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

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

Travel Souvenirs

magnets

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.

Life, Travel

Irresistible Portofino.

I’d like to tell you a story from years ago on this rainy Autumn afternoon here in Melbourne. Back in 2008, my Dad and I were on a day-trip from Florence to Pisa in Italy’s beautiful Tuscan region. It was to be only for a short time that we’d take turns pushing the Leaning Tower of Pisa (mandatory for every tourist to the historic site), have lunch somewhere along the Arno River and explore the small, compact city on foot. It was winter and the sun was starting to set. By 4pm we reached the train station ready to catch the train somewhere. I begged Dad to take me to Portofino. I’d seen photos of its incredible harbour with colourful buildings and expensive yachts and had always dreamt of visiting it. I had everything planned out; we’d catch the train to Santa Margherita Ligure and then sit on a bus to Portofino, see it in the dark and return to Florence. I should mention that I was 19 years old at the time, sick with a bad cold and not thinking clearly. Dad declined my offer and made me catch the train directly back to Florence for some much-needed rest. Years passed and I couldn’t help but feel that his resistance that night must’ve been for a reason and that I would see the real Portofino someday, if destiny was on my side, and preferably see it in daylight!

Fast-forward 4 years and my dream comes true. My sister and I were on a holiday in Italy and I made it my mission to finally get to that irresistible part of the world, that is Portofino. My sister stayed in Pisa for the day. I remember clearly that it was the day before our flight back to London that I managed to take the train from Pisa to Santa Margherita Ligure and then a picture-perfect boat ride to Portofino. The views over the Gulf of Tigullio were breathtaking, as is expected from the Italian Riviera.

Everything was gorgeous! I don’t know how else to describe what I saw that fateful, hot summer’s day. I arrived in Portofino in the afternoon under the scorching hot sun. I was greeted by those very same luxurious yachts I’d seen in postcards placed against the backdrop of beautiful architecture and lush, green hills further in the distance. I was finally there and although I only had 2 hours to explore the town (S. Margherita Ligure looked too beautiful not to walk around so I went back on the return boat-trip earlier), I’m proud to say that every single minute there was pure bliss.

As the rain falls ever-so gracefully on the window outside my studio, I am reminded of that summer day when I was young, fearless and free.

Here’s a photographic overview shown in the order Portofino unravelled for me:

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View from Cruise

Views from Water

Arriving in Portofino

Luxurious Yacht

Marina Welcome Sign

Portofino Signs

Above Portofino Beautiful Views Gulf of Tigullio Portofino Portofino Details Snapshot in Portofino View of Portofino Here’s Santa Margherita Ligure… (now you see why I had to explore it, right?)

Travel

Venice, Italy

Lately I find myself reminiscing about all the European cities I’ve been fortunate enough to visit during my time as a 19-year-old exchange student living in Mainz, Germany. Combining studying and travelling isn’t easy, especially on a tight budget and in the cold winter but I’m so thankful for that experience as it allowed me to immerse myself in the European way of life, step outside my comfort zone and see the beauty in Europe’s architecture, city-life and people.

It was December 27, 2008, when I first set foot in one my favourite countries – Italy. My dad arrived to Mainz three nights earlier and together we flew to Venice one cold winter’s morning. We became fascinated by the Italian people and were intrigued by how they live on an island entirely surrounded by water. On the main island of Venice there are no cars, just bridges for you to cross or alternatively cruise the canals to your destination.

The multi-coloured building façades, singing gondoliers, narrow alleyways and architecture from an era gone-by are all worth seeing indefinitely, as Venice is a place of fairytales. One of the moments I know I’ll never forget is New Year’s Eve when we gathered in St. Mark’s Square for a concert followed by fireworks. Suddenly it began to snow! People became frantic and rushed to get home. As we weren’t staying on the island of Venice itself but rather in an area called Mestre, finding our way back to our hotel became quite a challenge. We squeezed onto a Vaporetto (a water-bus) and held tight as the snow came flying into our faces with the strong breeze! Most of the other aspects from that night are a bit hazy but that part I remember perfectly. It was a difficult start to the New Year that’s for certain!

Venice is a captivating, thrilling and engaging city. If you’ve never been there I highly recommend a visit because quite frankly there’s no other place like it in the world. Go get lost in its alleyways, cross its bridges, cruise its canals and hopefully you too will have stories to share upon your return. Life is short and the world awaits…

Travel

Italy’s Cinque Terre

Exactly one year ago today devastating rainstorms brought flooding and mudslides to Italy’s beautiful Cinque Terre towns of Vernazza and Monterosso.

When my sister and I visited the wonderful seaside villages of the Cinque Terre this year in summer, we were extremely glad to see restaurants and shops open for business again. The community really came together and rebuilt the towns with little to no assistance from the Italian government.

Vernazza was completely out of bounds for tourists, which was a real shame as I had been looking forward to seeing it the most. We did however visit Monterosso and were instantly captivated by it the moment we got off the train. The sparkling blue water of the Mediterranean Sea was so incredible and refreshing to see and feel. I’d never seen the sea so blue before! We wandered up along the cliff edge into the heart of the town which was highly populated and lively. In fact if we hadn’t seen the information posted up around the town about the flooding we would’ve never guessed that it was affected.

It was extremely touching to witness a town like Monterosso bounce back and to see the locals happy again. Thank you Monterosso for welcoming us into your soul with such warmth and may all those who perished be honoured and never forgotten. This post is in their memory.