photography travel

Venice, Italy, November 2023

I first visited Venice in 2002, I spend a long day tramping around the city with a college friend. We didn’t stay in Venice, that was too expensive.

I returned to Venice in 2007 with my Wife, part of our honeymoon tour of Italy.

The Grand Canal from The Rialto in the morning light

This time my daughters and my mother and youngest sister joined my wife and I. We spend three nights. We flew into Milan and took the train directly to Venice, choosing to see Milan as our last stop so we didn’t need to rush to make a flight on the last day.

We visited all the important sights —the Doge’s Palace [], St. Marks Basillica [], The Rialto []— spent lots of time walking around the streets and squares, at a lot of good foot and gelato, and took a trip to Murano [] —for the glass— and Burano [] —for the colorful houses.

St. Mark’s Basillica in the late afternoon sunlight

We were lucky to get into St. Marks at just the right time of day, to have brilliant late afternoon sun steaming in the windows and giving all the cold mosaic walls and ceilings an amazing glow. St. Mark’s is inspired by the Chruch of the Holy Apostles [] in Constantanople which no longer exits. But the influence of the Byzantium style of churches and church decoration is obvious. St. Mark’s reminds me of Hagia Sofia [], it’s nowhere near as big and it actually has a lot more golden mozaic everywhere you look (thought in absolute terms maybe Hagia Sofia has more, it’s so damn big…). Hagia Sofia is one of my favorite buildings in the world, and I get a similar feeling in St. Mark’s just based on the decoration, the mosaics and the marble and the domes. It was absolutly beautiful in the golden light.

Mask at Ca’ Del Sol

We also visited a shop, specializing in masks and costumes for Carnival, called Ca’ Del Sol []. We did buy a couple of masks but this place is like a wonderland. The floors, walls and ceiling and many tables are covered win masks. Manikins modeling full costumes stand in the corners. The old guy working there was a total character too, playing it up. Few things say Venice like a fancy carnival mask and Ca’ Del Sol, had the most fancy ones your can imagin.

Of course, the girls also needed their required Gondola ride. It’s just a thing you have to do when in Venice.

Did I mention gelato? Having discovered Gelato at Amarino’s in Paris in 2022it was a must to have actual Italian Gelato. (I didn’t write about it but we went back to Amarino’s every night after we found it, no matter how cold it was in Paris.) I even got to show them where I first had Gelato (that was in Milan). My older daughter made sure she knew where an Amarino’s was in every city we were visiting in Italy so she could have Amarino’s every day. (We did try a few other placed, but the quality of Amarino’s was consitent and higher than most easy to find tourist places).

It was not a long stay, Vinice is still expensive, and while it might be nice to spend a few more days to see everything, a few days is enough. Enought to wonder though the streets and allyways, over the bridges. Enought time to get a feel for why Venice is so famous. From Venice we took the train to Florence, but that is another post…

You can see the full Venice, Italy, November 2023 [] photoset on Flickr.

photography travel

Strasburg & Colmar, France, December 2022

I posted photos from my 2022 trip to Paris almost a year after the trip, just at the end of September. I had intended to post about the other part of that trip, to Strasburg and Colmar, soon after and definitely before this years trip.

I failed.

So, here it is, almost the end of 2023 and I’m posting a link to my photos from the 2022 trip to Strasburg and Colmar. More than a year after the trip. Sad. I hope to do better.

In any case, my family and I spent five days in Strasburg as a break from Paris. We spend most days wondering around the old Alsatian part of town, visiting the Christmas Markets.

Between glasses of vin chaud, the local mulled wine, or hot apple cider, we browsed the market stalls and climbed to the top of the Strasburg Cathedral. And we spend a day in Colmar, checking out their markets and drinking vin chaud there.

While Paris was all about visiting museums and churches, something to do every day, Strasburg was for sleeping in and relaxing, no scheduled ticket times.

Oh, and we waked to Germany. We took the tram to the closest stop and then walked over the Pont de l’Europe, crossing the Rhine and into Germany just far enough to catch the tram back. Just to say we did it.

Rose window of Strasburg Cathedral

You can see the few photos I took, mostly of the buildings and especially the cathedral in the Strasburg, France, 2022 Photoset on Flickr [].

photography travel

Paris, France, November-December 2022

I’m setting a new record for delay in posting my travel photos. normally it takes me six months, this time it’s closer to ten. In my defense I had to replace my external storage and, twice, send my Mac for repair. But, anyway. Yea, I went to Paris last year with the family.

Since my first visit, more than twenty years ago, before this blog existed, I have loved Paris. Not the first of course, but I really feel a je ne sais quoi. Walking the streets, sitting in the cafes or visiting the museums. This feeling survives the rude people, the stink of the Metro, the homeless, and the bitter cold we had on this trip. London, New York and Tokyo are the only other cities that I have spent a significant amount of time in that have a similar sort of presence and mystic in my mind.

I’ve seen just about everything there is to see in Paris over my many visits, but this was my daughters first trip. So, we marched our way through all of the sites I think are worth it:

Arc de Triomphe


The Arc [] was our first stop. Seemingly every flight from Singapore to Europe lands at six AM and the hotels don’t want you until two or three in the afternoon. So after dropping our bags at our hotel in the Latin Quarter we hiked down to and across the river, and then up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to the Arc. It was cold and windy and the sky was overcast, parils of winter travel, but the Arc is as good an introduction to Paris as any; a Napoleonic monument seated at the intersection of grand boulevards with views of the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur atop Montmartre, the hideous Tour Montparnasse. Notre Dame was hidden by the renovation works.

Tour Eiffel

You have to, the only reason not to visit is just to be contrarian, the Eiffel Tower [] is Paris, dispite the fact that the parisians hated it when it was first built. No one wanted to climb the stairs. There is a new (to me) glass wall that goes all the way around the base of the tower so they herd people through security screening. It ruins all the photos. C’est la vie.

Musée du Louvre


We went to the Lourve [], twice in fact. It’s much too big for one visit. We got really lucky on the first visit, it was on a Friday, they have extended hours and when we made our way to the Mona Lisa [] there were surprisingly few people. Even with two visits the Louvre is overwhelming. We checked off the majors: Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo [], Nike of Samothrace [], Liberty Leading the People [], the apartments of Napoleon III, and much more. So much more…

Musée de Cluny/Musée du Moyen Âge

The Moyen Âge is a smaller museum, less crowded. You feel like you can take your time. But really you go for one thing: ze tapestries. The Lady and The Unicorn [], six large tapestries that are always linked in my mind with opening titles of The Last Unicorn [], the 1982 Rankin/Bass animated movie. Though younger people may associate them with the Gryffindor common room in the Harry Potter movies.

Musée d’Orsay


The Orsay [] is my favorite musum in Paris. I love the collection, focusing on art from the late 19th and early 20th century. There is something about the transition from classical painting and sculpture to fully modern art that just works for me. I love the impressionist and post-impressionist; the Orsay has a huge collection: Monet [], Van Gogh [], Cézanne [wikipedia.0rg], Degas [], and many more. I love also the sculpture of Rodin [] his student Camille Claudel [], and those of Carpeaux []. The Orsay is the right size, not as massive as the Lourve, not so small as the Cluny. A long lazy afternoon wondering among great art. This time there was a exhibit on the works of Edvard Munch [], we got to see an early hand colored lithograph of The Scream [].

Musée de l’Orangerie

The main attraction in the Oragnerie [] is eight massive paintings by Cloude Monet in his Water Lilies [] series. If you’ve never seen these or the other large format ones that are in other museums, you will be shocked at how large they are. While many of the Water Lilies in museams like the Orsay are ‘normal’ size, typically around 1 meter by 1 meter or so, the eight that hang in the Orangerie are two meters high and range in width from six to seventeen meters. The museum also houses many more other impressionist and post-impressionist paintings.

Musée Rodin


Rodin [] is my favorite sculpture (Dalí comes close), and the Rodin Museum [] in Paris is wonderful place. A quiet garden and manor house that once housed Rodin’s studio, set not too far from the Eiffel Tower. It’s a great escape from the city without leaving the city. You can spend hours wondering around the garden and inside the house. Among hundreds of Rodin’s works; including The Thinker [] and The Kiss [] as well as a cast of the full The Gates of Hell [] (both The Kiss and the Thinker were orginally part of the Gates).

Espace Dalí

Dali Paris [], is a small private museum in Montmartre, devoted to Dalí. There are a number of casts of various images from his surrealest paintings —melting clocks from the Persistance of Memory [], a long legged Space Elephant from The Elephants, Alice jumping rope and more. It’s small, but if you like Dalí it’s a great stop.



Standing in Sante-Chapelle [], one a sunny day, the stained glass windows filling the room with all colors of the rainbow, is one of the most peaceful and beautiful experiences you can have. Of all the churches and other places filled with stained glass I’ve visited around Europe (and other places), there is nothing that compares with Sainte-Chapelle.


Sacré-Cœur [] is beautiful building, a mix of muted orthodox churches —massive ceiling mosaics and almost onion domes— and the classical revival styles. Nothing gothic about it, but, while it is pretty, it doesn’t do it for me, I prefer the gothic architecture of Norte Dame. The best part of visiting Sacré-Cœur is going up to the dome and getting the view of Paris from the very top of Montmartre.

Shakespeare & Co


There are other, larger, book stores just around the corner from Shakespeare & Co [] —though sadly Gibert Jeune closed due to the COVID19 pandemic— but Shakespeare & Co’s focus on English books means I can actually read a book I buy there. And it just feels more cosy. The shops along Boulevard Saint-Michel are massive, Gibert Jeune was 6 stores and Gibert Joseph stretches across multiple locations. Shakespeare & Co is cosy, you can barely turn around in the used book shop. The new book shop is bigger, but still just five irregular shaped rooms, packed with shelves of books. I know this is not the original Shakespeare & Co that published Ulysses, that one closed during the Nazi occupation, but it has the ambiance. I picked up a used copy of Chaucer, The Pardoners Tale edited by Nevill Coghill and Christopher Tolkien.

Catacombes de Paris

“I see dead people”… Well, their bones. Bones everywhere. Millions of bones. I’ve been the theCatacombs of Paris [] before, twice. This trip was all about taking my teenage daughter. She likes horror movies so this was right up her alley. My wife and younger daughter declined to join us, they went shopping and dinning.

Palais Garnier


The Palais Garnier or Paris Opera House, is the very definition of over-the-top architecture. Wikipedia says it’s Second Empire or Napoleon III style, which is not technically baroque but includes many elements of baroque as a revival… But the basic principle seems to be leave no surface unadorned. Statues, carvings, mosaics, gilded mirrors… it’s all there. And somehow it works. Even if you don’t appreciate the aesthetic the exterior and, especially, the interior of the Palais Garnier are awesome and worth the visit. And don’t forget this is where the Phantom of the Opera lived.

In addition to all the sights we visited in the city, we made a few trips out to the surrounding areas. We went to Versailles [] to see the opulent palace of the Sun King [] and Marie-Antoinette []. Actually we had to make two trips, the first day we went we arrived late and the last tickets for the (short) day were sold out. Fortunately we had a few free days so were able to get tickets online for one of those days towards the end of our trip.

We also visited Chartres to see the cathedral []. The idea was to make up for not getting to see Notre Dame, since it was still under renovation and repair after the fire. You can’t go to France and not see a proper gothic cathedral. Unfortunately, Chartres is undergoing restoration and cleaning and the tour of the tower and upper floors was closed. C’est la vie. So we had to settle for the main floor and outside views.

So, yea, a long, packed trip to Paris. We marched back and forth across the city, averaging 16 kilometers a day. We rode the Metro nearly every day; using the old school little blue tickets and enjoying the, um, unique, smell of the Paris Metro while navigating the maze-like passages and stairways and braving the overly aggressive doors on the older trains. We ate fresh baguettes and crescents from boulangeries (I will fight you for the last baguette from Maison d’Isabellein Place Maubert!); Comte cheese and yogurt, raspberries and apples for from the markets for breakfast. We wondered the Latin Quarter and Montmatre. I love Paris.

You can see the full Paris, France, November-December 2022 [] photoset on Flickr.

photography travel

Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea, Israel/Palestine, June 2022

I’ve been visiting Tel Aviv for work since 2007 [], and despite the assertion in that first post that my wife would join me, my family has never been. So, in late May when my boss asked me to go again for work I decided to take the family. It was a bit last minute, but we were trying to decide what, if any, travel to do in the June school holidays. After more than two years of not traveling everyone in my family was itching to get out of Singapore. We travel a lot, Singapore is such a small place that you have to show your passport to go more then 20 kilometers in any direction from 0ur house. The last travel we did was in March 2020, we were two days in Bali [] during the spring school holidays when Singapore decided to shut the border so we had to rush back in the madness of early COVID.

Church of the Holy Sepelchre

So everyone was eager to get out and see some things, eat some different food, breath some different air. Israel has amazing beaches so I booked a place on the beach in southern Tel Aviv, not too far north of Jaffa. Expensive at that height of the summer, a side effect of the amazing Mediterranean beaches, and I didn’t even realize we book the week of Pride, so their is also that. I would have been an experience to watch the parade from our balcony, but for the first time ever the parade was not along the boardwalk. Any other year we would have been in an amazing space to watch the parade but this year they moved it due to construction or something. Oh well. We did try to get to the parade but the public transport was crazy and we were late so we eventually gave up.

Anyway, we didn’t go to see those sights. We hit key required first time in the Holy Land sights. We spent a day in Jerusalem, seeing the old city; the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepelchre, shopping in the markets of old Jerusalem. We even made the trip across town to Yad Veshem.

Yad Vashem

I have to say, Yad Veshem was not as interesting experience as I thought it would be. I think the impact of the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC was much deeper, as a non-Jew I found it much more moving. Yad Veshem came across as too sterile a history lesson, no the personal story that the Holocaust Museum felt like. Also, they would not let my younger daughter go to the museum, they don’t allow kids under 10 to enter, which I must have missed when I booked the tickets. She was 1 month short of her tenth birthday. They wouldn’t budge, so she and my wife had to sit out while my older daughter and I went through the main exhibit. So, maybe I was just not in the mood, I was a bit pissed, both my daughters have been to Anne Frank House, and I don’t see why this sort of history should be off limits to people of any age when accompanied by a parent. This is history, they may not comprehend it but history, good or bad, is not some Hollywood movie that should be hidden behind age restrictions and ratings.

We did the required dip in the dead sea. Mud bath that bobbing up and down for a while then getting the hell out of the heat. It was 35°C in the shade. We opted not to go to Masada where the forecast high was close to 50°C.

Praying at the Western Wall

So we spent most of the rest of the week swimming in the ocean. My kids have been to the ocean in Bali and in Phuket before but the sand and surf in Israel is on another level, closer to Surfers Paradise in Australia —another place they have been but they were 4 years old and 6 months old so they don’t really remember, (mental note to self time to go back). The beach in Singapore is not worth visiting for swimming, if there were ever great beaches in Singapore they were sacrificed to the gods of commerce in the name of progress long ago. The sand is imported from Indonesia and Malaysia and is corse and dirty due to the flotilla of commercial shipping vessels constantly mored off the coast of Singapore. East Coast park is good for a BBQ or a bike ride but the beach is not something to write home about. A pity, we live less than 2 kilometers from a beach, in the tropics, but… C’est la vie.

All, in all, the kids enjoyed the trip. They enjoyed it so much they said, “lets go every June!”. I’ll have to work on my boss about that one.

One last note, I will get flack about the title and featured image of this post; “Israel/Palestine” will please no one and irritate some. But until there is a mutual peace between the people who call it one and the people who call it the other I’ll stick to calling it both.

You can see the full Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Dead Sea, Israel and Palestine, June 2022 [] photoset on Flickr.

photography travel

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2019

Back before COVID19 locked us all in our home countries we went to Amsterdam for a holiday. We also took a two day side trip to Billund, Denmark just to visit the Lego House [], but more on that in another post. Amsterdam was the right combination of close to Billund and decent flights. Copenhagen was another option but Amsterdam won out.


We arrived quite early in the morning, before 6AM in Schiphol, a day after my mother and sister. After dropping our bags at the hotel room our first stop was the bakery on the corner for fresh stroopwafel []. Thus began a recurring theme for our period in Amsterdam: breakfast confections… maybe that’s not the right work but we had stroopwafel, proffertjes [], icing sugar coated waffles, and even vegan pancakes at Mr. Stacks [].

But it was not all eating. We did some sight seeing. Actually we did a lot of walking to see things. Based on my iPhone we did 118km walking over the week and a half we were in Amsterdam.

Some of our sightseeing agenda was based on what I already knew about Amsterdam generally and from my time there in 2001/2002, but a lot of it was based on watching various travel videos, mostly on YouTube. We all sat around in the months leading up to our trip and watch different “best of” videos. It’s how we discovered Mr. Stacks, among other things.


One of our favorite sightseeing activities is museums and Amsterdam has some great ones. On this trip we visited:

  • The most important museum we visited was, without a doubt, The Anne Frank House []. I remember reading the book as a teenager, I truly believe the world needs to remember the atrocities of the Nazi’s and the bigotry of ordinary people which allowed the Holocaust to happen. I’m not Jewish, I’m not religious at all, but the story of Anne Frank, her family and the 17 million other Jews, Poles, Russians, Romani, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Serbs, Slovenians, Homosexuals, Disabled, Spanish Republicans and who knows who else [], must be told, over and over again. It is more important today than at anytime since the end of World War II, as xenophobia and racism seem to be on the rise again. Bigotry seems to be the default mode for most of humanity, us and them, the in group and the out group. Without constant reminders, humanity has no humanity. It’s important to remember and to teach our children so they can be mindful and hopefully live up to “never again” as we keep failing to.
  • The Rijksmuseum [], where you can see The Night Watch [] by Rembrandt and many other Dutch Golden Age paintings. THe Night Watch was under renovation at the time of our visit, you could see the painting but it was inside a giant glass box and there were people working on part of it. It was kind of interesting to see it under renovation and I’m glad they didn’t take it off display fort he renovation. Though the things my kids seems to like the best was sitting in the Research Library where you have to sit quietly. Interesting…
  • The Van Gogh Museum [], filled with Van Gogh paintings… duh. Lots of self-portraits and sunflowers; also people eating potatoes []. A very good museum, love the way you ascend year-by-year up the building. The audio guides were included in our ticket price and were very good. I forgot that The Starry Night [] is actually at MOMA.
  • NEMO [], a hands on science museum for kids. Good for a full day of play. Bubbles, Rube-Goldberg machines, earthquake simulation room (very cool), water works to play in. We could have gone two days I’m sure.
  • MOCA, a small museum located in the Museamplein, near the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum. Like MOMA but Contemporary. Exhibitions on Banksy, Daniel Arsham and Yayoi Kusama as well as a general collection of contemporary art pieces. I got tickets to this one without consulting anyone else as I wanted to see the Banksy.
  • Body Worlds. Not, strictly speaking a museum, but an exhibition on the human body using actual human (and animal) bodies and body parts that have undergone plastination []. The smaller Amsterdam exhibition was not as good as the one I saw two in London two decades ago. Partly it was just smaller, but also the layout in a small, multi-story building and all the rooms being painted black made it feel less open and like it was trying to creep you out. In London it was a huge open space and all white and bright. My kids thought it was too creepy.

But it was not always stuffy museums, we got out of town to see some amazing things too. We went to Haarlem, and spent a day wondering around it’s medieval center. Quaint red-brick buildings and streets surround it’s cathedral. A nice sleepy town to spend an afternoon in, enjoy some food and walking. Unfortunately it was a wet day, light rain off and on all day, when we were there so we didn’t cover much other then the main square around the cathedral.


Out other excursion was more successful. On our first day in Holland, we took the train an hour out from Centraal station to Zaanse Schans, famous for its windmills. From the train station it’s a 15 minute walk to the riverfront where the windmills sit. And you get to walk past a chocolate factory. Smells amazing, looks like it’s straight out of Willy Wonka, of course you can’t see the Umppa Loompas, they stay inside.

We visited a couple of windmills along the Zaan river. Two of them were actually working: De Kat [], a dyemill crushing chalk to make dies for paint, and De Zoeker [] an oilmill, roasting and crushing linseed for oil. Their was a presentation inside De Zoeker showing how they use various mechanisms to transfer the wind power from the mill stones to hammers and other tools using various mechanical means. The oil from the linseed’s pressed at De Zoeker can, and is sometimes, used to make paint with the dye from De Kat. The inside of De Zoeker looked and smelled a lot like my grandfather’s shop/barn. The smell of oil and wood and sawdust.

There was also a few shops/exhibits in Zaanse Schans, one making Dutch cheeses, Catharina Hoeve Cheese Farm, and one making and selling traditional Dutch wooden clogs: Kooijman Wooden Shoe Workshop []. The cheese did not interest the kids so much, but the wooden shoes were a hit, especially the giant ones you could sit in outside.


I also managed to meet up with two friends while in Amsterdam, one planned meeting and one random chance. Both are, funny enough, ex-colleagues from working here in Singapore. The planned meeting was with a recent ex-colleague who is dutch and moved back to Amsterdam a few years ago. We met up for an afternoon drinking in a pub. We didn’t drink that much, but we managed to stretch it out for about 6 hours and he ended up missing a flight for work because we took too long. Oops.

The second meetup was completely random. I posted about it at the time [], but, in brief, an Irish, ex-colleague who worked with me in Singapore, before moving to Russia, happened to be in Amsterdam for a conference and we managed to meet up for a evening of good beer and great food. Absolutely random and the best, if not only, reason to still have social media.

You can see the full Amsterdam, The Netherlands, November 2019 photoset [] on Flickr.