The Colorful Joy Of The Indian Weddings

We recently had the pleasure and the honor to partecipate to a true Indian wedding, in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal. A friend of ours, met during my 2 months stay in Bangalore this More »

Paris, la ville de l’amour

Travelling is a state of mind. It’s letting yourself loose, free from the daily routine of preoccupation and responsibilities. It’s getting lost in others’ conversations in front of a cup of coffee More »

 

Switching To A Full Frame

I am a Nikon shooter and I currently own a D7000. I previously had a D70s and I can clearly see the effort that Nikon has done over the years  in terms of image quality, noise performances, technical improvements and robustness of the body. The D7000 is an amazing camera for photography enthusiasts like me.
The new D7100 seems to be even better. So, if you’re looking for one of the best quality/price DSLRs on the market definitely go for one of them (personal thought: if money it’s not a problem choose the D7100).

The thing is : you’re a photography enthusiast, meaning also that you follow hundreds of blogs/website/people, you read books, take courses/trainings/workshops to improve your technique. In two words: you potentially see hundreds of superb photos every day (and you cry badly and green with envy). This is perfect to improve your photography eye and, overall, the most important thing: improving your self-critique – having your works criticized is so important for your personal improvements (and that’s why I prefer Google+ and Flickr over 500px). But be aware: being so much exposed to such a good photos every day and improving your self-critique/technique, being said how good it is for you, it also leads you to the Dark Side: You Start To Pay More Attention To Details. Much more attention. That’s one of the biggest differences between amateurs and enthusiasts/professionals.

That’s the reason why I’m upgrading to a full frame camera.  If you’re a Nikonist the choice is among three cameras: D600, D700 and D800. The D4 is another universe, and you’ll never consider it unless you got some super strong reasons (like shooting sport. No, not curling nor golf .. ).
The D800 is the dream, but if you buy such a great camera you have also to start dreaming about other stuff : like a new computer with much more RAM (36Mpx means that Lightroom will take forever to show even only the preview of your RAW files), and many more fast and good SD cards.
The choice is so limited between the D700 and D600.
The D700 is a perfect FX for semi-pro and enthusiasts. But the first thing I’ve noticed reading its technical specs is its weight: 1,085g with battery and card. I remember my last trip to Tokyo when I’ve spent almost two weeks shooting all day long with my D7000, and eventually I found myself wanting to buy a mirrorless. The D7000 is 774g with battery and card, so buying a D700 would mean 300g (+50% of weight) more to carry around. It’s an absolutely amazing camera, but my back would complain badly.
So, the last remaining one is the one which won my money : the D600. It’s lighter, newer and built with exactly the same specs of the D700 and with even new more interesting features. The ones which have gotten my attention are:

  • same battery of the Nikon D7000 (EN-EL15), so I already have a second battery
  • it uses normal SD cards, when the D700 reads only FlashCard memory (the same as the D70s : old, big and fu****** expensive)
  • it’s built with the new Nikon image processor (EXPEED 3) meaning higher quality, while the D700 has the older-older one (which is great too, but new model means new improvements normally)
  • It’s lighter (I already said that ? :) for exactly the same, or even more, quality than the D700 

It’s more expensive, but it’s on the market since less than a year.
So, this is my choice. I should have it in a month along with a new lens: the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G. I already own the 50mm f/1.8D, but the G series is better and f/1.4 means an important thing : BOKEH !

I cannot wait ! :P

Lighthouse, My Friend

I live in front of this small lighthouse, which is positioned exactly at the direction of the sunset. So, every time the sky is cloudy or interesting for whatever the reason I go there quite confident to take some good photos. Here some examples.

Sunset Colors and Clouds

Mario

Lighthouse Sunset

Sunset Colors

Carnival of Nice 2013

Here some photos taken during the Carnival of Nice 2013. The third most important (and big) carnival in the world, after Rio and Venice.

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Napoléon à Golfe Juan 2013

This event is a huge historical re-enactment of the Napoleon’s landing at the harbor of Golfe-Juan (south of France), the 1st March 1815, after his exile in Elba. A very important stone in the French and European history, something everyone studies at school. More info here.

It’s a very well organized event, really worth seeing. Unfortunately the weather was so bad, but I managed to take some good photos though.

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Roma, The Eternal City

 Rome

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The Colorful Joy Of The Indian Weddings

Wedding (1 of 1)

We recently had the pleasure and the honor to partecipate to a true Indian wedding, in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal. 
A friend of ours, met during my 2 months stay in Bangalore this year, has kindly invited us to join him and his friends and parents in this joyful and important moment. Accordingly with our commitments, we have taken 5 days off at work, organized everything (flights, hotel, etc ..) and managed to get the visa in less than one week. Actually, for some unknown reasons, it seems that being Italian is good for the Indian visa and the Indian consulate can manage to make you have it very quickly. Good relationship between the two countries? Or is it simply  that we are very lucky?  - for my business visa I had to wait only 2 days to have it .. Anyway ..

India is a huge country composed of several internal states and Kolkata is the capital of the state of West Bengal, and because of that the weddings there are known as “Bengali weddings” .  This event normally lasts four-five days and in our case it’s been a four days wedding.Well, what to say: it’s been amazing. A wedding in general, all over the World, is an occasion when all the aspects of the local culture and its traditions come up and are heavily showed off. In Italy for example a wedding (it of course depends on the region, but still) is the best occasion to see all the most famous italian stereotypes: everybody talking loudly, shouting, joking, the ceremony in the Church, and we spend the entire day eating.

In the case of India, a wedding means flowers, bright colors everywhere (white and black are normally forbidden in a wedding, they’re colors used in funerals so not well seen to bring good luck), and all the people either men and women dressed up with all their best typical Indian dresses (kurta for the men, and saree for the women). They are simply fantastic! The ritual itself is quite long and of course quite difficult to understand in depth. Luckily during the ceremony we have been helped in that by the other wedding attendants (we were actually the only two not-Indian persons among all, more or less 800 people invited) who have been every time so kind and happy to make us understand what was happening in almost every moment. And this is one of the things I like the most in the Indian culture, and it is also quite funny: the Indians love talking about their traditions ! Try to ask someone about even a small aspect of their culture and you will be overwhelmed with words and stories for endless minutes. So, the best guide you could find to discover India is not the Lonely Planet, but the Indians themselves (even though the former is absolutely a must-have :-) ).

 

Both the bride and the groom were dressed up with amazing dresses, as you can see in these small images (but there is of course the entire photo set with the big-sized pics which link is just in the bottom of this post). I was of course impressed by the bride, she was so beautiful and her face was completely and impressively made-up. Her dress seemed to be more complex than the groom’s one (even though talking with him he spent more than an hour to get dressed up) and she had so many golden jewels .. She was really beautiful ! The groom was lightly made-up in his face and overall he has that strange milk-white head covering, that looked to be not really comfortable, but he looked great anyway. Both of them had flower garlands and they were sitting all the time on those golden throne.

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In all the building there were carpets everywhere. The ambience in general was amazing ! It was like being in a dream looking at what here in Europe we could easily consider a royal wedding.
Of course the buffet was entirely composed of typical bengali foods and we happily discovered an interesting thing: the bengali food is not that spicy !! In comparison with what we have tasted in Bangalore  or in other zones of India (when I was sweating all the time eating), it was really a very pleased discovery ..  

Of course we could not go there dressed up like profane foreigners, so we bought some typical Indian dresses. We were so scared because of course we didn’t know if they were proper for a wedding, but instead we were perfectly mixed with the other attendants.

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An Indian wedding is not an occasion for tourists, and so we were so glad for the invitation and so happy to partecipate: it is definitely a thing not opened to everyone and something that can be seen only one or at most few times in a life (at least for Europeans). Our life so far is being really amazing and we thank God for that.

We wish all the best for our newlywed friends !

Barcelona, Spain

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We decided to go to Barcelona just the day before. Since we are living near Cannes, in France, it would have taken only 6 hours driving to get there and a french bank holiday was approaching (on 11 November in France it’s the Armistice). Barcelona was a city I wanted to visit since long time and, why not, 3 days were exactly what we needed.

We left on Thursday evening to come back in France on Sunday evening, so 2 full days to be spent in this fantastic Spanish city. And I would say it’s absolutely feasible, if you don’t have time to stay there for a week. Actually Barcelona is, yes really beautiful, but not that big to require an entire week to visit all its monuments. Of course you can decide to stay there as long as you prefer, the longer you stay the better you appreciate the culture of course, but if you don’t have time and you just want to visit all its beauties, 3 days can be a good plan.

Let’s start. I have some Spanish friends and all of them told me Barcelona is the less Spanish city in the country. The feeling we had is that it’s absolutely true. First of all you can’t say you are really “in Spain”, actually Barcelona is the “capital” of Catalonia that is an autonomous community, and the population is very proud of their independence. Secondly, the language is not Spanish: it’s Catalan, that for my listening it’s like an amazing mix among Spanish, French and Italian: that’s why we had never tried to talk in English, but instead directly in Italian or with some few Spanish words like “la cuenta por favor”, “” gracias” .. etc. Actually we could have tried in French too, since Barcelona is one of the most preferred cities for the french people because of the close proximity with the french border, and in most of the restaurants or services in general everybody understands and talks French. Anyway, we decided to give up with it for a weekend and to use our Italian to create new words or sentences with some sense. And yes, it works, like in France where you start from the Italian and just cutting the last letter, voilà, you have a perfect French word, in Spain you add an -S in the end and, olè, you are more or less talking in Spanish. And the Spanish-Catalan pronunciation is like the Italian one, with the the pronunciation of the “R” we Italians are used to, not like in France where in order to understand which movements my tongue had to do I have spent more or less 2 years.
Anyway, we stayed in a hostel, a very good one that I would recommend you (Mediterranean Barcelona Youth Hostel) which is close to La Rambla and Gracias, the two main streets in Barcelona, and just 2 mins walking from the Metro. So, you can park your car (somewhere, in Barcelona there are not free parkings) and use it during all your weekend.
Barcelona is very pleasant, the people are extremely nice and for us, Italians, is like going back home. The cultures are very close to each other, at least for the kindness the people show you (something that here in France we are no more used to see, unfortunately ..). This city has a lot of monuments and buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi, and they all are absolutely something you cannot miss: the Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló.

The Sagrada Familia is the one that impressed me the most. Its facade is very famous, there are tons of photos of it, but the interior was something I’d never seen before. It’s stunning. Gaudi was really obsessed with the incidence of the light coming from the windows, he wanted to have few of them, but in the same time the interior of the church very lit up. Well, the result is absolutely amazing, the interior of the Sagrada Familia is incredibly illuminated even without any artificial light. The architecture is modern follows the Gaudi’s style, influenced by the geometry of the nature. I’ve taken so many photos inside … it’s seriously the thing I liked the most in all the city !

Foods. Barcelona is quite cheap and everything is good everywhere. A suggestion I’d like to give you (that is the general suggestion everyone could give) is to not go in the restaurants on La Rambla or in the main streets. They are more expensive and very tourists. Instead, prefer the small bars or restaurants in the “hidden” streets, get lost and you will find a very good option very cheap. The paella and sangria is something you can find in every corner of Barcelona (I guess in all Spain) and they are very very good everywhere.

Well, actually we went to Barcelona for a reason: to celebrate our first year together, Sarah and I. For that I have organized a dinner in a very special place, a Flamenco night (actually, something for which I have been insulted by a friend of mine. She’s native of Barcelona). Flamenco is not really in the culture of the city, but if you don’t have time to visit the rest of Spain and you’ve never seen it live .. well, I strongly strongly suggest you this place: El Tablao de Carmen. It’s a restaurant located in a very beautiful park, where there is a medieval small village built for the EXPO 1929 in Barcelona, where you can dinner and see a Flamenco show which lasts more or less 1h30. After the Sagrada Familia is the other thing I’ve liked the most in our 2 days. I really like Flamenco, my god !

And to finish this post, some practical suggestion (that you can decide to follow or not, but at least to have some more information for your plan):

WHERE TO STAY

  • Mediterranean Barcelona Youth Hostel – It’s a hostel, so not everyone wants to give them a chance, but if you like this kind of accommodations, we strongly recommend it. It’s very cheap, very clean, the staff is very nice and helpful.

WHERE TO EAT

  • everywhere is very good. Paella and sangria are absolutely a must !
  • El Tablao de Carmen, for a Flamenco night with your lover.
  • [This is a suggestion from a friend of mine, native of Barcelona. So, absolutely to follow !] If you want to eat typical spanish tapas and not expensive at all you should go to El Mundial, but you should reserve first as it is always full.
  • [Another suggestion from her. So, absolutely to follow !] Another place really good and really cheap where you do not need to make any reservation is “La Flauta” (Aribau, 23 between Diputacio and Consejo de Ciento).
  • [Another suggestion from her. So, absolutely to follow !] If you want to eat the best Paella or Fideua (I really prefer Fideua, don’t forget the Allioli!!!) in Barcelona you should go to “La Fonda” (Passatge Escudellers, 1).
  • The best sangria in Barcelona: La ovellla negra

TRANSPORTATION

  • Absolutely use the metro ! Do not use the car. Everyone in Barcelona suggests to leave the car out of the city. 
  • Walking on La Rambla and Gracias. Barcelona is not that big, the centre is something absolutely feasible walking.

Paris, la ville de l’amour

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Travelling is a state of mind.

It’s letting yourself loose, free from the daily routine of preoccupation and responsibilities.

It’s getting lost in others’ conversations in front of a cup of coffee at 9am, French, English, Italian, Japanese words filling the cozy small hotel dining room.

What’s the difference about Paris – c’mon, seriously – yet another European capital.

Nevertheless, a strange melody fills the air.

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With its narrow, characteristic streets, small passageways magically suspended in a timeless silence, with its incredible panoramic viewpoints, with its heterogeneous districts, where everything is possible and everyone admitted, with its fairy and ethereal lights, this city has become the symbol of romanticism and love.

Paris is the city of emotions.

The knowing sensuality permeating every piece of art, the unique elegance of French savoir-faire, and the majesty of its glorious historical past make the atmosphere of the city light, frivolous and suggestive at one time.

And what is love, if not L’Insoutenable Légèreté de l’être ?

The first time you arrive in this city, you will be dazzled by its beauty: Arts are everywhere, not only in the museums, but all around you. The city itself is an immense piece of art.

This brings back to the city history.

Starting from the Renaissance, in fact, Paris has been a bubbling culture centre, mixing artistic and scientific movements in an eclectic environment. In the XIX century, Paris has become the epicentre of Romanticism, the artistic current invading Europe as a rebellion against the established order, proclaiming the superiority of feeling over reason.

Romanticism had no fear of dream, of passion, of melancholy, of sensuality. Everything was true lyricism, sublime music of senses.

And actually, the city charm has a lot more to do with feeling than understanding. There’s no need to know Paris history, or the Romanticism, to seat on the Seine borders and let oneself be inebriated by its fragrance of freedom and eternity.

« Respirer Paris, cela conserve l’âme », Victor Hugo.

Let sensations fill you up, let the emotional flow flood your heart.

And so we did.

On the notes of the most timely released Un monstre à Paris soundtrack, we let the city and its magic envelop us.

The first day of our visit was entirely dedicated to the senses.

From our small but cosy hostel room in the evocative Rue de la Félicité, perfectly alike one of those in which Romanticism dissolute artists living in the Débauche composed their best oeuvres, we took the metro till the Louvre, where we spent half a day suspended between past, present and future

Re-emerging from the glass pyramid was like passing to a superior existence level.

Then we took on the Champs Elysees in the sunset, mixing up with the frivolous shopping crowd, our eyes fixed on the shape of our final destination: the majestic Arc de Triomphe

After an entire day accumulating lyrical potential we’d obviously need a full discharge. And what better than a modern rock show soirée to let ourselves loose and free from the influence of the Past?

In the second day, we entered in contact with our supernatural side and spiritual longings: wandering about in Montmartre, getting a panoramic view of the whole city from the Sacre Coeur basilica, letting us be surrounded by the undefined space-time Art in Salvator Dali’s supernatural espace, visiting Saint Sulpice, the Pere Lachaise cemetery, attending the solemn Latin sung High Mass in Notre Dame.

The third was the day of here, now and forever, I love you. La Tour Eiffel, of course, and le Pont des Arts, where the shadows of all the cadenas d’amour (now removed) which keys lie in the Seine as eternal love promise, and the unforgettable diner-croisiere pour deux avec Champagne on the Seine.

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We obviously needed the fourth day to come back to the Earth, and the frivolous colours, perfumes and light pop music at Galeries Lafayettes made the transition smooth and enjoyable.

Sarah

Carnaval de Nice 2011

The Carnival of Nice takes place every year from the second half of February until the first weekend of March. It’s the most important and biggest carnival of France, as well as one of the biggest carnival in the World attracting million of tourists every year. It lasts almost 3 weeks during which there are a lot of different events all over the city. Some of these events are very impressive, like the Fete d’Overture (the opening cerimony – the photo here is taken during it), the Corso Illuminé, during which the lighted carnival floats are driven through the streets of the city in the night and La Bataille des Fleurs.

It’s a paid event, so if you want to enjoy the party you have to pay something like 10€ or 25€, depending if you like the VIP tribune or just walking (I like more the second choice .. I’ve never even considered to sit during a carnival). BUT, and this is a good news, for the most crazy ones who still like dressing up, they will let you enter for free!!

But be prepared: you are in France, so you’ll be the only one dressed up and with a happy mood :-)

 

Obviously, Sarah and I were the only ones with a costume in all Nice this year (and ok, some children too). And all the tourists were stopping us for a photo :-P

 

 

 

Route de la Lavande, Provence

It’s probably one of the reasons the Provence is known for in the World. The lavender fields are located in the heart of the south of France and they are absolutely worth visiting! The lavender starts blooming in the end of June until the end of August, so the best time to visit the fields is some weeks before the beginning of the thresh, that will take place in the end of August (I would strongly suggest the end of July).

You can make it in one weekend, obviously depending on your time, needs and possibilities. There are a lot of different places for visiting the lavender fields, so it’s really just a matter of where you are and how much time you dispose. We choose Valensole, a very small town (but very very nice and very very Provencal style) inside the Park Naturel Régional du Verdon, which is 3 hours driving from Antibes, not far from where we live. Hereafter the planning of our visit (the routes are from Nice to Valensole, but you can use it if you’re coming from around the Nice area) :

ROUTES

Our “Route de la Lavande” – click on the map for details

 

Go:

  • Autoroute, CLICK HERE (from Antibes to Valensole)
    [You can also choose to go in Valensole following soon the Route Napoleon, but it’s longer and if you leave from Antibes/Nice on Friday evening, it’s better doing it in your way back. It’s too beautiful to be spent being in hurry !].

Back:  

  • Through the “Park du Verdon”: from Valensole, follow the direction to Riez and then to Castellane.

  • Route Napoleon: from Castellane, follow the direction to Grasse – Cannes.

WHAT TO VISIT

  • Valensole: it’s the best place to go if you have only one weekend and you want to see as much lavender fields as you can even imagine. All around this very beautiful and very “provencal“ village there are violet fields everywhere.
  • There is a great restaurant in the small center with typical courses (everything “lavender-based”, obviously).
  • There are cheap markets for your souvenirs.
  • Manosque:
  • There’s the market on Saturday morning: it’s worth visiting !
  • Occitane en Provence: one of the most important and famous parfumiers of France (absolutely to avoid if you are with your girlfriend or girls in general if you don’t want to completely drain your wallet)

WHERE TO STAY

  • Camping municipal “les Lavandes” – It’s a very pleasant camping, 5 mins walking from the center of Valensole. Owner very nice and helpful.
    Route de Puimoisson – 04210 VALENSOLE – FRANCE
    Tél. :+33 (0)4 92 74 86 14 ou +33 (0)6 72 48 48 44 ou +33 (0)6 43 00 90 72
    GPS : 44°03’37.20”N – 5°59’20.70”E

THE PLAN

Saturday

  • Morning:

  • Breakfast in Valensole in the Bar des Sports (immancabile !). They don’t have patisseries, but there’s an amazing boulanger just in front.

  • visit of the shops in Valensole

  • Afternoon :

  • Visit of Manosque

  • Visit of “l’Occitane en Provence”

  • On the route from Valensole to Manosque it’s full of small private direct sellers of everything lavender-based. But the shops in Valensole and Manosque are cheaper .

  • There are also some distilleries of lavender. Worth visiting !

Sunday

  • Morning:

  • Weak-up very early !

  • Breakfast in Valensole in the Bar des Sports

  • Take your way to the Park of Verdon, Castellane and the Route Napoleon. It will take a lot of hours (you will stop everywhere taking photos and in the villages on the route).

 

And here, as usual, the photos: