Portugal was one of the nations that I always wanted to visit, one of those countries that I always heard really good things about it, great food, great weather, cheap prices and more nice food.
So last October (I know, it was a while ago), myself, my lovely girlfriend and a couple of good friends decided to go there for the bank holiday weekend to check if all the above things were real or maybe just a very complicate plan to trick tourist to visit their country and when you get there everything is expensive, the place is awful and the only restaurant is McDonalds or a Jamie Oliver’s restaurant (which is not good for me).
Fortunately most of the things I heard were true, so many great restaurants with very good food at reasonable price, I even went to a Michelin starred restaurant one evening and I had a great dinner for a price that it’s what you normally pay on a decent restaurant here in Dublin. We also tried the world famous Pastéis de Nata, an egg tart pastry, which is rather popular in Portugal, and I see why, as it’s super delicious and damn cheap and I have no photos of them simple because they couldn't last long enough.
So for the food we are good here, but what about the city?
Well, I can’t say it’s awful, you can see beautiful decorated buildings almost everywhere, and some places are simply stunning architecturally speaking, Belem or the city center are simply beautiful, the Vasco De Gama and the 25th of April bridges are impressive, and if you are a photographer like me, just get lost in the streets of the city and start pressing the button of your camera, or better, take the trams, an experience you cannot miss in Lisbon!
Last month myself, my lovely gf, and two good friends, we all went to Denmark with the main excuse to go to find a friend of us who recently moved to Copenhagen. And that’s the reason we sell to our parents, relatives, and not so close friends.
The reality is that we did go there, yes of course to see the beauties of that country, but mostly to go to Legoland. I can’t hide to you guys, I’m a big Lego fan. I have billions of Lego bricks, even if our house is not that big, and I seriously I have no idea where to put all those Legos, I keep buying them. So, as all of us already visited Copenhagen, we all decided to do a two day trip to Billund, which is exactly at the opposite direction of the danish capital.
It sounds like very far away, but in fact Denmark is not that huge, and at the end you can get there in less than 3 hours (roughly 250km), if you are not a photographer that wants to stop every 5 minutes, if you are a photographer it takes at the very least the double of that time, and you are a photographer as well, you know it’s true.
I wanted to do this trip from a good couple of years, but as Scotland is not that far from here, just about an hour of flight from Dublin to Edinburgh, I always skipped this trip in favour to other places, like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Iceland. And also because visiting these capitals it takes only a weekend, so no need to use days off from work, while Iceland has to be well planned and would be stupid if you go there for the first time only for a few days. But last Christmas myself and my lovely girlfriend decided to do this trip finally, so we booked the flight, and by using the bank holiday in March (St. Patrick), we did a 5 days trip in the Scottish Highlands.
In Italy we have a proverb that says “Non tutte le ciambelle vengono con il buco”, which you can translate with “Not all the doughnuts turn out with a hole” (which is not that uncommon in Italy, as in Italy it’s easier to find a krapfen, which is essentially the same dough of the doughnuts or donuts if you are american, with custard or whipping cream on it), to say that it can’t go always well as expected, and you should not be pissed off if that happens.
I’m telling you this very interesting italian proverb just to introduce you to the fact that this trip didn’t go that well. Okay, now it sounds like an overture to a disaster, where it was not, as it simply didn’t turn as well as it did in the previous times we went out for a very early morning shooting.
The first impression when we arrived in Howth can be summed with the word “Meh”.
I’m not sure why, the place is actually very nice generally, one of the must-see places to go if you visit Dublin and the surrounding area, but maybe was the light in the wrong direction, maybe because the tide was at its very minimum, or maybe because we simply went to the wrong pier to photograph the lighthouse, not sure what’s the real cause of that “Meh”, but myself and my fellows all agreed that it wasn’t that great that morning.
Also, after two good hours spent on the freezing cold, we always go to a local restaurant/cafe’ for breakfast, but unfortunately none of the nice amenities we usually go were open, so we had to go to the only open cafe’ at that our, which was awful. Yeah, a few euro cheaper, but the food quality was simply terrible and it made me sick for the rest of the day. And when I came back home I found out that my lens was superdirty and some photos had a huge white spot in the middle, but it was semi-transparent and I couldn't see it when I was there, and that probably was what marked that day as the famous doughnut without the hole.
Anyway, it’s always fun to go out shooting with good friends, and overall the pictures didn’t turn out that bad, maybe they are not my favourite shots, but overall they were pretty decent, they just lacked of the “Wow” factor, that’s it. So, down here some of the best, while here on flickr you can find the full set.
Sometimes you plan for a trip months in advance, and other times you decide almost last minute, and this time it was the latter case. And as usual these quick trips always come from a dinner out with some friends, when a friend of mine suggested to go to somewhere in Ireland for a weekend. You always say “why not?!” but until you have the car and the B&Bs booked you tend to think that nothing will happen. But that wasn’t the case thankfully, and we decided to go for 3 days in Northern Ireland, a trip that from Dublin is not that far, it takes less than 2 hours to get to Belfast, and around 3 to get to the very top of this island.
So, me, my lovely girlfriend, and our good friends Giuseppe and his wife Veruska (two photographers and two very supportive girls) we started the trip, heading first to one of the most (not very) hidden gems in County Antrim, the Dark Hedges.
The Dark Hedges is a country road surrounded by dead trees that forms a sort of tunnel. Well said in this way it doesn’t sound very attractive, but if you look this picture down here it’s probably much better as a description of the place. It became a more known place in the past few years, especially after it has been used in an episode of the Games of Thrones, which by the way it has been shot mostly in Northern Ireland.
As every Christmas I came back home for a week. Is the week that you must be at home and nowhere else, especially for italians. New Years Eve can be anywhere, and in fact I’m back in Dublin now, but Xmas has to be at home. And generally I don’t really take that many photos back home, as I don’t travel much there, actually I barely go anywhere. But this time I had a new toy, the new lens I bought on the flight to home, the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R, and I wanted to test it well. Also the weather was nice last week with a couple of days where the fog was covering the lands, and the hills looked like islands on a white sea, so I had a good scenery to test my brand new lens, and thanks to these factors at the end I took a rather good quantity of photos, and I have to say that so far I’m very happy with that lens, it might not be a perfect lens, AF speed is not very fast, and I can see some chromatic aberrations in some cases, but overall I really like it, and the center frame is breathtaking even at full aperture, which is pretty impressive. But it’s too early to give a definitive opinion about this lens, so expect a proper review in the near future.
Anyway, down here you can find some of the shots I took back home in Italy, while the full set is on my flickr account.
A couple of months ago me and my lovely girlfriend decided to go somewhere for the October bank holiday, and we had a few options in mind: London, Lisbon, Porto, Paris and Amsterdam.
London is one of those places that I shamelessly didn't visit, it's so close, just 45 minutes of flight that you always think "I can go whenever I want, but another time is better", you simply don't go because it's too close, and the day I'll move somewhere else and then it'll be too far I'll regret about it. Lisbon and Porto, and Portugal in general I think it's a great place to go, I still have find one single person that says it's an awful place, or even an okay one, all the people I know that went to those cities they always report that they are simply beautiful. But in October, on a bank holiday weekend, it was hard to find a decent flight without taking an extra day off, and as the both of us started a new job recently, we simply don't have that extra day, so we had to turn this option down, at least for the moment.
Paris is Paris, some people love it, some other hate it, I'm kinda on the fence but I have plenty of pressures from my lovely girl to go to visit it one day that I'll have to do it at some stage of my life, but again prices were too high, for both the flight and hotels, that we have to turn down this options as well.
Then we were left with Amsterdam. I have to say it: I don't smoke and I don't drink that much, and I'm not even that much interested in the type of trade you can get in the Red Lights District, so this city it might not be as much as attractive compared to some other people with different interests, but, it seemed to be a very interesting city to visit, the canals, the history, the art, and all those things you can do it without taking any substances that can alter your perception of the world, the cost of the flights were a bit cheaper than the other places we considered and the flight times were very convenient that we say "why not?".
Now, I as you probably already have clear, I started with some pre-concept about this city, and while some of them have been confirmed, and actually they were a bit underestimated, some others were completely wrong.
After our arrival in the city we had to confrontate with what was our "ideal of Amsterdam" and what was the "reality of Amsterdam", as far I could see in just a weekend.
In my mind Amsterdam was a city without a car, where bikes and trams were the only ways to travel into the city.
The reality wasn't half right, and half, terribly, wrong. The city is full of bikes, possibly more than what I saw in Copenhagen, but while in the Danish capital they have specific lanes and most of the times bikers strictly stay on them, in Amsterdam is the complete anarchy. You can expect bikes coming from any directions, from any lanes, at some stage I was so terrified that I thought they could jump out of the canal to try to kill me, and more than once I saw the fear of some other tourists while some locals tried to dodge them in a very scary and dangerous way. You probably get used to it if you live there long enough, but for those 3 days I wasn't prepare for that.
Also the trams pass very, very, very close to pedestrians, especially in the city center, and I wonder what the death-by-tram ratio is in that city. Plus you have to add the cars, that yes, despite the fame of being a bike-friendly city, it's full of cars, which add an extra layer of danger to the streets of Amsterdam. To be honest, it was so messy, that I would hardly think to live in that city, at least in the city center.
This weekend we, myself and my lovely girlfriend, decided to rent a car, as tomorrow I'll have a photo shoot far from the city center, in Lucan to be exactly, and today we spent the after going to the lovely town of Skerries, if you are in Dublin for more than a weekend, you must go there, you don't even need to rent a car to get there as you can easily take the train from Dublin, and it's a rather short trip.
We were lucky enough to get a couple of hours of decent weather before it started to rain cats and dogs, enough time to take a few shots and admire some brave irish men and women swimming in the Irish sea, which is not exactly the warmest place to swim, especially in November. But after almost 7 years of living here, I know that nobody can stop them to have a quick swim on the sea, regardless the season, the temperature of the water or the weather conditions.
Anyway, down here you can find some of the pictures I took this afternoon, nothing outstanding, but some decent shots.
I’ve always been a big fan of scandinavian countries, back in 1994 I was supporting Sweden at the World Cup (I still remember some players’ name). In 2007 I visited Stockholm, it was a great trip despite the fact it was freaking cold, and it was May! Next week I’m going for a two weeks trip to another of the 5 scandinavian countries, Iceland.
But 5 years ago I bought the Lonely Planet Guide of Denmark, not because I was planning to go anytime soon to that country, but just because I knew one day I will.
And that day arrived a couple of weeks ago, finally my first trip to Copenhagen! I didn’t really know what to expect apart from Lego and extremely beautiful people, I always heard different opinions about that city, somebody loves it, somebody else hates it. So far the closest encounter with that city was the airport back on May, but we did have only a couple of hours in between our flight connection, so we couldn’t really go anywhere, and you can’t judge a nation by just its airport, even if it might give you a rough idea about basic things, like the cost of the life.
After a week of proper summer it was time to come back home, in Italy. Unfortunately between Crete and "home sweet home" there were two airports, one of the worst airport in Europe, which is Rome Fiumicino, and its cousin, Athens Airport, which in only one hour, that was the time I had to transfer from one flight to another, made me reconsider if Fiumicino was actually the worst.
Why that bad? Well, for start, put a ticket control JUST AFTER THE ESCALATORS, and when I mean just after I'm not talking about 20 meters, I'm talking about 3 meters, 3 very short meters full of people insanely compressed while the people coming from the escalators scream "don't stop there!", but there's no space, where you can go?
Then you think you are sorted, right? Wrong. After 20 meters, they'll check again your ticket. What's the point of checking twice the ticket? And why just after an escalator?
Then, after a lot of swearing because you nearly died on that feckin escalator, there are the security controls. Obviously the queue was totally disorganized and way too long. If you are in rush, risking to miss your flight, well there are no priority lane, you are just going to miss it, that's it.
Then the security control space is extremely tight, I really don't understand who planned this place, plenty of room for shops, but no fucking space for the security control?