LONDON: A STROLL IN KENSINGTON & NOTTING HILL

Hello! In recent days we heard a lot about UK and its particular situation, after deciding to abandon UE. For me it’s still hard to imagine Great Britain no more part of Europe, but i can only assume that we’ll “absorb” what happened. Today more than ever I feel close to Londoners and I feel nostalgic about the beautiful City of London.

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This post is about the trip of my last time in London, in January 2015, and today I’ll bring you in two well-known areas not to miss if it’s your first time in the City. Today we start our stroll from Brompton Road, to take a quick look at Harrods, Mecca of the shopping centers. I’m not that passionate about department store, so I didn’t head out on the long queue at the entrance, but if you love shopping sure this is your place.

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From here you can venture into the heart of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, immediately west of the City of Westminster, real nerve center of modern London. The Borough of Kensington and Chelsea host several museum (like the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum), universities, embassies,  and lot of exclusive residential areas of the City. Continuing towards South Kensington, you could stop by the Royal Albert Hall, one of the most famous concert hall. The busy Kensigton Gore separate the Albert Hall from the Albert Memorial, another building in honor of  Albert Prince Consort, husband of Queen Victoria.

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In 1851, the Great Exhibition (for which the Crystal Palace was built) was held in Hyde Park. The exhibition was a great success and led Prince Albert to propose the creation of a permanent series of facilities for the enlightenment of the public in the area, which came to be known as Albertopolis. The Hall was constructed mainly of red bricks, with terra cotta block decoration. The dome on top was made of wrought iron and finally glazed.

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Before proceeding, you should go back to the City of Westminster and pay a visit to Buckingham Palace, residence and administrative headquarters of the reigning monarch of UK. If you’re lucky enough you could be present for the daily ritual of the Changing of the Guard; take a look also at the waving flag on the rooftop: when the Union Jack is lifted, the Queen isn’t in the palace: if not, you’ll see the Royal Standard flag.
During XVI/XVII centuries, Buckingham Palace was only a rural area of the city of Westminster: purchased as hunting lodge, successively it was used for the silkworm farming with King James I’s patronage. In 1700, it becomes property of Duke of  Buckingham, from which it derives the name. He builded a first abode – Buckingham House – where nowadays lies the residence. The first king to come into possession of the House was George III in 1762. The arch of Triumph, (today Marble Arch) was the entrance of the Palace: at first it was where now there is the exterior facade, but it has been removed under Queen Victoria to make some room for the enlargement of the Palace. Queen Victoria was the first to live there together with her husband, Prince Albert, and the 9 sons starting from 1837. She added new rooms, among which the Ballroom, and a brand new wing. At the death of the husband, when the court entered  a perpetual mourning, the works stopped and haven’t been completed.

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Returning in Kensington Borough, you sure will notice many residential sections – with beautiful pastel coloured houses -, of which Notting Hill is maybe the most famous; it “starts” from Notting Hill Gate, (also name of its Tube station) until Portobello Road, where takes place the characteristic market. The street took slowly its shape during XIX century, settled between the two big areas of Notting Hill and Paddington. Thanks to the rich middle class of the City, its shops and marketplaces rapidly flourished.

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Portobello Road especially owes its fame to the daily market which encourages a lot of tourists, in particular on Saturday, when also many antique dealers are taking part in it. The scenery is really cozy and familiar, thanks to the abundance of tiny shops and the Victorian architecture of the buildings.

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to be continued..

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: ROME

I love Rome. I really never heard someone bringing back a negative memory about this beautiful city.

I’m always astonished by the magnificence of its monuments. So many centuries of history enclosed into few kilometres walk.

I’m always overwhelmed by the warmth of the people. Romans are open, cheerful, even a bit “caciaroni” (that means noisy), yes, and i love it.

Rome is romanticisme: walk on sunset following the Tevere River, take dinner in one of the tiny restaurants in Trastevere: is just the perfect way to end the day.

I love Rome from above: go up to the panoramic viewpoints on the Roman hills and enjoy beautiful views.

Rome is perfect just in the way “she” is, with its chaos, its imperfections, its contradictions.

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 ”How is it possible to say an unkind or irreverential word of Rome? The city of all time, and of all the world!”
  Nathaniel Hawthorne (American novelist, 1804-1864)

CITIES OF THE WORLD: LUCERNE

Hello!Today we’re heading for Luzern: must say that it was the first time being there for me, even if this city it’s just few hours drive from Italy. It’ s a city in Central Switzerland, in the German-speaking portion of the country. Located in the canton Lucerne, is the most populous city in this area.

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Due to its location on the shore of Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee), with sight of Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne has long been a destination for tourists. One of the city’s famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke), a wooden bridge first erected in 1333 – the oldest covered bridge in Europe – although much of it had to be replaced after a fire on 18 August 1993, allegedly caused by a discarded cigarette. Part way across, the bridge runs by the octagonal Water Tower (Wasserturm), a fortification from the 13th century. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century depicting events from Lucerne’s history.

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Since the city straddles the Reuss where it drains the lake, it has a number of bridges. Old Town Lucerne is located just north of the Reuss, and still has several fine half-timber structures with painted fronts.

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Infact the real charm of this city is a well-preserved medieval Altstadt (Old Town) and a reputation for making beautiful music: try imagine its streets with covered bridges, sunny plazas, candy-coloured houses and waterfront promenades: quite attractive, isn’t it?

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Finally, your attention will be surely caught by the twin needle towers of the Church of St. Leodegar, which was named after the city’s patron saint, sit on a small hill just above the lake front. Originally built in 735, the present structure was erected in 1633 in the late Renaissance style. However, the towers are surviving remnants of an earlier structure. The interior is richly decorated. The church is popularly called the Hofkirche.

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IN THE HEART OF SWITZERLAND

Hello!Today I’ll bring you to two small town in the heart of Switzerland: two quiet and discrete big villages, where the time seems to stop. Strolling through the narrow streets of this two orderly places, you could feel the peacefulness and the accuracy that are always associated with Swiss people. (they’re not just stereotypes)

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The city of Bienne (or Biel), famous for the clockmaking, is located at the eastern far end of the namesake lake, in the beautiful Seeland (Lakes Area). The charm of bilingualism, the perfect conditions of the city center, and the strategic position between the three lakes at the feet of Giura Mountains (Bienne, Neuchâtel e Murten) make this city a quite interesting stop-over of a pleasant itinerary.

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Bienne is the biggest swiss city in which the utilisation of French and German language is totally equalized. This situation of “cultures mixing”, as you can imagine, brings to a certain open-mindedness of the inhabitants.

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Architecturally, Bienne presents several aspects. The modern city is located near the lake bank, while the city center, with its gothic church from the 15th century, grow on a small hill. At first sight, I totally felt in love with the colours of its facades, the tiny alleys, the characteristics rooftops: if I think about it now, some sights of this city reminded me to Brittany.

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Fribourg is the capital of the Swiss canton of Fribourg and the district La Sarine. It is located on both sides of the river Saane (Sarine), on the Swiss plateau, and is an important center on the cultural border between German and French Switzerland (Romandy). Its Old City, one of the best maintained in Switzerland, sits on a small rocky hill above the valley of the Sarine.

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Its most striking architectural element is with no doubt the Cathedral, dedicated to St. Nicolas, with its outstanding stained glass windows. The construction started in 1283 and developed in different phases; it boasts a tower about 74 meters high, from which you can enjoy a 360-degree views.

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A surrounding wall, about two km lenght, defended the city in ancient times; its existence is proved by ruins of walls, towers and a big bastion, still preserved nowadays. Several unique gothic facades of the XV century, give to the city center a matchless medieval charm.

to be continued ..

CITIES OF THE WORLD: BERNE

Hello!Finally a little time to begin talking about our last trip! Let’s start our Swiss tour from Berne, a city that I never visited before. You surely know that Bern is capital of Switzerland, and it gives name to the Canton in which is located. The official language of Bern is German, but the main spoken language is the Alemannic Swiss German dialect called Bernese German. (but just in case, they speak fluently English, French, and someone also Italian!I was amused by the fact that, while talking with people, I was not sure every time about what language I should have used).

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The etymology of the name Bern is uncertain. According to the local legend, the founder of the city of Bern, vowed to name the city after the first animal he met on the hunt, and this turned out to be a bear. The bear was the heraldic animal of the seal and coat of arms of Bern from at least the 1220s.

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The city was originally built on a hilly peninsula surrounded by the river Aare, but outgrew natural boundaries by the 19th century. As a conseguence, a number of bridges have been built to allow the city to expand beyond the Aare. Bern is built on very uneven ground. There is an elevation difference of several metres between the inner city districts on the Aare (Matte, Marzili) and the higher ones (Kirchenfeld, Länggasse). That’s why it has such scenic sights.

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The structure of Bern’s city centre is largely medieval and has been recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage site. Perhaps its most famous sight is the Zytglogge (Bernese German for “Time Bell”), an elaborate medieval clock tower with moving puppets.

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It also has an impressive 15th century Gothic cathedral, the Munster, and a 15th-century town hall. Thanks to six kilometres (4 miles) of arcades, the old town boasts one of the longest covered shopping promenades in Europe.

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Since the 16th century, the city has had a bear pit, the Bärengraben, at the far end of the Nydeggbrücke to house its heraldic animals. The currently three bears are now kept in an open-air enclosure nearby, and tourists can admire them, except when they’re in hibernation during winter time. The Federal Palace (Bundeshaus), built from 1857 to 1902, which houses the national parliament, government and part of the federal administration, can also be visited.

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Finally, if you’re interested in the character of Albert Einstein, he lived in a flat at the Kramgasse 49, the site of the Einsteinhaus, from 1903 to 1905; unluckily, this January the house was closed and we couldn’t visit it, but we visited an interesting exhibit about Einstein inside the “Historisches Museum”. It’s a bit expensive (18 CHF) but really complete, you’ll explore Switzerland through centuries visiting it, from Roman time to nowadays.

to be continued..

POSTCARDS FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD: SWITZERLAND

Hello!Happy New Year!We’re just back from some days spent in the Bernese canton and I’m recollecting things to show you in the next posts. In the meanwhile, I made a gallery with some of my fave photos. Have you ever been in Switzerland? It would be nice to know also your first impressions about this country. Stay tuned for the update of the tale of our itinerary! Cris

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EXPO BY NIGHT

Hello! Expo is running to the end, do you had the opportunity to go? I would like to know more about your impressions, sensations, experiences towards this event…We were lucky to visit it already in June, because during these weeks there are just too much people…anyway, these are the photos of our last Friday in Milan…Goodbye Expo, I’m glad that I visited you!

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EXPO MILANO 2015

Hello!Finally Friday we were in Milano for EXPO 2015: i was really looking forward to go ’cause I heard a lot about this universal exposition about food and nutrition, so i had no clear idea of what I would’ve seen. What’s Expo 2015? A universal exhibition about food. Good. That is, what is it?
With Milan selected as the host-city for the Universal Exposition, Italy then chose “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” as its central theme. Expo Milano 2015 will talk about the problems of nutrition and the resources of our planet. The idea is to open up a dialogue between international players, and to exchange views on these major challenges which impact everyone. Expo Milano 2015 will provide an opportunity to reflect upon, and seek solutions to, the contradictions of our world. Nowadays, there are still the hungry and, on the one hand, there are those who die for poor nutrition or too much food. In addition, tons of foods are wasted every year. For these reasons, we need to make conscious political choices, develop sustainable lifestyles, and use the best technology to create a balance between the availability and the consumption of resources.

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This is only the “introduction”: something that you could easily find everywhere using internet: but for me, Expo 2015 is also:
– Architecture: at first glance, you could see, standing in the middle of the Decumano – the principal street of Expo – thousand of outstanding pavilions: designed by internationally-renowned architects, the site comprises an area of 1.1 million square meters, easily accessible from Milan and the surrounding area. Reflecting the signature urban-planning style of the ancient Romans, the site is based on two wide avenues, the Cardo and the Decumano, which intersect at Piazza Italia. On these avenues stand the pavilions of the participating countries, the public squares and the areas dedicated to events and catering. Constructed to be energy-efficient and sustainable, the buildings are designed to be removed and reused after the event concludes.

– Digital technology: each country provides visitors with digital media and apps to download: all major pavilions have a dedicated mobile app. And also, technology is all over during the visit of the pavilions: multimedia presentations, light play, interactive screens: visitors are invited to participate in many ways.

– Sensory experience: every country will fascinate you with its colours, shapes, traditions, scents. Food is a powerful way to stimulate senses.DSC00528

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And these are some practical information to move in the big area of the Expo, especially if you have only one day like the two of us:

– Get yourself a map of the area before starting the visit: you could find it on the site of Expo 2015 or you could download the mobile application.

– In only one day it’s impossible to see everything: decide previously which pavilions you wish to visit (maximum 15-16 pavillon a day); with so many exhibitors, you must prepare your visit in advance, because for the main pavillons there are often queues and this will delay your itinerary, especially during week-ends.

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And now, let’s explore a bit some of the most remarkable pavilions: – not too much, I leave to you the opportunity to discover them better alone –

– Morocco: a warm atmosphere with a light scent of orange and almond. The theme of Morocco is the water, source of life: the idea is the preservation of this precious element, that allows the fruits of the earth – olives, oranges, almonds, – to grow lush.

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– Japan: prepare yourself for a quite long wait before enter the pavilion, about 40 minutes/1 hour, but Japanese are really well organized, so the waiting will not seem so long. Japan has made a reflection between the past and the future: in the first part of the visit, you’ll find yourself in feudal rural Japan, with the importance of field work, that must be protected, especially nowadays.

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Regarding the future, I found the experience of the “virtual restaurant” really amazing: it’s a short show in which the visitors will learn about some typical dishes of the Japanese Cuisine, but using the chopsticks …on a screen!Really original.

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– Cile: “El amor de Chile” will fascinate you, with its beautiful landscapes and the strong link between population and the Earth. They will give you their feeling thanks to musics and poetry. We felt really welcome by the staff: if you visit it, don’t miss the chance to taste their great empanadas.

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– China:at first sight an imponent pavilion. Wooden curved rooftops, and thousand of yellow flowers will welcome you at the entrance. The theme choosen by China is the respect and cooperation between the people: as farmers take care of the earth, so people should treat about our planet.

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Hoping that you liked my first glimpse of Expo, I must say that it’s a worthy experience, and I hope to be back soon at least one other time. Stay tuned for other shots from the pavilions! Cris