We found ourselves in Piazza Navona, a lovely little square full of life with street artists, selling their paintings, imposing churches and palaces, and inviting cafes and restaurants all around. It didn’t take us long to choose a restaurant with a ring-side view of everything that was going on.
Piazza Navona is an oval-shaped square which was once the site of the Stadium of Domitian, a popular venue where games and competitions were held in the 1st century AD.
The Italian architects loved a good fountain, and in the middle and at either end of Piazza Navona, there are three. The one in the middle is my favourite, just because it’s so elaborate and there’s always a good story behind it. It’s the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The four rivers are the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube, and the Rio de la Plata.
If you look at the statue of the Rio de la Plata, it appears that he is shielding this eyes from something. The story goes that he can’t bear to look at the church of St Agnese, built by Francesco Borromini, for fear that it will come tumbling down on him. Borromini was a rival of Bernini’s, but rivalry aside, Bernini built this fountain way before the church, so make what you will of the legend. The fountain is topped off with a towering Egyptian obelisk. There is a lot more to this fountain, lots of smaller sculptures and figurines, and if you look on the internet it’s fascinating the way Bernini (and others) told stories through their work. When I go anywhere I usually have my guidebook to hand, to give me information about what I’m looking at, but I enjoyed just being in the here and now with my parents.
At either end of the piazza is the Fontana del Moro (Moor Fountain) and Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) both by Giancomo della Porta.
We ordered a selection of meats, cheese, olives and bread, all washed down by a glass of wine or two. It was just perfect sitting there watching the world go by, in the shadows of the grandiose Baroque architecture. Such a small place but big on atmosphere and architectural creations.
After our delicious lunch, we took a slow walk through the square to find a taxi, only to be approached by a man selling handmade wooden fruit bowls. He complimented my dad, saying how lucky he was to have two beautiful women on his arms, we laughed along as my dad put him right by saying yes, this is my wife and my daughter! Unperturbed, he proceeded to shake hands with us and in our palms he deposited a bracelet, how nice! But, realising that he wasn’t going to get a sale from us, snatched the bracelets back and walked off to find his next victim. Honestly, his attitude changed very quickly from being all smiles and friendly banter, to surly and almost aggressive. I can imagine how he must have felt with people constantly saying no! I’ve been in sales before, so I know how he feels 🙂 but I was always gracious.
We made it back to our digs, had our first evening out (this was still only our first day in Rome) and an early night because we were up early again for our visit to the Colosseum.
Our guide left us outside St Peter’s Basilica and before going inside, we stopped to gaze over St Peter’s Square, designed by Gian Lorenz Bernini. Striking in its own right, the square is surrounded by Tuscan colonnades with 140 statues of various saints on top. The structure was built in two arcs on either side of the square alluding to embrace all into the arms of Mother Church.
Covering an area of 5.7 acres, St Peter’s Basilica is the largest church in the world and, architecturally speaking, the most renowned piece of Renaissance work of its time. It’s said to be the resting place of St Peter and there are many popes buried in the vaults below.
The pope oversees ceremonies which sees between 15,000-80,000 people visit the basilica and, in fact, there had been an Easter celebration before we arrived because the square was still filled with empty seats.
The facade has huge Corinthian columns and statues of the apostles, but look further skywards and you’ll see 13 statues on top of the building representing Jesus and 11 of his apostles, and John the Baptist.
Once through the huge doors, you’ll find yourself in the narthex or portico, beautifully decorated with a carved ceiling and columns on either side. At either end there are statues of Charlemagne by Agostino Cornacchini and Constantine the Great by Bernini. You’ll see three large doors, with decorated panels, the Door of the Dead, so named because it was used as the exit for funeral processions, the Filarete Door, a Renaissance bronze door, and the Holy Door which is sealed with cement and only opened during holy years.
If that’s not enough, inside the basilica is absolutely jaw-dropping! Not only is it enormous with high ceilings, which will make you feel about two feet tall, but every square inch of it is ornately decorated with art and statues, literally, everywhere. The colourful stuccoed walls and ceilings are just out of this world!
In the nave, there are two cherubs holding a water basin, which from a distance appear to be of normal size, but once you get along side them, you realise they are two metres high.
As you walk down the aisle, on either side there are chapels made of marble, stucco, gilt, sculptures and mosaics.
And at the end of the aisle is Bernini’s baldachin, said to be the largest piece of bronze in the world, with its unusual twisted columns, sheltering the altar. Above, is the inside of Michelangelo’s dome, just as stunning inside as it is outside.
Like the Vatican museums, it’s almost too much for you to take everything in.
It really was a spectacular place to visit and our day wasn’t over yet. Back outside, we walked slowly over the square, with nothing to do but admire the colonnades and statues. We continued down Via della Conciliazione and, with the view of the basilica and Michelangelo’s dazzling dome in the distance, we stopped for a well-deserved rest over a cup of coffee.
By this time, we were getting a little peckish, so we continued our walk and found ourselves outside Castel Sant Angelo. With river views of the Tiber and two bridges spanning it, we stopped again in amazement. These weren’t your normal, run of the mill, bridges, oh no, not in Rome! These were the Ponte Sant Angelo, made of marble with five arches and lined with statues of angels.
The Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II has three arches and winged statues at either end. Such a treat when you see them. It’s one marvelous sight after another here.
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II
Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II
We walked over the bridge, in the shadows of the magnificent sculptures, and followed our map through the city until we found one of Rome’s many picturesque squares- Piazza Navona.
Well, what an absolute blast my first day in Rome turned out to be, my parents and I visited The Vatican City, an independent state within Rome which hardly needs any introduction.
After a quick metro ride, we arrived around 9.30 a.m only to be accosted by a ticket tout asking if we wanted to buy entrance tickets. We smugly replied that we didn’t because we already had some and flashed them in front of his face. He looked them over and told us that we could go through all the museums and end up in the Sistine Chapel, but if we wanted to go into St Peter’s Basilica we’d have to retrace our steps and join the queue for the basilica outside. We didn’t really want to do that, especially as my lovely mum was struggling to walk as it was, it would have been torture for her to walk all the way back and stand in the long queue.
As it turned out, we didn’t have to do any of that because we ended up right outside the basilica anyway, but we didn’t know that at the time. Reluctantly, we gave in to the ticket man’s suggestion of upgrading our tickets. An additional €21 each on top of the €17 I’d already paid. This was turning out to be an expensive day out so far, but we were at the Vatican and it’s not something you see every day.
When we met our guide, Eugene, he gave us a brief introduction about what the tour would entail and then we made our way to the entrance. He guided us through the museums and gave us a running commentary as we went. Some of the statues and paintings were worthy of finding out a little more about them and it would have been nice to linger and know who the statue depicted or who the painter was, but there was no time to really take it all in. Having said that, it was good to have a guide if only to learn a little about what we saw.
Let’s begin the tour…
The first place we went was the Cortila della Pinacoteca, a beautiful courtyard with views of the basilica’s silver-blue dome dominating the skyline.
Then onto the Cortile della Pigna named after the 4 metre-high pine cone, moved here in 1608. There’s also a large bust of Caesar Augustus, and Arnaldo Pomodoro’s “Sphere within a Sphere.”
Sphere within a Sphere
Sphere within a Sphere
The insignia of the papacy
Fontana della Pigna
The pinecone the courtyard is named after
Next, the Chiaramonti Museum, named after Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) is a collection of over 1,000 ancient sculptures including Heracles with his son Telephos.
During the 19th century, Napoleon ordered the Papal States to hand over this collection to France. Later, a sculptor called Antonio Canova, with some help, managed to bring them all back. The museum has been arranged to show the 3 sister arts, sculpture, architecture and painting, in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Next, was the Braccio Nuovo or New Wing which is considered to be one of the most important examples of neo-classical architecture in Rome. The hall is lined with statues of emperors and Roman copies of Greek statues, as well as busts depicting famous people from classical times. It is an impressive collection and even the floor is stunning, made from marble slabs with original Roman mosaics.
I loved all of the statues, but my favourite was “The Nile” which was dedicated to the Egyptian goddesses, Isis and Serapis. Egypt is represented by the Sphinx, on the left, and surrounding the man there are 16 children which depict the cubits of water the Nile rises from flooding every year.
The Pio Clementino Museums contain several large halls of Greek and Roman sculptures, including the Hall of Busts and the Round Hall which was built based on the same design as the Pantheon.
In the Round Hall, there are niches all around with huge statues and a red porphyry basin in the middle, which would have been a magnificent centre-piece in one of Rome’s public squares long ago.
Outside, the Octagonal Court was the very first place that the collections of classical statues were placed and some of the statues including the Laocoōn and the Belvedere Apollo have been standing in their original positions since the 16th century.
The Hall of the Muses has statues of the muses, Apollo, Athena and Hermes to name but a few, as well as the Belvedere Torso, a marble sculpture which has delighted artisans for centuries. It’s thought to represent Ajax, a Greek hero who is in the throes of suicide.
Look up and marvel at the frescoed ceiling, by Tommaso Conca, a superbly detailed creation of Apollo and the Muses.
Honestly, whether you look up or down or to each side, it’s almost too much for your eyes and mind to comprehend everything.
Moving on through the Gallery of Tapestries, a long corridor with huge wall-coverings with stories from the life of Jesus.
As we passed The Resurrection of Christ, our guide told us to walk slowly along and not to take our eyes off Jesus’ eyes. They appear to be watching only you and it looks like he is turning his head to follow you! Alas, it is but a clever trick by the artist! 🙂
Another piece of artistic genius is how the ceilings were painted. As we walked along, we thought that they were sculptures, but in actual fact, they were paintings created to look like that, a brilliant use of shadowing and colours.
In the next hall was the Gallery of Geographical Maps, a series of colourfully painted maps of Italy.
The frescoes themselves are beautiful, but don’t forget to look up at the exquisite ceiling with paintings and carvings amidst a sea of golds, greens and reds. It’ll take your breath away a little bit!
The room just prior to the Sistine Chapel was the Room of the Immaculate Conception, covered floor to ceiling with impressive frescoes depicting religious scenes of the dogma of immaculate conception made by Pope Pius IX in 1854.
And one more room, the dome of which is just incredible. Imagine the painstaking work done by the artist to create such a spectacular piece of work.
At last, we reached the Sistine Chapel which nowadays is used for the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. It’s famous for its frescoes on the walls and ceilings which were painted by a number of talented 15th century artists, one of the most famous being Michelangelo who was responsible for The Last Judgement on the altar wall, and the ceiling, on which he painted episodes from the book of Genesis.
And in the words of one man, “Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.” — Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 23 August 1787. No truer words have ever been spoken! 🙂
The chapel is stunningly beautiful, but unfortunately no photographs are allowed, but I sneakily took one of the ceiling. I apologise for the blurriness, but I had to be quick!
Our guide told us that the security guards would not take kindly to anyone taking photographs, so I was a bit nervous to do it. The security guards dominated the chapel, making sure everyone kept moving, so, again there was no time to enjoy the fabulously detailed and brilliant art work by these painters. You’re not even supposed to speak, but try keeping a lot of people silent at any one time. The chattering would become louder and louder, only to be met with a resounding “ssssSSSHHHHH” from the guards, which shut everyone up for a few seconds.
A screen, or transenna, made from marble, divides the chapel in two and in the middle was a wooden door through which we were shepherded. Here we managed to find a seat and just sit and gaze all around. This was the first part of the tour where we could really take a breath and take in everything we were seeing.
We walked through many halls and saw hundreds of exhibits that day, but there was a lot more that we didn’t see. It really was an astonishing place to visit and a fabulous first day in Rome.
I’ve been thinking about what my perfect day would look like and I actually have two kinds; one where I stay home and one where I go out and about.
The One Where I Stay at Home
My perfect day starts early in the morning, usually on my day off, once I’ve dragged myself out of bed. I love to exercise and whether that’s a session in the gym, which is what I did this morning, swimming a few lengths of the pool, or running round the park or reservoir, I feel energised, most of the time 😉 and ready to indulge in my day.
The next part of my perfect day is to have breakfast of cereal and coffee, while I catch up on emails and blogs that I follow and once that’s done, I sit done to write. Whether that’s for this blog or working on my book or writing up a course for work, I write, something. I love writing, and if I don’t do it, I feel kind of guilty, especially on my day off.
When I’ve finished writing, I’ll potter around my apartment, making lunch, or deciding what to do next and I’ll listen to music. I try to listen to music every day and since I have iTunes on shuffle I am getting to hear songs by different artists, some of which I love but have forgotten about, like Pink Floyd, Simple Minds, and Prince. It’s a great pick-me-up and sometimes I’ll sing and dance along. I am a terrible singer, but it makes me happy. 😉 This is one tune I loved in the past, but had totally forgotten about it until recently..
I usually have more than one book on the go at any one time and there’s nothing I love more than to kick-back and read. I spend just an hour or two relaxing on the sofa reading my favourite books. At the moment, I’m reading River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh. He’s a really fabulous writer and I have a few of his books in my collection. I’m also dipping in and out of a few travel books, and Jaya, a retelling of Indian’s greatest epic; The Mahabharata.
My perfect day ends with an evening out with a friend for dinner or drinks. I usually go to my friend’s house, here in Bangkok, for cocktails, or we’ll venture out to any of our favourite places to hang out. We always have loads of fun together and it’s great to spend time with my little partner in crime! There are a few more people back home that would fit this bill, and whenever I go home for holidays, I get to have perfect evenings with them too.
Perfect nights out
Perfect nights out
Perfect nights out
The One Where I Go Out and About
My perfect day out and about happened just last week. I started the day much the same, exercise, breakfast and catching up with emails and blogs, but then I left to go to an art exhibition at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre, a huge building full of art exhibits and one I go to regularly. The exhibition was called ” Opera Omnia” and it displayed 40 masterpieces by Caravaggio, only they were HD reproductions of the incredibly detailed originals, which are currently housed in museums across the globe. Having just been to Italy, I wasn’t going to miss out on this. It’s a fabulous place to wander around and it’s one of my favourite places to spend time.
Caravaggio Exhibition at BACC, Bangkok
Caravaggio Exhibition at BACC, Bangkok
Caravaggio Exhibition at BACC, Bangkok
Art fix satisfied, my perfect day continued with a spot of lunch at a restaurant I was introduced to a few weeks ago by a friend. I had two favourite lunch places, both of which have since been closed to make way for new hotels and condos. I prefer going out during the day and I was struggling to find a place that opened all day, and one that had a 6-hour happy hour! Most places don’t open til 5 pm and they’re a little expensive to go to all the time, so I was thrilled when I found Monsoon. I’ve only been a couple of times so far, but it’s my new place to go for my perfect days out.
After lunch, I headed to Emquartier, one of Bangkok’s glitzy malls. As a rule, I hate these places, too many people and overpriced shops that you find anywhere in the world, but I by-passed all that and browsed around Kinokuniya, a Japanese bookstore that I like to go to for travel books. I love browsing around bookstores and, usually, I go to a much smaller one that has 4 floors with shelves and shelves full of second-hand books, but I wanted to buy The Rough Guide to Spain and I like those all shiny, new and up to date. I found what I was looking for, plus I made two extra purchases, a beginners guide to Spanish and a book about the history of art. Perfect!
I arrived home and spent the rest of my day, watching TV, with a glass of red, or two, and chilled out before work the following day. A perfect end to a perfect day!
The Changing Seasons post, inspired by the lovely Sarah at Secret Art Expedition and hosted by Su at Zimmerbitch. Here is my round up of things I got up to during March.
As I hadn’t been out exploring much since I got back from Sri Lanka, I took myself off to Chulachomklao Fort in Phra Samut Chedi District, around 29 km south of Bangkok. Getting there was fun, I only knew that I had to take the 145 bus to Pak Nam Market, then take a boat across the river, and, finally, a truck to the fort. It always seems a bit of an adventure when you don’t really know the way. I had to ask a couple of people to find the market and once I had located the truck, it dropped me off, right at the fort.
First up, the gun park which tells you the history of the guns, although the information was all in Thai, so I just had to wander around and imagine.
This proud statue of King Rama V stands at the front of the fort.
The disappearing guns were used only once in 1893 when the fort protected the sovereignty of Thailand from French invasion. They were designed to be hauled up by their hydro-pneumatic system for firing and lowered again afterwards.
H.T.M.S Maeklong was in service for 60 years and deployed during WWII. It was fun to scamper about on her decks!
There’s a mangrove forest there too.
I forgot that I had heard about the resident monkeys that live there until this one started walking towards me! I was a little nervous!
But, thankfully, they didn’t pay me any attention and continued to play or groom each other, oblivious to my presence.
It was a great day out and, although the sea looked far from the usual images that you see in Thailand, it was good to get out and about.
I made a video of all the beautiful birds that I saw in Sri Lanka, and, the best bit, I didn’t even have to leave the confines of my friend’s garden to see them. They greeted us with their song in the morning and it was just fabulous to hear them and see all the different species that visited throughout the day.
I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Nilla at Image Earth Travel for the work I do here on Talkingthailand. It’s always a joy to receive these nominations and it makes me feel happy and honoured that someone takes time out of their day to acknowledge me. Thank you again Nilla, it was very much appreciated.
At last, I picked up my sketch pad and drew something. Whenever I do this, I mean to do it more regularly, but I never get round to it. I should do it more because I love sitting down and creating something. This drawing is a copy of a painting I saw in an art gallery, but it has my own twist on it! It’s a combination of pencil, charcoal, and pastel crayons.
As well as showcasing my photographs on morrisophotography, I also upload my best shots to Viewbug, and I sometimes enter their free photo challenges. In March, I found out that 2 of my photos had been ranked in the top 50 and 1 in the top 80! When you consider the amount of people that enter these challenges, I was thrilled with this result!
I started watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, presented by Neil deGrasse Tyson. His passion and knowledge of the universe, evolution, science and much more just oozes through his silky voice. Everytime I watch it, it (he) makes me want to learn all that he knows. It really is a fantastic and mind-blowing show. I thoroughly recommend watching it, if you haven’t already!
So, that’s my March done and dusted. I’m already having an awesome April, I hope you are too 🙂
If you would like to join me and the others in this challenge, here are the guidelines:
The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):
Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.
The House of Lucie is an art gallery that I have wanted to visit for a while and last year I went to see “Unseen Lithuania” by Marius Jovaisa, a world famous photographer known for his aerial photography.
Unseen Lithuania by Marius Jovaiša
Unseen Lithuania by Marius Jovaiša
Unseen Lithuania by Marius Jovaiša
The House of Lucie aims to honor master photographers like Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, David Bailey and Lord Snowdon. It also aims to discover and cultivate emerging talent and to promote the appreciation of photography worldwide.
House of Lucie
Here are some of my favourite photographs by these masters photographers
Steve McCurry “A man rides passed a Buddha statue in a park, Mandalay, Burma”
Train in India by Unknown
Phil Borges “Kinesi”
Phil Borges “Humaria II”
Lisa Kristine’s “Blue Hand, Ghana”
And some familiar faces from across the world
I loved looking at these photographs. I recognised most of the celebs but not others. Now, most of these people are no longer with us, so it’s lovely that these photographs remain to serve as a kind of memorial.
For more art galleries in Bangkok, check out one of my previous posts.
The French Embassy is located in the Bang Rak district of Bangkok, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and in the grounds of the embassy is the residence of the French ambassador, Gérard Araud. Usually, I only get a glimpse of this charming colonial-style building from the river as the boat surges on by but once a year, in September, the ambassador open his doors to the public as part of the European Heritage Days initiative. This initiative was started in 1984 so everyone could enjoy free visits to various sites in order to appreciate and learn about cultural heritage. It also raises awareness of citizens to the richness and cultural diversity of Europe, in particular.
The house was built around 1830, and in 1856 it was rented by the customs department to the French trading mission, before being awarded to France by King Rama V in 1875.
There are guided tours available in different languages but the number of people is limited. However, you are free to wander through the house and grounds between 10.00am and 4.00pm. The tour includes lunch which you can enjoy in a seating area on the ground floor of the house.
On the day I visited, I just missed a tour and I didn’t want to hang around waiting for the next one, although the lady told me I could go back and join the next one, but I was happy just to mooch around on my own.
So, let’s see what’s inside.
The reception room
The living room with a few of the ambassador’s collectibles
The dining room
Another dining room
The book collection
My favourite, some old photos and newspaper clippings of meetings between two nations
This garden is amazing and I can just imagine sitting by the river with a glass of wine. I wonder if the ambassador does that? 😉
Fantastic river views
Places like this in Bangkok just amaze me. I hope you enjoyed the tour 🙂
There are many places to go in Bangkok to get your fill of art and culture, photographic and painting exhibitions to annual street art festivals, heck there are even boats that exhibit art, so it can be appreciated by people travelling along the Chao Praya River. And next year, the city will play host to its first Art Biennale which will showcase artists from Asia, Europe and the Pacific; an exciting prospect and one that I shall very much look forward to. Visiting art galleries wasn’t something I was into before, but I can’t get enough of it now and I actively seek out exhibitions to go and see. With that in mind, here are a few of my favourite places to go.
Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre
My all time favourite place to go for art, just because it’s so big and there are always interesting and diverse exhibitions going on across it’s 9 floors. You’ll need a good couple of hours to wander round the whole place, but that’s all part of the fun. I usually go there with an exhibition in mind, but there are always other works of art that catch my eye. However, not everything makes me stop and look, and some works simply baffle the hell out of me, but, on the whole, I can appreciate the work, effort, time, and love that has gone into creating something. The first five floors circle up and around the main foyer and the main exhibitions are held on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors in huge, hangar-like rooms. Also in the BACC, are art shops, bookshops, art spaces, and cafes, as well as little stalls selling homemade jewellery and handicrafts, and a resident artist who is happy to paint your caricature. If you’re into art, this is the place to go.
Kathmandu Art Gallery
A small, unassuming old shophouse, converted into the charming Kathmandu Art Gallery, on Pan Road, Silom. It’s owned by Manit Sriwanichpoom, Thailand’s best known photo-artist, and some of his work, displayed on the walls, is for sale. (in his photos, he’s the one in pink!) Downstairs is a book store, with art and photography books, as well as books on Buddhism and Hinduism, for sale. Upstairs is the tiny art gallery, which showcases photographic images from new and established artists. Although small, the windows are always open creating a light and airy atmosphere. It won’t take much of your time here, but the photography is spectacular and you’ll probably have the place all to yourself.
Soy Sauce Factory
A café/bar and art gallery on Charoen Krung Road is an old Chinatown soy sauce factory, hence the name. Downstairs is the café/bar, simply decorated with tables and chairs and bold, light and dark colours on the walls. There’s a drum kit set up for the evenings when the place transforms into a popular hang out for a mix of people who come to enjoy the cool music, drinks, and atmosphere. (Temporarily closed due to renovation, but hopefully will re-open soon
Sofitel, Sukhumvit’s own 100 square metre gallery, it’s tiny, but elegantly decorated and it holds exhibitions from Thai and French painters, photographers and other creators every two months. It’s right there to the left of the hotel’s main foyer, you can’t miss it. There’s a sofa in the middle, so you can sit and gaze at the wonderful art pieces on show.
These are just a few of the art galleries I have visited so far, but I plan to get around quite a few more. The next one on my list is called “Hopeland” at Jam Factory; a selection of photographs taken from the artist’s condo window, so watch this space. 🙂