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Our Return to Barcelona

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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

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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

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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

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

An American (or four) in Paris

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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