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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

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An American (or four) in Paris

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

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Ah, Paris! It conjures that accordian music and a bustling city (with some Gershwin in the background). And food. It was all there. Our next port of call, LeHavre, was just a short ride accross the English Channel. We arose and left the train early, for another train ride – this one 2 hours.

Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

This cruise, as I have noted previously, was rather unusual for us in that the ship docked overnight in 3 of our ports of call (Dublin, Cobh, and LeHavre). In our experience this usually happens, if at all, in only one port. In this case, not only did the ship dock overnight, but it did not depart LeHavre until midnight of the second day (technically you might even say it docked for two nights). We took full advantage of this time, booking an overnight stay in a Paris Hotel, and we had most of two very full days in Paris.

Champs-‘Elysees
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have learned from travel in other countries, that shooting from a moving train is essentially impossible, and I have really given up trying. So all I could do was enjoy the French countryside as we headed toward Paris.  And the bulk of the trip was countryside, with many small, and very well-kept farms. I wanted to stop the train a number of times and just get off and shoot. Maybe someday.

Paris, France

Much like our London experience, less than 2 days is really not long enough to see Paris. There is just too much. Several days would be easy to fill.

The Louvre
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But we were a little better organized, here, with pre-purchased tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a walking tour around the Notre Dame Cathedral and neighborhood, and plans to use two forms of public transportation which really worked well for us – the “Hop on – Hop off bus and boats.”  While we again only scratched the surface, I think we were able to see the main points of interest we had, including the Cathedral, the Louvre (outside only), the Eiffel Tower, Champs-‘Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe.

Arc de Triomphe
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Eiffel Tower is probably the central icon of Paris, and it is one of those landmarks that is rarely out of sight, wherever in Paris you might be

I overdid the Eiffel Tower. I don’t know how many images of it I made, but I know more than I really needed to.  We saw it from the river, from the tour bus, and from various points on the ground. And I shot it. I shot it at night and I shot it again during the daytime. The Eiffel Tower is probably the central icon of Paris, and it is one of those landmarks that is rarely out of sight, wherever in Paris you might be. So I had lots of opportunities. We knew we would be on the grounds of the tower the first evening – we were up on the top for the sunset – an unforgettable experience. But I had also done some research on vantage points to shoot it from. One of the best turned out to be Place du Trocadero, a plaza directly across the Seine from the tower.

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

From the grounds, it was difficult to shoot. The same dynamics as I mentioned in London were at play here. It is a massive structure, and perspective is just impossible up so close. But there were still some interesting and perhaps dramatic images here, especially at night.

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As we left the grounds the evening we were there, I saw a nice reflection opportunity. In another life (or on another trip), I would like to go back with a tripod and better equipment and explore this a bit. But I was happy enough for handheld, point-and-shoot results in this case.

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The next day, I shot the tower again; this time from the Seine. There are more, but these are probably enough for now 🙂

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Next to the Eiffel Tower, the one thing I wanted to see most was the famed Cathedral Notre-Dame de-Paris, with its gothic architecture and 850 year plus, majestic wooden spires and roofline.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The news of the fire on April 15th (just short weeks before our visit), destroying much of the old wooden infrastructure, including spire and rooflines that were made from wood timber construction, was heartbreaking to viewers around the world. I had been looking forward to seeing the inside and grounds. We were fortunate to get some good views from the exterior, but the interior is not accessible to the public at this point, and a large, opaque construction fence surrounds the entire grounds, so that only views from farther away are possible. I hope to return someday, and see the entire thing.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Under Reconstruction
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

What you can see of it It is still magnificent.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We met our walking tour guide at a small cafe in the neighborhood of the Cathedral. These tours are free (you can find them and similar tours in most cities). They are usually given by locally attending students, or members of local art, history or acting programs. Our experience has been that our – normally youthful – guides are enthusiastic, fun and very knowledgable of their subject. The normal treatment is to give them a gratuity, usually what you think appropriate. We have tried to be generous over the years, knowing they are usually young students and truly appreciating the value we get from the. I highly recommend that you seek these types of tours out and partake. We have never been disappointed.

Cafe Odette
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Cathedral is on an island in the middle of The Seine. The cafe was on the mainland, on the south side of the river, known as “The Left Bank,” and directly across the main street is the Saint Severin Roman Catholic Church. Originally built in the 11th Century, the church is one of (if not the) oldest churches in Paris.

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Originally built as a smaller church, in the Romanesque style, it was enlarged years later, and today had Romanesque and Goth styles combined. The interior, much of it believed to be authentic original construction, includes impressive arches and stained glass.

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Saint Severin Church
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After spending a few minutes in Saint Severin, we walked across the bridge to the front of Notre Dame. We learned that the Cathedral is not only a church. It is a neighborhood and much of the surroundings made up that neighborhood.

Catheral Notre Dame de_Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The quiet little street in the image here could really be a quiet back street in almost any city in the world. But it happens to be in the famous Notre Dame neighborhood.

Notre Dame Cathedral Neighborhood
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

After our tour, we boarded one of the “Hop on – Hop off” bateaus (boats) for a cruise up and down the Seine. Making images off a moving boat is only slightly less challenging than from a moving train or vehicle. Nonetheless, you do have a bit more mobility, and I was able to make a few “keeper” images.

Paris from The Seine
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Paris from The Seine
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Île de la Cité
(Notre Dame) from The Seine
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Louvre
from The Seine
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

T
The two days went by fast, and we were soon enough, boarding the train for the ride back to LeHavre and departure for Bruges. But there will be many memories of Paris, and anticipation of another visit in the not too distant future. One of the best memories will be being at the top of the world on the Eiffel Tower and seeing the sunset over that same Place du Trocadero that we had photographed the tower from earlier that afternoon.

Sunset over Paris
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

 

London (from Dover)

White Cliffs
Dover, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The “British Isles” Cruise, as I have mentioned, may have been a bit of a misnomer, as we really didn’t spend much time in what I would personally consider, Britain. “The British Isles” would include, in my view, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and perhaps a couple of the smaller Islands in the vicinity. We were only in England during two days of the entire tour. The first day was Liverpool.

Port of Dover
Dover, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

This the second day, our port of call was Dover, a port at the far southeast part of the country, where the English Channel empties into the North Sea. The “White Cliffs of Dover,” said to be the official icon of England, and the inpiration for Vera Lynn’s song, made famous during WWII, were prominent while we remained in port. The white cliffs are said to be the first sight of England you see when you cross the English Channel, and Dover is on the English side of the narrowest part of the channel.

Perhaps unfortunately, we didn’t see much of Dover

Dover is a rather small seaside town but has a few things going for it. Because we had only one day – which we allocated totally to London, we really didn’t see Dover.  We took an early morning train from the quaint, but efficient Dover Train Station, to London. 20/20 hindsight is, of course, clairvoyant, and looking back we may have miscalculated at this port. When we planned the trip, 3 of the 4 of us had not been to London, and as it was only a 1-hour train ride, we felt that we really should use this opportunity to go there. What I did not appreciate is that you just cannot do London justice in a day – especially a very short day. We burned at least 2 hours on the train rides. Perhaps would have used our time better by staying in Dover and exploring the area. We later learned that there is a great military museum, as well as England’s largest Castle (nearby on the cliffs). If ever in Dover again, I suspect we will see some of those sights.

London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Not that London wasn’t great, and we certainly do not regret going.  But the whirlwind nature of our tour of the city really didn’t do it justice. London is a place that requires some time to see everything, and when we do it again, we will plan to spend at least several days there. We also booked – inadvertently – a rather odd tour for our time there. It was in interesting tour, but would have been one of the side tours we might do if we had more than one day on location. It did not afford much opportunity for photography, though there are certainly some things I would liked to have shot.

St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

When doing my post-processing, I realized I only kept and processed some 26 images, and of them, only about a dozen different subjects. I am pretty happy with what I did get. The capital and largest city in England (indeed in the UK), London straddles the River Thames, which ultimately empties into the North Sea to its east. As might be expected, London archtecture is generally massive and very impressive. There is no one dominating style and we saw classic mixed with modern. The Great Fire of 1666 destroyed much of London, including the entire Medieval City of London inside the Roman Gates. Architect Christopher Wren was responsible for a great many rebuilt structures, including some 52 churches (perhaps the most famous amoung them; St. Paul’s Cathedral). I think another trip to London should incorporate a tour of the Christopher Wren buildings.

St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel (where we began our day in London) was originally designed by William Henry Barlow and construction completed in the late 1800’s.

St. Pancras Train Station and Hotel
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Downton Abbey fans may recognize the magnificent staircase inside the St. Pancras Hotel (like Game of Thrones, I have never watched an episode).

St. Pancras Staircase
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

St. Pancras Staircase
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

St. Pancras Staircase
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

London gets it name from Londinium, the ancient Roman name for the Roman settlement that is still buried under central London. It is pretty certain that civilization dates back much earlier than the Roman Empire. Beginning with the conquering of the land by William, Duke of Normandy, the Normans probably most influenced the history of Modern England, and eventually, much of the United Kingdom.

St. Bartholemew’s Gatehouse
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The story of Henry VIII, (1509-47), a descendent of William, his split with the Roman Catholic Church (when Pope Clement VII refused to approve the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon) and his subsequent creation of The Church of England, in 1534, making himself the head of the Church) is well-known. St. Bartholomew’s Church is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in London, and one of few examples of Tudor London, surviving the Great Fire. The main, old church, built in 1123, was mostly demolished by order of Henry VIII. The church that is there today is the result of a restoration between 1887 and 1928. The arch, shown here, once the entrance to the church, is said to be original, except for the timbered structure on the upper facade, which was probably redone sometime in the 16th century.

Smithfield Meat Market
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Part of our tour involved seeing some currently standing buildings near the St. Bartholomew Gate, on Little Britain Street. Our tour was really focused on some historical aspects of London and not really on the big-picture, famous sights. But I was able to make an image of the entrance to the rather well-known (at least to us meat-lovers) Smith Field Market, just up the street from where we were stopped.

Guildhall Art Gallery
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Guildhall buildings were massive with many buildings and a large square, and was also a mix of modern architecture with some classic flares. The image of the Art Gallery is an example of much more modern lines.

Royal Courts of Justice
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our guide, at some point learned that I was a recently retired attorney, and that my wife spent the bulk of her career working in the court systems, and decided to make an impromptu stop at the Royal Courts of Justice, a massive building taking up at least 2 city blocks, and housing mostly, what we would call “appellate courts” here in the U.S. With my little camera,and on the ground viewpoint, it was difficult (like many of the buildings in London) to do the building justice – pun absolutely intended 🙂 . Of course – and unfortunately – photography was forbidden inside the building.

Royal Courts of Justice
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We crossed the Thames on several ocassions during our tour, inevitably seeing different bridges over the river. The most eye-catching, perhaps, was London’s Tower Bridge (often mistakenly referred to as “London Bridge,” which of course, isn’t even in London any longer). It is one of those majestic sites that draws the eye. It wasn’t really part of our guide’s planned tour, but we cajoled him into finding us a place to get out and photograph it.

Tower Bridge
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our spot was a little park almost directly under the span, and as other photographers might imagine, photographing it was a challenge. My little Sony has a 24mm equivalent at the wide end – just not wide enough for this kind of photography. My final image here, was made with the able assistance of the transform perps

Tower Bridge
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

At the end of the tour, our guide drove us by Buckingham Palace. Again, it was not in his plan for us, but we pushed to have him drop us off for at least an on-the-ground photo or two. We were there only very briefly, and I would like an opportunity on another occasion to walk the grounds and spend some time. Again, the massive structure makes small camera, low viewpoint shooting problematic. But I made the best with what I had.

Buckingham Palace
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The gold guilded gate ornaments may be the most impressive feature of this particular building.

Buckingham Palace
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Buckingham Palace
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

we finished our day in London, having only a couple hours left, with a ride on the London Eye. It offers a great, high perpective on the city of London. Working with reflections in the glass enclosures, presented its challenges, but I thought that all-in-all, I got some nice images and it was truly worth the ride.

The London Eye
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Prior to our trip, I had read that one of London’s true icons, Big Ben, is currently under construction, not due for completion until 2021. I was able to get a nice image of British Parliament, with the famous clock tower at one end. But it is clearly under construction (in fact, I believe only one face even has the clock face visible). Nor did we ever hear the famous bells during our day.

British Parliament and Big Ben
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The “birds-eye” vantage point of the London Eye did allow for some nice, long-view images of London as it sits on the Thames.

London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The London images were kind of a smattering of things we saw during a much too short visit. There certainly were things we missed that we really need to see: The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Savile Row, Trafalgar Square, St. Margarets Church, and …. well you get the picture (but I didn’t). See what I did there?  🙂 . I assume we will be back.

The Irish Adventure Continues; Cobh

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our short, but eventful trip to Liverpool over, we headed back to Ireland for an overnight stay in County Cork. Cobh is the port nearest Cork City. Having now spent many days exploring parts of the Emerald Isle, in 2014 and on this trip, I have yet to find anyplace in this part of the world that isn’t simply remarkable. And as beautiful as we found Northern Ireland, Cobh may well have been its nearest rival.

I have yet to find anyplace in The Emerald Isle that isn’t simply remarkably photogenic

This was the second of three overnight stops on this cruise – an unusual event for us. Generally one overnight seems to be the norm, and it is often at the beginning or end of the cruise. So this was a bonus, allowing us to do some additional things. Our first day, we mostly walked around Cobh, taking in some local pubs, the Titanic Exhibit, the scenery, and a local restaurant for dinner.

Cork/Cobh Pilot Boat
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Cobh is at once, touristy and quaint and – much like Galway was in 2014 – very photogenic. It began with our sunrise entrance into the harbor, where from the ship deck, we got spectacular views of the bucolic Irish countryside. To our east, as we entered the harbor, I was treated to farms and a wonderful lighthouse at the head, in the early morning fog.

Light House
Cobh Port, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have often commented here that traveling by cruise ship has its pros and cons. One of the pros, is the vantage point we often get from the ship deck, both entering and departing harbors, and often while docked, as can be seen from the unique vantage point in the opening image. Cobh is a great example, and we were able to view it as the early morning sun did its thing.

Lighthouse
Cobh Port, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

But once you go ashore, you see that there is a lot see and to photograph.

Tanker Dock
Cobh Port, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The little town of Cobh is barely two main streets, built into the side of the hills along the seaport. Catering to tourists and visitors, there is a train to Cork (the major city in County Cork, where Cobh lies), and restaurants along the quay.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The downtown center has a few lively pubs, and the buildings lining the street are quaint, but colorful. Like any place relying on tourism, there are a number of closed up buildings, but all is well-kept.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Like I almost always do, I did some pre-trip research and had at least one specific image I wanted to make. I know that an image like the row houses, which is basically the first image you will see if you “GOOGLE” “Cobh, Ireland,” is the hackneyed iconic image. I have many times been (correctly) urged to “make my own image.” Well, I kind of did :-). I looked at the row houses from many different viewpoints as I hiked up and down the steep hills.

“Deck of Cards”
Row Houses
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

“Deck of Cards” Row Houses
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I finally nearly gave up, but stopped a very friendly lady on the street, walking with her grandson and asked her about the spot the image is made. The people of Ireland are absolutely the most friendly people on earth, by the way. She told me it was right on the street in front of the houses. Well I thought I had tried that, but she told me I had not gone far enough and that there was a little (unmarked) park in the middle of the street. I went back, saw the entrance, walked in, and turn around. And, like so many of these iconic images, there it was! Local – or experienced knowledge counts. She also told me that the row houses are referred to as “The Deck of Cards.”

“Deck of Cards”
Row Houses
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

“Deck of Cards”
Row Houses
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Along the way, I found some other nice views of the area, including The Bishop’s Residence.

Bishop’s Residence
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Even though Cobh appears to be a busy little seaport town, and our cruise ship had just unloaded some 2,000 plus additional inhabitants, it was surprisingly quiet, once you ventured off the main square.

Cobh Waterfront
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As is often the case, the showcase architecture of the town was the Roman Catholic Church up the hill; St. Colman’s Cathedral (a/k/a Cobh Cathedral). It can be photographed from several viewpoints. As most here know, I generally carry the diminutive little (redundant much? 🙂 ) Sony x100iv as my travel camera.

St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

One of its shortcomings is that there is a limit at both ends (24 – 70 equivalent). Another is that it is really not made for architectural imagery, and I often find myself liberally applying perspective corrections in Photoshop. So though these may not be the “seen” images, they are still illustrative of some pretty impressive Gothic architecture.

St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Benches outside of
St. Colman’s Cathedral
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Back in town, we had tickets to the Titanic Exhibit. Registered in Liverpool, built in Belfast, the reputed final stop of the RMS Titanic was Cobh. The exibit was short and interesting.

Titanic Exhibit
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The museum has a picture of the rear of the Titanic in the drydock we saw in Belfast. The 3 screws are massive.

RMS Titanic
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There were 3 classes of passenger on all the White Star Line ships: First Class, Second Class and Third Class. Inside the museum, there were replicas of staterooms and the general room, occupied by third class passengers. The capacity for third class was about 1000 people, so you can see the rooms must have been pretty crowded.

Third Class Accommodations
Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

“General Room”
Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

First Class Accomodations
Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We used the Rob Roy Pub as our guide point and meeting place when we split our group a couple times. They were obviously ready to welcome us.

Rob Roy Pub
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Celebrity Reflection Welcome Sign;
Rob Roy Pub
Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Walking back to the ship, we were able to continue to see nice views of this great little town. Our cruise ship in the background gives some perspective of the approach.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Northern Ireland; Belfast, Bushmills and the Northern Ireland Seacoast

Coast of Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

During our “Brian Boru pilgrimage” in 2014, we only made our way up to Northern Ireland briefly, to see the church where the high king was buried following his death at Clontarf. So, we looked forward to seeing this reputedly beautiful part of the island. It did not disappoint. And, though I already put in a good review for him on Tripadvisor, I want to put in a plug for our guide and driver, Mark and the Black Taxi Tours. In the space of a fairly long day, Mark got us to some of the highlights of Northern Ireland, with a fairly in-depth history lesson about the conflict over the past years. I highly recommend this tour, company and Mark!

Game of Thrones Studio
Belfast Port; Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Belfast became a substantial settlement in the 17th century after being established as a town by British administrator, Sir Arthur Chichester. It was initially settled by Protestant English and Scottish migrants. By the early 19th century, Belfast was a major port, paying a major part in the “Industrial Revolution.” Granted city “status” in 1888, Belfast was at one time, the biggest linen-producer in the world, as well as a major ship yard and rope-making center. The Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world’s biggest shipyard. This all made Belfast Ireland’s biggest city for a brief time. Belfast was heavily bombarded during WWII. This growth and prosperity was not, however, without strife. Throughout Ireland’s history, there has been significant discord, much of it over the issues of home rule, and independence. In 1886 Belfast was rocked by rioting over the issue of home rule, which had divided much of Ireland and particularly, Belfast. The problems would continue through to present day.

Game of Thrones Set
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

While Belfast’s run as a global industrial power ended after WWI, in 1945, it remains a major port today, with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, dominating the Belfast shoreline. In 1920–22, Belfast became the capital of the new entity of Northern Ireland as the island of Ireland was partitioned, as a result of the Irish War of Independence in which the Republic of Ireland gained its freedom from Britain. Northern Ireland remained a constituent country of the United Kingdom, along with Great Britain, Scottland and Wales.

Game of Thrones Set
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The next 30 years were filled with – often violent – conflict (perhaps euphemistically referred to in Ireland as “The Troubles.” Any attempt here to explain this conflict would be feeble. I commend you to do some research and reading on your own if you are not already familiar with this period of Northern Ireland’s history. We heard a fair amount about it, and it really puts some of what we saw and heard into context.

Dry Dock
RMS Titanic
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We started our tour with a brief drive through the Harland and Wolff Shipyard, and in particular, a visit to the dry dock where the RMS Titanic was build and originally floated. That part of the port has also become currently famous as the set for some of the scenes in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”

Dry Dock Pump Station
RMS Titanic
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Because Belfast was one of our shortest stops, and because of the nature or our tour, which focused on the Northern Coastline, we spent very little time in Belfast City. This was unfortunate, and I hope to return there one day and get a better feel for the city. Mark showed us a small area which he compared with Dublin’s Temple Bar area. It was early in the morning and nothing was moving, but it looks like a place to visit during the evening hours.

Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

During “The Troubles,” at some point, the British were called upon to intervene and British Troops were brought in. Each of the two factions lived in separate parts of the city. Among other things, walls were constructed to separate them and a curfew was imposed. There are doors and gates in the walls which were locked at night. They are still closed at night to this very day. Although the violence has pretty much subsided, it is still discomfiting to drive along those walls.

Signing the Wall
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our first stop out of town was an area of very old and majestic Beech Trees lining a short road between two farm fields. Known as “The Dark Hedges,” it is said to be the most photographed scene in Northern Ireland. I added to the tally 🙂 . This scene is apparently attractive enough that the Game of Throne producers filmed a scene (The Kings Road; Season 2, Episode 1) there, perhaps adding to its already popular cache’.

The Dark Hedges
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Dark Hedges
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We then headed up to another famous and popular scene at the northern tip of the island of Ireland; “The Giant’s Causeway.”

Mill/shop on the Bush River
Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Dark Hedges were en route to our next destination, Bushmills and the Giant’s Causeway. I may need to clarify a bit here. “Bushmills,” contrary to some peoples’ first thought, is not Irish Whiskey (well, not entirely anyway 🙂 ). Situated on the Bush River, Bushmills is one of the prettiest little country villages I have ever seen. We stopped near the bridge into town, over the Bush River, to shoot this pretty little mill (today, I believe it is a gift shop/restaurant). Of course, we would be back later in the day, to visit the Bushmills Distillery.

The Giant’s Causeway
Northern Ireland Coast
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

My image of the Giant’s Causeway is not the typical shot seen on a Google Search. There were hundreds of people climbing around on the rocks, and I just didn’t get anything I liked up close. This shot is more distant, as you begin the walk down to the causeway. This has become a major tourist attraction and park, complete with museum, gift shop, and pay-trolleys. For all the hype, Mark promised us more spectacular views than the causeway, and I agree with him 100%. I think you will, too.

We had an “appointment” with the good folks at the Bushmills Distillery, so we headed back there to do a little tasting. I am pretty sure I had never had even a sip of Bushmills prior to this day.

Bushmills Distillery
Bushmills, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The history and science of making “whiskey” (“whisky” in Scotland), is fascinating. Enough so, that I will devote a post specifically to our tasting experiences (coming soon). For now, suffice it to say that although I found the “standard” Irish whiskey a bit difficult to drink, all of the distilleries have begun to make more “craft” style whiskey – generally meaning it is aged in prior-used barrels (bourbon, sherry, cognac, etc.,) and that imbues the drink with more (subjectively “better”) flavors and generally a sweetness and more full body, which I enjoyed.

Northern Ireland Coastline
seen from Dunluce Castle
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

 

On the way to our tasting, we followed the northeastern coast along the Atlantic and the Irish Sea, back to Belfast. In 2014, we visited the famed “Cliffs of Mohr” and I made many photos of that dramatic seacoast. I don’t think I believed Ireland could have anything more impressive to offer. I may have been wrong. The opening image here, just south of Royal Portrush golf course – where “The” (British) Open is being played as I write, is a scenic view that is a dramatic and beautiful as I have seen anywhere in the world. Slightly further south, Dunluce Castle stands as a medieval monument to early settlement of the region. It can be seen from the golf course and has been shown numerous times during the telecast. It is mostly ruins, but is one of the most dramatic castles we have seen – largely because of its setting.

Dunluce Castle
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Dunluce Castle
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Dunluce Castle
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Meandering further down the coastline, we stopped at a vantage point where we could see and photograph the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, now owned by the Irish National Trust. Our guide indicated that not only was there a fee to cross it, but generally a fairly long wait. We were content to photograph it from afar.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

All in, this was perhaps one of the best excursion days we have had in all the years of cruising, with a nice mix of sightseeing, whiskey tasting, and some Northern Ireland history. I hope to be back there one day soon.

 

 

Cruising “The British Isles” – 2019

Eiffel Tower
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our recent Celebrity Cruise was entitled “The British Isles.” So why did I lead with the Eiffel Tower? The cruise “title” is mostly accurate. One would generally think of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and perhaps a couple smaller islands as the British Isles. Our cruise included ports of call in LaHavre, France, Bruges, Belgium, and Amsterdam, Netherlands. But who is complaining? 🙂 . As I often do, I made several hundred images over a 2 1/2 week period. In coming weeks, I will give a more detailed accounting of each of the many new places we visited. Today, I wanted to give just an overview of what a huge territory, and vast subjects we covered.

Dublin Port
Dublin, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I have mentioned a few times here, that my wife and I like to cruise. When we can find like minded companions, that just makes it all the more fun. There were 4 of us this time, and I am pretty sure I can vouch that we all enjoyed our time in Europe. When we go to a new destination, we like to arrive in the departing port city a few days ahead, to explore, enjoy, and get to know the city. Though my wife and I had been to Dublin before, we found many new things to see and do during  our 4 days there.

Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

When we were in Ireland back in 2014, we made a very brief trip into Northern Ireland, to see the Church where King Brian Boru was buried. This time we had a full (very full) day from our port of call in Belfast. Our driver and guide, Mark, was as good as we have ever had, and he had some surprises in store for us. As an “outdoor” photographer, I love a pretty scenic image. Northern Ireland did not disappoint. Indeed, as I have been processing images, it is “sneaking up on me,” that Northern Ireland may have been my favorite stop of this trip. I would definitely return and explore further, if given the opportunity.

Liverpool, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The following day, we arrived in Liverpool, England, across the Irish Sea. We were scheduled for a Beatles Tour (what else would one do in Liverpool? – well; stay tuned, it turns out: a lot). For my Michigan friends, my quick research lead me to (wrongfully) conclude that Liverpool would be like Flint (maybe we need to organize a Grand Funk Railroad tour in Flint?) :-). Look for my upcoming post on Liverpool. It was eye-opening for me.

Cobh, Ireland
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Next, we were back across the Irish Sea, and in the south of Ireland, at the tiny, but beautiful little port of Cobh. Cobh possibly rivals Northern Ireland in my view, for photographic potential. I made some nice images there, though at least one of them was one of those (perhaps hackneyed) “must do” shots that has already been done thousands of times. Known locally as “The Deck of Cards,” maybe I was able to make a unique “take” on the famous row of houses with the cathedral in the background. I will let you be the judge: again, in the weeks ahead. We overnighted in Cobh, and spent a day there, and a day touring Blarney Castle (site of the famed, “Blarney Stone”), and Cork City.

St. Pancras Train Station
London, England
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

By then, we had spent most of 8 days on our feet. Blessedly, the following day was an “at sea” day. It allowed for some much needed “R&R.” After our day of rest, we arrived in the British port of Dover. For reasons I will expound on when I get to Dover and London, a few weeks out, I might have planned this stop a little differently. But we took the train to London and had a day-long “Black Taxi” tour of London.

Champs – E’lysees
Paris, France
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Our next port of call was LeHavre, France. We again overnighted there (this was unprecedented for my wife and me – two full overnight stops). We took advantage of an early arrival and a late departure 2 days later, and again rode the train to Paris, where we stayed overnight. A huge city, we spent 2 very full days there. That barely scratches the surface, but we saw a lot during our time there and I thought it was not only very worthwhile, but one of the highlights of the cruise. I will note in upcoming blogs, that both London and Paris really need multiple-day visits to do them justice. Unless a cruise ends or originates there, it probably they don’t really lend themselves to cruising.

Bruges, Belgium
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Again, not really the “British Isles,” we ended our cruise with stops in Bruges, and Amsterdam. Known for its beer and chocolate, I sampled a little of both in Bruges. It is an impressive, historical, and very small city, which was well worth the visit. In Amsterdam, we rode the canals, did the obligatory walk through the “red light” and “cannabis” districts, and generally saw some impressive sites. Amsterdam is, again, a massive city. We only got a little taste of the more touristic (as they say in Europe) parts of the city.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

In the end, we were exhausted, but the trip served up many new places, and added to our list of places to explore in more detail in the years to come. The only “gear” I carried was the Sony small camera (RX100iv) and my small tripod (which did not see any use). On cruises, it is rare to be on location in early morning, late afternoon, or at night. The only possible “night” shot might have been the Eiffel Tower, but the timing and place were just wrong. If I were to make a longer stay, land based trip, I might rethink the gear. I love the lightness and portability of the small camera. But I find myself missing the versatility of the DSLR on some occasions. The coming weeks will cover each of the above – with images – in more detail.

Exploring my New Backyard

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

For a while now, I have realized I needed to get back out with the camera. I think I have learned over the years that making compelling images does not stem from some sudden inspiration. Indeed, each time there has been a hiatus in my shooting, I have to get out and “knock the rust off” a bit. And what I have learned over the years is that my best images most often come from a combination of shooting a lot and being very familiar with my camera and what it can do for me, planning, exploring, and sometimes, just whatever nature brings me. So, in my mind, these images do not really represent my “best work.” I think that As I continue to repeat visit some of these places, creativity and opportunity will present better fortune.

The Florida Gulf Coast is photographically known more than anything else for its spectacular sunsets

So lately, I have been getting out again to shoot. I recently made some big moves in my life. I was raised in Northern Michigan, and lived and worked in mid-Michigan for nearly 40 years. Except for a few years between high school and graduating law school – when I had the good fortune to live in Vermont and Washington, D.C. – I have lived most of my life in Michigan. Unlike Florida, Michigan is varied on both climate and geography, providing some diverse photographic opportunities.

Anclote Gulf Park FIshing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

Florida presents some new challenges. It is mainly one huge beach, varying only as you move inland. However, it is also a peninsula, just like Michigan, which means that it has miles and miles (and more miles) of coast. Although there are certainly some “inland” opportunities, it is this coast that will provide, I am sure, the most opportunities. That is a stroke of luck for me. As my additions here, and my imagery on my LightCentric Photography Website demonstrate, I am drawn to water, and to sunrises and sunsets. My biggest challenge here will be finding variety that is unique for my own shooting.

I am not sure I am off to a very good start

I am not sure I am off to a very good start. The Florida Gulf Coast is photographically known more than anything else for its spectacular sunsets. With the vast backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico to the west, that makes some sense. But the theatrical sunsets are generally created by good atmospherics. Cloud formations and haze later in the day will usually yield some dramatic results. In my last few outings, after some cloud buildup during the early afternoon, the skies over the Gulf have cleared, yielding mostly featureless sunsets.

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

We actually bought our home here in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area several years back, and I “commuted” between here and Michigan. In March I retired and moved here permanently. Prior to that time, I made a couple trips to areas very close to me – Honeymoon Island and Crystal Beach. Both are minutes away, and I got some nice shots. I will return often to both places, as they are convenient, and present some good shooting opportunities. But I wanted to explore some new areas along the coast.

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

The Anclote River enters the Gulf north of Tarpon Springs. In addition to its very Greek culture, including the historic and locally famous sponge docks, there are some nice, picturesque shooting opportunities in and around the community. On the north side of the Anclote, where it enters the Gulf, there is a power plant which can be seen as a landmark from as far south from the water as Clearwater, and a rather elaborate fishing pier. I scouted it one day, and thought it might make an interesting element. So my first foray was to the Anclote Gulf Park, to “work” its fishing Pier.

Anclote Gulf Park Fishing Pier
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

What I have been fortunate to find, though, is some pretty good shooting scenarios. A year or so back, I posted that I believe that a compelling sunset (or sunrise) image needs some elements in the frame other than a spectacular sky, regardless of how breathtaking the colors of that sky might be. Sure, it is o.k. to have an abstract, or two in your portfolio. But images of just the sky just don’t get it done for me. The Florida coast, I am learning, has varied topography, from pristine, sandy beaches, to tidal flats, to rocky coastline. So, even though I have felt like they have been kind of “ho hum” sunsets, I have been able to make what I think are some pleasing images.

Fred Howard Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

As I was leaving Anclote Gulf Park, a couple fishermen engaged me in conversation, and offered information about a couple of other good sunset photo destinations. One of them, I had already scouted, and it is on my list, but I want to wait for the angle of the sunset to change a bit: Anclote River Park. It is about a mile south of the Gulf Park and is the part of the river where boats can go to and from Tarpon Springs (the outlet by the Gulf Park is blocked near the power plant).

Fred Howard Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

There were also two new places, Sunset Beach and Fred Howard Park. Both are on the south side of the Anclote, on the Gulf; an area known as Anclote Anchorage. There is also an island to the west known as Anclote Key State Park, where there is a lighthouse. It is only accessible by boat. I don’t know if, or when I will get there. I scouted Sunset Beach first, thinking perhaps I could put the Fred Howard causeway in my image. It looked like there might be some nice opportunities to “frame” the sunset between some palm trees, but I moved on to Fred Howard Park, and remained there for the rest of the evening. It looks like there are numerous possible composition options there, and I am sure I will return a few times. I the last two images, you can see the Anclote Lighthouse as just a tiny “stick” to the left of the land mass, which is Anclote Key.

Fred Howard Park
Copyright Andy Richards 2019

I will be MIA for week for two. We are heading to “The British Isles,” and I am looking forward to many new images, and lots to write about when I return. As always, thanks for following and reading here.

I post-process my images (I “Photoshop” them). In many cases, I try to make the image look as I saw it when I made the shot. Sometimes, I am not satisfied with that, and then I make it look like what I think it could (or should) have been. In every case, I believe “Mother Nature” has it in her palette. I hope as we get into the summer months and stormy season, that she will yield more drama. But these seem like a start to me.