, but it went onto my checklist of places to visit.

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Originally settled by Greeks around 350 BC,  the first settlement was called Nikaia (after the Greek god, Nike). At some point Nice became the part of Sardinia (an island slightly smaller than Sicily; now a political region of Italy). Thus its roots are substantially Italian and the Italian language was once its official language. Ownership see-sawed back and forth between France and Italy until the mid 1800’s, when it became – more or less permanently – French.

Nice, France
Copyright, Andy Richards

Nice is strategically located on the Cote’ de Azur, just 8 miles from Monaco, and only about 20 miles from the French/Italian border. It sits at the southern base of The Alps, making it a sought-after location for outdoor enthusiasts of all descriptions, as well as a popular mediterranean winter and vacation destination. In the late 1800’s, Nice began to catch the attention of an increasing population of Enlish aristocrats, who began to winter there.

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Along the seacost, there is a wide promenade, known as “Promenade des Anglais” (the walkway of the English), largely because of this large influx of English citizens (and of course, their currency). I am certain that many remember the evening of July 14, 2016, when a large cargo truck hurtled into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais. This senseless and horrific attack resulted in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others. Unfortunately, like many other strategically located European destinations, Nice was no stranger to terrorist attacks. In 2003 double bombs were set off in Nice’s regional directorates of customs and the treasury, injuring sixteen people. I fear that these misguided and truly senseless actions will not go away in my lifetime. As we travel in Europe, we are ever mindful (and often reminded) of the potential for unrest and possibly violence.

Promenade des Anglais;
Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As we walked along the old streets our guide pointed out some landmarks and characteristics of old Nice. La Maison Auer was reputed to be British Queen Victoria’s favourite (see what I did there? 🙂 ) Chocolate Shop. Inside was very small, but with a generous selection of confections. We didn’t succumb to temptation (mainly because the tempuratures make it difficult to preserve it during the remainder of the day).

La Maison Auer Chocolate Shop;
Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We also learned that when many of the old buildings were constructed, owners did not always have the economic ability to install windows, balconies or doors on the building sides, and in an attempt to make it look stately, many of them were painted on, as seen in this building.

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The seventh largest city in France (and second only to Marseilles along the French Riviera), Nice has a population of about 1 million. We saw very little of what must be a relatively large geographical municipality. Because of its continued popularity as a vacation and tourist destination, Nice’s airport is the third busiest in France, only after the two Parisian airports.

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We spent our entire time there in the part of the city known as “Old Nice.” You would never dream that this was part of a 1 million population city. There is an engaging outdoor produce and flower market that stretches several blocks down the main street. On review, my images of the market were made mostly in poor light (and after the shots taken in other cities of the world – notably Venice – seem like more of the same, so my only image to show is the stack of flowers seen here).

Outdoor Market
Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

 

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There were, as has been our experience in most of Europe, many old streets with old architecture. The old city is clean, and seems safe. We walked around, spent some time at the market, and then took a break for some cappucino at a street front cafe along the market place before heading to our next destination, the medieval city of Eze.

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Mid-morning, our guide turned us loose for some time to explore on our own. After walking the streets for a bit, we found a cafe on the street next to the marketplace for some cappucino, wifi, and people watching. It seemed like a nice, quiet place to have a cup, and catch up. Do people actually read the paper these days? 🙂

Nice, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

Our Return to Barcelona

[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a higher quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]

Port of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In 2015, we started a Mediterranean Cruise in Barcelona. It was our first cruise with our friends, Paul and Linda, and we had a lot of fun, getting to know each other even better, and seeing the sights and enjoying the food an drink along the way. We would cruise again together, soon. As we like to do, we flew into Barcelona, a couple days early, spending 2 nights in a hotel in the heart of Barcelona, along Avenue Diagonal, not far from the bustling “heart” of Barcelona’s Gothic Center.

Park Guell
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our trip, unfortunately, began with some rainy weather, and our scheduled trip to Park Guell, a UNESCO “Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” was pretty much a washout.  Park Guell was originally founded by wealthy Barcelona resident in 1900, Eusebi Guell, to build what perhaps we would today call a “suburban planned development,” away from the metropolis of Barcelona. Friends with famed and popular Barcelona architecht, Antoni Gaudi, Guell commissioned Gaudi to design the park. The Park originally provided for 60 small building plots on which Guell envisioned English Estate style estate homes would be built. In addition, there would be a marketplace, a large viaduct to bring water, buildings to house carriages and vehicles, a common field for athletic and other activities, all in a very nature-oriented park-like setting. By 1914, it had become evident to the developers that the project was not economically viable. After Guell’s death the city of Barcelona purchased the grounds and in 1926, opened it as a park. Only two homes would ever be built. The other buildings were mostly completed or in various stages.

Park Guell
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Shortly after we arrived in the park in 2015, the skies opened up and a torrential downpour ensued. Huddled with perhaps several hundred other visitors under the roof of the marketplace, we watch rivers of water run down the stairs. It became quickly obvious to us that this would not be our day in the park. So in 2015, we again scheduled a visit, with a guided tour of the grounds. The tour was very interesting and I would recommend it-and a visit to the park-to anyone visting Barcelona. However, I quickly discovered it was not very amenable to serious photography. There were crowds, protective railings, construction, and many naturally obstructed views. If you are spending time in Barcelona, I would rate this as a medium on your “must-see” things to do (especially if you are interested in Antoni Gaudi). But photographically, plan for a few snapshots and just enjoy the visit to the park and learning experience. :-).

Mosaic Tiles
Park Guell
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We were docked in Barcelona overnight, so we booked a walking history/tapas tour of the Gothic quarter. We recalled fondly, the tapas walking tour we took back in 2015 and were really looking forward to this one. Unlike our prior tour, it has a nice mix of history of the Gothic part of the old city, and food and drink. The Gothic Quarter is, we are told, where pretty much everything in terms of the social, bar, restaurant and entertainment experience happens in Barcelona. Walking around that evening, in addition to tasting some pretty good tappas foods and wines, we saw a lot of really inviting small restaurants along the quiet side streets. It really looks like we will need to go back and do some bar-hopping and eating there. I have always been impressed with how cities like Barcelona and Venica have managed to mix modern societal demand with the old Gothic traditions and architecture.

Montserrat
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Montserrat
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Partly because we had been to Barcelona for a few days previously, we decided to join a tour outside of the city, to Montserrat, a Benedictine Abbey which is set some 4000 feet about sea level, the highest point near Barcelona. According to the website, Wikitravel, Monserrat is perhaps the most important religious retreat in Catalonia, and groups of young people from throughout the region make overnight hikes at least once in their lives to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. The peak can be reached by funicular from the Abbey and the views are said to be spectacular. During this trip, we visited a couple Monasteries. When I read about Montserrat being referred to as an Abbey, I became curious. Perhaps the devout Catholics among you already knew this, but even after living 62 plus years, having various college degrees, being reasonably well-read and traveled, I did not know the difference between a Monastery and an Abbey. Wikipedia, once again, to the rescue 🙂 . An Abbey is a complex of buildings, whereas a monastery is generally one building. When you visit Montserrat, it becomes obvious, as there is much more than just a cathedral and/or housing for the monks.

View from Montserrat
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright ANdy Richards 2019

We were there during some significant demonstrations by a group espousing Catalonian independence (from Spain and from the European Union), which was causing severe and possibly dangerous travel conditions, and our tour guide was understandably nervous about the situation. He cut our tour short and we did not have time to take the funicular, or to see all of the other things there, including a museum and the famed “Black Madonna.” Montserrat (meaning “serrated mountains”) is also said to house the oldest (still working) publishing house in the world. We know we will be back to Barcelona in the future and we agreed we will take another day to visit Montserrat again; hopefully at greater leisure. We did have the pleasure of hearing the boy’s choir, a relatively famous choir, sing before we departed. But for this time, our guide proved to be prescient. We arrived back at the ship around 3:00 p.m. and joined some newfound friends on the back deck bar. Only shorly after (mabye an hour) some other new friends arrived and told us of their adventures on shore. We had just missed complete traffic gridlock by a half hour.

Port of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The overnight docking gave a rare opportunity to do some night and very early morning shooting.

Port of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Port of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Barcelona has a lot to offer, and is a draw for us and we know we will be back to spend more time there in the near future.

Next Stop: Mallorca

[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a much better quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]

Peurto de Palma
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our next port of call was the Mallorcan city of Palma (Palma de Mallorca). Malllorca (Catalonian)or Majorca (English), is Latin for (and very loosely translated) the larger island (major). Mallorca is the largest island (and the second most populous) island of the Spanish Islands in the Mediterranean. European government is much older than our system of states in the U.S. There is significanly more history involved in them too – thousands of years (instead of a couple hundred in the U.S.). Spain is divided up into a number of “autonymous regions,” This apparently means at least a certain degree of self governance, while still being part of the Nation of Spain. Mallorca is part of the autonymous region called The Balearic Islands.

Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

From our travels we have learned that the Mediterranean region has seemingly endless islands that are very popular tourist and vacation destinations for citizens throughout Europe. The wonderful climate and geography certainly combines to make that the case. And Mallorca is clearly another favorite vacation destination for Europeans – with it share of pretty wealthy citizens. It is notable that the Spanish Royal Family maintains a vacation Palace there. We saw evidence of this wealth both in the port and in many of the homes in the City of Palma. Of course there were also many more indicators of moderate income citizens. We really only saw the city center, near the port.

Port of Palma
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our tour for the day involved a trip to Valldemossa, and then just a visit to the Cathedral de Mallorca. Afterward, we walked around the city center, and stopped to eat in one of the side-street restaurants, sampling the local version of tapas.

Village of Valldemossa
Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Valldemossa is a village in Mallorca, dating back before the 13th century. It is perhaps most noted for the Carthusian Monastery (The Valldemossa Charterhouse) built in the 13th century. The monastery was originally built as a royal palace. In 1399 it was converted into a monastery by the Carthusian Monks.

Charterhouse, Valldemossa
Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Charterhouse was known as a place of refuge. In 1838, composere and musician, Frederic Chopin, who was ill, traveled to Mallorca on the advice of his doctors, for a climate less harsh than his native Poland. After having difficulty finding quarters in Palma, he ultimately spent a winter (1838-39) in Valledmossa, living in part of the Charterhouse, with his mistress, the French writer, Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (perhaps better known by her pseudonmym, “George Sand”).

Depiction of Monk at Work
Charterhouse
Valldemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Much of the Monastery today, houses historical information about Chopin. At the time, it was widely believed that Chopin suffered from Tuberculosis, and the local residents gave him a rather wide berth and cool reception. Chopin did compose a substantial amount of music while in residence there. Today, there is a daily piano performance of his music, which we were able to enjoy.

Sanctuary
Valldemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I was able to find some nice “small spaces” to photograph in and around the Monastery.

Monastery Courtyard
Valldemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Monastery Garden
Valldemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Monastery Grounds
Valledemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Monastery
Valldemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After touring the Monastery, we spent some free time along the little village streets and enjoyed some local cappucino and Ensaïmada, a traditional sweet bread which is very popular on Mallorca.

Cafe, Valldemossa
Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Valldemossa
Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Residences
Valldemossa, Mallorca
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We traveled back to Palma, to visit the Catedral de Palma, a Catalan Gothic style Cathedral. The cathedral was begun by King James I of Aragon in 1229, on the site of a Moorish-era mosque. It is an impressive structure, and one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Like so many of the cathedrals we have visited in Europe, the Catedral de Palma was a work-in-progress. Not completed until 1601, a restoration was begun in the mid-1800’s. After some 50 years of “restoration,” it was still incomplete, and the owners contracted with famed Barcelona architect, Antoni Gaudi to complete the work. It is very interesting to tour this cathedral and see the original Gothic architecture, the more modern European modified “Gothic” work, and the unique influences of Gaudi. As I wrote shortly after our 2015 Barcelona visit, Gaudi’s work embraced nature and natural shapes and forms. Looking at his works in Barcelona, it difficult to fine a straight line anywhere. Some of this is evident in very subtle ways in the Catedral de Palma. In 1914, Gaudi abandonned the project, after an argument with the contractor. There may have been some egos involved. 🙂

Catedral de Palma
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Catedral de Palma
Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After walking the city streets for a while, we stopped for lunch.

 

Palma de Mallorca
Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After lunch, we headed back to our ship, and on to our next destination: Barcelona. Our return after our extended visit there in 2015 was much anticipated and would prove to be an adventure.

Palma de Mallorca
Mallorca, Spain
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Here We Go Again: Capri, Italy

[Clicking on an image opens it in a new tab with a much better quality image and view. I encourage you to do that]

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We seem to have ramped up our travel. This was our second trip to Europe in just a few months, both in 2019. I think we are done for this year. 🙂

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I suppose every one is different, but this was a different cruise for us. In all but 2 other instances (we are “seasoned” travelers now, with 9 cruises and 2 other trips abroad over that past few years), we had friends traveling with us. This time we struck out on our own. And this time, we had fun, making the acquaintance of a number of other couples, from Europe, Australia, and the U.S. We almost always have a full “event” schedule on these cruises. This time, although we did join a few tours, a lot of the time was spent exploring and wandering on our own. This was true in Capri (as it was at the end, in La Spezia).

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

A number of our ports did not necessarily have major “destination” or “must-see” things, which made it perhaps more interesting. Our first port was Naples. We have spent a fair amount of time in Naples during each of our Mediterranean Cruises, and felt like we had seen the highlights, including the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento. We have not been to Pompei (maybe next time). But I had alway heard that the Isle of Capri was beautiful, as well as being a known playground for the so-called “rich and famous.” So I wanted to see what it was all about.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

With no particular agenda, we bought ferry tickets and set out for Capri. The Island is really quite large, and we only saw a small part of it. Our ferry landed in the main marina for the island; Marina Grande. There is another marina on the south side of the Island called Marina Piccola, and though we saw views of it from up in Capri, we didn’t venture down there. The two primary village attractions on Capri are the villages of Capri and Anacapri. Not having made any transportation arrangements, our short, day visit didn’t allow us to visit Anacapri, though my research tells me it is more of the same: spectacular views and typical European construction. Originally settled by the Greeks (it later was at one point a French holding, and eventually restored to Italy/Sicily), it reminded me of the settlements on the Greek Isles.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

One thing we did miss (poor research on my part) was the so-called “Phoenecian Steps,” a stairway from Marina Grande to the top, build many years back by the Greek inhabitants. They apparently start close to where we landed, and then end at the top, near the border between Capri and Anacapri. We will look for them next time.  🙂 While these steps would require a rather vigorous climb, the top is actually rather easily reached by riding the funicular ($2 Euros each way) to the to and the Pietta Funiculara, in the middle of the Village of Capri. We walked for a couple hours, without any plan, not really venturing far from the main part of the village. The walkways were steep and winding, with plenty of great views of the Gulf of Naples.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I was not disappointed in my assessment of the village. In its heart, there were many high-end shops and restaurants. However, as we ventured of the main streets, we found many quiet and pretty scenes. Photographically, I think this trip was – in part – about finding unique scenes, and my image curating and processing is bearing that out. A large percentage of my shots are not “iconic,” but rather of quiet, discrete and pretty scenes I came upon as we wandered.

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Isle of Capri
Naples, Italy
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Amsterdam

(Left-Clicking on an image opens it in a new window, bigger and with better resolution)

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