Big City Tales

On A Sunny Day Nothing Beats Vancouver

July 28, 2013
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An aerial view of Vancouver shows off the city`s abundant natural beauty and some of its unique architecture.

For a city that ranks amongst Canada`s most wettest locales, Vancouver is also one of the warmest major centres.  When the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the temperature is rising, nothing beats spending a day enjoying the sights and sounds of what is without doubt one of the most livable cities in the world.

Take in the Natural Beauty

Situated on the western half of the Burrard Peninsula in British Columbia`s Lower Mainland, Vancouver is blessed with an abundance of waterways and green spaces that locals and visitors alike flock to in droves…Stanley Park being the jewel in Vancouver’s parks crown!

With the downtown core in close proximity, Stanley Park is frequented by the business crowd along with nature lovers who relish in over 1000 acres of luscious land and a perimeter seawall that offers breath-taking views at each turn. Over 8 million people visit the park each year, with 2.5 million making their way around the seawall. Following an invigorating run, walk, bike ride or other mode of getting around the 22-kilometre paved path, it`s time to enjoy a well-deserved break at another water-based city attraction: Granville Island.

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The seawall around Stanley Park, with downtown Vancouver in the distance.

Take in the Arts

As a local hot spot of shopping and entertainment, Granville Island boasts a large public market and licensed buskers can be found in their appointed areas. Access to the island is as easy as taking a walk across the Granville Bridge or hopping on a mini tugboat ferry and chugging on over across False Creek.

Granville Island caters to an eclectic mix of artisans eager to demonstrate their crafts and sell their respective wares. Glass-blowers, print-makers, potters, jewellers, and boat-builders are just a few of the crafts people who add to the artsy-feel of this popular district.

The island also features a large indoor public market that is a haven for foodies that are seeking fresh produce and seafood to prepare themselves, but there is also a food court area and plenty of restaurants to choose from.

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Granville Market is a great place to eat, drink and be merry!

Take in the Urban Vibe 

If the crafty, casual crowd isn’t your cup of tea, head on over to Robson Street to mingle with the rich and famous (and the wannabes!).

Stretching from BC Place Stadium to the Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, Robson Street serves up one guilty pleasure after another. Whether you have a hankering to consume an overly high-priced cup of coffee, or are feeling the need for some high-end designer shopping, Robson is the place to satisfy your cravings.

And, it’s an ideal place to do some serious people watching.  With the most expensive retail rental rates in the city, the likes of Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Tiffany & Co., and other upscale retailers attract the jet set along with the curious average Joe window shoppers eager to catch a glimpse of who’s out shopping and what they are buying.

Take in the Views

From any direction, Vancouver is a photographer`s dream and with so many vantage points to choose from, it`s not hard to obtain an incredible shot.  True, on an overcast, rainy day the view isn`t that grand, but when gray skies clear and Mother Nature kindly serves up ideal conditions, what is revealed is a city that is brilliant by day and spectacular at night. A city like none other that draws people back time and time again to experience all it has to offer, and then some!

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At dusk, Vancouver starts to sparkle!

 

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Feast Your Eyes on Florence

July 22, 2013
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The Piazzale Michelangelo offers one of the best views of Florence, Italy and features a large statue of David.

Nestled high in the Tuscan hills, the city of Florence offers up one idyllic scene after another.  Be it the incredibly detailed and delicate exterior of the massive Duomo di Firenze (Florence Cathedral), the grandeur of the larger-than-life statue of David in the Galleria dell’Accademia, or the breath-taking panoramic view of the city from the Piazzale Michelangelo, there is plenty to feast your eyes on in Florence.

An Artist’s Haven

Despite the fact Florence may not be Italy’s largest or most famous city, at the peak of its development during the Renaissance the city was a mecca for the great artists of the day who served as patrons of the powerful Medici family.  Eager to demonstrate and show-off their incredible wealth, the Medici spared no expense in commissioning a series of buildings, public landmarks, and works of art that remain to this day amongst the most splendid examples of Italian craftsmanship.

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Detail of Brunelleschi’s massive dome that is the crowning glory of the epic Florence Cathedral.

The Duomo and David

The handiwork of two famous Italian artists, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo, is on display throughout Florence; the most famous of the former being the Duomo dome,  the latter being the David statue.

Mammoth structures in terms of size and artistic impact, the dome and statue dominate their respective landscapes and are amongst the most visited city attractions. While the dome is fully accessible and photographable (you can even climb to the top and take a walk around the exterior), the statue of David is less so with it being housed in a museum meaning that viewing hours are restricted and pictures are prohibited in order to safeguard the integrity of the marble. That said, two replicas of the statue are located in outdoor venues (one in Piazzale Michelangelo, one in Piazza della Signoria) and provide plenty of photo opportunities to capture the splendor of Michelangelo’s sculptural masterpiece.

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Detail of Michelangelo’s iconic and stately statue of David that stands in the Piazza della Signoria.

A Sculptural Garden

Along with the replica of the David statue, the Piazza della Signoria features the Neptune Fountain, which symbolizes Florence’s status as a naval power in the mid-to- late 1500s; an equestrian statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici, who is proudly shown on his mount making a triumphant return to the city as its ruling power in 1537; and an imposing statue of Hercules, the mythical hero who is thought to have filled in the swampland Florence was founded upon.

The piazza is also in close proximity to two buildings of historical significance: The Uffizi Gallery that houses the most extensive collection of Italian Renaissance art, and the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) that has served as city hall since the 1300s.

A Famous Burial Ground

Not far from the Uffizi and Palazzo Vecchio, the Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is noteworthy as being the largest Franciscan church in the world and the final resting place for some of Italy’s most famous citizens, including Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and Rossini. Given the celebrated status of the dearly departed buried here, the building is also referred to as the Temple of the Italian Glories.

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The Santa Croce is the burial place of some famous Italians (e.g. Michelangelo and Galileo), earning it the moniker: Temple of the Italian Glories.

A Bridge Like None Other

Crossing the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is the oldest bridge in Florence and has the unique distinction of having houses/shops built into its design and a pedestrian walkway (the Vasari Corridor) that runs over the tops of the shops. Since the 16th century, the bridge has been the home of goldsmiths and jewellers catering to a wide range of clientele. The Vasari Corridor bustles from dawn ’til dusk with tourists enjoying a myriad of entertainers and some of the prettiest views of the river.

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The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge like none other…shops on the inside and a walkway over its top.

View From the Top

While the Piazza della Signoria is the heart of old Florence, the Piazzale Michelangelo is the city’s prime viewing location where one of the Michelangelo’s replicas of David enjoys an incredible view from the top for all eternity.

Perched high above the city, David overlooks the Arno River with its series of beautiful bridges, and the mass expanse of the city lying just across the river banks. From this vantage point, the Duomo di Firenze, the Palazzo Vecchio, and other historical sites take on a new perspective revealing the full breadth and glory of these ancient, awe-inspiring structures.

Florence is truly a city of fabulous views and if you’re looking for a place to tantalize your eyes, look no further.

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View of the expansive, elaborate and elegant Florence Cathedral from Piazzale Michelangelo.