Newly designed site with new photography galleries

Time for a change. A responsive change. Time to make the galleries have bigger better photographs. Time to re-design and re-develop designack.com!

Homepage of designack.com

Homepage of designack.com

Over the last few months I’ve been pretty busy, not only have I been writing for the New Zealand Times, sharing photography with Lonely Planet Traveller magazine and giving presentations, but I’ve also been redesigning the home for my photography galleries on my portfolio site.

Photography is one of my biggest passions (right next to travel and wildlife) so I thought the home for one of my passions deserves to look its best. One of the big changes on designack.com is making the galleries easier to find and making the photographs easier to view (on any device). In each gallery you can now see all the images and then click them to see them larger and then just click on the arrows to see all of the larger images in each gallery.

I figured I owed my travel and photography blog readers a reason for my ‘Tuesday’ absence the last few weeks, so this is why:

Portfolio of designack.com

Portfolio of designack.com

Travel and Wildlife Photography on designack.com

Travel and Wildlife Photography on designack.com

Uganda photography gallery on designack.com

Uganda photography gallery on designack.com

Single image from the Uganda photo gallery

Single image from the Uganda photo gallery

Kenya photography gallery on designack.com

Kenya photography gallery on designack.com

So if you enjoy looking through the photographs on this blog, but want more bigger and better images – check out my portfolio site http://designack.com and the ‘Travel and Wildlife Photography section’. My self-published book ‘Footprints through East Africa, is also available at www.blurb.com/books/3685531-footprints-through-east-africa.

Photography Friday: K is for ‘Kenya’

“Africa is not a country, but it is a continent like none other. It has that which is elegantly vast or awfully little” 
~ L Douglas Wilder

Kenya holds an incredibly special place in my heart. From my travels there in 2011 the wildlife and people touched me unlike any other country. Today’s photo friday reflects on a few of those moments.

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboon with child, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboon with child, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboon walking with child, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboon walking with child, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Rhino, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Rhino, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Water Buffalo, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Water Buffalo, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Zebra, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Zebra, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Leopard, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Leopard, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Pelicans, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Pelicans, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Pelicans flying, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Pelicans flying, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Elephant feeding, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Elephant feeding, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Milk time!, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Milk time!, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Elephant Cuddle, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

Sometimes we all just need a little elephant cuddle, Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

The entire gallery of photographs of Kenya can be found on my portfolio site in the Kenya Wildlife and Travel Photography section »

If you like the images so much you want a book of these and more from East Africa, you can check out my self-published hardcover coffee table photography book on blurb.com called ‘Footprints through East Africa’ »

Photography Friday: J is for ‘Jordan’

Just a few buses, a boat and a few more buses from Sharm el Sheikh and you’ll arrive in Jordan, in this case, Petra.

Petra is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. It is an incredible city carved into the mountains (similar to Cappadocia in Turkey actually). Today it’s a World Heritage Site for thousands of tourists to see and yes, I had to be a tourist for a day and visit it since I was so close (sort of).

Ampitheatre, Petra. Jordan

Ampitheatre, Petra. Jordan

Urn Tomb, Petra. Jordan

Urn Tomb, Petra. Jordan

Caves in mountains, Petra. Jordan

Caves in mountains, Petra. Jordan

Petra. Jordan

Petra. Jordan

Donkeys, Petra. Jordan

Donkeys, Petra. Jordan

Canyon, Petra. Jordan

Canyon, Petra. Jordan

Canyon, Petra. Jordan

Canyon, Petra. Jordan

canyon-leadin-to-the-treasury-petra-jordan-copyright-ngaire-ackerley-2011-12

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

If you’d like to see more of Petra and Egypt, head over to my newly designed portfolio site to check out the gallery ‘Photographs of Egypt and Jordan’ here »

 

Photography Friday: I is for ‘Italy’!

Pasta, pizza, gelato…. ahhhh need I say more?

Italy is my ‘most travelled’ country in Europe, heck, possibly in the world. It’s just stunning from the history, architecture to the food and scenery. I always felt safe and welcomed and gelato was never far away. I’ve limited myself to one photograph from each place I have visited in Italy in this post, but if you’d like to see more, check out my Italy photography gallery in my portfolio here »

 Venice, 2008

Venice, by night. Italy

Venice, by night. Italy

Florence, 2008

Florence, Italy

View over Florence, Italy

Cinque Terre, 2011

Vernazza, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre. Italy

Vernazza, one of the five villages of Cinque Terre. Italy

Cornigila, Cinque Terre

Cornigila, Cinque Terre

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre. Italy

Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre. Italy

Monterosso Al Mare, Cinque Terre. Italy

Monterosso Al Mare, Cinque Terre. Italy

If you would like to read my blog post about Cinque Terre, check out ‘Trippin’ through five little Italian Villages’ here »

Sorrento, 2011

Sorrento Sunset, Italy

Sorrento a sunset, Italy

Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, 2011

Mount Vesuvius, Italy

The misty top of Mount Vesuvius, Italy

The buried city of Pompeii, Italy

The buried city of Pompeii, Italy

The Amalfi Coast, 2011

Atrani, on the Amalfi coast, Italy

Atrani, on the Amalfi coast, Italy

The coast of Amalfi

Amalfi town

The stunning gardens at Ravello, Italy

The stunning gardens at Ravello, Italy

Positano, 2011

Positano, Italy

Positano, possibly the most-dreamy spot in all of Italy

Capri, 2011

Capri, Italy

Capri, Italy

Lake Como, 2013

Villa at Belliago, Lake Como, Italy

Villa at Belliago, Lake Como, Italy

Villa del Balbianello, Lenno, Lake Como, Italy.

Villa del Balbianello, Lenno, Lake Como, Italy.

Menaggio, Lake Como

Menaggio, Lake Como, Italy.

Varanna, Lake Como, Italy.

Varanna, Lake Como, Italy.

Villa Carlotta, Lake Como, Italy

Villa Carlotta, Lake Como, Italy

If you would like to read more about my visit to Lake Como, visit my ‘Lake Hopping’ post here »

Milan, 2013

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

The Duomo, Milan, Italy

Milan’s architecture blew me away, if you fancy reading more and seeing a closer look at the Duomo, visit the ‘Spires of Milan’ post here »

 

As you can tell I did fall in love with the sunshine, food, architecture and scenery of Italy. It is a country I hold dear to my heart that is always so relaxing and lovely to visit. I hope you enjoyed this ‘Photo Friday’ as much as I did!

Overlooking the stunning town of Positano in Italy

Overlooking the stunning town of Positano in Italy

Favourite travel photos

As part of this month’s link up with a few other brilliant bloggers, it was put to us to choose our favourite travel photo. This was by no means an easy one for me. I love taking photographs as I travel, almost as much as I love the travel itself.

However, it was pretty easy to choose a country where my favourite images came from: Africa. New Zealand would have come close, but to be honest, I haven’t travelled and taken enough photographs there! Africa was so raw and wild, the people, culture and animals so natural and incredible.

So, with Africa I’ve chosen my 3 of my favourites…

3. Two baboons grooming each other in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboons grooming

Baboons grooming

I love this image because of the baboon looking up at me as I took the photo (rather close). They are so at ease, with one concentrating hard at grooming while the other just lets its be. These aren’t the ugly, unruly baboons that you usually see running around, stealing food with their backsides on display. These are calm and relaxed animals. I love being close to wildlife and capturing moments like these , in their natural environment, without scaring them.

2. Child on roadside, Kampala, Uganda

Child on Roadside, Kampala, Uganda

Child on Roadside, Kampala, Uganda

This image is a favourite for a different reason. It does not show love or create calmness when you look at it. Instead it tells a story, a narrative. Kampala is a city of two sides: wealth and poor. This child is probably going to get water. She is young and alone. Her clothes and shoes that are very worn and she probably lives in the slums. The setting shows rubbish that is everywhere in the slums. This image opens your eyes to what is really out there. It gives you, the viewer, something to think about.

1. Baby Gorilla, Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Baby Gorilla

Baby Gorilla

Baby Gorilla Photograph published by Lonely Planet traveller Magazine, June 2014

Baby Gorilla Photograph published by Lonely Planet traveller Magazine, June 2014

Possibly my favourite image (if I had to pick one) is of this little baby gorilla from the Amahoro Gorilla Group in Volcanoes National Park. It seems it is not just a favourite of mine, as it was also published in the June 2014 issue of Lonely Planet Traveller magazine.

This little baby didn’t have a care in the world. It was so intrigued by the visitors, but also just wanted to play. So much so, that it was tumbling and playing around as our guide lay on the ground chatting away to it. I only had one hour with the group, but it was possibly the best experience of my life, seeing a family of gorillas from small infants to big silverbacks at peace in the wild, grooming, eating and sun bathing in a sunny bush clearing.

This photograph of the baby gorilla makes me smile every time I see it and remember what the wee animal was like.

 

If you liked these images, check out the photography book I’ve published called ‘Footprints through East Africa’ here »

10 ways to explain what travelling really is. Not a holiday.

First Switzerland - a journey of travel

‘You’re always on holiday’
“I go travelling not on holiday
‘Isn’t it the same?’

No.

Oxforddictionaries.com describes travel as ‘Make a journey, typically of some length’ whereas holiday is explained as ‘An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home’.

So, to explain to all the people that think that the last few years has just been a bunch of holidays, let me explain how I define travel:

  1. Travel is to go on a journey.
  2. Travel is to experience something new and to really allow yourself to take it in. This might be culture, wildlife, adventure or simply a new place.
  3. Travel is to pushing yourself outside of your boundaries. Travelling to the less touristy places, being adventurous, bungee jumping, paragliding, skydiving, hand-gliding, white water rafting, getting out of your comfort zone.

    Bungee Jumping

    Bungee Jumping, Jinja, Uganda. Definitely outside of my comfort zone.

  4. Traveling can be learning something. It could be learning about the history of a region, learning a new language, learning how different cultures live or simply learning something new about yourself.
  5. Travelling is immersing yourself in a different way of life. Every country seems to have its differences, whether they are big or small. Immersing yourself into how another country or culture functions is to accept everything as it is and to try not to judge it because of aspects you do not agree with or believe in (this is often a lot harder than you think).
  6. Travelling is creating stories. Experiences that are etched into your memory. They may be sad or happy, scary or bewildering, funny or just plain stupid. Some of the best memories I have of places are from happenings, rather than just looking from the outside in.
  7. To travel is not to necessarily always have the greater comforts. It may mean camping, cold showers and bush toilets. It could mean sharing a 20-bed dorm room with a dozen snorers. Sometimes the best comforts in a journey can simply be asking for a single bedroom amongst the noisy streets and people flooding into all the rooms around you.

    Taking the road less travelled, Nairobi, Kenya

    Taking the road less travelled, Nairobi, Kenya

  8. Travel helps you understand the world rather than the little corner that you grew up in.
  9. To travel is to experience life at its fullest. Whether it be taking every opportunity that you can or fully understanding and living amongst another culture in a different country.

    Two very happy boys at Saidia Orphange, Kenya.

    Two very happy boys at Saidia Orphange, Kenya.

  10. Travelling is growing yourself as a person. Learning to be less selfish and more appreciative of life and those around you. Learning that we don’t need material things to be happy. There are people all over the world that live on the bare minimum in terms of accommodation, food and possessions, yet they can still be the happiest of people.

As summed up by Confucius:
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.

Photography Friday: H is for ‘Hungary’!

Back in 2008 I boarded a bus with a bunch of European Erasmus students from Linz, Austria to Budapest, Hungary.

Budapest is split by a river Danube, one side of the city is called ‘Buda’ and the other ‘Pest’ or ‘Pache’ if you’re pronouncing it correctly. The parliament is glorious, particularly from the view of the Buda Castle across the river.

Rather than go on too much, I’ll let the photographs show you how beautiful Budapest in Hungary really is. Excuse the quality of image composition, this was a long time ago and my photography has come a long way since!

Parliament in Budapest

Parliament in Budapest, Hungary

Close view of part of Parliament in Budapest

Close view of part of Parliament in Budapest

View of Hungary's Parliament from the Buda Castle

View of Hungary’s Parliament from the Buda Castle

View of Pest from the Buda Castle, Hungary

View of Pest from the Buda Castle, Hungary

Statue in the Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary

Statue in the Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary

Statue in Budapest, Hungary

Statue in Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Baths, Hungary

Budapest Baths, Hungary

Finding a little piece of NZ in Budapest - we stayed next to the embassy!

Finding a little piece of NZ in Budapest – we stayed next to the embassy!

Me standing in 'Heroes Square' Budapest way back in 2008

Me standing in ‘Heroes Square’ Budapest way back in 2008

Despite the horrible accommodation (imagine a bed of just springs basically in like a 20 bed dorm) and long bus ride, it was a lovely weekend trip to do. The baths were incredible – like swimming in Roman Baths and the architecture around the city was beautiful.

For more photography of Hungary and the Czech Republic, visit the gallery here »

Travel Inspiration

travel magazines, books, guides

A few of my travel inspirations…

Inspiration is all around and I for one am never at a loss for options of where I want to travel next. The tricky part is usually deciding between many top destinations.

Years ago when I did my first international travels to Austria to study and travel, I never would have imagined that six years later I would have travelled to the Pyramids of Giza or war-destroyed villages in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I never imagined bungee jumping in Uganda or paragliding in Slovenia. I wouldn’t have believed that I would have the chance to be within meters of a mountain gorilla in Rwanda or see the remains from places I had studied like Pompeii and the Acropolis.

But this isn’t a post about what I never imagined I would do. It’s a post about what inspired me to go to these places.

Lonely Planet Traveller Magazines

Lonely Planet Traveller Magazines

Lonely Planet traveller magazine

I used to ‘treat’ myself to a travel magazine and a Pret breakfast/lunch whenever I took a flight from London somewhere, but it got to the point that it was so often it was going to be cheaper to buy a subscription. I opted for lonely planet traveller magazine because of their vast array of articles and stunning photographs. Some articles are about short trips and some focus on longer in-depth visits through of countries.

I also managed to get one of my photographs published in their June 2014 magazine!

Baby Gorilla Photograph published by Lonely Planet traveller Magazine, June 2014

Baby Gorilla Photograph published by Lonely Planet traveller Magazine, June 2014

National Geographic traveller magazine

I love the National Geographic magazine for its focus on wildlife, nature, stunning landscapes and especially the issues of the best places to travel to.

National Geographic Traveller Magazine

National Geographic Traveller Magazine

 

Wanderlust magazine

Wanderlust is another magazine that I’d purchase on occasion at airports. The articles are much like lonely planet’s traveller magazine and I’ve loved reading their wildlife and Africa-focused issues.

Wanderlust Magazine

Wanderlust Magazine

Travel Blogs

Being a travel writer and photographer has meant I’ve somehow stumbled across many fantastic travel blogs and often made friends with their writers. Their stories and images are always so honest and often tell you about the more unusual places to visit or activities to try.

A few of the many travel blogs that I enjoy reading

A few of the many travel blogs that I enjoy reading

People in Hostels

I’ve learnt over the years that travelling can be lonely and when you’re in a hostel everyone is often in the same boat – they may have been travelling days or weeks, potentially alone. That means the people are often so pleased when someone takes an interest and wants to talk to them about their travels.

This is possibly one of my biggest inspirations. From inspiring me to visit Lake Como and Cinque Terre in Italy to various places in Africa and Bosnia. The list could go on forever. I can’t recommend talking to people about travel enough – it’s possibly my favourite topic of conversation!

Guide Books

Guidebooks

Guidebooks

Over the years I’ve purchased a few Lonely Planet guidebooks for countries that I knew I would travel in-depth. My Italy book has been used to death – if it wasn’t for that, I may have never seen as much of little dreamy spots like Positano and Ravello as I did. They are great for planning, but I barely ever use them when I’m in the actual countries as I like to investigate and be surprised.

My mini guidebook for New York City on the other hand was used throughly while I was in the city. New York is such a massive city with so much to offer; it was well worth using the guidebook for the first visit there. Next time I may investigate a bit more off my own back.

Recommendations from Family and Friends

One of my biggest early inspirations to travel was my eldest sister who moved to the UK briefly and then worked on cruise ships around the Caribbean for a few years. It sounded so exotic and exciting when I received postcards!

I’ve had friends that have recommended activities like a food tour in New York – which ended up being one of the highlights of my visit. Sometimes recommendations aren’t always the best though and you need to work out for yourself if you will agree with people or not. For example, Athens wasn’t nearly as bad as so many people had told me, but I’d only allowed one day there. I wish I’d had more time because it really is an incredible city to visit.

Calendars and Books

Travel Books

Travel Books

Travel Calendar made by Ngaire Ackerley

My self-made travel calendars for family and friends

I’m a visual person and as long as I can imagine how ‘true’ the image I’m looking at is, then that’s one sure what to convince me to visit a place. Some people disagree with this, but if it’s an honest image, then it was captured in that location and that scene exists in the weather it was caught in. I ALWAYS have travel calendars every year, to the extent that I now make my own for family and friends.

When it comes to books I have many back in New Zealand that I loved reading before I left for my O.E. The ones I have in London relate to places I’ve visited or want to. ‘A Year Of Adventures’ is a fantastic mix of beautiful images and detailed descriptions that someone like me (bit of a thrill seeker) loves!

Inspiration really is everywhere, I obviously have a bit of a travel magazine addiction, but there are so many other things that have inspired me to travel to the amazing places that I have. Granted once you’re inspired, then real research comes into play. But for me, being inspired to visit new, stunning and unique places around the world is the best bit and is so much fun!

 

To read about my ‘pinch me’ moments around the world (some mentioned above) check out this post »

If you would like to check out more of my photography, visit my travel photograph galleries on my designack site »

Photography Friday: G is for ‘Germany’

Spanning from 2008 to 2011 I visited Germany four times! It is close enough to Austria to feel special to me, because I was able to visit it during the winter covered in snow (while I studied in Austria). This was once a novelty to me, coming from an area in New Zealand where it never snowed.

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy this little trip down my memory lane as much as I have!

Bavaria, 2008

Bavaria in the winter

Bavaria in the winter

Neuschwanstein Castle, not quite in all its stunning glory in winter. Not much snow near here.

Neuschwanstein Castle, not quite in all its stunning glory in winter. Not much snow near here.

Berlin, 2010

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Jewish Memorial, Berlin

Jewish Memorial, Berlin

Berlin Wall

Berlin Wall

Reichstag Dome, Berlin

Reichstag, Berlin. Inside the dome

Reichstag, Berlin. Inside the dome

Reichstag, Berlin. Inside the dome

Stuttgart Christmas Markets, 2010

Stuttgart Christmas Markets

Stuttgart Christmas Markets

Stuttgart Christmas Markets

Stuttgart Christmas Markets

Munich, 2011

(Maybe during Oktoberfest…)

Gardens (not the beer type) in Munich

Gardens (not the beer type) in Munich

Munich Clock Tower

Munich Clock Tower

If you would like to see more of my photography of Germany and Austria – visit my photo gallery over on designack.com »

Celebrating the New Zealand Business Women’s Network 5th Birthday!

13 tables of food and wine, 4 mins and a giant roomful of New Zealand women, where else could I be than the New Zealand Business Women’s Network 5th birthday!

Kiwi delights from Sanza

Kiwi delights from Sanza

Sometimes in London you just need a bit of a taste of home, whether its food or friendships. I’m glad to say over the last year I’ve decided to branch out and be more involved with Kiwi’s in London and last week was a perfect example of how fantastic it can be.

The New Zealand Business Women’s Network

Founded by a fantastic Kiwi lady – Bronwen Horton in 2009, the group has now grown to over 1000 business women. I’ve been involved in the group for a few months now. More recently I’ve been asked to volunteer my photography services for a Writers Evening event and being one of two photographers for the networks 5th birthday. It’s a great pleasure to be involved in and give back to the network.

They hold monthly coffee meetups where I’ve met a range of ladies from different industries that really make the evening interesting. I go purely to meet new people and catch up with some I’ve met in the past, it’s always great to hear Kiwi’s making a difference in the world, wherever they are.

The incredible venue at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London

The incredible venue at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London

The 5th birthday was an incredible celebration of NZ foodies and wine connoisseurs, each in charge of a table where they provided a 4 minute tasting of their services. It was fast and furious, but so much fun. Some of my favourites were there – such as my bi-monthly fix from Sanza (okay sometimes more often), the incredibly tasty chutney’s from Newton and Pott (I sense an addiction starting there) and the unique tastes from the Modern Pantry, oh and the new Crosstown Doughnuts that just opened up – just to name a few!

The collective Dairy

The Collective Dairy – yummy yoghurt deserts

Native Superfoods

Native Superfoods

Angels In My Kitchen

Angels In My Kitchen – I wish I’d managed a few more chips with traditional Kiwi dip – can never get enough of that!

The Modern Pantry - incredible flavours

The Modern Pantry – incredible flavours

Yealands wine

Yealands wine – amazing taste wine that taught me I do like more than just Sav’s!

Crosstown Doughnuts - another obsession in the making for me

Crosstown Doughnuts – another obsession in the making for me

Man O'War Vineyards

Man O’War Vineyards

Karma Cola

Karma Cola

Ozone - for all your coffee needs

Ozone – for all your coffee needs

The Provenance Butcher - yum!

The Provenance Butcher – yum!

Suze Kitchen

Suze Kitchen

Newton & Pott - incredible Kiwi style chutneys!

Newton & Pott – incredible Kiwi style chutneys!

Thank you to all the restaurateurs and wine merchants that came to the New Zealand Business Women’s Networks 5th Birthday and especially to Bronwen whose smile never fades and does an incredible job at organising events to help New Zealand women in the UK grow professionally and also make awesome friendships in the process.

If you would like to find out more or join the network visit https://nzwomen.co.uk/.

And if you’re after even more Kiwis (that aren’t just women) the NZ Society UK is another great organisation that does fantastic things and holds great events. They also happen to have the best view from their penthouse suite – where many events are held) that looks out over London! They are online at http://www.nzsociety.co.uk/.

Photography Friday: F is for ‘France’

Flag of France

This Photography Friday brings us to the stylish country of France. It is a country I would like to see a lot more of because it is so vast and unique from place to place.

While Paris is the popular destination, when I was there I managed to take in some of the smaller details that help make it such a unique city in Europe.

I’ve also been to the smaller city of Perpignan, known as a spot All Blacks’ Dan Carter played for a few years back, but it is also a vibrant colourful city on the edge of France near Spain. It has a cute old town and isn’t too tourist heavy which makes for a great little getaway. I’d just be wary of the train station and roads near it at night (dodgy).

J’espère que vous appréciez les photos!
(If my French is right, that means ‘I hope you enjoy the photos!’)

Paris, France, 2010

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Buttes Chaumont Park, one of the lovely green spaces in Paris

Buttes Chaumont Park, one of the lovely green spaces in Paris

Moulin Rouge - one spot I wish I'd seen a show in!

Moulin Rouge – one spot I wish I’d seen a show in!

Sacre Couer, Paris

Sacre Couer, Paris

Quaint streets of Montmartre, Paris

Quaint streets of Montmartre, Paris

Cute restaurants in Montmartre, Paris

Cute restaurants in Montmartre, Paris

Pont Neuf, Paris

Pont Neuf, Paris

A closer look at the heads

A closer look at the heads

So many incredible statues are around Paris

So many incredible statues are around Paris

Perpignan, France, 2008

Entrance to the Old Town, Perpignan

Entrance to the Old Town, Perpignan

Colourful town square in Perpignan

Colourful town square in Perpignan

Literally a painted house, Perpignan

Literally a painted house, Perpignan

Inside the Castle of the Kings of Majorca, Perpignan

Inside the Castle of the Kings of Majorca, Perpignan

View over the colourful Perpignan

View over the colourful Perpignan

A little oasis inside Perpignan

A little oasis inside Perpignan

Like this little intro to Paris? If you would like to check out more of my travel photography, visit the travel galleries on designack.com here »

Getting cultured in Shakespeare’s hometown: Stratford upon Avon

Wandering through the house he was brought up in, hearing the stories from the guides inside, seeing the small four post beds, the nooks and crannies – it’s hard not to be astounded that baby William Shakespeare was born and grew up in this very house.

Quote by Shakespeare at Shakespeares Birthplace

Just two hours out of London with a super cheap train ticket (£6 each way!) I find myself in the stunning town of Stratford upon Avon. I’ve heard from so many people how lovely the town is and finally made my way there on a very rainy day. On the bright side, I came with an umbrella and there was no wind (unlike rainy days in London) so I was kept pretty dry. The difficult part was manoeuvring my SLR camera whilst holding an umbrella (which I think I’m pretty skilled at now).

Shakespeare's Birthplace

Shakespeare’s Birthplace, with shield on front door

Arriving just as the buildings were opening, meant I was able to see all the main sights in the town centre bright and early without many tourists. First stop was Shakespeare’s birthplace, where he was born and grew up. His father made gloves so the home functioned as both living and working quarters. It’s been through its paces over the years (even transformed into a pub at one stage), but it is incredible to see it still standing with the Shakespeare shield on its front door.

Glove making window in Shakespeare's Birthplace

Glove making window in Shakespeare’s Birthplace

One of neat tales one of the guides inside Shakespeare birthplace told me about was that beneath the beds were trundle beds for the children, these were made of rope in a wooden frame very close to the ground. Each week the rope would need to be tightened, so this is where we get the saying ‘Sleep tight don’t let the bed bugs bite’. This was just one of the many sayings I came to realise comes from this lovely wee English town.

Nash's House and site of New Place

Nash’s House and site of New Place

Next up were ‘New Place’ and ‘Nash’s House’ where the grounds once held Shakespeare big glorious home where he lived once he became a successful businessman. It once had 22 rooms and 10 fireplaces I was told! Amazing to imagine given the area doesn’t look big enough for that many areas in a house. Now just stands Nash’s Tudor house, named after Thomas Nash, a husband of Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth. It was definitely worth chatting to the guide at the door about the house and location, as he was very informative.

Inside Nash's House

Inside Nash’s House

Site of New Place

Site of New Place

Then there was Hall’s Croft, where Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband Dr. John Hall lived. Wandering through you get the chance to see all these old medicine bottles and admire the woodwork and decorations set up as they once were lived amongst.

The best way to see all these houses is to buy the five house pass, which gives you entry into all the amazing Shakespeare-related houses. Visit the website for the Shakespeare birth trust for more information.

Rushing around all these spots I squeezed them all in just before the Town Walk at 11am. As the rain became torrential a small group formed and were guided around the city and told different tales about William Shakespeare to imagine in our minds.

Shakespeare's School

Shakespeare’s School

We wandered through Stratford and were told about Shakespeare school. In this building students would stand for 11 hours a day learning from their teachers!

We visited the place where Shakespeare was first baptised and where he was laid to rest in the Holy Trinity Church. The detail in the architecture was exquisite, even down to the seats where the priests sat. Wandering back past all the houses, gave me a little bit of added information, but I was still pleased I had gone inside the homes and spoken to the guides inside too. Our guide had special tales to remember the different Shakespeare plays and sayings that were impressive that he could remember because they weren’t short!

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church – where Shakespeare was baptised and laid to rest

Alter in the Holy Trinity Church

Alter in the Holy Trinity Church

Seats for Priests in the Holy Trinity Church

Seats for Priests in the Holy Trinity Church

Shakespeares Grave

Shakespeares Grave

The Town Walks run everyday no matter what the weather conditions, which is pretty impressive since the river Avon is known for flooding. On top of this they give you vouchers to give you discounts around the town and point the places out as you go, so it’s well worth doing early in the day and making the most of your time there.

Nearing the end of the day I had a bit of time to check out the Butterfly Farm. To be honest, this was the only disappointment of the day. I’ve been to a butterfly exhibition in London outside the Natural History Museum and felt it had seemed to have more variety of butterflies to see. Maybe if I hadn’t experienced that I would have found this one more enjoyable. One thing to notice was the gigantic fish in the pond. You wander along thinking ‘that’s a nice pond for butterflies to fly around, I guess they must have goldfish in there,’ but instead there are these massive golden and white fish that look like goldfish on steroids.

Butterfly Farm fish

Butterfly Farm fish

My favourite memorial in Stratford - the Gower Memorial

My favourite memorial in Stratford – the Gower Memorial

Statues in the Gower Memorial

Statues in the Gower Memorial

Church Street Townhouse

Church Street Townhouse

After all this wandering and sight seeing I was pleased I’d planned on experiencing an Afternoon Tea in Stratford. From the tasty menu I opted to try out the Afternoon Tea at the Church Street Townhouse. I was really impressed by the friendly service and the beautifully fresh sandwiches with lovely fillings (the leftovers were still fresh when I got home which was great).

I’ve been to a lot of Afternoon Tea’s in London for two or three times the price ,so I felt this one was very reasonable for what you got for the price. One of my favourite pieces were these delightful little donut buns that were just the right amount of sweet. Unfortunately the sweets did lack chocolate and I am a bit of a chocoholic, but I was still satisfied and filled to the brim by the time I left.

Lovely Afternoon Tea from the Church Street Townhouse

Lovely Afternoon Tea from the Church Street Townhouse

As I wandered back through the streets it was just my luck that the sun popped out to say goodbye as I caught my train back to London. I wish I’d been able to spend more time in Stratford as the riverboat cruises and punting look lovely and relaxing. I would have also liked to get out to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm, but maybe that gives me an excuse to return for another day!

Stratford upon Avon was a delightful town to visit, but really does deserve at least a weekend to investigate properly. There are lots of little lovely eating spots and boutique shops, alleyways and interesting things like statues on lampposts (and lampposts donated from different cities/countries around the world) to stumble across! Not to mention the theatre opportunities, lovely old houses and scenery to appreciate.

Buildings in Stratford - maybe the Police Station?

Buildings in Stratford

Buildings in Stratford

Lamppost in Stratford-upon-Avon, donated by the State of Israel

Lamppost in Stratford-upon-Avon, donated by the State of Israel

 

All the thoughts and comments in this post are my own. To make this day the best day it could be, I was kindly provided a complimentary press pass that allowed me to enjoy all these experiences. Many thanks to Stratford Town Walk, Church Street Townhouse, Shakespeare’s England (shakespeares-england.co.uk), the Butterfly Farm, The Holy Trinity Church.

Photography Friday: E is for ‘Egypt’

Sunrises, Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, Snorkeling… this could be a dream, but it’s not it’s Egypt! 

A few years ago I managed to check out a country that was temporarily safe to visit. Staying in the resort-ready Sharm el Sheikh I was overwhelmed by luxury and loneliness. It was Christmas and a bit of a treat for myself, but not quite the right place to go solo. Still, my day trips to Cairo, Mt. Sinai, Ras Mohammad and even Petra in Jordan were amazing.

Here’s a few photographs from Egypt to celebrate ‘Photo Friday’ this week! Enjoy!

Camel in desert, Cairo

Camel standing in the desert, Cairo

The Sinai Desert, view from Mt. Sinai, Egypt

The Sinai Desert, view from Mt. Sinai, Egypt

Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza, Cairo, Egypt

Sunrise from Mt. Sinai, Egypt

Sunrise from Mt. Sinai, Egypt

Sunrise from Mt. Sinai

Sunrise from Mt. Sinai, Egypt

Perfect spot for a snorkeling: Ras Mohamed, Egypt

Perfect spot for a snorkeling: Ras Mohamed, Egypt

Being an idiot for the typical shot!

Being an idiot for the typical shot!

If only summer was this warm in the UK! Egypt will hold some incredible memories in my heart for years to come. It really is a unique destination.

If you would like to see more photographs from my time in Egypt and Jordan visit the photography gallery here »

A Fish out of Water: My first ever international travels

It’s 4am. The fire alarm had been set off. My roommate and I haven’t slept a wink from all the banging and crashing. Now we’re faced with some German-speaking police and firemen at our door that don’t speak a bit of English.

It’s safe to stay in your home country, where everything is comfortable. Everyone knows how to say your name and speak your language. But where’s the fun in that? I seem to constantly push myself outside of my own boundaries to see what will happen. The first time I properly did that was when I boarded a plane back in 2008 with a girl I hardly knew to study on a scholarship in Austria and Slovenia. We’d be there for almost 6 months in a University that taught mostly in German.

I was a mixture of excitement and nerves.

My friends and I at Innsbruck Zoo

My friends and I at Innsbruck Zoo

That’s when I first realised the torture of long haul flights, if you can’t sleep on planes. It was a very long journey with various stopovers, train and car rides. The kind lecturer picked us up from the airport and showed us around the University the moment we arrived. We were initially separated for the first few days until another room became available.

I woke up the next day wondering where the heck I was. I hadn’t slept in probably over 48 hours and now had no recollection of where anything was or who I had met the night before on our tour. If that isn’t feeling like a fish out of water, I’m not sure what is.

Time moved on and I met some really lovely Austrian and international students. Some of which have become my closest friends. I have visited my Lithuanian friend who I studied with there, almost every year since – often in different countries, most recently where she was married and now lives in Sweden. I caught up with one of my Spanish friends in Norway to see the Northern Lights, last year too. It’s amazing the distances friendships can span and still be strong.

My friend Egle and I in Florence

My friend Egle and I in Florence

Great much of international Erasmus students on a trip to Innsbruck and Bavaria

Great bunch of international Erasmus students on a trip to Innsbruck and Bavaria

There were some great times, and then there were some less great times that shall be known as ‘experiences’.

Trying archery on the weekends with some European friends

Trying archery on the weekends with some European friends

There was the time I tried speaking German to the bus driver and ended up in a small country town where no-one spoke any English. The bus driver had practically kicked me out of the bus.

Then there was the time that another student was having leaving drinks that resulted in absinthe being brought out and the evening going down hill from there…

My roommate and I decided we wanted some sleep so left the gathering of international students to their drinks. However, this lead to knocks on our door trying to get us to come back to the gathering, which progressively got angrier. Then with a crash and bang a fire alarm of some sort was set off. One student had removed the fire extinguisher, which meant that the fire brigade and police were automatically called.

Why did they end up at our door at four in the morning? Well the ‘smart’ student had sprayed the fire extinguisher all over the hallway and covered our door with it. There was no hiding that we weren’t the targets of the prank.

Less be said, the coming week resulted in a visit to the police station with our lecturer (aka interpreter). Several Austrian students were not happy that we’d been involved and at that time, would cause the students to all have to pay for the fire brigade to be called out (we didn’t realise this). The school that the ‘fire extinguisher’ student belonged to ended up paying for this since it had been his fault.

I now look back at this time and remember how scared sh!#tless I was that night. I probably would have been better to just open the door and hit the idiot student over the head with a frying pan or something. That being said, it all adds to the experience and gives me tales to tell for years to come.

Sommerfest, a student gathering with music, games and beer (I've course)

Sommerfest, a student gathering with music, games and beer (I’ve course)

The rest of the time in Austria was fantastic. There were weekly ‘pasta nights’ at the pub, the Euro cup, Sommerfest, the Highland Games and much more that many students participated in and made us feel welcome.

Weekly cheap pasta nights

Weekly cheap pasta nights

I joined a photojournalism class and learnt German while churning out 35,000 words for my postgraduate thesis. I travelled whenever possible and caught the travel bug.

My first trip out of Austria - to Prague

My first trip out of Austria – to Prague

Friends in Venice

Friends in Venice

Getting confused in Venice

Getting confused in Venice

My time in Austria was one of the best times of my life and it was incredibly difficult to have to leave, that I had to tell myself I would return to Europe. Which I did a year and a half later when I moved to London.

That’s my first fish out of water experience, what was yours?

Photography Friday: D is for… Ireland?

Okay I may not have been to any countries beginning with D, but I’ve certainly visited a lot of cities and areas beginning with D. Best example of this were all the amazing places in Ireland that begin with the letter D!

Ireland holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the first places I wanted to visit when I arrived in the UK and after just a few months of finding my feet, I crossed the ditch to the lovely green landscapes of Ireland. The scenery, lovely people and hearty food made this a memorable experience. I travelled 8 days around the coast from Dublin (yes on a tour, it was early days and I didn’t have a car).

However, sticking to the ‘D’ places, you’ll only get to see photographs below from locations throughout Ireland beginning with D. If you’d like to check out more of my photography from Ireland, visit the gallery link at the end of this post.

Derry, Northern Ireland

Free Derry, Northern Ireland

Mural in Derry

Mural in Derry, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dingle Peninsula, Beehive Huts

Dingle Peninsula, Beehive Huts, Ireland

Could almost believe this next area is in New Zealand!

Dingle Peninsula, Clogherhead

Dingle Peninsula, Clogherhead, Ireland

One of my favourite beaches, for the vibrant colours and peaceful setting…

Dingle Peninsula, Coumeenole Beach

Dingle Peninsula, Coumeenole Beach, Ireland

Statues of the Great Famine, Dublin, Ireland

Statues of the Great Famine, Dublin, Ireland

The Irish are super friendly and I felt incredible safe during my visit there. It’s definitely a country I’d love to visit again one day. If you’re missing a bit of ocean and countryside, I can’t recommend visiting Ireland enough!

Ngaire at Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula

Ngaire at Inch Beach on the Dingle Peninsula

If you would like to see more photography from Ireland (including the other letters of cities, besides D) visit my Ireland photography gallery here »

Becoming an Afternoon Tea addict

Checklist for Afternoon Tea:

1. Clotted Cream with scones
2. Continuous tea and milk, extra points for array of teas
3. Fresh sandwiches
4. Interesting sweets
5. Relaxed and beautiful surroundings
6. Good company

Four and a half years ago I never knew what clotted cream was (FYI Afternoon Tea scones should ALWAYS be served with clotted cream) or how incredibly tasty a proper Afternoon Tea could be. It used to be that I’d attend Afternoon Teas if someone was visiting London or it was a special occasion, now I go to a quarterly ‘Bloggers Afternoon Tea’ and have started to sample some outside of London. If it wasn’t for my intensive travel budgeting I’d been fully addicted to the delights of Afternoon Teas (if I’m not already).

To avoid this blog post getting too long and making you too hungry, I’ll stick to the London Afternoon Teas I’ve been to.

Claridges, 2010

Claridges Hotel afternoon tea sweets back in 2010

Claridges Hotel afternoon tea sweets back in 2010

This was my first Afternoon Tea ever and as usual first experiences stand out as some of the best for me. Partly because I knew no better and partly because it’s just so new and exciting. My sister and her husband were briefly in London so this was a bit of a family affair.

The decorations around the room, from the floor, chandeliers to comfy chairs were all incredible. The array of food was delightful and the tea selection also incredible. The green and white striped theme made it all feel cohesive.

I hope Claridges is just as incredible today as it was in 2010 (looking at their 2014 menu makes me want to return); it was a fantastic spot for my first experience of Afternoon Tea.

The Langham Hotel, 2011

Table set for afternoon tea at the Langham

Table set for afternoon tea at the Langham

This time to celebrate my birthday with my flatmates and lovely friends we ventured to the Langham that had been highly recommended. Unfortunately it didn’t start off well. Half of us were stuck in the underground tube and delayed for over 30 minutes and were rushed throughout the Afternoon Tea and were not able to comfortably finish. I wish we had more time and could have enjoyed it more.

It was a bit of a different afternoon tea with couches and a lower height table. It made it feel more casual than posh, but did make it easier to reach the different types of food. The entrance and hallways were highly decorated and it was a nice environment.

The sweets were some of the best I think I’ve tried – very unique and colourful.

This experience taught me to leave plenty of time for transport dramas when you have a strict 2-hour seating period for an Afternoon Tea. Otherwise you’ll end up missing out on tasting all the incredible items in the Afternoon Tea!

Sweets at the Langham hotel

Sweets at the Langham hotel

The Ritz, 2013

Christmas Eve in London with my Aunt visiting from New Zealand gave me an excellent reason to try one of ‘the’ top spots for Afternoon Tea. We decided to opt for the last sitting so we wouldn’t be rushed and spend a bit more for a special Christmas-themed Afternoon Tea.

The Ritz Christmas 2013

The Ritz Christmas 2013

The decorations for Christmas in the Ritz are second to none. Absolutely beautiful. The Christmas Tea came with a glass of champagne and the food was good. Beyond that I’d have to say is wasn’t any more special than the other teas I’ve been to. The tables were quite small and if you changed teas – say from a fruit tea to a black tea, you didn’t get a new cup or strainer, so the black tea was strained through a fruit blend in the strainer.

Christmas-wise, there were mince pies and Christmas cake, but as usual I made myself overfull and couldn’t bring myself to taste the Christmassy extras.

The Ritz at Christmas was a good £20 more than usual champagne Afternoon Teas, but it did include music and just being there made you feel like you were special at Christmas. I wish I was one of the kids that received a Ritz Christmas teddy bear, unfortunately I guess I look too old these days…

Intercontinental

Intercontinental Afternoon tea (my shared one was the back one)

Intercontinental Afternoon tea

This time it was a Kiwi friends leaving Afternoon Tea treat. Again under recommendation I booked a group of four to their Afternoon Tea. They did well to accommodate one of the guests who didn’t eat certain things, but otherwise the service was disappointing. We waited and waited for tea, food and service in general.

They offer a few different types of Afternoon Teas so it was nice to be able to choose a menu you liked. However, for me I liked bits of different menus so maybe giving me the choice wasn’t a good idea in this case.

Unfortunately I was quite disappointed, the sandwiches felt a bit stale and unlike other Afternoon Teas I’d been to you weren’t given any extra sandwiches if you wanted them or scones etc.

After complaining about the service they did apologise and explain that they were overbooked and gave us all a glass of champagne to make up for it, which was a nice touch.

The Royal Horseguards Hotel, Feb 2014

Bring on the Bloggers Afternoon Teas! Organised by the lovely Selena (Oh, the places we will go!) , the Royal Horseguards Hotel put on an incredible menu designed just for us with excellent service (never without tea) in a spacious private room. Each place had a scroll of the menu and part the way through the incredible twitter’ing Chef Ben came to tell us all about the Afternoon Tea. I thought that was a really nice touch. And the chef’s have still kept in touch on twitter leading up to our next Afternoon Tea.

Bloggers Afternoon Tea at the Royal Horseguards Hotel

Bloggers Afternoon Tea at the Royal Horseguards Hotel

My only slight disappointment was that we weren’t told we could ask for different types of tea, so I stuck to the traditional tea, when usually given the option I like to try a few different types. However, that was a very minor detail and given that they had a room full of bloggers to keep happy I can completely understand them offering the standard tea to everyone in the first instance (I think some bloggers may have wrangled a different tea at some point).

The food was lovely and it was great to be able to take home leftovers. Most of all it was fantastic to meet so many incredible bloggers that blog about all different types of things, from lifestyle, interior design, to living in London, being and expat, travel and more.

The room that we were in was lovely and opened out onto a patio with excellent views of the London Eye and Big Ben. It was a really lovely afternoon out.

The Milestone Hotel, May 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Milestone Hotel

Afternoon Tea at the Milestone Hotel

Roll on the next Bloggers Afternoon Tea, again organised by Selena. It was going to be tough to beat the service and food that we had experienced at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, but the Milestone Hotel gave it a good go.

The decorations and room we were in was lovely and later wandering through the rest of the restaurant and bar I noticed every room has a different theme, which was pretty neat.

Back to the Afternoon Tea though, it was a bit less frightening second time around as I knew many of the bloggers there, but purposely sat at a table with many different people to get to know new bloggers a bit more.

The food was again great. Although I wish there had been more of the scrummy round chicken sandwiches rolled in almonds around the edges, those were tasty and fancy. The scones were less dainty but came with clotted cream so that kept me happy.

Tea-wise, again it was a choice between English breakfast and Earl Grey, nothing special that was a pity. The sweets were a wide array to choose from, but unfortunately our table only had one or two of some items, so it would have been nice if there had been more for people to try.

Still, it was a lovely afternoon out with a lovely bunch of people. It’s always fantastic conversations and I can’t wait to see what the next one is like!

Photography Friday: C is for ‘Croatia’

Flag of Croatia

Sun, blue skies, pebbles, clear waters, what more could a traveller want?
(Okay, maybe sand instead of pebbles and some fish n’ chips)

This week’s ‘Photography Friday’ takes us back to Europe and crosses over two different locations, four years apart! Going with the theme of crossing off the entire alphabet, this week we have C for Croatia. Croatia is a country that is lovely and warm, just what I need leading into the summer!

Without further ado…

Pula, Croatia

Near the Croatia-Slovenia border, back in 2008 I visited Pula. Pula is a lovely coastal town filled with Roman ruins, a lovely seafront and plenty of opportunities to take a boat around the Brijuni islands.

Arch of the Sergii, Roman architecture in Pula, Croatia

Arch of the Sergii, Roman architecture in Pula, Croatia

Pula Arena - an amphitheater in Pula, Croatia

Pula Arena – an amphitheater in Pula, Croatia

Inside Pula Arena - an amphitheater in Pula, Croatia

Inside Pula Arena

Seafront of Pula, Croatia

Seafront of Pula, Croatia

The water around the Brijuni islands really was this incredible!

The water around the Brijuni islands really was this incredible!

Dubrovnik, Croatia

2012 brought Dubrovnik, during the same trip when I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dubrovnik is a clean pretty little old town, filled with tourists and very average food. However, the city wall was great to walk along and there was some lovely scenic parts to the city – I love the flowers and the shutters on the windows (as you’ll be able to tell from below).

Shutters on a window, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Shutters on a window, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Flowers on a window ledge, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Flowers on a window ledge, Dubrovnik, Croatia

Building in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Port, Dubrovnik

Port, Dubrovnik

Peaking through a bridge to the port

Peaking through a bridge to the port

View over the houses in Dubrovnik, Croatia

View over the houses in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Old Town of Dubrovnik

Old Town of Dubrovnik

Flowers

Little touches of colour around Dubrovnik

Boats in Dubrovnik

Boats in Dubrovnik

Ocean water - crystal clear in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Ocean water – crystal clear in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Me 'trying' to be a Roman warrior in Pula, 2008

Me ‘trying’ to be a Roman warrior in Pula, 2008

Croatia is a lovely spot to visit, I’ll always remember its warm weather and beautiful waters. I may not go for the food, like I would in Bosnia, Italy or Spain, but the scenery and beaches in Croatia are stunning.

Part of me wishes that I could get to the Plitvice Lakes this year, but I’m not sure if that will happen… may be another one to add to the bucket list!

In the meantime feel free to check out my Slovenia & Croatia photography gallery here »

Travelling around Russia

Expectations are a tricky thing, even when it’s not a physical thing you expect to see on your travels.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg, Russia

I’ve learnt to try not have expectations as it puts a dampener on how fantastic a place actually is. However, with Russia I subconsciously had expected it to feel different to the rest of Europe, in terms of the culture and surroundings.

I think this expectation has been the reason this blog post has taken me a few weeks to write. I keep on hoping that I’ll realise how amazing visiting Russia was. Maybe it was that I’d just come from a teary farewell with close friends in Sweden to Saint Petersburg to start my tour. Then again maybe all the bad publicity that Russia has had over the last few months had put a dampener on it for me. To be honest, I can’t quite put my finger on how of felt about the trip, but I didn’t get the culture shock or feeling of a ‘different’ place that I had hoped for.

That isn’t to say it was a bad trip by any means. I did a tour because I had been concerned about the language barrier and that the writing cannot be deciphered into English letters at all. Was a tour necessary? Possibly not, but it made life a bit easier and the guide was very knowledgable about Saint Petersburg.

Doing a tour enabled me to meet people and be shown the main sights as well as have time to myself to check out the cities. The tour started in Saint Petersburg then an overnight train took us to Moscow.

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood – Side view

Seeing the gingerbread houses, sorry I mean seeing the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood and Saint Basil’s Cathedral were incredible. Going inside the Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood would have to be one of my highlights. That was definitely a ‘different’ church to all the ones I’ve seen throughout Europe, covered in mosaics top to bottom almost! If you’d like to read more about it I wrote a post here »

The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace, part of the Hermitage

Military Band outside the Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Military Band outside the Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg, Russia

Walking through the Hermitage was pretty amazing, it’s more of a palace than a museum the way every room is decorated. That being said, the ‘Winter Palace’ is part of the Hermitage, so maybe that sets the scene for the rest of the buildings. Stumbling across military bands practicing outside the Winter Palace was also a treat, as was coming across a boutique food hall to rival Harrods in Saint Petersburg.

Yeliseev's Food Hall-room, Saint Petersburg

Yeliseev’s Food Hall-room, Saint Petersburg

Yeliseev's Food Hall-room, Saint Petersburg

Yeliseev’s Food Hall-room, Saint Petersburg – yes I had to sample a few items…

I don’t generally drink much when I travel and this being a Russia tour meant I was one of the few that didn’t. I was also on a massive budget (other travel plans in the works) and Russia isn’t cheap, so I had planned on just doing the city tours and wandering the cities on the spare days. Whereas, most of the group paid for the optional excursions. So in this sense I guess I didn’t feel part of the group so much, but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing since I enjoy solo travel.

Saint Petersburg provided plenty to see on a day around the city, from Cathedrals to markets, interesting buildings and boutique shops. Doing a car tour out to the blue naval Cathedral of Saint Nicholas and also to the Peter and Paul Fortress was also interesting because both hold important history for Saint Petersburg. The Cathedral of Saint Nicholas has never been closed even in Soviet times and The Peter and Paul Fortress is the birth place of the city and holds the graves of many of the past rulers of Russia since Peter the Great.

Saint Nicolas Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

Saint Nicolas Naval Cathedral, Saint Petersburg

The overnight train…

The third-class overnight train to Moscow from Saint Petersburg wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected. I had heard horror stories of overnight trains in Egypt enough to cure me of ever taking one I thought! The beds were hard and small and there were no doors on third class so noise and security was a bit of a concern (I slept with my camera bag under my head), but to be honest I was safe and pretty quiet considering. Everyone was in the same boat (or train in this case) and just wanted to get a bit of shuteye before arrival.

3rd class on the overnight train to Moscow

3rd class on the overnight train to Moscow

Then comes Moscow…

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

Red Square, Moscow, Russia

Ngaire outside Saint Basil's Cathedral

Me getting a little over excited outside Saint Basil’s Cathedral (my roommate had a thing about jumping photos)

Being in the Red Square was like one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. ‘I’m actually in the Red Square of Moscow, I never imagined that’. However, the Red Square didn’t wow me. Yes the stunning Saint Basil’s Cathedral was at one end colourful and standing proud. The Kremlin and Lenins Mausoleum were on one side, but opposite those was a massive expensive shopping mall (one that could rival the likes of Milan). So, I guess I was missing that ‘Russian’ culture vibe.

Gum Shopping Mall, Moscow

Gum Shopping Mall, Moscow

Russian Dolls galore at the Izmailovsky Market, Moscow

Russian Dolls galore at the Izmailovsky Market, Moscow

Standing in front of the gigantic statue of the 'now' Peter the Great

Standing in front of the gigantic statue of the ‘now’ Peter the Great

The free day we had in Moscow saw my roommate and I venture out early through the enormous Izmailovsky Market filled with Russian ‘ Matryoshka’ dolls (amongst other things) for hours.

We checked out a few of the Moscow metro stations filled with sculptures before heading to the Church of Christ Our Savior. It is yet another beautiful white church with gold turrets and when you get a closer look you begin to notice the detailed sculptures on the sides of the building. Then there was its location, across a bridge with the river below and the statue of Christopher Columbus, sorry I mean ‘Peter the Great’ (the head had been chopped off because America didn’t want the statue, and Peter’s head was put on instead) was just down the river a bit.

Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

Statues around Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

Statues around Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

Statues around Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

Statues around Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow

I was pleased that I let my budget stretch to doing a night tour of Moscow and was finally able to make use of the tripod I’ve carted through Sweden and Russia. Capturing some incredible buildings lit up at night was a great way to end the tour.

Saint Basil's Cathedral by night, Moscow

Saint Basil’s Cathedral by night, Moscow

Novodevichy Convent, Moscow

Novodevichy Convent, Moscow

With plenty of spare time in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, I managed to do plenty of people watching in the sunshine. It’s safe to say tourists will always look out of place. Russian women seem to take a lot (I mean A LOT) of pride in their looks. The men dress tidy, but not always to the extent on their counterparts. I think I’d get tired very easily if I had to put that much work into myself getting ready each day before I leave the house, but maybe that is just the traveller in me…

So while I was missing a bit of a culture shock, Russia was still amazing for its history and architecture and I’m sure in years to come I’ll look over these images and hardly believe I was there.

P.S. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a shot glass from Russia to add to my collection of a single shot glass from each country (gutted). If you’re travelling to Russia anytime soon and can help me out with a cheap shot glass please get in touch! Email ngaire@designack.com and you’ll make me a very happy Kiwi!

 

If you would like to see the photography post of the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, you can visit it here »

If the Hermitage is of interest, then this post if for you »

Or, if you fancy checking out my photography you can visit my gallery on Russia here »

I also wrote a few guest posts on Russia, which you can find out more about on my ‘Published’ page here »

Photography Friday: B is for ‘Bangkok’

Buddas in a Bangkok Temple

Buddas in a Bangkok Temple, Thailand

Moving on from last weeks ‘A’ is for ‘Austria’ post, I skip a few years and step into Bangkok – the single day I had there before I fell ill and wound up in hospital in Koh Samui. However, this day was a great day of seeing temples and waterways of the diverse city of Bangkok.

Temples in Bangkok

Temples in Bangkok

Detail of a temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Detail of a temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Temples in Bangkok

Some scary fellows guarding a temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Some scary fellows guarding a temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok Temples Bangkok Temples

While there was a wide variety of temples and statues in Bangkok, there was another side to the city – the water. Many houses and schools live on the water in Bangkok, life carries on as usual, but instead of a car, they have boats.

Houses on the water in Bangkok

Houses on the water in Bangkok

Women travelling by boat in Bangkok

Women travelling by boat in Bangkok, Thailand

Speedboat on the water in Bangkok

Speedboat on the water in Bangkok

Boat travel in Bangkok, Thailand

Boat travel in Bangkok, Thailand

Ngaire by Temple

Me standing in some very baggy clothes outside one of the temples in Bangkok

Thailand is an incredible country and Bangkok was a great start to my OE (overseas experience) just over four years ago. Hopefully I’ll return to Thailand one day feeling a lot better and get to investigate more of the islands and incredible spots that the country offers.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed these photographs. If you would like to see more please visit my photography gallery of Thailand here »

 

The Hermitage: A museum to rival Paris’s Louvre

Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, Palace Square

Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, Palace Square

Situated on the incredible Dvortsovaya Ploshchad ‘Palace Square’ stands an incredible green building (yes green may sound strange), opposite a yellow building with a stunning arc sculpted by George von Velten in the late 18th century. Standing proud in the centre is the 47.5 meter tall Alexander Column made of red granite. This is the understated, yet incredible setting for the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Arc in Dvortsovaya Ploshchad

Arc in Dvortsovaya Ploshchad, sculpted by George von Velten

The Winter Palace

The Winter Palace

The Hermitage is made up from a variety of buildings, one being the green and white Winter Palace, where the moment you step in, you feel like you’re somewhere special – not just in any normal museum. The staircases are what you would expect of a palace, gold and marble with detail to blow anyone away. The additional buildings that make up what is known as ‘The Hermitage’ are simply named Small, Large and New Hermitages, yet inside they are anything but simple.

The Winter Palace entrance of the Hermitage

The Winter Palace entrance of the Hermitage

Chandeliers in the Hermitage

Chandeliers in the Hermitage

As you wander through the Hermitage it may not be the collections that rival the Louvre, but the rooms themselves. That isn’t to say that the Hermitage doesn’t have a spectacular collection; it includes a peacock clock and even has a statue of Jupiter that had put in place before the walls of the New Hermitage building it is situated in were built. Da vinci and Rembrandt also feature in the paintings collections.

Statue of Jupiter in the Hermitage

Statue of Jupiter in the Hermitage

Jupiters Hall

Jupiters Hall

Peacock Clock that was interactive when it reaches a particular hour

Peacock Clock that was interactive when it reaches a particular hour

Back to the rooms. It’s the ceilings and walls that captured my attention. Along with the statues and sculpture work that adorn the highly decorated rooms. The chandeliers and floors from time to time also made me forget I was in a museum. Russia seems to take a lot of its architecture from Europe as there is plenty of Italian architecture and various European sculptures within the decoration of the Hermitage.

Room inside the Hermitage

One of the many highly decorated rooms inside the Hermitage

Ceiling in the Hermitage

Italian Skylight room in the Hermitage

Ceiling in the Hermitage

Ceiling in the Hermitage

Mosaic floor in one of the rooms in the Hermitage

Mosaic floor in one of the rooms in the Hermitage

One of the many decorative hallways in the Hermitage

One of the many decorative hallways in the Hermitage

Russia certainly doesn’t understand museums the way I do. Gone are the grey dreary walls and rooms where the artwork is meant to stand out from, instead each room is a work of art in itself. Visiting the Hermitage was a great treat during my tour of Saint Petersburg. I had visited with the main aim of seeing the incredible architecture of Church of Our Saviour on Spilled Blood, but the Hermitage is an equally incredible attraction.

Sculptures inside the Hermitage

Sculptures inside the Hermitage

If you would like to see my photography post about the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood visit it here »

Or, if you’d like to see more photography of Russia, visit my photography gallery of Russia here »

Photography Friday: A is for ‘Austria’

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria

In an effort to start showing you some photographs from various times in my travels since 2008, I thought I would start with the alphabet! Some letters are bound to be tricky, but we’ll see how I go.

So with the letter ‘A’, where better to begin than where my I caught my travel bug – in Austria! Here is one of my photographs from each of the main spots I visited in Austria back in 2008.

Night tram in Linz, Austria, near where I studied in Hagenburg

Night tram in Linz, Austria, near where I studied in Hagenburg

Statues in Vienna (Wein), Austria

Statues in Vienna (Wein), Austria

Innsbruck city, Austria

Innsbruck city, Austria

Salzburg Castle, Austria

Salzburg Castle, Austria

Me back in 2008 in Innsbruck, Austria

Me standing on a bridge back in 2008 in Innsbruck, Austria

If you would like to read more about Hallstatt, I wrote a post about this hidden gem in Austria here »

Or, if you would like to see more photography from Austria and Germany visit my photography gallery here »

A Surprising Destination: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar Old Bridge, night

Mostar Old Bridge, night

Having travelled throughout Europe for the best part of the last four years (add another 6 months if you want to include my ‘studying’ in Austria), I started to feel like I needed to see a place a bit more different. I’d travelled to ‘easy’ countries that you could fly, bus and train around without any worries. So, back in 2012 I was getting to the point of where I asked myself: where can I go in Europe that’s ‘different’?

My answer was Bosnia and Herzegovina. How did this become one of my most surprising destinations? I didn’t know what to expect and it blew me away everywhere I went.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t aware how easy it could be to travel around so I did partake in a tour, but I chose a small tour group to try to limit how ‘dreadful’ tours can be. It was actually a really good choice in this instance, because growing up in New Zealand I heard very little about Bosnia and Herzegovina and absolutely nothing about Srebrenica. Doing the tour educated me in many ways and put my mothers heart at ease so that I wouldn’t step on a landmine (just kidding, those are mainly gone these days).

Surprise 1: The beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Town of Mostar

Mostar, Old Bridge

Mostar, Old Bridge

Think turquoise waters, stunning cobbled streets and a beautiful old bridge that crazy people jump off to make money. Sitting down at a restaurant overlooking this incredible colour river, staring out at the bridge and eating incredible good, cheap food was a great surprise. Mostar is a stunning little town, but like much of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the trail of war can still be seen in destroyed buildings and property.

Craftsman, Mostar

Craftsman, Mostar

Building in Mostar, damaged by war

Building in Mostar, damaged by war

Surprise 2: Sarajevo, a city still recovering from war

Savajevo Red Rose

Savajevo Red Rose

Sarajevo is a city where you can purchase mortar shell vases intricately engraved in patterns as a memento – and in turn, provide someone with a week’s worth of income for their ten hours of hard work engraving, at a small cost.

It is a city of recent history, where you walk along and often step across ‘red roses’ in the ground where mortar shell explosions killed people. Sarajevo, even more than Mostar, has constant reminders of the destruction the war created. Walking around the city with someone who grew up there, you hear about the stories of running to school trying to avoid the snipers, families that lost nearly everything and would put themselves in incredible danger with the Sarajevo Tunnel just for a chance of survival.

Sarajevo building, damaged by war

Sarajevo building, damaged by war

Today, people live here without fear. The city is slowly rebuilding itself, there are incredible spots to eat and drink, shops to wonder amongst and relax.

Sarajevo town

Sarajevo town

Sarajevo was surprising to say the least. Yet more was to come: Srebrenica.

Surprise 3: Srebrenica

Srebrenica

Srebrenica

This is possibly one of the most saddest surprises you can get. I don’t say that in a bad way, because I feel I owe it to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina (and myself) to know about what happened here, but it was shocking. I wish I had known a bit about it before coming, I knew absolutely nothing.

Driving out of Sarajevo you lose count of the number of football fields and yards that have been converted into cemeteries. Then you come to Srebrenica. An area where only half the memorial is full (which is still thousands of white pillars) because every year they are still finding parts of bodies to try to identify people from different mass graves that they find out about. But it’s not even the memorial that shocked me. It was hearing from a survivor and watching a film about the genocide in the UN (Dutch) Base – an old warehouse.

If you’re wondering what I’m going on about, the town of Srebrenica experienced genocide in July 1995 where around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were murdered in horrific manners and now many still can’t be found. It still remains the largest mass murder in Europe since the terror of World War Two.

Srebrenica graves

Srebrenica graves

I won’t go into too much more detail, because it is something that everyone should read and learn about properly. Please do visit the links at the end of this blog post to find out more. I didn’t hold it together very well during this day, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much, but it was eye-opening.

Srebrenica was a surprise destination for certain. It’s a town where most buildings are still blown/burnt out and very few people live because they are either dead, fled or can’t bring themselves to bear the memories that come with the place.

A lone man sat on a porch in the middle floor of a three-story building as we ate lunch that day. The building was blown out and had obvious signs of destruction. He lives in this one floor of the home that his three sons built, two of which didn’t make it through the war and one that fled overseas. I’ll never forget seeing this man, so incredibly alone, just as I’ll never forget Srebrenica.

Srebrenica Memorial

Srebrenica Memorial

Surprise 4: The stunning landscapes of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Kravica Waterfalls

Kravica Waterfalls

Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t all about war and terror and what is left behind. Beyond this is the stunning scenery of vibrant green mountains and waters, clear blue sunny skies and quiet towns. Tourism hasn’t hit yet, but it is only a matter of time, particularly with Sarajevo and Mostar. I’m pleased I saw the country as it was in 2012, still raw, still real.

This may not have appeared to have been one of the happiest surprise destinations, but its one of my favourite countries in Europe for beautiful scenery, clear clean waters, stunning, cheap and tasty foods, friendly people and without crowds. It was a ‘different’ destination and one that has stuck with me since I visited.

For more information about Srebrenica, check out http://www.hmd.org.uk/genocides/genocide-srebrenica
http://srebrenica.org.uk/

If you would like to see more photography from my visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, visit the photo gallery here »

The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg

Think gingerbread house at Christmas time all painted up and ready to eat… sorry but you may be fooled, this is the incredible Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood in Russia!

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

For ‘Photography Friday’ this week I’m giving you a little insight into my latest adventure to Russia. I’ve been a bit busy lately doing photography and blog posts for various companies (check out the list here), but don’t worry, over the coming weeks I’ll fill you all in about the trip right here on kiwifootprints.com.

In the meantime, have a squiz (look) into this incredible church in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It’s safe to say this was one of my main reasons for visiting Saint Petersburg and I wasn’t disappointed!

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Mosaics on the outside of the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Mosaics on the outside of the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood – Side view

Excuse the not-great photography here, I was craning my neck the entire time to photograph the ceiling without my tripod on my little camera, so they aren’t great images, but I had to share them to you could be overwhelmed by all the mosaics that cover the inside and outside of this church.

Canopy of the Inside the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Canopy of the Inside the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

This was this very spot that the canopy covers where Alexander II was mortally wounded.

Ceiling inside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Ceiling inside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Inside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Inside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Wall inside Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Inside the Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood If you would like to check out more photography from my trip to Russia, including Moscow and Saint Petersburg, check out my Russia photography gallery here »

Anzac Day: Lest we forget

A day of Anzac biscuits, beer and in New Zealand, a public holiday filled with sunshine. But let’s be honest, it’s a bit more of a serious day than all that.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

A few years ago I had the chance to visit Gallipoli in Turkey. This was the location where the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps landed in 1915 and fought for 8-9 months as part of the Great War. Every year we have the chance to wake up for dawn services, visit the graves or just light a candle of remembrance. 

While visiting Gallipoli and the locations where our countries fought and many died, it’s hard not to feel somber. War is a terrible thing and in Gallipoli alone, over 120,000 men died fighting. Anzac Cove is a very difficult mountainous terrain and had horrid living conditions for the soldiers.

As this post goes live, New Zealanders across the globe will have been to dawn services to remember those who fought at Gallipoli in 1915. Below is my dedication to the soldiers of Gallipoli and Anzac Cove.

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli

Anzac Cove, Gallipoli

Trenches at Gallipoli

Trenches at Gallipoli

Trenches at Gallipoli

Trenches at Gallipoli

Chunuk Bair memorial

Chunuk Bair memorial

Chunuk Bair

Chunuk Bair, New Zealand Memorial

Lest we forget

Lest we forget

To read more about Gallipoli, visit the New Zealand hisotry site here »

If you would like to look at more of my photography from Gallipoli and Turkey, check out my Turkey gallery here »

Six Years of Easter in different cities around the world

Its Good Friday and I’m currently in Moscow, Russia, reflecting on where I’ve spent the last six Easters… it’s always been a good excuse to check out another city for the traveller in me! Downside is that many of these places don’t understand the importance of chocolate Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns!

Easter 2008: Florence, Italy

I’d been travelling through Prague and Venice leading up to Florence while studying in Austria as part of my University scholarship exchange.

An Easter Parade, Florence, Italy

An Easter Parade, Florence, Italy

An Easter Parade, Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio bridge, Florence

A lot younger (and blonder) on the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy

Easter 2009: Auckland, New Zealand

Back in the land of the long white cloud I was saving up for my OE (Overseas Experience).

St. Heliers Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

St. Heliers Beach, Auckland, New Zealand

Easter 2010: London, UK

After a bit of a scary journey through Thailand getting sick and ending up in hospital, then a short stop in chilly Sweden to visit one of my best friends, I then landed in London. Below is one of my first photographs that I took once I’d settled in London.

Daffodils in Putney, London, UK

Daffodils in Putney, London, UK

Easter 2011: Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kicking off an amazing Easter I ventured through the five little villages of Cinque Terre in Italy, hiking between each village admiring the incredible views.

Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy

Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italy

Finishing up Easter of 2011 on the stunning coast of Amalfi, in particular the lovely Positano.

Chilling in the sun of Positano

Chilling in the sun of Positano (with much chopped hair)

Easter 2012: Istanbul, Turkey

After trekking and hot air ballooning through the stunning Cappadocia, Easter 2012 ended in Istanbul. It was a city similar to London, it had parts which I loved and aspects that drove me crazy.

The beautiful Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

The beautiful Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

I may not have had Easter Eggs, but this cake and Icecream were a pretty good substitute

I may not have had Easter Eggs, but this cake and Icecream were pretty good substitutes

Easter 2013: Cornwall, England

Deciding it was time to check out more of the UK, I ventured to one of the coasts that English people rave about: Cornwall. It was nice, but it was freaking cold. So cold. However, the Eden Project meant a warm rainforest!

The Eden Project

The Eden Project

Easter 2014: Russia

Well you’ll just have to wait for that one! Hold tight photographs and posts will be on the way!

Checking out the flowers in London’s East End

When London brings out the sun, you really do have to make the most of it. There’s no telling when you’ll see it again.

I recently visited a spot I’ve been wanting to check out for ages: Colombia Road Flower Markets in Hoxton. I opted to wait for spring to show itself before venturing over to East London on a Sunday morning. The road was packed full of people and was shorter than I expected, but it did not disappoint on the variety of colour and scents on display.

Colombia Road Flower Markets, London

Colombia Road Flower Markets, London

Colombia Road Flower Markets, London

Colombia Road Flower Markets, London

Colombia Road Flower Markets, London

Colombia Road Flower Markets, London

Top Tip: Around the corner from the flower markets in Hackney is an awesome little Kiwi cafe called the ‘Long White Cloud’. I did a review of it over on ‘Adventures of a London Kiwi’ – check it out here »

If you fancy checking out Colombia Road Flower Market yourself, it is on from 8am until 3pm (ish) every Sunday. More information can be found on their website http://www.columbiaroad.info/.

By now you can probably tell I have a thing with flowers, I love colour (guess that’s the creative designer in me) and the unique shapes and styles that flowers come in. This love has taken me to the Rose Gardens in Bern, Switzerland, the amazing Ravello Gardens in Italy, the Eden Project in Cornwall, England, to the wildflowers on the Cinque Terre route in Italy and the Lost Gardens of Heligan in England. Flowers always seem to bring happiness on my travels!

Ravello Gardens in Italy

Ravello Gardens in Italy

What travel locations have you found the best displays of floral colour?

Photography Friday: Musicians!

“Music… will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

To celebrate this ‘Photography Friday’ I thought I would share a little piece of what I find on almost all my travels: music. Music has a strong power that is often overlooked and is all around us if we just listen. But instead of getting too deep and meaningful (it is a Friday after all) I’ll share a few images from around my Europe and Africa travels where musicians (of all sorts) have inspired me.

Musician in Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Musician in Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain

Musician in the streets of Barcelona, Spain

Musician in the streets of Barcelona, Spain

The music of glass, Stockholm, Sweden

The music of glass, Stockholm, Sweden

Busker with a musical puppet, Prague, Czech Republic

Busker with a musical puppet, Prague, Czech Republic

Musical statue, London, UK

Musical statue, London, UK

Busker in Salzburg, Austria

Busker in Salzburg, Austria

Musicians of the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland

Musicians of the Fringe Festival looking perplexed, Edinburgh, Scotland

Musicians in Art, Granada, Spain

Musicians in Art, Granada, Spain

Musicians in Art, Granada, Spain (nice to see the flute for once!)

Musicians in Art, Granada, Spain (nice to see the flute for once!)

Amazing music and entertainment in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

Amazing music and entertainment in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

If you’d like to check out more of my photography, visit my photography portfolio at designack.com »

Glass Art to blow your mind

‘What I’ve always really been interested in is space. Even when I made a single Cylinder or Macchia, my interest was always in space. I was thinking not of the object itself, but how the object would look in a room.’

- Dale Chihuly

Entrance of exhibition

Entrance of exhibition

Venturing out to new and different exhibitions is one of my favourite things to do in London. You’re never short of creative inspiration with all the different exhibitions going on all over London all the time. Last weekend I checked out something a bit different, hand-blown glass art.

Dale Chihuly is an incredible artist when it comes to glass. I’ll never forget his incredible work that was in the V&A hanging over the information desk (it may still be there). His exhibition at the Halcyon Gallery called ‘Beyond the Object‘ showcases his incredible talent for colour and style when it comes to glass art.

Being a designer, I love colour and the combinations that work together to create something eye-catching. However, I don’t think you need to be a designer or an artist to appreciate Dale’s talent.

Entrance of exhibition from below

Entrance of exhibition from below

Glass Art by Dale Chihuly

It was very impressive how carefully the installations were considered with light and are all the more powerful for that. Glass Art by Dale Chihuly Glass Art by Dale Chihuly Glass Art by Dale Chihuly Glass Art by Dale Chihuly Glass Art by Dale Chihuly Glass Art by Dale Chihuly

Even a boat filled with hand-blown glass - incredible

Even a boat filled with hand-blown glass – incredible

‘Beyond the Object’ is a free exhibition on at the Halcyon Gallery in London until 21 April, it’s definitely worth a visit. For more information visit http://www.halcyongallery.com/exhibitions/dale-chihuly-beyond-the-object.

Where’s the love?

Sometimes we may not have love in our own lives, but when you travel you can find it in the most unexpected of places and it makes you smile.

After a month of Photo of the Day’s (to celebrate kiwifootprints.com turning 1!) I’ve decided to kick off a ‘Photo Friday’ selection each Friday. Today’s kicks off with a selection of images that I’ve captured on my travels that show love, often in the less expected ways.

A small child touching a cow from a distance.

A small child touching a cow from a distance.

Taking time to feed the birds

Taking time to feed the birds

'Stand by me', children in Venice, Italy

‘Stand by me’, children in Venice, Italy

Baboons in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboons grooming each other in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

A baby baboon grips on for dear life to its mother wandering around the park

A baby baboon grips on for dear life to its mother wandering around the park

Baby baboon's that are carried by cuddling the back or tummy of a parent, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baby baboon that are often carried by cuddling the back or tummy of a parent, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboon sitting with its baby, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboon sitting with its baby, Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Gorillas grooming

Gorillas grooming each other, Rwanda

A baby elephant being fed at an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya

A baby elephant being fed at an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya

A baby elephant giving a cuddle to the guy that just fed it

A baby elephant giving a cuddle to the guy that just fed it

Hippos cleaning

Hippos cleaning each other in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda

Philadelphia Love Park

Philadelphia Love Park

Sometimes flowers say it all.

Sometimes flowers say it all.

5 travelling Kiwis and 5 of their favourite places to travel to

5 Kiwis walk into a blog post, there’s the one with love of exotic Morocco, the one who loves the sunshine of Portugal, the one that’s not sure the cause of her love for Japan, the Asia explorer and the African wildlife lover.

What better way to end a month of kiwifootprint celebrations than to gather 5 Kiwi’s and ask them where their favourite place is that their footprints have taken them? Today’s post is brought to you with the help of Tania, Nicole, Jessi and Emma. I hope you are as inspired as I am by these fantastic places!

 

A favourite place to travel to: Siem Reap, Cambodia
Kiwi footprints made by: Nicole Bass
Blogging at: www.alifelessbeige.com

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Friendly locals and the combination of culture, history and ancient architecture makes Siem Reap one of my favourite places to travel to. Even being Cambodia’s main tourist hub, it surprisingly manages to still have a sleepy charm. You can watch the sunrise over the impressive and iconic Angkor Wat, or see local monks wander amongst the twisted Banyon tree roots that have taken over many of the ruins that remain from once magnificent temples. Each temple is beautiful and unique with its size and detailing. After spending the days sightseeing by tuk-tuk, the famous Pub Street entertains tourists at night with its many bars and restaurants. You can also choose to watch graceful Apsara dancers, relax with a local massage, or for the non-ticklish, enjoy a famous fish massage.


A favourite place to travel to: Japan
Kiwi footprints made by: Emma Creese
Blogging at: www.adventuresofalondonkiwi.com

Japan

Japan

A few years ago we were lucky enough explore Japan for 10 days. Whilst there we managed to to travel on the beautiful bullet trains to see Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara & Hiroshima. Staying with friends and we were lucky enough to experience a Japanese New Year, a(nother) Christmas Day with expat friends, see Mount Fuji, try real Sushi, wander through mystical Bhuddist temples, meet Harijuku boys and Geisha girls, and eat piped hot food from Vending Machines. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was that I fell in love with, but everyone one we know has fallen for they mystical charms of the Japanese Isles and we can’t wait to return.


A favourite place to travel to: Morocco
Kiwi footprints made by: Tania Bearsley
Blogging at: 3KiwisInLondon

Morocco

Morocco

We visited Morocco with our 15 year old. Losing ourselves in the headiness of Marrakesh Souq lanes of leather, silver and pottery. Drove over the High Atlas Mountains, intrigued by the nomadic Berber tents. Visited Aït Benhaddou, one of the most exotic and best-preserved Kasbah’s in the entire Atlas region. Stayed at a Riad on an orange grove. Celebrated New Year in a Berber tent resplendent in regal green and red adorned with Moroccan lamps and carpets, dined on couscous and tagine, dancing the night away to a Berber band. Fell in love with Essaouria, a coastal town steeped in history. Haggled for carpets, visited argan oil collectives, saffron farms, saw goats in trees, heard Arabic, Berber and French spoken around us. A journey which we still all speak about 5 years on – a time of exploration and experience, in an exotic land.


A favourite place to travel to: Lisbon, Portugal
Kiwi footprints made by: Jessica Phillips
Blogging at: www.twofeet-oneworld.com

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal

One of my main motivations in flying the coop from Kiwiland to London last year was to squeeze in lots of travel, and my long weekend in Lisbon has been one of my favourite trips so far. I loved the city’s variety, from panoramic views of the city atop Castelo San Jorge to visiting the beachside suburbs of Cascais and Belém to dip my toes in the chilly Atlantic and munch on the national delicacy of pastéis de nata. My favourite outing was to the Alfama, the village-like part of Lisbon where colourful washing hung between tiled buildings above elderly men chatting in the sunshine. I loved how Lisbon was compact enough that I could get a great sense of it in just four days, but so rich in history and culture that there’s plenty more I could explore next time I’m there.


A favourite place to travel to: Kenya, Africa
Kiwi footprints made by: Ngaire Ackerley (yes I had to put my own two cents worth in!)
Blogging at: http://kiwifootprints.com
Photography portfolio at: http://designack.com

Baboons in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Baboons in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

Lions, Rhino, Water Buffalo, Leopards, Giraffes, Zebra, Baboons and so much more is what makes Kenya one of my favourite places to travel to. It’s hard to define between all the African countries, but Kenya holds a special place in my heart. Lake Nakuru National Park was the most incredible spot for wildlife watching and catching a glimpse of the ‘Big 5’. The landscapes are beautiful with places like ‘Baboon Cliff’ that overlooks the entire national park and lake. Animals roam free and happy in the peace and quiet. For anyone considering Africa, I can’t recommend Kenya and the other East African countries enough.

 

Thank you all for participating in my celebrations of kiwifootprints.com turning 1 this month! I hope you all enjoyed the blog posts and ‘Photo of the Day”s. What were your favourites?

Photo of the Day, March 31: Norway

Dancing lights in the sky as you realise there is more to this universe than just what happens on earth

Aurora Borealis, Norway

Aurora Borealis, Norway

Through a snowstorm and thick cloud we drove. And drove. And drove. Finally the clouds parted and the Northern Lights decided to put on a show. Today’s Photo of the Day is taken driving north in the Arctic Circle from Tromso, up towards Finland.

If you would like to find out more about how to photograph the Northern Lights, I wrote a post about it on my portfolio site here called ‘Photographing the Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights’ »

Or if you would like to peruse my photographs of Norway, check out the gallery here »

This marks the end of March’s ‘Photo of the Day’ to celebrate kiwifootprints turning one. I’m interested to hear what you thought about a daily photograph to see from my travels, did you enjoy it? Should I attempt to do a weekly photo treat, if not continue ‘Photo of the Day’?