• Day 1 Venice

    Day 1 Venice –  It’s ok I won’t hit you with any, “who left the tap running” jokes.  I have arrived in Venice.  Had a good trip from Lake Como but was sad to say good bye to Jennine and Luca.  The train journey was quite good and I got to take in a lot of the Italian countryside.  Unfortunately it appears I timed my run into Venice at the same time there was some rowing regatta on with hundreds of rowers choking the canals.  This of course threw the transport system into chaos and it did take some time to get to my hotel.  The ferry was so packed I thought the next stop was Christmas Island!

     

    I have ventured around Venice this afternoon.  So have only scraped the surface of what it has to offer.  Today being Sunday there were quite a lot of tourists (in fact thousands) around which made the feel of the place quite tacky.  More like Disneyland or Wally World with gondola rides and stereotypical “o sole mio” singing operators.  But I will go adventuring none the less and try to get away from the crowds into quieter areas for some shots. I have asked the locals here about some locations and they have advised me of some good “out of the way” areas.  Shall go see those tomorrow.

  • Day 4 Lake Como

    Day 4 Lake Como – Today was a great day here in Lake Como.  Sadly, it is my last, but I did make the most of it.

     

    It started off doing a quick job for Bellagio Water Taxis.  Jennine had organised her friend Lesley to model for us along with Luca cruising out on one of his glorious boats.  Lesley looked absolutely stunning as we cruised along past the front of Bellagio, sitting back relaxed enjoying the view.  We achieved some magnificent shots and keep an eye out as they will be loaded up to the Bellagio Water Taxis site very soon.

     

    After the shoot, I went back into holiday mode and strolled around and enjoyed everything Bellagio has to offer.  It is such a relaxed lifestyle here, you can’t help but feel some jealousy for those lucky ones that actually live here.

     

    Once again the day was finished off with dinner at La Punta Ristorante.  If you are ever in Bellagio Lake Como, make sure you go to dinner there at least once.  The views are just spectacular, the food and service brilliant and it is away from the main strip of Bellagio, so you do not get any sort of road noise disturbing your dinner.

     

    Much love to you Lake Como and the new friends I have made, thanks for a great time!

  • Day 3 Lake Como

    Day 3 Lake Como – Today I grabbed a scooter and ventured right around the lake’s east side.  I went all the way down to the city of Como and stopped at so many little towns and villages I lost track of the places to name.  I ended up stopping at Mennagio which is directly opposite Bellagio on the lake for lunch.  Losing time, I had to catch the car ferry back across the lake late afternoon.

     

    The thing that stood out yesterday was just the amount of clock towers and churches I saw, right on the lake’s edge.  Just beautiful.  This is such a wonderful place to explore, but my favourite is Bellagio.  I love the gently sloped laneways here that lead you to higher ground (and some outstanding shopping as well).

     

    Last night the gorgeous couple Luca and Jennine from Bellagio Water Taxis took me out to dinner for my birthday.  I now have a favourite dessert, Tiramisu!  I am the luckiest man to have met such lovely people who are taking such good care of me here.

  • Day 2 Lake Como

    Day 2 Lake Como –  This journey just keeps on getting better and better!  Today is my birthday and I began the day by seeing the gardens of the Villa Melzi in Bellagio.  I could only describe it as walking through the garden of Eden.  The photos I got in here will definitely be posted onto my website when returning home.

     

    From there I met both Jennine and Luca (yes, another Luca) from Bellagio Water Taxis. I would have to say they have my vote for the loveliest couple in the world.  Jennine is formerly from Sydney in Australia and moved here 17 years ago.  Luca builds his own boats and they are just sensational.  The intricate details in the wood work on his boats is a real testament to his skill.  If you are ever in Bellagio Lake Como make sure you drop in and go for a tour or ride around the lake with Luca.  Besides letting you know all about the lake and the area, he will also have you in fits of laughter along the way.

     

    Luca took me out to the stunning Villa Del Balbianello (famous for movies like Casino Royale and Star Wars).  I have to say I am speechless when it comes to this place.  It is arguably the most beautiful villa in the world and after seeing it in person I can see why.

     

    In the evening I went to the northern tip of Bellagio to have dinner at the La Punta Ristorante.  The food, wine, service along with the views was just perfect.

     

    What a great way to spend a birthday!

  • Day 1 Lake Como

    Day 1 Lake Como – Well it has been a long day travelling with 3 different modes of transport (taxi, train, ferry) but I have arrived at the breath taking Lake Como in the north of Italy, Bellagio to be precise.  Approaching Lake Como via the train from Milan to Verenna I could see the snow capped Austrian Alps in the distance and I knew I was in for something special.  This place reminds me a lot of another one of my favourite places in the world, Queenstown in New Zealand.  Only it’s like a hybrid of Queenstown and Milford Sound rolled into one.  Throw in fancy facades, quaint little walk only lane ways and lighting similar to Paris street lamps.  Stunning is the word for here and you can see why it is the playground of the rich and famous.  George Clooney, Richard Branson, Madonna, Elton John, Adrian Alford (ok the last guy.. not so rich and famous).

     

    I can’t wait to explore this place tomorrow.  Well, I think I’ll rough it here for the next 4 days.

  • Day 4 Tuscany

    Day 4 Tuscany – Well, another brilliant day!  Had so much fun and went through a whole tank of fuel on the Vespa.  I went to so many places.  Here’s the one thing that may surprise some – I ended up in Siena!  What a beautiful city, here I am riding through the busy traffic without a clue where I am going, funny stuff.  I ended up stopping at the Basilica of San Domenico.  Just pulled up at the front door (as ya do) beeping all the other hundred or so tourists out the way (haha) and went inside.  I walked around the city for a bit, rattled off some shots, then hit the road back towards Gaiole.  I stopped at Brolio Castello on the way back.  What an amazing place!  You see views over the entire landscape back to Siena, vineyards for as far as the eye could see and had the most beautiful little chapel (St. Jacopo) in it.  There is so much history on the place I’d be here typing forever.  You can find info here about it, but it was very fascinating.

     

    Caught up with Luca in Gaiole again for a quick cappuccino that he bought me (that guy really does take such good care of his clients).  He told me of how the nazis used Brolio Castello in WW2 as a headquarters and strategic base to see anything coming across the landscape, just like it was designed to do upon building back in 1000 A.D.  From there I took the high road to Monteluca (sensational ride and views), then had a late lunch at the cutest little spot in Vertine.  Best lasagne I have ever had, delicious!

     

    I have had THE best time here in the Chianti Hils and I have some amazing shots to prove it.  From wide sweeping landscapes, small waterfalls, villas covered in climbing roses, night and dawn shots, vineyards, flowers, you name it, I shot it.  Hardest thing I’ve had to do for a while, handing back the keys to the Vespa.

     

     

  • Day 3 Tuscany

    Day 3 Tuscany –  Quite a varied weather patch today.  From early morning to midday it was rain.  Gave me a good opportunity to catch my breath, do some lens cleaning and relax a bit.  Then from 12 to 4pm it was bright sunshine.  That was my window of opportunity to get out on the Vespa and head to the high ground for some sweeping high shots over Chianti.  Got some great shots and panoramas.  Along the way I stopped at fields of wild flowers and strolled through them, just me and mother nature, was beautiful.

     

    Once again near 4pm I could see a storm coming and headed back to Gaiole pronto.  I got back to my room just in time to watch an impressive lightning display hit the area.  After the storm passed again sunshine and blue sky, ready for some nice sunset/evening shots.

  • Day 2 Tuscany

    Day 2 Tuscany –  Today would have to rank up there as one of the best I have ever had in my life.  I met Luca from Tuscany Scooters and he was my guide for the day.  If you ever want to have the best fun along with the most awesome way to see around beautiful Chianti, then go see Luca.  He takes great pride in his job, is friendly, extremely knowledgable about the area and its history.

     

    We visited the areas of Radda, Brolio and had a wonderful authentic Italian lunch at Castelnuovo.  The freedom you feel just riding along taking in all the stunning countryside is just sensational.

     

    I was that impressed I have decided to keep the scooter for the entire time I am here in Gaiole.  It’s the perfect way to get around, easy parking, safe (not that much traffic) and you have the freedom to stop and take photos when ever you like.

     

     

  • Bonjourno Italia – Tuscany – Chianti Hills

    Day 1 Tuscany – Ok.  Umm.. wow!  There is a line in the movie Forrest Gump where he was describing his run across America and a beautiful sunrise he saw, “I couldn’t tell where the Earth stopped and Heaven began.”  Well, I think I have found it.  I am based at the small town of Gaiole, Tuscany.  The word “bellissimo” just doesn’t do it justice here.  The colour intensity of the flowers are so bright it hurts your eyes to look at them.  There are roses and flowers in every colour, long fields of olive groves, sunflowers, birds singing, vineyards and hills with old villa farm houses or castles on top of them.  Photographic fodder.  This afternoon we had a light shower of rain and I ventured out to grab some shots after it had stopped.  The water droplets on the flowers were just perfect.

     

    Funny thing on the way here my taxi driver was driving one handed whilst talking on his mobile phone, changing gears and steering with the one hand.  He was speaking in Italian and spoke angrily to the person on the other end of the phone.  He hung up in disgust (I think).  Then the phone rang again.  His ring tone on his Nokia was the Beach Boys – “Surfin USA” original song.  Then he started yelling again.  I just couldn’t help but laugh at the whole thing.

     

    Tomorrow I grab a vespa scooter and hit the road.  Time to explore with the camera.

  • Day 6 Paris

    Day 6 Paris – Today is my last day here.  Very sad to be going as I have become very fond of this place and the people.  A petite side note from Tuesdays blog.  That kilometre long uniformed horsemen procession that I stumbled across was actually part of a ceremony for the new President of France who was taking office.

     

    Last night I got some wonderful shots and a panorama which I can’t wait to stitch together down at the river on bridges looking back towards the Eiffel Tower.  As it does not get dark here until about 10pm, I had a bit of time to kill before the lights came on.  I noticed out the corner of my eye the Grand Palace had a photographic exhibtion on by Helmut Newton.  So I thought, why not.  I wasn’t familiar with his work.. but now I am.  Wasn’t quite ready for what I saw and when you see his work, you’ll see what I mean.

     

    For a bit of fun today, I decided to place only my 50mm lens on the camera, set at f2.8 and away I go for some shallow depth of field shots.  I caught the metro to Luxembourg where I ventured around the areas of the Pantheon, the Mouffetard and Luxembourg Gardens (the Latin Quarter).  Got some great shots of old one lane coble stoned alley ways and the gardens were just a real pleasure to photograph.  Flowers were out in bloom and there was a fountain there that was just stunning.  Quote of the day went to some loud tourist as I passed them – “That’s the problem with being in France, everything’s in french.”

     

    I returned to my hotel early noon and decided to put down the camera and just go out and explore, taking in Paris without looking through a viewfinder, you know, take in one more chocolat crepe for the road.  I got lost, but for the first time in my life I didn’t really care at all.  No better place to be lost than in such a fantastic city.

     

    Au revoir Paris.  Tu es tres belle!