California

I'm not even sure where to begin writing up this trip but here goes!

This was definitely one of the most memorable trips we've ever been on, and certainly the most exhausting at times. It's also the first road trip (albeit a mini one) we've done as well, and the fact we could explore even more of the area by driving around really made the trip for me. Our main base was San Francisco, a city we have both wanted to visit for a long time. This was also my second proper visit to the USA, my first being our holiday to NYC over 5 years ago, so visiting the west coast has been on the cards for a while now. 

We spent five days in the city before heading out on our road trip, but this was enough time for it to leave quite an impression on us. I only have New York as another American city to compare to, but I have quite a bit of experience from the rest of world, and I can comfortably say that SF is unlike any other city I’ve been to before. It’s incredibly diverse. Each neighbourhood feels like a different city altogether, and they have their own charms and uniqueness about them. I’m very much of the opinion that you have put in the effort to truly discover a city, and be prepared to walk a lot. SF really does make you work for it though. You hear about how steep some of the streets are, but you really cannot appreciate it until you’re there (and have to walk them a lot!) The rewards are most certainly there to appreciate however. There are surprises and discoveries to make on every street. I don’t think I’ve been to a city that has so many different building styles in one street too, with some truly beautiful homes. It really makes most of our streets back home so dull in comparison.

After exploring SF for several days, we hired a car and headed south along the Pacific Coast Highway. Of course being in America, I was adamant about a classic American car, with a bit of spice. A Mustang, Charger, Challenger……any of these would have fit the bill. And what did we end up with? A jaguar! Yep…..we come all the way to America and end up with a classically British car. I couldn’t complain too much though, as it was a really fun car to drive, and it certainly didn’t hang about either! The coastal highway was spectacular, although I would probably would have enjoyed it a lot more if I wasn’t concentrating so hard on driving on the wrong side of the road. We stayed the night at Pismo Beach, and treated ourselves to a hotel with an amazing beach view.

Death Valley was the next stop. Unfortunately we arrived at our hotel much later than planned, but we, or should I say I, still had time to enjoy the amazing quiet roads. We didn’t have to wait much longer until the moon set and we could view the Milky Way from just a mile or so from our hotel. This was even clearer than when we were in the desert in Jordan, and it’s the first time I’ve seen it clearly with my own eyes. That’s one of my bucket list items checked off.

Yosemite was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. It is quite simply stunning. It was surreal to leave our camp and look up at Glacier Point ‘just’ above us, starting the trail that would eventually bring us there. I insisted we hit the trails early, just in case we had time to complete the whole 4-mile and Panorama trail back to the valley. We just made it! After 13 miles and over 3000ft of climbing we made it back to camp using our phones as a torch for the last mile or so. We only spent two full days there, but I could have happily stayed for another week.

We finished where we started, back in the city of San Francisco, this time staying at an amazing B&B right near Alamo Square. From here we discovered some of the more western and southern districts, again, each having their own unique touches.

There’s no doubt that San Francisco is definitely a city I would enjoy visiting again, and it couples perfectly with a trip to ‘nearby’ Yosemite National Park.  So many memories, these are some of my favourites….

All photos taken with a Fuji X-T1 and X-T2 with 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses

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Cambridge

This was just short two day visit to celebrate my partner’s birthday. In hindsight, we didn’t pick the best time of year to visit! Firstly it was exam time, and being a large university city, this meant most of the colleges and university buildings were closed to the public. Secondly, on the last day the city was preparing for a large politician’s debate for the upcoming UK general election.

Furthermore, we even had some sunshine! Which is a rarity, even in late May!

If you’re looking for somewhere really special for dinner, I can thoroughly recommend Midsummer House. We visited one evening, and it was probably the most amazing culinary experience I’ve ever had. I would have loved to have taken my camera, but I thought constantly snapping away in a Michelin 2 star restaurant isn’t really the best practice….despite the dishes looking like works of art in themselves!

These were all taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 23mm f/1.4 lens.
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Singapore

I’ve been relatively busy in the last few weeks, with a great trip to Israel, and then a fantastic quick break to London to visit the Open House event. The next place on my calendar was Singapore…one of my favourite Asian cities. 

It‘s been over three years since I last visited, and that was a very brief trip where I didn‘t have time to see much. This trip would be equally brief as I would only be working for two days, but this time I had a stroke of luck. Due to the mysterious way airlines charge for flights, it was well over one thousand pounds cheaper to fly back on the Sunday, as opposed to Friday night. 

So…a free weekend in Singapore? I‘m certainly not going to say no to that!

For my stay I was recommended to stay at the Holiday Inn Express Atrium hotel, mainly due to proximity to places I would be visiting for work. I always do my research on all travel arrangements, so I knew what to expect when walking into the hotel lobby.

Look up and it‘s quite an impressive view.

The view down is not too bad either...


Chinese Gardens

 

After work on the first day, I had a couple of hours to spend exploring. Approximately 30 minutes by train from the downtown area is the Chinese Gardens, one of the biggest parks near the city. I didn‘t have as much time as I‘d have liked to walk around fully, but I can see it being a great getaway for the locals who want a break from the busy city streets.

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I do love spiral staircases, and the 7-storey Pagoda features a fantastic one. Make sure you walk all the way to the top for a great view down, and around the park.


YUNG KUANG ROAD

I follow many amazing photographers from Singapore, and one location I often see images of is this place, a residential block not too far from the Chinese Gardens. As it was only a short walk away, I thought I had to see what all the fuss was about.


INTERNATIONAL PLAZA

 

Another great building, if you love symmetry and photography, is the International Plaza building. It’s right near the MTR station I used, Tanjong Pagar. If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a quick visit. Quick tip, despite the courtyard looking like it’s the ground floor, it’s actually the 37th floor. So make sure you get the lift system that can take you to this level, or up to the higher floors.


In the evening, I asked to be dropped off by the gardens nears the Marina Sands Hotel. I made a quick detour through the gardens themselves, but I didn't have too much time as I had a long walk to a particular spot from which I wanted to photograph the sunset (if any!)


LONG WALK....WORTH IT!

It’s a bit of a trek to this spot. You can see the Marina Bay Sands hotel on the far left, the gardens are further to the left but you have to walk down to a pedestrian bridge before walking all the way back along the bay. It had been pretty cloudy all day too, so I didn't have my hopes up for anything spectacular. 

I’m sure many people have seen better sunsets here in Singapore, but for me, this view made the long walk worth it.

I stayed a little longer until nightfall to take one photo from the same spot.

The bright spot in the sky to the left of the Singapore Flyer is Venus.

The only downside to the long walk out to that spot was I had the same walk back again! I did take a few quick shots as I came back through the gardens. The Supertree Grove is an impressive spectacle at night. These giant structures are up to 50 metres tall, and feature photovoltaic cells to harvest the sun’s energy to power their lights.


HOTEL NO. 2

For the weekend I changed hotel and stayed at the Marina Mandarin, mainly because this is in a much better location than the previous hotel. It’s only a 10 minute walk or so until you’re right in the bay area.

They certainly know how to build impressive hotels in Singapore! This hotel featured an even bigger and more impressive atrium. I can certainly say I’ve never spent as much time exploring hotels than I have done here.

ANOTHER FANTASTIC EVENING

Friday evening, great weather, fantastic location.....things were looking good.

I spotted this shot while walking to the waterfront, I must have set a trend, as many people were taking the same shot as I left 😄

Another stunning sunset over the city…

At 8pm, there’s a nightly light and water show in the bay. If I’m honest, it’s not quite as impressive as Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, but it’s certainly worth seeing.


THE EARLY BIRD....

I decided to get up early on the Saturday to try and catch the sun rise. Things weren’t looking too promising as I headed for a particular spot I had chosen, as there were a lot of heavy looking clouds about. Despite this I set up and waited. 

Sure enough, there was no real sun rise, but it did create some very dramatic colours over the city.

After my failed, but not really failed, sun rise attempt, I headed for my next spot. This meant walking through the very impressive Marina Mall, and the even more impressive Marina Bay Sands Hotel.


Gardens by the Bay

This particular area was just starting development when I was here a few years ago, so it was very much a place I wanted to visit this time.

The gardens themselves cover a big area, but there was one main feature I wanted to visit most, the conservatories. Having woken up for 7am to catch the sun rise, I arrived a bit early as they open at 9am. So I headed for an interesting looking piece of architecture not too far away from the bridge connecting the hotel to the gardens. The ‘Futures by Us’ exhibition actually ended earlier in the year, but this giant metallic dome served as the pavilion.

CLOUD FOREST

I had seen a few photos of the interior of the conservatories, and they both seem very impressive. One thing I was slightly apprehensive about was entering what is essentially a giant greenhouse. It was hot enough for me outside, so I was dreading the temperature inside!

I chose to explore the Cloud Forest conservatory first, and the first thing that hits you upon entering, apart from the giant 35 metre waterfalls right in front of you, is a wave of intensely satisfying cool air. The temperature and humidity is very pleasant inside, and makes a welcomed break from the heat outside!

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The conservatory really is an impressive piece of architecture…..


FLOWER DOME

The flower dome is right next door, and features plants and flowers from all over the world. It may not have the showstopper centre piece like it’s neighbour, but it’s still a very impressive place to walk around, and the best news….it’s just as cool as the Cloud Forest dome!



DOWNTOWN

After a few hours of walking amongst trees, plants and flowers - it was time to mix things up and hit the downtown streets of the city.


CHINA TOWN

One advantage of not having a real route planned is you never know what you’ll find. 

After an hour or so, I eventually stumbled upon China Town.

A nearby high rise apartment block provides a great view of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum.

For me, one of the most memorable buildings from my last trip was this……the Ministry of Communications & Information.

SINGAPORE NATIONAL GALLERY

Another building I really wanted to visit was the National Gallery. This was recommended to me, as the architecture inside is something you have to witness for yourself….calling it unique would be an understatement! 

It’s free to walk around the public spaces, which includes everything I photographed here.

At this point, it was approaching late afternoon. Despite wanting to stay out for a bit more, I had been walking pretty much non stop since 6:30, so as I was not too far to my hotel, I headed back for a break before heading back out later in the evening. 

It was also another chance to take a few more cheeky photos of the hotel.

I made it out just in the final moments golden hour, and waited for night fall to capture a couple of photos of spots that I thought would work well at night.

Singapore really has one of the most impressive cityscapes in the world

A different view of the light show…..

FIRE AND ICE

A spot that I saw a few photos of is an interesting underground walkway that connects the Fullerton Hotel with the Fullerton One building. It’s a corridor of two halves, one side cold and metallic, the other warm and welcoming.

You'd be forgiven to react a bit strangely if someone says ‘you have to visit this underground walkway!!’, but if you visit Singapore, you're bound to visit this area, so it’s well worth a quick detour.


LAST DAY

My last day had no real plan, like most other days in fact. As I had to check out of the hotel by 1pm I didn't have enough time to visit anything major, so I had the morning to aimlessly wander again. 

I had stayed in some spectacular hotels during this trip, but what’s the harm in visiting just one more?! So I headed for the nearby Pan Pacific hotel. This is another building with an incredible interior atrium. 

I’ll let you decide which, out of the three hotels I visited, is the most impressive……


One last wander around the city……

This odd feature is actually a series of fire escapes, located near the Marina Mall. It’s hard to see how this works as an emergency exit, but I guess it works somehow!

Yes I really do love spiral staircases!

QUITE A FINALE.....

It was on the walk back to the hotel for the last time I took what is probably my favourite photo of the trip. I’ve included a photo from this spot already, but this was taken at a different time of day. 

With the sunlight behind me this time, the calm water’s reflection and purple water lilies just made it for me.

 

I often bump into people on my travels who say they are stopping off in Singapore on the way out or back to other destinations in Asia, or Australasia, and I can see why. It really is a fantastic place to visit. Despite being just over 50 years old itself, there’s still a sense of culture, and a real ‘feel’ about the place. 

If you’ve continued reading all the way this far, I thank you! I hope I’ve shown a small glimpse of what this amazing city has to offer. 

If you enjoy my photography,  follow me on Tumblr or Instagram for regular updates on my travels.

Until next time…….

Israel - Day 2

Whilst at work on my second day, I mentioned that something I was on the look out for in the markets was saffron. It’s incredibly expensive back in the UK, and I know it can be quite a bit cheaper in the Middle East. So a couple of the guys at work insisted they take me to one of the best markets not too far away - Mahane Yehuda.

If you are in the area, I really recommend to at least walk through this area. It’s not really for tourists, to me it seemed to be a market that all of the locals frequently use, so it’s very ‘authentic’. Unlike the market in the Old City, this one is mainly for produce, so anything from meats to fresh fruit and vegetables. It didn't take long to find a stall selling saffron (as well as every other spice imaginable!). 

I couldn't resist a quick walk around before heading back to work.

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After work, I planned to visit a particular location, but it was closed for the day. So at short notice I decided to head back into the Old City. I lost count how many photos I took in this exact alley, just like the say before, I arrived just as the sun was in the right position and low enough to be perfect.

This photo stood out to me, partly as this was one of the only photos where the alley wasn’t crammed with people! The amazing light on the steps, leading to the men at the top made this is definite keeper for me.

 
The markets can really be an assault on the eyes sometimes! With every available space packed with goods to buy.
 

When walking the streets, you often pass these groups of elderly men playing a variety of games, from cards to backgammon. They almost seem to be in their own little world, completely oblivious to the countless people and tourists walking past. I guess you get used to it after a while!

I walked though this archway on my previous day here and managed to take a photo of an elderly gentleman casually sitting on the side. This time, just as I was framing the photo again, a little girl walked past.

Of course I had no idea where she was coming from, or where she was going - but to me she made the photo worth it.

As I was leaving the Old City, the sun was again just about to set, creating an amazing colour on the wall themselves.

This was my view of the city as I enjoyed another delicious dinner, on top of the Mamilla Hotel.

A great ending to another great day in Jerusalem.