Life on a Roll

Elodie Pauwels

Many comparisons can be made between a single day and a full year. Both are the result of the rotation of the Earth, on its axis or around the sun. This sunset—these three pictures taken within 15 minutes of each other—offered blazing colors, as it often does at the end of the year. Happy holidays!


Bernard Langs

While vacationing in London in May, my wife and I took the train to visit Hampton Court Palace in East Molesey, Surrey. ​Hampton Court Palace was occupied by King Henry VIII and his many wives in the early sixteenth century, and he utilized its grandeur to demonstrate power and magnificence. Several subsequent royals added structures to the Palace and William Shakespeare’s “King’s Men” first performed Hamlet and Macbeth there in 1603 for James I. The beautiful gardens were expanded by William III and Mary II in the late 1600s. Queen Victoria ordered the palace open to all of her subjects in 1838.

Life on a Roll

Fair Warning

Megan Kelly

Cold Spring Harbor, NY

Where the trail ended there stood a handful of trees in a field, one seemingly impaled by the fragment of another. Under the chainsawed end of fragment there was a glinting light. Upon closer inspection, the light revealed itself to be a glass hemisphere, and when viewed from the right (wrong) angle, the hemisphere displayed a warning. Maybe not all that is intriguing deserves investigation.


Life on a Roll

The Venice of the North

By Elodie Pauwels

So many Venices in the World! Before booking my trip to Russia, I had no clue that Peter the Great wanted the city he founded, Saint Petersburg, to look like Venice, Italy.

During the never-ending summer days, discover this colorful city with dozens of palaces along canals and the large Neva River. Lose yourself in the Hermitage Museum and its famous green Winter Palace. And catch up on the Romanov dynasty while visiting Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in the middle of the fortress, the very place the city was founded in 1703!

Hermitage Museum from the Fortress

Peter and Paul Fortress



Life on a Roll

Qiong Wang – Morocco Series #2 – Fes

Fes, one of the four royal cities in Morocco, is famous for its rich culture and history. The old medina is like the sacred labyrinth of the moors. Hundreds of uneven narrow lanes turn and terminate capriciously, and thousands of short old houses have managed to squeeze themselves inside this royal city for over a thousand years. The tiny streets are so narrow that when a horse passes by, everybody needs to stand by to let them pass. Sometimes the lanes are ensconced in darkness — even during the day, keeping you alert. Less than 10 minutes after stepping into the medina, I found myself lost completely, and realized that English and Google Maps were not that useful.

The most famous scene of Fes is, of course, the colorful view of the dye pits from the rooftop at the expense of a very bad sulfur smell. This is where whole pieces of skin are stripped off the animals and processed into genuine leather. Luckily, the smell was not as strong during winter, but, still, it was not a pleasant scene to see up close. It is hard to imagine the factory workers submerging themselves in the dying barrels for hours each day. Fes might be a sacred place for many, but I think I will avoid a second visit.


Bernie Langs – Italy

Italy remains a favorite spot for my family to enjoy vacations. In May, we spent several days sightseeing in Florence and took a fabulous day trip for wine and cheese tasting, which included stops around Tuscany in Pienza, Montepulciano, and Montalcino.

As one climbs inner, narrow stairways to the roof of the Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo di Firenze), there are areas where one can emerge to view the cathedral from catwalks high above, including the fantastic sight of the upper painted interior under the dome. The Duomo, a majestic wonder of both architecture and engineering, was completed in 1436 from designs by Filippo Brunelleschi, and features paintings of the “Last Judgement” done by Giorgio Vasari, Federico Zuccari and their collaborators in the mid- to late-16th century.

The interior dome of the Florence Baptistery of Saint John is covered with spectacular mosaics. The octagonal building was constructed between 1059 and 1128 with the mosaics added over a century starting in the year 1225. The building’s famous “Gates of Paradise”, sculpted by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the early 1400s, have been restored and are now housed in the nearby Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

Pienza is a beautiful small city in Tuscany near Siena. The 15th century Pope Pius II had the town rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance village, working with the Florentine architect Bernardo Rosselino. The views of the surrounding countryside are heavenly.

Life on a Roll


Between Sea and Sky

Elodie Pauwels

Taormina in Sicily is a corner of paradise, especially when you discover it before the busy tourist season starts.

It is perched 200 meters above the Ionian Sea and surrounded by small mountains. Mount Etna keeps an eye on the ancient city. The 360-degree view from the Greek Theatre (“Teatro Greco”) is probably the most beautiful panorama I saw. For further  adventure nearby, nothing was better than discovering Isola Bella by foot via its isthmus.

Teatro Greco

Isola Bella

Visit Elodie’s photoblog:


Life on a Roll

Morocco Log #1

Qiong Wang

Stepping straight onto the tarmac of Casablanca Mohammed V International Airport after a 6 hour flight with the Royal Air Morocco, I am officially on the continent of Africa!

The reputation of Casablanca would be overrated if it were not for the magnificent Hassan II Mosque by the Atlantic Ocean. Marrakesh, on the other hand, is what I imagined Morocco would be like – vibrant colors, ancient history, and exotic culture blended with chaos everywhere. Djema Square at the heart of the old medina is the biggest outdoor marketplace in Marrakesh. Every day, when the sky dims into a scarlet sunset and the square is re-lit with a sea of tent light bulbs, when the delicious smell of BBQ travels to your nose through clouds of smoke that rise above vender stalls, when the boisterous crowd and circus animals pour into the square from all directions, you can’t help but realize that this place has just woken up and the show is about to begin.

Life on a Roll

In the Middle of Paris France

Elodie Pauwels

The Saint-Jacques Tower, with its flamboyant gothic style, is located in the middle of Paris. It is all that remains of a church built in the 16th century and demolished during the French Revolution. The 171-foot tower has had many functions since then (including a shot tower!) and undergone many phases of restoration. It is now open to the public (tour guide only), and the view from there is simply stunning.

Life on a Roll


Nan Pang

Machu Picchu is arguably the most famous historical ruin not just in Peru, but in the Americas. Since the re-discovery of this Inca citadel by American historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, this iconic lost city in the sky has been attracting visitors non-stop for the past century. 

 From the stunning view at the top of Huayna Picchu, to the carefree llamas chilling in the lawns, Machu Picchu possesses magical enchantments hardly describable by words. Peru prides themselves as “the richest country in the world” in their recent marketing campaign. Well, it was. It truly was. 

Life on a Roll


Qiong Wang

Philadelphia is renowned for being the City of Brotherly Love and the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, but, in my experience, people in this city seem to have a lot of appreciation for art. From an academic level, the city is home to many famous art museums including the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  From a street perspective, many strikingly usual wall murals are painted all over the buildings in Center City with awed messages. From every historical building you pass by and every street corner you turn onto, there is a sense of heritage and era.  Unexpectedly, you bump into a modern bank-affiliated coffeehouse offering hot drinks & free WiFi. How interesting!



Life on a Roll


Pretty Seasonal Colors

Elodie Pauwels

“The falling leaves drift by the window, the autumn leaves of red and gold…” Here we go again, fall has arrived, with its bright and warm colors. Who does not love walking around in this season, amazed by the beauty of the trees? Enjoy it!

Life on a Roll


The Old City of Quebec

Qiong Wang

Quebec is an authentic city of rich history, vibrant art, and French culture. It was my first visit to this old city, and I was pleasantly impressed. Quebec means “the narrowing of the river” and in this case it refers to the Saint Lawrence River. Its geographic heritage endows the city with its strategic significance in wars and economy.

The entire old city is a UNESCO heritage listed site. The only fortified city wall in North America is preserved in Quebec.

Apart from French being spoken and written everywhere, the characteristic that struck me most is the rich art element infused in every detail of the city: from the landmark Le Chateau Frontenac to a vast painting on the side of a building, from restaurants to galleries, and from sculptures to street signs.

Life on a Roll.

A Day in the Gulf of Kotor, Montenegro

Elodie Pauwels

I have recently spent a few days in Dubrovnik, Croatia. One of the highlights of my trip was a one-day trip to Montenegro, since it was not planned and I therefore had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even realize the currency is Euro (I’ll let you Google this!).

I was given the full .tour of the Gulf of Kotor. Imagine a landscape of fjords and mountains, with Mediterranean vegetation and clear blue water. Pretty nice, isn’t it? Like most cities in the area, the old city of Kotor (a UNESCO world heritage site) is surrounded by fortifications and walls. If you’re fit enough, you can climb 1500-plus steps up to St. John fortress, built by Emperor Justinian in 535.




I also discovered Perast, a tiny village on the Gulf, and its two small islets, Our Lady of the Rocks (the only artificially-built island in the Adriatic sea, shown here), and St. George.





Life on a Roll

Qiong Wang

One World Trade Center semi-visible under a veil of clouds on an overcast morning: this is what the Manhattan skyline looks like from 15 Exchange Place, Jersey City. I bet it is not often that one gets to catch a glimpse of the new symbolic landmark like this.

One minute after hopping onto the under-river train, I was already at the new World Trade Center PATH transit station in Manhattan, a new establishment completed in 2016. As you might have heard, the look of this construction resembles a bird taking off. The first thing in sight coming off the train was a dazzling huge flag of stars and stripes, hanging down from a lofty white space, supported by long parallel comb-like beams. The blue and red flag, the pure white interior, it is minimalism well executed!


Life on a Roll

Beaune in Burgundy, France

Elodie Pauwels

Beaune is one of the wine capitals of my country, and is known for its Hospices and its famous roof made of glazed tiles (which you can glimpse in the 50-year old comedy, La Grande Vadrouille).

However, I have a clear preference for the Hospices’ courtyard itself, which hasn’t changed in years.

See more pictures taken in Beaune on my photoblog.



Life on a Roll


Wuhan University

Qiong Wang

Picture by June Wang

Wuhan University, founded in 1893, is regarded as one of the most beautiful university campuses in China. Set by the peaceful East Lake, surrounding the Luojia Mountain, the campus spreads over 900 acres in the city of Wuhan, China. The palatial buildings of the university, blending Chinese and Western styles, have witnessed over 100 years of Chinese contemporary history. Many extraordinary scholars studied, worked and fought there, leaving their individual marks on the walls and floors. Walking on the rooftop of the historical dormitory building, and looking at the golden sunset beneath the flying roof-edge, I can’t help but feel proud of the land where I had spent four years of my life.

Spring has finally arrived, and it’s that time of the year again. Even from across the hemisphere, I can just imagine the rumbustious scene of thousands of visitors pouring into the campus for the cherry blossom spectacular.

Life on a Roll

Pretty Old Carved Stones in France

Elodie Pauwels


Don’t you like to observe the details of finely carved stones and try to feel the history behind it? Here are a few examples of those that I liked the most: the year of construction of a chimney in a modest house in a village in Corrèze, the shell-shaped motif on both sides of a door in a street of Beaune, and my favorite: a pretty young girl with braided hair on the tombstone of Philibert II, Duke of Savoy, in the Royal Monastery of Brou.

Life on a Roll

Qiong Wang

Las Ruinas y Las Piramides

This was my first visit to Mexico, and my first visit to the Yucatán peninsula, which must be a magical land. Despite a plan for every detail on the trip, things started to fall apart the moment I landed. However, all the adventures became so worthwhile when I finally saw the ancient Mayan civilization. Here is a peek at the great Chichén Itzá, the breezy Tulum ruins, and the magnificent Governor’s Palace at Uxmal.

Governor’s Palace at Uxmal, By Qiong Wang

Chichén Itzá, by Qiong Wang

Ruins at Tulum, by Qiong Wang

Winter’s Beauty

Elodie Pauwels

Winter has come!

Winter is probably the best time of the year to take black and white pictures, especially when the sky is cloudy. Frost on a window in the utility room, frozen leaves in the garden or on the path of the north-facing slopes, and foggy fields are just a few examples of winter’s beauty. Enjoy it, until spring springs!

Pictures by Elodie Pauwels