4.11.10

Castello Sforzesco


Castello Sforzesco is one of the landmarks in Milan.  It is a witness of the history.  It was founded  by the Visconti family.  The size of the castle reached 180m x 180m.  A tower stands at each of the four corners.  It was demolished after the last decendent had died.   But it was rebuilt after three years by general Francesco Sforza who married Visconti's illegitimate daughter.  The next heir transformed the castle into a luxury residence.  Thereafter, it fell into hands of different nations: French, Spanish, Austrian.  Only with the unification of Italy in 1861, the castle could recover its cultural an public functions.  Apart from as a key sightseeing point, it is also a transit point of getting through from one to another direction of the city.

It houses many art treasures in its several museums.  With 3 Euro you can appreciate them in a day.  Fabulous!

Ancient Art

This section houses lots of stone sculptures of the ancient time.  The most striking one is the sheer sized general on a horse.  A dying young soldier is peaceful yet melancholic.  The one remains my favourite is Michelangelo's incomplete Pieta.   It is rough and raw but still shows the sadness, unwillingness to separate.  This Pieta is very different from his other piece shown in the Vatican which is delicate and desperate.















Pinacoteca

It stores over 200 of masterpieces from great artists of different periods.


















Furnishing and Wooden Sculpture, 15th - 21st century











I was amazed by some of the furniture pieces.  They were old but have modern looks.  I will be happy if I have a similar desk in my office like the one shown on the left .  Home?  No space!  The colourful cupboard is also nice.  Decorative arts in the exhibition room are of excellent quality. 




















Collection of Applied Arts and Musical Instruments























Applied and decorative arts have a bit overlap, in my opinion.  Whatever it is defined, the excellent craftsmanship cannot be denied.  The exquisite ivory jewellery box and sculpture, fine porcelain, beautiful cutlery and many many still......

Unfortunately, we were short of time and had to leave out the  Egyptian and Prehistorical section of the Archaeological Museum and Sala Viscontea.

1.11.10

Portofino



Towns along the coast in Liguria are beautiful.  We arrived first at S. Margherita Ligure-Portofino.  The local train from Milan took 2 hours 20 minutes.  At the railway station you can take a bus connecting Portofino.  It became very full at the town centre of S. Margherita.  People were crowding face touching face, almost.  The bus journey passes through the sea with resorts dotted along the coast.  A lovely start of the trip.

Different pastel coloured buildings line up at the port.  They are not fighting to get the best attention but standing in harmony to charm.  Together with the many yachts it composes a fabulous view winning everybody's admiration.  No one can deny, reject the beauty. 

Walk up to the hill with a castle.  Gorgeous views of the port and surrounding will sure be shot non-stop.  We skipped the castle but walked around to enjoy the nature.


Head to the other side of the hill is a shady, quiet path passing some villas and leads to a view of the sea splashing the cliff.  Spendid!  Coming back to the sea level and head up to the hill on the right side.  A standalone little church is under the blue sky. It has old green bronze doors with a series of craving showing from Creation to the death of Jesus Christ.


Then come the hardest part, climbing up endless staircase, breathing hardly with a quick pumping heart, sweating all through.  But gorgeous views come after the hardship,  beautiful vegetation and pine trees are high up the sky.  An unforgettable trip!  Hmm, to start the trip, go back to the direction of the bus stop and walk upward.  Passing by nice houses and you will come to a wooden gate.  Get through it.  Don't worry about the warning of wild boar but be cautious of snake.  My friend met one.  He stopped and she escaped. 

Our destination is San Fruttuoso.  The walking was supposed to be 2 hours, without stopping.  We took 3 hours to enjoy the beautiful views.  The trip is mainly through a dense forest with lots of sharp inclines and declines.  Be sure that you are strong enough, else reach the destination by a boat (€7). 


San Fruttuoso has two major attractions.  One is the Benedictine Monastery and the other Christ of the Abyss (Cristo degli Abissi).   The monastery dated as early as 10th century.  It has a little dome. Doria family members are buried at the valuts.  Nearby is Doria Tower.   In front of the monastery is a little lovely beach.  Families, couples and groups enjoyed the fantastic day.  Just we must be hurry for our boat to Camogli.


Camogli is a fishing village in Liguria.  The oldest part with delightful buildings dotted around the harbour.  Most visitors are drawn to the seaside promenade.  For a lazy afternoon, just lay on the pebbly beach or dive into the sea under the sun.  What a cool day.  Bars, foccaccia, restaurants line up the promenade, eager to welcome you.  Nice is that it is free of traffic.  Not until you climb up steep staircase to Via XX Settembre where the train station, tourist office and all kinds of shops are located.

24.10.10

Hong Kong Museum of Art 香港藝術館

IMPORTANT!!!

Hong Kong Museum of Art will be closed from 2 August 2015 onwards.  Renovation and expansion will take three years.  So hurry up!


Museums in Hong Kong have great collections and cost almost nothing (HK$10).  A visit should be included in your itinerary.  I visited Hong Kong Museum of Art.  There are thematic exhibitions apart from its permanent exhibitions.  At time, it is The Ultimate South China Travel Guide – Canton II (The Last Episode).  It outlines the travel needs of foreign visitors to the regions of Canton, Hong Kong and Macau after the outbreak of the Opium War, when China was in regular conflict with western powers.

The beginning of steamships in 19th century reduced the travel time from Europe to China to around 2 months.  Trade and tourism flourished.  Ship journey departed from Southampton and Marseilles to Hong Kong twice a month.  Visitors then transferred to Canton by river steamers.

Most visitors were merchants / traders coming to Canton with their family.  Due to the restrictions, they could only live in the factory area and the family in Macau.  Given the production lead time (except tea which freshness was essential to quick sales turnaround), they needed to stay.  Tourism flourished within Canton and side trips to Hong Kong and Macau became popular.  Travel guides covering phrase book, entertainment, safety reminders, where to stay, must see and must do aided foreign visitors to tour around.  Paintings of the time help us to grasp an impression of the past time.  Thanks to the key painters: William Heine, Thomas Watson, George Chinnery and Youqua.

Source: http://ocw.mit.edu/ans7870/21f/21f.027/rise_fall_canton_04/gallery_places/index.htm

Chinese Antiquities Gallery
The exhibits exemplify sophisticated craftsmanship of inlaying, carving and embroidery already in the ancient time.  Some of them dated back to the period of Before the Century.  Accessories include shell fan, snuff bottle, fragrance holder, purse, belt buckle, hairpin,  etc.



Another hall shows Chinese Landscape Painting and Calligraphy of high quality. I like this in particular, two friends sitting high up chatting and enjoying the nature and the river below.


The museum is situated next to the harbour.  Don't miss the gorgeous evening scenes.


 Address:
10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Opening Hours:

Daily 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturdays 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
Closed on Thursdays (except public holidays)
Closed at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve
Closed on the first two days of the Chinese New Year

14.10.10

Lamma Island

Lamma is the third largest island after Lantau and Hong Kong Island.    It is peaceful and tranquil, a big contrast to the hectic city life.  A walk through a hiking trail beween the two ports of Yung Shue Wan and Sok Kwu Wan will definitely refresh one's mind.  Tourists will find the other face of Hong Kong beyond shopping and dining.

Yung Shue Wan is on the north of the island and where the most population resides.  Villas cluster in this area with lots of different restaurants in the surrounding, Chinese, Western, Turkish, Thai, Japanese, etc.  Sok Kwu Wan is relatively barren to Yung Shue Wan.  Upon arrival are numerous seafood restarants and a few villages dotted around.  Ferry service is rare.  If you miss one, be prepared to wait for at least 1.5 hours.

I started my trip at Sok Kwu Wan as it is easier to control the time of catching a ferry.  The journey takes 40 minutes.  On the left hand side of the boat, one can have a glance of buildings along the coast of the Hong Kong Island.  The other side is open to the sea, with a view of plenty of big ships.  When approaching to the island, the right side provides a good view of the island.  You won't miss the Lamma Winds. 












Head to the right are seafood restaurants lining up to welcome you.  Follow signs of going to Yung Shue Wan.  Soon you will arrive at a refurbished Tin Hau Temple.  Guarding in front are two Chinese lions.  Walking further are gorgeous views over the ferry, bay with loads of fishing boats and the temple.

When you see a sign of Lo So Shing Beach, go for it.  It is quiet and beautiful.  I will take my swim wear with me next time.  It will be an enjoyable hour for the eyes, body and ears.  Shower facility is comprehensive.  No worry.  I came to the Lo So Shing Village.  An old woman was sitting outside having her lunch with her papaya for sale.  I took two, adding over one kilogram to my load.  Old people are running stalls of cold drinks, herbal tea. 


Heading further up are fabulous views over Sok Kwu Wan, a dam and boats.  It's stunningly beautiful on a sunny day.  A bit sweating?  Don't mind.  Then a view over the electricity generation plant will appear soon.  I could not stop taking shoots of it next to the sea.  Very nice!  Along the way is a bit of ascending and descending (not demanding).  On a day of over 30C is a little challenge.  But the beauty makes it worthwhile.


After the last descending comes Hung Sing Yeh Beach.  It was filled with people and students of the Armstrong School.  Noise and actions interplayed.  Next to the beach is a tranquil haven of Herboland.  The owners love the nature and have been running this herbal garden since 2003.  Common and rare herbs are planted here and the number of species is countless.   You can buy herbs in small pots and I took a Rosemary.  Head up to the tea house, sip a freshly brewed blended herbal tea to relax, wind down with soothing music.  Gavin is happy to answer any questions over herb planting and health benefits.  Sitting there is a real pleaure.  Sure, you will forget the heat outside.


On the way to Yung Shue Wan is a sign to the Lamma Winds, the first commerical-scale wind power station since 2006.   It's beautiful on its own.  If you wanna learn more on the wind power, you can be satisfied with the information at the Exhibition Centre.   It's a detour from the trail, a 10-minute ascend along a shady path, a bit exhausted but certainly worthwhile.

Well, it almost comes to the end.  Prior to reaching Yung Shue Wan are restaurants, shops and villas.  Then you come to the main street heading to the pier.  If you are not rushing, randomly pop into shops for unique souvenir or relax in any restaurant to wind down and prepare to go.  Last but not least, enjoy the scenic views and take the last shots on the island. 

The journey back takes 30 minutes.  If possible, get a seat outside.  On the right hand side are the buildings of the Hong Kong Island.  The evening light is good for photo shoot.  When it's close to the pier, you will have a gorgeous view of the International Finance Centre.

5.10.10

Genoa


On 1 September 2010 we visited Genoa, a major port located on the north west coast of Italy, the region of Liguria.  It's a town with a lot of attractions.  Unfortunately we were only one day there.  I'll tell things we've done and try to list out others worth a visit.

The train from Milan took about two hours.  It climbs mountains and moved slowly during the last 20 minutes.  We started with Villa del Principe. It is a rich and sumptuous noble house owned by Andrea Doria.  He convinced the emperor Charles V to grant independence to Genoa.  His art collection includes tapestries, frescoes, stuccoes, portraits and furniture.   The garden has lots of plants with bright and appealing colours.  The entrance fee was €12 including a modern audio guide, a iPod which categorised information nicely.


Stroll along Via Garibaldi and Via Balbi your eyes will be delighted with many lavishly decorated mansions and old palaces.   Worth of mention is the Renaissance and Baroque Rolli Palaces which were added to the list of UNESCO in 2006.  Genoa is an innovative town.  A little room at one of the palaces takes you through the Rolli Palaces.  Stand on any of the 3 designated spots.  On the wall are images of the palaces.  Stretch your arm, move it right or left to navigate along the palaces.  Circle your hands like telescopes and put in front of your eyes.  Stay at the spot of interest, then you can zoom into the interior of the building. It's amazing!


Don't miss the stunning 13th century San Lorenzo Cathedral with a black and white striped marble facade.  It is admirably beautiful.  The interior is huge and shows a lot of art pieces.


Not far away is the beautiful square Piazza di Ferrari and the theatre.  Very beautiful buildings decorate the square and enhance the attraction.  In the middle is a big fountain.  It alleviated the heat in the high summer.  Citizens, tourists dotted the square.  It's full of life.


Close to the seaport is a promenade, colourful and artistic buildings fighting to get your attention, loads of stores, park, a walking path along the port to glance the beauty.  Along the way, you won't miss the spectacular Biosfera (Biosphere), a dome-shaped greenhouse.  Within itself is a tropical environment with exotic birds, plants and colourful butterflied.  A bit further is the oldest lighthouse in Europe, a symbol of Genoa.

Other site visits points include the aquarium, one of the largest in Europe.   Over 500 species of fish and mammals live there. 

For culture, Genoa has many superb museums.  Some of them are housed in splendid palaces.  One is Palazzo Spinola, with a great collection of Renaissance art made by Van Dyck, Rubens and Caravaggio.

If I visit Genoa next time, I won't miss Boccadasse (click for a view and be stunned of its beauty).  It's a fishing village keeping its old character with loads of fishing boats on a stoney beach.

Another not to be missed activity is strolling along the Passeggiata di Nervi, a little hike along the coast with sights of beautiful houses and extraordinary villas.

26.9.10

Half Day in Tai Po - Hong Kong

I heard about a Sunday organic market in Tai Po and had a visit today.  It's next to the Tai Wo Fire Station, a short walk from Tai Wo Railway Station or from Tai Po Old Town. 

It is smaller than I expected.  But the warmth from people there impressed me.  The first stall came to my eyes was one selling organic food from Germany such as dry beans, sugar, juices, etc.  A neighbour store is Chun San Farm selling melon, bitter melon, pepper.  The organic farm was converted from a pig farm.  The plantation area is covered and fenced.  Production cost is higher and growth is slower.  Mrs She 佘 is very friendly.  One can visit her farm at Mai Po by appointment.

Another nice encounter is a Chinese woman who had been living in Germany (Düsseldorf) for twenty years.  She divorced from her husband and moved back to Hong Kong.  She always wears a smile on her face.  Despite all hardship and sadness she finds reasons to cheer herself up.  I like her positive attitude.

I bought mushroom and Roman lettace.  It was recommended to make scrumbled egg with the mushroom.  But I will try it for pasta. 


It's a short walk to the old town of Tai Po.  Some scenic shots were along the way, nice!   Like a Chinese bridge at Tai Po River, sampan, small boat with a crane on top.....


Man Mo Temple with coils of burning incense, worshipper..... Fu Shin Street, best place to experience market scenes.


Other sightseeing points include the Hong Kong Railway Museum, old Observatory, Earthgod Shrine, the town well, Wishes tree.  For sport activity, go for a cycling along the Tolo Harbour to Shatin.