The impossible destination

My wish list of places I would love to travel to and experience is long. Too long for anybody to really want to read it.

Of course I have priorities of what I would love to see and then there is, sadly enough, time for reality check. Some places like Russia or Norway are way more likely to happen than New Zealand or Iran, unfortunately.

I really do have the travelbug, I used to call it “Wanderlust” but truthfully the word is being overused these days, but I must admit I also have some places I have no interest to travel to at all or they only would happen because I run out of places to go to.

And then there is that one place I have  no desire  to see… MARS! Before you roll your eyes, just think about it.

 

Google image (obviously!)

 

 Scientists really do want to send people up there to start colonies and you can sign up for it. My question is simple… WHY would I want to do this?? Don’t people realize this comes most likely with a one way ticket?

 

Things I would miss:

  • Breathing fresh air
  • The smell of freshly mowed grass
  • Experiencing different season
  • Swimming in a lake
  • Christmas with the smell of freshly baked cookies at home
  • My own bed
  • Going to the supermarket and having options of fresh produce
  • Just… people
  • The smell of trees, the beach and fresh snow
  • Traveling for obvious reasons
  • And above all – my freedom to come and I go as I please and if it’s going to the park.

 

I found this online and it got me thinking about just how crazy it would be.

http://www.mars-one.com

 

What if there is time traveling involved? What if you age faster? What if you absolutly hate it there? Too many “what ifs” and too much uncertainty.

It’s an interesting subject to think about but I think I’ll pass on that one. Too many adventures to be tackled right here on planet Earth.

Would you consider it? To be part of the “greatest adventure of mankind”? What would you miss?

La dolce vita in Rome

Whoever came up with the comparison  “Rome is the little sister of Paris” was spot on!

Both cities are very picturesque, romantic and are oozing history. In Paris they have a very laid back and relaxed mannerism and in Rome it is  la dolce vita,  italian style. And they are both not shy about big monuments.

 

Rome must be one of the greatest and most photographed cities in the world  and has everything to offer your heart desires. Museums, churches, fountain-splashed piazzas and supposedly great food.

I use the phrase “great food” carefully because except for two dinners I did not find the food that great. Our first dinner in Rome was very memorable already. All for the wrong reasons…

We picked a small Trattoria that looked promising and ordered two pizzas. They came relatively quickly and were not bad, till I looked at my husbands pizza and told him very sharply “stop eating!!”

There was a big snail sitting on his pizza! All alive and well, even turning its head to me when I talked about it. I mean, come on!!!

The pizza was returned and we were told to order a different dish instead. No apology and we were presented with the full bill.

(My second worst pizza of all time we got in Tuscany. See post “Jewels of Italy”)

Another time we had a simple “Spaghetti carbonara”, that also could have used some love. It tasted and looked like the cook was tired of tourists all day long and just made a mass production of it and didn’t care. Disappointing.

They did have the Gelato down though. Hmm…

TIP: Don’t eat next to monuments or on the “spanish steps”. If they catch you, you have to pay a very steep fine,  UP  TO  $ 650!! 

(They want to protect their monuments, as you can read right here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/world/europe/snacking-at-the-roman-colosseum-prepare-to-pay-a-fine.html)

 

We were in Rome for five days in May, and did all the touristy stuff and why not?

Before we traveled to Rome we both read Dan Brown’s “Angels and demons”. The story takes place in Rome and it was really cool to follow the footsteps of the story.

For accommodations we chose a very small hotel just steps away from the Trevi fountain. Location wise you could not beat it, but the room was the size of a matchbox. The bed took up most of the space in the room and just to walk around the bed required acrobatic skills.

The room was seriously the smallest we have ever had. There was not a single spot to unfold the suitcase on the floor, but hey… made for a great story and for that location I would go there all over again! Right in the beating heart of Rome!

My favorite sights in Rome were, of course the ColosseumSt. Peter’s dome & St. Peter’s square and the Vatican museum; Castel Sant’Angelo, the Piazza Navona, the Trevi fountain and the Museui Capetolini.

Those were just some of my favorites, I can not list all of them.

What I really loved about Rome was how walkable it was and how it changed from day to night time. I liked it almost better at night and I really want to go back.

 

~~~

Google image

 

COLOSSEUM/ “Colosseo”:

We took a guided tour of the Colosseum and managed to lose them within five minutes! Our group was going down a staircase and approximately 50 people kept charging up the stairs. We let them pass and that was that for our tour group.

Nobody waited for us and even though we looked for them we never found them again.

TIP: Take a tour and stick to the group. You can learn so much about the history!




TIP: Hang around the Colosseum for a while. I can guarantee you some characters will show up. I get it with the Gladiator at the Colosseum but why the nun wore a tiara I have no idea…



VATICAN CITY:

Welcome to the smallest country of the world!

Google image

Of course the highlight of it is St. Peter’s dome and St. Peter’s square!

Hard to miss and you really don’t want to miss it. It is a master piece of art and has an overwhelming sense of scale, but we also loved the square in front of it.

Next time I want to go up to the roof top of St. Peter’s dome. We tried but the line was too long and we were told they don’t take any more people that day. The view from up there must be spectacular! One day…

TIP: Send a postcard from Vatican city, alone the stamp makes for a cool souvenir.


TIPS:

  • Make sure you wear appropiate clothing. They will  NOT  let you in if you don’t meet their requirements.
  • Take a guided tour of the “Vatican museum”, you will get quicker access to the museum and DO NOT  have to stand in line for the dome at all. (Keep in mind, lines can get  VERY  long. Three hours in high season is nothing out of the ordinary.)
  • Take your time in St. Peter’s dome, it is the biggest basilica in the world and it is divine.
  • Just outside the entrance of St. Peter’s dome you can watch the Swiss guards. The personal bodyguards of the Pope. They are very colorful and you  ARE  allowed to take pictures.
  • NO  tripod allowed inside St. Peter’s square at night. ( Found that out the hard way.)




VATICAN MUSEUM/ ” Musei Vaticani”:

It is the worlds largest and richest museum complex, to see the highlights, take a tour, as mentioned above, they will show you the most important pieces of art work and let you visit the Sistine chapel/ “Capella Sistina” as well.

NO photography allowed inside the chapel. Super heavy security in there and they have a very close eye on people. Don’t even think about reaching for your camera.

CASTEL SANT’ANGELO: 

I really liked this from every angle. Great for photos with the bridge or the river and looking across at St. Peters dome.

TIP: If you are european citizen, you get a cheaper ticket, have your passport with you.




PIAZZA NAVONA: 

Personally my favorite piazza in Rome. Very picturesque and atmospheric during the day but really special and romantic at night and perfect for dinner.

 

TREVI FOUNTAIN/ “fontana die Trevi”:

Probably the biggest surprise of all of the sights. The fountain is very imposing and majestic in size and yet, it is squeezed in between houses. You would never expect something so grand to just be around the corner of small streets, in such a tight space!

It also doesn’t matter at what time you come to the fountain, it is one of the hot spots in Rome with hundreds of people in front of it. Your best luck for a decent picture of it is literally to be there very first thing in the morning or late at night.


 

Interesting fact: I read roughly € 3,000 are being collected on a nightly basis from the Trevi fountain. It’s about $ 1.26 million annually and it is being distributed to the needy of the city.

***

That said, Rome is fantastic at night! We walked around quite a bit in the evenings and (except for being yelled at from several policemen at the Vatican because I thought it was okay to have a tripod with me for a shot of St. Peters dome at sunset), it was lovely. Very atmospheric.

 


CAPITOLINE MUSEUM/ “Musei Capotilini”:

A very small museum but we still liked it. The few sculptures they had were either  Roman or Greek and very impressive in their detail and sheer size. (And I thought I had big feet!)

 

 

We saw more than that and walked many kilometers every day but these were my personal highlights. I have always loved Italy but Rome has a very special place in my heart.  ❤

Both France and Italy just have it all. The diversity, the history and culture, the food, the mountains, the coast and both I can’t ever get enough of.

It comes down to this – if you like Paris, you will like Rome. End of story.







“Murphy’s law” at the airport

 

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Time for observations. Some also might call it sarcasm.

I always feel like no other place is more perfect for “Murphy’s law” than spending time at an airport or in an airplane.

 

Recognize yourself in any of those?

 

  • It is almost guaranteed that I will end up behind “that one” person at TSA who has never flown before and has no idea what to take off and put on the belt.
  • No matter what line I pick at immigration or customs, it will be the longest one.

 

  • Remember that obnoxious kid I watched in the boarding area? Take a guess who will be sitting next to me or behind me for the next 10 hours? Bingo.
  • In the airplane, the flight attendants will run out of food. Naturally in the row in front of me.

 

  • The moment I get up to use the facilities, an estimated 15 others get up with me, only to make me wait and by the time it’s my turn I am told “please go back to your seat because of turbulence”.
  • The more the delay of an airplane at landing, the slower people in front of me will get ready when it’s time to leave the airplane.

 

  • Unwritten rule of connections – if my first plane lands with a delay, I can bet good money on it, my second plane will leave on time.
  • Connecting gates always have to be on opposite sides of the airport.

 

  • The smallest people always recline the farthest and sit in front of you.
  • Sitting in a big Boing together with five (!) other people and not getting an upgrade even though business and first class is completely empty.

 

Which “Murphy’s law” gets you at an airport or in the airplane?

How to get a better deal on airfare

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Everybody likes to save money or at least get the best deal, right?

Here are some tips of mine for getting better airline tickets. Just some food for thought.

 

 

  • If possible, book your tickets as early in advance as you can, especially if you have enough miles in exchange for a free ticket.
  • Travel “off season”. Several advantages – less airfare, cheaper hotel rates and less crowds.

 

  • When you look for a flight ticket online, delete your browser history and cookies in between checking. Your browser keeps track of you checking and keeps increasing the price to make you believe “prices for tickets are increasing, you better book now”.
  • Airlines will tell you to “sign in” before you use their website. I actually found better fares by “not” signing in. By doing this I saved $ 500 a few weeks ago for a roundtrip ticket.

 

  • Sometimes it’s worth looking into getting “two one way tickets” instead of one roundtrip ticket.
  • Of course nonstop flights are the ultimate convenience but it can pay (literally!) to have a stop over in a place, like flying from the US to Europe with a stop in Iceland for example.

 

  • Don’t be stuck with certain airlines, loyalty is good but it’s often worth it to look at foreign airlines, meaning the airline of that particular country of your destination.
  • I personally like  http://www.skyscanner.com. This website has shown me many times better flight connections than any other website.

 

  • Consider booking directly with the airline instead of going through another website.
  • If you want to travel within Europe, take advantage of their incredible fares with discount airlines. Often you can fly from € 29 from one capital to another.

 

  • And most of all, flexibility pays off. Play around with your dates, by shifting some dates often you can get better deals.

 

 

I hope you found this useful and it will help you save money with your next trip. If you have some cool tips to share, please do so.


 

“Jewels of Italy”

A few years ago my husband and I decided  on going on a two week tour group throughout Italy for our wedding anniversary.

We usually prefer to travel on our own but sometimes group tours can be really fun. We had traveled with “Cosmos” before and knew what we would be getting.

http://www.cosmos.com

Part of the fun with going on group tours is meeting interesting people from all over. Our group consisted of people from Australia, Canada, Scotland, the UK, USA and even Saudi Arabia. Made for a fun mix.

It was a very busy two weeks, pretty much always on the go and even though the advantage was, you get to see a lot of places and don’t have to worry about a thing, the disadvantage always is, you are on a schedule and most of the times you don’t get to spend enough time  at places you really would like to.

 

HIGHLIGHTS  OF  OUR  TRIP

 

ROME 

We had been twice to Rome, once on our own and the second time with a tour group. Two complete different experiences. Nice but different.

With our tour group we stayed in a hotel kind of on the outskirts of Rome. Truthfully, we could have been anywhere with this. Took us 1.5 hours to walk to town, one way.

Nevertheless, Rome is everything you want it to be.

Traditional  ristorante with delicious food, typical italian architecture with houses in earth colors like deep oranges, yellows or reds and if you are in the right neighborhood, you even get to see the freshly washed laundry hanging high above you and of course history wherever you look!

You would have to try really hard to take a bad picture in Rome!

My top three favourite sights in the city are “THE COLOSSEUM”, “THE VATICAN” with its Vatican museum and “ST. PETER’S DOME.

 

TIP: Try to take a tour of the “Colosseum”. The building and the history will come alive! 

TIP: You can skip the line to the Vatican museum by joining a tour! It is very long wait in high season, plus they will guide you swiftly through and explain you different art work.

 

 

“The Colosseum”

 

The visit in the famous “Sistine chapel” is included for anybody who participates in the tour and is well worth a visit. This is really one of the highlights for anybody who appreciates Michaelangelo’s work. It is exquisite.

NO  PHOTOS  ALLOWED in the Sistine chapel though. Security is extremely tight and guards watch you like foxes.

http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/collezioni/musei/cappella-sistina.html

Another bonus  was, joining a guided group tour gives you straight access to St. Peters dome! (In high season you can wait up to three hours just to enter, so – well worth it.)

TIP: If you can, spend some time in there. It is one of the most marvelous and ornament domes in the  world!

 

“St. Peter’s Dome in Vatican city”

 

“Inside St. Peter’s dome”

 

Another marvelous ceiling

 

 

Outside the doors of St. Peters dome you can see the “Swiss Guards”. (Good news – they don’t mind having their picture taken.)

The requirements to who can become a Swiss Guard are actually quite interesting.

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/swiss_guard/swissguard/ammissione_en.htm

 

“A soldier of the Swiss Guards”

 

What I missed on our tour was really more quality time in Rome. I must admit we were just shown the bare highlights and did not get to spend enough time at the sights or in Rome at all. So glad we went there before on our own.

TUSCANY 

This must be one of the most scenic and romantic places on earth! Rolling hills, olive trees as far as the eye can see and small little dirt roads leading up to charming old farm houses on top of hills.

It is exactly as you imagine it. Every single cliche image that comes to mind is true!

We stayed at a very small hotel, out in the middle of nowhere but with a divine view which made very much up for it.

 

“Waking up in Tuscany” – the view from our hotel

 

Scenery wise this was a dream come true, culinary wise it was a night mare. At our hotel we got served what was supposed to be “pizza”. You needed a lot of fantasy and good will to recognize it as such. It was literally a baked piece of cardboard and tomato sauce. That was it!

Yep, in the heart of Italy we found  that one  place that serves pizza without cheese. I did not think it was possible to run out of cheese being in Italy, but –  fortuna smiled upon us with this one.

FLORENCE

This was for me a real dream come true – so I thought. Reality is, the visit was disappointing.

Of course we only had limited time again and a few hours is really not enough time to explore a city like Florence. It also was baking  HOT  that day and the city was buzzying with tourists.

Before we went I said, all I want to see is “the dome”, the ”Il duomo di Firenze”. Absolutely stunning from the outside with its marble panels in various shades of pink and green, and of course the enormous dome itself.

 

“The Il duomo di Firenze” in the heart of Florence

 

I loved it from the outside but found it rather disappointing on the inside. It is almost bare, hardly anything in there!

The contrast between the outside and the very minimalistic inside I actually found very irritating. It almost seemed like all the money was spent on the exterior look and hardly anything on the interior.

We saw many statues which, let’s just say “did not leave too much for the imagination…..” and managed to speed walk once across the famous bridge “Ponte Vecchio” which is famous for jewelery shops, and literally run through the famous “Uffizy museum” before it was time to go back to the bus.

 

 

The whole day was just rushed and hectic. I really do want to go back and spend quality time there, I am sure Florence is lovely city if one actually has time for it.

In retrospect, I felt like Robert Langdon in the movie “Inferno”. Being under immense time pressure and just racing from one sight to the next.

PISA

Time wise a cousin of Florence unfortunately.

With a very tight timeframe given by our tour guide we just had enough time to climb up the “leaning tower of Pisa” in incredibly humid weather, and get dizzy from everything being slanted while walking up a big spiral staircase and heading back to the bus. Again, a lot of running.

 

“The leaning tower of Pisa”

 

We really regretted not having more time; there were several building on the premises I wanted to see, including an old cemetery and a whole colorful street leading down to the river which we did not have the time for.

 

“The quarters leading down to the river ” that were not meant to be…

 

TIP: Get your tickets for the leaning tower of Pisa  FIRST!!! You will be given a certain time for climbing it and store your belongings. NO backpacks or even camera bags are allowed inside the tower of Pisa.

 

VERONA

This city took me by surprise!

I was not expecting it to be so incredibly charming as it was and want to go back. It is ideal for walking around, strolling through the markets, visit the amphi theater and maybe see a concert or just hang out in one of the many great restaurants.

Of course whoever goes there will visit the famous balcony from “Juliet and Romeo”. How could one not go and see it?

TIP: If you want to get in “the mood” for Tuscany or Verona, I would recommend the movie “letters to Juliet”. You will either feel like booking a ticket to Verona the next day or be lost in thoughts over memories you have to this place, I gurantee it.

https://youtu.be/xz43rtBUVA0

 

VENICE

One of my all time favorite cities worldwide! This city is unreal in its beauty and architecture and completely unique in the world!

 

 

I also learnt that, if you want to renovate one of those buildings you may do so on the inside but you are not allowed to change the exterior look? It’s all to preserve the charm of   Venice.

It is incredible difficult to buy property there and even if you have the right amount of cash, you will be put on a long waiting list of other potential buyers. Interesting I thought.

We had a mixture of guided touring and  free time but decided to go back for more, on our own while pretty much everybody else decided to go on an overpriced excursion.

 

 

Our hotel was just outside of town, so we took super cheap public transportation back into town and in Venice we followed the signs leading us back to the heart –  “Piazza San Marco”.

Getting there was a thrill in itself, it reminded me of “the amazing race”, looking for clues which way to go in the labyrinth of the streets.

We spent  couple of days in Venice,  a good amount to explore a bit on our own.

 

Some of my favorites were the Grand Canal”, “Saint Mark’s Basilica”, “the Dodge Palace” and just walking around, getting lost in little sidestreets.

Venice is literally the best place to get lost in. Your camera will thank you!

TIP: Afternoon or very early morning light is the best to bring out the hues of color in the buildings.

BURANO

A lovely tiny island not far away with incredibly colorful houses. It was really perfect, late May afternoon, warm sunshine which really brought out the richness of the colors of the houses, but again… not enough time.

 

 

We spent more time on the ferry than on the island. Not sure why the rush.

When everybody else went back to the hotel, we stayed behind in Venice to spend a lovely evening alone, just the two of us. Having a romantic dinner with the sun setting over the canal. Hard to beat.

 

On the way home we ended up with a bus driver who was going  95 km/ h in a 50 km/ h zone (!) while listening to music on head phones!!

It did not surprise us that he ended up running into the car in front of us at a red light! We sat in the front row and saw it happen in what seemed slow motion.

Thank goodness nobody got hurt, but somehow I have a feeling he still drives this way these days.

SAN MARINO

One of the smalles countries in the world and we have the stamp in our passports to show it! The country is so small, you can stand on top of the local mountain and see the Adriatic Sea in Italy from it, as seen in the picture below.

 

Image courtesy of my husband

 

One thing I was  NOT  expecting  AT ALL  was their open and very generous display of different kind of machine guns, serious looking knifes, hand granates and all sorts of heavy duty weapons in the windows!!

You don’t see this every day. I mean, who in their right mind offers this, leave alone goes “shopping” for this???

ASSISI

We mainly visited the big “Basilica of San Francesco” in which photography was not allowed, unfortunately.

http://www.italyguides.it/en/umbria/assisi

 

“The Basilica of San Francesco”

 

It was a lovely little hill town in the Umbria region but I was not doing well on this day at all. I was awaiting hip surgery a few weeks later and was in a lot of pain that day. Walking was very difficult for me.

So unfortunately I could not really enjoy Assisi to its full potential.

NAPLES

I can not say too much about this city.

 

“Panoramic view of Naples”

 

In all honesty, my first impression was not the best one. We went out for dinner on our own one of the nights and we did not feel safe. There were some streets that just had written “bad news” all over it, so we kept walking.

 

“The view from our window”

 

“The view from our window at night”


 

And trying to cross the street is borderline impossible. No order anywhere with anything. Just when I thought traffic in India, China or Egypt was bad – welcome to Naples!

I do think there are points of interest in Neaples though. Which unfortunately were not shown to us but I would be willing to give Naples another chance. Alone for finding the famously “folded Napolian pizza”. Hmmmm….

 

Google image

 

 

THE ISLAND OF CAPRI

The boatride takes almost two hours from the harbour of Naples, which is kind of nice if one would have had a jacket or sweater. Meaning, “we didn’t”….and sitting for 2 hours in blowing cold wind turned into two  VERY  long hours. ~

Capri is “the land of lemons”. You will pretty much find anything that, smells or tastes like a lemon, from lemon soap to alcoholic lemon drinks to tiles, dishes and aprons with lemon images on it. Lemon heaven!

 

 

The island itself is very picturesque and there is lots to do. It was difficult to choose what activities to do because our time was so limited, so we opted for the chair lift to get a panoramic view of the island.

In general a good idea, but the chair lift went “one person at a time” in a painstakingly slow speed. It was like pulling teeth.

 

“The slow poke chair lift”

 

 

Finally at the top! Image courtesy of my husband

 

Great if you have all day, not so great if you don’t. In the end we spend more time on the chair lift than on top of the mountain. Somehow that became a pattern.

Walking around the harbor and soaking up the atmosphere accompanied with the daily dose of delicious Gelato was very nice too. It was a nice harbor with colorful little fishing boats, perfect motives for me. Sometimes it’s nice to “not” do anything particular and just enjoy the moment.

 

“The harbor in Capri”

 

 

Image courtesy of my husband

 

POMPEII

We were really impressed by the architecture, wall decorations and genius of engineering we got to see. We did a walking tour of the town of Pompeii, during one of the biggest rain storms of our trip and even though I had my ever present umbrella with me, we got soaked.

Also would deserve another visit, in better weather.

 

“Old fresco”

 

This is a victim of Pompeii. You can see the sheer agony in the last few moments of his life.

 

 

SORRENTO

A coastal town built on cliffs, overlooking the bay of Naples with its crystal clear waters.

 

We had the luxury of having the whole afternoon and evening off and just walked around. The historic center is rather small and you really can not get lost. Again, in case you didn’t buy enough lemon products in Capri, here was your second chance!

We saw a wedding take place in which the bride was in the church, and the groom stood outside, looking miserable and refused to go inside. (Maybe not the best start for a life together…)

I also saw the house of my dreams, if money was no issue. It was an old house, kind of abandoned, ivy growing all over, hidden behind an alley of big palm trees with sweeping views of the ocean and locked up behind an old rusty iron gate, for sale. Maybe in my next life.

 

We wrapped up our trip in Rome again and people left in all different kind of directions for home. It’s always sad when everybody leaves again. You kind of grow together as a big family over two weeks.

Did we have enough time everywhere? Clearly not, but we saw it as an italian “sampler” and know where we want to go back to.

Cosmos is for budget travelers. Some hotels were more budget than others but most of them were actually pretty good and it was great value for the money.

The hotel locations sometimes left a bit to be desired for but most of the times we were so tired by the end of the day, we didn’t care anymore. We would travel with Cosmos any time again.

 

Image courtesy of my husband

 

It was a great experience, a rich two weeks and we met great people. Especially a couple from Canada who we are still in almost daily touch with and we are proud to call our closest friends! ❤

We met on a trip in Italy and have become friends for life. This is what traveling can do for you. If it wasn’t for that Italy trip, we never would have met.

 

 

Easy tips to improve your vacation photos

It does not matter what camera you have, a small pocket camera, a D SLR or the very handy iphone. The rules of photography are the same and apply to anybody. After all, it is the person behind the lens that matters, the camera is just the tool.

I will give you a few easy pointers that should help you improve your travel pictures with examples of images that I took.

 

 

SUNSETS:

1.) Make sure the horizon is LEVEL. The nicest ocean/ lake or sunset picture loses appeal if it is not level.

 

Example “level horizon”, taken in Maine/ USA

 

 

2.) Frame your picture, for example with a silhouette of a door frame, flowers, people, trees. It adds texture, depth and interest.

 

Example “framing”, taken in Alaska (see “Alaska” post)

 

 

3.) Stay  AFTER  the sun has set. Often you will get a wonderful glow and display of red, orange, pink and yellow tones on the clouds.

 

Example “afterglow”, taken in Venice beach/ California




THE BEST LIGHT:

The best light for landscapes and also portraits is the early morning  OR  the late afternoon.

The quality of light is better, shadows are more gentle and the light is softer and more golden and works more flattering on landscapes, architecture or people.
Dusk and dawn also work very well for skylines, shots within a city  OR  landscapes.



The famous “blue hour” is personally my favorite. Pay attention to the sky about 1/2 hour after sunset. It will give everything a blueish teint and seperate the sky very well from the city, skyline etc.

 

Example “blue hour”, taken in Paris (see “Paris” post)

 

The same shot taken at night will show less detail.

 

 

PEOPLE:

1.) Use them for showing “scale and proportions”.

Nobody can judge how high that waterfall or how deep that canyon is without a proper scale to compare it with.

 

Example “scale”, taken in Paris

 

 

2.) If you want to take photographs of strangers close up, always ask permission.

If given, make the portraits just that. A portait consists of the “head and chest”NOT  a person who stands yards away and 95% of the shot is landscape.

 

Example ” portrait”, taken in upstate New York

 

 

3.) Pay attention to the background.

The nicest shot of a bride and groom will look awful if you have a bulldozer “sticking out” the brides head, as an example.

4.) Move your feet, you might get a complete different perspective from a few yards/ meters over or squatting down; and often “closer is better”. Don’t be afraid to fill the frame.

 

Example “full frame”, taken in Los Angeles

 

 

5.) The middle of the day is not the best time of day for photography. Light is harsh and creates sharp contrasts with very dark shadows.

If you take a picture of somebody who has the sun behind him, use your flash. Otherwise the face will be dark, I guarantee it.

6.) When taking pictures of kids, go down to their level. If a baby is laying the floor, so should you. Be on eye level with kids!

 

Example “eye level”, taken in upstate New York

 

Market picturesgo early in the day when veggies, fruits, flowers and fish still look fresh. The longer they are exposed to the air, warmth and time the more tired they will look.

 

FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY:
The flash has its purpose, but does not need to be used all the time.

Also, KNOW  the limitations of it!

For example, you do not need to turn your flash on to take a picture of a city. Your flash will reach about 3-5 yards/ meters. It – will – not – light up the whole city.

In the end, the  BEST  ADVICE  I can give is, go out and shoot and be critical of your own pictures. Study them and ask yourself “what can I do better next time?” and learn from it.

 

 

A cheap way to get inspired is, looking at postcards at your destination. They are most of the time taken by professional photographers and are cheap to get.

Why not use it as a little guidance?

 

 

I always tend to take more pictures at a new destination at the beginning of our vacation, when everything is still new and exciting.

Your eye will tire and get used to things.

Sights or details you found exciting and “fresh” a few days ago will become invisible to you.

Photography has a lot of rules, but part of the fun is, to break them – be creative!

 

 

And last but least, don’t be afraid of bad weather, it can work for your advantage.

Rain for example will double the reflections in a city, fog can make things look mysterious and upcoming thunderstorms can create dramatic contrasts.

 

Example “double reflection” taken in Dublin (see “Dublin” post)

 

 

Example “fog”, taken in Peru, the Andes mountains (see “Peru” post)

 

I hope this helped.

Now it’s time to go out and play! Happy shooting wherever your next destination might be!

Dancing with the mountain!

Going skiing means freedom to me. To be outdoors, breath in the fresh mountain air, enjoy the views and swoosh down the mountain- I feel alive!

 

 

I did not always have that love for skiing. I had somewhat of a rough introduction to the sport, which I’d like to share quickly because it is so unheard of .

Going 35 years back in time – imagine me as a second grader in a small village school in southern Bavaria. All the kids were excited because the agenda for next week was going skiing. I was the only one who was not thrilled about it, since I had never stood a minute of my life on skies.

My teacher laughed it off and said “that’s not possible. Everybody in Bavaria knows how to ski!” Case closed.

No matter how much I insisted I didn’t know how to ski, doom day was coming. My teacher meant business, put me in ski boots and once we were on top of the mountain, I got a firm clap on my behind and off I went. Straight – down – the – mountain!

I was horrified and even more horrified to hear people clapping for my supposedly “guts” to “just go for it”.

It did not take long till people realized what I had been trying to tell them  ALL ALONG…. I did not know how to ski!

I was heading with high speed straight towards a huge, parked snow cat only to be pushed aside about 3 yards/ meters from it when another teacher reacted and ran into me, to push me out of the way, and to safe me from either ending up being paralyzed, disfigured or dead.

Needless to say I didn’t ski for many years to come. It took me about 20 years and a real patient husband to keep encouraging me to try it again.

Now I am a good advanced intermediate skier and I love it. It was a very traumatic experience. Leave it to the Germans.

 

We just spent a week in SNOWMASS/ COLORADO. There are three airports to fly into for choice.

I give you the pro’s and con’s.

ASPEN:

Pro: only half an hour away from Snowmass

Con: very small airport. Only smaller airplanes can fly into it and if there is bad weather flights get canceled often.

 

DENVER: 

Pro: bigger airplanes can land meaning, a more comfortable flight; bigger airport and more flights available

Con: 4-5 h commute to Snowmass not putting any snowstorm, accidents or traffic jam in consideration

 

VAIL:

Pro: bigger airplanes can land, makes for a more comfortable flight

Con: smaller than Denver, bigger than Aspen airport; flights sell out quicker; 1.5 h commute to Snowmass

 

 

TIP: For either commute to and from Denver or Vail, I would recommend the shuttle service CME. Book ahead of time over the phone or online.

http://www.coloradomountainexpress.com/


Coming back to Snowmass.

https://www.stayaspensnowmass.com/info/mountain/snowmass

You really can not beat this place. I like lots of snow, wide, groomed runs, sunny and no people. Sounds picky? Maybe, but I know what I like and I know where I can get these conditions – in Snowmass!!

 

 

The ski resort is not as big as Vail but still plenty big. Lots of variety with green, blue and black runs. The black runs go from “easy blacks” to “thanks but no thanks” for me. They even have dedicated areas for snowboarders. So basically something for everybody.

 

 

After a few days we got really familiar with the mountain and did not even need the map anymore.

Skiing was really superb! The snow is much “drier” than on the East coast and the lifts are long but fast.

 

 

We have also skied in Germany and Austria but skiing wise this is it!  It does not get better than skiing out west.

Austria and Germany have the ambiance, the coziness and the delicious food yes, but Colorado has got the snow and the perfect cruising conditions.

We also find the people incredibly friendly here. Everybody seems to be pretty relaxed and always in a good mood and people “will” stand patiently in line to wait for the ski lift or gondola.

We had several bad experiences with getting on the lifts in Austria, just in comparison. There it is the rule “whoever is strongest and has the biggest elbows is on the lift first.” Not my kind of thing.

Snowmass also seems to be pretty popular with Australians, Italians and Argentines. A big variety of languages going on here.

 

 

We had really good snow the entire week and mostly good weather. One day we had very thick fog which made finding your way a bit challenging but we did it.

Usually I take photos with my Nikon D SLR but “skiing and D SLR” just don’t go together, so I used my iPhone instead.

I concentrated more on the views showing the fog, to really show how mysterious and also ghostly empty it was. After all, anybody can take nice pictures with sunshine and blue skies, right?

 

 

In case you want to get a break from skiing, you also can catch a bus into  ASPEN. It runs regularly and is for free.

https://www.rfta.com/routes/snowmass-village/

It’s a half an hour ride, depending on the driving style of the bus driver. For some reason we always end up with bus drivers who only know two speeds “fast and faster”. Not very friendly for people who get car sick easily. Now that we know, we take Dramamine (meds against motion sickness) before.

 

Aspen is a cute little town, often in the tabloids for stars like Kate Hudson or Mariah Carey hanging out here. Nobody of that kind was there for us, of course.

We did see the house of Kevin Costner, tennis star Martina Navratilova and German car racer Michael Schumacher though. “Not shabby”,  all I am saying.
The stores are cute but tend to be on the pricey side, but they have a decent selection of restaurants and a surprisingly nice movie theater. Small but with super nice seats with foot rests like a fancy recliner.

We watched “Lion”, what a remarkable story!

 

I was disappointed there was no snow in the town for Aspen. They still had the lights in the trees from Christmas and with snow it could have looked so pretty.

Anyways, that was our week in Snowmass. The hotels were booked out already, the condos as well and airBnB saved the day again. Got a great condo that just went on the market a few weeks before,  “ski in, ski out”. We were actually the hosts first airBnB guests.

The only thing I never like in Snowmass village is the high altitude. It really hits you when you have to walk uphill, no matter how fit you are. The only thing that helped me was drinking lots of fluids. 4 liters water were my minimum.

http://www.altitude.org/altitude_sickness.php

 

For this year skiing is over and I am glad we didn’t get hurt and hopefully we will be back. ❤

 

Photo courtesy of my husband