10

Prague, Czech Republic

January 2017 - Every Christmas I go back home to Prague and every year I wish for snow. Ever since I started taking photos “seriously” a few years ago, I had managed to take a lot of great photos of the city during the few trips back home throughout the year, but I never had the chance to capture my hometown covered in snow, because in the previous years it would always start snowing only after I had left. (And back when I was still living in Prague, I was at an age where I would care more about going sledding down the nearby hill than going downtown to enjoy the city’s beauty when it snowed.) But this was the year I finally got lucky and I was certainly going to make the most out of the experience by taking as many photos as possible!

Although Prague looks great during any season of the year, I was simply blown away how magical the city looks with a little bit of snow! The red roofs turned white, the cobblestones on the streets disappeared underneath the fresh layer of white powder and even little sections at the edge of the river started to turn into ice! And although it was just a little bit of snow, it was more than plenty to convince me to stay all day outside roaming around, all the way from the early sunrise to sunset on some days, and not even the freezing cold was going to stop me since my heart was warmed up by all the majestic sights …. and lots of hot tea I kept on buying from the McDonald’s near the Charles Bridge because sometimes it simply was too cold to even change lenses on the camera outside, and because that hot plastic cup was nice to hold in my rather cold hands.   

I truly tried to get to all my favorite spots in the few days I had before leaving, so I climbed all the towers again, walked down all the famous streets and up all the hills and stairs, and it was completely worth it! And sometimes I would even be joined by a friend of mine, which is always nice for multiple of reasons, and sometimes I would go out by myself because I knew it would be more than likely that I would forget about that other person when I would be looking through the lens at the winter fairy tale that Prague can be! (Multitasking is really hard, and I tend to really feel bad when I pay more attention to the camera than a friend who’s willing to take the time to go for a walk around town with me.) Thankfully most of my friends already know how crazy I am for Prague and photography, so they put with me.

And it’s this exact combination of Prague, winter and friends that always makes me look forward to the end of the year and keeps me constantly hoping that it will snow once I’m back in town again.

flickr

IMG_6402 by aeroslipton
Via Flickr:
black Queen Anne house on Holton St. You can see a lot more detail with the leaves off the trees

10

Vallée de la Loire, France

April 15th - 17th 2017 - This part of the valley around the Loire river is part of the UNESCO heritage, and for good reason, because it’s full of fancy castles (or château’s to be precise) in addition to beautiful cities and villages! It’s too many castles to see during an extended Easter weekend, but we tried our best!

On the first day we set off to Villandry, where they have not only a castle, but also some caves (which we did not miss, because it’s a family tradition at this point.) The Château de Villandry is a a beautiful little historical family residence with an even more beautiful decoration. The inside was filled with fancy artwork, while the outside gardens were filled with fancy shapes and patterns, in addition to all the flowers that were in the middle of their spring bloom. [photos 1-3] Right at closing time, we drove to the Château d’ Ussé to get a look at (and at least buy a postcard from) this castle with numerous spires that’s nicknamed “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” because it has been said to be the castle that Charles Perrault had in mind while writing this story [4]. The day was finished off with a short stop in the rather cute (aka mignone) village of Langeais, which included walking through some tiny streets along with getting to see a smaller, yet majestic castle and cathedral. [5]

The plan for the second day, which happened to be Easter Sunday … and my birthday … was quite different, because we drove to the Château de Chanonceau just as the sun was shining down on one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen at a castle ( or at least that of the line to get inside the area). So we set of to the next one, which was Château de Chaumont, which might have been my favorite, because the castle walls with the spires on the top of the round towers were simply very aesthetic! [6] Plus there were a couple fancy rooms, such as the chapel, because Catherine de’ Medici, who was France’s queen at one point, resided at the castle. Afterwards, we drove back to the Château de Chenonceau, because we really wanted to see it, because parts of the castle are built over the river as a giant bridge. You should definitely google it, because that’s what had to do since the crowds only got worse and the castle was strategically hidden behind trees. So afterwards we drove to Amboise, which is a lovely little town with a castle on the top that provides a great view of the town’s rooftops and the river. [7-9] And of course, I can’t forget to mention the little chapel of Saint-Hubert, where Leonardo Da Vinci was buried after finishing his life in Amboise.  It makes sense that it was here, since Da Vinci was a guest of one of the numerous French Kings, for whom the Château d’Amboise was a residence. Apparently Charles VIII died in this castle after hitting his head on a door lintel (which I can personally as a tall person relate to very easily). Since the day didn’t go as planned, we also took an evening walk around the city of Tours, which was where we were staying for the weekend.

Then on the last day, before heading back home, we stopped at the Château de Chambord, which simply put, is absolutely magnificient! And not just because of the surrounding grounds (originally used as hunting grounds since this was a “hunting lodge”) and the water canal right in front of the castle (which is still cool, because you rent a boat and go on them), but because of the mix of the renaissance and medieval architecture. [10] This of course in addition to some fancy interior and rich history. And then, the very final stop of the trip was the city of Orleans, which still looks so beautifully historic, almost appearing untouched from the days of Joann of Arc! The gigantic cathedral there was absolutely breathtaking, just like the rest of the trip to this heart of France!