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Just Venice~


I will not lie. She is way too crowded, and these are some of the reasons why.

These are ceiling shots of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco which opened in 1478 and was named after the patron saint of plague victims. The scuola (school) was a brotherhood of citizens devoted to charitable welfare.

Tintoretto was eventually a member of the brotherhood, and his paintings cover much of the interiors.

How this happened is interesting. There was a competition among artists (including Veronese), to determine who would paint the interiors. They were asked to submit sketches. While the other artists busily worked on their sketches, Tintoretto, installed one of his completed paintings in the scuola. (1) The result is history!
Titian also has artwork here.

This is the adjacent Chiesa San Rocco, a Venetian version of a modest little chapel.

They take churches very seriously in Venice. There are 139 of them! They provide a weary tourist wonderful respite from “the madding crowd.”

Cheers to you from Venice and her stunning quiet corners~
(1) http://www.scuolagrandesanrocco.org/home-en/tintoretto/sala-dell-albergo/

Castle Rapture~


Near Haut-Koenigsbourg in France is a castle called Kintzheim that houses only raptors.

These are bateleur eagles that I photographed in the wild in Africa and never expected to see again in France!

Of course you recognize these beauties, who I also never expected to see in France.

The castle runs a program called “La Volerie des Aigles,” which is dedicated to breeding, conserving and educating the public about vulnerable raptors. Birds are flown daily, and are an unusual sight soaring over the old towns and orderly fields of France. The castle has bred many endangered raptor species including Andean condors, and stellar, imperial and white-tailed eagles, and many other species, including vultures.

The white-headed vulture is endemic to Africa. Populations have been declining steeply in recent years due to habitat degradation and poisoning. Our planet needs vultures, they are designed to keep our world clean.

The cinereous vulture has an impressive wing-span of 10 feet. It is under serious threat. There are only an estimated 4,500-5000 of these amazing birds left in the wild.


The golden eagle is distributed across Eurasia, North America, and parts of North Africa, but has been eliminated from much of it’s prior habitats.

Harry Potter’s snowy owls are here too!
The public can visit the castle for a nominal fee which not only supports the raptor conservation program, but also provides an up close experience with these incredible birds which will, unless your heart is made of stone, cause you to become enraptured by them.
Admission also enables you to explore the quite impressive old castle ruins.


Cheers to you from Castle Kintzheim’s gorgeous and threatened raptors~

Azulejos I~


Portugal’s iconic blue and white hand painted tiles are called azulejos.

Arabs brought the art of tile making to Portugal, and to Spain, along with the artistic tradition of “horror vacui,” the disdain for empty or plain spaces. The result of this Islamic Arabic artistic influence can be seen in the stunningly creative tile work covering the empty spaces of both Spain and Portugal.

The first classic blue and white tiles were made in Portugal in the 1500’s.

By the 17th century, yellow was added to create the stunning blue, white and yellow combination.


Purple and green were added next, along with geometric designs. (See Azulejos II for more of these multi-colored tiles.)


In the 18th century a formal tile making school opened in Lisbon.

The proliferation of historic tile work throughout Portugal creates a unique and distinctively Portuguese visual experience.

Cheers to you from Portugal’s beautiful azulejos~

http://www.the-art-minute.com/just-a-second-horror-vacui/

Azulejos II~


When we think of Portugal’s historical tradition of hand painted tile work,

we normally think of the traditional blue and white,


or Portugal’s unique and iconic blue, yellow and white.

But Portugal, historically, is more colorful than our imagination.

It is amazing to consider that each tile,


in this country of seemingly infinite historical tile work,

was handmade.

Artistic beauty,

created by ordinary human beings,

helps us,

recognize what we all are capable of.
Cheers to you from Portugal’s enduring art & artisans~
For more info see:
http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/25/travel/shopper-s-world-vibrant-tiles-from-portugal.html?pagewanted=all

Ribeauville & Riquewhir~


are two typical Alsatian towns.

The architecture,

is fairytale,

meets living history,

with the added benefit of French dessert!


There are little towns like these scattered all over Alsace,

exploring, (note Jupiter near clock tower)

and eating,

here is a delightful way to spend your days!

Cheers to you from beautiful Alsace~

Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari~


Is one of the greatest “minor” basilicas in Venice, which of course, is saying quite a lot. Building began in 1250. This is the entry way.


This photo, and the next, show the woodwork in the choir stalls, with the organ pipes above.


Think for a minute what it would sound like to hear the organ and the choir sing in these stalls, as you sat in the church, in say 1400.


In the cathedral are two works by the 16th century master Titian, as well as Donatello’s first painting. They were magnificent, but what struck me most was this piece from Paola Veneziano, depicting the Madonna with saints. I knew little of Veneziano and had to google him. All that is known about him is the artwork he created between 1333-1358. His work represents, “an amazing balance between his Byzantine training and the romantic influences of northern Europe.” (Wiki)
It was the influence of Byzantine mosaic in this piece that caught my attention.

The interior is an amazing example of how architecture, art, and reverence, can create an environment that has soothed human souls for hundreds of years.

The painted, wooden art in the basilica is remarkable. This horse and rider made of painted wood, was the first of its type ever made in Venice, and depicts a Roman Prince.


This wooden clock was carved in 1630 by the artist Stefano Panatta.

There are many beautiful pieces of very old furniture in the basilica like this pew and wood painted fresco, of unknown origin.


Cheers to you from the sacred serenity of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari~

Les chats du toit de Strasbourg~

Strasbourg’s cats live on steep rooftops,

rest on high windowsills,

sleep on chimney tops,

stalk pigeons on ridgelines, and enter and exit their homes via high rooftop windows.
They notice, eventually, the biped with telephoto, and I could see it shocked them, to be watched so quietly, so intently, like they watch everything.

Lucky felines. No bipedal landlubbing for these cool-cats.

They much prefer looking down on mere humans.


Of course, some poor cats have yet to claim their rooftop-aeries,


and have to settle for schlepping down-low with humans.

Cheers to you from all the cool cats~