Saturday, 21 January 2017

Images of Venice, Perfect Valentine, Romantic Year round

Iconic Venice ©Solange Hando

Here's the heart of Venice, looking across the water to St Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace and the free-standing bell tower.

Venice Rialto Bridge ©Solange Hando

Rebuilt in the late 16th century, Rialto is the oldest bridge over the Grand Canal with rows of covered shops leading up to the central portico. The original bridge was made of wood.

The Grand Canal in Venice ©Solange Hando

It's 3.8 km long and up to 90m wide, lined with 170 buildings ranging from the 13th to the 18th century. Tightly-packed colourful façades dip their toes in the water.

St Mark's Square ©Solange Hando

Made up of two connecting piazza, this is the best known square in town, leading down to the canal past some of the finest buildings, the basilica, campanile and the irresistible café-terrace basking in the sun.

Gondolas at rest ©Solange Hando

However busy the city may be, there is no shortage of gondolas to explore the lagoon, from humble to luxurious crafts with plush cushions, Persian rugs and singing gondolier.

View from the Top of the Bell Tower ©Solange Hando

You can't beat the top of the bell tower for the most romantic view of Venice, red roofs, domes, canals and just a few of over 100 islands which make up the archipelago.

Venice Historical Regatta ©Solange Hando

Spring brings a joyful carnival and alluring masks, autumn brings the colourful Historical Regatta  with its dazzling pageant followed by the traditional race on the Grand Canal.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Antigua Guatemala

La Antigua Guatemala ©Solange Hando

Here's a bird's eye view of Antigua from the hill of Santa Cruz, up 133 steps if your tuk-tuk can't make it to the top. In the highlands of Guatemala, Antigua is a convenient stop on the way to Tikal  or Lake Atitlan.
This colourful city is framed by three volcanoes approaching 4,000 metres.The massive Water Volcano (above) has not caused any disasters in modern times but Acatenango, the highest, erupted in 1972. Most awesome however is the Fire Volcano which frequently puffs out gases and fumes from the top and side vent. Its last eruption was in 2012.

Mr Choc, Come in and Taste ©Solange Hando

Love chocolate? Guatemala is the place, and especially Antigua with wonderful hand-crafted chocolates made from local beans and sold along the lanes and in the coffee shops. Delicious!
For a healthy treat, try fresh tropical fruit with lashings of yogurt or a scrumptious salad topped with a succulent over-sized avocado.

Colourful Maya Textiles ©Solange Hando

Shopping is pretty good in Antigua. Top of the range are the brightly-coloured Maya textiles found in the central market alongside other items, mugs, dolls, pots and more. It's a great place to wander around and try your bargaining skills, feeling safer than you would do in Guatemala City, the modern capital not so far away. 

Santa Catalina Archway, Antigua ©Solange Hando

Beautifully restored after successive earthquakes and eruptions, this former capital truly deserves its place on the Unesco list.Colourful houses, flower-draped balconies, pristine lanes and a flurry of elegant buildings in Spanish-Baroque style sprinkled with colonial churches.

Puzzled Resident, Antigua Guatemala©Solange Hando

With a population of just 50,0000, Antigua Guatemala has a few surprises in store besides its listed buildings. Relax under the trees on the central square, pop into the jade museum and see 25 shades of green and the recently discovered 'lavender' jade, watch weavers at work in the grounds of Santo Domingo and stare back at a red macaw in a tropical garden.

Local Transport in Antigua Guatemala ©Solange Hando

Then try the local transport, as pictured above, or the more eye-catching tourist version with a purple roof, unless you prefer the ubiquitous tuk-tuk but when the school bus rattles down the lane, don't expect a lift, just make do with waving to the kids.

Springtime in Antigua Guatemala ©Solange Hando