iReminisce: The London Eye

London eye 7

Today iReminisce about this photo i took shortly before Sarah & i travelled on the London Eye. It rained on both times we’d been on it, so i thought i’d add a dramatic black and white effect to the once colour photo! 🙂 

Shortly after i’d made it black and white…..It was chosen as one of the photos to be exhibited in Florence, Italy which totally stunned me! And which sparked the amazing “Tuscany Tour”. If you’ve not joined Sarah & i on this amazing trip, we’d love to meet you there! 🙂 

iReminisce: Pisa, Italy

My lovely Wife Sarah said that i should post a photo daily. I’ve taken so many over the years we often forget the memories these pictures evoke. So i’d like to share them with you too.

Please enjoy as “iReminisce”.

Pisa

I will start with(probably not the most exciting photo in my archive) but to be stood in Pisa, and in front of the fantastic leaning bell tower was incredible! 🙂 

Please read my full blog post for this day HERE

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflecting

A photo of Sarah doing the same pose in front of The Vitruvian Man

For this weeks challenge(Reflectiong), i used an old photo from our “Tuscany Tour”(please click to begin this fantastic trip), although it’s not really about reflecting……I think Sarah’s smile reflects enough of how much fun we were having on this holiday! 😀 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Pisa Tower

A zoomed in photo of the top 3 layers of the tower

FOR This weeks photo challenge “BROKEN”, i just had to post a few photos from my “Tuscany Tour” holiday. 

known worldwide for its unintended tilt to one side. It is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight.  

A panaramic shot of the baptistry, Cathedral & the tower in one shot

 More of my Weekly Photo Challenges 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale

Me in front of the Florence Cathedral

“Wow! Were these doors made for the Nephilim?!!” 🙂

I just had to choose this photo from my recent “Tuscany Tour” for this weeks “Weekly Photo Challenge: Scale”. These were the biggest and best doors i’ve ever seen, so i just had to have my photo taken in front of them so you could appreciate the ‘scale’ of them!! 😉

Tuscany Tour: Day 8

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Up bright and early, packed and ready to go (well we’d like to stay another week) we found the right bus to Pisa (phew) and got our favourite seats right at the front, Yes! 🙂

Bus ride to Pisa

Arriving at Pisa airport, Francesca (our assistance person) was great. She sorted everything out, then kindly took this photo of Sarah & i in front of the plane as we were first on-board again! 🙂

Sarah and i at Pisa airport

The takeoff was stupendous! I love the acceleration, and i was just as excited throughout the whole journey! The Captain said “We are at 28,000ft, doing 480mph and its -52degrees outside” Fantastic! 🙂

Sun from the airplane

I think God just smiled at me! 🙂

Begin Tour

Tuscany Tour: Day 7

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Sarah & i started our final full day with the legendary amazing breakfast, then headed out to make the most of our last full day in this beautiful city.

Our plan today was to head East, then travel anti-clockwise until we reach our favourite place (South, by the river Arno) to try and take photos of things we may have missed so far, or from angles different from the norm. Right let’s Go!

East…

Church Tower

Wow, another bell tower, how did i miss this! 

a black and white photo of a church

Building wit hroof statues

Pinocchio Workshop

Santa Croce black

North…

Heading North of our hotel, we stopped once again to gaze upon the stunning architecture of the Florence Cathedral and the Palazzo Medici Ricardi…

Christmas Cathedral

Florence Cathedral Bell Tower

Palazzo Medici Riccardi 1

Palazzo Medici Riccardi arches

West…

As we were heading west, i found another statue, but thought i’d take it from a random angle! 🙂

Statue in North Florence

Florence side street building

Sarah found a shop with sunflowers (her favourite flowers)…

Sunflower shop

Firenze archway

South…

Gold anyone!! 🙂

Florentine Gold

Corridor Windows

Sarah by the river
 
After spending a while around the river, we headed to probably the most famous and popular square (Piazza della Signoria) to capture some more statues! 🙂
 
Me taking photo with iPhone
 
I wasn’t one of the statues, lol. But i was being very still! 
 
Sarah  the Medici Lion
 

Sarah  the Medici Lion 2

 

Firenze Statue 1

 
Firenze Statue 2
 
Jesus
 
Now for probably the most famous statue of all…Michelangelo’s David. Everyone was crowding round and getting the obvious and boring shot of David. So i decided to get a different angle! 🙂
  
Davidov
 
Both Sarah and i had our own favourite statues. I’ll start with Sarah’s.
 
Sarah’s favourite is “Perseus with the Head of Medusa”.
 
Medusa s Head
 
My favourite is of Cosimo Medici on his horse…
 
Medici horse rider  Sky fx
 
Do you have a favourite statue??
 
For the final evening we had booked one of only 7 tables at the amazing “Santa Elisabetta” restaurant in the old 6th century tower at our hotel.
 

Sarah at Santa Elisabetta

 
I didn’t take anymore photos as i was too excited, and i forgot! 🙂
The experience was sublime. Everything was fantastic and it’ll be a meal we’ll never forget!  
 
We then had a final walk out to see the Florence Cathedral at night, it really stood out against the dark night.
 

Florence Cathedral at night

 
Florence Cathedral by night 2
 
Hope you’ve enjoyed being on our little tour today around Florence?!
 
We have been so blessed this week, not only to be here in this stunning city that’s so rich in history. But being part of an exhibition in the Medici palace still leaves me speechless. 
 
Who’d of thought that after being registered blind 14 years ago, i’d be here in a photography exhibition?!! Thank you Lord for always surprising me, and giving me a gift i just can’t explain! 

Tuscany Tour: Day 6 – The Exhibition 2

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Oh did i mention…. i’m actually in Italy,Yay!! 

Map of Europe with a blue dot on Italy

Well i’m not actually in Italy as i write this, i’m at home on my iMac! But Sarah kept on catching me opening the maps app and taking a screenshot of our location!

Today we thought we’d head south towards the river, then curl round and end up North of the hotel at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to see if last night really was a dream.

The Vasari Corridor….

Sarah owning the Vasari Corridor

Sarah & i really liked the “Vasari Corridor”, but now Sarah won’t let me through as i am a commoner, lol. Eventually i managed to negotiate a deal, but it meant looking round more shops! 🙂

Sarah s Gold

Sarah looking fluent in Florin! (Italian gold coin)  

Sarah at Tiffany s

Sarah at Tiffany’s! 🙂

Sarah by the River Arno

After a while we decided to rest a little and get refreshed ready for more exciting touring. Mmmmmm coffee and cake! 🙂 

Cappuccino   Cake

Wow, now that was fantastic! Anyway better get back to it! 🙂 

It wasn’t long before Sarah found another friend, in the form of a statue. 

Sarah and the boar

As we walked past the amazing Florence Cathedral, Sarah noticed and got excited that there was now a Christmas tree & nativity scene.

Me waving at duomo

The Nativity

After being wowed, we took lots of photos to try and get one good enough to possibly make Christmas cards for loved ones.

Now on to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi…

stood in the centre of the road with the palazzo medici riccardi on the left and a bus with its streaming light reflecting in the wet road

We arrived at the palace (left in photo above) and found the exhibition, yay i didn’t dream it! 🙂

As the majority of the artwork displayed was created by blind & partially sighted people, it was really tactile so we got to touch the creations. I’m so used to going to museums etc and not being able to see or touch the art. Thanks artists! 🙂

Me viewing the art

Couple of people touching the art  Me touching the Tactile exhibits

As i mentioned yesterday (see Day 5) i was 1 of 3 artists (still not used to being called that) from the UK who exhibited, so i’d like to introduce to you…Ann and her paintings…

Ann and her paintings

And Christina’s photos…

Christina s Works

After a long walk around looking and touching the art, we went out of the back exit where i found an archway, and a huge ring that we kept finding on the outside of buildings, i think for the horses.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi Rear

Horse Ring

We’d had another fantastic day in Florence, and if you remembered on Day 4, i’d topped the evening off with an amazing cherry topped cake…Well this evening it got better still…..

Bistecca alla fiorentina…..

Bistecca alla fiorentina

Just when you thought the evening couldn’t get any better…Sarah & i shared the amazing Florentine steak! We had been told by Grace from our favourite restaurant in the world (Sicily Restaurant) that we couldn’t leave without trying one. Wow, she was right. It was truly magnificent and everything we’d hoped for, although i think Sarah got arm ache from sawing the never ending extra thick meat!! 🙂

We’ve had such a memorable and unbelievable time in Italy, and as this was Thursday, we still had a full day Friday, before we headed home on Saturday. 

Hope to see you on Day 7, where we take more considered time to get photos of things we might of missed!!

⇍ Previous Day — Next Day ⇏

Tuscany Tour: Day 5 – The Exhibition

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Well this is it, the actual reason we came, lol! I know i mentioned i only had my iPhone 5s & Sarah’s iPhone 6 Plus to take photos, the main reason (apart from weight, lenses & tiny viewfinders) was the GPS map pins, i love them! 🙂

A satalite map of florence with red map pins scattered around showing where i'd taken photos

It was now Wednesday and it was time for the sun to make way for the rain. The hotel room even had it’s own umbrella with “Brunelleschi” as the logo, i like this hotel! The exhibition didn’t start until 4pm, so we decided to explore (now we knew where we were going after our fantastic walking tour) for a couple of hours with our new umbrella! 🙂

Me with umbrella in narrow streets

It turned out that the streets were much quieter which is great for us, so we could relax a little more too after a couple of hectic days. OOoooo another coffee shop! 🙂

Me and Coffee

 The Exhibition…..

We left the hotel with posh clothes on and fancy umbrella in hand and headed to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi hoping there actually was an exhibition even though we had still seen no signs at all, not even a hint that there’d be one.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi 1

Then we turned into the main entrance…..

Sarah said “Wow, now this is a lot of people, the posters are up all around us and look great, and it’s in the beautiful, main part of the palace”. I started to feel a little out of my depth all of a sudden.

Art Senses Entrance with the posters in the background behind people gathering

Crowds gathering with me in the background Art Senses Entrance 2

Sarah then found Ann, who has also travelled from England, UK (thats ⅔ of the UK representatives, lol) so i had a chat with her as i’d never met her before, she’s an enormously talented artist and has a few paintings in the exhibition. 

Me  Ann at Art Senses

We hadn’t noticed, but the crowd had started making their way to the large area in the centre where the president of the blind union was talking (in Italian) through a PA system. By the time we had arrived we were at the back wondering what was going on, and none of us were able to see anything (even the sighted ones) as we were just too far away. 

Then…..

Costanza, who organised the whole thing (with her husband) cut through the crowd, took my had and led me right to the front next to the president and a few of the other artists.

Me  Costanza at Art Senses

Then after about 5 minutes, she put the microphone into my hand and said “Speak one word”. 

Me on the mic at Art Senses

The place went silent, i could feel there were lots of people around, i had no idea if any of them spoke english. So i  said “ciao a tutti (Hello everyone), i’m Steve Rebus from London”. It seemed to go across well, but i was so terrified i didn’t have a clue what to say next. Constanza gently took the mic and passed it along, aaaghhh i could now relax a little. 🙂

After a few more people spoke we were given a glass of Prosecco and Costanza took me to see what they’d done with my photos. I had only sent the prints and they had mounted, framed and hung them beautifully, i can’t thank them enough, they looked great and very professional!

Me  Costanza with my Photos at Art Senses

It wasn’t long before people started crowding round as they viewed each of our works.

Crowd around my Photos at Art Senses

Everyone kept telling me how fantastic the photos were and that i was a “Provider of  inspiration” (now that’s a title, lol. , all i could say is thanks. I was completely overwhelmed by the whole evening. I never knew it was going to be this big, professionally done and not held in a dark attic somewhere! I’m not good at playing the artist game and kept thinking that i better start taking some better photos, lol. 🙂

After a couple of hours walking round the exhibition, i was amazed at the level of talent. I enjoyed the paintings (a lot were tactile too), sculptures and other photography, simply brilliant!

I’ll post more photos tomorrow when we returned to see if we were just dreaming! 

Me and the poster at Art Senses

Sarah got me to stand next to one of the Art Senses posters while holding the amazingly professional catalogue/book of all the works and artists bio etc. Costanza really worked hard to put everything together, and i thank God that she found Sarah to ask for blind artists from the UK.

I heard Art Senses are holding a similar exhibition next year in Rome!! I better get taking some photos, if i want to be invited as an artist again. Wow to do all this in Rome, unbelievable! 🙂 

⇍ Previous Day — Next Day ⇏

Tuscany Tour: Day 4

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During another sublime breakfast, Sarah & i wondered if there was a walking tour around Firenze?! We now have a love of walking tours after our hugely successful one yesterday (see Day 3). It’s much easier for us to just follow a group instead of getting lost and wondering around aimlessly, and it’s a great way to learn the history and culture of the area.

They did do a tour and it started just after lunch. We booked on it and then decided to go for a walk to see if we could find the starting point by ourselves. It was in an area we hadn’t covered yet so we knew it was going to be a challenge…..We failed, but we found a lovely cafe! We sat outside with the sun blazing down, it was fantastic! 🙂

The image below shows me staring at the sun. Since being registered blind and having no central vision at all, i can now stare at the sun without squinting or blinking. Didn’t know it made me look this weird though, lol. 🙂

Me sat drinking coffee outside staring at the sun

We then spent a couple of hours enjoying finding new and wonderful shops, before heading back to the hotel. The reception had arranged for someone to walk us to the walking tour meeting point, fantastic! 🙂

Firenze Walking Tour…

The group met up in a different square than the one we found earlier, and gave us another one of those radio thingy’s, Yay! As the guide was talking about the square, i captured some shots!

Beautiful blue sky behind an impressive church wide impressive building with staues across the roof

One of the roof statues

Moving from the square and through some little side streets, we stopped at the “Basilica of Santa Croce” founded by Saint Francis. Sarah said “Wow, it looks like someone has iced it like a cake! It doesn’t look real”. 

Dark skies hover over the amazing Santa Croce black

Walking through the streets we were told of a local artist who’s adding figures to road signs. 

A figure looking like he's carrying the horizontal block of a no entry sign

 Continuing with more fantastic Medici family history we found ourselves in a familiar square (Piazza della Signoria).

Palazzo Vecchio

Bronze statue of Cosimo Medici

As we didn’t have lots of time to walk around and take photos, Sarah & i revisited on Day 7 to get some more interesting shots. Now it’s onwards to the river. 🙂

The River arches

When we accidentally found the river Arno during the Firenze marathon, Sarah had said that the river looks dirty, like brown sludge. But today with the sun shining bright, it glowed gold like nothing i’d seen before! 🙂

The River Arno Me  Sarah at the river Arno

Me  Sarah at Firenze river Bridge over river Arno

We continued our tour by walking through the “Piazza della Repubblica” ahh, the place with the sparkling building (see Day 1).

Firenze archway

Then finishing our tour at the Florence Cathedral (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore). Yay another amazing bell tower! 🙂

Florence Cathedral Bell Twoer

 I’ve heard of “Knocking’ on Heaven’s door” but now i was stood at “The Gates of Paradise”.

Me stood in front of the gates of Paradise

 Sarah then said “Go and stand in front of the doors of the Cathedral, we need more photos with you in them so people will know you were here”. I really don’t like this side of the lens, but this is for you guys! 🙂

Wow! Were these doors made for the Nephilim?!! 🙂

Me in front of the Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral 1

After this amazing tour, we felt that we could now spend a few days exploring with a little more confidence, starting with a trip to our fave coffee (and cake) place which is right next to our hotel. The cherry on top of the cake below really sums up our day. It’s been another unbelievable day that always leaves me saying “How am i here? This is like a dream! I still can’t believe i’m here?!” 

Cake

 You’ll be very pleased to know that my next post (Day 5) is the opening day of the exhibition!

I’m so blessed that you’ve stuck with me on this incredible journey. God bless you. 🙂

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Tuscany Tour: Day 3 – San Gimignano

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The dark cloak of night consumed us, light had escaped the dungeon of darkness but had vanished..…Sorry, just trying to set the mood for the final destination on our amazing Tuscany in a day tour.

Chiara had been telling us of the year 1348 when the black death had wiped out over ⅔ of the walled medieval town of San Gimignano, the majority of the people who survived the terror had left. Continuing on this theme, and the fact that it was totally dark outside (due to this time of year) set the scene for what we were about to experience!

Welcome to San Gimignano…

San Gimignano

After a short walk uphill, the group arrived at the main entrance of the walled town. We then had about 45 minutes free time to explore, then meet back here. Afterr the group dispersed, Sarah & i entered… 

No amount of photos could ever get across the feeling of this place! The black windows towering over you from each side, the silence and the shadows following you everywhere, generated a smothering atmosphere that had flavours of Fear, Death, Sorrow for the people of old, Awe and a weird taste of Joy and amazement. You really can only experience San Gimignano by physically being here! 

San Gimignano 4

San Gimignano 1

San Gimignano 5

San Gimignano 2

As Sarah was checking out the few little shops on the main walkway, i’d stay outside and just stand, soaking up the atmosphere that my words can’t describe. Sarah says “They only sell pottery or Knives”.

San Gimignano Shop

San Gimignano 3

As i was stood (see above) it was completely silent. Then all of a sudden i heard heavy footsteps from behind sounding like they were headed straight for me. I expected to see a blade sticking out of the front of my chest as an assassin wearing a monks tunic (from the video game (assassins creed) shot out of the shadows sending me to paradise.

As i turned though it was just a person leaving the church behind me, although i’m still not sure how they managed the booming footstep thing. My imagination really doesn’t help my heart at times like these! 🙂

San Gimignano 7

As we met back up with the group having felt we’d been to probably the most special place of the trip. We were so grateful we hadn’t decided to stay in the coach as it was just too dark to risk having accidents. 

I really hope you’ve enjoyed joining us on the “Tuscany in a day” tour?!

Which city was your favourite?

The Siena Cathedral with its humbug bell tower, is my favourite church building of all time (so far).

What is your favourite church building? And why?

⇍ Previous Day — Next Day ⇏

Tuscany Tour: Day 3 – Siena

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Photo while sat on the coach taken looking through the windscreen overlooking the mountains with Siena written on the road

While approaching Sienna, we were given a fantastic little radio thingy that you put around your neck. It has a single earphone so you can still hear the tour guide within a large radius,or if it gets noisy. We then met the new Siena tour guide who would guide the group and share interesting stories and history of this stunning place.

Welcome to Siena…

Me stood in front of the Siena Christmas Tree

We were very happy to meet in a little square around a huge Christmas tree (see above). I am now only wearing a thin shirt as it is like a summers day and it’s December!!  🙂

Siena Building

close up of windows on a Siena Building 2

Siena Arches

Walking through the narrow streets and hearing more about how the Medici family slaughtered and captured Siena, we arrived at the famous medieval square (Piazza del Campo). Yay another tower! 🙂 

Siena Campo

Campo Tower 

Siena campo windows

After a walk around the banked curves of the square (feeling like an Indy 500 car), the group then left the square and headed towards (what has now become my favourite bell tower of all time) Siena Cathedral!

Siena Cathedral…

Walking under a narrow archway, the group made a collective sound, it went something like (wooaaahhhhooww), Sarah said “Wow! A humbug tower!” I said understatedly “Oh right” as i could only look at the ground to try and navigate, and i can’t see the tower or any of it’s detail anyway. But when i got back, and was able to zoom into my photos to see what i was pointing my camera at…..”Wow, Wow Wow”. 

Siena Cathedrals humbug tower

Siena Cathedral Bell Tower

Siena Cathedral

a view of the stunning Siena Cathedral 3

 Sarah was very happy when we went inside and found more humbugs! 🙂

Inside Siena Cathedral 2

Inside Siena Cathedral

 The group then sat down to hear the final part of the tour guides history. Just after i said to Sarah “Wow, isn’t it amazing to think that all of this unbelievable place was done for Jesus?! It all points to Him!”. The tour guide said “And this was all done for Mary!”. I was not amused at all! 

We then had some free time and was told to meet back at the medieval square, now which way was that?? 

Siena Campo 5

We did eventually find it, and we met back up with the group. to then return back to the coach, but on the way we passed the Christmas tree where we had first started and it looked beautiful! It finished Siena off nicely! 🙂

Siena Christmas Tree at night

After quite a scare of nearly getting lost and left behind as the group disappeared into the darkness, Sarah and i boarded what we hoped was our coach (it was).  Now it’s off towards our final destination. 🙂

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Tuscany Tour: Day 3 – Vinci & Chianti

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As we left the amazing Pisa, Chiara (our tour guide) gave us some more interesting yet gruesome Tuscany history about the Medici family killing everyone again and taking over more villages and cities. She also mentioned a man called Leonardo Da Vinci, “no way” i said to Sarah “I thought he was a ninja turtle, not a real man!” She gave me a swift elbow in the ribs, and Chiara continued.

Welcome to Vinci…

The image below is of the landscape that greeted us from the coach.  

Sarah looking over the Vinci Hills

After taking in the amazing scenery, we headed off on foot to the Museum of Leonardo Da Vinci.

A view overlooking the town of Vinci with a bell tower on the left

A beautiful bell tower with purple blue sunrise over vince

A close up black and white of the Vinci Bell Tower

I really like bell towers!! 🙂

Sarah & i found inside the museum much too dark, so we struggled to see any of the fantastic creations on display. Sarah was using her iPhone 6 Plus with it’s wide aperture of f2.2 to view each design as it showed much brighter on her screen, rather than the dark blob in front of her (she’s a genius).

We did find a cool bike though!!

Vinci Bike

Now it was back outside to have a wonder around and see what we can find. It wasn’t long before we found a familiar object! 

Vitruvian Man

Sarah wasn’t happy with the “Vitruvian Man” and thought Leonardo had missed something out. So we added something extra……The Vitruvian Man & Woman! 🙂

Sarah stood in front of the Vitruvian Man  doing the same pose

Now for Chianti…

After another trip on the coach through amazing rolling hills, olive grows and vinyards, the coach parked right up at the top in Chianti where we were to do a little wine & local Tuscan food tasting.

I didn’t have time to take any photos as we were guided straight to our table and greeted with a lovely plate of local baked bread, olive oil, cheese and spicy meat.

The lady first pour a little Chianti Simple (table wine) into the huge glass and as she was going into great detail of how to hold the glass etc, i continued on the food (i couldn’t see anything she was doing, so her over complicated directions were wasted on me, lol). As i don’t really drink alcohol except a very full bodied glass of red wine on special occasions (normally 1 bottle a year and that’s usually Châteauneuf-du-Pape i receive as a Christmas gift). My thought is that if i’m only going to have one glass on rare occasions, then i would like one that i enjoy! 🙂

I really know nothing about wines, only that some are red and some are white, and some are watery and some are thick (like coffee, lol) and i only like the thick ones, which now i know are called full bodied! 🙂

Then she poured a little of the Chianti Classico (full bodied..Yay!) and that was much better! 

But probably my favourite taste of the day was the 30 year old Balsamic Vinegar we got to taste! Wow, now that’s amazing, but expensive so didn’t get any to bring home! 😦

As we finished there was a mad rush to the little shop area. I stayed at the table as Sarah went to have a look and take a few photos for us!

Chianti Bottles on a shelf

Chianti barrells

look inside the Chianti shop

I hope you’ve enjoyed the trip so far?! Next stop Siena!! 🙂

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Tuscany Tour: Day 3 – Pisa

Click Tuscany Tour logo to start the tour from day 1

I forgot to mention in my older 2 posts in this Tuscany Tour series, that i didn’t take any of my DSLR’s with me to Italy (you’ve probably already noticed, lol). All of the photos taken were using my iPhone 5s or Sarah’s iPhone 6 Plus. 

I’d like to split Day 3 into 4 separate posts, as i don’t want them to get too long, and dare i say boring! If you’re just joining the “Tuscany Tour” for the first time then you can click here to start from Day 1.

Christmas Tree in the lobby of the Hotel Brunelleschi

Sarah & i were up bright and early, excited yet anxious for today’s big adventure. As we were in the reception area admiring the beautiful Christmas tree (see image above), the entrance doors opened as our taxi driver entered and escorted us to his taxi. It was still very dark (especially down the narrow side street) and already raining, and when i noticed the black minivan with blacked out windows (which only appear on episodes of 24) and the voice of the driver say “Get in”, i had a funny feeling that this could be anyone and we were in some kind of movie (this didn’t do my slight anxiety any good at all, lol). 

The driver was very friendly and nothing like the man i was imagining, he dropped us off at the exact collection point for the ‘My Tour’ coach stop where we were met by Chiara, the tour guide. She already knew we were blind & partially sighted and said it would be easier for us if we sat on the front 2 seats of the coach. “Yes!” i said as they’re our fave seats too, good start! 🙂

It took about an hour until we arrived at Pisa, Chiara was telling us lots of interesting facts and history of the Tuscany regions we were passing through, this (and my excitement) made the journey seem really quick. The coach parked right near the Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) and after a short walk in the group Chiara said “Now you have one hour free time, then meet back here”. This was just perfect for Sarah & i as we now have a point of reference to go from and to return.

Welcome to Pisa!

First for my tourist pose! 🙂

Me stood in front of the leaning tower of Pisa

And now it’s Sarah’s turn! 🙂

Sarah stood in front of the leaning tower of Pisa

Everyone was rushing straight for the tower, so we hung back and got a few photos of the Baptistry and the Cathedral.

Pisa Baptistry

Pisa Baptistry 2

The Cathedral  the tower

Lookin up at the Pisa Cathedral

Me looking at the tower

Sarah sneakily snapped me tower gazing and trying to soak up the atmosphere, and the fact that i was actually in Pisa, looking at probably the most famous bell tower in the world! 🙂

Pisa Tower

A zoomed in photo of the top 3 layers of the tower

There was only one small cafe opposite the tower, so Sarah & i went to check it out. We ordered 2 Cappachino’s and to my delight, a slice of pizza. I know you might laugh, but i just had to try the Pizza at Pisa! 🙂

Tower from the cafe

The image above is the view from the open windows at our table, it was just amazing being sat with the leaning tower of Pisa as the backdrop. 🙂

A panaramic shot of the baptistry, Cathedral & the tower in one shot

After this final panoramic photo, we met up with the group and headed back to the coach. 

This visit already made my day and i’d of been happy if that was the end, but this was only the beginning!!

Oh by the way…..The pizza was fantastic!! 🙂

Hope you’ve enjoyed the first stop of this “Tuscany in a day tour”. Please take your seats and see what’s coming next! 🙂

⇍ Previous Day — Next Day ⇏

 

Tuscany Tour: Day 2

Click Tuscany Tour logo to start the tour from day 1

As Sarah & i were about to leave the room to try our first breakfast, we suddenly heard a faint sound of bells. We quickly rushed to the window and opened the inner windows and the outer shutters, and the sound was immense! I wanted to record the sound but the video below doesn’t do it justice.

 

 

The Breakfast…

Breakfast, i can only describe as an amazing taste sensation. The chef must have only had one knife though, as everything was sliced about an inch thick! What seemed like a block of cheese to us, was a slice to them. lol, but i didn’t want to seem rude and waste any! 🙂

The search for the Palace…

After filling up with breakfast, we started out on our primary objective for the day…to find the Palazzo Medici Riccardi where my photos will be exhibited in a few days time. 

Once out on the main street, i stood facing north (towards the Cathedral) and opened the Blindsquare app on my iPhone. I had save 2 locations to the favourites – the hotel and the palace, so they would b read out instantly and hopefully tell me (if the cellular network is good) where the locations are using a clock face description. It said “Palazzo Medici Riccardi is at 11’o clock at 350 yards”. Right let’s go! After passing the Florence Cathedral it was just a straight road until the Palace was on our left. Now to find the entrance which was another mammoth task for us …

A black and white photo of the amazing brick work of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi 1

We started walking around the outside of the whole building finding everything including a cash machine (very useful, clothes store & even a McDonalds (the poshest one we’ve ever seen). Finally we found it but we couldn’t see any sign of the Art Senses posters anywhere. We went inside anyway to have a look around where we’d maybe stumble across a tiny room being set up for the exhibition.

Inside the Palace…

Black and white photo taken from the inner courtyard looking up to the roof of the Palazzo Medici Riccardi arches 2

Black and white close up of the arches in the inner courtyard

Palazzo Medici Riccardi 3

As we were walking around, we both kept saying “I think we’re in the wrong building, there is no way the exhibition will be in here somewhere. But this place is amazing so we’ll keep looking”.

A photo of me looking upwards towards some amazingly designed door frames!

⇧ We totally need to get door frames like these!! 🙂 ⇧ 

Then a few minutes later i found a ceiling design for our home too!! lol.

an increible fresco ciellin g

As we entered the next couple of rooms, Sarah was oooing quite a lot, and now as i’m looking back over the photos to see what i was actually looking at, i should’ve known there were shoes!

Sarah shoes gallery

After being amazed for a while longer, we decided to double check outside to see if this really was the Palazzo Medici Riccardi….It was! 

I said “There is no way my photos are being exhibited in there, just no way”. 

Then as we turned to find our way back to the hotel, we suddenly realised there was a marathon going on!!

Yes a marathon, actually the 31st annual “Florence Marathon (Maratona di Firenze)”. Now the streets were not only packed, but worse still for us, blocked off so we couldn’t get back the way we came.

Photo of theFirenze Marathon

After a few hours of getting lost, trying different coffee shops and of course the clothes and shoe shops, we found ourselves by the river. Sarah said “oh, this is the river!!” I said “But isn’t the river south, way past the hotel in the other direction?”

Firenze River

We both realised we had no idea which way to go and we were both really tired from dodging people and with all of the noise, so we just decided to pick a street and walk up it. Then to our complete surprise as we were getting really fed up, Sarah said “That’s the sign to our hotel”, “No way, i had no idea we were here, now let’s get a takeaway coffee from our new local and rest for a while”.

A blue light shaped as a bell hanging over the street

After an eventful and tiring day, we decided to try heading east but only down one street as it’s dark now and we really don’t want to get lost again. The hanging street lights were beautiful and we found lots of clothes shops and a nice little sandwich/coffee bar to relax in for a while. 

As we returned to the hotel we booked a “Tuscany in a day” tour for the morning. We knew it was a lot in one day but it will be ideal for us. Now we were getting even more excited. I could be stood next to the leaning tower of Pisa!! No way!! 🙂 

Please join us on day 3 to see how we got on!!

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Tuscany Tour: Day 1

Click the Tuscany Tour Logo to start from day 1.png

Wow, wow, wow!! What a fantastic and surreal experience!! 

After spending 1 week in Italy pretending to be a photographer, and being blown away by the beauty and simply magnificent sculptures, architecture & History of this amazing part of the world. I’ll try and bore you to death with my day to day experiences. 🙂

I’m trying to create a post for each day we were there (maybe extra ones too!) as we did a few tours which included Pisa, Vinci, Chianti, Siena, San Gimignano & of course Firenze. 

First i’d like to give a big thanks to our brother Ben who kindly managed to wake up at 4:15am and drive us to the airport, guide us into the airport, check in our case and take us to the assistance desk, thanks Ben, we’d still be wondering round the airport now! if it wasn’t for you! 🙂

A screenshot of my iphone showing the Voiceover cursor surrounding the enabled airplane mode button on the control centre.

⇧ Airplane Mode ⇧
 
The airport assistance was fantastic and couldn’t of made it any easier for us. We even got to ride on the buggy that takes us all the way to the gate! I was the first to board the plane, and i couldn’t wait to finally enable “Airplane Mode” on my iPhone whilst sat on the plane! This may seem like a small thing, but remember this is my first time out of the country! 🙂
 
A photo looking out of the window onf the plane overlooking the wing and engine, with a beautiful coloured sunrise panarama!
 
I think my wide eyes and silly grin throughout the whole plane journey was getting tiresome for Sarah (she has been on planes lots of times). But it was fantastic! The best part is when the pilot “Gives it the beans” and accelerates down the runway when taking off, i’ve felt acceleration simular to this in different cars, but when you think just how big and heavy this plane is, it’s just amazing! 🙂
 
Once we landed at Pisa airport, the assistance were already there and waiting to escort us from the plane. They also sorted out our passports and picked up our suitcase. Now it was time to get our first Italian coffee while we wait for the bus to Florence. 
 
A photo of the beautiful hills taken from our seat on the bus from pisa to florence. Also Siena is written on the road.
 
Sarah described the beautiful panoramic landscapes from the bus (i couldn’t see them until i got back home to zoom in on my large screen) as it took about an hour to get to Firenze. We then got a taxi to our hotel, as i read on trip advisor that although it’s only about half a mile, it’s tucked away in a small courtyard.
 
A sepia effect of hotel Brunelleschi at night with the old tower glowing out in the dark
 
Wow, the hotel was fantastic, and the staff were unbelievably helpful.  Once we were settled in to our amazing room, and logged onto their WiFi. We decided to venture out a little and try and figure out where we were in relation to the duomo and the palace where my photos were being exhibited. We knew we were close but as Sarah & i can’t see enough to read a map, we could easily get lost and never find anything! 🙂
 
A black and white photo of the top of cathedral of Florence
 
Shortly after leaving the hotel and finding the main street, we heard the thunderous sound of the bells from the north (i think) coming from the Cathedral of Florence (Il Duomo di Firenze), The bells would make our navigation much easier for the rest of our holiday as the Cathedral was only about 300 yards away from our hotel, thank you bells! 🙂 We then headed back to our starting point and headed west, where we found an ever better point of reference!! (see below)
 
A whole building completley covered in sparkling blue lights
 
The twinkling lights on this department store were simply amazing to just stand and look at, but it was dark now and we didn’t want to get lost on our first day! All of the streets were decorated beautifully with illuminated stars, borbals & bells so after one more photo (see below), we headed back to the hotel. What an amazing, exciting and tiring first day. 🙂
 
A twinckling star street decoration in Florence
 
I hope you’ve enjoyed being with Sarah & i on my first trip abroad? Hope to see you on Day 2 as we explore a little more…!!!