Off the Tourist Track

The streets of Toledo, Spain are lined with shade covers to give relief from the intense summer sunlight. With the ornate lamps and decorative banners, they help give the streets a festive flair. Toledo is less than an hour from Madrid, making it a popular and worthwhile day trip.


ou may know Ron Block from his volunteer work with the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy, or from his time on the historic preservation board, or the parks advisory board, or the veterans recognition committee during the construction of the Mt. Lebanon Veterans Memorial. Maybe you’ve hired him to do some landscape design, or worked with him on your Eagle Scout or Silver Award project. 

When he’s not busy making Mt. Lebanon a better place, the Woodhaven Drive resident travels the world as a flight attendant with American Airlines. His Facebook friends have enjoyed looking at the great photos he takes in vacation destinations like Paris, Venice and Toledo (the one in Spain, although the Ohio one is probably very nice also). We asked him to share some of his favorites with us. 

Two smartly dressed young women relax along the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris. Located in the 10th arrondissement, this formerly-industrial canal is crossed by iron bridges and shaded by old trees. The park-like space is now a popular gathering spot, especially for younger people attracted by lower rents and the mix of hip bars, ethnic cafes and unique shops.

Burano boats, July 2017

Burano is a 45-minute ride by vaporetto from Venice. Tradition says that the houses were brightly painted to help fishermen find their way home in heavy fog. The colors are protected by law and a homeowner must send a request to the government if they want to change one. Late in the day, many of the visitors head back to Venice and the streets get quiet. The late afternoon sun makes the colorful buildings glow, making this a great time for photography here.

My wife Maritza’s great-aunt Baba Toja lives in a small village near Knin, Croatia. Though in her 90’s, she works in her garden every day and tends her chickens, growing most of her food herself. Here she was showing us the barn where she stores her smoked meat.

A couple walks along the Boulevard de Sébastopol in Paris, not far from Saint-Chapelle. Summer evenings are long in Europe. It was nearly 10 PM when this photo was taken.

Child in the Web Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Dec 2018

A young child explores ‘Algor(h)i(y)thms’, an interactive installation by Tomás Saraceno. Saraceno studies spiders, how they communicate, and how different species build different webs. For the exhibit ‘On Air’, he built plexiglass cubes in the cavernous main gallery of the Palais de Tokyo and used tuning forks to coax 500 spiders to them from throughout the building. He then darkened the gallery and lit the webs, making the webs the sculptures on display. One problem was convincing the cleaning crews to stop clearing the webs. For this room of the exhibit, Saraceno stretched strings from floor to ceiling and tuned each to a different frequency. As people wove their way through them, they touched and activated the strings, creating a musical and ever-changing dance.

One of the best spots for viewing the Eiffel Tower is from the plaza on the hill across the Seine, known as the Trocadéro. A misty night created interesting reflections and made the Tower glow like a torch.
Bubble-making street performers always attract a crowd, and it’s fun to watch as children chase and pop the bubbles. This image was captured along the Giudecca Canal in Venice. In the distance is Il Redentore, a votive church designed by Palladio. It was built after the plague of 1575-1576, in which 46,000 people died. Each year in July a temporary walkway is built across the canal to the church to celebrate the Feast of the Redeemer, a tradition for over 400 years.