Friday, November 27, 2009

I am the Sun King. Welcome to my gardens!

My gardens are grand and beautiful so there's no need to show you my chateau.

Beyond 24k gold.

Apollo driving his chariot.

He is breaking out of the rocks.

She is playing with roses.

My mighty fountain.

Okay, the truth is I did not have time to go into the Palace of Versailles and the gardens are free to enter. They are quite magnificent. Wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Saw Queen Elizabeth II Twice

Last Wednesday, 18 November, was the State Opening of the British Parliament. It takes place once a year and there's a royal procession where the Queen travels from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster to deliver a speech written by the government. The speech, called the Speech from the Throne, outlines the agenda of the Parliament for the upcoming session.

There are tons of pomp and circumstance and ceremonial traditions involved in this event. Before the Queen arrives at the Palace of Westminster, the Yeomen of the Guard search the grounds of the Palace for any bomb. This tradition originated all the way back to 1605 when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Palace in the Gunpowder Plot (...Remember, Remember, the 5th of November.). To futhur ensure the Queen's safety, a member of the House of Commons is held hostage at Buckingham Palace.

Before the Queen's carriage, the Imperial State Crown travels to Westminster in its own carriage. As the Queen leaves Buckingham Palace, they play God Save the Queen. When the Queen arrives at Westminster, (and she arrives at her own entrance, the Sovereign's Entrance) she changes into the a special ceremonial robe to address the House of Lords and Commons.

The ceremony only takes around 30-45 minutes. So I waited for the Queen at Buckingham Palace when she left, then I walked to the Palace of Westminster to see her again as she left to go home. So I got to see her twice! Unknown to myself, I also got to see the Imperial State Crown and Princess Anne.

The Imperial State Crown traveling to Palace of Westminster.

Dozens of guards on horse arriving at Buckingham Palace to protect the Queen during her procession to Westminster.

The Queen's carriage arrives to pick her up.

Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen...!!!

It's the Queen again!!! I promise she's in there although Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is on the side closer to me.

Monday, November 23, 2009


After two and a half day in Venice, our next stop was Florence. As a major city in Italy, I expected Florence to be a big city. Instead, it is a small, very walkable city of uniform beauty. From one end of Florence to the other, it only takes 45 minutes on foot. You don't even need to take buses to get around. Throughout this walk, nearly all of the buildings have the same red roof. I have never been to a city quite like it. London, on the other hand, is a city of jumbled architectural styles.

The highlight of Florence was the Uffizi. A few month ago, I had featured Madonna with the Long Neck by Parmigianino. The painting is a bit smaller than I expected but it is just as exquisite as I imagined it. While I stood in front of for like three minutes viewing at various angles, it was sadly ignored by most museum goers. The most incredible two paintings, however, are Botticelli's Primavera and The Birth of Venus. There was an amazing sense of lightness to the paintings and the wind that is depicted is surreal.

From Venice to Florence

The Ponte Vecchio or the Old Bridge--it's a lot like the old London Bridge that no longer exists. Today, the Bridge is occupied by jewelers which makes it overwhelmingly touristy. The view from the Bridge, nonetheless, is still photo perfect.

The Rape of the Sabine Women

The Palazzo Vecchio or the Old Palace is the town hall of Florence. At the entrance of it, you can make out a replica of Michelanglo's David. The real David is house at the Academia which I also visited. Without a doubt, David is overwhelmingly majestic. When you enter the Accademia, you will see David at the end of a long, dimmed hall with a soft spotlight lit on David. All attention is focused on this 17 feet sculpture.

Duomo of Florence

Gates of Paradise

Mike Zhang, this one is for you.

Porcellino--this is Florence's version of "if you touch this, you will return." Sadly, I didn't touch it but hopefully I will return one day. =)

The food in Florence was absolutely delightful! I had some rabbit and boar meat. (The boar was fantastic!) The best dish though was a pasta dish with walnut sauce. No pasta will ever beat it!

The last thing I must comment negatively on is the condition of the museums and palaces in Italy. The Uffizi was intolerably warm and humid like many other Italian museums and palaces. It was strange to me that a country with such priceless artworks allows its works of art to be kept in such adverse conditions that can cause irreversably damages.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Filmed at the Tate Modern's video postcard desk.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Santa Maria della Salute

The sky and atmosphere make Venice the most romantic of any city that I have been to. I cannot emphasize enough the beauty of the sky. The sky has a special glow to it which is probably due to the haze.

Along with the sky, one of the most beautiful spot in Venice is, in my opinion, Santa Maria della Salute. It's said to be the most photographed church in Italy. Although my friends and I were unable to go in to it, because we were not there at the right time, the exterior alone was enough to amaze me. The exterior is heavily discolored by pollution, but I thought it adds so much more character and drama to the building and its sculptures.

I took a few photos of the church from various points of view and time (The last photo is a view taken . I hope these photos can translate my feelings about Venice and the church into something you can understand and inspire you as well.