Photo Journal: Siena, Italy

When we talk about Tuscany, everyone’s heard of Florence. But not quite as many people know Siena. And the few who do generally only know it for the horse race held there every year, the Palio – horses topped with bareback riders race around the Piazza del Campo in an ode to the times of old. If you’re still unsure about what I’m talking about, maybe this scene from Quantum of Solace will ring a few bells.

But I’m not talking about the Palio this morning, because there’s so much more to Siena than a horse race. The beautiful little city, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site way back in 1995, still looks every bit the picture book medieval town it probably was back in 30AD when the Romans plonked a military outpost there. There are uniform terracotta roofs as far as the eye can see, those beautiful but somewhat difficult to walk upon cobbled paths, and symbolic and religious iconography around every corner. There’s also the incredible Tuscan food, the sweet little corner stores, the steeply sloped alley ways that you just have to wander up and down, and the best door knockers you’ve ever seen.

Welcome to Siena, through my eyes 🙂

City of Chicago: 2017 Year of Public Art

Arriving back into Chicago again was exciting, and a big contributor to that excitement was a small billboard I saw on the train from the airport into the city; it was letting me know that 2017 was the Year of Public Art in Chicago = a whooole lot of street art to be found around the city!

I checked out the City of Chicago website for a little more information…

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) have designated 2017 the “Year of Public Art” with a new 50×50 Neighborhood Arts Project, the creation of a Public Art Youth Corps, a new Public Art Festival, exhibitions, performances, tours and more — representing a $1.5 million investment in artist-led community projects.

There were some incredible pieces scattered around, and I’ve added a few of my favourites below, but they’re helpfully created a few hashtags for you to follow if you’d like to see some more – follow #2017isYOPA or #ChiPublicArt for all of the art work!

 

Photo Journal: Walking through Hanoi

Melbourne’s been sweltering. And I’m not a summer person. I don’t like extreme heat or humidity.

Unless I’m in Vietnam…

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Parts of Hanoi are tourist-friendly “big city,” while other parts, like the produce markets, are still so simple and local. There’s such a huge mix of people – tourists and locals, students and manual labourers, restaurant workers and street food vendors, and they all somehow fit together in perfect harmony…

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Photo Journal: Waterside in Hoi An

So much happens by the water in Hoi An.

Boatmen and women chasing tourists down for a river ride.
Locals selling hammocks and fruit.
Children running around barefoot and giggling.
Slack-jawed tourists pointing their cameras in every which direction.
A few long fisherman and women throwing out and pulling in nets.
Lunch and cigarette breaks.
People rushing, people patiently waiting…

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Hoan Kiem Lake & Tortoise Tower, Hanoi

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As far as city centres go, this is up there as one of the most beautiful. The enormous Hoan Kiem Lake sits in the centre of the city (both physically and spiritually), and is a hub of activity, day and night. Each time we found ourselves getting a little overwhelmed in Hanoi (which was more often than I’d like, due mostly to the heat and frustration in finding anything in a city where certain things are only sold on certain streets), we found ourselves pulled back to the lake.

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Morning tai chi, midday lunch breaks, evening ice creams. Groups of school-aged teens giggling and older ladies gossiping, men sharing stories and dogs marking their territory. Shady spots under the trees lining the banks of the river and sunny spots on the grass. It’s pretty beautiful and so peaceful, which is odd in such a crazy city…

 

The name of the lake translates to “lake of the returned sword” or something similar, because of the legend surrounding it. It’s said that after Emperor Le Loi was given a sword by the golden turtle god, endowing him with great strength, to be used to win Vietnam’s freedom back from the Chinese in the early 1400s. Not long after the war, Le Loi was said to have been on the river again, in his boat, when the turtle god appeared again to take the sword back. The turtle swam to the depths of the lake with the glowing sword in its mouth, never to be seen again.

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Almost 500 years later (while Hanoi was under French rule), the tower you can see in the photos above and below was built by a musician to commemorate Le Loi and what he did for Vietnam. Unbeknownst to the Vietnamese, though, he was secretly working for the French, and the tower he built was to serve a double purpose of being the resting place for his fathers’ body. While it may have been built by a traitor for his own purpose (the body was removed once discovered) in a style that wasn’t typically Vietnamese, it still stands as symbol of patriotism and unity, traits that are still very strongly associated with the Vietnamese people.

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