Rialto Bridge - Venice, Italy

Venice is one of the most beautiful cities on earth.

With that said, there are so many places to visit and photograph in Venice, that you will find yourself snapping away, and may possibly forget to immerse yourself in the sensation that can only be had in Venice Italy.

One of our favorite spots is the Ponte di Rialto, or the Rialto Bridge.  The Rialto is a stone-arch bridge which crosses the narrowest point of the Grand Canal.  It was built in the last years of the 16th century.  It is the oldest bridge to cross the Grand Canal.  It is also an architectural and engineering achievement of the Renaissance.  It was designed and built by Antonio da Ponte and his nephew Antonio Contino following a design competition in Venice.

The Rialto is the most famous bridge in Venice, and one of the most famous in the world.  It was a food market, today it is a market in tourist goods. The Rialto is a gathering spot for tourists from all over the world, as well as locals and lovers. 

Stroll the Rialto, not once, not twice but maybe a half-dozen times.  Gaze at the many faces of those that walk by.  Have a gelato and walk over the bridge to gaze at the jewelry stores, souvenir shops, and leather goods.  Listen to the hum of the Venetian Water Buses that float beneath, or the crooning of the gondoliers. (Fun Fact:  Most of the songs that the gondoliers are signing are Neapolitan, from the Naples area of Italy!) Stroll during sunrise and witness the city come alive, or during sunset as all the lovers begin their serenade.

To get there, take one of the Venetian Water Buses for a low-cost way to travel the Grand Canal, or hire a Gondola to take you beneath the Rialto.  Venice is a city that can only be done by walking, so make sure you are fit and ready to walk all over this amazing city.  Bring a great camera or an extra memory card for your cell phone camera.  You’re going to need it! 

Antigua, Guatemala

Located approximately an hour drive from Guatemala City, encircled by three active volcanos, you’ll find the picturesque, colonial town of Antigua.

Antigua is gorgeous.  Built in the 16th century, it was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1773 on a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance towns like Florence or Siena.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its multitude of colonial era buildings, art, archaeology and architecture.

 

This lively town is filled with colonial-era mansions, churches, coffee plantations, tourists artists, and indigenous Indians.  This city offers delicious restaurants, fun shopping opportunities, and bars with live music. 

Antigua also offers archaeological splendors that can be found at the Vigua Pre-Columbia & Glass Art Museum one of five museums inside Casa Santo Domingo monastery complex.  You can find Mayan artifacts like funerary masks displayed alongside current glass pieces.

If you’re an active outdoors type, then don’t miss taking a tour of one or two of the surrounding volcanoes that act as sentries to the colonial city, the Agua, the Acatenango and the Fuego. There are a variety of tour companies that can you take up the mountains via jeep, hiking or horseback.  The Fuego is still an active volcano! Be prepared for a strenuous day!

Ready to shop?  Situated beneath the Santa Catalina Arch, the Nim Po’t is an emporium of artisanal Guatemalan products.  Choose from over 500 local artists creating everything from woodcuts, calendars inspired by the Maya, woven tablecloths or traditional clothing.  You will also find handmade shoes, sandals and handbags.     

At night, choose a restaurant near the lively Parque Central.  Music fills the scented air, as you dine and sip Mexican Tequila.

Beauty of Redwood Trees

When you behold a Sequoia Tree for the first time, you will lose your breath.

The beauty of these giant trees is astounding.  The trunks so large, and deep red, you cannot capture it in a justifiable photo on your phone.  As you crane your neck to look up, you realize you are unable to take in its magnificence in with one look.  Like the Sistine chapel or the Grand Canyon, its beauty is overwhelming.

Place a person next to the trunk of an old growth Sequoia, and you realize how small we are. These trees located in the Sequoia National Park which was established in 1890.  This National Park is home to some of the largest trees in the world like the General Sherman tree.

The trees are old-growth forests, estimated to be over 2700 years old.  The tallest trees rise up 300 feet, and their sturdy trunks are more than 100 fee around making them the largest trees on earth.  There are other redwood trees throughout California, but Sequoias are only found here.

This National Park does not disappoint.  There is something for everyone.

You can admire a waterfall like Tokopah Falls, or Roaring River Falls.  Hikes are short and pleasant.

Take a hike through the trees, or talk a ranger led walk through Giant Forest. Visit the Giant Forest Museum.

The views are amazing!  Climb a short staircase to the top of Moro Rock and see the beauty of the Sierra Nevada all around you.

Visit Mineral King, one of the most beautiful untouched mountain wilderness in California, and yet easily accessible.

Camp overnight at one of the many camp grounds. After dark watch the Milky Way play overhead.

Climate change is real and is being felt in this and many other of our National Parks. Throughout the range where Sequoias are located, they are encountering temperature increases and extreme drought conditions.

Yosemite National Park

If you’re planning on visiting California, I urge you, no, beg you to visit Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places you will ever experience.

Situated between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite is a photographer and hikers dream. It has breathtaking mountains in El Capitan and Half Dome (rock climbers love to scale these mountains), giant, ancient sequoia trees, and water falls which will be extremely powerful this year thanks to all of the rainfall and snow pack at Bridalveil, Yosemite and Horsetail falls.

The park is always busy, but you can find peace, beauty and solitude just off a hiking path.  Visit in the fall for the turning of the leaves. Visit in the winter for snowfall and quiet. Or visit in the spring for the bloom of the dogwood trees and the clear night sky full of stars.

You can visit for the day for a taste of Yosemite, but we suggest at least three days if possible.  If you like to camp, camping requires reservations must be made at least a year in advance.  There are many area hotels of various qualities and distance from Yosemite Village, so a place for every budget and interest can be found.  Make sure to spend time in Yosemite Village, and take a turn in the Ansel Adams Gallery, containing many reprints of his famous Yosemite photos.

Make a dinner reservation at the famous Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly the Ahwahnee Hotel).  The dining room is an experience in itself, with soaring, painted ceilings and breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley.  Designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood (who also designed the Zion Lodge, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge) this hotel, and it’s dining room is considered a masterpiece of "parkitecture".  Can’t get a dinner reservation?  Order drinks and grab a seat in the lounge around the roaring fire, or if the weather permits, sit outside under the glory of Yosemite’s skies.