Last weekend I took advantage of some £10 Ryanair flights to Italy where we visited Florence. Click any picture to enlarge.
Florence's striking skyline.
The Cathedral called "il Duomo".
Women had to cover their shoulders when entering the Cathedral.
Florence is full of amazing architecture.
Italians love their Churches
and artwork - every bare piece of concrete was covered in it.
The gold bridge (because its full of gold shops - its not actually made of gold!)
View from the gold bridge
Man on horse
Man on man
More amazing architecture.
You don't need to know Italian to understand the message in this sign.
The Police drive Alpha Romeos
touists use segways.
and the locals use bikes.
View of the Alps from the plane:
It's been over a year since my last trip abroad to Hong Kong and this time we decided to fly West to America! I was at school when I last went to the USA with my family and I was keen to go back to where we started that holiday - Los Angeles. I would love to say that it was the glitz and glamor that attracted me back however it was simply cheap flights and accommodation.
The flight over was rough. Only joking - this is a set from War of the World at Universal Studios.
After a good night sleep and recovering from the flight we headed to pick up the car. We didn't know what car to expect and joked about getting something smug such as a Toyota Prius - this is what we were given. I hadn't driven an automatic car before let alone on the other side of the road however it was easy to pick up and begs the question as to why we don't all have automatic cars in the UK!
We headed straight to Hollywood, a 40min drive from LAX along roads twice as wide as what we are used to in the UK.
The Hollywood sign!
The Griffith Observatory is a great museum dedicated to space. I loved how you could weigh yourself on each planet however everything was in Imperial measurements which drove me crazy!
Amazing views over LA - I'm not sure if the haze is the weather or just smog (perhaps smug from all the hybrids).
We headed back into Hollywood to see the Kodak Theater and walk of the stars.
On the second day we decided to visit one of LA's many theme parks, we were too old for Disney so visited Universal Studios.(When I say we are too old for Disney I mean it was a rip off to get in).
The park wasn't too busy so we managed to ride Jurassic Park about five times - I love water rides.
The studio tour took us down Wysteria Lane from Desperate Housewives - was well worth doing.
On the third day we drove to Santa Monica to go shopping.
There is not a great deal to Photograph in Santa Monica - so here is a sign with a red light and a taxi.
We went to see the new Star Trek film whilst here - it was awesome. Its a shame that in the UK people don't scream, cheer and clap to films, makes the whole experience more exciting.
We loved Universal Studios so much that we decided to go back again. Its clear from Universal Studios that everyone in the film industry loves everyone else, the directors love the cast, the cast love the crew who love the props people who love the wardrobe people. I'm glad we spent the second day here but it was enough ass licking for one holiday.
We sat in the 'soak' zone for the water world show thinking we would just get splashed - we were wrong. It was one of the best live shows I had seen.
I lost count how many times we rode Jurassic Park on the second day.
If Universal Studios is for film lovers, Disney for kids then Six Flags is for crazy people who love big rides. Some of the rides such as X2 were insane, fortunately there were plenty of water rides and almost no queues.
Count the Rollercoasters!
Day 6, 7, 8
Last time I came to the US I was too young to drink or gamble (I might have been able to buy a gun however) so we took a trip to Las Vegas. The five hour drive from LA went smoothly, especially with the cruise control set along the straight highways.
We stayed in the same hotel that I did when I came last time - Circus Circus, mainly because the rooms were only £16 per night!
Since I'd been driving so much for the rest of the holiday I'd not had a drink since the plane. You have to be 21 to drink in most parts of the US - it would suck to be a student there!
Only in Vegas would they build the Eiffel Tower!
Vegas is such as great place for photography - and erm gambling!
The lake in front of the Bellagio
The Bellagio hotel/casino.
The water show in front of the Bellagio is quite impressive.
The ninth day consisted of two long flights home.
It was the next day before we landed back in Manchester.
I really enjoyed my stay in America and can't wait to go back again. Really want to visit the East coast or San Francisco.
There are modern abandoned cities around the world, and each seems to have an equally interesting story behind it. Some were abandoned following a disaster. The stillness that surrounds these towns seems almost palpable -- and it's strange to think that neighboring cities are still full of bustling people. here are 5 modern abandoned cities.
After reading about the 10 most beautiful bridges in the world at the weekend through Digg I went to take some photos of Ironbridge, #7 on the list which happens to be about 20mins drive from where I live.
The bridge itself.
The power station overlooks Ironbridge, giving an interesting contrast between old and new industry.
A view from the bridge looking up the river.
The bridge in the distance.
The bridge and the village which takes it name from the bridge.
On the drive up to Ironbridge I took this picture of the river Severn.
Here are some of my best HDR photos from my travels. HDR is a technique of taking a photo over multiple exposures (or extracting them from a RAW file) then recombining them in a program such as Photomatix. By doing this you can bring out the detail from the multiple exposures creating a powerful image.
My first is of St Chads Church in Shrewsbury.
I really like how the HDR technique has brough out the detail in the stone work.
This next one was taken in Betws Y Coed last summer.
I like the brightness in the trees in comparison to the building and water in this one.
This one is of the B&B we stayed at in Betws Y Coed.
Again I love how the stone work is really brought out against the trees.
I took this next one in Egypt last summer.
The rich blue in the sea and sky really shines through in this picture.
This one was taken in the Cotswolds on my Birthday last year.
The contrast in the sky especially with the sun setting is very striking in this picture.
This is another of St Chads Church in Shrewsbury.
The way the cloud almost circles around the spire is especially apparent in this picture as it almost implies the power the building or church has over people.
This train track near Betws Y Coed almost has a rain forest feel about it with the luscious green.
This next one again is from Betws Y Coed.
All of my HDR photos can be found on Flickr.
I've had a few requests to turn some of my Hong Kong photos into desktop photos, here are three of the best:
Hong Kong Light Show
3456x1582 - Original (2.3mb)
Hong Kong From Peak (night)
Hong Kong from Peak (Day)
If there are any other sizes anyone wants then post a comment below and I can make them.
I've spent the past ten days in Hong Kong on holiday, here is my day to day account of what I did. Hong Kong used to be owned by the British but in 1997 we gave it back to China. The British influence is still clear from the predominant use of the English language, road signs, food and the economy.
(Hong Kong at Night- click any picture to enlarge)
Day 1 - Travel
The first day was long, we had two flights to catch, one to Dubai then on to Hong Kong. Fortunately both flights were on time and were as comfy as you can expect from economy class. I was quite impressed with the Emirates flights especially how they had a camera on the front and below the plane so that you could see where you were going.
We got into Hong Kong about 10pm at night where we got a train to the central district then a taxi to our hotel, all was very efficient and easy though it helped everything being in English.
Day 2 - Exploring / Shopping
We spent most of the day walking around shopping centres and taking in the sites of the Central District, Wanchai and Causeway Bay. Laura and myself started a competition to see how many fat Chinese people we could spot. It was hard and often a fat person from behind ended up being an American. We managed to just get into double figures, we spotted 10 times that number in the same time for American and European fatties. It's not all gloom though there are a significant number of McDonald's, KFC's and Starbucks slowly fattening up the Chinese population.
(In Time Square these people hadn't realised what had crept up behind them)
(A tram in front of the very unique head quarters of the worlds local bank. The building was designed by Sir Normal Foster)
Day 3 - Visited Peak
To get to the peak there is a tram ride that takes about five minutes. From the top you have views to the North of Hong Kong, Kowloon and in the far distance China. To the south you can see the smaller towns of Stanley and Aberdeen with the ocean beyond.
(This is the view from the peak- our hotel is somewhere on the bottom right. Hong Kong is in the foreground with Kowloon beyond the water.)
(The view from the peak at night.)
Day 4 - Visited the Big Buddha and the Fishing Village of Tai O
(The Buddha has a Swastika on it's chest though I do not think this is a relation to the Nazi's.)
(These Mobile Phone masts next to the Buddha ensure the Monks are never disconnected from their 3G Internet.)
After visiting the Buddha we took the bus to the fishing village Tai O. It was interesting to see a different side to Hong Kong which was not all wealthy high rise. Many of the houses are built on stilts along the estuary. There was a market here too though the village was lacking a Starbucks.
(We took a boat ride up here and to see Dolphins in the sea.)
(The people in Tai O live in these houses, some do not have running water.)
Day 5 - Visited Kowloon and Temple Street Night Market.
Kowloon is a boat ride across from the main island, one of the main attractions is a night market.
(In Hong Kong they do not have the strict rules for signs like we do in the UK.)
(I have no idea what these are but they look interesting.)
Day 6 - Grand Prix and Boat Ride to see the Festival of Lights
Day 6 was all about seeing Lewis Hamilton win the Formula 1 championship, unfortunately it didn't happen after he skidded off the track into gravel when trying to pit. We spent most of the day in a sports bar drinking but come early evening we headed to the harbour for a boat trip around the bay to see the Festival of Lights.
Every evening at 8pm for about 15mins various building in Hong Kong and Kowloon light up and flash to some Chinese music. The show is fascinating to watch and has won various world records.
(Buildings change colour and the sky is full of lights and lasers.)
We watched the show from a boat making it impossible to take pictures, I wouldn't recommend it.
Day 7 - Disney
On the seventh day we visited the magic place of Hong Kong Disney World. It's not as big as its American or European counterparts but we still had a great day. Fortunately it was not very busy so we did not have to wait more than a few minutes for any of the attractions.
(Even the train to Disney was themed.)
Disney was clearly aimed at Children though the rides and attractions were still good fun. I was looking forward to having a photo with a Johnny Depp look alike but we could only find Mickey and Goofy.
(Had Disney not brought Pixar then Disney World would have been a very empty place).
In places I felt they had diluted some of the Disney brands a little too much to an extent that made you cringe but on a whole it wasn't too bad.
(The toilets in the future land were for space men and disabled people only, I managed to blag the latter.)
Another thing that got my attention was all the staff having English names, it didn't seem too bad at first but when you see all these Chinese people with 'Kenneth', 'Keith' and 'Randy' name badges then you wish they had just kept their original names.
(I'm just faking here - Disney wasn't that bad.)
If you ever visit Disney in Hong Kong I recommend you don't eat any of the food, for lunch Laura and myself had a Burger and Fried Chicken, both were inedible. In the evening we tried what should have been Chinese food, again it was inedible. Otherwise Disney was a great day out.
Day 8 - Beach, Stanley and Lights
The sun was out on Day 8, it had been hot the other days but mainly cloudy. We were lucky it didn't rain considering we were in between two typhoons, one battering Vietnam and the other Taiwan and the Chinese main land. We took this opportunity to go to the beach and to visit the town of Stanley where we had lunch and visited yet another market.
(In China respect is given in proportion to the size of your Digital SLR Camera - everyone we saw carried one.)
In the evening we went back to Kowloon to watch the Festival of Lights, it was here I managed to capture the photo below. It's quite spectacular to watch and there are more photos on my Flickr account.
(The Hong Kong Skyline is one of the best in the world.)
Day 9 - Relaxation
We were tired from our adventures over the past 8 days so decided to relax around the pool. In the evening we had a nice meal in an Argentinian restaurant.
(I did some light philosophical reading around the pool. Much love to the FSM.)
Day 10- Cinema and travel home
We had to check out of the hotel at 12pm and our flight was not until 12am. In Hong Kong you can check your baggage in at the central train station, it will then find its way to the airport and onto your plane. This gave us the day baggage free to carry on our adventure, we decided however to go to the cinema, twice. Luckily the films were in English with Chinese subtitles. We finally took off just after midnight on our way to Dubai.
We were welcomed into Dubai airport with the 5am prayer. We had about three hours to kill and fortunately the airport is great but my only complaint is the lack of sinks in the toilets. I went to take a leak then naturally to wash my hands however the two sinks were crowded by Muslims insistent on washing their faces 50 times in 20 different ways each taking two minutes. If your going to cater for such people build some more sinks!
When landing back in the UK from looking at the forward camera I was worried the pilot might skid into the gravel, fortunately his tyres still had grip.
Overall we had an amazing time in Hong Kong and I would recommend it if you love big, busy, crowded, high rise cities and want to see some Chinese culture without having to learn the language.
*All pictures have been taken by either Laura or Myself view the whole set on Flickr.
My most recent trip has been to Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt for a week with Dave. Egypt has a population of around 65million most of which live around the Nile valley, our resort was six hours drive away at the edge of the Sinai peninsula on the Red Sea. The area is famous for all year sun and is one of the top ten diving locations in the world because of the coral reefs and diverse tropical fish.
The Egyptian flag.
Day 1 Our first day mainly consisted of the flight which was uneventful. When getting off the plane you really notice the heat for the first time, at first I thought it was from the jet engine but you then realise that the normal temperature. When we got to the hotel we noticed it was in the centre of the resort - Naama bay, we thought Jackpot and hit the local bars.
Food was very cheap compared to the UK, even at the more commercial places like KFC, Pizza Hut and the Hard Rock Cafe a meal would be about half what you would expect in the UK. Alcoholic drinks on the other hand were very similar in price to the UK mainly because they have to import all their alcohol and they can rip us tourists off.
Day 2 The second day was Dave's birthday and we started by booking some excursions for later in the week. The rest of the day we burnt round the pool before heading out for food and drink. Keeping in with Egyptian culture we ate in the Hard Rock Cafe, here we are with a couple of the staff.
The majority of the locals were from Cairo as most of the area around Sharm is just desert. It was in the Hard Rock Cafe that I made my finest achievement on the holiday. I met a couple from Kazakhstan, after some small talk about the slow service we started to discuss the major cultural achievements of Kazakhstan, the main one of course being Borat. They did not seem amused however we came to the amicable conclusion that the joke was on the Americans in the film. Unfortunately I did not manage to get a picture with them.
We visited one bar called Little Budda which seemed a little ironic considering Egypt is an Islamic state. It had a giant Budda and played chilled out music and served cocktails.
Day 3 With a relatively small hangover we went on our first excursion Camel riding! We had been speaking to various people the day before about it and were told that it was not a nice experience however this was not going to stop us on our grand adventure into the desert!
Some of the locals guided our Camels, I found it interesting how they dressed like sand people. It's amazing how far some people go to be like their favourite Star Wars characters, I would have brought my light saber if I had of known.
I managed to fit right in with my dress sense. After riding the camel for about 30minutes my balls turned into sultanas they have still not yet recovered.
Some of the locals prepared some food for us, they cooked the bread on an open fire and the rest of the food in a microwave.
After dinner they did some light entertainment, this man squeezed one out while the others cheered and clapped him on. Not wanting to be put off by this strange culture I joined in.
While I couldn't understand what they were singing they mentioned the Allah after most words. We danced until late with our new found brothers before going to bed.
Day 4 On day four we got to go snorkelling, I had never done this before so was excited about seeing lots of fish.
We went snorkelling somewhere here, unfortunately I did not have an underwater camera :-(.
In the evening we went for drinks in a bar half way up the hill, they couldn't afford proper chairs so we sat on the floor. I hadn't done this since infant school so decided to meditate on it.
Day 5 In Pizza Hut in Egypt you have to arm wrestle the staff for food, Dave lost.
Fortunately he won the boxing match.
I wish they did this in the U.K.
Day 6 On the evening on the sixth day we went Quadbiking into the desert. This was not a normal track and we literally drove out into the desert to watch the sunset. It was a great experience and well worth doing!
This was taken while I was driving and trying to steer with one hand.
This friendly man was the pharmacist and helped Dave with his sun burn. He was a strict Muslim and we spent a couple of hours chatting to him about our different cultures.
Outside our hotel was a KFC, Pizza Hut, Hard Rock Cafe and TGI Fridays. We made sure we sampled each one. KFC and Pizza Hut food tasted better over there. In KFC the chicken was less salty and in Pizza Hut the Pizza's seemed less greasy.
This was the temperature at midnight! Day 8 On the final day we packed up and went home but not without doing some shopping.
We went into one shop and half the staff were asleep (well at least I think they were staff and I think they were asleep). We were told the bottle on the right had the Arabic sign for CK One on - strange I thought it was the sign for piss in a bottle. We didn't buy anything and moved on.
I really enjoyed Egypt and would go back again while it is still a cheap destination. I think May time was the perfect time to go as it was hot but not too hot and the resort was not over busy. All the photos taken from my trip can be found on Flickr.