photography

Modena: home of Balsamico

Modena is the birthplace of balsamic vinegar or as the Italians say Balsamico. To be honest, this was news to me – I was in this town for a conference, again, I feel very lucky that I had the chance to explore this little Italian town. Modena is a University town and the locals are very proud of this. In fact, the Mayor came to the opening ceremony of the conference and said how proud he was that Modena was hosting the conference…

It’s small enough to explore in a day or so, but every corner you turn you discover something new. The mercado or the town market is full of fresh produce: fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, cheese and even fresh pasta. I guarantee you will walk out of here with a bag full of goodies. Oh and obviously bottles and bottles of balsamico – the most expensive bottle of balsamico that I laid eyes on was about 80EU! These Italians take their balsamico quite seriously!

The University is spread across town, so you will see alot of young people and bicycles. Even the police cycle in Modena! The town centre has a huge cathedral with crypts in the basement. In general there were alot of archways in Modena – the architecture was simply beautiful!

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Beautiful Brescia

I’m quite lucky that I get to travel for work – and work is what brought me to Brescia. I was in town for a few days during the course of a conference that was held at the University which is spread out across the entire town! I immediately loved the city as soon as I arrived!

There are numerous piazza’s where one piazza joins onto another via a small laneway. The food was amazing, the restaurants spill-over onto the streets and create a nice atmosphere in the evenings. Some restaurants even had live music (so watch out when booking your accommodation!). I stayed at Albergo Orologio (Via Cesare Beccaria) which was not the greatest place but had a brilliant location. I definitely recommend having dinner at I Du Dela Contrada (Contrada del Carmine) which is run by a few young lads who were very friendly and down to earth. The food is only made with local ingredients resulting in an amazing dinner.

In terms of sights: enough to see in Brescia. Typical Duomo in the centre of town, Roman excavations, arches and arches all around the town… simply wander about aimlessly around the streets and this will give you a taste of Brescia.

Awesome place to visit for about 2 days or so….

 

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Quaint Bergamo

Bergamo in September is beautiful – not insanely hot yet warm enough to walk around with sandals. Bergamo airport is conveniently located and only a short drive away (around 15mins). The town centre is quite small but charming. During my visit, there was some sort of a garden/landscape fair, so there were quite alot of exhibitions around the northern part of the town. The architecturally impressive cathedral and many churches are definitely a must see. The castle is one of the major highlights of Bergamo and you can reach it quite easily – I walked to the base of the hill and then got onto the funicular. The views from atop the hill are beautiful. There are a lot of shops and cafes in this area – the Pasticciera’s (bakery) were my favourite as they had sweets that I’d never seen before and tasted amazing! You can easily explore the city in a day or two… Good spot to break down journey time to and from Milano and Bologna.

 

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The Ultimate Scottish Road Trip

With the help of a Lonely Planet Guide, my friend Alex and I planned the Ultimate Scottish road trip over an amazing coffee at my favourite cafe one afternoon in Cambridge.

I was already going to be in Edinburgh for work. So our trip began from the Scottish capital, and this is the route we took:

Edinburgh -> St Andrews -> Perth -> Glencoe -> Fort William (Ben Nevis) -> Oban -> Isle of Barra -> Eriskay -> South Uist -> Isle Benbecula -> North Uist -> Isle of Berneray -> Isle of Harris -> Isle of Skye -> Glenfinnan Viaduct -> England (around Penrith) -> Cambridge

Click here to see the route on a map.

We wanted to make the most of Scotland’s “wild camping”, so we pitched our tent whilst on the Outer Hebrides. We stayed on a campsite whenever we were on mainland Scotland. The network coverage is close to non-existent on the Outer Hebrides, so be prepared and don’t rely on Google Maps on your smart phone. Luckily, my friend Alex decided to go “old school” and brought an actual detailed map of Scotland which also had campsites labelled (just in case we couldn’t find anywhere “wild”).

My favourite place that we pitched up was on the Isle of Berneray which over looked a beautiful beach with white sand and turquoise water. We had an amazing sunset and sunrise here also – the epitome of wild camping in Scotland.

In terms of logistics: we bought all our ferry tickets on the day. However, in preparation we had taken notes of the times of the ferry departures, but thought we should just go with the flow and see how we felt like on the day. If we were in a spectacular place, we didn’t want to leave in a hurry. Buying ferry tickets on the day didn’t change the price and for us it worked out well. We managed to get on all the ferries that we wanted to, although the ferry from the Isle of Harris to the Isle of Skye was a close call, we almost didn’t get on because nearly all the spots were all pre-sold. But luckily we had gotten to the port early enough where they allowed a few spontaneous cars on…

If you love seals: make sure you go to Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. For only a fiver, you get to go out on a small boat and see the seals – there were so many of them! I’m a little in love with these creatures as you can tell from the number of shots I took…

Climbing Ben Nevis was an absolute delight. For those of you who aren’t from the UK, it Scotland’s highest mountain standing at 1344m. It was a relatively easy climb, but be sure to bring walking poles for the way down (your knees will thank you!). It took us about 3.5hrs to go up and only 2hrs or so to come down. We hiked at a very leisurely pace, where we stopped quite often for photo opportunities.

All I can say is that I definitely recommend road tripping through Scotland. I’ll leave you to decide while you browse through some of the shots I captured while on this epic experience. Ultimate road trips are “ultimate” because of the amazing things you get to see and experience as well as the person/people you get to do this with – so make sure your buddy is as awesome as mine (Alex my friend, you are AWESOME!!)

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Enchanting Edinburgh

My visit to Edinburgh was in early September 2015 and I was lucky enough to stay with a friend in Portobello (thanks Sonya!). It was around the time when the Fringe Festival was on, so accommodation was either hard to get or you ended up paying extortionate amounts of money. I enjoyed walking along the Royal Mile and seeing the Old Town. Given that the weather was fantastical (!!!), I also hiked up to Arthur’s seat where the views of Edinburgh were spectacular. I caught the sunset at Calton Hill, which was simply breathtaking. A trip to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without going on a Harry Potter walking tour (definitely recommend this!!). Our guide was a young undergraduate university student who was dressed in a gown and had a wand in his hand. We were shown where JK Rowling took some of her inspirations for her novels from – for a true fan this was simply awesome. A walk down Portobello “beach” was also very nice – look out for the coffee truck, the locals are extremely friendly while waiting in line. The Mosque Kitchen was my “go to” for really good food which also happened to be cheap. You’ll actually see loads of restaurants called “The Original Mosque Kitchen” but make sure you go to the one that is in the courtyard of the actual mosque – it’s open to all, in fact alot of local businessman go there for lunch.

I would definitely recommend visiting Edinburgh – there is loads to do in this magical enchanting city….

 

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Perfectly peaceful Porto…

I’ve been to Porto a few times before, so this trip I simply wanted to chill out and enjoy the various neighbourhoods of Porto. Nevertheless, there was one thing on my list that I simply had to see: The Lello & Irmão Bookstore! Seeing as though I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, I just had to see it. BOY WAS IT AWESOME! The only thing was that there were too many people in here, this was all the time… Our Airbnb was close by, so we’d always have to go past the book store when going into town, we’d peek inside to see if it was full, sometimes we wouldn’t even have to peek given the huge line out front… In any case, it was still awesome – you should definitely check it out!

We hung out along the river Douro quite alot, and the night shots are taken on the city side of the river. On one of the days that we were just walking around, we crossed the Ponte Luis I bridge and there was a young man preparing to jump off the bridge and into the water. He was gathering a crowd before doing so…. he was fine. We then crossed the bridge and saw a whole bunch of people jumping into the water (disclaimer it was boiling hot!!). There was even a group of men dressed up in weird outfits, continuously jumping into the water – it was actually quite funny!

We stayed in an Airbnb on Rua de Cedofeita, our hosts were really nice and the apartment itself was bright and spacious. Great location as it was where the locals mainly lived, so there was also local bakeries and grocery stores. The end of the street towards the city was pedestrianised and was a shopping street.

In terms of food, we found amazing restaurants on Rua das Taipas. The first one we discovered was called Tia Orlanda, which was food from Mozambique. The staff were amazing and the restaurant was VERY FULL! it seemed as though alot of people had booked prior to coming for dinner, we were lucky that there was one table for two. The food was simply amazing, plus it was cheap! The second place we discovered was at the bottom of the street (I can’t recall the name) but we had fish and rice – was amazing! We sat at the back, outside, where we had a view of Porto – truly amazing! I would definitely recommend exploring this street as the restaurants were cheap yet also really good!

Beaches of Porto

The beaches of Porto remind me of the beaches back home in Australia – particularly from the South Coast (where I come from). The sand beneath my toes and the warmth of the sun was simply amazing!

We caught the bus that goes along the river (sorry I don’t remember the number…) and we made our way to Matosinhos beach. It wasn’t over crowded yet there were quite a few people at the beach. There was a little bit of wind, but the locals had that covered – I noticed that when people first arrived at the beach they would erect “wind stoppers” and sit on one side, brilliant idea! We walked along the coast and we encountered a fishing area – there were loads and loads of restaurants along the street that were barbecuing the seafood. We wanted to get away from the smoke, we finally found a fish restaurant and had one of the best lunches ever! The seafood was amazing: SO FRESH!

The next day my friend wasn’t feeling so well, so I left her at the Airbnb and medicated her and made my way to Sao Bento train station. I bought a ticket Miramar (didn’t cost much and it only took about 20mins to get there!). Miramar was absolutely beautiful!!! The first thing I noticed was a tiny chapel on the beach. People were scattered and this beach wasn’t as busy as the previous day. I settled down and had some lunch that I’d packed. During this time, my feet absolutely burned (it was only 20mins!!!). There were a few cafes and restaurants on the promenade, so if you don’t pack a lunch you can always find food close by….

The beaches of Porto were very beautiful and reminded me of home – too bad my feet got burnt…

 

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Seaside escape to Brighton

DISCLAIMER: I am lagging in posting my blogs – so bare with me (am currently in Germany – too much travel!!)

Recently, my friend Amelie who was visiting from Munich Germany and I decided to go on a day trip from Cambridge to Brighton. All in all the journey only took about 2hrs – but as we were profusely catching up, the time just went by….

The seaside was only a short walk from the station – roughly about 10mins. When we arrived at the seaside, I couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed. You see, I was expecting a nice sandy beach where we could bask in the sun for a few hours, chilling. Instead, the entire beach was ROCKY – not even pebbles, they were rocks! And it actually semi-hurt the bottom my foot (I was wearing thin soled shoes – Toms, but still…). After my initial disappointment, I appreciated the fact that the sun was out, blue skies and I was at the sea! We walked along the shore, occasionally stopping to enjoy the scenery.

We arrived at Brighton Pier – which is basically like a fair/carnival just built on a pier – weird if you ask me… but we still explored the pier, I also thought I’d make use of the workers here and asked them about the “Brighton Beach Huts” – total fail! Whomever I asked had no clue what I was talking about (I’m sure they certainly exist!!)

By this stage we were hungry and decided to go for fish and chips – but we couldn’t find anything close by. We ended up going to a little cafe in the vicinity of the Pavilion. Lunch was followed by exploring the grounds of the Pavilion – such a lovely area with nice gardens.

We decided to also go inside and explore this amazing structure – the exterior had a South Asian design, yet the moment you step into the building it was all Chinese – peculiar but grand! We weren’t allowed to take photos inside – but oh how I wish we were allowed. The interior was designed so spectacularly – every inch totally exaggerated, much to King George’s liking ofcourse… The kitchen was HUGE – what I liked about this kitchen compared to other royal displays was the fact that they had on display ALL the copper pots and pans – the things that were actually used for cooking – as opposed to tea cups and saucers…. We spent about an hour in here – the audio guide was brilliant, although some points could have been alot shorter but its easier to skip…

We then decided to go back to the seaside and go on the Volk’s Electric Train – apparently its the oldest running electric train in the world. So we bought our tickets to the “marina” (mind you we had no idea where this was…) and hopped on the train! The train basically took us to the end of the line, to the “marina” where there were fisherman. Nothing too spectacular to see here – unless you wanted to be at the seaside without all the hundreds of people. We then caught the next train back to the pier.

We each bought gelato and sat on the rocks and enjoyed the moment. We were truly impressed by the amazing weather!

What I found strange is that there was alot of development on the actual seaside itself – lots of shops, kiosks hiring out beach chairs, fish and chips stalls – only to name a few. Back home in Australia, thankfully we don’t have any – well at least none on the south coast. I think the beach and the seaside shouldn’t have development and remain original/natural. We humans tend to spoil wherever we go – tis a sad fact…

I would definitely recommend checking Brighton out – a day trip is surely enough. A must is the Pavilion, it was SPECTACULAR! I would have enjoyed the electric train ride if I were 5 – so you can give that a miss…

 

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12 Apostles

We arrived at the 12 Apostles before sunset – YAAY! So we managed to fulfil part 1 of our mission. Part 2 of the mission was to secure a good viewing spot to make our time-lapse and capture awesome shots of the sunset. BUT before we set up we thought we’d explore the National Park a bit…

There are many beautiful things to see here – we only managed to get to one of the viewpoints. There were others that we really wanted to see (e.g. London Bridge – rock formation) but we couldn’t risk not making it back in time to see the sunset at the Apostles. So we made our way back to the Apostles view point.

It was such a surreal moment when I first set eyes on the Apostles – I had wanted to come here for such a long time that I couldn’t believe that I was actually there! There weren’t 12 of them anymore – nature had taken its toll. I think there were 7 or so Apostles remaining, but even then, it was absolutely beautiful. We set up our tripods and began our shoot. About 30 mins later, there were 3 other tripods set up next to us – we weren’t the only ones eager to capture the sunset… Slowly the crowds formed so we were happy that we had secured a brilliant spot. It was about 10pm and we were still there! It hadn’t gotten completely dark yet – but the wind had picked up and we were beginning to get cold. We saw the moon rising and we actually managed to capture this in our time-lapse. We wanted to photograph some stars as well but it was too cold and it hadn’t gotten dark enough for the stars to be easily visible through our lenses – so we decided to call it a night.

If you plan on road tripping along the Great Ocean Rd – definitely spend a good few hours at the 12 Apostles National Park. There are a lot of view points and hikes that you can do that would definitely be worth it. Seeing the sunset at the Apostles is a must – absolutely breathtaking! Also, spread out your trip if you have the time. We wanted to go to the zip-lining park around Cape Otway but it was raining on the day and we thought it wouldn’t have been as fun.

All in all – one of the best road trip destinations with loads to see along the way. You will definitely be stopping every half hour just to take a photo of the amazing coastline of Australia!!

Roadtrip: The Great Ocean Road

I have always wanted to drive along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. That part of the country is absolutely stunning! So, during a visit to Melbourne, my friend Brooke and I spontaneously decided to go on a mini road trip! The weather was beautiful, company was great – what more could we ask for? Well, it was the Australia Day long weekend – so ALL the accommodation was completely booked out! Stress levels were on the rise but we both really still wanted to go! So instead of making our cortisol levels sky rocket, we packed the tent and sleeping bags and hoped for the best, so we set out on an adventure…

Our first stop was Bells Beach – where the Ripcurl Pro Surf tournament is held. The view was simply amazing! There were a lot of local surfers, it was nice to see some surfing action whilst we were there. The surf was insane – MASSIVE waves, seeing this made me understand why the best of the best come here to compete….

We then had lunch at Apollo Bay – which was absolutely stunning! This town seemed more touristy, nevertheless, it was still beautiful. There was a main promenade with the beach on one side and shops and cafes on the other. The beach looked really nice and flat. We scored the front yard of a caravan park to put our tent up – sorted =)

We continued along to Lorne – which has a really long jetty that local folk fish from. We walked along the jetty and when we reached the end we were utterly surprised to see SEALS! And there were TWO of them! They were so cute – rolling around in the water. There was a group of local kids jumping off the jetty and climbing back up via the ladder. There was one particular girl who couldn’t bring herself to do it. After many failed attempts, she succumbed to peer pressure and actually jumped off! On our walk back, a small boy was screaming with delight. As I looked over, I noticed that he was happy because of the little fish he had caught. At the end of the jetty there is a nice fish and chip shop – so if you do want to grab a bite to eat, this place looked ok…

Our mission was to get to Cape Otway Lighthouse before it closed. However, en route we saw cars parked on the side of the road and people walking around, pointing up. Let me set the scene: we were in the middle of the bush, in the middle of nowhere. Hence greatly surprised to see random scattered cars parked along the way with people pointing up. Then the penny dropped! Our friends had tipped us off about the wild koalas on the way to Cape Otway – REAL WILD KOALAS! So we parked on the side of the road and also began to hunt for koalas – it was like a game of bingo, as soon as you spotted one you would call out to your friend! As an Australian, I’d never seen a koala out in the wild, so you could imagine my delight when I spotted my first one – I was ECSTATIC!! They were so cute, just chilling in the eucalyptus trees…

We made it to the lighthouse and managed to climb up. The tour guide was very informative and enthusiastic about this particular lighthouse. If memory serves me correct, he mentioned that this was Australia’s oldest lighthouse! All I kept on singing was “have you ever, ever felt like this?” – if you grew up in Australia you will know that this was the opening song from the TV series Round The Twist (the family lived in a lighthouse!). Around the lighthouse grounds were colonial accessories – from houses to anchors…

Our next mission was to get to the 12 Apostles so we could make a timelapse of the sunset and also score some awesome shots…