A weekend in Toulouse and Albi

Back in October my boyfriend and I spent the weekend in France. I only took the Friday off work but it felt like a really good break. We stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Toulouse – with a comically low bathroom ceiling (especially as we’re both quite tall) but a wonderfully comfy bed.

It was a weekend that centred around our stomachs and we ate our way through the city over the next couple of days. This included visits to the markets full of all kinds of delights – and a few horrors!

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We also took the train to Albi for a day which was a stunning town, another market to explore, a delicious lunch including snails and a trip to the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. We were much luckier with the weather in Albi so there were many more photo opportunities!

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My highlight of the weekend had to be seeing a starling murmuration over the river in Toulouse. I’ve always wanted to see this natural spectacle but had no expectations that Toulouse would be where I see it!

We’re off to Portugal next so look out for some more photos soon.

 

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Florence – exploring the city

Our recent trip to Italy began in Florence, I was excited to see the city as had heard so much about it from friends and colleagues. It is a stunning place, however, it is such a tourist trap that we didn’t enjoy walking the streets in the centre of the city. Too much hard work – especially in 34ºc heat! We did manage to find some quieter corners and some delicious food in local restaurants so, despite the crowds, I could enjoy the magic of such a beautiful city. DSCF8325

Our AirBnB was very close to the stunning Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, completed in 1436. It is an awe-inspiring building with white, pink and green marble adorning its outer walls. My boyfriend braved the climb up the Dome however, having seen Richard Ayoade and Rebel Wilson tackle the climb in Travel Man, I opted for a less strenuous activity. I went to the Palazzo Vacchio and explored the imposing chamber which featured a sculpture by Michelangelo (not the one, although a replica stands outside the museum entrance) and some beautifully decorated apartments which were the private quarters of Cosimo I. The Hall of Lilies was beautiful too – there were no photos allowed inside so I have nothing to share but I recommend a visit if you go to Florence (there was also no queue to visit the museum!).

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One morning we stumbled upon the Loggia dei Lanzi which is an open-air sculpture gallery and features some striking and intriguing sculptures. There are plenty of world-renowned galleries in Florence, but the queues are so long that we found it quite off-putting. It’s also a sad fact that when there are so many tourists just “ticking off” masterpieces, you can feel slightly herded along.

My boyfriend and I both felt this way when visiting the Vatican in Rome, so decided not to join the queues and see what we really wanted to without feeling an obligation.  I really recommend both the Palazzo Vacchio and this collection of sculptures which can both be enjoyed without queues – and the Loggia dei Lanzi is free!

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Above – The striking and disturbing masterpiece from Giambologna, Rape of the Sabine Women which was carved from a single block of stone.

Below – Another work from Giambologna, Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus, 1599.

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The famous Ponte Vecchio … a tourist hotspot!

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I hadn’t realised it at the time, but on the Ponte Santa Trinita there are 4 statues representing the four seasons. This particular one represents autumn, by Giovan Battista Caccini.

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To escape the crowds, we went for a wander on the other side of the river. We noticed that there was a fort on top of a hill which was unfortunately closed once we reached the top. But we enjoyed the walk and the views that it rewarded us with. The fort we were walking towards is the Forte di Belvedere and apparently offers stunning views of the city if it is open, it is probably worth checking the opening times before you make the trek – learn from our mistake.

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Despite the fort being closed, we loved our walk back down the hill through these wonderful streets. And look – no crowds!

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So that’s a brief overview of our exploration of Florence and some of the photographs I am most pleased with. Of course, our trip was mainly focused on seeing Radiohead perform at the Visarno Arena … have I mentioned that yet?

Look out for another post soon with some of my photographs taken in Bologna – taken in the rare moments when we weren’t busy eating pasta.

 

Sunset in Florence

I’m back in London after four fabulous days in Italy. I love visiting this country, and having already been to Rome, Verona and Venice, I was excited to explore some more Italian cities. This time my boyfriend and I went to Florence and Bologna. Our main reason for the trip was to see Radiohead perform at the Visarno Arena in Florence – a stunning setting for a phenomenal gig. But this was just the cherry on the cake. I’ll be sharing my photos over a few posts, but first I wanted to share one of my highlights. Watching the sun set over Florence. It’s a very touristy city, and I have to admit that it was a little too busy for us, but watching the sunset on the first night, we couldn’t deny it’s beauty.

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I have to admit I’m particularly proud of the shot above, taken kneeling down next to a pool/fountain of some kind halfway up the hill which we had climbed to admire the view.

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More posts from this trip to follow – watch this space!

 

Daffodils: inspired by Leendert Blok

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Silent Beauties. Photography – Leendert Blok, Courtesy of Hatje Cantz 

I recently came across this blog post  Silent Beauty: A Photographic Compendium of FlowersIt introduced me to the work of Leendert Blok, a Holland-born photographer who took extensive photographs of various flowers. But rather than have them in garden settings, he photographed the plants in front of plain, simple backgrounds.

The photograph here is absolutely stunning. I love the sense of movement and life that this photograph evokes. Many of his photographs look like paintings, a quality which I really admire. I would love to be able to do botanical painting, but following a morning in a class I’ve realised that the level of delicacy and patience required is just not in my nature (if you’d seen my A-Level art portfolio you would know why – think Jackson Pollock meets Anselm Kiefer). So perhaps this style of photography is a way for me to capture flowers in a more DSCF1871artistic way using my camera.

Feeling suitably inspired I decided to have a go. I had a couple of bunches of daffodils which had passed their best so I decided to use these as my subject matter. I did some watercolour washes to use as my backgrounds to try and create a similar effect to Blok’s work.

 

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I’m quite pleased with the effects of the watercolour wash as a background, and taking macro photos of the daffodils to create abstract shots. I really enjoyed being slightly more artistic and would love any feedback!