Josh's Photo Blog

November 12, 2009

Italy

Filed under: travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 12:18 am

One nice thing about being in France is that you get to take breaks when the French do… which is quite often! Barely a month and a half into the semester, I got a week off from school and went to Italy with a big bunch of friends. It was quite the adventure – we did 4 cities in 7 days (down from 10), half of us got sick and I broke a lens somewhere between Florence and Venice (above) – a $500 repair!

We were in airports a lot, thanks to airport strikes and weird connections screwing us over.

This is the Sistine Chapel. You aren’t supposed to take pictures in it. Good luck stopping people, though..

The Vatican City (above 3 photos) had some amazing collections of Catholic-inspired art and architecture. As the world shifts towards secularism, the lowest common denominator and what is most profitable, we might never again see an era where people would be motivated to build such monuments to a higher power

Not much to see in Pisa beyond the tower that bears its name, though it is quite funny to see people trying to get their picture with it.

Florence (above) is quite nice. It’s one of those large cities that succeeds in having a rustic, small-town feel. Like many of the other places we went to, it was quite easy to get around on foot as most of the major sights are clustered together in the city center

There’s a LOT of art in this city, particularly Christian art. It’s quite overwhelming, but I actually found some of the art to be surprisingly inspiring.

Many of the churches we went to charged admission, with the result being that most of the people in them show their adoration and veneration with a camera rather than with prayer

Gondolas abound in Venice (there are about 400 licensed gondoliers), and they reminded me of my time spent on USC’s Dragonboat team.

Venice away from the canals is a maze of pathways and alleys, amazingly easy to get lost in. Wandering through these alleys alone and away from the rampant tourism in Italy was probably the most peaceful I felt the whole trip.

The parts of Italy I saw were beautiful, but I wish I had more time to get to know the place on a deeper level. My overall impression of it was a country rich in culture and tradition, but with a hugely commercial, touristy side that got in the way of its beauty.

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October 19, 2009

Things I learnt last week

Filed under: travel — Tags: , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 8:11 pm

I took advantage of a rather sunny weekend in Paris to roam around, go to some conventions and do some exploring. Some things I found out:

1. There IS Chinese food in Paris, but it’s way too expensive. 14-20 E for a decent meal per person. They do get the Hong Kong-style ambience down, though.

2. Finding free passes to photo shows on the RER (train) rocks. I saw the very latest camera releases – let’s just say I have more than a few new Christmas wish list items now.

3. Corsets are hot, especially chocolate ones. Also, fashion shows are EVERYWHERE in Paris. Also, you CAN eat too much chocolate, medically proven!

4. Sacre-Coer is probably the touristy-est place in Paris. Even more so than the Eiffel Tower. I’ve been here 3 times in 8 days for no real reason aside from it being pretty.

5. The Moulin Rouge is just a red windmill. So overrated.

6. The Louvre closes late. And it’s pretty at night. Pyramids make anything look cool!

7. Antiques are cool. The shops at Montmarte have everything from 17th-century setpieces to antique watches and cameras in amazing condition, to French books and posters from the earlier part of the last century. I’m definitely coming back for some of this, despite how shady it can be at times.

8. So is graffiti.

9. Kids kicking you in the shin on the subway are less cool. Paris subways can get really packed, even on weekends when nobody is supposed to have work.

I also got the chance to sit down, look at what I’ve been shooting over the past 1.5 months and use some of it to update the site. Y’all can check it out at joshuasyphoto.com.

October 7, 2009

Belgium

Filed under: travel, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 3:00 pm

When I imagined myself traveling around Europe, I didn’t think that I would be in cars as much as I have been over the past couple of weeks. On another whim, another group of friends and I rented a car to drive to Belgium, which is a little more distance- and time-wise as driving from LA to San Diego.

After some kayaking in Dinant (above) we hit up Brussels, the de facto capital of the European Union and home to some of the top culinary delights in Europe

Above, the European Commission, one of the high offices of the European Union. Unlike the ornate houses of government in many of the EU’s member states, the EC’s offices are exactly that – towering skyscrapers that exude bureaucracy.

The Atomium was built for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels. The structure is in the shape of an iron molecule and about 10 stories tall – pretty impressive for the fifties

Beer and chocolate abound in BelgiumĀ  – you can even get chocolate beer, which is a little like mixing pizza and ice cream. Skip those and buy peach beers instead – the best alcoholic drink ever.

Above, the Manneken-Pis, probably the most over-hyped tourist attraction in existence. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a statue of a peeing boy. My main problem with it is that it’s life-size i.e. it’s too bloody small! If you’re going to have a big tourist attraction in your city, make sure it’s BIG!

Bruges (Brugge) was our final stop on the trip, and possibly one of the most underrated attractions in Belgium. Pretty much nobody out of Europe’s heard of the place, but it still has its fair share of tourists from around the EU and elsewhere.

It’s a nice little town with lots of great architecture, an interesting canal network and…

…surprisingly good nightlife. Above, Willy sings along in his private bar, a beautifully decorated, if cramped, masterpiece built underneath his house and only open on Saturday nights.

Pommes frites (french fries) taste great when you’re drunk!

Overall, Belgium was worth the visit, but I have to say that it’s a little too touristy for my taste, and probably can’t compare to some of the other things I’ve seen in Paris and Munich. A weekend was enough for us to see most of the things in the country. The food, though, definitely makes up for the sometimes underwhelming sights.

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