Through my eyes: 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!

 

Through my eyes: Bangkok street art

I was looking through some photos I have stored on our computer from our last trip to Thailand, in 2014, and came across this one…

Husband and I had been walking through the streets while the Shutdown Bangkok protests were in full swing. We were seeing people camped out on the road sides, simple food sold from the backs of motorbikes, and locals walking around in torn tshirts and bare feet.

Then, we turned a corner, and found this brightly coloured, fun, modern piece of art. In complete contrast to everything going on around it, and ee both just stopped and burst into laughter. That’s why I love Bangkok so much; you really never know what you’re going to stumble onto!

Through my eyes: Faces of Hanoi

TGIF! Let’s go back to Vietnam for today…

We were walking through an utterly chaotic marketplace (think motorbikes, squealing children and rampant chickens all battling it out on the streets), and noticed these guys set up in the middle of it all. Cooking, eating and smoking, while I was fearing for my safety (motorbikes don’t really care whether they ride on the road or the footpath), they couldn’t have been more relaxed… They seemed to be having as much fun watching the chaos unfold around them as I was.
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I really didn’t see much graffiti or street art in Vietnam, so this caught my eye straight away. It was around lunch time, and there was a decent crowd gathered around the little plastic stools and baskets filled with herbs and assorted sauces. We stopped for a banh mi – how could we not?!
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While the night market was being set up by the hard working Vietnamese women (simultaneously swatting away cheeky children), the men called happy hour and gathered on corners for beers and a gossip session. Coming from a culture where the work is divided relatively evenly between the sexes, this was a big reminder to me that not all women are fortunate enough to not be expected to work, raise a family, cook, clean, and do whatever else needs to be done…
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This photo is not an uncommon sight on the streets of Hanoi. For the most part, it’s the women run the street food stalls, and when they’re not serving up something delicious, they’re either chatting animatedly with their companions, or staring off into space.  It’s hot, humid, and there are more motorbikes on the roads than you’d think possible, stirring up all sorts of dust and pollution. These women work hard in conditions that aren’t always comfortable. They’re pretty amazing 🙂img_7109

Through my eyes: Beechworth Cemetery, Victoria

We had a quick backyard adventure last weekend, spending a night in Beechworth – with the old streets lined with big, leafy trees, it’s the most stunning place in autumn as they all turn golden, orange and crimson…

Last Sunday morning, husband asked what I wanted to do with the morning. I wanted to take a nice stroll; through the cemetery. I know, I’m weird.

The Beechworth Cemetery sprang up in the 1850s, along with the gold rush, huge influx of people to the town, and outbreaks of disease as a result of the less than civil living conditions. Their website states that “Between 1853 and 1860, an average of one child per week died of disease including measles, scarlet fever, dysentery, diphtheria and typhoid.” Pretty grim numbers…

Despite the nasty start, the cemetery is an important place to the community. Again, from their website (because I couldn’t possibly word this any more eloquently),

Lives are commemorated – deaths are recorded – families are reunited – memories are made tangible – and love is undisguised – This is our Cemetery.

Communities accord respect – families bestow reverence, historians seek information and our heritage is thereby enriched.

Testimonies of devotion, pride and remembrance are recorded and preserved to pay warm tribute of accomplishment and to the life – not the death – of a loved one. Our Cemetery is homeland for memories that are a sustained source of comfort to the living.

The Cemetery is a history of people – a perpetual record of yesterday and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today.

Our Cemetery exists because every life is worth living and remembering – always.

The cemetery is laid out in sections – Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Methodist United, and so on. Two of the more fascinating areas for me were the Chinese Section and the Strangers Section.

The Chinese Section was introduced to accommodate the Chinese who passed away after coming to Beechworth to get in on the gold rush, so that they’d have a place to cater for their cultural needs. This includes not only grave sites with simple markers, but also the two Chinese Burning Towers, used to burn offerings and gifts for the afterlife.

As for the Strangers area, as per the Cemetery website: “An area has been set aside for the purpose of the burial of bodily remains of deceased poor persons.” This was an area for those who came to Australia to look for gold, and were killed before they could return to their homes. This was also an area for those whose religions were unknown. And, given there was an asylum located there, well…

 

Next time you’re in Beechworth, take a drive down Balaclava Road and take a stroll through some local history. It may not be the most obvious romantic weekend walk, but it’s more peaceful and beautiful than you’d think 🙂

Through my eyes: the streets of Shinjuku by night, Tokyo, Japan

We don’t indulge in many luxuries or extravagances at home; we buy our groceries at the market or homebrand at the supermarket. Majority of my clothes are from Target or KMart or items I’ve bought online at ASOS for 70% off. Our furtniture is far from designer. But one indulgence we do allow ourselves is our Foxtel subscription. Not so much for the reality rubbish marathons, but the BBC Knowledge and VICE docos, and the travel shows. It’s amazing how much of the world you can experience at least second hand from home!

Anyway, we spent an hour as hysterical as hyenas on the weekend watching a new show on channel 9, Travel Guides; “a new seven-part TV series where ordinary families are sent to review some of the most exotic and popular tourist locations around the globe. Six groups from all over Australia will travel to seven destinations and tell Australia what they truly thought of their holiday adventure. And it’s fair to say that not everyone’s idea of paradise is the same. Each group comes from a very different walk of life, and each holiday will suit a particular group’s taste.”

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They visited Tokyo in the first episode, and it was an absolute scream for me, having been there myself – seeing it through the eyes of other people so different to me was great, incredibly entertaining, and such a poignant (albeit sometimes not the most dignified) reminder that, with different backgrounds and experiences, we all see things so differently.

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I can’t wait to get back to Tokyo, though, and that episode got me even more excited. Looking back through some photos, I found these, all taken around the area I stayed in at night. It was gorgeous, fairly quiet, and I never once felt unsafe walking around alone. I can’t wait to get back!

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Through my eyes: walking through Hanoi, Vietnam

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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