A Different Look at Venice

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Iconic Venice, right? The gondola, the view of San Giorgio from Saint Marks Square. It's an iconic view.  But the thing I found most delightful about Venice is that the view at every turn is atmospheric, you have the feeling that you are seeing "iconic" Venice even when you are off the beaten path! 

We did the whole St Marks thing- one day we traversed the square, crossing the bridge shoulder to shoulder with selfie stick toting crowds, four times...FOUR times, back and forth, back and forth, trying to find the right vaporetto to take! (To avoid our mistakes and plan a great trip to Venice, see our tips here on our post Myth Busting in Venice) So we've been there and we've taken the same photos everyone else has. (see them here on our St Mark's Square post) Today we'd like to show the parts of Venice we enjoyed the best...the quiet. pretty, historic squares, canals, and bridges; the ordinary people getting ready for their day, the workaday boats supplying the watery city.  See what we discovered when we wandered out of St Mark's Square and had a different look at Venice!

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Shanghai Photo Walk

Photos by J. Klofft

By Kathy Klofft

A recent trip to Shanghai allowed Jeff to capture the architecture and atmosphere in Shanghai in advance of the celebration of Chinese New Year on Jan 28th. Happy New Year!

Pearl Tower

Pearl Tower

Street Worker

Shanghai World Fiancial Center

Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower (the world's 2nd tallest building) & Jin Mao Tower

Evening Walk

Puxi (the historic center of Shanghai) from Pudong

Shangai Tower (in rear)

Shanghai Pearl at Night

Shanghai Pearl at Night

Signs

Preparations for the New Year- Year of the Rooster

A Real Country Fair (a photo essay)

There is really nothing more American than real country fair.  These fairs were part of the United States agricultural past, bringing together farming families to show off their livestock, crops and handicrafts. A little fun could be had on the side, with fair food and games of chance and later mechanical rides.  Today, agricultural fairs all over the country showcase what is special about rural America and each State and County where they are held. For me, these fairs are not only a showcase of the goods and crafts of rural folks, but also tell us something about the people themselves!

The fair we attended is the Blue Hill Fair in Blue Hill, Maine. Linked Here: Blue Hill Fair  It goes on all Labor Day weekend...if you'd like to make the trip!  I can personally recommend the King and Queen's Fries!

(We hope you enjoy this visual "feast" at a country fair; Jeff's photo essay includes surprising details, if you look closely!  Did the farmer win a ribbon for his oxen or the squash at his feet?  A young boy lying on the ground next to the rides, seemingly mesmerized by the bright lights.  Photos by Jeff Klofft)

Livestock

The days when only ladies quilt and only men drive draft horses are over. During the 3300 Class Horse Pull, this young lady presented one of the best teams.

Jacobs Sheep

Double L Farm Llamas

A farmer sits with his prize winning oxen 

A farmer sits with his prize winning oxen 

The Games

"Yummy" tries to drum up business for his game of chance, made with painted muffin tins,  by taking videos of potential patrons. 

The Red Trouser Show, in the vaudeville tradition, relies on several willing volunteers.

The Chris Perondi All Star Stunt Dog Challenge

Agricultural displays

The annual dwindling display of flowers and plants and the ever growing display of digital photos in the craft area is a testament to the changing interests modern times. 

Warty Squash await judging.

Food

Rides

Attendants wait for more takers before running the Thunder Bolt, while a young boy, who lives in a town without a store, or street lights, lies on the ground to watch the dazzling light display. 

Photo Walk in Albany, New York

Albany New York

The New York State Capitol building. Architects were Thomas Fuller and Henry Hobson Richardson

The New York State Capitol building. Architects were Thomas Fuller and Henry Hobson Richardson

I'll try avoid making the joke that it's a "capitol" idea! (But then I just did, didn't I?!) But Albany had more to offer than I was expecting!  Albany is the capitol of New York, but of course New York City is the largest city by a huge margin.  Albany, with it's population of less than 100,000 people (according to the 2013 census) is really a small town with big architecture.  In the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century, when it was popular for capitol cities to show off with architecture and hold expos, some of the country's best architects came to Albany flex their muscles.  With the city was growing, banks and other industry booming, beautiful buildings went up trying to mimic iconic avenues of NYC.  Of course the city suffered in the middle and end of the 20th century, and buildings sat empty.  The advantage of this stall in Albany's fortunes was that the old wasn't cleared away for the new and now that things are on an upswing again, the gorgeous architecture remains, waiting for a responsible hand to return them to their former glory.

Although more than a few gorgeous buildings sport "available" signs, many developers have renovated buildings with respect for the original architecture. These renovations have married some modern "cool" (in particular with lighting and interiors; there seems to be a lot of neon lighting accents) with the traditional. The over all effect is that State Street is a delightful place to see some incredible architecture,  in just over an hour, we did a short photo walk up and down State Street and the area. It would also be a good place to spend a relatively inexpensive weekend. (To see our Trip Report for Albany click here

Note: As is often the case, Jeff decided to share architectural photos in black and white to better highlight the architecture

A view down State St Albany to the SUNY Administration Buildings

A view down State St Albany to the SUNY Administration Buildings

View up Washington St towards the Albany City Hall

View up Washington St towards the Albany City Hall

This little building on State St is available, with incredible details, it sits all alone!

This little building on State St is available, with incredible details, it sits all alone!

This Philip Hooker building houses the Bank of America today

This Philip Hooker building houses the Bank of America today

A beautiful trio of organ pipe buildings on Eagle St housing shops and an Irish pub our concierge recommended. 

A beautiful trio of organ pipe buildings on Eagle St housing shops and an Irish pub our concierge recommended. 

At the far end of State Street, the SUNY Administration building dominates, it was a former railroad building opened in 1913.

At the far end of State Street, the SUNY Administration building dominates, it was a former railroad building opened in 1913.

Our experience during our short visit is that Albany is full of architecture that lives larger than the size of the city.  As such, it's a fun architectural museum to take a photo walk. Here are some of Jeff's tips for an architectural photo walk.

Some  photography tips for shooting buildings:

-Shoot (or process) architecture in black and white to highlight the architectural details. On an overcast day the sky isn't an interesting color in any case.

-Get low, and shoot up; it cleans up the clutter on the street (cars, parking meters) and the sky gives creates a clean background. 

-Be patient, wait for cars or pedestrians to walk by- although this is a rule to be broken if you see an interesting pedestrian walking by, it can give the photo a sense of place.

-Take some close ups of interesting details in the architecture. 

-Take the "post card" picture first, you can't move the building, but if you move YOU, you might get a better shot! "Work" the building by moving around it for other interesting angles or frames and to remove distracting details like poles and wires. 

-With all urban photography its a good idea to have a partner to watch your back for traffic or street thieves (we encountered very little of the first and none of the latter on our weekend trip in Albany!)
 

A Colorful Tour of South Beach, Miami

Our family visited South Beach Miami as a pre stay before our charter flight to Cuba. We spent a couple of days taking in all the color of South Beach, based at the Blue Moon (a Marriott boutique hotel) located on Collins Ave, we were able to explore South Beach, South Point Park, Espanola Way and the Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall. 

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Our first stop on the evening we arrived was Joe's Stone Crab. I remember going there and gorging on crab legs during a business trip more than 20 years ago. Not much has changed since...the restaurant still offers excellent seafood in an elegant environment. Those platters of stone crabs aren't cheap, (I'm kind of sorry I couldn't put them on an expense account!) but they are delicious and the service is top notch! 

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The raw bar at Joe's Stone Crab

The raw bar at Joe's Stone Crab

As evening rolled around, not only was the sunset colorful, but South Beach in the evening got even more colorful! We started our walk at South Point Park on Biscayne Bay, and made our way up South Beach. 

The sky puts on its own colorful display at sunset on South Beach

The sky puts on its own colorful display at sunset on South Beach

Sunday night beach volleyball at courts by South Beach amped up with lights and music and a bar! 

Sunday night beach volleyball at courts by South Beach amped up with lights and music and a bar! 

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Ocean Drive is the "main" drag in South Beach, a colorful place day or night! 

Ocean Ave is a scene for people with fancy cars to show off their "rides" by looping around Collins and Ocean Ave all night. 

Ocean Ave is a scene for people with fancy cars to show off their "rides" by looping around Collins and Ocean Ave all night. 

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Plenty of colorful neon decorates the Art Deco buildings in South Beach.

Plenty of colorful neon decorates the Art Deco buildings in South Beach.

The next day, we had a swim on the beach before seeking advice from our concierge at Blur Moon about a good place to get pizza for lunch. He recommended Pizza Rustica, a little take out and delivery place on Washington Ave. 

Pizza Rustica is a just a store front with a broiling hot pizza oven and a counter top inside  or some umbrella tables outside, but the pizza is deliciouso!

Pizza Rustica is a just a store front with a broiling hot pizza oven and a counter top inside  or some umbrella tables outside, but the pizza is deliciouso!

It was hot in South Beach in mid June, but no place could be hotter than right here! 

It was hot in South Beach in mid June, but no place could be hotter than right here! 

These are called "huge squares" and cost $3.50- $5.75 for one depending on the toppings. In addition to being one of the best lunch values in town, this is truth in advertising! 

These are called "huge squares" and cost $3.50- $5.75 for one depending on the toppings. In addition to being one of the best lunch values in town, this is truth in advertising! 

Another fun colorful stop for art fans or design geeks is the Wolfsonian (link).  There are also some really interesting and colorful historical propaganda posters collected from all over the world that appealed to the history buffs in our family! 

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Our design geek loved the displays of Art Deco items. 

Our design geek loved the displays of Art Deco items. 

Here is an interesting and colorful metal Art Deco style vanity, which I happened to colorfully matched that day! 

Here is an interesting and colorful metal Art Deco style vanity, which I happened to colorfully matched that day! 

Another area to visit is Espanola Way on Washington. This area has some pricey sidewalk cafes and more reasonably priced boutiques.  It's a nice quiet and shady area in the heart of the city.

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Espanola Way has examples of Mediterranean architecture. 

Espanola Way has examples of Mediterranean architecture. 

Well...this shop isn't very colorful! 

Well...this shop isn't very colorful! 

Here's a shop that is very colorful, and the clerk was super friendly. 

Here's a shop that is very colorful, and the clerk was super friendly. 

A little further up from Espanola Way is the Lincoln Road Pedestrian Mall. In addition to all the usual chain mall stores, there are independent stores and lots of sidewalk cafe restaurants lining both sides of Lincoln Rd. 

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Dylan's Candy Bar is a very colorful shop for kids and kids at heart! 

Dylan's Candy Bar is a very colorful shop for kids and kids at heart! 

The man made shops and cafes are not the only colorful thing on Lincoln Road, this little gecko was showing off his colors trying to attract a mate on a tree right next to our table at Locanda Sabilla.

The man made shops and cafes are not the only colorful thing on Lincoln Road, this little gecko was showing off his colors trying to attract a mate on a tree right next to our table at Locanda Sabilla.

South Beach is very easy to navigate, with a grid of numbered streets intersecting all the main tourist thoroughfares; Ocean, Collins and Washington. It's easy to walk the whole area of you don't mind putting in a few miles. Traffic is almost always thick, and parking tight, so we found it easier to walk and could calculate how long our walk would be based on street the street address to our next stop. If it's just too hot to walk, (or your heels are too high) once there, there is a tourist bus that runs for a nominal fee and stops at all the major areas. After a day walking around hot and colorful South Beach, there is nothing better than slipping into a colorful, cool pool! 

The pool at Blue Moon on Collins Ave. 

The pool at Blue Moon on Collins Ave. 

For an interesting Colorless Tour of South Beach Miami, see our post here: 

http://www.goseeittravel.com/travel-blog/2015/7/29/art-deco-tour-south-beach-miami

 

Flora and People of St Lucia (aboard Adventure of the Seas)

Our trip around St Lucia introduced us to the people and the flora and agriculture of the island. It's hard to tell which was more beautiful! 

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Our tour was led by the ambitious and knowledgable Shane with Real St Lucia Tours. As his car attests, he works hard for his guests and he shared many facets of St Lucia with us during our day on the island. 

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Of course the big "story" of St Lucia are the beautiful geological formations on the coast known as Petite and Grande Piton.

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We visited several scenic overlooks and went south towards Soufrierre, where we visited the Botanical Gardens and Diamond Falls, and took a hike along the Tet Paul Nature trail

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We saw many tropical plants, that ordinarily only grow inside homes of offices in our own area, but here they were growing everywhere in this rainforest environment.

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The rainforest flowers above and below support life within their blooms by holding onto water which allows the hummingbirds to sip, small insects and frogs to live and also for epiphytes (air plants) to grow in the tiny "bowls" created by the blossoms.

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We saw this flower (normally I write down the names of these things, but can't find the name this one!) But it was quite waxy looking and has "wax" in its name. I think that it is a metaphor for the delicate natural environment on all of these islands we've visited. It has a beautiful and dramatic blossom...

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...but as soon as the blossom is touched by human hands, it withers and dies without producing any seeds to reproduce.  At the Botanical Gardens they all had a sign that said, "do not touch", but at the Tet Paul Nature trail, they did not and several had been to irresistible to guests and looked like the one below. Our guide explained it had rotted and would not produce seeds.

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This tree was not at all like St Lucia- which we found very welcoming.  This tree with its sharp spikes was not hospitable to man, bird, or lizard! Ouch!

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We also had a chance to see some of the agriculture of the island...in addition to the banana plantation, which is the biggest export from St Lucia (mostly to Great Britain)  in the first photo, we also saw a mango tree in blossom with tiny mango fruit just starting, smaller than a pea! 

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And nearly ripe mangoes below.

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Pineapples do not grow on trees but on plants with spiky leaves near the ground. Each one can grow 4-5 pineapples on the plant. Then the plant dies and pineapples need to be replanted.  Of course a new plant will grow from the top of another pineapple, so they are easy to grow! 

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Even more beautiful than the flora, were the welcoming and friendly people of St Lucia. Even the folks trying to sell something were very positive, reminding us they needed to "make bread, mon". Below are some folks in a shop along our route.

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These school girls were caught in the rain after school, but it didn't stop them from smiling and waving to us as we went by! 

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We had decided before we left to try not to be the kind of tourists who "touch the flower and ruin it".  We had heard of an organization called Pack For A Purpose. (http://www.packforapurpose.org) This organization offers communities around the world an opportunity to share a wish list with travelers who might be going there. You simply collect the wish list items and "pack for a purpose", bringing along items easily sourced in the US and delivering them to people in need. The very last thing we did in St Lucia before we left was to drop off a whole bag of school supplies (flash cards, crayons and pencils etc.) we had collected from our own community. We were able to deliver these to the Sandals LeToc, where the Sandals Foundation helps supply and fund 2 preschools in the area.  We were met by a Sandals executive who thanked us for participating and we know that the suplies will be well used, because the following day in Antigua our guide explained that her daughter goes to a preschool that is supported by the Sandals Foundation and they do many worthwhile projects and help supply the school! It was great hearing first hand that our small contribution makes a difference in the lives of ordinary people where we visit! 

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San Juan at Night

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San Juan is a very lively place on a Saturday night! Old San Juan is surrounded by the colonial city walls, many of which are dramatically lit at night.  There is a wonderful walkway along the ocean call Paseo de Princessa. It follows along the outside of the walls and the part closest to the center serves a street fair of sorts with artisans invited by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company to sell their handiwork. There are food trucks and vendors also lining the pedestrian walkway. What we love best about it is that the promenade is full of families out enjoying the Saturday evening! 

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An artisan works on caritcutures of children.

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Brightly lit, patrolled by friendly security officers, the Paseo De Princessa is a safe, fun place to people watch locals and visitors in historic Old San Juan. 

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Working with a electric peeler, an orange juice vendor creates a huge pile of orange peels by nights end.  The cost of this hand squeezed treat on the street? $1.50 for a larger than 8 oz cup. 

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Old walls, and old colonial buildings are meshed with new parks and sculpture to create a wonderful place to sit or stroll.

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Raices Fountain is a more recent addition to the area, a dramatic installation with a descriptive plaque in English and Spanish which explains all of the elements of the sculpture and what they relate to Puerto Rico. 

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Because it was Saturday night, we had the opportunity to see Jewel of the Seas sail out of port at 8:30 PM, knowing that Sunday night, we would be aboard Adventure of the Seas and sail past the same spot! 

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And on Sunday night, we sailed out of San Juan past El Morro and its imposing walls and moody light house! 

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