Kylemore Abbey | co. Galway

Kylemore Abbey

Seeing Kylemore Abbey roll out over the horizon when you drive down the N59 is something that must be experienced once in a life-time. A few years ago, My friend and I were road tripping in the Connemara when we both simultaneously gasped and squealed at the sight of the castle standing majestically over a mirror-like lake. This is the kind of stuff fairy-tales are made of.

You can visit the ground floor of the castle where you’ll learn of its history. It was built in the 1860s by Mitchell Henry, a wealthy London doctor, for his wife Margaret who fell in love with the region. They lived there very happily and had 9 (!) children. Alas, their story took a tragic turn when Margaret died of a fever during a trip to Egypt. Inconsolable, Mitchell built a Gothic Church and a mausoleum in honour of his wife, which you can still visit today in Kylemore. He left the premises, pained by the memory of his wife too present there. The castle was then acquired by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester who had to let it go a few years later due to gambling debts.
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey

This brings us to 1920 and the current owners of the estate, the Benedictine nuns. They were looking for a new home after their Belgian monastery was destroyed in World War I. They found it in Kylemore Castle which then became Kylemore Abbey. They still live there today, living off admissions, donations and the handmade goods they sell at the gift shop.
Kylemore AbbeyKylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey
Kylemore Abbey

Unfortunately, I wasn’t as enthralled by the rooms of Kylemore Abbey as I was for its outside. For me the true gem of the estate is the Victorian Walled Garden. Nestled between hilltops, the abbey gardens are a stunning example of Irish landscaping. Inside the stone walls, you’ll find a vegetable garden, orchards, glasshouses and the Head Gardener’s house. The latter’s period rooms are beautifully laid out in pastel hues. I can’t start to imagine the life led by those who took care of this land, an oasis between lake and mountains.
Kylemore Abbey

KYLEMORE ABBEY PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Kylemore Abbey – website
Connemara
co. Galway, Ireland

Admission
General €13 / Seniors €10 / Student €9 / Children under 10 Free

Opening Times
9.30am-5.30pm (Every Day, Mar-Nov)
9am-7pm (Every Day, July-Aug)
10am-4.30pm (Every Day, Nov-March)

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Mount Usher Gardens | co. Wicklow

Mount Usher Gardens

Can you believe this picture was only taken a couple of weeks ago? That’s the magic of maple trees bringing you Autumn in the middle of Spring! The Mount Usher Gardens in county Wicklow have a beautiful maple walk and more than 5000 different varieties of trees, shrubs and plants in which you can happily wander.

I had been patiently waiting Spring this year to finally visit one of the most renowned gardens in Ireland. I had first heard of it thanks to Magda’s colourful post and as I’m ticking off my list of things to do in Wicklow, it started to feel slightly wrong that I hadn’t explored one of its star-gardens yet. An hour bus journey or so will take you to Ashford, a little town where the gardens are located. As you go through the car park, you’ll find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by charming little shops. Delicatessen, garden centre and clothes shop,… if you know Avoca you’ll be familiar with the aesthetic. They manage the garden, and in typical Avoca’s fashion, they graced the place with an inviting cafe with a gorgeous vista on the garden’s gazebo. I sat ‘front row seat’ near the window and ordered a peanut butter parfait and a pot of peppermint tea. While I enjoyed my dessert, I observed the rich life of the garden unfolding right before my eyes, insects going about their day and perfectly round robins perched on nearby branches staring right at me.
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

At the entrance you’re presented with a map offering a choice of trails. The lady at the desk recommended that I follow the tree trail as they have some champion trees of Ireland and the UK. It was fun to try to guess the varieties according to the leaf shapes and have a close look at weirdly exotic trees from Iran or China. I would have never thought these could thrive on Irish soil. Wild garlic was covering the forest ground, filling it with its sharp fragrance.
But call me frivolous, I think I am more of a ‘flower girl’ than a tree-hugger because the area I enjoyed the most was the ‘Island’, a patch right next to the house where so many posies bloom in eye-catching bursts of colours. I was also lucky to catch the tail-end of the bluebell season. I don’t think there’s something that invites more to the reverie than a bluebell wood. Will you look at that purple blanket, don’t you want to dive in it?
Mount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher GardensMount Usher Gardens

Mount Usher gardens were founded in 1868 by Edward pole and stayed in his family’s estate for a little more than a century. There’s an interesting philosophy behind the creation of this beautiful piece of land. The family was greatly influenced by William Robinson, a famous Irish gardener who reacted against the rigid approach of gardening of his time. He believed a garden should grow on nature’s term.
In the Eighties, Madeleine Jay, a garden lover, bought the property and took the Robinsonian style a step further by managing the property organically. A way of doing that is still carried on today by Avoca.

Mount Usher Gardens
The Walpole family’s pet cemetery Mount Usher Gardens

The Vartry River runs through the gardens and I think, instinctively, people tend to walk along it. It’s a pleasant walk, there are beautiful little cascades, suspension bridges and from time to time, a fish burst out of the water to catch a fly or a mosquito. But wander off the river path and you’ll find yourself inside a beautiful Irish oil painting.

Mount Usher Gardens

MOUNT USHER GARDENS’ PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Mount Usher Gardens – website
Ashford, co. Wicklow, Ireland

Opening Hours
10am-6pm (Mon-Sun, all year)

Admission
General €7.50 / Reduced €6.50 / Children under 16 €3.50 / Children under 4 Free

Bus
133 Bus Eireann (from Dublin)

A singing man, a protest and the missed cheesecake | Berlin, Day 4

Berlin, Day 4
I started the day with this little white fluff of happiness, watching the snowflakes falling by the window. If you didn’t read day 1 of my Berlin trip, you might have missed that my airbnb came with a cat. He was such a personality, spending his time either napping or supervising the courtyard.

It was then time to head out the door. Like every morning, I took the U-bahn, aka the Berlin tube, to join the city centre. My airbnb was located just next to a station so it was very handy to explore the city. I quickly snapped this picture as it was the first time I got on one of these vintage carriages. So small and so seventies!
Berlin, Day 4
I decided to go back to Mitte, the city centre where the main sights are, as I realised I had forgotten to check out Gendarmenmarkt, which is often referred as one of the most beautiful squares of Europe. I, for one, think it has nothing against ‘my’ Grand Place but it wasn’t too shabby indeed! On the marketplace, you’ll find the German Cathedral, the Concert Hall and the French Cathedral (the last two pictured below). The guy next to the fountain was singing some Oasis songs at the top of his lungs and I’m not sure why but I found him quite moving. Maybe it’s because he was facing the towering Concert Hall as if he was imploring Listen to me!. I was about to give him my change when it was suggested to me that the cup he was holding was actually his coffee. Awkward situation averted, phew!

On the square, there’s also an old-fashioned toyshop with an army of nutcracker soldiers in the window and other beautiful wooden objects. The Christmas decorations were still up so there were loads to look at. Side note, I was surprised to see so many garlands and trees still up walking in Berlin mid-January. Do Germans have a hard time letting go of Christmas? Does anyone know why?
Berlin, Day 4
Next stop that morning was Bebelplabtz which is famous for being the spot where Nazis held book-burning ceremonies. I wanted to see the memorial but unfortunately it was closed for renovations. On the opposite pavement, there was a little second-hand book market which is probably the most a-propos place to sell books, don’t you think?
Berlin, Day 4
On a lighter note, I then made my way to the Mall of Berlin where I wanted to browse the home section of H&M. I’m forever jealous of the other countries where H&M homeware is stocked so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to browse IRL the goodies that had me dreaming online. In typical ‘Nora’s fashion’, I got overwhelmed and nearly left the shop empty-handed when I spotted a cute marble phone cover by the till so at least that came home with me! I wandered a bit more in the mall and browsed in Zara Home and in the Marriage Freres tea shop.

As I stepped outside, I found myself in the middle of the biggest demonstration I ever seen. I’m not 100% sure what was going on but there seemed to be a lot of discontentment against the power in place. Among groups representing Vegans, LGBT Rights and the Refugees, I listened to speeches shouted from megaphones for a while. I don’t do well in big crowds so I slipped away to a deserted side street and went for a bite in a shabby greasy spoon.
Berlin, Day 4
Going to the Topography of Terror museum wasn’t part of the plan but I ended deciding to go there on a whim after seeing it pretty much mentioned in every Berlin guide I read. It’s located just next to the Martin-Gropius-Bau exhibition hall which is a stunner of a building. It has these pretty gold medallions all over it. I took a good while admiring and photographing it, nearly getting run over by a car in the process. After googling it, I found out that it’s pretty amazing inside too so I really regret not stepping in.

In front of  Topography of Terror, there’s a segment of the Berlin Wall still standing as well as the excavated cellar where prisoners were tortured and executed by the Nazis. The museum is indeed built where the Gestapo HQ used to stand. The Topography of Terror examines the Nazi institutions and the crimes they carried. One thing I would say is that the exhibition is quite static. Chuck loads of information is displayed on white boards so I would probably advise you to watch a good documentary on the subject beforehand and then focus on the areas in the exhibition you’re interested in. Queuing to read the boards can get a bit tedious otherwise. The part that captivated my attention the most was the beginnings of the National Socialist party and how they managed to gain so much power with such a vile agenda. It turns out that voters’ indifference is probably the most powerful political tool. It is a delicate balance achieved by giving something to the people they want then taking away something else and repeat the process. It is scary how that method still rings true today.
Berlin, Day 4
When I left the museum, I headed to the nearest U-bahn entrance. I rode South to the neighbourhood of Kreuzberg. The atmosphere there was probably the liveliest of all the areas in Berlin I had visited so far. The streets there were a pleasant combination of Kebab restaurants and indie shops. In a courtyard, I found the hipster Voo Store where cool magazines, designer clothes and beautiful people drinking coffee formed a harmonious hub. I quickly browsed the thoughtfully curated items on display and made my way towards my last cultural stop of the day: The Museum of Things. How do I describe this museum with this strangely vague name? If you love collections, you will enjoy browsing these cabinets. Objects are displayed according to function, material or colour. It’s incredibly eye and camera-pleasing. As you can imagine, I went a bit snap-happy so no doubt I will expand on this place in a later post.

By the time I got out of the museum, the night had fallen on the city. However, I was in the mood for cake and looking on my mapstr, I noticed that Five Elephant was on the way to my airbnb. It turns out that once again I underestimated Berlin geography. The walk felt long, although the cold and the neighbourhood with the creepy circus and the questionable street-sellers might have had something to do with it. I passed many cute cafes but my heart was set on Five Elephant as it came recommended by Mariell’s blog. She claimed they serve the best cheesecake in history. If that’s not an incentive, I don’t know what is! Unfortunately, when I finally got there, the place was packed. Thick-condensation-on-the-window packed! I turned on my heels and jumped on the bus home.

Are you all caught up with my Berlin trip so far? Here are Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 if you missed them.

Parc Tournay-Solvay | Brussels

I had planned a post on my trip to Berlin this week but I just want to talk about Brussels. Last year when the city was on lockdown and continuously portrayed as a terrorist den in the media, I froze at first and eventually I felt like reacting by publishing a post on the joyful Brussels I know. The terror and frustration of last year have been replaced by numbness and incomprehension after the attacks this week. My heart breaks for the lives lost and broken, for the ones who have to live with the absence and the pain, and for the light-hearted Brussels of yesterday.  I’ve been going through my pictures of last summer which filled me with a painful nostalgia, I long for my city to come back to a peaceful place. As fate would have it, the last post on Brussels I have in my archives is of the most serene place I know of. 

Parc Tournay-Solvay

The Tournay-Solvay park is a secret garden in the South of the Belgian Capital. I haven’t seen it mentioned that often in guides which is a pity because I think it’s pretty magical. Although I might be biased because this place is linked to many memories and formative moments in my life. It is here that my mum would bring me as a toddler to burn some energy as I learned to walk. Later, I would come with my primary school to learn how to recognise trees by their leaves. I made my first herbarium here and saw the life cycles of many frogs, dragonflies and butterflies. I think it’s safe to say that my love for nature stems a lot from this place. When I was a teenager, I would hang here and laze in the sun or play petanque. And finally, the lost young adult I was would escape here to breathe and reflect when things were a bit too much. I would sit on the bench at the foot of the burnt castle that overlooks the ponds while listening to Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible or Patrick Wolf’s Lycanthropy on repeat.

Parc Tournay-SolvayParc Tournay-SolvayParc Tournay-Solvay

This park that was created in the early 20th century has so many beautiful features, it’s well worth taking an afternoon to explore the various parts of it. It has a rose garden, an apple tree orchard, ponds, a walled garden, centenary trees, the ruins of a castle on a hill and rows of rhubarb leaves that look like umbrellas. If you leave through the kitchen garden’s exit, you’ll find yourself in the Sonian Forest’s dried swamps. We’re so lucky that the forest so close to our city has been so well preserved. It’s not unusual to catch the sight of a shy roe and in the summer nights, the fireflies come twinkling over the swamps.

The exit near the ponds will lead you to the Boitsfort lakes which is another fab place to have a walk. And they’re right next to one of the most creative Brussels neighbourhood, the Coin du Balai (literally meaning ‘Broomstick’s Corner’). You’ll fall in love with the colourful facades. The residents love to decorate their abodes with potted plants and various knick-knacks there.

Parc Tournay-Solvay

When I visited the park last Summer, I was surprised to see it in the process of being renovated. ‘My’ bench had disappeared and new areas to accommodate visitors had been laid out. The eerie ruins of the burnt castle had been replaced by a construction site. I’m a tad worried that this park’s old charms will make place to something too new and too shiny for its own good but I think it’ll be interesting to see what they will make of it. This might strengthen its position on the Brussels map. I’m guessing tourists don’t come here too often because it’s a 40 minute tramway journey from the city centre but if you have a thing for green space, pretty architecture and quiet suburbs, head South next time you’re in the Belgian Capital.

Parc Tournay-Solvay
PRACTICAL INFORMATION

Parc Tournay-Solvay
Chaussee de La Hulpe
1170 Brussels

Admission
Free

Opening Hours
Every day from 8am – 6pm (Oct-Mar); 8am-7pm (Apr); 8am-9pm (May-Aug); 8am-8pm (Sep)

Bus
17 (Etangs de Boitsfort Stop)

Tram
94 (Boitsfort Gare Stop)

Train
Gare de Boitsfort

 

Eyeliner, french toast and an evening in the museums | Berlin, Day 3

Berlin, Day 3
Day 3 in Berlin started with a spot of shopping. I can’t say it was the promise of browsing that lured me in the giant shopping mall Alexa, just off Alexanderplatz. I think I was more interested by any source of heat at that stage. I’m glad I stepped in as I stumbled upon a Kiko shop that was having the most ridiculous sale ever. So while warming up, I stocked up on my favourite eyeliner and other bits. I’m all about that kind of multitasking.
Berlin, Day 3
Berlin, Day 3
First on my list of things to see that day was the Berlin Cathedral. It’s quite an impressive building. There is something about the way it looms over the river Spree that reminded me of Notre Dame de Paris and the Seine. It made the area quite romantic really, even the bridge next to it had something French about it.

Standing on the bank of the river, I could see a gold dome shining in the distance. I followed it like the old magpie I am, thinking it would probably be a Russian Orthodox church. It turns out it was the New Synagogue. The most beautiful one I ever did see, it looked like an intricate wooden jewellery box. It’s certainly worth a look if you’re in the area. And the surrounding street is actually very lively, Oranienburger Strasse seemed to be a haven for hip bars and restaurants. I didn’t put any of these places to the test as I was on my way to the House of Small Wonder, near Friedrichstrasse.
Berlin, Day 3
I had been dreaming of their infamous Croissant French Toast ever since reading about them on Jess-On-Thames’ blog. I vaguely pretended to look at the menu and ordered them straight away and accompanied by a matcha latte. They were indeed delicious although I would say that the portion is rather on the small side, just a warning in case you are really hungry. Maybe, I was too greedy… The decor of that place was absolutely magical, so many plants, it had an air of French Indochina.
Berlin, Day 3
I then headed to the Charite University Hospital. The campus was so eerie, blocks and blocks of stern buildings that looked like abandoned asylums. I couldn’t help thinking it would make a brilliant map for a video-game. There, I visited the medical museum with its gory collection of jars filled with diseased organs. This stuff wasn’t for the faint-hearted, I’m sure you’re grateful that photography wasn’t allowed inside.
Berlin, Day 3
Next stop, keeping with the creepy and weird theme, was the Design Panoptikum. This ‘surreal museum for industrial objects’ was such a great surprise. And something I will be sure to write more about here. The charismatic founder, Vlad, takes you away on a journey where things are not always what they seem. Loved it!
Berlin, Day 3
My ‘night at the museum’ ended with the DDR Museum. The museum presents the daily life of the people who lived in East Germany in a very interactive way, through a collection of mundane objects, from their beach essentials to the cars they drove.

I don’t think I have ever been to so many museums in one evening! I’m going to blame the cold for that. Rather tired, I ran back home but made sure to stop for a burger first. A falafel burger, natürlich.

Here are Day 1 and Day 2 if you missed them.

Chandeliers, pink rooms & film props | Berlin, Day 2

Berlin, Day 2
On Day 2, I left the city to go to Potsdam, a town 45 minutes away from Berlin. The reason I wanted to go there was to visit the Sanssouci park which comprises of several grandiose palaces and buildings. Unfortunately, only the main Sanssouci Palace and the New Palace were open during the low season but I still took the combi-ticket as I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see as many rococo rooms as I could that day.
I did find it a bit puzzling that there was no Winter ticket as you only get to see 2 palaces out of the 5 buildings open in the full season for the same price. Tickets are not cheap and on top of that, you need to buy a photo permit, maps must be bought from machines, there’s a charge to the restrooms and some parts of the palaces open that day were going under some works. I don’t regret it as it was totally worth it, I had a magnificent day out and I can imagine that the maintenance of the whole park must cost a fortune but to be perfectly honest, I do feel that there should be some kind of gesture towards the low season tourists.
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
First up was the main Sanssouci Palace which was the summer residence of Frederick the Great. Forgive me if I’m not very historically accurate here, but taking pictures while holding the audio guide and keeping up with the group was a bit of a challenge. The guy was reacting against the squareness of his father who thought education was frivolous. He lived for arts and philosophy. He even asked Voltaire to come and live with him at Sanssouci. You can see the room where he stayed today, it’s a mad thing! Its yellow walls are covered with wooden parrots and flowers (I will show it to you in another post, I’ve way too many pictures to share). Frederick was as exuberant in his lifestyle as in his choice for home decor. He loved French baroque and his living space is an incredible display of the rococo trend. As a visitor, I marvelled at his taste and felt like fist-bumping the guy… Not sure I would have felt the same as a tax-payer at the time!

When the tour was done, I had some time to kill before the next one would start at the New Palace. I took that opportunity to walk in the gardens surrounding the palaces. They’re huge so it took me quite a long time to get to the New Palace and my 7 minute-late arrival caused the receptionist a panic but thankfully she let me grab an audioguide and join the group…
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
Berlin, Day 2
The atmosphere inside the New Palace offers an interesting contrast to Sanssouci. The windows had been blocked off, everything felt a bit dusty and sad. The rooms were freezing cold. But I think I liked it even better, it reminded me of the abandoned house Professor Emilius Browne squats in during the Blitz in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Rococo was out of fashion at the time Frederick the Great built this palace but he could not get enough of the chandeliers, the silk tapestries and the gilded frames. His love for rococo was so strong that a new form of the style was named after him ‘Frederician Rococo’. My kinda guy.
The New Palace had some of the most impressive rooms I had seen that day. The reception hall had a sea theme and was covered with seashells and another one with pink marble from floor to ceiling. My favourite room though was the hunters lodge, surprisingly it looked like it could have been Marie-Antoinette’s boudoir, what with its feminine blush tapestries and the wooden rosebuds carved on the ceilings.

I had a little bit of time left before the night would fall so I decided to stay a bit longer in Potsdam to check out the film museum. Unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed inside so I’ve nothing to show to you bar my ticket.
Berlin, Day 2

Potsdam is an important spot in the history of cinema. There, you will find Babelsberg Studios, the first ever large-scale film studio, birthplace of masterpieces such as the iconic Metropolis. To my surprise, I found out that the studios are still in activity and produced quite a few international blockbusters in recent years like Inglorious Basterds, V for Vendetta or The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Film Museum displayed quite a few props used in the nearby studios, old machinery and vintage makeup. I especially liked looking closely at the editing consoles. It turns out that editing was historically a woman’s job because of their smaller fingers. It made me smile that women had such an important role behind every great story shot on the silver screen.

Read about my first day in Berlin here.

Street art, Pastel Houses & David Bowie’s Flat | Berlin, Day 1

It’s been a few days since I’ve been back in Dublin and I’m not sure I’ve quite collected all my thoughts on Berlin yet but I thought I would show you day by day what I did in the German capital. Technically, this wasn’t my first day but my third one. On Day 1, I didn’t take any pictures but I roamed around where my Airbnb flat was located to get my bearings and Day 2 was spent unfortunately inside as I was sick. I was in good company though as my Airbnb host had left her cat in my care and it was so cosy to have a little purring friend by my side. It was my first time using Airbnb by the way and maybe I could dedicate a post to my experience if anyone’s curious on how the service works but to make it short here, I am a total convert, the whole thing was absolutely delightful!
The Fraternal KissSo let’s go back to my first day exploring Berlin. My flat was located in Berlin East, in the neighbourhood of Friedrichshain and on that morning, I decided to walk to my first port of call: The Berlin East Gallery. I don’t know about you but generally when I get to a new place, I feel like I need to walk everywhere and I avoid confined spaces for the first few days. Museums and public transport make me feel a bit claustrophobic up until I have a better grasp of the geography surrounding me.

It took me about 45 minutes to walk to the most famous segment of the wall covered with murals. The walk there was an atmospheric one, on the big boulevards of East Berlin, with their towering stalinist buildings. Few times during my trip, I felt like suffocating thinking of the past, this was one of them.

The walk along the Wall cheered me up. I was armed with patience to take a tourist-free picture of the infamous Fraternal Kiss (pictured above) which I heard was near to impossible. It turns out sightseeing at the crack of dawn is great, the whole gallery was empty. Too bad about that ugly fence though.

Nikolaiviertel
Nikolaiviertel
Berlin, Day 1From there, I had planned to walk along the river Spree to get to the city centre but I didn’t factor in the size of Berlin. I knew it was big, I think I read somewhere that it is 10 times bigger than Paris but I guess I thought I could deal with it… Well, I ate my hat and took the U-bahn, aka the Berlin tube to my next stop, Nikolaiviertel (not without a little breakfast stop to a kebab joint oops… One thing I love about Berlin is how falafel is so readily available, it’s literally everywhere so it was hard for me not to have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. (Hi my name is Nora and I’m a falafel addict).

The neighbourhood of Nikolaiviertel was high on my to-see list for the simple reason that it looks like it could have been the set of a scene in Grand Budapest Hotel. The houses are painted with pleasing shades of pastel and they boast of pretty ornaments like bows and garlands. The contrast is quite impressive actually when you step from a big boulevard that has a distinct seventies vibe to this quaint quarter that could belong to a city like Vienna.
Berlin, Day 1I jumped back on the U-bahn towards the South of the city as there was something I was adamant to do that day. Like the rest of the planet, I had a hard time coming to terms with the death of David Bowie. I woke up that morning thinking it was a nightmare. His music had such an impact on me as a young adult although I am not going to pretend here that I was the biggest fan, I sort of ignored anything he did after Diamond Dogs. So I found some comfort in being in Berlin when it happened and discovering how their fates were intertwined. I went to Haupstrasse where he was sharing a flat with Iggy Pop for a few years in the seventies. In front of his building door layed flowers, drawings, candles and poems. I stood there with a handful of people in silent disbelief.
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1
Berlin, Day 1

I then made my way back to the centre to see the main sights. It was my first time in Berlin, actually I think it was my first time in Germany weirdly enough so I felt like I should cross them off my list.
Pictured above, you can see Checkpoint Charlie which was the Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War. Nowadays it serves as a picture opportunity for tourists where they can pose with actors dressed in fake army uniforms.

Next was the iconic Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag building which sprung chilling image of World War II in my mind. Lastly, the day ended with a visit to the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma Victims of Social Nationalism and to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo | Venice

Palazzo MocenigoPalazzo Mocenigo

Back in January, when I went to Venice, one of the things that I was looking forward the most was to visit lots and lots of palazzi. Unfortunately, I only managed to fit two: this one and the Palazzo Fortuny. I was travelling on a budget and it turns out entrance fees to Venetians palaces are quite pricey. Venice on a budget is not a problem and indeed very enjoyable but I would love to go back under different circumstances and live the palazzo life for a different take on the city.

Anyways enough wishful thinking, let’s go back to the Palazzo Mocenigo. Rebuilt in the 17th century, this impressive gothic   palace was the home of the Mocenigo’s, one of the most important family in Venice. It is now the Museum of Textiles, Fabrics & Perfume. Needless to say, this was high on my list.

Palazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo Mocenigo

As you access the piano nobile, you first walk through period rooms. Living rooms, dining rooms, the lavish furniture is marble-topped and the walls are covered with gold-framed paintings celebrating the Mocenigo family’s glories.

Filling those rooms, faceless mannequins are arranged in eerie little scenes. They wear ancient garments and accessories, the fabrics are beautifully patterned, the lace and embroidery are testaments to true craftsmanship. They exhibit the unworldly elegance Venetians are so famous for. In the library, you’ll find the books covering the history of these costumes and fabrics, of the fashion of 18th century Venice.

Palazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo MocenigoPalazzo Mocenigo
Palazzo Mocenigo
Then starts the itinerary through the Venetian history of perfume, highlighting the key role the city played in the origins of this art. You’ll see the reconstruction of a 16th century perfumer’s lab, where weirdly shaped bottles pile up on the shelves and the raw materials are scattered on a table. There, you get closely acquainted with the processes of perfume-making. In the glass cabinet covering the walls, stand the most beautiful collection of vintage bottle you’ll ever see.

My favourite room was the ‘olfactory station’ where the ingredients of the different fragrance families fill jars and phials. Woody, floral, oriental and fresh, you’re free to sniff  those top, middle and base notes to your heart’s content.

Tip: Make sure you go to the Palazzo Mocenigo in Santa Croce as opposed to the other palazzi of the same name in San Marco. Okay, maybe not a tip as such but if I can help one person not to feel like a total fool like I did that Tuesday morning…

Palazzo Mocenigo

Practical Information

Museo di Palazzo Mocenigo – website
Santa Croce, 1992
30124 Venezia

Opening Hours
10am – 4pm (Nov-March)
10am – 5pm (Apr-Oct)
Closed on Mondays, December 25, January 1 & May 1

Admission
General €8 / Reduced €5.50

Vaporetto
San Stae stop (Line 1)

A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin

A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin
A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin

There’s been a distinctive lack of posts around here, I hope you won’t hold a grudge but I’ve been trying to keep my head above water with assignments and general anxiety, so the mood hasn’t been very conducive to writing blog posts. But yesterday I was out and about in town for a job and I thought I would take a few pictures to show you Dublin in all its Autumn splendour. It’s probably  the season when Dublin is at its prettiest (although I’ll probably say something similar come Spring). If you’re looking into visiting the Irish capital, I’d recommend you come at this time of the year as there are generally quite a few events and festivals knocking about and the weather is generally what you would expect, so no disappointment there to have (as opposed to our underwhelming Summers).

Yesterday started with a bit of Dublin Bus drama, I was on my way to town when a guy decided to hold the bus hostage because the driver allegedly overcharged him. Nothing abnormal for a weekday but a bit of a pain when you’re trying to get somewhere. So I squeezed past the angry shouting men and decided to walk the way to town. This turned out to be a bloody good thing as it meant I had to walk through Stephen’s green. The park is a true Autumn Wonderland at the moment. I slowly let go of the commute tension, breathed full lungs of the musty air and gleefully stepped on the dry colourful leaves.
A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin

My first port of call was the National Museum of Archeology. It was my first time visiting it and if I hadn’t had to for a job, I’d probably have never stepped inside. If you read me regurlarly you know I’m a sucker for period rooms but I can’t say that anything happening before that time captures my imagination. So while the exhibits left me a bit cold (bar the very thing I was coming to photograph, it left me a bit shivery that… I’ll probably talk about it later), I was completely enthralled with the building itself. The tiled floors are some of the best I’ve seen and the domed ceiling in the entrance is one pretty amazing sight.

A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin
A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin
I then walked around the beautiful squares of Georgian Dublin to look at the red ivy creeping on the bricks here and there. The temperature dropped so I stopped by Yogism to get a hot drink. I opted for a matcha with almond milk which I’ve been meaning to try for the longest time. It was actually quite nice, would go for it again! (sorry I destroyed the pretty latte art because you know, SUGAR).
A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin
I was also looking for some new stationery so I stopped by TK Maxx and Article in the beautiful Powerscourt Townhouse. I already waxed lyrical about Article here but I could have bought everything, this shop is curated to a T.
Later as I was passing by Dublin’s City Hall, I stepped in to admire another phenomenal domed ceiling. I would have never guessed that such a jewel of a design was there to be admired if it wasn’t for Emily’s blog. #thepowerofblogs
A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin
A Crisp Autumn Afternoon in Dublin

The day ended with a couple of pictures taken at St Audoen’s Church and a walk by the Liffey to catch my bus home. Doesn’t it look like the banks could belong to Paris the way the light hits the stone? 

What’s your verdict of Dublin in the Autumn? Doesn’t it look glorious? 
As Halloween is fast-approaching, I thought I would set the mood on the blog next week so I hope you’re ready to get spooked x

Rococo, Finnish Trolls and More Pizza | London, Day 6

Shut the front door! Has it been really a month since my last post?! This is just a bit ridiculous, I’m not sure how that happened, time has slipped through my fingers….
Well today is the day I’m finally coming at you with the tale of the last hours I spent in London this Summer. This is how it went.

The Wallace Collection
THE WALLACE COLLECTION

First I headed towards the fancy area of Marylebone via the dreaded Oxford Circus. It wasn’t too bad actually, I’ve seen worst crowds (namely Oxford Circus on the 23rd of December 2007… never again). There, I came to visit The Wallace Collection. How to explain the Wallace Collection to you if you’ve never heard of it? Take a good dose of silk tapestries, all the colours of the rainbow, if available, add gold in large quantities and tons and tons of majestic paintings and there you have it, the stuff rococo dreams are made of. Needless to say, I pretty much had an eyegasm. There was so much stuff to look at, you can tell from the pictures I took that my senses were overloaded. Not one picture is straight. Oops. I will show you what I can salvage from them in a later post. This place certainly needs a whole post dedicated to it.

Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN
http://www.wallacecollection.org/
Covent Garden
COVENT GARDEN MARKET

Then I walked to Covent Garden Market with one goal in mind. The Moomin Shop! Back in 2008, I went to Finland and as well as bringing back bringing brilliant memories, I bore one regret: not buying a Moomin mug. I was too worried it would break as I was backpacking, you see. So London was my chance to send back that regret to oblivion. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so as I got out of the shop empty-handed. I just couldn’t justify the price, especially with the steep conversion rate. Dramatic Face. It was a damn cute shop tho!
Neal's Yard
NEAL’S YARD

I forgot all about my moomin mug misfortune and mooched around Covent Garden, gawking at all the pretty windows (Ladurée <3) and went to Neal's Yard for my final stop of the day… well, of the trip. I had never stepped foot in the colourful courtyard before. It's quite a surprising space to stumble upon right next to London's busiest streets. My stomach led me straight to Homeslice for I had heard only good things of their pizzas. I went for a slice of Margherita and I had a bit of shock when I was handed a portion pretty much the size of an actual pizza. It's definitely great value for money and it was SO delicious!

That’s it for my trip to London this Summer folks, I hope you enjoyed the account of the few days I spent there. I do have a few more Summer memories to tell you about but I think it’s time now to switch the blog on Autumn mode, don’t you think? x

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5