back from beyond
in Travel , Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Got back from Colombia a couple of days ago. Apparently tourism is now overtaking coffee in terms of importance to the national economy. And it shows - in the main the cities the number of Europeans and North Americans is noticeably higher. Quite a lot of these, unfortunately, seem to be there for the cheap beer more than anything else. But away from the obvious places, Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, Colombia is still full of fresh, and sometimes challenging horizons for tourists.
We spent some days in the delightful, faded, colonial town of Salamina. It’s quite a trek to get there, but the location, high, high up on the edge of a steep hill deep in the Caldas region is quite magical. The area has been free of the curse of armed rebels for less than 5 years, and local people are delighted see tourists. Especially as the average frequency at present seems to be about 2 per day in the town square. It will be interesting to see how things evolve when the coach loads turn up, if they do. Probably, and tragically, it will turn into a clone of Santa Fe de Antiquoia, which is well and truly on the Lonely Planet List and definitely worth missing.
But the cities are still worth visiting, for the sheer vibrancy, the culture, and of course the coffee. Starbucks has no chance of getting a foothold in Colombia, as the homegrown Juan Valdez chain has already, thankfully, grabbed the market.
Colombia is a country that combines quality coffee production with coffee appreciation. Unlike Costa Rica, say, where as far as I’ve seen you can’t get a decent cup of coffee (i.e something other than USA-variant hot brown water) for love nor money, despite Costa Rica producing excellent beans. There’s a lot of competition, but possibly the best “café de origen”, or single crop coffee, that we’ve found is San Alberto, from Buenavista in Quindio. It is amazing. Hacienda Venecia, from a finca near Manizales, comes a close second. But there are many more to try.
Oh, and photography ? Yes, I took a few snapshots of things other than coffee cups, which I suppose will show up here soon. Not sure for how much longer though. I’m really losing interest in broadcasting my wit and wisdom to the internet, and conversely, less and less interested in other people’s diatribes about photography. It’s becoming a more and more personal activity for me, and I’m fine with that. I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I really don’t need confirmation from anybody else that’s it’s any good or not - anyway it’s entirely irrelvant. Time and inertia will probably hold me back, but ideally I’d like to turn this website into a far more photo-centric thing, and probably less dynamic. We shall see. Meanwhile, coffee!
another travel addiction
in Travel , Sunday, January 24, 2016
Things have been a little quiet around here for the past week or so, and they’re going to get quieter for a while longer. A couple of weeks ago we made a snap decision to head back to Colombia for three weeks or so, and getting that organised, along with general Life stuff, has kept me away from trivia like blogging.
I did start publishing a series of posts on Colombia a while back, but that got overwhelmed by other topics, and I never got around to Cartagena. That’s a real shame, because Cartagena is ridiculously, hopeless photogenic, a wild riot of chaos, colour, and fading colonial architecture. We won’t be going back there this time, other destinations await, but for now, here’s a lightning quick selection.
Hasta la vista. I’ll be back.
life’s a beach
in Travel , Wednesday, September 16, 2015
After a fairly stressful year so far, it was nice to get away for a week to a part of Italy I haven’t seen much of so far, Puglia, in the South East. We stayed close by the characterful town of Peschice, perched on a rocky outcrop in the extreme east of the Gargano peninsula national park. The whole of the Gargano is entrancing. It’s quite off the beaten path, although the coastline is clearly very popular in August. Getting there generally involves several hours of very twisty roads that even Italians can’t drive along at any great speed. Away from the seasonal tourist resorts, the towns have a very authentic southern Italy feel. The countryside is hilly, parched, and stone strewn, largely occupied by extensive olive groves, but there is also extensive forestation, “la forest umbra”, the shadowed forest, which demands a return visit.
It was not a photo-oriented trip. I don’t really do those much any more. But nevertheless plenty of opportunities presented themselves to be grabbed. Here’s the first set, all from Peschici.
switch off the magic realism
in Travel , Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Things have been quiet around here for a while. I was away in Colombia and wasn’t much in the mood for blogging or indeed any kind of connectivity. As was well stated outside a vividly decorated bar in Cartagena, “no tenemos WI-FI, hablen entre ustedes”.
one out of many good reasons to go to Colombia
Colombia is just plain fantastic. Incredible landscapes, huge variety in climate, friendly, helpful and fun people. It’s also huge, and 3 weeks barely scratches the surface. The main purpose of the trip was travel, vacation and relaxation, but I did nevertheless manage to find time to take 1,649 photos (and 3 videos), some of which will doubtless emerge in various channels in the coming weeks and months.
Film’s not dead in Colombia
Hasta mas tardes…
la dolce vita
in Travel , Thursday, May 29, 2014
About 3km from where I live in Switzerland is the town of Ponte Tresa, named after the bridge over the river Tresa, which drains Lake Lugano into Lake Maggiore, and marks the border with Italy. Ponte Tresa is actually two separate towns sharing the same name, with a Swiss side and an Italian side.
The bridge over the Tresa. Italy starts at the signpost. Note the contrast between the spotless, perfectly maintained railing on the Swiss part and the rather more, er “relaxed” look on the Italian side…
Both sides, it is not unfair to say, are rather run-down. Old photographs show a much more prosperous past. Lifting of most border controls, and the shifting patterns of commerce have drastically lessened their status as frontier towns, with just a few fly-blown import agencies as reminders of past glories. But even so, the two sides are remarkably different. The Swiss town keeps up appearances, but seems lifeless. Even the banks are closing. But of course it is clinically clean, quiet and tidy, and the surrounding holiday homes and lavish apartments on the hillsides above and by the lake lend a solid air of Swiss prosperity. The Italian town, on the other hand, is scruffy, chaotic, noisy and vibrant. Even the dingiest bar serves great coffee at crazy low prices, the shops are open in the evening (gasp) and even on Sundays (even bigger gasp) - although the smaller ones take a healthy afternoon siesta. On Saturdays it’s great to just wander over the bridge for a jolt of culture shock and soak up the atmosphere. At weekends in the warmer months there are floods of German, Dutch and Swiss-German tourists, all eager to go bargaining in the wonderfully, ahem, authentic Italian market, where they’re sure to be fleeced by traders from authentic Italian locations such as Pristina, Poznan or Bucharest… or maybe on the odd occasion Palermo. But it’s all good fun.
Ponte Tresa feels like monochrome photography. So here are a few scenes from around town. These are all taken with the Sigma 60mm DN lens, and converted in Nik SilverEFX.
Of course I don’t want to knock my adopted country, and there are some quite obvious economic reasons why commerce is dead on one side of the border and thriving on the other (and then again, why there are beggars on the street on one side and not on the other) - but even so, the difference in atmosphere is quite remarkable, given that both sides, in theory at least, share a common Lombardy culture and the same language.