Barcelona 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.
London truly comes alive during the festive season. I was fortunate enough to spend the Christmas of 2011 and 2012 in London and feel the electric atmosphere of its markets, street lights and decorations, as well as experience the general excitement and buzz of tourists and locals alike. Europe is something truly special during Christmas, isn’t it?
The Winter Wonderland is a phenomenal place to feel the spirit of Christmas. Located in London’s famous Hyde Park, there’s an ice-skating rink, small wooden chalets with everything from Christmas toys for the tree to unique decorations and candles. There are also German gingerbread houses and pretzels, Spanish churros and Belgian waffles to try, not to mention the fun rides, giant talking tree and singing reindeer! Pure magic!
Along the river Thames, with views of Big Ben and the London Eye, another brilliant addition to the London Christmas scene is the Southbank Centre Christmas Market. Here the scent of roasting chestnuts and cinnamon-spices fill the air. People can be seen drinking warm mulled wine and buying last-minute Christmas gifts to surprise their loved-ones with, all to the tune of catchy Christmas tunes and carols.
Other places worth visiting during the holidays are Covent Garden and Oxford Street, with its famous Selfridge’s department store creating wonderful store windows for all to see. Simply wandering around the city brings an indescribable sense of pleasure to everyone who happens to be in London over Christmas and it’s a feeling that cannot be discovered in any other city quite to the same extent.
One year ago today I landed back home in Melbourne. I was thrilled to be back but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss London. The UK was my home away from home for 23 months and I strongly believe that any city you call home for longer than a month is likely to be hard to forget and easily heart-warming to reminisce about. London and I became very good friends. I enjoyed my short train rides into the city from my apartment and loved many different aspects of my life there. In this blog post I wanted to showcase London’s residential architectural styles in various areas like Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington and more. Each area was so unique and different from one another and I loved that about London. I was proud to call London home and hope to return some day soon and live in one of these beautiful buildings right in the centre of the city.
Two years ago I was very fortunate to travel to the beautiful south of France and spend ten of the most memorable days enjoying the hot summer along the Mediterranean Sea. Dad, my sister and I flew into Nice Airport from London Luton, a journey that took only a few hours. We were all extremely excited to finally be in the French Riviera; the sort of place where dreams come true, where famous movie stars once lived, where artists like Picasso and Matisse painted their masterpieces and a place we’ve grown to love wholeheartedly from the moment we got off the plane.
My dad’s friend and his family were also on vacation in Nice at that time and he was kind enough to give us a lift to our place of accommodation, a studio apartment in one of the most beautiful places I have ever called home – Villefranche-sur-Mer. Our journey on the road passed the infamous Negresco Hotel to our left and the most incredibly clear, sparkling, turquoise waters of the cote d’azur to our right. We were in heaven. Dad’s friend had such a sense of humour that we were laughing uncontrollably in the car and this made the trip that much more enjoyable.
When we got slightly lost and didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the apartment we were staying at, we parked the car along the road, everybody exited the vehicle and we were all left speechless by the view before us. What a welcome!
It became difficult not to fall head over heels in love with Villefranche immediately. In the distance we could see yellow and terracotta-coloured buildings with light blue shutters in the windows, white yachts docked on the harbour and an amazing array of hills in the background. It was like something straight out of a painting and quite frankly it felt just as surreal. It was one of those “pinch me, are we really here” moments.
Eventually we located our apartment, turned the key and we were home. Feeling slightly exhausted but so thrilled at the same time we became acquainted with our new living arrangements. The space was a large rectangular room that was cleverly divided into two levels at the far end, where my sister and I had single beds on the second floor mezzanine, while dad had his own room below. The common living room had a dining table, sofa and TV, while the small bathroom and even smaller kitchen led off from there. The space was cosy and the view from the only window in the apartment immediately reminded me of the beautiful Portofino (Italy) that I visited one month earlier. There was something about those terracotta colours and shutters that felt so Italian to me! With the only breeze and ventilation coming from the large window all the way at the other end of the apartment, it was difficult to fall asleep at night and in the morning the bells from the nearby Chapel of St Pierre would ring at 7am! We didn’t mind though, we survived without air-conditioning and without knowing any French.
In the mornings we would wake up and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea before it got too hot. I remember it perfectly! We would pack some fruits in our picnic basket and take our beach umbrella to sit in the shade on the soft small pebbles that were plentiful near the water and all around. I loved Nice of course too, for its cosmopolitan and lively vibe on the streets, its incredible food market and all the connections to art, history and film culture that it possesses. From Nice we ventured to lots of other beautiful towns, which I’ll share with you in Part 2.
Our faces still light up whenever we think of the incredible places we’ve seen, the lovely locals we met, the food we ate, the memories we’ve shared and the moments that took our breath away. The French Riviera is a must-visit destination and even after you’ve gone there once, it will draw you in again and again.
When most people hear the name Sorrento they often think of sunny Italy but in reality there’s a town with the same name right here in Australia. Last week my Mum and I spent a few nights at the Hotel Sorrento where we relaxed by the beach and spent some quality time together swimming, laughing and catching up on old times. It was just the break we both needed before the rush of Christmas and New Year festivities took over our schedules.
With its friendly locals, excellent gift shops, top quality accommodation and beautiful beach views, Sorrento is a wonderful place to escape to, for residents of Australia and tourists alike. We loved it!
Here’s a summary of our stay in photographs: