After a long absence, I made it back to Tokyo thanks to mileage redemption. The cherry blossoms were at full bloom and the city was abuzz with parties under the trees.
Tokyo has many observation decks. Although I tried quite a lot of them, I passed on this one.
Navigating the vending machine to order this was most difficult since it was all in Japanese.
Alternatively, you can choose the diorama menu.
While dense, Tokyo is actually not a big highrise city. There are a lot of quiet sidestreets that seem a world away from the major metropolis.
The Tsukiji fish market has been inundated by tourists, and the vendors are not too happy about that.
With rain and clouds outside, it was time to head inside for some museum hopping. Take a glimpse back into life of yesteryear.
Old and new co-exist :
The busy city prepares for the evening rush.
Take a ride on the bullet train!
My first major trip of the year encountered the worst weather. It rained and rained and rained. From the moment I landed until almost the end, clouds got in the way. My better photos turned out to be close-ups.
Being a beautiful lake-side city surrounded by mountains, I was woefully unsatisfied due to rain. In fact, I couldn't even find the mountains, which were hidden behind fog and low clouds. I opt to return again.
Nevertheless, riding Swiss rails is quite fun, especially considering how steep some of the tracks are and the way the trains easily conquer these obstacles. The landscape around Interlaken is quite nice, as expected.
Delicious, clear glacial water.
The sun did emerge briefly as we left the mountains and into Italy. Luckily, it was sunny at the cathedral!
With limited time and energy, I paid the elevator ride to the observation area. It's quite amazing to walk through the various architectural elements to get to the top of the cathedral. The city view seemed relatively boring.
A lovely coffee break.
It was a short pit-stop in Milan. The focus of this foray into Italy was hiking along a famed seaside area known as Cinque Terre. The towns were quaint, the exercise was good, and the seafood was fresh. The sun peeked out a little more here than further north.
We picked the hardest town to reach - Corniglia. It was a good few hundred steps from the train station.
Due to prior day rains, the paved main trail along the coast was closed. Strangely, the authorities allowed people to hike the more treacherous hillside trails instead. They weren't real trails per se, but a combination of mud tracks, rocks, and people clamoring along the steep slopes.
With the sea just steps away, a seafood pizza was a smart choice.
I wonder why and how could they build this town on this type of landscape?
Terrace farming is quite popular, and the evidence is obvious throughout the towns.
Lucca is a hidden gem tucked between Pisa and Florence. It has a quaint old town enclosed within a wall with many architectural treasures. It was a world different from the tourist-inundated streets of its famous neighbours.
Quite an amazing facade!
This is a very touristy city, and a bit overrated. The historic sights are nice, but the crowds just get too big. I prefer a quainter atmosphere, and the local market offered something seemingly more authentic.
The Battistero was nevertheless stunning.
One of many such statues, but this is not the real one.
The Palazzo Vecchio tour was well worth the time. The rooms were elaborately decorated and the view from the tower was magnificent.
One very interesting story about this palace's construction was the artwork. They had to populate the walls so quickly, the figures were produced en-masse, and the same face could appear on more than 1 wall.
Local residents seemed extinct in this city, which was even more touristy than Florence. However, the natural beauty and historic architecture was more interesting. Weaving through the narrow streets, crossing canals, and watching lost tourists find their way were quite interesting. The weather finally co-operated. The thunderstorms over Florence were long gone.
Overpriced gondolas and ferries. Fasten your runners and get the feet going!
The history is quite evident. There are very few new buildings, and the original character is retained in appearance. But that church tower seems a bit too dangerous for comfort.
Many of the larger bridges offered photogenic views.
The Rialto market didn't seem to cater primarily for tourists, who would not normally buy much vegetables or meat, although I wonder are there that many residents to support all this stuff?
On the bright side, the Venetians are used to hordes of photo-taking tourists.
Plenty of churches cover the city, but many have resorted to the unbelievable act of charging visitors to enter the House of God. Wonder when they'll take the next step and enter the money-changing business? Luckily, this one didn't charge admission.
Tired of mingling with tourists, I decided to venture into the few residential areas of the city.
Open the garage door, park your boat, and step into your living room. Wonder if thieves can just swim under the door to break in?
This is a very nice stopover on the way from Venice to Milan, and is not inundated by tourists. The historic sights are worth seeing and the sightseeing card is a bargain 10 euros only!
Casa di Giulietta is supposed to be a romantic place where the famous Juliet would peer on the balcony awaiting her sweet prince. In reality, the house is quite ugly and the balcony is nowhere near romantic.
It was a quick weekend getaway and the hot weather has already set in. Guangzhou has been transformed in recent years as a new business district emerges in the eastern part of town.