Valletta at dusk

A windy evening of May, I landed in Malta.

The first stop, after copious raining, was a wet and charming Valletta at dusk. The city was empty, colourful, fascinating.

Upper Barrakka Gardens are the perfect point at sunset, they give you a glimpse of the contrast between the walled city and the sea. Be sure to head there once, you won’t be disappointed.

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While strolling, I remember thinking how Valletta looked like an infinite catwalk. The street are the perfect (red) carpets, ups and downs of baroque charme, old houses and the walls to frame the scenery. There I wished I was a fashion photographer, taking pictures of beautiful people at every corner, every street. I ain’t a photographer, yet I had however, my trustful camera, to capture the vibes of the place, and a handsome fella, to explore arm in arm: the odds were in my favour that evening.

The city is anything but luxury, yet it has that certain rich appeal that only a Mediterranean city can pass to you. And I was content with that, with that shots, with that trip.

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Can we agree to say that quietness looked so strange? There, there were some cats, soaking up the last ray of sun in the evening. Quiet, posh, and avoiding in every case your attention. Or the camera… paparazzi style…

… That’s right, at the end of the day, Valletta, so empty, looked like an old Hollywood movie.

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Hello, Malta

The Mediterranean colours called, in May. Hello, Malta.

What an excitement to go for a little adventure, especially during low season, especially if it involves the sea and the perfect month to enjoy the good weather without a scorched skin. Yet, the weather was rather unpredictable…

MY FAULT:  I was asking for beautiful sunny-but-not-hot days and karma graced me with unchangeable, sunny-but-pretty-cold weather. Bar the complaints, its landscape was stunning.

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I am a nordic creature, amazed to see how many shades of brown and yellow an island down south can have. I’m used to green, but I liked what I saw, especially from the boat. There’s something magic with floating on open sea, and navigating around islands and its cliffs. And I felt light, kinda dreamy.

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With only 2 full days and no car, you got kinda limited time to visit all.

The plan was to divide and conquer: the most famous cities Valletta, Mdina; a day in Gozo, mixing Victoria with some beach time (my tolerance once with a swim suit lasted exactly 1:22 minutes but hey); smaller but charming places, like Sliema and the fishing village of Marsaxlokk (where I ate the most delicious grilled octopus ever). Props to the bus and ferry system, quite good and easy to use (and a tip for you, get the 7-Day Explore Card!!).

I leave here few snaps of the places visited. Enjoy.

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Sliema

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Marsaxlokk

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Victoria, Citadella

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Victoria, Citadella from the roofs

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Exploring Gozo

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Cliffs in Had-Dingli

 

 

 

Bangkok’s Top Places and Things

1) Get involved in a tuck tuck scam

You might want to believe that drivers in BKK are not trying to squeeze money out of you but they just really want to show you the city, but it’s of course not true. The most active ones are around street waiting for youngsters to jump on, especially for a temple tour that you pay at the end or not pay at all if you don’t mind visiting a tailor and tourist shops full of crap from China..The tour is actually nice, if you are able to breathe during rush hour (conveniently at every hour in Bangkok) and to avoid the shop assistants trying to sell you everything from a true silk tie to their passports. The best part for us was to be dumped at the last stop of the tour, where another driver was “miraculously” waiting for us…to get paid. We blissfully ignored him and took a bus instead.

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2) Eat from vendors on the streets

Simple as. Nutrition on the go, a cheap alternative probably not the healthiest option, but especially in Chinatown if you pick one with only locals you might just enjoy it, like a lot, believe me.

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3) Get lost in Talat Noi

Probably my favourite area in all Bangkok. Talat Noi is an unspoilt part of Chinatown, its oldest one, and I was blessed to stay there during the Vegetarian Festival, and its final day was something unbelievable to witness. I need to write a blog post only about it, remind me of that. 🙂 The people there -living quietly in all in garages facing the street, working metals and motors day and night-are kind and reserved, not pushy as in the other parts to get your money. Prepare to get lost, it’s impossible not to, and embrace it.

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>>Bonus: River View Guest House best chilled budget hotel in BKK!! And its terrace is to go ballistic!<<

4) Have some hipster downtime with a brunch in Ari

It’s still Bangkok with its alleys and mess, but it’s also a bit of Brooklyn and a bit of my Berlin. There are many nice cafes and restaurant, perfect for a flat while, a brunch or a more homie dinner.

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5) Take as many boats and ferries as possible

Because…breeze.

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6. Take pictures of all the people taking pictures at the sacred area

The buildings are majestic, see link, but how people are willing to sacrifice their lives and pose like demons to get the perfect shot is highly hilarious to watch and frame.

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7. Visit the parliament, highly underrated

The building and the royal collection….

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8. Find a terrace bar to take pictures of Bangkok in the night-time

It doesn’t have to be the one where the hungover was set (that is anyway a good one, aye), just pick one and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the lights and streets, really inspiring.

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Now time for some games for the last 2 ones:

9. Count how many rats hang out in the street during night

Ratatouille was a sucker compared to the colonies in downtown Bangkok! Maybe – maybe – that’s because of the rubbish left on the streets during night? Just a guess, mine…

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10. Counts how many taxi drivers can constantly honk you while you simply just walk down a street

…. Because it’s warm, you are a tourist and you should not want to walk. Your feet were not made to walk… Come on, giv’em dat money!

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After the top 10, do you think the city is something for you or you better go fishing? You can do that too, at your own risk… Bangkok, you’re quite something. See you next time.

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Pigneto, an alternative Rome

If you say “Let’s go to Italy”, Rome doesn’t pop in my mind to first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a magical city, but it’s certainly not my idea of Italian city. In fact, it represents more the idea of chaos in an Italian city. So when I was sent to Rome for work, I thought of taking advantage of it and I organised an event in Pigneto, a different choice than the usual-known noisy and touristy city center.

Why Pigneto? “Il Pigneto” is a quintessential neighbourhood, that both preserves the personality of the golden years of cinematography and hipster modernity.

The twist of modern times is shown in the unique bar and restaurants, but also with graffitis on the walls. It was the perfect choice for me.

Bonus point, the name of Pier Paolo Pasolini – director, poet, and much more – still echoes in there. It’s seriously the place to visit!

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Early evening in Pigneto

Props to Necci dal 1924, literally the place to enjoy life, with long history, great food and delish drinks… Salute!

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27 flights, 6 months, 1 heart. An essay.

It’s 27.

It’s really 27 flights, the number I reached in 6 months time, January to June 2016.

Never happened before, but I was secretly aiming to do it for a long time. Fun fact: I believe I’ve driven a car only a quarter (or less) of the times I took a plane. And by that I mean, I looove driving, but I was always somewhere else than a road. For stats lovers:

  • it seems it’s an average of 1 flight per week,
  • but it was more like coming and going, every 2 weeks;
  • the longer period I stayed home was less than 3 weeks, I believe 18 days;
  • the longest flight was 12h 30′ hours, HK to Munich in March with Lufthansa;
  • the shortest flight must have been Berlin-Paris, 1h and 20′.

What I have learnt so far:

  • people can’t pack, despite they think so;
  • people passing security have the ability of a red fish and won’t understand even their native language to follow simple instructions;
  • I don’t look nor sound Italian, at least the majority of people say talking to me;
  • the bra will always beeps in Europe. Use bralets and rock the nipples;
  • same as the bra, don’t be fussy and take off your shoes, it’s quicker;
  • even if you are tired, sleepy, sad or having a meltdown (and I’ve managed to be all the above) if you are super kind and friendly with flight attendants and people at the shops everything will run better up in the air and ground;
  • talking to guards and security makes you feeling safer and them useful, do it, don’t be only a stranger that passes by;
  • the duty free can be your best ally, especially during missions like “getting to the airport make-up free and boarding as if I was ready for a photo shoot” or “ew, I look like sh..eep”;

In a nutshell, it’s been a fairly crazy rollercoaster, full of iPod sessions, high hopes, waiting lounges and public transports.

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And it’s 6 already.

Yes, half of a year gone, another birthday passed away and I had the best NYE I can ever remember (thanks to a singing-in-the-car warrior). With temperatures spanning between a -23 in Vilnius in January to +34 in Berlin last week, it’s fair to say I had an intense time. Changing coats, changing hat, boots to sandals, smile to tears. Time spent working, time not spent blogging, time flying, time waiting, time following. I was mainly the one with the heart in a hand luggage. “High Hopes”, the motto of the year. And that brings to the third and last part of this essay.

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1 heart: Mine.

It’s got heavy, too heavy I fear to bring it as a hand luggage. I always wonder why people are afraid of explosions, when they should be scared of implosions. It’s such a more silent way to live in pieces.

I got told by a good friend that everyone has a big darkness inside, that many only show when they part ways. For me the aftermath has become a game of forgiveness and forgetfulness: I’m no longer sure I want to stay in that playground, but I kinda feel stuck.

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A photo session in Turin

Turin is the first big Italian city coming from West.

I came from East, from the soulless, business-oriented region of Milan. The good thing to reach from one city to the other is to see the continuous groups of rice fields between them, separating their distant personalities. The trip gets a bit cathartic, like a silent, natural cleansing of your mind.

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Looking outside the window

Turin was the first capital in Italy, the first in many things. Was. Somewhere roaming around you can still feel it, in some other parts it still holds the crown of being the capital of local, even of lost.

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I remember my first time in Turin, maybe 15 years ago. I found it sad and kinda empty. I’ve changed my mind during the years… Turin has had a sort of newborn vitality, all around events, museums and arts. There’s one thing I’ve always loved loads of Turin though: la Mole.

For me, one of the most magical building men could ever create.

Perfection, anthropology and mythology together.

 

Well, I was in Turin for a reason: to learn about an artist. What I learnt from that day was much more, especially from his sons’ eyes and story telling. And while I was listening to them, I started remembering little things. The dynamics of a family, the smell of an Italian house, a wall by no reason left white, but filled with paintings, the little gardens with wild flowers, kids eating gelato, couples looking at the shop windows on a Saturday afternoon. Everything frankly so much more than my lonely life.

That day I also tried to switch camera, and left my beloved Titty to my friend. The pictures along this posts are actually his. Enjoy.

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Paris

Ah Paris!

What more resounding and compelling than being in Paris? I mean, it’s Paris! A city as cute as arrogant… and a city of and for artists and lovers!

My ingredients to a perfect weekend in Paris were:

  • my bestie along
  • a wonderful art exhibition to attend
  • cute guys walking in the streets (how can they be so many?)
  • incredible sunsets
  • wine(s)
  • other alcoholic beverages for the necessary socialising during ‘aperitif’ time
  • croissants
  • entrecôte avec pommes!! 😀

 

The weekend was a pretext to see the wonderful exhibition at Centre Pompidou about Anselm Kiefer, my favourite artist (someone familiar with my blog might recognise the name…). It was a great event, bravo to Pompidou for organising it.

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Paris is really a lovely city. It really makes you feel in love. Nevertheless when it rains, the water pouring down on your head is kinda poetic too. The sun popped out on Sunday, these are some of my favourite shots from that day…

 

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And of course, there’s her…

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Au revoir!

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HK, back to the (tropical) hood

Nothing makes me more excited to be back in HK.

A place that has never been home, yet I could easily call it like that. Why? I often ask myself that. I’m not fascinated by China, and I don’t really consider HK part of China, despite some resemblance… So what is it? I guess it’s because when you start travelling around Asia, that crazy continent gets inside of you, like a virus and you can’t get it out anymore. But you sum Asia to all the Western treats, you get HK. A virus with comfort. And an incredible selection for eating out and shopping.

Plus, the mountains and water all around… It’s addicting!

I can’t spend other words more, and need to show the pictures. This is a big selection of an even bigger album, sorry to overwhelm you with HK-ism. For me it’s a bit of religion.

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Kowloon to Central on a rainy day.

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Central to Mid-Levels, night

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The majesty of taking a ferry during night

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Typical HK

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Kowloon in the rain

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The happiest couple in a street karaoke

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San Francisco – Wan Chai

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Tramways

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Waiting to go. Causeway Bay

 

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Nan Lian Garden, Diamond Hill

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Bus to Victoria Peak

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View

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Kowloon bound

Ok, that’s enough. I’m already too nostalgic by nature.

See you soon, HK.

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Mid-Levels

Want to see more? I wrote about areas of the city in 2013, here’s the link: https://valanzo.com/tag/hong-kong/ 🙂

Castle Hunting in Brandenburg

I tend to get a bit unbiased when it comes to visit castles.

As much I love the fascination of an old castle, I always snob them, preferring towers and modern high buildings, or museums. But I got convinced to do something unusual of a lazy winter weekend, persuaded especially by the nice opportunity to drive a car, something exotic in Berlin.

The destination was the town of Rheinsberg, between Berlin and Hamburg (more Berlin than Hamburg, but quite in the middle of nowhere). A cute town with a charming lake, Grienericksee, and an even charming Renaissance palace. Even the cold weather seemed charming.

Rheinsberg Palace was home to Frederick the Great’s teen years, said to be the happiest years of his life here when he was “just” Crown Prince. What struck me most where three rooms of the palace:

  • The dancing room
  • A bedroom with Renaissance taste
  • An oriental living room downstairs with the most beautiful Chinese tapestry I’ve ever seen

I wasn’t much into the history of people living there…my bad. But in the end I took some nice pics that I am going to share here with you. If you want to read more about the castle, Frederick and his siblings, Prussia and more start from: http://www.spsg.de/en/palaces-gardens/object/schloss-rheinsberg-1/

It took a nerd with an old-fashioned tasted friend to take me to Rheinsberg, but hey it was a lovely trip in the end.

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The nerd and the photographer.

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[Brackets] Trentino, back to the hood

I had the chance to go back in September with my wonderful sister C. to Trentino, where (a strong) part of my DNA comes from. Just one day, time to eat properly, walk a bit around, say hi to the family, to the cows, and to mix dialects and get confused by speaking.

As a serial traveller I struggle to explain my concept of home. I call where I grew up “my parent’s home”, not mine. I called home the places where I lived and felt loved, but not necessarily all of them or the ones written on my documents.

This small town in Trentino, however, “has a hold on my heart that I could not break if I wanted too” (what a speech in that episode, if you get the quote). It’s always a pleasure to go, where people and scenery give me peace.

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Peace.

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