Archive | May, 2013

Mr. & Mrs. Roznoski: A Nazareth Hall Dream Wedding! {Toledo Photographer}

Mark and Robyn’s wedding day was perfect!  Sunny, blue skies – trees and flowers finally all bloomed – and Grand Rapid’s exquisite Nazareth Hall.  After getting ready in the bridal suite, Robyn made her way down the spiral stairs to the front of the Cadet West windows, where her husband-to-be was waiting with anticipation for their “First Look”.  It was amazing!  They hugged, they kissed, they laughed, and I’m pretty sure I saw some tears.

They recited their vows in front of family and friends in the Grotto, the outside chapel, before being whisked away to a fun night of dancing and celebration in Cadet West.  The setting sun poured through the western facing windows, creating a romantic glow for the newly-married couple.  I can’t wait to publish their private online gallery!

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Nazareth Hall is Toledo’s favorite wedding venue, and one of my top favorite places to photograph couples and families.  The wedding photography here can be photographed like non other!   And the amazing staff and chef know how to pamper couples as they relax in the serene atmosphere and prepare for their happily ever after!  www.nazarethhall.com Music and entertainment was provided by Bob Norris of www.classactbybobnorris.com

Roma!!!

How bittersweet!  To be in Rome, but it’s our last and final destination.  🙁  As they say, all roads lead to Rome!

We arrived in “Roma” early Monday afternoon and took a walking tour throughout the streets.  We visited the Trevi Fountain, built in the 1700s, which was constructed at the intersection of 3 roads and an ancient aqueduct system (which served Rome for over 400 years since 19 BC).

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Of course, we tossed a coin over our left shoulder into the pool to ensure our return to Rome!  After a stop here, we walked towards the Pantheon (my favorite Roman site!) and enjoyed some of the city’s best frozen coffee at a nearby cafe.  The pantheon was built in 126 AD under the rule of Augustus Caesar, and even after nearly 2000 years, it is still the world’s largest reinforced stone dome!  The large open hole at the top is the only window for natural light (small drain holes are in the floor for when it rains).  It was originally a temple for all the Roman Gods, but was converted as a Catholic Church in the 7th century.  The artist Rafael and two kings are buried here, amongst others.Toledo Travel Photographer Rome002

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Tuesday we visited the Vatican.  I was feeling sick this day, so much of it was a blur, but I’m still glad I went!  I had been 3 years earlier, but I had forgotten so much and it was Jeremy’s first time, so very much worth visiting again.  Although we are not Catholic, it’s still a unique part of history to see in person.  St. Peter’s Basilica was built in the 1600s and is the largest cathedral in the world to this day.

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The famous paintings of Michelangelo can be seen in the Sistine Chapel, as well as other paintings, tapestries, and sculptures in their museum, the Musei Vaticani.  The Gallery of Maps was my favorite part of the museum.

Our last day in Rome we walked (and walked and walked!) all over the city!  For being such a large city, Rome actually only has 2 subway lines.  Luckily, our hotel was close to one of the metro lines, and we took it straight to the Colosseum.  We started out here, and walked all along the ruins of Ancient Rome.

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One of the cafes we stopped at for lunch was actually built right inside the ruins!  Next we headed towards the Spanish Steps and enjoyed some Gelati here (actually, we had to hide under scaffolding to avoid the short rainfall).  One of my favorite parts of our last day was seeing the statue of Moses in the San Pietro in Vincoli Church.

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The church is in a small community built on a hill overlooking the Colosseum.  It’s quite a hidden treasure and I’m so glad we discovered it!  Michelangelo’s Moses is featured here above the tomb of a pope.  This incredible piece of art is just as detailed as his David that we saw in Florence.   The expression on his face and body language has been studied for centuries: The horned head, the flowing beard, the gaze toward the chapel’s doors, and the protectiveness of the 10 Commandment Tablets.  Jonathan Jones of the English newspaper, The Guardian, describes it perfectly: “Moses’s right hand protects the stone tablets bearing the Commandments; his left hand, veins throbbing, muscles tense, appears to be holding back from violent action. When he came down from Mount Sinai, Moses found his people worshiping the Golden Calf – the false idol they had made. His anger defies the prison of stone, the limits of the sculptor’s art. Few can resist the impression of a real mind, real emotions, in the figure that glares from his marble seat.”  In fact, the statue is so lifelike that legend says that when Michelangelo completed it, he lifted up his mallet and stuck Moses’ knee and cried, “Speak, Moses!”  The discernible crack in Moses’s knee is visible.

We ate dinner at a small cafe by the San Pietro, enjoying some Italian pasta for the last time, before heading back.  We waited out the sunset, and captured some amazing images of the Colosseum.  I love how the ancient ruins stands so majestically with untold stories of gladiators and Christian martyrs, with the motion of modern-day life speeding by it’s foundation. The blur of vehicle lights can be seen along the road.

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Siena and Tuscan Medieval Towns

We left Florence for the short drive to Sienna, a small Medieval town of 60,000 Italians. This town was sooo different than any other we had visited so far! I had no idea Medieval type towns still existed in such great reserved condition. Sienna was a walled city at one time, with the traditional main door entrance guarded by local soldiers. Much of the wall and entrance still remains today, and can be walked and is used as a jogging path by the locals.

 

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The city is divided into 2-block districts, creating 17 separate districts all named after animals: Goose, Owl, Panther, She-Wolf, Dragon, etc. Our local city guide was from the Goose district. Each district has their own flag and symbol and each are very competitive against the others. In fact, some districts still refuse to speak to each other. We arrived on the second Sunday in May, which was a very neat time to visit since each district hosts a city-wide parade for 17 Sundays, starting in May. The Goose citizens were parading the day we were visiting. The men were dressed in their Medieval costumes of red and yellow (the Goose district colors) and carrying flags or playing the marching band.

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The parade started from their district and marched around to every district in the city, eventually ended up in the main Siena square, which is shaped somewhat like a sea shell. Here is were the districts compete in July in a horse race. One horse is given to each district by chance of a drawing. Each district has their own horse stable, which includes a small attached church chapel for which to bless the horse in. Cool huh? The district will then select a jockey to ride in the July race. The plaza holds nearly every member of the city during the races, which our local guide described was an experience like none other: the crowd’s enthusiasm as they spot their district’s horse and jockey in their districts colors and flag/crest.  Reminds me a little of the “Hunger Games”.

The Santa Maria Assunta, the Roman Catholic Church of Siena, has an interesting history, too.

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It was completed around 1215 A.D.  But, as all the European towns, each competes with having the largest church.  A large church signifies power and city wealth.   The neighboring Florence’s Duomo was began in 1296 and was to be the largest church in country (the Vatican was not yet built).  Not to be unrivaled, Siena citizens decided to expand their church to nearly double it’s size.  Construction began in 1339 but was halted 9 years later due to the Black Death.  The plague wiped out 2/3rds of their population.  The partially completed walls can still be seen around the original church.

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After spending the early afternoon in Siena, we took an extra excursion to two other small Medieval towns, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, each with a population of only 7,000-8,000.  Sam Gimignano still has it’s city walls and grand entrance. Houses are also still inhabited on the city walls! We walked along the cobblestone streets, winding through small local shops. Here we purchased our dinner for later, a block of mild goat cheese, 4 various flavors of cheese honey (oh, yea!), Tuscan Salomi, and fresh local flat bread. (I originally stopped in and bought a small slice of cheese and honey, but after sharing it amongst ourselves, we decided to return to the small shop and shop for our dinner there!  The owner was so thrilled to see me return!).

After San Gimignano, we traveled a short distance to the 12 tower and walled city of  Monteriggioni. What a spectacular view of the city as we drove up the zigzagging road toward the hill top fortress. Unfortunately, capturing an image as we whizzed by trees was impossible. We stayed in the main front plaza, which held two small cafes and the smallest chapel I’ve seen yet. No Photography was allowed, but the inside was simple and yet just as stunning as the large duomo and chapels we’ve become familiar with. We enjoyed a hot cup of local cafe latte in the square before heading back to our hotel.

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We stayed at the Garden Hotel, which originally was the large villa of an aristocratic family. We enjoyed a 4-star 3-course meal our first evening here, complete with our own private dining hall and suited waiters. I could definitely get used to this! I had a vegetarian roasted entree arranged in the shape of a blooming flower. We spent an evening out in the gardens the next afternoon (before our amazing cheese and salami dinner) creating portraits with the beauty of the landscape and the setting Tuscan sun.

Next and final stop… Rome!

Tuscan Villa {Destination Wedding Venue – Toledo Photographer}

We left Florence shortly afterwards and made our way deep into the Tuscan country to a small villa for wine tasting and location scouting.  I’ve been posting our trip according to regions, but this one deserved a post of its own!

Any brides looking for an Italian villa wedding?  I would LOVE to photograph your destination wedding!  And if you are looking at locations and venues, I have the perfect one to suggest!!!

Today after leaving Florence, we coached to a small private villa in Tuscany.  Tuscany is all about enlightening of the senses… a breath-taking view of the carefully designed gardens and statues, the aroma of the fresh air tainted with flourishing garden and Tuscan breeze, and amazing local cheese, olive oil, and wine tasting.

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Have you ever had cheese honey?  I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but I will never eat goat cheese without it again! We had a mild goat cheese dipped in a local honey-pepper sauce: definitely the BEST eating experience so far! We ended up buying 3 bottles of the honey and some organic olive oil!

The villa was just as beautiful inside as it was outside! The main hall was domed shaped and painted with 4 scenes of the Tuscan seasons.  All the original furnishings were still inside, too!  There was also a small chapel with the original ceiling paintings still in near-mint condition. The beautiful blue paint was mixed and created to match the pale blue hue of the Tuscan sky.

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The 2 brothers that owned the villa and winery hosted our group with such outstanding hospitality and friendliness. The grounds have been featured in movies, and they host private events and outdoor weddings.  I personally always wanted a beach wedding, but after visiting here, I would select this exquisite location over any destination location in the world. If any bride is looking for a one-of-a-kind destination wedding venue, especially in Italy or Tuscany, then this location is the one for you!

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Many villas in the region host weddings, but none are hospitable as this family! Tuscans are very private citizens, but being raised in Rome perhaps made this family the exception. The villa has been in their family for generations, and they’ve been bottling and selling their own wine and olive oil since the 1700s. In fact, the grandfather saved it from being bombed in the WW2 by providing a historical tour of the villa (built in the 1400s) to the local German officer in charge of selecting bombing sites and applying for a historical site protection. The German officer relocated the bomb and saved their family villa.  What a shame it would have been to lose it!

Cinque Terre and Florence, Italy

Ahhh! Finally Italia!  The trip has been AMAZING so far, but I have really been looking forward to arriving in Italy. Our drive from the French boarder along the Mediterranean coastline passed by the Carrara Mable Quarry, which has been used since ancient Rome to decorate Roman structures, such as the Pantheon and Colosseum.  Michelangelo also bought his marble blocks here for his beautiful sculptures.

Today we visited the Cinque Terre, a really colorful world all of its own.  Cinque Terre literally means “Five Earths” and refers to 5 tiny villages built right into the rocky hillside of Italy.

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The calamari we had for lunch here was so fresh and without a doubt the best I’ve ever had!  It was deep fried in a salty batter with squid and large shrimp.  Mmmm!  After lunch, Jeremy and I had fun capturing the bold colors of the boats, sea, and town w

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These coastal towns are great for exercise,  too!  Everything is built on a steep hill with hundreds of steps!

After enjoying this little excursion, we headed into Florence for our first of two nights. Our hotel was actually a restored convent, with a private walled garden and beautiful statues of the young female residents.

We toured the Duomo Church, famous for its Renaissance architecture and marble decor.

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It was quite stunning, but my favorite part of Florence was on the second day, when we visited the Pitti Place and the Ponte Vecchio, which was the last standing bridge that Florence was able to save from the German bombing in WW2.

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Hitler had instead decided to bomb the buildings on either side to obstruct its use.  All other Florentine bridges were destroyed.  Ponte Vecchio’s beautiful homes and storefronts are still the original walls across the bridge.

I wish I would have had more time to visit! The best part of Florence…the Academia Museo! Wow! Imagine walking through all the historical pieces of art and rounding the corner to find the original Michelangelo statue of David! What a perfect work of art! David was so detailed that even his hands had veins showing from his hand being lower than his heart!  The Academia also had several Michelangelo’s unfinished statues, which still portrayed emotion in the faces and poses without the minute sculptured details of his finished pieces.  Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the museum.  🙁

The French Riveria

We left Aix and headed towards the French coastal town of Cassis.  Amongst all the coastal cities along the Mediterranean this little fishing town has been the best preserved.

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It’s mostly visited by the regional French as a vacation hotspot.  Cassis has been my favorite location so far!  We took a little tram down the mountain to the docks, where we hired out a small tour boat to see the famous calanques (pronounced “co-loncks”), which were small inlets in the largest cliffs along the sea.

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This spot is actually a favorite of rock climbers, and the base of the Statue of Liberty, which was a gift from France, was quarried from here.  Beautiful white cliffs!

From the boat, we had a fantastic view of Cassis, whose population is only 8,000.

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Afterwards we enjoyed some local food and shopping before traveling on to Nice.  I was the least impressed with this over industrialized city… it was so built up and lost all of its historical charm.  But, Nice had a tough competitor to follow after our afternoon in Cassis!  Here we stopped briefly for a cappuccino at their famous flower market before continuing on to our hotel in Beaulieu sur Mer, long the Riveria.  What a lovely surprise!  The Riveria drive was so stunning, with a winding road along the coastline right in the middle of the small coastal towns.  This small region along the Mediterranean is full of steep and curvy streets built right into the side of the mountains.  It’s full of hundreds of tunnels and exotic smelling plants and flowers.  Before heading to bed we took a 5 minute evening walk down to the waterline along the rocky beach.  It was so peaceful and serene!  Small ships and yachts were anchored out from the shore with their lights reflecting off the calm water.  There was just enough of a breeze to bring small waves gently crashing in nearer the water’s edge.

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I normally can’t sleep at home with the city noise, but we’ve had our windows open every night, enjoying the cool breezes and wisps of local French dialects whispering up from the streets below.  This morning we woke up to this beautiful sunrise view from our motel window…

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Provence and Cafe-Hopping :)

Ohhhh, gotta have a little of  Provence {Prov-on-z}.  Day 5 we boarded the TV-G tram and sped our way to Provence at a lovely 120 miles an hour.  We need this train in America!  In Aix-en-Provence, we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the plain tree lined streets, busy with overflowing side street cafes, and little (and I mean TINY!) shops.

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I liked Aix!  Paris was amazing in its own way, but I hated the throngs of tourists and crowds.  A few times were were crammed into the subway cars like sardines in can without an inch to spare.  I guess it’s all a part of the experience!

Aix (pronounced simply “X”) was the capital of Provence, which is a quaint area known for its olive oil based cuisine and acres and acres of lavender fields.  Unfortunately the fields don’t bloom until July, but the landscape and culture was just as lovely.  The climate was much different than northern France.  It was much warmer with dry brush landscape similar to our own American deserts.  Aix was very popular with artists because of the yellowed light of the region created by the earth and reflection of the sand-colored buildings.  We walked in the footsteps of Paul Cezanne, a famous painter from here.  His studio was built on a lovely hill in the (then) countryside above the city on the mountain.  This lonely man painted still portraits of plants and fruit, and also portraits of women based off his imagination and sittings by his own mother (a little disturbing!).  LOL

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The small city has about 150,000 inhabitants, of which about a third are college students.  The streets were lively with the young energy of the town.  Walking around way so easy with everything within a block or so of the main square, La Rotonde, centered with a magnificent fountain designed by the Romans.  French Destination Photographer France Toledo 004

The little streets reminded me a little of the pictures I’ve seen of the old districts of New Orleans, which were French influenced.  Tall windows were floor length to allow as much light in as possible and framed in iron fencing or balconies.  The food and coffee were amazing!  Cafes were around every street corner, skirting the small squares and fountains in every block.  In fact, Aix-en-Provence is known as the “City with a Thousand Fountains”.

The second day we traveled by coach (fancy word for a private bus) with Go Ahead to the small Roman-founded town of Arles.  Coming here was like stepping back in time!  Quaint can’t even describe this beautiful little town with its winding streets and charming character.

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Some of the first advanced architecture was discovered in this region.  The ceilings inside the town hall support itself without a middle supporting pillar to keep it from collapsing.

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Although it was Roman influence, a lot of the clothing styles and way of life were similar to the Spaniards, which was only 200 miles away from Barcelona.  They still practice bull fighting in the ancient amphitheater every year.  Everywhere in city you will find sculptures of the bull heads and horns, which was their god.  Worship it and eat it!  The steak here is believed by some to be the best in the world!  (Not being a red-meat eater myself, I can’t vouch either way!)  Next on the agenda… heading for the French Riveria!

Bonjour! {A Paris City Experience}

Our first 3 nights were spent in the most traveled to city in the world: Paris.  With its cafe-lined streets, immense sense of history, and the infamous Tour de Eiffel (Eiffel Tower), four days were just not enough!  We arrived at the de Gaulle airport on Friday morning after an 8 hour overnight flight from Detroit.  Sleeping was attempted, but, of course, was difficult.  We flew in the direction of the earth’s rotation, so the sun set for only about 2-3 hours before we approached the sunrise.  The long daylight hours illuminated the Canadian snow-capped t and the not-so-very-green Greenland.

The police at  the airport were everywhere, especially surrounding a strike demonstration near our baggage claim area.  It was really interesting to watch.  About 30 people were grouped together yelling (in French, of course) over megaphones, waving handmade flags, whistling, and beating the floors with empty plastic bottles. Paris Destination Photographer Wedding 001  They really made the airport come alive with excitement!  The police surrounded them, but were pretty laid back and not expecting anything else besides a bunch of noise.

We stayed at the Novotel De Montparnesse, which was situated in a quiet part of Paris on the east bank.  Paris is divided by the Seine River, which snakes by some of it’s most beautiful Parisian architectural buildings: The Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame (just to name a few).Paris Destination Photographer Toledo009

We didn’t venture out into the city until the second day after a city bus tour that was included with our vacation (we traveled with Go Ahead Tours, an amazing travel company that takes care of transports and lodging and includes local city expert guides).  We explored the Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde (named accordingly so after so many people were beheaded in the square following the end of the French Revolution), the Palace of Versailles, and the Louvre (where you can view the Mona Lisa).  Paris Destination Photographer Wedding 002On to the Eiffel Tower afterwards to see it’s sparkling show that it puts on for 10 minutes on the top of the hour after dark.  My husband was going to take the elevator to the top of the  tower, but unfortunately, it was closed!  Did you know that the tower was supposed to be disassembled after 6 years of it being build for the 1889 world fair?  Partisan residents hated the structure, feeling it was too modern.  In fact, the famous writer Guy de Maupassant, hated it so much that he wrote much of his poetry from the towers upper restaurant so he wouldn’t have to look at it.  This beautiful sparkling site was beautiful from every angle!  Paris Destination Photographer Wedding 003We crossed the bridge to see it from the street side:   I used a technique called “dragging the shutter” to capture the motion of motorists driving by.  I love night photography!

Our last full day in Paris we visited the catacombs and Notre Dame.  The local government copied the idea of underground cemeteries from the Romans when their graveyards became saturated in the late 1700s.  They created a 2 kilometer cemetery in the underground Parisian rock quarry.  It was actually very close to our motel and I had wanted to visit it the last time I was in Paris, but it had been closed due to vandalism.  🙁  We got our own private tour because one of the catacomb guards was in enamored with a friend of mine that went with us.  We captured some amazing images that we normally wouldn’t have been able to get.  It was awesome!  Paris Destination Photographer Toledo005Over 6 million bodies were moved here, and their bones were arranged into interesting patterns and walls.  They mainly used the femur bones (thigh bones) for the walls, with skulls as decorations in the form of lines, crosses, and hearts.  The bones were grouped according to cemetery locations where they were relocated from.  Afterwards, we traveled to the Notre Dame, the Gothic beauty situated on the end of the Ile de la Cite in the Seine River.  We wrapped up the evening with a boat river cruise.  Next to the Provence country!

Une Lettre de Paris {A Letter From France}

I am certainly feeling overwhelmed of where to begin!  This trip has been AMAZING and truely a dream come true.  Jeremy and I decided to do a photography project in Europe a little over a year ago, and it’s hard to believe that we are finally experiencing it!  Our project includes three points (besides sight-seeing and enjoying the cuisine): European fashion and photographic style, architectural photography (to add to our growing list of city-scapes that we hope to exhibit someday), and specific daily photography projects.  We hope you enjoy some of our blogging along the way!

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