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  The Long Way Home 07.Nov.2011
Venice by Day and Night Venice is made up of many islands in the middle of a lagoon linked together via a large network of boats and bridges. The city layout has hardly changed in the last 500 years and is a maze of narrow winding streets, crisscrossed by busy water ways linking all areas of the city.

The lack of pollution, noise and possible accidents from cars is an awesome experience which certainly makes the city a magical place to visit and enjoy.

The crowning glory of Florence is the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower dominating the city skyline with the largest brick dome in the world designed by Filippo Brunelleschi. The new gothic cathedral took a further 170 years to complete by various other architects.

In order to build a dome of this size it would usually need a large wooden support structure and flying buttress, but Brunelleschi had other plans and they were the work of a genius.
Santa Maria del Fiore

Siena Cathedral The interior of the church has a visually striking appearance with large black and white (symbolic colours of Siena) marble columns and the floor is covered in a magnificent mosaic of pictorial marble.

The central nave has an upper cornice decorated with 172 heads of 15th century popes while the various vaulted ceilings are painted in a gorgeous blue with golden stars, replacing previous frescoes.

La Piazza del duomo (Cathedral Square) consists of the Cathedral (duomo) at the center, the Baptistery opposite the Cathedral front entrance and the world famous leaning tower of Pisa at the back.

The medieval Cathedral was started in 1064 by the architect Buschetto and designed in an Romanesque architectural style. The leaning tower was started in 1173 and took 177 years to complete in three stages due to the notorious sinking foundation problems.
Pisa Cathedral

Saint Peter's Basilica Saint Peter Basilica is located inside of the Vatican City and has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. In order to appreciate the scale of the Basilica I left some of the tourists at the bottom of the pictures.

The Basilica is one of the holiest places of Christianity with the burial site of Saint Peter at the focal point of a latin cross floor plan under a 30m pavilion-like structure called the Baldachin built by Gianlorenzo Bernini.
The Fourth Monkey
Sims

  Ciao Rome 26.Sep.2011
Trevi Fountain At the intersection of three roads springs forth the Trevi Fountain. An access point for the Acqua Vergine which was one of the ancient aqueducts that supplied water to Rome was damged by the Goths in 538.

In 1732 Pope Clement XII organized a contest for the design of the Trevi Fountain and after much arguing over who won Nicola Salvi was assigned the commission, but the fountain was eventually completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762 due to Salvi dying in 1751.

An architectural milestone, the Gesù (mother church) was the first Jesuit Church to be built in Rome between 1568 and 1584 by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Giacomo della Porta.

The Baroque styled Gesù has no narthex at the front of the church, a large extended nave for the congregation to worship, no side aisle's and a short transept occupied by large altars. The silver lining of the Gesù is the ceiling fresco by Giovanni Battista Gaulli combining stucco statues blended with paint and shadows.
Gesù Church

Sant'Ignazio The construction of the church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola was started in 1626 by Pope Gregory XV and finally completed in 1650. The site originally belonged to the Collegio Romano which was moved because it was over crowded and needed more space.

The Saint Ignatius is based on a latin cross design with one nave, numerous side chapels and a fake cupola painted by Andrea Pozzo who also created the breathtaking fresco that stretches across the nave ceiling.

Tucked away on the main shopping street of Via del Corso is the beautiful church Santi Ambrogio e Carlo al Corso. The church belongs to the Lombard community and is dedicated to Saint Ambrose of Milan and Saint Charles Borromeo.

The Santi Ambrogio is based on a Latin cross design (75m x 54m) with three naves, one splendid cupola (72m high) by Pietro da Cortona, a large transept and an ambulatory housing the heart of Saint Charles.
San Carlo Church

Sopra Minerva Church The Basilica of Santa Maria above Minerva started construction in 1280 by Dominicans monks with just a central nave and two aisles. The church has a colourful history with Saint Catherine of Siena buried under the main altar while her head is buried elsewhere.

The Santa Maria above Minerva is an amazing example of mediaeval gothic architecture in Rome with a gorgeous ribbed vault ceiling stretching the length of the nave and perfectly pointed arches separating the two aisles on either side.
Three Wise Monkeys
Sims

  In with the New 01.June.2011
Canon Rebel T3i I have not been happy with my previous camera for sometime now and I have been planning to replace it with something better. The previous camera could not cope with indoor situations well and the default white balance was stupidly bright.

I asked a few work friends about what camera's they were using and after a demo of the latest canon I decided this was the one for me. The price tag was more than I expected, but it gave me something to save up for while I was planned for my next holiday.

I had always used the full range of my previous camera lens and was not familiar with the idea of switchable lens, it seemed awkward to me. So I decided to buy a second lens for long range shots because the default was only 18-55 which was no good for high up detail on buildings.

After much frustration of switching lens and often missing moments because I had the wrong lens attached I luckily found the perfect lens (18-135) while on holiday. Now I can have the best of both worlds, close up and good mid range all in my package.
Canon Lens
Monkey Two Do
Sims

  Turning Japanese 01.Mar.2011
Tokyo Shrines Scattered throughout Tokyo city center are small shrines offering a place of religious tranquility to all passersby. Sadly the shrines are often surrounded on all sides by towering shapeless office blocks but they are still a strong central focus for local people.

The shrines are integral to the city landscape and are clearly marked on all earthquake evacuation maps located on most street corners. At christmas time the shrines are brightly decorated with good luck trinkets and paper fortunes for the coming year.

This beautiful statue of the "Goddess of Sincerity" is located near the front entrance of the prestigious department store Mitsukoshi in the Nihonbashi district next to the Nihonbashi bridge.

The goddess was built from 500 year old Japanese cypress 'Hinoki" and painted with clay pigments and decorated with gold and platinum metal. The central figure represents the cloud-swathed Goddess of Sincerity descending towards the earth.
Magokoro Statue

International Forum The International Forum was design by world famous architect Rafael Viñoly in 1989 (was originally from Argentina) and construction of the building was completed in 1996.

Often regarded as one of the best modern cultural buildings in Tokyo, the site is split into 4 large concert halls and a gorgeous glass and steel building with the roof shaped like the hull of a boat. A beautiful building that is breathtaking inside because of the scale and space available to move around in.

The Imperial Palace is surrounded on all sides by a large moat and split into several areas of private grounds occupied by the current Emperor and Empress, with a large public garden and various exhibition buildings on the outskirts.

The famous Tokagakudo is located in the public gardens to the west and was built to commemoration the 60th birthday of Empress Kojun. Outside of the moat to the north is the old Imperial Guard building which is currently an exhibition hall for local Japanese artists.
Imperial Palace Grounds

Shinshō-ji Temple Due to America having issues with my travel visa and demanding I pay for another one, I ended up staying an extra night in Japan. Luckily I found a nice hotel close by in Narita and I had an awesome time exploring a Narita-san Shinshō-ji Buddhist temple.

The winding streets were packed with vendors selling good luck charms and because of the new year celebrations were also awash with a sea of people. Eventually we got to the temple and it was full of ancient wood buildings and a huge three-storied pagoda on top of a hill surrounded by a gorgeous park.
Cheeky Monkey
Sims

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