Travel

Remembering the Amalfi Coast

It seems like an eternity ago now that my feet touched down on Italian soil after a dream Greek escapade. In reality it was only 5 months ago that our plane took off from Santorini and landed in Naples via Athens. All those memories come flooding back to me now. The ease of changing countries in Europe, the splendour of short flights and the eagerness to see everything that a country has to offer. I love to travel. To expand my horizons and explore new places with open eyes, a yearning soul and a refreshed mind. Every day to awaken and get excited for all that is planned as well as the unexpected surprises. To travel is to live.

Flashback to the end of March and the start of beautiful spring weather. We didn’t spend much time in Naples until after visiting the majestic Amalfi Coast so our first point of interest was finding the bus that would take us directly to Sorrento. That was our base for this leg of our trip and a glorious town where lemons grew in abundance and their scent filled the air. Specialty shops sold limoncello and you could walk down long, picturesque streets and shop for all the souvenirs your heart desires.

We took a guided tour of the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento in an 8-seater mini van and our extremely confident driver Massimo who navigated all the twists and turns of the road with great precision and confidence. Our first stop was Positano, the jewel of the Amalfi Coast, with its vast mountain vistas and multi-coloured houses stacked on top of each other like Rubik’s cubes. We were only given an hour to spend in that enchanting town with sparkling blue water but since we were there so early in the morning it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

Next on the tour was the thriving and extremely beautiful town of Amalfi. The crowds in late-March were plentiful and it would be crazy to imagine what goes on there in the peak of summer! Our driver gave us about 1.5 hours there so we quickly ran up the steps and entered the miraculous Duomo di Amalfi. The interiors of the cathedral were intricate and ornate and I highly recommend a visit even if you’re pressed for time. Amalfi had everything one could possibly want and more. For the brief amount of time I got to walk its streets I could already see that this town was pure gold in terms of lifestyle, shopping, food and relaxation.

For lunch our tour guide took us to the oldest and most marvellous hillside town of Scala where we devoured a light three-course meal. The views from that place were to die for!

Finally we made our last stop in gorgeous Ravello. The home of two lavish villas – Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo, though we only had enough time to visit the latter and what can I say, every square mile of that place was perfection. Our visit was just before the flowers started to bloom but nonetheless the views totally impressed us.

When researching which tours to take along the Amalfi Coast we were spoilt for choice. As it was low-season we waited until we got to Sorrento and then booked our tour from the Information Centre next to the main train station. The company we went with is Amalfi Coast Tour Select. Our driver was witty and charismatic, knowledgable, precise and with a great sense of humour. His driving along the winding roads was incredible. In my experience a tour is always the most memorable part of a trip and having the right tour guide is ultra important. On this occasion, we were thrilled with our tour even though it was a bit of a rush from start to finish. The more you see the better, right?

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Travel

Santorini

Travelling from Athens to the Greek paradise island of Santorini takes only 30 minutes by plane. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Athens behind, you are essentially landing in a green oasis where the Aegean Sea surrounds you and whitewashed houses and churches with their blue domes welcome you. Santorini truly is a magnificent place.

We chose to stay at a lovely apartment complex called Anemomilos in the upper class town of Oia. By visiting in the low season we got to see a quieter side to the town with locals renovating and fixing up their dwellings in time for the peak season everywhere we looked. We also experienced a high level of gusty winds and power outages, as well as lightning and thunder. Tourists still flocked to the island in droves and the charm of the city was diminished the moment a group of loud, camera toting tourists descended on the otherwise peaceful village. Overall, exploring Santorini was an absolute dream come true.

Travel

Postcards from Athens

Currently I’m sitting inside my hotel room in Santorini, Greece, watching 90km/h winds sweep across this enchanting island. I’m not likely to be braving the elements so decided to showcase a few photo postcards from my previous holiday spot – Athens.

Athens was charming and historic at the same time as funky, edgy and full of character. Its people were very welcoming, as is the case all around Greece. Its streets were filled with family-owned tavernas and irresistible corner restaurants. We stayed at Hotel Phaedra, located just below the mighty Acropolis hill which is where the ancient Parthenon stands. The hotel had everything we could ever have needed for our stay, including a sublime rooftop terrace with 360 degree views of the entire city. I recommend staying in this hotel as it’s very central, yet quiet and budget-friendly.

It was super simple to explore the city on foot as everything was within close proximity from each other. From Plaka a 10-minute walk would get you to Syntagma Square where the presidential guards or efzones could be seen. At the same time you’re also close to the peaceful village of Anafiotika as well as many ancient sights, the national gardens and of course the main attraction – the Acropolis and its ruins.

I didn’t fall in love with Athens the way I did with Barcelona, Paris or Venice but the city had all the right components for an enjoyable holiday including a nice mild climate, delicious food, friendly locals and just the right balance of historical sights and modern-day marvels.

Travel

Architecture of Barcelona

PasseigBarcelona is the city that forever has my heart. I have so many stories and so many ideas for future blog posts about that special place but for today’s post we’re going on a virtual trip to this Mediterranean gem of a city to explore some of the architectural details that make it so unbelievably beautiful. Walking through the different parts of Barcelona such as El Born, Eixample and Gracia, you see a myriad of stunning doors, windows, balconies, roofs and facade details. If I had all the time in the world and I could stand and appreciate each apartment block in the city, I’d walk away very happy.

Travel

Barcelona Has My Heart

When I arrived in Barcelona just over a week ago, I couldn’t believe I was finally here again. Almost every day for the past four years I had spoken about my deep desire to return to the Catalan capital and after a long 22-hour flight from Australia, I was finally on European soil once again, and it felt good!

There’s something about Barcelona that just lights up my soul and makes me unequivocally happy. When I walk its streets, I feel at home. When I think about where I am right now, I’m filled with so much zest for life. Barcelona brings out the best in me and I can’t wait to call this place home one day. The locals, the architecture, creativity and culture of this city all make Barcelona a shining beacon of light in my eyes. No other city in the world quite compares.

Celebrations, Food, Life, Melbourne, Travel

Memories of 2016

Whoa, 2016 was quite a year! So much happened in the world – tragedies, triumphs, the unthinkable, the magical. This year had it all. In many ways I’m glad to bid farewell to 2016, which for me had its fair share of ups and downs just like any year.

A definite highlight was visiting beautiful Japan for two weeks in March. Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto were all places I had longed to travel to for many years and it will be hard to top my birthday from now on, having spent the day at Disneyland Tokyo – a magical place in every sense. I shall never forget my first trip in the Land of the Rising Sun – eating delicious food, seeing the sights with my own eyes, entering historic temples, smiling at the pandas and flamingos at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo. Getting a feel for Japanese culture was just incredible.

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Closer to home it’s been enjoyable spending afternoons at wildlife sanctuaries where cute koalas and wallabies can be fed and petted. It’s been so much fun creating a new studio feature wall and launching Mishka Mail back in August. I feel so grateful to every single customer who bought a subscription and every blogger that reviewed our kits on their blogs. Thank you!

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It’s been so exciting to place our first print advertisement in a funky Canadian hobby magazine called Uppercase for their special 30th issue.

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Other highlights include riding a bicycle at the beach in Port Melbourne, eating some delicious meals, writing and receiving some awesome letters from international pen friends, winning auctions on Ebay and listening to lovely concerts at outdoor summer venues.

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2016 has taught me that life isn’t about chance encounters that happen to you, it’s about how YOU chase each and every opportunity to make moments for yourself. I’m entering 2017 with this very notion in my mind and have a lot that I’m already looking forward to. Here’s to a beautiful and successful 2017 for you all!

Happy New Year!

Travel

DisneySea, Tokyo

The second Disney park that I visited in Tokyo after Disneyland was DisneySea – a place with Venetian canals and gondolas, Florentine bridges, Tuscan facades and New York-style shopping streets. A place where travel-loving adults can relive their own holiday moments gone by while their children can only dream to one day visit the actual cities depicted, getting more and more inspired with each step. For me DisneySea was an experience unlike any other, as I was transported back to my own memories of once being a tourist in Italy and the US.

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I was so impressed with the attention to detail that went into each and every aspect of these replica cities. I’ve never been so blown away by a themepark before in my life! Stepping foot into Morocco with their various market streets, colourful tiles and Arabic architecture was so amazing, as I’m yet to visit Africa or the Middle East.

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I’m not much of a thrill-seeker so I didn’t go on many daredevil rides, but there were plenty of those there too, and visitors could pose with their favourite Disney characters just like in Disneyland.

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DisneySea left me wanting more. It ignited my imagination and sense of adventure in the world we live. There was absolutely nothing that I would change or do differently, I just wish I could spent one more hour there looking at the replica of the Titanic and entering more boutiques and restaurants. For now, it’ll just have to wait until my next visit.

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Leaving the wonderful world of Disney on the monorail with a lighter wallet but a much happier heart.

You can read about my trip to Disneyland here.

Travel

Joy in Disneyland, Tokyo

Earlier this year, during a 12-day holiday in Japan, I was lucky enough to visit both Disney themeparks in Tokyo – Disneyland and DisneySea. Thinking back on those days brings me such joy as the “Happiest place on earth” certainly exceeded all my expectations. Both adults and children alike had smiles on their faces as they ran to queue up for certain attractions, eat at themed restaurants and shop at some of the cutest boutiques in the world. From the moment I stepped foot inside Tokyo’s wonderland of Disney magic, I knew I would have the time of my life.

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One of the first sights I saw was this cute Disney Resort Line monorail taking visitors from Disneyland to DisneySea and all around. Inside the carriages it’s really cute too, with Mickey Mouse shaped views and handles to hold on to!

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This is the very beautiful Disneyland Hotel for those lucky enough to stay overnight at Disneyland! Even their rooms have been designed with certain Disney characters in mind and the hotel is lavish from top to bottom.

There were many shops selling everything from plush toys to confectionery, and stationery to cosmetics. Everything had the irresistible Disney feel to it and it certainly was hard to resist the urge to buy most of the things on sale! Bring a bigger suitcase with you if you can!

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I absolutely loved the different areas of the Park. There’s Adventureland, Westernland, Critter Country, Fantasyland, Toontown and Tomorrowland. Each in its own is an unforgettable experience!

The Mark Twain Riverboat cruise was one of my favourite experiences because it transported me back to my memories of summer in the US last year in the charming city of Wilmington, NC.

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Seeing the majestic Disney castle with your very eyes is absolutely incredible. So much planning and designing went into each and every element of both Disney Parks, and the attention to detail is just phenomenal.

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When I was there it was all setup for Easter and checking their website today it looks like they’ve decorated for Halloween!

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Honestly the whole experience was amazing and I highly recommend visiting magical Disneyland Tokyo for yourself. In a future post, I’ll make sure to cover the equally impressive DisneySea Park!

Travel

Travel Souvenirs

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If I could have it my way I would never stop travelling. Being a 19-year-old student on exchange in Germany really ignited this passion I have for discovering new countries and experiencing different cultures. I cannot be more thankful for having had that opportunity in my youth. Now, eight years on I decided to capture some snapshots of the sort of travel souvenirs I brought back home with me and have created a physical photobook of these and more.

I always try to buy a magnet from the cities I visit and now the fridge is decorated in colourful little fragments of my adventures abroad. I always try to send a postcard home also as there’s something really satisfying about finding an old postcard from a beautiful city you’ve visited years ago, with your handwriting on the back describing that place and a nostalgic stamp in the corner. I love snail-mail!

For this post I’d like to share with you some of the things I have bought from various countries that I’ve visited. Please feel free to leave comments about the sort of things you like to bring back from your holidays.

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Dutch Clogs – Amsterdam

I remember the day perfectly. It was February of 2009 and it had just started to snow on the canal-lined streets of the Dutch capital. I was walking along a street that led straight to the main train station when I saw this large souvenir shop. It was every tourist’s haven! I picked up these symbols of Holland to always remember my visit by. They’re only miniature as actual clogs would never have fit in my suitcase after 8 months of life abroad!

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Mainzelmännchen from Germany

The city where I studied on exchange was Mainz and I couldn’t come home without the symbol of this charming city on the Rhein – Mainzelmännchen. They are the symbol of the ZDF broadcasting company located in Mainz. I’ve got my extra Euro coins in there now!

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Mozart Figurine – Salzburg

I was in Salzburg on a day-trip from Munich. It was winter so it was dark by around 4pm. I remember being so scared about being all alone in a foreign city as night fell but still had some time before my train departed back to Germany. I found this tiny shop to kill time at and couldn’t resist buying the symbol of Salzburg in his birthplace, just a 5-minute walk from the building he lived in. This small figurine of Mozart is one of my favourite souvenirs to date.

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Portofino, Italy

I remember being in such a hurry that day because I was confined by time to get on my booked train back to Pisa, where I’d be staying. I probably spent about 2 hours in Portofino altogether but every single second was worth it. This place was a dream come true and an adventure I’ll never forget. I entered a small gift shop in the main square, where all the buildings are colourful and the millionaire yachts dock, and bought this shell necklace to wear and think about my whirlwind trip to this beautiful part of Italy.

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Adorable Doll – Prague

My first trip out of Germany was to the beautiful Czech capital, Prague. I had always wanted to go there and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I found this beautiful doll in a gift shop just behind the castle on the hill of Old Town. Prague was magical to me.

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Venetian Mask – Italy

The memory I have about this mask is that after buying it, dad and I went on a photoshoot around Venice with me wearing the mask and posing in all sorts of silly ways. This was one of my big purchases and even though it cracked a little on the way to Melbourne, I’m so glad to own it.

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Collections from the French Riviera 

My dad, sister and I were holidaying in the south of France back in the summer of 2012. When I saw the notebook with the three roosters arguing I just knew I had to buy it. We didn’t argue with each other, mind you, but we all had different plans for our 10-day stay. The little lavender doll I bought in the perfume capital of Grasse when I visited there all by myself and the mini duck statuette was from a beautiful homewares shop in sunny Cannes. Until this day I have no idea what it actually says on it in French!

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Candy Box – Barcelona

I spent many amazing days in Barcelona and have since longed to go back pretty much on a daily basis! I bought this candy box from the Sagrada Familia gift shop after having just been inside what can only be described as one of the most awe-inspiring interiors of my life. The candies were absolutely delicious too and I wish I could have written down their name before devouring them in front of Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.

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Guardian Angel – London

When I travelled back to Europe in 2011 to live in London for two years I never thought I’d miss home as much as I did. I found this precious angel at a Wilkinson’s in Watford, where I lived, and sent it home to Mum during Christmas time. My family hung it up on the tree. Nowadays, we always bring her out during the holidays, hang her on our tree and I get emotional every time I look at her because in this small figurine lies a story. My travel story.

London, Travel

Dear UK

With everything happening in Britain right now with the “Brexit” and the fragile social, political and economic situation in the UK, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my life there. I lived in Watford, Hertfordshire for 23 months in my early twenties and practically regard the UK as my second home.

In this post I urge you to leave all your troubles behind, pour yourself a cup of tea (or as we say in Australia a “cuppa”) and let me introduce you to a few of my favourite places and memories in my beloved UK.

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Bath and I crossed paths at the very beginning of my time in the UK after I found a travel brochure offering tours to every imaginable tourist attraction in the country. Naturally I was drawn to Stonehenge, one of the seven wonders of the world, and thankfully Bath and Salisbury were included on the tour. There’s a certain charm and beauty to this UNESCO World Heritage Site that photography alone cannot convey. You have to actually walk the streets lined with 18th-century Georgian architecture to truly understand Bath. My top recommendations for architecture lovers are the unmissable Crescent and Circus – residences arranged in a grand semi-circle and circular layout that will leave you breathless.

The main attraction in Bath is the stunning natural hot spring bathhouse of the original Roman Baths, where steam rises from the sage-green pool of water before your very eyes. Bath is a bustling yet peaceful town that can easily be explored on foot and at times you will even feel like you’ve walked straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Let’s just say, one visit to beautiful Bath was not enough for me.


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I was picking up a Gumtree purchase for my shop in this quaint town of Surrey, known as Shere. This picture-perfect place left a great impression on me and the surrounding countryside views were some of the best I had seen in the UK. Luckily, I can re-live my time in Shere by watching Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law in the romantic comedy The Holiday (2006). Among other places, they filmed at “The White Horse” pub where there’s a framed photo proudly displaying the fact.

You can read my previous blog post about Shere here.


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Oh London, how I miss you! I must admit that I get really emotional looking at these photos taken 3-5 years ago. Even though the sights and sounds of London town are behind me I still feel largely connected to the British capital. I have such fond memories of beautiful sights around Notting Hill and Hampstead Heath, as well as the areas around Kensington and Westminster.


Almost every Sunday I would walk around Hyde Park and marvel at the friendly squirrels. It was the only day that my shop was closed so I put my best walking shoes on and wandered street after street of each borough I was attracted to. I loved feeling like a tourist while taking photographs of locals on their Sundays.


NightOxfordStXmasMarketXmasMarket (2)My favourite time of year to be a tourist in the UK was definitely at Christmas time. Oxford Street comes alive with street decorations and lights while the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland of market stalls, rides, food and attractions (like ice-skating) really puts everyone into the festive mood.


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My favourite thing to do in London was attend all the glamorous movie premieres held in Leicester Square. I was so excited to come within touching distance of Ben Affleck (Argo Premiere) and Johnny Depp (The Lone Ranger Premiere) and the cast of my favourite Les Miserables (2012). London is an amazing place for film buffs.


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I remember spending hours and hours in Harrods whenever I had nowhere to rush to. The food hall is an absolute masterpiece and the lavish interiors and luxurious products really impressed me each time. If only I had a larger wallet!

You can read about my time in Harrods here.


Snow

Anyone that’s ever been lucky enough to wake up to powder white snow covering everything from tree branches to rooftops knows how magical it can feel. While snow never lasted too long in Watford, it was epic fun while it was there and certainly different to the sort of winters I’m used to here in Melbourne.


Sunsets

Gazing out the window to this view every summer’s evening was a definite treat! Sunsets in Watford were absolutely breathtaking. More about that here.


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Watford is where I spent 6 days of my week for 11 months straight when I ran my shop. It’s a place where the English countryside provides a peaceful escape yet there’s enough buzz in town to get you excited about the shopping and nightlife. Locals are friendly and everyone gets along, Watford still feels like home to me to some extent.


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The thing I miss the most about life in the UK is my little stationery and gift shop on Chalk Hill. I feel truly blessed to have had this opportunity to be part of the Watford small business group with such welcoming surrounding businesses around me.


Food

Who doesn’t love a hearty traditional English pub meal? It’s always great value.


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Last but certainly not least, it was hard to watch the Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations in front of this gem of a palace. Every time I stood at the gates of Buckingham Palace, I felt like I was a true Londoner. And boy did it feel great!


Hope you’ve enjoyed my top memories of life in the UK.