Horsing around in Jerez 

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One of the frustrations of travelling is finding out that you have arrived in a place just before or after a major festival or event. You kick yourself wondering why you didn’t google festivals in your destination of choice before you book everything and then plan around that event if it falls on the same page in the calendar. Luck fell my way this trip. When looking at travelling to Cadiz I found out that a major annual festival was going to be on in Jerez (pronounced Herez) which is only 35 minutes up the train line from where we were going to be. A quick rearrangement of plans – take one day out of Ronda and add it to Cadiz – enabling us a day for the Feria del Cabaro. That’s Festival of Horses for those of you who can’t speak Spanish.

It’s a serious festival that apparently had its origins way way back in 1240s as a horse trading fair. It still continues use as a horse trading fair and a celebration of horses, which hosts regular events including the famed white Andalcuian dancing horses which are located in Jerez. There are also dressage performances and other horsey things. Just to set the record straight, we didn’t see any of these events due to not being able to get a timetable of events despite or best attempts. Instead we were here hoping to see the colour and spectacle of the parading in the festival grounds where women dress in traje de flamenca (flamenco dresses) and vaquero (horsemen) drive horses carriages. We also wanted to see the casetas which are small ‘bars’ where you buy drinks and  food, decorated in different ways all vying for the honoured title of the best caseta.

OK let’s put you out of your misery. OMG. This was amazing in the true sense of the word. I’ve never seen anything like it and probably never will again. It was noisy, crowded and damned hot in the unrelenting bright Spanish sun. It also was colourful and a feast for the senses. I didn’t stop smiling for hours.  I think the whole purpose of what we saw was TO BE SEEN regardless of whether you were on a horse, driving a carriage drawn by horses or wearing a gorgeous dress. Parading is the name of the game. Round and round the riders go. LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME! 



Passengers in the carriages wanted to be seen 


Little girls wanted to be seen, well maybe some were more keen than others


Some would pose for any who asked


But it was also fun just capturing the women walking around looking gorgeous in those ridiculous dresses. Those of you who are observant will notice the distinct lack of effort made by the men accompanying the women 

These girls were just having so much funMy favourites without a doubt were the single riders. The hats, the trousers, the little jackets and high waisted pants. And the arrogance in the way they ride. Perfectly straight, left hand holding the reigns and right hand placed on their thigh. They commanded attention. When they rode together it was like the pose had arrived in town. 

They even looked impressive from behind


Some of the guys looked really cute

But these hats on the women … ohh la la.  I think I just fell in love! 

And then there is always the wannabe, the also ran (last seen in Córdoba last week)
 

I also found another wannabe who wanted to be seen parading around in her own fairy tale pumpkin coach. She was much lighter after the event having removed €40 from her wallet for the pleasure.  I think if she really wanted to be noticed she could made more of an effort in her attire, although at least the bandanna around her neck was red with white polka-dots so perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. 

I could go in, but I won’t. I can only say what a day. Definitely a winner and it will certainly go down as one to remember. 
 

Ronda round-up. 

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After extensive investigation and considerable investment in time (and let’s not forget money … oh the dollars I have spent), I have determined that tourism is a fascinating thing. It seems to exist as basically we all want to be somewhere other than where we currently are to seeing things other than the usual. I will leave the multitude of potential explanations alone. What I also find  interesting why do we go to a particular place in the first place. The answer seems to be that every place has one or more things that draw us there. Rome is easy – the ancient Roman ruins, the Vatican. Venice needs no explanation. Toledo – the medieval hill fort/town and its surrounding walls. And Ronda?

Ronda is a gorgeous little hill top town that sits on a flat hilltop on the edges of Serrania de Ronda mountain range. It is split into a new and old town (use these terms loosely) by a very deep narrow gorge some 126 metres deep through which the rio Guadalevin runs. It is the bridge that straddles this gorge that attracts tourists like ants to honey. Even Andalucia.com states

               “Visitors make a beeline for the 18th century Puente Nuevo ‘new’ bridge.”
Isn’t that why I was there you might well ask. Of course is the answer. I will add here that I thought Val would enjoy walking through the surrounding countryside since she seems to like going for a ‘walk’ and is supposed to be training for walking in the Pervian Andes, so the bridge was not my only reason for coming.

But the bridge. I wanted to stay somewhere with a view of the bridge. The Parador was an obvious choice initially as it is advertised as hugging the cliffs with an unparalleled view of the gorge and Puente Nuevo. Checked it out and sure – for a fee, about $300 per night you could have that. It was booked out. So off to Airbnb and I found us a little apartment that was adjacent to the other side of the bridge for only $125 per night. Stick your Parador up your jumper!  We were so close to the bridge you could almost touch it! 

And at night what a view. The only thing obscuring a portion of our view was the terraces from the restaurant below us. Awesome. 


From our balcony, lounge room and bedroom we could look and and watch the tourists who “flock to see the bridge”.  And they come by the bus loads



The only window where we couldn’t see them (or they, uus) was the bathroom window but this view had nothing to do with the bridge so not surprising really


To get a true idea of the scale of the Puente Neuvo you have to walk down the gorge and look at it from a far. (If you look down from the top it is a bit of a vertiginous experience as it really is a sheer drop). You can take the short steep way or the long way down the stone road. The road is actually very pretty as is is lined with wild spring flowers at this time of the year. The air is filled with the sounds of multitudes of birds including the beautiful songs of larks. 


The long hot road is worth it. That’s the Parador pearched up on the hill.


One morning I came across some canyoneers deep down in the gorge making their way along the river. Little tiny dots they were. 


Despite what 50,000 tourists might be led to believe as their tour takes them along three streets in town and expensive tourist restaurants of dubious food quality, Ronda is a very pretty white hill top town on both the old and new sides. Streets are just gorgeous with their white buildings. The only bummer is the cars which Val insists go too fast and are trying to run her down – what does she expect when she doesn’t use the footpath! 


The streets can be really steep in places tricky. I saw one guy drop his motorbike as he tried to negotiate the tight, steep  turn under this gorgeous archway

All spanish towns have small squares which invariably have some type of bar or cafe so people can while away time. Ronda is no exception. There are some orange trees and a faint scent of the blossom but not the same heady scent as Córdoba.
There are other nice places to relax too including an old cloister and an old moorish garden. Interestingly  Ronda has little reference to its Moorish past unlike Córdoba which literally trades on ‘glorious’ days gone by.


Of course I have to mention churches because it is Spain after all. Doesn’t look much like the major cathedral does it? 

But what a wonder to behold inside. I think if Disney was ever going to design a fairy cathedral, this would be it. I have to retract a statement I made last year when I said Spanish churches/cathedrals were creepy places. None of the ones I have seen here fit that description at all.

They even have crying Virgin Marys which I have to say add a femininity to what is normally quite a masculine building.


And this one is the patron Saint of Ronda. She is actually quite breathtakingly beautiful when you see her in situ surrounded by the heavy confusion of a floor to ceiling baroque alter. The fellow who was minding this church was trying to tell me about Mother Mary being the patron saint and how she was about to go on procession blessing the town next week. Clearly I didn’t understand Spanish so he resorted to the age old trick of ensuring you understand – speak louder and faster. Didn’t work. I worked it out later from some of the signs I saw pasted on walls.


While you might be able to relax under the compassionate gaze of Mary inside, you will be quickly reminded outside that you just repent for your sins.


One of the lovely things about Ronda is the park along the edge of the gorge. It is gorgeous and I was quite happy to spend a bit of time here. 


The pagoda (the second most photographed thing in Ronda) offers a nice subject matter at sunset. 

One night I made a group of Korean or Japanese tourists evening. They were busy taking photos of the colour in the sky without even noticing the silhouette of the pagoda. I showed one woman my image and she got so excited and started chattering away. She pointed excitedly to the others and then her iPad was thrust into my hands and it was clear I was being directed to take a photo for her. On an iPad!!!! She was so happy. One of the joys of travelling. 

Now you may well recall my ‘passion for nuns’ as Val so politely refers to it. I was in a camera shop (just looking and they didn’t sell Fuji) and I spied a couple of nuns standing at the counter looking at their photos. “Nuns” I said excitedly to myself. They are in the shop so they have to come out. The street photographer had spotted her prey. Time to get into position to get the shot. Bang! 

Now having got that shot, I decided to stalk them to see where they were going i.e. hopefully a church. In hot pursuit I followed. I tried to get ahead of them. They disappeared into a shop. Dang. I looked into the shop window and there was a  male mannequin wearng a singlet and very fancy boxer trunks. I kid you not! Then I saw another female version wearing very nice undies and bra. What??  “I suppose even monastics have to buy undies.” So I did as a good street photographer would, I found my backdrop and waited for them to come out.  I waited. The older nun came out, spoke on the phone and then headed back in. “Must have been the younger who was in the market.” A number of women went inside during this time and their men waited outside the shop. I waited. I waited. “Don’t give up'” I said to myself, “they have to come out and remember how long it takes to find something that fits.” I waited. I waited and waited some more very inconspicuously in the entrance of an underground carpark. Of course that’s the right place to stand.  I waited. They came out. Camera armed and ready to go. They turned their backs on me and walked in the opposite direction away from me. I looked in the shop as my prey left me behind. It was a haberdashery shop. Nothing more to do than laugh. 

Later I was to find my other favourite subject. “Look out puss, here she comes” announces Val in the background. She forgot to say it in Spanish! Ha.


Time to leave pretty little Ronda behind us and head for the sea. And I will leave you with the nun that couldn’t get away from me.


 Contemplations inspired through a train window

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What did I say was the view from the train window from Toledo to Córdoba? Olive trees. Guess what I saw when travelling from Córdoba to Ronda. Let me help you out.


One could forgiven for thinking this country has nothing other than olive trees. Here’s some more proof as I’m sure you need it.

Since there is nothing other than olive trees, I naturally started thinking just how many olives do you need? Seems I am not the only person to ask this question as it was autocompleted as I began typing this very question into Dr Google. To save you having to do it yourself this is what I found:

Generally it takes over 1,000 olives weighing between 4 and 8 kilograms to make one liter of extra virgin olive oil. A large tree can yield enough olives to produce five 1 Liter bottles of olive oil.

That’s a lot of olives so time to plant some more.

I’ll have some olive oil on my bread (pan) tonight.

Cordoba

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When you leave one place and head off for a new one, you never quite know what to expect. Sure you can have an idea based on other people’s experiences or images you see in the media. I first heard of Córdoba a number of years ago in a photography forum. Someone has posted some pictures that wowed me. I had to know where that place was and see if one day I could go there. Turns out that place was the Mezquita in Cordoba.  When Val did her first Camino she was so cold she asked me to find somewhere  warm to go and I suggested here. She came and enjoyed her time here. As I had the opportunity to plan this trip, I made sure Córdoba was on the list.

To get here we caught a fast train ( i.e 250km/hour). If you want to know about the scenery on route I can sum it up in two words – olive trees. Enough said.

Within minutes of arriving here I formed my lasting impression of this place. Toledo smells of sewers. But Córdoba, ahhh. We went through a small park, just an ordinary park, and the air was heavy with the scent of orange blossom. Trees were laden with swollen fruit and the ground littered with oranges that had burst on impact and remained where they fell. A good first impression. 


No orange blossom once you hit the maze of laneways lined with white houses. Some of these ‘streets’ are so narrow a car can barely fit down them. None of the little Smart cars or one seater Twizys that are so popular in Rome here.


 Many of the homes have gorgeous window boxes or pot plants hanging on the walls all of which are planted with brightly coloured flowers. We are just two weeks short of the patio festival where houses are judged for their floral displays. All in all it is a very colourful feast for the eyes.



While I am on a gardening theme, the gardens at the Alcazar (fort) are stunning. I don’t usually get excited about gardens but these ones are said to be the nicest in Spain. And for good reason.  A real refuge from the hot cobbled streets and there is sufficient space for tourists to spread out giving the appearance there aren’t that many of us (very false illusion trust me). Water gardens feature heavily and there is quite a strong moorish influence with water channels running through the gardens. The backdrop of the Alcazar serves as a very fitting backdrop.


This place inspires affection in the both the young and old


while others just prefer to sit 


What a magic place.

I have taken you along a little journey that is yet include the very place that inspired this part of the journey – the fabulous Mezquita. This place is an old mosque dating back to the time of the Moors. After the Moors were booted out by King Freddie and Queen Issie the catholic darlings of Spanish history, the mosque was converted to a Cathedral. In the process the head honcho of the church at the time set out to beautify it. Apparently someone later apologised declaring it wasn’t really a successful endeavour. How noble of them but a bit late really. Great informative history lesson aside, this place is an interesting fusion of two different philosophical beliefs – one that doesn’t allow any images of anything living and shows the mystry of God using geometric design and the other, well let’s just say they go all out with depicting the very thing the other religion doesn’t. 

The captivating feature of the Mezquita that draws most tourist is the pillars inside. Eight hundred and fifty pillars topped by candy cane stripped arches. On and on they go. Around every corner there are still more. Trying to create an effective image is the challenge. Hordes of people visit this place but they seem to congregate in particular areas so escaping them is quite easy.


Apart from the arches a lot of the Islamic aspect of the Mezquita has been removed except for a few key areas. And wow – the beauty of Islamic art and architecture. 



Where it gets interesting is the juxtaposition of old vs new


And then in the centre under the great duomo there is no question as to the dominant religious and architectural influence.


Enough about the inside. On the outside the Minaret was replaced with a bell tower (of course) and I have to say that the bells sound somewhat flat and tinny. Not at all majestical nor fitting with its stature. 

God or is it Allah seems to approve of how this place of worship is now as he casts his light in the bell tower late in the day.

The walls still in places have the Islamic art and architecture. Yep, stunning.

And doesn’t it look magnificent at night.


But wait there’s more. I went to a wedding there this evening. I was there as the bride and her pappa arrived, had dinner and then arrived back in time for the to exit from the Mezquita and have their photos taken (excuse the rather crappy wedding photography but since I was not the official photographer I did the best I could!)


The groom was rather dashing in his uniform I must say

Enough said about the mozzie as I prefer to call it. So let’s change topic to the kids in this place. It seems this is either confirmation or first communion season for 8 yr olds  (that’s how old they look) and it’s a big deal here. Families dress up to the nines. The young boys tend to wear some form of militarised uniform. And the girls resemble powder puffs but perhaps I am being unkind as they really look like little brides. They pose for professional photographers much like the borde and groom above. Finally I managed to get one as she ran down some stairs.

Enough of youth, what about the geriatrics. Well they just kick their shoes off, sit around and watch the world go by.



Not the nuns, they are on a mission

I too an on a mission as having seen the mozzie, it’s time to move on again. Will Ronda smell of oranges? 

Toledo

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It seems days ago that I was writing about being in the pointy end of the plane on my way  to Toledo and just starting writing about this new adventure. Well it was days ago, 3 in fact. This was a return visit for me as last year I went on a day trip with Val and she pretended she knew her way around this maze of a town. Just to remind you, she didn’t and everytime she said “now we just go down here and then round to the right. Oh, we are not where I thought I was” and then consulted her GPS which was staring to get angry about having to recalibrate continuously. 

Times have changed. Val has since been back again since that trip last year and when we arrived this time we only got lost once on the way to our little pink house. We only one took wrong turn despite using the GPS. This did not happen again. Not once over the three days did I hear “Oh, we’re not where I thought we were.” Even I was able to navigate my way round the maze having had the time this time to get my bearings. I lead us up and down hills although I must confess I did lead us up a couple of blind alleys on occasion. The difference between me and Val last time was at least I didn’t pretend to know the way 😉.
Our little pink house that was only about 3.5m wide  

Toledo is a fascinating medieval little town perched on a hill and surrounded on three sides by the Taji River. It has a city wall and impressive gates in which to enter the town. From the river to the town its a nasty hike up a short steep hill. Located in this town are more churches than you could imagine. Knives, swords and armour are plentiful and in truth you could probably kit out all the extras of the Lord of the Rings (which I suspect actually happened given the way LoR is marketed in these shops). Toledo also seems to treasure it’s Jewish history as it has one of most important Jewish synagogues in Spain dating back to the time when Toledo was the capitol of Spain.  

So what did I do whilst there. Well I had the same problem in Toledo that I did in Venice. It rained. And after the sun and beautiful warmth of Rome, it was not at all pleasant. What would you do in that situation? If you said stay inside where it’s warm – correct answer. But there comes a time when you decide you are visiting another place and you can’t stay inside being a couch potato all the time. You have to go out and walk. A nice walk to do is down to the river, cross one of the bridges and head up the hill to look back to the town which really is well worth the effort, especially if you are lucky enough to catch the sunrise.

 The Alcazar really dominates the skyline even over the Cathedral in the middle of the town. 

  

Walking around the streets in the rain isn’t too much fun especially after a while. Churches offer good respite for a small fee. We went to many of them -some big some small. The Jesuit Cathedral was a pleasant surprise as it was possible to go up to the bell tower and look out over the town. Note the sexy new leopard print umbrella that was a purchase of necessity.

  

My favourite place was Santa Maria Di Blanca, an old mosque, synagogue then claimed by the Catholics of course. It’s now just an empty building not used for any religious purpose but it’s just gorgeous. Peaceful too.

  

There’s another nice old ex mosque come Catholic Church called Christ of the Light. Very small (about 9m with a vestibule) but also very nice. Here Christ flies in the face of the Islamic past.

    

I even managed to coerce Val into coming into these churches as she had been into neither. How did I do it – I had to pay!  

Since Val went where I wanted to go, I ended up joining her (having previously stated rwice I didn’t want to) to visit the Hospital Tavera which is located outside the city gate. It’s another imposing building and its claim to fame is it houses painting by El Greco who is Toledo’s favourite adopted son (there a number of museums that are dedicated to his work). Despite my reluctance to go to the Travera I actually enjoyed it. In behind massive wooden doors, which are kept locked, is an amazing courtyard leading into a cathedral which was build by some dude San Juan Bautista as a mussoleum to himself I guess basically honouring his good deed of building a hospital for the sick. His casket lies in front of the alter. Talk about pride. A beautifully sparse monument to himself it was except for the El Greco paintings. I can only think of one word to describe them – hideous. The bodies are all anatomically wrong and one poor chap had bilateral quadriceps tendons AND biceps tendon tears. No wonder he was stuck in the creek. El Greco did do one statue I was quite fond of. I’ve never seen an adult naked Jesus before. If he ever did have a love affair with Mary Magdalene, I think I can work out why there might Not have been any resulting off spring from this union (no offence intended to my Christian friends). 

   
    
  

   

 

Finally at end of the last day, the rain stopped and my sexy leopard print umbrella was able to take a well earnt to break. Time to strolł the streets again. Guess what I found. Yes my day was complete – not one nun but two. 

  
 

No mistaking I was in the Jewish quarter as these tiles are inlaid around the ‘ghetto’. 

  

Whilst I liked the churches and the streets, what I really enjoyed this time was being out in the big outdoors, well outside amongst trees and rivers. We will ignore the cars driving along the road along the river. I feel I’ve I have spent days in the city streets and I realised I had missed the quiet openness of a bit of a nature. Time to slow down.

   
   
Getting this shot was quite funny. It was very close to the side of the road but there is a barrier about a metre high. To get it I had to lie on my belly on the barrier, stretch my arms out at full stretch and take my feet off the ground. An older Spanish couple walked passed at this moment and laughed. They must reach a point where nothing tourists do amazes them any more.

I also perfect place to sit and reflect (note the puddles), whilst others preferred the sanctity of one of the many churches.   

 

Grotty weather does have one advantage – great light and I was lucky enough to find some   

   

 Everything has to come to an end including little trips to Toledo. Time for a train to take us to the grand daddy of all old mosques in Spain.

Toledo

It seems days ago that I was writing about being in the pointy end of the plane on my way to Toledo and just starting writing about this new adventure. Well it was days ago, 3 in fact. This was a return visit for me as last year I went on a day trip with Val and she pretended she knew her way around this maze of a town. Just to remind you, she didn’t and everytime she said “now we just go down here and then round to the right. Oh, we are not where I thought I was” and then consulted her GPS which was staring to get angry about having to recalibrate continuously. 
Times have changed. Val has since been back again since that trip last year and when we arrived this time we only got lost once on the way to our little pink house as we only took a wrong turn despite using the GPS. This did not happen again. Not once over the three days did I hear “Oh, we’re not where I thought we were.” Even I was able to navigate my way round the maze having had the time this time to get my bearings. I lead us up and down hills although I must confess I did lead us up a couple of blind alleys on occasion. The difference between me and Val last time was at least I didn’t pretend to know the way 😉.

Toledo is a fascinating medieval little town perched on a hill and surrounded on three sides by the Taji River. It has a city wall and impressive gates in which to enter the town. From the river to the town its a nasty steep hike up a short steep hill. Located in this town are more churches than you could imagine. Knives, swords and armour are plentiful and in truth you could probably kit out all the extras of the Lord of the Rings (which I suspect actually happened given the way LoR is marketed in these shops). Toledo also seems to treasure it’s Jewish history as it has one of most important Jewish synagogues in Spain dating back to the time when Toledo was the capitol of Spain.  

So what did I do whilst there. Well I had the same problem in Toledo that I did in Venice. It rained. And after the sun and beautiful warmth of Rome, it was not at all pleasant. What would you do in that situation? If you said stay inside where it’s warm – correct answer. But there comes a time when you decide you are visiting another place and you can’t stay inside being a couch potato all the time. You have to go out and walk. A nice walk to do is down to the river, cross one of the bridges and head up the hill to look back to the town which really is well worth the effort, especially if you are lucky enough to catch the sunrise.

 The Alcazar really dominates the skyline even over the Cathedral in the middle of the town. 

  
Walking around the streets in the rain isn’t too much fun especially after a while. Churches offer good respite for a small fee. We went to many of them -some big some small. The Jesuit Cathedral was a pleasant surprise as it was possible to go up to the bell tower and look out over the town. Note the sexy new Leppard print umbrella that was a purchase of necessity.

  

The rest of the visual story

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Rome is just such a great city. I had fun wandering the streets making images of people doing what they do. This was only part of the experience though. I’m not really sure what to else to say other than Rome is such and incredibly alive and vibrant city. People everywhere, some on their way to somewhere else and others just siting round doing the great Roman pastime –  ‘farmiento’ – doing nothing. People sit in Ristourantes watching others go by. And you cannot go to Rome and not mention the buildings – some ancient (well reconstructed ancient buildings such as the Coluseum, the Forum and statues. Fountains large and small are commonplace.  Then are the statues either out in the open or tucked in some courtyard somewhere. One of my Roman favourites is the little of Fiat 500 (bambinos) you can still see on the streets and the bicycles that are commonly leaning up against a wall somewhere. Colour abounds.  Too much to say so since a picture says a 1000 words here are some of my favourites – today. There will probably be different favourites tomorrow. They are in no particular order either so your challenge is to see if you can identify any famous places. I must just add here too that all of the these images are ‘straight out of the camera.’ If there has been any ‘Photoshopping’ done it is nothing more than a crop. 

   
   
    

  
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
   
 
  
    
    
   

   
   

  
   
   
And no, there is not Trevi Fountain. As I did not visit and therefore couldn’t thrown in a coin, it would appear I will not visit Rome again. But when I was last in Rome some 26 years ago, I didn’t get to see that famous fountain then (it was covered in. Scaffolding as was everything else in Europe that year) so the myth can’t be true. Perhaps I will see you again Rome.

I hope you enjoyed my journey in Italy as much as I did.

 

Nuns, nuns everywhere

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It would not be an exaggeration to say that it’s nigh on impossible to walk more than 200m in Roma without being exposed to religion one way or another. Calendars, post cards and fridge magnets of Pappa Francesco are so plentiful one participant of the photography workshop was heard saying when looking at one such calendar “is the Pope coming to visit?”  Another was particularly taken with the calendar featuring handsome young priests. Not quite the caliber  of the fireman calendars we might be used to – these gorgeous young men had on much more than just their dog collars, even if it was a ‘dress’.

Paraphernalia aside, just about every corner or piazza seems to have a church/cathedral/whatever you want to call them. Some open, some not.  The grand daddy of all the churches is of course St Peter’s Basillica. It really does look quite impressive as you walk up the road. Leading lines of the road and bollards pull you towards the duomo. All along the wide avenue there are a hot porch of churches, gelato shops and more calendar shops.  To get into St Peter’s square you have to pass a security check including X-ray of bags. Catholic or not,  the Basilica is magnificent. It’s HUGE, it’s ornate and impressive.

   
  

I was fortunate enough to be there on some special day where groups were coming in carrying a simple cross and then singing some type of praises. Bingo for me – first group = nuns. 

  

  

Other sites of worship may be smaller but somehow they have more of a heart.  Unlike Spanish churches which I found creepy, these churches were stunning in different ways

   
  
 

  

The buildings may be nice and inspirational but in truth a church without people is just a pretty building.  The congregation needs nothing said about it but those who have devoted their lives to religion are a it more interesting. Put in the streets of Rome the priests aren’t that visible but you do see them, albeit too quickly.
  

But the nuns. Nuns are everywhere. And it seems you see more habits than dresses in an Italian spring collection show.    

    
  

    
   

          

I think I have to choose my order on the clothing. The short habits just don’t compare. But in truth I think maroon and saffron is my colour of choice so I’m not going to run off and join one of these orders no matter how enticing that black whimple with the leather odornments or the nice following robes in the last image. The rosary are impressive but again rosary versus a nice mala … close. 

So nuns, nuns everywhere. I somehow find their presence quite centering. All jokes aside I have a great admiration for people who are able to turn their backs on the mundane world in search of something else. This does make for interesting discussions in our household! Maybe one day, maybe ….  I shall miss the daily exposure to monastics. They were a constant reminder of other things. Ani Fran (a nun of the Himialayan Buddhist type) once told me “There is more to life than taking photos” in her truely German way. Nuns, nuns everywhere were timely reminders of her words. 

  

“Let’s hit the streets”

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As I have said earlier, I went to Rome to learn from an inspirational street photographer, Valerie Jardin (again read best French accent). She has a way of viewing the world around her that I just love – simple, yet powerful. She captures a moment on the street through mastery of composition and light. Valerie also has a weekly podcast on This week in Photo and is a Fuji X Photography so I knew I was going to be in good company. If you are interested you can find her on Valeriejardinphotography.com. While street photography is not for everyone, I like it as I have always liked capturing people doing what they are doing unaware. Combine that with travel and I am a happy camper. 
 The inspirational Valerie Jardin glaming it up for the camera  

and her weapon of choice  

Before the workshop I was a little apprehensive about joining a group trip since I do like my own company perhaps a little too much. However we had all sort of introduced ourselves through Facebook before the event so the ice had been broken. I have to say that I couldn’t have been with a nicer group of people who had come together from around the world – another Aussie, Canada, America and Belgium, and Valerie of course who is French but lives in the States. The majority of participants have been on workshops with Valerie previously (one was on his fourth) which speaks volumes. 

Every day we would meet outside a hotel, get a briefing talk for they day and then wander to our ‘hunting ground’ for the day. Every day was a different location – the Jewish Ghetto, Trastevere, along the Tiber River, Piazza Navona, and the markets of Campo Di Fiori. Some of the things we were told to look for were the fashions of Rome, interesting people, shadows, telling a story, leading lines and I could go on. You would think it is easy to go out and achieve the tasks. But in truth it’s really very difficult (much harder than landscape) – you spot your subject, hunt them down so they are in the right place, wait for the right step (ideally in the process of striding out with both feet at maximal separation and front foot or back foot just off the ground). You stand there waiting for the moment having found the best subject of the day and then a group come past and obscure the subject, or your shutter speed is too slow, or the camera doesn’t focus in time or they look away from you, a Vespa comes around the corner sending you scurrying – so many factors come into play. Under the breath expletives are muttered as your shot of the day has just been ruined and you start planning the next one. 

Part of being an effective street photographer is being discrete. If you are really good your subject will not even be aware you have taken their photo. We all managed to achieve that didn’t we? How would anyone ever know what we were up to! 
 

Eating a Gelati is another effective strategy to disguise what you are doing (taken by Judy). And no, it’s not resting on my nose, it’s just a perspective thing.

  

One of the tips we were given was to identify your prey, hunt them down and then shoot. Nuns were a favourite prey and one participant was very effective in executing that strategy (photo taken by Scott). 

  
 

Stalking the streets was really enjoyable. There are so many images to be had on the streets on Rome. Mike Langford, a Master Landscape Photographer in NZ, once told me “there are photos every where around you.” Rome is no different. Over the week I took many many photos including many that just didn’t work for various reasons. But there were those that did and we had to present our favourite photos on our last night. Man it’s tough deciding on this. These ones were some of mine chosen as they demonstrated some of the things we were given to achieve (other photos from this week are in other posts).  The final night presentation was just great as you recognise so much but the way the moment is captured is really unique – everyone has their own way of seeing and style. I love that aspect of it. 

  I nearly got run over – she stayed upright and I got the shot. Everyone is happy. 
 Shadows, light and emotion

  The light, the light! 

The ectasy

 Roman style (?)


     The glasses  

 On the Friday night we had to say goodbye. It was a sad farewell as everyone agreed we all enjoyed each other, creating our view along with sharing our joys and frustrations together. Valerie’s vision is an inspiration. She excudes passion for her craft and is equally passionate about helping others learn to create images that effectively show their own vision. Her easy going nature and sense of humour can be infectious. All in all, the week was lots of fun with my new found friends and I would do it all again. If any one is interested in one of her workshops you should book immediately!