|The sun setting against the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place for the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Viewed from the Westminster Bridge.
I have not met anyone who is not keen on going for a holiday in Europe. It doesn't matter if it's the usual touristy cities, the exotic Eastern region, or the icy Scandinavian towns. Many would plan for a Europe holiday at least once in their life, and several times for those lucky ones.
From backpacking students and honeymooners to families and retirees, there will always be a place to excite and please everyone in Europe. History, art, architecture, culture, nature, entertainment and shopping, you name it, they have it all. And it isn't just about having that broad and diverse offering, the depth of experience in each interest is phenomenal and unforgettable.
Although I've travelled to several European cities for various reasons on several trips before, there were only 2 trips that were purely leisure and holiday-like. One was to Barcelona in 2013, which you might have read in my earlier posts. The other was more than 6 years ago to the standard postcard destinations of London, Paris, Venice, Rome and the Vatican City.
It was a short trip of only 13 days, which wasn't long considering the number of places covered. Fortunately, travelling within Europe was easy and efficient. Rail travel was a breeze and by travelling on overnight trains, one could save precious time. As most train stations are located in the heart of the cities, getting around was extremely easy upon arrival. Better still if you have booked a hotel near the station. All you'll have to do is to walk to your hotel from the train station and start the day immediately.
Of course, the key would be to travel light and carry little. Without which, you would not be able to walk the streets in search of your hotel from the train station. An all-in backpack or a hardy trolley case with durable wheels should do the job. However, the roads and pavements in many cities are not as well-paved as Singapore's. That could be your trolley case's last trip.
For photo-enthusiasts, you may wish to think twice before packing all your gear. Less is more; because less is exciting and more is redundant. Lately, I find it a tad more challenging and fun with less lenses to play with, and quite often, some lenses were just left in the hotel room everyday. Having said that, it is still a daunting task to decide which system and gear to bring on every trip till now.
However, I would like to share my experience in Rome, where bringing a big, heavy camera might not be a bad thing after all. Shortly after walking out of the hotel, I was approached and surrounded by a group comprising a middle-aged lady and several kids. Their modus operandi was clear - distract and attack (pick) from all directions. They were extremely quick and had reached out to my camera bag and trousers' back pocket. Without hesitation, my camera had turned into a 2 kg cast magnesium alloy weapon swinging in their hands and faces. They simply had to dodge and disperse with my unexpected retaliation and skull-breaking weapon tossing in the air.
Imagine Bruce Lee with a DSLR instead of Nunchaku. Plus a bit of action movie kungfu yelling did help to scare them off.
Alright, it wasn't all bad and dangerous in Europe. Yes, pickpocketing and snatch thieves are common in many European cities. But I guess we just need to be mentally and physically prepared. And probably be carrying a big and heavy camera-weapon that breaks skulls and smashes itchy hands.
I believe many would have been to London, Paris, Venice, Rome and the Vatican City, probably not just once for some. And some might have even been a victim of such common petty crime with their memorable stories to tell.
There is no need for further introduction, tips or tricks from my short and humble experience. And for cities so well covered on books, TV, and the internet, almost everyone can be an expert quite easily.
For once, I shall keep the long story short and let the pictures do the talking, and hopefully, relive those fond memories for you and me.
Hope you'll enjoy my little bit of Europe...
Approaching St Paul's Cathedral, our first stop for the day.
The grand West Front façade of St Paul's Cathedral in the late morning. A cathedral that saw many significant events from the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill to the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
An iconic reminder of the city.
St Paul's against the typical gloomy London sky. It is the second largest church building in the UK, with one of the highest dome in the world. Do climb up the 259-step stairs and visit the Whispering Gallery up in the dome.
Perhaps, we should have this in Singapore, since everyone is always looking down (at their phone) when crossing the road.
Lunching at the restaurant on level 6 of Tate Modern, offering one of the best views of London and the river. A must-see museum of modern art with an excellent collection.
Sidewalk along River Thames towards the landmark Tower Bridge, and the City Hall building (right) by Lord Foster.
|Walking on and across the Tower Bridge.
|The Tower Bridge viewed from the Tower of London.
|Locked inside the Tower of London.
|Inside the Tower of London.
|The highly respectable and renowned British Museum. A must-see, must-go for everyone visiting London. You may wish to set aside at least half a day there to explore its wonderful collection.
|Don't look away.
Close-up of "Ginger" - the famous naturally-mummified body exhibited at the British Museum, dating back to approximately 3400 B.C.
|An impressive collection of Egyptian mummies in the British Museum.
|Up-close and personal.
|Always wet, gloomy and somewhat soulful.
|Reflecting on the British Museum after the visit at the bar.
|The iconic symbol at Trafalgar Square.
|You know what's rolling.
|Symbolic and iconic. Probably one of the most recognisable symbol and clock tower in the world.
|A job that is always put on the line, literally. Keeping the city going.
|Spot the crowd at Buckingham Palace.
|Eye in the sky.
|Ascending in the London Eye.
|I believe the best time to take it up to the skies could be in the evening with the gorgeous sun setting behind the Palace of Westminster.
|Taking a break at the base of the London Eye, and enjoying the breath-taking view of River Thames at sunset.
|Walking back on the Westminster Bridge.
|Life in London Underground.
|Commuting in the Paris Métro.
|Arriving in Paris at night. A magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower from Montmartre, a hill north of Paris.
|The Basilica of the Sacré Cœur (The Basilica of the Sacred Heart). Standing tall and majestic on the summit of Montmartre.
|The Paris Métro.
|A priest delivering a sermon inside Notre Dame Cathedral. Elegance and beauty in many ways.
|Bought a ticket to ascend the Notre Dame Cathedral. A chance to get close and personal with the gargagorl.
|A panoramic view of the beautiful Parisian city from the Notre Dame Cathedral.
|A peak of Notre Dame Cathedral.
|The forces of nature, architecture and the arts. The famous glass pyramid of the Louvre Museum.
|The power of one woman - Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
|Experiencing one of I.M. Pei's creation.
|A French bakery kiosk in the Tuileries Garden.
|A view of the Tuileries Garden through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
|Signs in the Paris Metro.
|Signs of France. Walking past a news stand and approaching one of the most recognisable structures in the world. Could you recognise what it is?
|Under the majestic Eiffel Tower.
|Cast iron railing details of the Eiffel Tower.
|The beauty of engineering.
|Incredible structure of design and engineering married in harmony. Gustave Eiffel would be very proud to know that it has been standing tall since 1889 and is the most visited paid-entry monument in the world.
|A visit to LV at Champs-Élysées.
|Another iconic and highly symbolic place in Paris - The Moulin Rouge.
|Out of Paris Métro.
|The Pompidou Centre - a creation by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.
|Waiting for train to Venice at the Paris Bercy Station.
|Had 2 hours to kill at the Paris Bercy Station. Walking around and exploring the building.
|A car parked at the Paris Bercy Station.
|Paris and Peugeot.
|Arrived in Venice.
|Feeding pigeons at St Mark's Square (Piazza San Marco).
|If you think you had a shitty day, think twice.
|The beauty of Venetian colours, light and architecture.
|Light and shadows.
|Venetian architecture and colours in reflection.
|Walking the dogs in Venice.
There is a magical charm in Venice. Gorgeous sunlight paints the Venetian buildings in a wonderful display of light and shadows, constantly changing across the day.
|Fly past at St Mark's Square.
|A view from Liassidi Palace Hotel.
|Gondolas dancing to the waves.
|Colours of Venice.
|En-route Rome on Eurostar.
|Arriving in Rome.
|Rome Train Station, catching a train to Pisa, Tuscany.
|In a local train.
|Colours of Tuscany.
|The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
|The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
|Standing tall and tilted on top of the Leaning Tower.
|A typical courtyard in old Italian cities.
The largest amphitheatre in the world. Still standing tall and majestic like what it used to be some two thousand years ago.
The Colosseum. Its awe-inspiring grandeur of the Imperial Rome hasn't faded despite the ruined structures. Imagine gladiatorial fights, animal hunts, sea battles, large scale dramas and public executions, all in this arena.
|The crowd of tourists leaving Colosseum at the end of the day.
|Joining the queue into the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo's masterpiece in the ceiling of Sistine Chapel. Worth the trip, worth the queue.
The Gallery of Maps, Vatican. A magnificent corridor that brings you through a journey of awe and wonder.
|St. Peter's Square, Vatican City.
|A glimpse of Pope Benedict XVI on Good Friday, 21 March 2008.
|Good Friday service inside the magnificent St. Peter's Basilica.
|A wet Good Friday.
|St. Peter holding the key to the Kingdom of Heaven.
|St. Peter and the Basilica.
|After the Good Friday service.
|What's left after the service in St. Peter's Square.