Category Archives: Photodiary

The month in Photos: February 2016

04 February 2016
(from the front garden)

The sign of Spring is here, finally, and one of the first few flowers to come out is the crocus.  Not only that they give a wonderful patch of colours in the garden (they come in white, orange, purple, yellow, dark blue…), their filaments  are the saffron used in cooking paella.

05 February 2016
Hoerdt, Alsace

It’s TGIF and we are here, at 7:30pm,  in search of a takeaway meal for dinner. Am bingeing on beef gyros but couldn’t find where they sell it.  After much searching – and photographing ancient buildings on the way – we later found a fastfood shop selling Lebanese finger foods.  So mouth-watering!  06_Gengenbach
06 February 2016
Gengenbach, Germany

We went back to Gengenbach today to buy the pair of flip-flops I saw  last time we were here.  Thought the Jester Festival was all finished last January but to our surprise, the town was still heaving with costumed  characters like these four “witches” we met infront of the shoe shop.  After  exchanging hellos  in four languages (yes, the one infront talks French, English, German and a fourth one I couldn’t remember), they graced us with a family photo.  Their masks is in wood, by the way.

07 February 2016
Forest walk along the Rhine

A clear, bright day for Sunday walking so we pushed ourselves to keep advancing till the very end of the peninsula and voila,  this is what we found.  A bee farm with several dozen honey bee boxes painted in delicious colours.  Nobody was there and it’s not even fenced around so I had the chance to get closer to take photos.

12 February 2016
Strasbourg, Alsace

Two days to Valentine, I took the 25-minute train ride to Strasbourg to go on a valentine window shopping.  I love taking photos of Valentine window displays and the city has so much to offer for my wandering eyes (and camera lens).  To wrap up my (photoscouting) day,  I bought a pair of Villeroy & Boch coffee mugs as Valentine offering for both H and myself.  Some items are on sale and I’ve always dreamed of owning a V & B so this is my chance!  A dream come true which is not too hard on the wallet.   Happy Valentine!

13 February 2016
Sessenheim, Alsace

This pergola stands on a mound discovered as a prehistoric grave in the late 19th century.  The spot now called Goethehügel   is named after Goethe who, in the 18th century, used to hang around here with his lady love,  Frederique Brion, a daughter of Sessenheim.  It is not far from Goethe’s Memorial also built in memory of the German writer.

21 February 2016
Seltz, Alsace

Today we discovered another French town  along the Rhine which is great for walking Charlie.   We noticed a car ferry terminal on the area which could take us to the German side.  The crossing takes probably a mere two-minute as you can see the width of the river is quite narrow.  Unfortunately, the ferry is closed for the winter and will start operating only in April.  We are stuck.  We were looking forward to getting into the Fatherland to spend the rest of our Sunday but, to our dismay,  had no choice but to drive several kilometers back to Roppenheim or Gambshein in search for a proper bridge.

We didn’t go to Germany in the end.  Too late to go on.  Shame.

22 February 2016
Cherry Blossoms Park, our town

This is a postcard beauty of our town church as seen from the park where we take Charlie for walks.
24 February 2016
Our town

The beauty of walking Charlie 2-3 times a day  in our sleepy town in the country is this vast opportunity to commune with the natural world.    We have the forest, the park, flowers, birds, squirrels, deers, horses and many more.  Each time we come face to face with these living creatures,  it seems to spark our creativity making us more productive, and happier, each day.

25 February 2016

A bouquet of flowers.  This corner of our front garden is so divine to look at each time.  As Debasish Mridha quoted:  “Flowers are the smile of nature and the mirror of our soul.”

26 February 2016
Bischwiller, Alsace

TGIF. hurray!  Friday evenings, when H arrives from work, are getting to be our most awaited moment.  It’s even more exciting than Saturday and Sunday combined.  It’s the mind telling us, “Hey, you have two days off ahead of you so go celebrate!”.  Because when Saturday comes, you have only one day left.  Sunday, few hours left.  See what I mean?  And one last thing, it’s always an opportunity to go on a take away gastronomic experience.  Each TGIF is a different food trip.  Lebanese last time.  Turkish gyros tonight.   Next is Italian (Pizza), then Chinese (Peking duck).  I could go on and on….27_antiksasbachwalden
27 February 2016
Sasbachwalden, Black Forest

Nice antique bric a brac shop in Sasbachwalden but it’s closed Sundays.  I can see a nutcracker on display, a gadget we’ve been desperately wanting to buy as we have a sack of walnuts brought all the way from Hungary and can’t wait cracking some.

28 February 2016

This squirrel lives up a tree in the cherry blossoms park and everytime I see it leaping about, I can’t seem to get my hands steady enough to take a sharper image of it, hence I made this watercolour layering in Photoshop hoping to come up with a more squirrelly image.  Not bad.

Photodiary – January 2012

Daily Photos

31 January 2012


It began snowing this morning, a very exciting moment because this is the first time it happened this winter…


..after three hours of snowflakes, this is the glacial view of our terrace.

30 January 2012

Went to Ventimiglia market in Italy for filling up the fridge. This orange from Sicily looks more exciting to photograph than to eat.

29 January 2012

Being home in the mountains is like being on holiday all the time. From our window, we could see the Italian and French trains going past several times a day.

28 January 2012

Watched a choral concert tonight at a church in Saorge. This group which sings a range of Eastern and Southern European gypsy songs performs regularly in our region and we always make it a point to watch them, come rain or snow. It was raining but we didn’t mind. Better be listening to real concerts than just staying home watching TV, we thought. Besides, entrance is free.


What’s also exciting about watching village concerts like this one is the venue which is usually held in a historic building. Tonight, it was held in an old-Baroque-church-turned-library. You can see the shelves of books surrounding the statue of the Virgin Mary. This church is just one among seven located in Saorge, a village of 430 inhabitants. Too many churches for few number of people but of course, they have been there since the medieval age. It’s quite expensive to maintain them though so what happens is, they are converted into public establishments like a library. At least it is better to use them that way than closing them down.

27 January 2012


H and I arrived in Nice last night, too late to catch the connecting train to home so we spent the night in a hotel and caught the first trip the next day. This is the view of the rooftops of Escarène, one of the mountain village stops of the train.

26 January 2012


Had to go home to the south today via iDTGV train so we were at Gare de Lyon to catch the mid-day express journey to Nice.

Paris, France

25 January 2012


One of the benefits of walking in the woods is the chance of stumbling upon strange-looking flora and fauna. This is a tree fungi that has formed a huge network of brackets. They look so beautiful and out of this world, but unfortunately, they could bring damage to the tree if not controlled early.

Ollainville, Ile de France

24 January 2012

“The plastic tunnels of Ollainville”

These are seedlings under cover not only to protect against the winter cold but also from the hungry birds!

23 January 2012

A French goat only deserves a French bread…
Seen by the Etang de Trévoix (Ollainville Lake), outskirt of Paris

22 January 2012


” These red fruits are falling on my head….”

Ollainville, France

21 January 2012


I THINK that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

by Joyce Kilmer

20 January 2012


This friendly llama is just one among the many animals giving joy to all visitors of the adjacent lakeside woodland of Ollainville in the outskirt of Paris. People from all walks of life: the runners, the children and their families, fishing groups and all visitors who can’t resist stopping by to say hello to her.

19 January 2012

A day out in London today.

This is a view from the train when it stopped at the Olympic Park which is still under construction. The snaking structure on the left is the ArcelorMittal Orbit which will dominate the Olympic games. It is said to be Britain’s answer to France’s Eiffel Tower. Well, wait until it is finished.

A quick visit to the Natural History Museum where I saw a dinosaur model for the first time.

This is the plant-eating Diplodocus that lived about 150 million years ago. It was one of the longest living animals that existed. From tip to tail it measures more than 26 meters. Diplodocus is a national treasure that lived at the Natural History museum for more than 100 years. King Edward VII expressed a strong interest in obtaining the dinosaur after seeing a sketch of one owned by the industrialist millionaire Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie arranged for a cast to be made and presented it to the museum in 1905.


The magnificent, 30ft high, blown glass chandelier created by Dale Chihuly dominates the Rotunda or main entrance of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
18 January 2012

One of our activities in England today is the trip to the metal scrap shop where we sold a copper-plated water heater tank and its copper plumbing tidbits. It sold for 80 sterling pounds, hurray!

17 January 2012

After more than a day of driving on the road, we arrived in Calais (France) where we caught the ferry to Dover (England). The ferry crossing takes just 90 minutes. On the photo is the famed white cliffs of Dover.

White cliffs….the colour white owing to the hill’s composition of chalk accentuated by black stones or flint.

16 January 2012

While driving on the motorway enroute to England, we passed by this conical shaped hill in the north of France. This is a man-made hill formed with the use of coal slag heaps landscaped to look like real hills.

From the 18th century up to the early years of the 20th, coal mining was the main source of energy for homes and industries but when oil and other fuels came as a more practical alternative, coal mines were gradually closed down and one way of disposing the leftover slags was to make them part of the scenery, such as this one.

15 January 2012


Village exploring in France is like going to an open air museum. There are just too many things that remind you of how life was centuries ago.

This 1839 iron grill fence on the terrace has the shape of a musical instrument, it could mean that the owner of this house in those days was a musician.
Breil sur Roya, south of France

14 January 2012
Some houses in our region display filled-up bottles of water on their doorstep whenever the owners are away. I asked around and was told that this is a way of discouraging cats and dogs from using their front doors as toilets….Ouch!

13 January 2012

Ever since our return from Tuscany (Italy), we stopped buying bread as we prefer now to bake our own. Anyway, our local boulangerie (photo above) is too unreliable for a regular supply of bread for the villagers….it is open only three times a week.

12 January 2012

A quick visit to the abandoned cemetery of our village . This is a tomb fencing that had been invaded by vegetation.

11 January 2012

After H’s appointment with his medicin (doctor) in the Var, we took a side trip to nearby Trans-en-Provence before proceeding home. In the course of our exploration, we stumbled upon the town cemetery and this ash vase on the wall caught our curiosity. Reading the plaque, it says it is in memory of the victims of the Flood of 15 March 2010 where some of the tombs were washed away by the deluge.

Walking further we saw the land ravaged by the flood. Indeed, where tombs stood, they are just now an abyss…

Looking down, we saw broken pieces of cross, marble tombstones, etc…This is one of the worst natural disasters in Provence where 25 lives were lost and million euros worth of property damaged.  They blame over-construction of houses as the reason.  Even old vineyards have been transformed into housing developments.

10 January 2012

Went back to the abandoned cemetery of our village bringing with me this time my digital SLR. The other day, I had only my point-and-shoot which was not good enough as it was already getting dark.

This shot was taken from the gate of the cemetery where a simple iron cross stands guard. The village in the background is that of Fontan.

09 January 2012

After a hard day’s work at home, we needed to catch some fresh air before dinnertime so we went walking around the back alleys. From this vantagepoint, we could see the church tower and the miniature-model-like appearance of the village. Seen foreground are the vegetable gardens of some residents. We encountered Monsieur X who owns the garden with the plastic tunnel. Here he spends all his day even in the winter puttering in his garden. I asked him if he sells his harvest. He said no, it’s just for private consumption. The garden and few chickens provide food for his entire household all year round…

08 January 2012

It’s Sunday and we were craving to see an Italian medieval village that is not too far away to drive. We saw the sign – Collabassa.

“Great, let’s try it!”, says H. We were not mistaken. Not only it has the real medieval feel, the scenery around it and the village itself is simply breathtaking!

What are those rolled nets? They are for harvesting the olives. The Olive Harvest actually starts in October going through January.


The village is perched high on a terraced hill decked with olive trees. The nets are spread out to catch every olive fruit that drops off.

These are the first few olives that fell directly from the branches. Come harvest time, the manual combing of each branch will begin, using rakes attached on long poles. Then the fruits will be taken to the cooperatives for pressing, extracting the purest olive oil. To have a year supply of the golden oil is all that they strive for.

07 January 2012

This is the zigzaggy mountain road of Breil sur Roya which we attempted to negotiate today. At first, it was quite a pleasant drive getting up close the mindblowing scenery of rugged mountains above and a Roman viaduct below, but then, the one lane road started getting narrower and tighter and sights of smashed fencing like this one started scaring the heck out of us! We had to turn back but there was no spot wide enough to make a turnaround so we had to drive backwards for at least 300 meters until we found the ideal maneuvering point….Whew!

06 January 2012

This is part of the rail viaduct traversing above our village. On the other side of the arch is a pleasant footpath that ascends up the hill allowing stunning views of the valley and the mountains around it. I particularly love climbing here in Springtime when the alpine flowers are out and the herbs such as thyme and oregano are ready for the picking!

05 January 2012
Road maintenance works are ongoing at the Italian section of the road to home so while waiting for the traffic light to turn green, I take the opportunity to take a photo of this picturesque hilltop Italian village of Fanghetto. I remember that when we moved into this region several years ago, Fanghetto was like an abandoned villagio as majority of the houses were unoccupied or ruins. Now, it has became alive again and the ruins have been done up and even more houses added.
Fanghetto, Italy

04 January 2012

We went exploring the nearby village of Maurion just 5 kms from home. This is the chapel that stands at the entrance of the village.

The charm of this chapel gives you the feeling of being transported back in time….

And this is the altar which, despite the fading paint and the crumbling plasters, still evoke the sacred elegance of Baroque architecture. I took this shot through the grilled window as it seems to be closed permanently.

03 January 2012

Spotted this chateau while walking up the hill just on the outskirt of our village. Unlike any other chateaux in the valley, this one is not a ruin, it is currently inhabited by several families judging by the number of mailboxes at the gate. Just looking at the many arches on the terrace and the three-level corridors, I can imagine the maintenance and heating cost involved!
Roya Valley, France

02 January 2012

Back home and still in the holiday mood, we went exploring the little alleys of our village.

Roya Valley, France

01 January 2012

We spent the night in San Remo after a fun New Year’s Eve revelry and what a better way to spend our first breakfast of the year than at an Italian caffé. This establishment forms an integral part of the fabric of Italian society, it’s where old men meet and discuss anything from food to grandchildren to football, etc…..

Went for a walk along the marina and this inflatable 2012 greeted us in blue and red colours!

“Happy New Year!”…grumbles the dog. He doesn’t look happy about the festive sash his mistress put on him.
San Remo, Italy

Photodiary – December 2011

Daily Photos

31 December 2011

Spent the last day of the year in San Remo, Italy and we enjoyed it so much we even extended our stay till the next day. So much photographic opportunities, but first, the Christmas lights….




San Remo, Ligurian Coast, Italy

30 December 2011


Everytime we go to Ventimiglia, we always drive around a roundabout (rotonda) that is beautifully landscaped with cacti, a form of advertisement by a cactus store. This Christmas season, look what the store has done…. a cacti Christmas tree!

Ventimiglia, Italy

29 December 2011


What is this small structure protruding… suspended …hanging out from a building?


A toilet. We see them in many rural villages of France and Italy. It’s because in the old days, houses had no toilets so people just went out to the field to answer the call of nature. Later on, a public restroom was installed by the local authority where residents had to queue up for their turn. It was only in the beginning of the 70s when new houses were built with inside toilets. But old houses have no space for this important fixture so owners had to smash a portion of their wall to build a small extension..voila, the modern village toilet!

Saorge, France

28 December 2011


We went hiking up Breil-sur-Roya today and saw this picture-frame perspective of the village.


This commercial property off the main road seems to be changing tenants each year. One time it was operating as a real estate agency, then a fastfood shop, and now, a funeral services office. I wonder what’s next?

Breil-sur-Roya, France

27 December 2011

All cities, towns, villages and even hamlets in France have an office building for the local Maire (Mayor) and this one with the French flag is one of our village.

Roya Valley, France


A nice day for walking today. Our house maybe freezing cold but as soon as we step out to a blue sky, it’s warm and beautiful! The walls of our 200-year old house is something like one meter in width so it takes an awful lot of time to get it heated!

Roya Valley, France

26 December 2011


We did our after-Christmas walk in San Remo. This liberty-style (Italian term for Art Nouveau) casino built in 1905 is one of the oldest in Italy, in fact, one of only four “real” casinos operating in the country. In 1924, as part of Mussolini’s Fascist ideology, he banned gambling and closed down all the casinos except this one of Sanremo.


It’s not only cute, it has also gone artistic – that’s the Piaggio ape with the painting of Sanremo’s old town.

25 December 2011

Here’s wishing all followers of Pinay in Europe a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year! …. from Mariadams and H

24 December 2011


The love padlocks of Ventimiglia, Italy

23 December 2011


Just at the edge of the medieval village of La Brigue is this horseshoe-shaped apiary. An apiary is a place where beehives of honeybees are kept. There are about 90 apiaries in this region of the Roya Valley, most of them dated as early as the 17th century.

The shape of the apiary wall is meant to protect the hives from predators.


The sign, Rucher du Patrimoine, translates to “Heritage Apirary”, which means it forms part of the National Patrimony and is a protected area.

La Brigue, France

22 December 2011

It’s a pleasure driving through our valley, it’s like travelling in time with bits of modern infrastructure. Here seen is an elevated railway of the Nice (France) – Cuneo (Italy) line.

21 December 2011


The Bay of Montecarlo. Notice the building on top.


It’s like tip-toeing on the rocks!


20 December 2011

Our newly-baked bread fresh from the oven!


We call this bedroom – the Blue Room. The piece of wood on the wall is a “maid bell”. Not that we have a maid. About a century ago, big multi-level houses like this one belonged to wealthy families where the maids stayed in the ground floor or basement while the former lived upstairs. Each floor of the house has a bell connected by a string that runs from the lower floors all the way to the top floor, so that if the master needs the maid’s attention, he only had to pull the wood (as shown) which would stretch the string connected to a bell.

19 December 2011


We were driving on the busy Via Aurelia tonight which is dazzling with a kaleidoscope of Christmas lights and I thought, what a great moment to practice on creative photography! The car was moving so this is the result…

18 December 2011


Too cold to go out for my photo-a-day project so I just toyed around in the house looking for a good photogenic corner…

17 December 2011


This muscovy duck posing for my camera. Fascinating bird!

Breil sur Roya, France

16 December 2011


Passed by this supermarket with a sculpture of recycled shopping trolleys. Nice and great for a greener environment!

Draguignan, Provence, France

15 December 2011


The lower trunk of this plane tree looks like a giant face!

Flayosc, Provence

14 December 2011

One of the things that we learned from working in that B&B in Tuscany is the art of making bread. Here H is giving finishing touches to the dough before he puts it in the oven.

13 December 2011


Stopped by in Lucca today on our way back home to France. The tree-topped tower in the background is the 14th century Torre Guinigi, a famous landmark of the town.

Tuscany, Italy


The Piazza Anfiteatro is an elliptical “square”, so named because it was the site of a Roman amphitheater and over the passage of time, houses started cropping up over the ruins.

Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

12 December 2011


Went for a pizza tonight to celebrate the last day of our Tuscan adventure. This is my pizza….


… and this is H’s. We always order different flavours then share half-half, that way, we can taste two kinds of pizzas in one meal!

11 December 2011

An old family photo enlarged and posted on the wall is a very pretty feature for a house. I just have to dig on our old photo chest…

The lobby of the bed-and-breakfast hotel where we work in Tuscany, Italy

10 December 2011


This sculpture in the village of Gavorrano is in memory of its miners who died on duty. The town had a very prosperous mining history owing to the abundance of iron sulphate in the area.


After Gavorrano, we visited Ravi, another medieval village with its old brick red houses and walls.

09 December 2011


Walked this two kilometer dirt road of the Coastal Nature Park of Scarlino to see the rugged bay of Calamartino and look who we met on the road! These two horsemen are wearing the traditional costumes of Maremma, a region of southern Tuscany.

The splashing waves of Calamartina.


Went beachcombing and here is our treasure trove: the snorkel mask is in very good condition, made in France! The tupperware is also another find, very practical for some Maremma sand!
Tuscany, Italy

08 December 2011


Shrines in Italy are just about every corner. Most of them are as old as three generations combined but this particular one looks new.

Tuscany, Italy
07 December 2011


H trying to get a souvenir piece from a cork tree. I tell you, it’s awfully tough to peel it off when you are only using your bare hands…

Tuscany, Italy

06 December 2011


We took a day trip to Florence today. This is the famous Duomo also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.


I won’t leave Florence without buying a fridge magnet, but there are just too many to choose from, some very naughty though! Actually.I ended up not buying anything at all because I procrastinated…

04 December 2011


Lovers at sunset.

Punta Ala


Watching the sunset at Punta Ala, a popular resort and marina half an hour from Scarlino.

03 December 2011


It’s a fingerfood party for 22 people tonight at the hotel so another chef was called to prepare the very delicate way of preparing food in stylish miniature containers!

02 December 2011


How can I describe the country of La Dolce Vita?

01 December 2011


We finally made it to Pitigliano after driving for 3 hours! But it’s well worth it….

Photodiary – November 2011


30 November 2011

Italians love their dogs, and dogs love everyone whether friends or strangers. I guess they are not there to guard one’s property but rather, to act as an extension of their master’s hospitality.



29 November 2011

This road namesign in Scarlino is getting invaded by ivy, it looks charming though…

28 November 2011

Went for a walk near the train station of Scarlino and noticed this seemingly abandoned unfinished building. The scaffolding attached to it gives the impression that work is happening ….


…but it looks more like just an attempt to “reinforce” the concrete columns to prevent it from collapsing!

27 November 2011

Anna, the B&B owner, is hosting a dinner party for 7 diet-conscious guests and this is the antipasto that the chef has prepared for tonight. Different fingerfoods such as baked polenta, baked aubergine with cheese and squash paste wrapped in thin pastry sheets…with balsamic vinegar as dip….absolutely delish!

26 November 2011

Visited stunning Siena today…post coming soon..

People-watching in Siena

25 November 2011


Lovers who wear the same colours stay together longer…..
Follonica, Tuscany

24 November 2011

Another “cena” (pronounced “che-na”, meaning dinner) is being held tonight for 15 people and in-between washing plates and helping the chef, we get the privilege of tasting champagne courtesy of Anna, our host.

23 November 2011

A visit to the fortified town of Castiglione delle Pescaia
Tuscany, Italy

A restaurant in Castiglione delle Pescaia
Tuscany, Italy

A ceramic shop in Castiliogne

22 November 2011

A Tuscan sight to behold

Another one….

21 November 2011

One of the benefits of working for a B&B is the chance to stay in the kitchen and watch the chef cook. Here she is preparing biscuits for arriving guests. I have never done biscuits before so when I go back home, I will be concocting my own biscotti!


A dinner for 5 people is being prepared tonight so we volunteered to help the chef for the 4-course seafood meal. Here H is about to clean and cut the “polpo” (octopus) to be cooked as the “secondo piatto” (main dish).


This is the Primero Piatto – fish baked and presented in a scallop shell, accompanied by polenta topped with smoked herring.

20 November 2011

Patchwork of olive trees!


A quick tour in Massa Maritima

Massa Maritima, Tuscany, Italy

One of the sculptures next to the cathedral is the She-wolf and the twins, Aschio and Senio.

Legend goes that these sons of Remus were chased out of Rome when Romulus had killed his brother. Senio and Aschio escaped riding a horse taking with them the symbol of Rome which is the she wolf.


The 13th century Romanesque-style Massa Maritima cathedral

19 November 2011

That red villa on the top, that’s where we are!
Scalino, Tuscany, Italy

18 November 2011

The Port of Scarlino attracts sailing enthusiasts from around the world due to its yachting competitions, regatta, etc….


The landscape around us are purely agricultural. Here, a farmer is preparing his farm for sowing wheat.

17 November 2011

Stumbled upon the fruit shop in town and were amazed to see these clementine selling at 50sentimes a kilo! I asked the lady shopkeeper where it comes from and she replied, “Sicilia!” It tastes so sweet!

In Tuscany, the art of making prosciutto (ham) goes back as early as the 15th century.
Scarlino Scalo, Tuscany, Italy

16 November 2011


We arrived in Scarlino, Tuscany late last night after driving for 5 hours. This is the view from the grounds of the Bed and Breakfast hotel where we will be working as volunteer helpers, hopefully, until February next year.
Scarlino, Tuscany, Italy

We have practically 360deg view of the valley with the mediterranean sea infront of the hotel. Scarlino, Tuscany, Italy

We see both the rising and the setting of the sun which create lovely colours each time… perfect for practicing photography!

the swimming pool

15 November 2011


We are leaving for Tuscany today but first, H had to go to the pharmacy at the next village for some medication. This is the main road of the Roya Valley which we have to negotiate everytime, a bit snaky but the scenery is out of this world. “Just like in a filmset!”, one guest remarked sometime ago. Indeed it is, it is already popular place for film shoots!

Alpes-Maritimes, France

14 November 2011


Tracing my steps in Saint Paul de Vence….The last time I came here must be ten years ago!

South of France


Saint Paul de Vence, France

13 November 2011


“Bye-bye, Silvio!” …..”Resign, Resign!”…..”Disappear!”….”Finally!”

These are just few of the insulting words hurled by the crowd at the departing ex-PM after submitting his letter of resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano. Out of humiliation, and to prevent untoward incident, he had to get out through the back door of the Quirinale Palace in Rome, the seat of the Presidency.

12 November 2011


The pretty bell tower of our village church

Roya Valley, South of France

11 November 2011


Autumn fruits of Italy

Mortola, Liguria, Italy

10 November 2011


Stepping up a new life for old buttons!

At a supermarket in Ventimiglia, Italy09 November 2011


The Cuneo-Ventimiglia-Nice line which cuts through our village is considered as one of the most daring railways of Europe.

Roya Valley, South of France

08 November 2011


The green shutters of Ventimiglia.

Liguria, Italy

07 November 2011


Surprised to see a Dubai-registered car plying the motorway of the French Riviera!

Somewhere near Monaco

06 November 2011


Took a detour to the port town of Piombino to check on the ferries plying to Elba and Sardini, two more Italian destinations we would like to visit someday. This poster is displayed in one of the art and culture noticeboards of the town and I thought it would be nice to share it with my readers!


It’s a Sunday morning in Italy, a day where sports enthusiasts like these cyclists hit the road as a group.


05 November 2011


Went to check the marina of Scarlino and these pine trees along the road make a very pleasant scene. The image we always have of Tuscany is that of cypress and pine trees and we were not mistaken. It must be the conifer capital of Europe!


I am standing from the driveway of the hotel and this is the landscape I see. On the horizon is the mediterranean sea and on a clearer day, the island of Elba (Napoleon’s exile island) is easily visible.

04 November 2011


The next day, we went exploring the surrounding area of the hotel and in a nearby olive orchard, we saw this farmer doing some serious trimming job. The Olive harvest has just finished and the next job is to prune the trees so that air easily circulates on the branches thereby encouraging a higher fruit yield for next year.


The Tuscan landscape is mainly agricultural. Vineyards, olive and other fruit orchards mesh in perfect symmetry where cypress trees serve as territorial borders.

03 November 2011


Today H and I drove towards Tuscany to do a 3-day trial stay at a Bed and Breakfast villa which we found at Helpx. No, we are not going there as tourists, rather, as volunteer workers in exchange of food, accommodation and most of all, the experience to live, work and breathe the Italian way of life. Toscana (or Tuscany) became onen of our dream destinations after reading so much about it from novels, books and travel magazines. Yes, we always dreamt about coming to this region and now it is really happening! We are so excited and looking forward to another adventure albeit immersion trip!


The long, steep and windy road towards the hotel. It is set on top of a hill, the only house standing! Could it be that they own the entire poggio (hill)?

Scarlino, Tuscany

02 November 2011


Went for a short walk up the hill and saw this apiary of our neighbour. I’m sure it produces exquisite honey considering the mountain air environment we live in.

Vallee de la Roya, France

01 November 2011


It’s All Saint’s Day and we did our traditional visit to a cemetery. This one is of our village. As in most cemeteries I’ve seen in rural France and Italy, they are situated on higher grounds, in a beautiful setting surrounded by cypress trees.

Vallee de la Roya, south of France

Photodiary – October 2011

Daily Photos

31 October 2011

A ‘trick-or-treat’ing’ neighbour complete with a witch’s broom and a tiny witch hat

Bow-wow-wow! Who’s the scariest of them all?
Home, Vallee de la Roya, France

30 October 2011
A Sunday walk in Breil sur Roya, one of the most visited villages in the Vallee de la Roya
Alpes-Maritimes, France

Which one is real and which one is not?
A mural in Breil sur Roya

29 October 2011


Villa of Sir Thomas Hanbury
It’s Saturday, the entire village is quiet as everyone seems to be away for the long All Saint’s Day weekend so in order not to be left out, we decided to get out of the house and go to Italy. It’s been almost 8 years since we have been planning to visit this charming mediterranean garden of Thomas Hanbury just off the Italian-French border. We first heard it from an English-couple who once was our guest at our apartment in Vence when we used to run it as a holiday flat. Since then, H and I had been promising ourselves to visit this Botanic garden place but our busy and travelling lifestyle always kept us from realizing this plan, hence, we decided to do it today, hurray!


The tomb of Hanbury and his wife. He died in 1907 at the age of 75. He purchased the 18-hectare land, together with the ancient ruins of the 11th century Palazzo Orengo with a fortune acquired in China from trading in silk, cotton, tea and property. The garden was declared a Nature Preserve in 2000.


Giant cacti, tropical plants from all over the world where Thomas Hanbury traveled and collected seeds and cuttings and planted them in this huge garden that juts down into the sea.


The visit lasted for two hours since they were closing up at 5pm but our hearts were racing, truly excited about the beautiful plants that are simply out of this world! H says this must be one of the most beautiful gardens he has ever seen. We promised to return in Springtime when all the flowers will be in full bloom!

28 October 2011

Went to the village of Mortola superior in Italy (just half an hour from home) which is 300meters above sea level and noticed with amazement how these vines climbing from someone’s wall has not turned orange yet. Take it from the long sunny days the Italian Riviera is famous for.

While we have been going through freezing cold days in Paris as early as September, here in the Riviera you can still see bougainvilleas in their brightest colours!
Mortola, Italy

27 October 2011

Went to the historic town of Vence for H’s bi-annual rendezvous with his medecin (doctor).

We used to live in this town, city of arts and flowers. Here you can find the works of famous artists such as Henri Matisse’s Rosary Chapel and Marc Chagall’s mosaic art displayed inside the Vence Cathedral.

This is the famous mountain of St Jeanette as seen from a square in Vence. The building in the foreground is the Centre Culturel where I used to attend my first French lessons. I’m still learning it now, mind you, after 12 years in France!


After that short trip of our ex-town, we stopped over in the coastal town of Cagnes sur Mer to take in some of the Cote d’Azur’s sea air. I haven’t been feeling well lately, must be the flu, and I thought a generous dose of sea air would clear it all up. And in between inhaling/exhaling, watching the going ons on the water is such a delight!


Eglise des Pecheurs (Fishermen’s church) of Cros de Cagnes, the coastal quarter of Cagnes sur Mer.

25 October 2011


We finally got the caravan hooked into the car and towed it through the morning traffic of Lyon without worries. We drove towards the High Alps in the southeast. The red, yellow and orange colours of autumn is fantastic! With the mountains framing the landscape, it’s like a picture postcard!

What a delight to stumble upon the walnut orchards just outside Grenoble. Walnut trees as far as the eye can see! These are the famous Noix de Grenoble which was awarded in 1938 an Apellation d’Origine Controlee, a title given to French wines. (Earlier this month, we also saw the chickens of Bourg-en-Bresse with the same AOC title!)

We have arrived at the spot where our dear caravan will be kept until we are ready to take her back out again, sometime in 2012 perhaps!


Such beautiful surroundings! We promised that when we return, we shall do a more detailed exploration of this jewel part of France, the Isere.
L’Albenc, Isere, Rhone-Alps, France


Now lighter without the caravan, we continued our drive towards home but not without stopping at places that catch our curiousity. We are now in the town of La Mure. Fascinating to see the entire road lined up with flowers. Flower shops after flower shops who gamely display their chrysanthenum collection for the approaching All Saints’ Day.


La Mure is a small town in the heart of the Alps, south of the department of Isère,
about 900 m above sea level on the Plateau Matheysin.


Errr..we actually stopped in La Mure just to buy some patisserie. We’ve been driving continuously and my sweet tooth is craving for something nice…


Would have loved to sit for their famous fondue but we need to get going, ouch!


CORPS, the name of this village which we drove past by. I got curious because Corps in French means “body”. It’s a very pretty mountain village with only 500 inhabitants but of course, increases multifold in the summer when holidaymakers invade the area.


Corps is the last village before getting through the mountains of the High Alps.


From our moving car, we  get a glimpse of old and remote chapels like this one so the camera has to be ready for that split of a second shot.


It’s getting near midnight and we needed some few minutes nap before we can move again. Home is just three hours away and it would be nice to sleep in our own soft bed. Our nap stop is the 17th century fortified village of Entrevaux in the Var (Provence), seen here with its impressive Porte Royale gateway.

24 October 2011

We just stopped over in Paris yesterday to break the still long journey. Today we are hitting the motorway again, onwards to Lyon to collect our caravan. Meanwhile, I took a photo of this hay truck on the autoroute, I don’t know but I find hays and everything about it very photogenic!
Somewhere in A6…

23 October 2011

Back home to Paris! This is the peripherique or ring road where full concentration is required so we don’t miss the appropriate Exit, otherwise, it would be extremely tortuous to go back. Luckily, it’s a Sunday morning, when all Parisians are having a “grasse matinee” (“fatty morning” which means to stay late in bed), so no heavy traffic on the road.

Exhausted from several days travelling, we treated ourselves to a Moroccan cuisine – the Tagine.

A piping hot lamb tagine! Delish!


We always discussed about eating in this Moroccan restaurant one day, and that day came today. The place was full and our neighbouring diners have only praises for the food! We did not get disappointed! And the ambience is truly Moroccan.
Arpajon, Ile-de-France

22 October 2011


It’s Saturday morning, while driving to our next destination we see cyclists taking the entire lane as if it’s the Tour de France! Cycling has been making a comeback in the UK and the London mayor himself is strongly supporting it.

UK is the land of Costa coffee. This franchised cafe is everywhere: in the motorway, in Tesco supermarkets, in the High Streets….We are already missing French cafes!

Our Fifth Stop: Maidstone

A family that walks together stays together.
Maidstone, UK


Maidstone prides itself for having the most number of medieval buildings in the whole of the UK, so that when weird structures like this one sprouts up, the local residents howl. I like it though.



The 14th century Archbishop’s Palace along the river Medway


The Archbishop’s Palace now houses the Kent Register Office.

A wedding is about to take place and these ladies are rushing to join the wedding party.


Next Stop: HYTHE




And the last English town before we leave for France tonight: DYMCHURCH


A Martello tower along the coast of Dymchurch. This is just one of the remaining 45 towers (originally 103) which was built between 1805 to 1812 to protect England from Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion. They are built of brick, 3 floors, the roof containing the cannons and 2.5 ton gun

21 October 2011



English sightseeing continuing, our second stop is the historic town of Arundel dominated by its hilltop castle, considered as one of the finest castle in Britain. Arundel Castle was constructed shortly after the Norman Conquest of Britain by Robert de Montgomery in circa 1067.


The French Gothic style Arundel Cathedral built in 1873


Still in Arundel


A trip to the UK is not complete without trying their legendary fish and chips!


Third Stop is the seaside resort town of Littlehampton




Ancient tombs in Littlehampton church


The grandiose houses of Littlehampton



Fourth Stop is the cathedral city of Chichester



The market cross of Chichester. In Britain, this structure marks the market square of a town.


And purposely enough, it is used as a meeting point as well as a resting place after a busy day shopping.


Street workers, particularly those of the State, are easily recognizable by their reflector vests. This is one of the first things you will notice upon entering the UK, the reflector uniform .


Autumn fashion in the UK


A must-do when visiting the UK is going for a meal and a drink at a pub. We went someplace big, pleasant and seemingly popular as people of all ages never stopped getting in. But what a shock when H was served red wine in a glass! Staff says they ran out of wineglass! We looked around us and noticed that everyone was drinking beer in tall glasses so how can they run out of wineglasses?

“They probably are too busy to do some washing..” H retorted.

20 October 2011

No sooner have we laid out our suitcases than we have to pick them all up again to take our flight to England. The plan is, we have to pick our British car from a garage in West Sussex then drive it all the way down to the south of France, stopping over in few places enroute…

This is a shot from my plane seat and down below is the glacier-covered mountains of the French Alps.


We are just leaving the French airspace and the earthy colour down below is the sand dunes of the Reserve Naturale de la Baie de Sommes, a paradise for birds, shellfish hunters as well as seals. This bay is actually listed in the select club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World, alongside San Francisco Bay and Ha Long Bay of Vietnam.


We are now coming into British airspace and seen below is southeast of England with its white sandy beaches and well-laid out urban planning.


Gatwick airport carpark viewed from the sky!


As soon as we landed at Gatwick, we picked the car right away so we can start some sightseeing. We allotted only two days for this Southeast of England trip and I am looking forward to a lot of photographic opps!

First Stop: East Grinstead, West Sussex
Timber-framed houses dating back to 1451.



St Swithun’s Church, rebuilt in 1789.
East Grinstead, West Sussex, England

17 October 2011

A market trip to Ventimiglia is not complete without taking a walk at the sea promenade. It’s one of the most beautiful sight in this last coastal town of Italy before getting into France. This is the old town perched on a Ligurian hill.
Ventimiglia, Italy


The mountain on the right is Italian and those on the left are French. I am now standing in Italy looking at the French town of Menton on the left. Faintly visible and just looks like a whitish impression on the left side of the photo but it is indeed Menton, the lemon capital of France.
Ventimiglia, Italy

Marketing and sightseeing done, it’s now time to go home to prepare lunch, but alas, the entire mountain road to home is blocked!

The notice says it is temporarily closed for roadworks stating opening times of 6pm to 8am the next day, re-opening briefly from 12:30pm to 2pm for lunch. So we just missed it by few minutes!


Nothing much we can do except take the long detour via the long and windy back mountain roads of the French Alps. This is the lemon town of Menton which we have to pass through in order to get to the detour road.


From the 20-minute ride to home which is now blocked, we are forced to take the longer and more windy road via Sospel which is about one hour of driving. It’s quite picturesque though, seeing viaducts like this one, a helical shape actually.

This is the curved viaduct of Caramel which is about 10km north of Menton. It was built in 1913 to link Menton to Sospel. Before the present day windy mountain road was constructed, the little villages on the way were accessible via a tramway route. Traces of the old 1,000m long tunnel that was built for the tramway is still visible. I wonder why they closed it.

Check my flickr photo of this viaduct.
Route to Sospel, France

This is charming town of Sospel

16 October 2011

Home sweet home!
After days of travelling on the road, we’re finally home and the first thing we did this morning was to take a walk, savor the fresh mountain air and relish the fiery colours of autumn!
Alpes-Martimes, South of France


The good thing about living in the Italian border is having both French and Italian trains passing through our village every hour. If we want to go skiing in Italy, Limone is just half an hour away, and if we want to go sunbathing in a French beach, it’s also half an hour away, what more can we ask for!


And sights like this is just on our doorstep!
Alpes-Maritimes, South of France

15 October 2011

We love to stay longer in Belley so much but we have to get back to the road and continue the drive on to home. The colours of autumn are really spectacular today because it was a beautiful day and the sun hitting the orangey leaves renders them more intense and fiery!




A cosmos field in the Haute-Savoie! After sunflower fields, I think this is one of those that blows you away! I wonder what can they get out of the seeds or petals?






A mural of rope climbers



The early morning steam coming out from the newly-cultivated soil is just as spectacular!






Stopping for a picnic. What I love about French countrysides is the presence of picnic tables for travellers.


Picking pine cones to decorate my Christmas tree







15 October 2011

The town of Belley

We spent the night in Belley, a decision well-done because when we woke up the next day, we discovered how absolutely charming the town is! It has the backdrop of the mountains of the High Alps and the architecture has a bit of Provencal flavour due to its proximity to Provence and the heritage buildings indicate that it was once the home of a Royalty. Indeed it was, as I found out that it was the Episcopal seat of the Duchy of Savoy.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Does this statement sounds familiar? Well, it is the famous quote of Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin, one of the famous sons of Belley.


It was a Saturday morning and the Open Air Market is on! A perfect moment to see and smell the fresh produce of the town.


“The fate of a nation depends on the way that they eat.” …….Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


“Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one that has rendered us the most important service in civic life.”…..Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin


“A dessert without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye”…….Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin



“The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all aeras; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure”The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all aeras; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.”…….Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin


Sacks of walnuts




Statue of the Immaculate Concepcion in one of the town squares


The 18th century Episcopal Palace is now a cultural center, a venue for official receptions and houses a library.


The statue of St John the Baptist on the facade of the cathedral


St John the Baptist Cathedral


The tower of the Cathedral



The Cathedral of St John as viewed from the park



The flowery entrance to the park



Some vestiges of Belley’s Roman origins


The red-tiled roofscape of the town

14 October 2011

Today we start our drive down home to the south of France taking the National Road instead of the usual autoroute (expressway). Not only that we wanted to save on toll fees which could run to about a 100euros but we wanted to take our time, enjoy the countryside scenery, embroil in scenic driving and, naturally, speed photography!

Here are some shots I took from our moving car:


The welcome sign of Cuisery is in the form of a book.
Burgundy, France


A village of 1,700 inhabitants, would you believe it has 20 shops dealing with books of all kinds and ages!
Burgundy, France


The chicken is the symbol of Bourg-en-Bresse. It is the only town in France where the Appellation d’Origin Contrôlée (AOC) is bestowed on its chicken, the same certification given to French wine.
Rhone-Alpes, France


Chicken posters and adboards everywhere in Bourg-en-Bresse


A Job Fair taking place at Ainterexpo Exhibition Hall
Rhone-Alpes, France


The Statue of Liberty is back in France? No, it’s just the icon of La Liberté, a company especializing in renting spaces for weddings, baptisms…
Rhone-Alpes, France



The village of Saint Rambert en Bugey, its church and the statue of the Virgin Mary (encircled)
Rhone-Alpes, France


Another unnamed town in the Rhone-Alpes, France

The rocky mountains of the Rhone-Alpes, France


Stopped by in the town of Belley in the Rhone-Alpes, France


An ancient signage in Belley

13 October 2011

This is not a deformed sculpture. It’s the headless statue of Saint Denis who is carrying his head looking for a believer to give it to, before collapsing. In the 3rd century, he was beheaded by the Romans in front of the Temple of Mercury in Montmartre.
Square Suzanne BUISSON, Montrmartre, Paris 18th

12 October 2011

One of the street arts in Paris that I find cute is the grafitti mosaic of Jerome Gulon.


“Cute” because it is tiny, but quite artistic. This is just one of the three he installed in Pont Alexander.


close-up shot


The other mosaic in Pont Alexander


At close range.


This one I found at Place des Abbesses in Montmartre is quite different though. I wonder who the artist is.



11 October 2011

I love you…..Je t’aime…….Ti amo……Assavakkit….Te quiero..
Declaration of Love in 311 languages, engraved in a blue glazed wall, in the romantic garden of Square Jehan Rictus.

The Wall of Love is the idea of Frederic Baron and calligraphed by Claire Kito. It has become a place of rendezvous for lovers and honeymooners around the world.
Place des Abbesses, Montmartre, Paris 18th

10 October 2011


“Cosmos” in Greek means harmony or order or balanced. The Spanish priests who grew these flowers in Mexico were impressed by the evenly-placed petals and its cosmic beauty that they named it Cosmos.


Iris flowers got its name from the Greek Goddess “Iris” considered to be the messenger of Love. It is often used to shower compliments on somebody.

I used to grow this in my garden so when I saw it in someone’s frontyard, I felt nostalgic.

The plant’s name is “fuchsia”, discovered in the Caribbean by the French botanist Charles Plumier in 1696-7. He named it after the German Physician Leonhart Fuchs who was one of the founders of Botany. It was only in 1892 when the name was used as a colour.

The drooping, eardrop shape of a fuchsia flower symbolizes confiding love and trust.

9 October 2011


A series of street lighting? A necklace?

It’s actually a spider’s web with droplets of water. It rained all night and I saw this just outside our door. I couldn’t find the spider though….

8 October 2011

My most-awaited photographic exhibition, the Salon de la Photo, is ON!

Not only that H and I tried our hands on the new gadgets out in the market, all displayed in one roof, but we also earned valuable tips from the experts who willingly shared their secrets in taking amazing photos!

Rubbed shoulders with my fellow amateurs


…and had so much fun practicing on fashion photography, etc.!
Porte de Versailles, Paris 15th

7 October 2011


It’s not an oil refinery, it’s the George Pompidou Center.

Inaugurated in 1977, it houses one of the most important museums in the world featuring more than 60,000 collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe, a vast public reference library, general documentation on 20th century art, a cinema and performance halls, a music research institute, educational activity areas, bookshops, a restaurant and a café.
Chatelet, Paris 4th

6 October 2011

I finally saw this sculpture which I have read so much about. Created by Jean Marais and inaugurated on 25 February 1989, it is inspired by the famous 1943 short story of Marcel Ayme, “Le Passe-Muraille” (The man who could walk through walls)


Montmartre, Paris 18th

5 October 2011


This beautiful Llama is always an attraction to hikers and promenaders along the river Orge. I have photographed her several times but she’s just too cute to resist!

Ollainville, Essone (91)

4 October 2011


Walking past a shop specializing in everything ancient, I noticed this beautiful Art Deco adaptation of “La Paresse” (Laziness), one of the 7 capital sins. The writing at the bottom says it was painted and engraved by Andre Lambert, 1918.

Saint-Germain de Pres, Paris 6th

3 October 2011


If you are infested by rats and mice, fret no more! There is a shop specializing in eradicating these pests, although just by looking at the window display, one would think that the business owner is more passionate in keeping them instead.

Chatelet, Paris 1st

2 October 2011

“Life is like a box of chocolates”, said Tom Hanks in the movie Forest Gump, “you never know what you’re gonna get”.

That’s why everytime I go out of the house, I always take my camera with me for I know there is always something waiting to be photographed. And verily so, on the way to the boulangerie (bakery), I stumbled upon this strange mushroom. I haven’t seen anything like it!

1 October 2011

Waiting for the Metro at midnight after ambling at the Nuit Blanche