2016 Travel Highlights

To celebrate the end of an eventful year I have compiled my personal travel highlights. Feel free to comment your favourite 2016 travel moments and recommend trips for 2017!

Japan

Japan was a brilliant 24 day adventure, I am already planning my return. The biggest highlight  was climbing Mt.Fuji, my first ever mountain climb. It was both tougher and easier than I expected. I found ascending reasonably easy but the descent took way longer than it should’ve as I found it really tough on my knees and ankles. Juna, school friend and travel buddy, suffered from altitude sickness which I was really lucky to avoid.

Everyone we interacted with were incredibly friendly and I am still in touch with many of the brilliant people we met. We visited 4 regions during our time, Kyoto was one of the most beautiful places I ever witnessed, Tokyo was brilliantly mad, Takayama was a stunningly peaceful mountain village and my visit to Hiroshima still lives with me everyday.

Wales

Wales was my chosen cure for my Travel Bug instilled by Japan. But it soon became another place for me to return to. Staying in a homely Snowdonia b’n’b we were up at 7.30am every morning for breakfast (I won’t be replicating that at home) and spent the entire day hiking and photographing. The locals were very approachable and my first taste of Welsh Rarebit certainly didn’t disappoint.

Italy

Naples

My first trip of the year was to the Southern coast of Italy, Naples with my two cousins Chloe (23) and Harry (21). Unsure of what to expect I really enjoyed my few days there and happily over-indulged on pizza. Visiting Capri out-of-season turned out to be a good move. Almost completely free of any tourists, most of the shops were shut (handy for a poor student) and there was a light breeze which created a perfect day for exploring the island and going off the beaten track (once I got over feeling sea-sick). Before flying out I heard some negative stories surrounding Air b’n’b, although I’ve used them before I’ve never used it in a country where I can’t speak the language. But my apprehension was unfounded as our host was an Italian actress who was incredibly  buoyant, helpful and motherly towards us (we were often told to put a coat on to avoid catching a cold).

Verona

A short train ride away from Venice is Verona. Although famous for Juliet’s balcony it has a lot more to offer and worth at least a day of exploring. It has a mix of beautiful architecture  and expensive shops. There’s a great range of restaurants to chose from and the locals went out their way to help us find our way and recommend their personal favourite parts of the city. Due to its close proximity to Verona we were able to spend a day at a very foggy Lake Garda.

Venice

I was really excited to return to Venice. I haven’t been there since I was a child and couldn’t wait to exploit the photo opportunities. It was just as I remembered although much, much busier and selfie sticks have now been invented. It was a complete coincidence that we were there for the Venice Marathon but the atmosphere was brilliant and they built ramps over the stairs which prevented loosing energy which I used to consume ridiculous amounts of pizza and pastry.

 

2016 has provided many challenges but also lots of personal highlights. These included my nan and mum watching me graduate, climbing my first mountain, going on my longest ever flight, travelling on a bullet rain for the first time and visiting Wales, which means I have now travelled to all the nations of the U.K. Although I flew 6000 miles to Japan I also made an extra effort to explore places closer to home which I really enjoyed. So heres to more adventures in 2017 both far and near!

IG:@madisonbeachphotos

Photographing Verona

Just an hours’ train ride away from Venice lies Verona. A formally walled city, it offers high-end shops, irresistible pastry shops and a roman amphitheatre.  These photographs are from my time in Verona and lakeside town of Sirmione (well worth a visit).

img_4382

img_4359

img_4372

img_4345

img_4249

img_4298

img_4250

img_4246

img_4243img_4229

img_4204

img_4200

img_4153

www.madisonbeach.com

IG:@Madisonbeachphotos

48 Hours In Verona

After catching the train from Venice we arrived mid-afternoon finding ourselves at a busy Verona train station. Using a printed map we found our helpfully central hotel after a 20 minute walk dragging our cases over the uneven marbled pavements. The receptionist was incredibly bubbly and pointed us to our first floor room. The twin room was above the  hotel entrance but despite this and the central location is was quiet and provided everything you would expect; toiletries, mini-bar, an underpowered hairdryer and a spare pillow-just the  one!

We left our heavy bags behind and headed out for some hearty Italian food. Piazza Bra is the main square in Verona housing restaurants, shops and the arena (a Roman amphitheatre, the 3rd largest in the world). All the food on show in the outdoor eating areas of the restaurants looked delicious. Finding it hard to pick somewhere to eat I was swayed by a restaurant named ‘hippopotamus’ that had a TV at the back providing updates of the Chelsea-Man Utd. match (4-0 if you’re wondering..). The menu was literally the biggest I’ve ever encountered and was much cheaper than we expected considering its location.  After consuming Pizza, salad and a giant Fanta, a food coma ensued so we headed back to the hotel.

img_3997

img_4044 According to legend this whale bone hanging underneath the arch will fall on the first truthful person to walk under. Needless to say it’s still there, despite both me and previous Popes having walked below..

For our first full day in Verona we decided to see as much of the very walkable city as possible. We decided to follow a route mapped out by our bubbly receptionist which takes in all the main tourists sites and some magnificent architecture off the beaten track. The route followed the river and led us to a church, a Basilica, over a bridge dating back to 1354  and to an Amsterdam inspired chip shop with a choice of 12 Mayonnaise based sauces..

img_4069

The walk led us to San Zeno square around 2 miles out of town with empty cafes and shops surrounding it. It seems not many people veer out of the centre and choose to stay with the shops and restaurants in the Piazza Bra area. But boy are they are missing out, for at this square I had the best/most sickly hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted.

img_4147

img_4117

img_4142

Heading back to the buzz of the Piazzas we stumbled upon the entrance to the courtyard below  ‘Juliet’s balcony’ which it has been said inspired Shakespeare. As it was  a weekday evening the square was relatively quiet and we got a good view of both the balcony and statue. Unless you are a huge Romeo & Juliet/Shakespeare fan I would suggest just a couple of minutes is enough to take in the square and balcony especially during the day when it’s extremely busy. After walking all day and taking in the impressive and photogenic architecture we had an early night in preparation of our early start to see Lake Garda the next morning.

img_4006

Verona is 40km bus or train ride away from Sirmione, a lakeside town on Garda.  As we arrived fog covered the towns pastel colours, bridges and mountains surrounding the lake. But this didn’t prevent the beauty from seeping through. The water was clear and calm and the people were bright and happy. The town is located on a peninsula so it’s surrounded on both sides by water. The streets themselves are a maze and only just wide enough for a car. Among the weaving streets and lanes there’s hundreds of independent shops and restaurants with every one seemingly serving local ice-cream (not complaining).

img_4205img_4236

img_4249

Even without any sign of the sun it was a brilliant day wondering around the foggy shoreline and looking (and buying) the local goods. After a good couple of hours of walking around the town, taking in all the views, photographing the best bits and consuming yes, more pizza we jumped on the hour long bus back to Verona.

Planning on  having a last wander before leaving the next day we were greeted with the biggest rainfall I’ve ever experienced. So drenched were we by the time we got from the bus to our hotel a pair of shoes were unsaveable and ended up in the bin!

Despite the loss of shoes I loved my time in Verona, although a whole day is enough to see the main sights you still want to go back to experience the buzz of the Piazzas, the pastry shops and the charming customer service in the restaurants.

img_4383

img_4285

 www.madisonbeach.com

IG:@madisonbeachphotos

36 Hours In Venice

My Venice adventure began with an evening flight from Gatwick. The flight went without a hitch apart from spending the two hours next to a 30-something man who looked like he was dreading his return to Italy, spending the whole flight with his head in his hands and sighing at regular intervals.

img_4389

We arrived around 9pm local time and hopped on a bus to take us from mainland Italy to the edge of the Venetian waters. The ticket machine was incredibly easy to use, not one of those touch screen ones where you have to put your fist through the screen in order to select every letter of your destination station which inevitably hasn’t appeared on the start up screen. The bus dropped us off at the main terminus Piazzale Roma, where buses meet water buses. We boarded a boat. Well tried to.

We had previously purchased 48 hour boat/bus passes which included the airport transfer. We used it to go into a boat shelter to wait for our selected boat. We soon realised we were waiting for the wrong one but having already scanned our tickets once they didn’t allow the barriers to open to let us out. After loosing our dignity crawling under the long barriers we found the right place to board. The boat was packed leaving my view for the 15 minutes as the back of a fellow British travelers’ head and hearing the sound of a loved-up couple seemingly unable to stop kissing for the duration of the journey.

img_3951

Arriving claustrophobic and unusually seasick  we found our hotel easier than my internal compass normally allows. Checking in to the hotel with the night manager was quick and friendly. But upon opening the door of our allocated room we realised we had been given a double bed opposed to a twin room which we had booked and double checked via email before arriving. We spoke to the previously welcoming night manager who told us sternly that the hotel was fully booked and nothing could be done. Not the end of the world and tired enough to sleep for a week we hit the hay.

The bed was incredibly comfortable and the daylight view of Venice from our 3rd floor room was breathtaking. Having first visited 10 years ago when I was 11 I soon remembered why I’ve been yearning to return.

img_3936
The right-side view from the bedroom window

Weaving through the car-less streets and bridges that makes Venice so stunning and unique we reached the water bus stop to take us across the 300m stretch of water to the island of Murano. Murano is famous for its high quality island-made glass products. Guidebook-free and exploring the island by foot we stumbled upon a queue of excited tourists, spotting a sign reading ‘free’ without checking what exactly was free, we jumped onto the back of the queue. After witnessing two couples arguing, one women leaving her husband behind with all the kids we reached the front of the queue. Ushered to a viewing area it became clear we were about to see a glassblower show us how it’s done. Feeling like my eyebrows were slowly being singed by the heat of the furnaces, the ease with which the man moulded a wine glass and then a horse was mind-blowing (pardon the pun). The demonstration was 10 minutes long, more than enough time to witness the astounding skill needed to perfect the art.

The Free Demonstration 

It was then time for lunch, pizza. After a surprising amount of menus omitting pizza we found a buzzing  pizzeria with a garden. We had to stand in the busy foyer for 15 minutes with every waiter that walked passed avoiding eye contact before we had to ask to be seated at an empty table we could see. Granted it was a Saturday but the restaurant was either busier than they expected or just under-staffed. None of this mattered by the time my classic Margherita arrived as it was one of the best I’ve tasted and I’ve tasted a lot in my 21 years.

img_3890
A Murano Bridge

After mastering the water bus boat system second time round we headed to the more tourist heavy area of San Marco, home of the famous St.Marks square. With fame comes tourists and very expensive cafes but that’s part of the charm. The excitement of seeing the architecture of the Basilica and Doge’s Palace has everyone glossing over the incredibly high chance of getting hit by a ‘selfie-stick’ or stung by the restaurant prices. There was also added excitement as last minute constructions were taking place getting ready for the Venice marathon the next day. After some obligatory people watching and scoffing my face with the most over-priced hot chocolate I will ever consume we headed out to do some photography as the sun set.

Before & After

Having already been to Venice I was more relaxed about what I saw and enjoyed strolling through the streets taking photographs rather than rushing between the must-see sights. Venice is a place I will never tire of visiting. There’s endless islands and museums to explore which I will be back for again. If you’re in Venice for a short time I would definitely recommend the 24/48 boat/bus passes as it allows you to see as much as you can fit in to your day without queuing for individual tickets and can be a real money saver.

img_3981
On the train to Verona with the marathon in sight

Look out for my next post ’48 Hours in Verona’ along with both digital & film photographs from the trip. Thanks for reading.

IG:Madisonbeachphotos

Exploring: Part III + Upcoming Exhibitions

The third instalment including photographs from my time in Italy plus upcoming exhibition details.

 

 

Here is a list of my summer exhibitions (more to be confirmed): 

May 27th-June 2nd (Extended to 5th June) Insite CU Degree Show, Coventry

June 9th-19th Hit The Road, Group Exhibition, LÓdz, Poland.

June 17th -19th & 24th-25th Europa, Group Exhibition, Transition Gallery, London.

June 29th-July 4th Free Range, London

 

http://www.madisonbeach.com

IG:madisonbeachphotos