Baker’s Dozen: My Personal Favorite Photos from the Big Adventure

I took a lot of photos during our travels. A lot. I go through them fairly frequently these days, to look up something or just to remember and reminisce. The other day I gave myself the task of picking my top ten favorites – impossible! I started with a total 42, then got it down to 25, and eventually, with a great deal of thought and effort, was able to winnow it down to the 13 photos below. That was it though – I couldn’t remove any more off my list of absolute favorite.

These photos all carry a flood of memories with them, beyond the time and day the picture was taken. For some of them, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Other times I got a little help and was able to catch a special shot. Two of them are even from the same location!

I do have a favorite – it’s mentioned below – but otherwise I didn’t rank these photos; they’re in chronological sequence of the places we visited. 

Brett and I both sought out and discovered street art in every place we visited, and never failed to be amazed and awed by the talent and beauty we were privileged to see, created by both the famous (Banksy) and the unknown. The works appeared all over too, and in unusual places – we never knew where and when we could be surprised by a piece of art. The picture above, from Montevideo, Uruguay, was one of those surprises (always look up!) and remains my favorite. 

The Eiffel Tower was our last stop on a busy, hot day in Paris. We had started with the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a walk down the Champs Elysées, a picnic lunch in Jardins de Champs-Elysées, and a visit to the Louvre to see the pyramids in the courtyard before finishing with the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon. It had been a particularly hot day, with temperatures in the 90s, and so we sat in the park in front of the tower with a couple of cold drinks to wait until it cooled off a bit before we headed back to our apartment and to watch the lights on the Tower come on. The sunset behind the Eiffel Tower was a special reward, an unexpected piece of magic at the end of a wonderful day.

Strasbourg remains our favorite of all the cities we visited on our travels. We spent three weeks there, living in a tiny studio apartment (less than 300 square feet) and sleeping on a sofa bed (which had the most comfortable mattress of the entire trip!). We walked all over or used public transportation to explore all the city had to offer, from the historic Petite France neighborhood to the European Union Parliament buildings. On one of our last days in Strasbourg, we finally got around to visiting the Musée de l’Œuvre-Notre-Dame, located across from the Strasbourg Cathedral. Housed in a building from the 14th century, the photo was taken from the top of its spiral staircase, still used to get to the exit.

The view from our kitchen in Florence reminded us every day of our month there that we were in Italy, in Tuscany. A look out the window was better than a painting, both timeless and yet never static.

We had a crazy time getting up to the Cinque Terre for a quick getaway. Bad weather initially delayed the trip, and when we could finally go we kept getting things wrong, including getting on the wrong train after lunch in Monterosso and ending up all the way down in Spezia before we could get off and make our way back. We finally arrived in Vernazza in the late afternoon where we strolled through the village down to the waterfront, just in time to catch the sunset over the Mediterranean.

Both Brett and I came down with bad colds when we were in Rome. Other than a longish (but fantastic) small-group walking tour of the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Roman Forum, we limited ourselves to exploring places we could walk to from our apartment, located just five minutes away from the Vatican. Coming back from a visit to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, we walked along the Tiber River up to Vatican City. It had been a wet day but the rain had stopped and the clouds were breaking up. I snapped this picture of St. Peter’s right as the lights at the Vatican were turned on for the evening. Of all the photos I took during our travels, this one is my favorite.

I was walking back to the exit at the end of our visit to the Taj Majal and kept turning around to take pictures, trying to get that last perfect shot. An older man grabbed my elbow and said, “come.” He took my arm and started walking away with me, which frightened both Brett and me, but he brought me to this point at the end of one of the pools, where he turned me around and said “here.” It was exactly the picture I had been hoping for, catching the reflection of the monument in the fountain pool. I said thank you, he raised his hands and bowed his head, and then blended back into the crowd. 

I spotted this group of women in their colorful saris just before we passed through the exit at the Taj Mahal, waiting for family members to come back from their sightseeing. I asked if I could take their picture, our guide translated, and the question from all was “why?” I told them they were so beautiful – when that was translated they laughed at me, but then except for one who was still laughing, they all put on a serious face and let me take my picture. They’re still beautiful to me.

Hong Kong is a very modern city, but one with deep traditional roots. We passed this poster advertising Chinese opera every day on our way through the subway tunnel back to our hotel, and on our last night in the city, I quickly snapped this picture as we walked by, not only as a reminder of our time there but also of the deep traditions and roots that form the foundation of the city and its people.

I think we saw the Opera House from every angle possible when we were in Sydney – from the water, from the Harbor Bridge, and inside and out close up during a tour we took with my brother while he was there. We had a great guide on that tour, someone who knew his subject well and how to present what could have been merely dry facts in an interesting and entertaining manner. At one point he asked us to look up, and there was the Sydney Harbor bridge mirrored in the windows of one of the theaters. A little bit later and it would have been rendered invisible by the angle of the sun.

One of the outings we took with our family in Japan in 2019 was a trip to the Mt. Fuji Five Lakes area. We lucked out and had beautiful weather on our second day there, with Mt. Fuji visible the entire day. One of the last places we visited was Sato Nemba, rebuilt in 2006 on the site of the original village that had been washed away in a landslide in 1966. These days the traditional thatched buildings contain various shops and workshops, including spaces for the public to interact and practice traditional crafts. At one point, as I stopped to admire the view of the mountain, I noticed the last visitor in front of me had walked around the corner, giving me a scene that could have existed a hundred years earlier.

Our summer in Portland last year turned into a great stop during our travels. We had a wonderful apartment, attended Meiling’s graduation, took some lovely side trips, got together with friends, got in shape, and explored the city as tourists all summer, seeing and doing a few things we hadn’t done when we lived there. One of the things we enjoyed the most was hiking through the forest in the Marquam Nature Park, located a very short distance from our apartment. Always beautiful, we usually had the trails to ourselves, and the forest always offered a cool, quiet respite from the hot summer weather and the bustle of the city.

A visit to the village of Broad Campden was on our bucket list of places to visit during our stay in the Cotswolds. Located halfway between our village of Blockley and the market town of Chipping Campden, Broad Campden had a lovely collection of thatched-roof cottages as well as a well-regarded pub where we enjoyed lunch before walking over to Chipping Campden. As we left the village, this group of freshly shorn sheep, with their identical cutting patterns, stopped and posed for this perfect Cotswolds scene. 

Which one of these is your favorite? I’d love to know!

30 thoughts on “Baker’s Dozen: My Personal Favorite Photos from the Big Adventure

  1. I’ve been going through my travel photos a lot lately wondering when things will get back to normal and we can resume traveling. Love your photos and it’s tough to pick just one, but I like the Mt Fuji photo the best. I’ve been there and have a lot of photos of it, but not with the village in the foreground. I was there in the summer and there was much less snow on top. I also like the Eiffel Tower and Taj Mahal photos. Did you stay for the light show at the Eiffel Tower?

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    1. I got several great photos while we were visiting that village – cherry trees were still in bloom, and Children’s Day was coming up so there were large, colorful koinoburi (fish kites) on display. But the Mt. Fuji shot was something else.

      We did not get to see the light show at the Eiffel Tower. We were so exhausted by the end of the day, so we only waited for the sky to darken and the lights to come up on the tower before heading back to our apartment to eat and go to bed.

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  2. Gorgeous photos Laura! I especially like the photo of the five women in India! It is a very interesting photo. By the way, I really enjoy reading your blog!

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    1. I so wished I had had the ability to talk with the women to learn more about them. Our guide spoke with them for a few minutes after my photo and while we waited for the others in our small group, but he didn’t relay what they had said.

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  3. It was going to be the Eiffel Tour but then I think Florence wins. Such day dreaming potential. Then again, the Taj Mahal is beautiful. The stairwell would make a great poster. Can’t pick one. And I don’t have the emotional memory tied to the photos. You did well getting it to so few.

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    1. We pinched ourselves every day we were there that we had rented that apartment in Florence. Beyond that beautiful view each day, we got to live in a great neighborhood in a great location in the city (Oltrarno). The kitchen was amazing, and the best equipped of any place we stayed.

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  4. I’m a nature lover and always love a path through the trees. They are all amazing but that is my favourite.

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    1. I gasped when I first saw this picture after I took it – I couldn’t believe I had captured the essence of the forest and trail so well. The picture brings back many happy memories.

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    1. I took a lot of what I think are good photos – all with just my trusty iPhone – but these ones are the amazing ones, and also carry a flood of memories.

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  5. Even better the second time around. I love the picture of the women in their sari’s and also the picture of the sheep.

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    1. The picture of the sheep was an amazing bit of luck – their pen was right at the very edge of the village, just as we stepped out into the fields beyond for the walk over to Chipping Campden. I almost couldnt believe they stopped and posed for me.

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  6. All of them are great and you have traveled to some wonderful places that most people only dream of seeing in person. However, being a nature and animal lover, I think my favs are a tie between the wooded path and the sheep. Thanks for keeping up the blog even though you are not traveling full-time now!

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    1. I’ve been thinking of having the photos put into some kind of collage, at least some of them, and these two would definitely make the cut. An additional thing I love about the picture of the trail is that I lived in Portland for nearly 25 years and never hiked it! I’m so grateful I eventually got the chance to do it.

      I love writing the blog, and the connections I make with others through it. I plan to keep going for as long as the muse stays with me!

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  7. The sheep take me back to our two visits to the Cotswolds, and as a former Portland resident (and now frequent visitor), I love the trail photo and have fond memories of walking in the woods. But my favorite is the first one. That is an incredible piece of art, and I’m so glad you looked up.

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    1. The girl in the picture reminded me so much of our girls. She doesn’t look like them, but evokes their dreams and love of music. I’m so glad I looked up as well!

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    1. I hope we can visit Strasbourg again one day. There’s so much to see and do there, plus we loved the Alsatian cuisine and the wines. The city is fairly flat, so very easy to walk around, and the public transportation system is superb! Strasbourg is also very conveniently located to Germany and Switzerland – we were able to take a three-day getaway to Lucerne – just an hour and a half away by car.

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  8. What a wonderful set of pictures. My favourite is the inviting path through all the trees, however that may be a reflection of the times we live in and my desire to set out on a path and walk for an endless period of time.

    You must get so much enjoyment looking through your photos from your time travelling and reminiscing about the food you ate and the adventures you had. Stay strong, in the not too distant future you will be planning your next set of trips and giving your readers like myself so much pleasure as we follow along with you.

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    1. That path through the woods still looks so cool and inviting to me. It really was a magical as it looks, too. That trail stayed relatively flat, but some of the others that met up with it provided some invigorating hikes from the climbs and descents they provided.

      I look at my pictures all the time – they make me so thankful for all we got to see and do. I know we’ll get going again, sooner rather than later – I just have to be patient.

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  9. They’re all wonderful, and I am so happy I’ve been able to follow your travels and enjoy your pictures. Like you, I just LOVE the picture of the Christmas tree at the Vatican with the beautiful sky behind. I think because we had such an amazing trip to Italy not long before you were there, I really appreciated seeing it that way. And I also really love the Eiffel Tower picture…again, I have quite a few pics of it, but none with that perfect sunset behind it. 🙂

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    1. Both the Eiffel Tower and the St. Peters pictures were “right time, right place” magic. We were staying just five minutes away from the Vatican, so seeing the lights come on that evening and making it all look golden took my breath away. It’s may favorite because it carries so many memories. We were sick, didn’t really warm to our Airbnb (too much marble!), and Rome had felt overwhelming after Florence, but that night I fell its magic.

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  10. The story of the beautiful women makes that the best. Seeing the good and beauty in others, in the “ordinary,” is so needed right now in our world. From a pure photo perspective…. I love the historical huts and epic view of Mt Fuji. Wow.

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    1. Our tour in India was short, and we felt detached from the people while we were there – they were always serving us, it seemed – so finding these beautiful women and getting to interact with them, even as slightly as I did, was a blessing. We also got to tour the Sikh temple in Delhi, and go behind the scenes and up close to what was going on – another blessing. India made me want to go back and see and do more.

      The picture of Mt. Fuji was a lucky pictures if there ever was one – definitely “right place, right time.” That village was full of beautiful photo opportunities, but this one was magic.

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    1. Thank you!

      We’ve been talking about going back to France again – we did not expect to like it as much as we did, and there are so many places to see and experience there. Paris wasn’t particularly high on our list, but now we’d love to go again – there’s so much we didn’t see before.

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