Pictures of my trip to Northern Italy

These are my pictures of Milan, Genoa, Pisa, Florence and Venice taken on a trip around Northern Italy last week. I flew into Milan, from where I took trains to Genoa, and from there to La Spezia. I had planned to visit Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera, but I could see from the train those little villages were already packed with tourists, so I skipped it and made a note to myself to return there off season. Instead, I used the time to stop over for a morning in Pisa, which I hadn’t planned on doing. Finally saw that damn tower. Then I went on to Florence where I spent two days, then to Venice and from there back to Milan.

Looking back on the trip I wish I had given myself more time in Venice. It was less frantic than Florence and visually far more interesting. Perhaps, as an Amsterdammer, I appreciate the presence of water, water everywhere.

I wish I’d had better weather, but the skies were overcast the full week, giving me very little to work with. Or rather, I had to work much harder to get decent pictures. Waking up every morning at the crack of dawn to catch Golden Hour just to be faced by gray skies each day was disappointing. Sunsets weren’t much better. I caught just one, in Florence, where zillions of people were pushing me and each other out of the way to get their selfies. I didn’t get one picture in lovely La Spezia because it rained all day. So, photography wise, this wasn’t the most rewarding trip. On top of that, I caught a bug and so the second half of the week I struggled with a fever and ended up mostly holed up in my B&B in Milan the last two days.

I’ll just have to do it again some day.

Japan, Day 2: five minutes of shouting over dead fish

Tsukiji, the district in Chūō, Tokyo where the fish market is located, is fantastic. Everything about it is exciting. The mix of old and new, the plethora of sea food, the signage, the fact that it’s fish, fish and more fish and it doesn’t smell of it. But the one thing this area is famous for, the tuna auction, is a bit of a let down.

In short: you queue up at 3am (Yes, three o’clock in the morning. Not five, as the tour guides still say or you’ll find you’re too late to make it into one of the 2 groups of 60 that are let in) then wait two and a half hours to stand in a tiny crowded space for 20 minutes watching men prod dead, frozen tuna for a while before the auction starts. Then two of them start jumping and shouting a bit, and the lucky bidders tow away their frozen catch. That’s it. A very strict security officer tells you to leave. Then you’re supposed wait till 9 am to be allowed into the rest of the wholesale market.


i’ll spare you the story of my two hours in the waiting room with 20 drunk, loud, rude Canadians. My advice: get some sleep, don’t queue, just get there by 9am to explore the inner and outer market.

Quite groggy (not sure how long I had been up by that time) I picked up my JR Rail Pass at Tokyo station and caught the 10.30am bullet train to Osaka. I’d hoped to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji on the way, but I fell asleep almost immediately and woke up two hours later, when the sweet little old lady next to me tapped me on the arm to make sure I didn’t miss my stop.

Japan, Day 1: Narita to Tsujiki, Ginza

The hotel I’m booked into for tonight is built on fish. Perhaps that’s why it’s got one painted on the side. I’m not joking, it’s right on the edge of the Tsujiki fish market. The next door neighbour is a sushi restaurant. So is the next one. Across the road is a little temple. Everything else… sushi. It’s like my ass landed in a pile of Christmas. If Christmas was made of fish.

Tokyu Stay Hotel

Coming over on the flight, I was sat beside a woman who spoke no language I knew or recognised, mostly because she only communicated in grunts. She didn’t look too happy. Just prior to landing we were given landing cards to fill in and she tapped my arm and made the international sign for ‘can I borrow your pen’. I gave it to her, but it turned out she wanted me to fill in her card. We’d both been given Japanese ones, since the Dutch purser on our flight had a bad case of the “all look same“.

I’d asked him for an English one for myself and did the same for the woman next to me. She had shown me her passport, mumbled “Claudia” and tried to give me the pen and card to copy the details from her passport. “Lima, Peru”, it said. Perhaps she couldn’t write.

I wondered briefly whether she was related to Gimmeabreakman, a Peruvian-American J-vlogger on YouTube, who lives in Nagoya. Oddly, she never said a word in Spanish. In the end, I told the crew she was having issues and wasn’t communicating and got them to fill in her card for her. I wonder what she was going to Tokyo for. Nanny? Slavery? Who knows. A story I’ll never know.


All hail Japanese efficiency. From touch down to customs (finger prints, photo, lots of konichiwas, arigatos gozaimases and sumimasens) to getting my luggage from the belt took about 20 minutes. From Narita I took the N’EX train into Tokyo Station (cheap rate for foreigners), grabbed myself a Pasmo card (equivalent of the British Oyster card), jumped on the Maronouchi line to Ginza and from there the Hibiya line to Tsujiki station. My hotel was just around the corner from Exit 1.

It sounds like a smooth ride and it was, but it felt like climbing Mt Everest what with the jetlag fogging my brain and the subtropical weather. 30 celcius? Wasn’t it supposed to get cooler this week?

Just before I left I found out from Dave Powell’s ShootTokyo blog that the Tokyo Photo fair is on this weekend. Today would have been the only day for me to squeeze in a visit, but by the time I was settled in my hotel it was 3.30pm, the fair closed at 6 and I didn’t feel like making the trek back to Tokyo Station. Shame, I would have enjoyed looking at lots of vintage and rare Leica’s I can’t afford to buy.


So instead I doused myself in mosquito repellent (no Dengue for me, thanks), scouted the area around the hotel (see “Christmas, pile”) and ended up scoffing a bowl of rice topped with various sorts of tuna. No pictures, it actually wasn’t the best looking plate. But the guy next door wore a fetching head scarf.

I’ve got the alarm set for 3.30am. Which is when the queue for the tuna auction starts. Bring me more fish….

Things that struck me this first day:

  1. The seats on the N’EX train can be turned around so that they always face the right way.
  2. The train is cleaned before you’re allowed to board.
  3. I’ve already started copying the bowing and the handing over documents, money, etc with two hands rather than one.
  4. All the Japanese little old ladies and gents remind me, physically, as well as how they’re dressed – must be some kind of old fashioned Asian thing – of my grandparents and thus how much I miss them.
  5. I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve heard, and said, ‘Sumimasen’.

Previously >

Japan, Day 1: AMS -> NRT

This evening at around 5.00 pm I will be boarding flight KL863, arriving at Narita, Japan noon the next day.

It’s 10am in Amsterdam right now and I’m considering heading to the airport already, because the house next door is being renovated and I think they’re about to drill right through my wall. Which isn’t the most zen situation to start ones journey.

My trip starts and ends in Narita/Tokyo (on October 14) and I’ll be visiting Osaka, Kyoto and perhaps Kobe and Nara. Definitely Yokohama. I’m interested in modern, urban life more than traditional so I may skip Nara if I’ve had enough of temples in Kyoto. My itinerary may also change due to a ‘Super” typhoon that’s apparently heading for Japan and is expected to hit the mainland this weekend.

If I don’t succumb to jetlag, expect my first posts from Japan to cover the fish market in Tsujiki as I intend to join the queue for the tuna auction at 4.30am on Saturday morning and then enjoy a sushi breakfast before catching the Shinkansen to Osaka.


I’ve had this Olympus E-P2 since 2012 and I’ve used it on and off, with a 17mm/2.8 Oly lens. I’ve used it mostly for travel/street-type photography. It worked particularly well for me in March when I went to Tokyo for just one day and had little time to focus on photography. I hung it around my neck and the wide angle lens did its job capturing my impressions.

In three weeks time I will be going to Japan again. This time I will be there for 12 days and I really want to take the time to take pictures rather than snap everything in sight. I’ve debated which of my camera’s I will bring. I am reluctant to bring an SLR. I haven’t touched my SLR for months or years. Yes, I bring it out when I’m shooting a show, but other than that the body and the many, many lenses just sit there gathering dust. It’s too much hassle. Plus, my 30d died and the 550d feels like a cheap toy.

Instead, this is the camera line up for my trip:

  • Olympus E-P2 (daily use)
  • Sony RX100 (low light)
  • GoPro clone (for fun)
  • iPhone 5s (social)

Which means I was stuck in wide angle land. The Sony zooms to 100mm, but I don’t like using it at that length. So today I invested in the Oly 45mm/1.8. I think that’s like a 90mm equivalent? It looks a little weird on the camera, it’s long and quite narrow. I haven’t shot anything real with it yet, but it feels like a big change from the 17mm. It’s super sharp, that much I know. The manual focus on it is very nice, very smooth, so I’ve set the camera to MF and perhaps I’ll spend more time learning to work with this camera rather than just keep it on automatic like I have so far.

Bookmarks for July 5th through July 12th

These are my links for July 5th through July 12th as bookmarked on

Bookmarks for June 28th from 15:34 to 18:56

These are my links for June 28th from 15:34 to 18:56 as bookmarked on