My 5 Favourite Travel Moments of 2016

2016 really did a real weird number on us, didn’t it? Wham is on autoplay on Youtube as I’m writing this and it’s a bit heavy-hearted that I’m looking back on the year that has been. Focussing on the travel part, I think this was a good one for me though. I visited Germany for the first time, finally reconnected with my roots in Morocco, did my annual trips to Brussels and London and went back for the second consecutive year to Spain and Gibraltar. My only regret is once again, I didn’t set on exploring Ireland beyond Dublin and county Wicklow. I badly need to rectify this in 2017. For 2015’s recap, I compiled the best places I visited but this year, I want to do something a bit different and reminisce the moments that took my breath away while travelling. I think you know the ones I mean, those that make you want to pinch yourself, quit your day job and be a constant joe-on-the-road. So here come my five favourite ones.

Favourite Travel Moments of 2016

1. Browsing a German flea market under the snow

Back in January, I woke up one Sunday in Berlin to find out that the world outside my window had been covered by a bright fluffy blanket. I had one super fun day planned, it started with brunch at Aunt Benny’s and was to be followed by a long list of markets. You see, Sunday is flea market day in Berlin and I was adamant to visit as many as I could that day. First one was on Boxhagener Platz, located only a few streets away from my Airbnb. Just as I started browsing the stalls, the first snow flurries started to fall and I looked around and felt I had been transported into a snow globe. People were holding cups of glĂźhwein, children were dragged on sleighs and dogs were greeting each other. I kept repeating to myself ‘this is so romantic, this is so romantic!’ and the snow fell heavier and heavier…

Favourite Travel Moments of 2016

2. Entering the Voltaire Room in the Sanssouci Palace

During that trip to Berlin in January, I took a train to Potsdam to visit the Sanssouci Palace. You know my love for rococo and baroque so it was a real treat to see with my own eyes the crazy Summer home of Frederick the Great. I gasped at many gold features and chandeliers but upon entering the room he had specifically designed for his friend and mentor Voltaire, I basically lost my sh**. The whole room is painted and furnished with the same striking marigold yellow throughout. The wall panels are covered with wood carvings of flower arrangements and fruit garlands while exotic birds seem to be frozen in a playful banter. It was nothing like I had ever seen before.

Favourite Travel Moments of 2016

3. Standing on my ancestors’ land in the Middle Atlas

This Summer I made a last minute trip to Morocco to attend to some family matters. Unexpectedly, it turned into a magical tour of  my great grand-father’s old stomping ground. He owned quite a sizeable chunk of land in the Middle Atlas which holds so many dear memories to my family. It was amazing to hear everyone’s stories and anecdotes of growing up there. One day, we sneaked into the ruins of what was once my grand-mother’s childhood home. It stands on a cliff and if you go right up to the edge, you’re met with the most incredible view. Beneath our feet, a lush valley of cherry trees stretched for miles and miles. I’ll hold that sight with me forever.

Grateful that #yayoikusama shared her eternal love for pumpkins with #London 🎃 #instakusama

4. Being locked up in a mirrored room with glowing pumpkins

One thing I didn’t want to miss during my annual trip to London this Summer was the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Victoria Miro Gallery. I had seen her work displayed at the Tate before and I wanted to experience her universe once again. The exhibition was a bit more intimate this time but just as successful (hence the long-winding queues outside the door). The highlight of the exhibition was the room called ‘All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins’. As soon as you step in the cubic room, the attendant closes the door behind you, and you have a whole minute to yourself surrounded by luminous pumpkins. What did I do in there, you may ask yourself? I took a selfie… Not sure it was the best use of my time but it certainly was one of the most memorable minutes of 2016.

Favourite Travel Moments of 2016

5. Exploring Catalan Bay in Gibraltar

It was October and I was holding on to that Summer feeling in Gibraltar. That afternoon, I had set on exploring the East Side of the isthmus where the sandy beaches are. More specifically, Catalan Bay. I was dying to see the famous candy-coloured houses stacked against the Rock. Even though it was well into Autumn, the temperatures were high in the twenties. I cursed for not wearing a swimsuit under my clothes but nevertheless, life was good, I had the beach practically all to myself. I sat there looking out to the horizon and from to time checking on my right if the thousand of seagulls behind the hotel were planning any attack, Hitchcock style. I seriously had never seen that many seagulls gathered in one spot! When it got too hot, I carried my espadrilles in one hand and wandered bare-foot in the village’s alleyways. It was the perfect afternoon!

So that was my 2016 in a nutshell. Did you travel much this year? Tell me about your favourite memory on the road in the comment section! 

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My 10 Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts

my 10 favourite travel instagram accounts

There’s no denying, Instagram has taken the front seat of many of my online habits. Especially when it comes to travel, whether it’s to actually plan an upcoming trip or armchair travelling, the app is always my first stop. Let me tell you, it was hard to narrow down this list to only 10 accounts. There are hundreds I follow who give me major wanderlust on an every day basis. As you’ll see below, I have a soft spot for photographers who capture the pretty details of city life over epic wild landscape. And as a general rule, I tend to prefer instagrammers who explore the nooks and crannies of their own turf rather than those living the nomadic lifestyle… But of course there are exceptions! But without further ado, here are the 10 accounts that make me want to pack up and go on a new adventure!

Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
1. @themodernleper

Thomas is my current top Insta-crush, his shots often stop me in my track when I’m mindlessly scrolling my instagram feed. His tones are warm, crisp and a little spicy… a little like a gingerbread biscuit! He is based in Hamburg and he’s definitely put the German city on my radar. I now long to see the baroque facades and the winding alleyways with my own eyes.

Follow @the modernleper (and if you enjoy his feed, check out kieselle and eskimo, they’re also from Hamburg and just as dreamy!)

Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
2. @sezgiolgac

The pictures Sezgi shares on her feed are colourful poems, striking tributes to her city, Istanbul. I especially love the old buildings she finds on her urban explorations and the way she captures the city under the snow. It is magic. She travels quite a bit too and I couldn’t recommend enough for you to check out her banging snaps of Cuba. Ouch.

Follow @sezgiolgac

Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
3. @lilyrose

Lily Rose is one of these instagrammers that never seem to stand still. One day in the Maldives, the next in Morocco, she never fails to capture her surroundings in the most vibrant way. She also stages some killer flat lays!

Follow @lilyrose

Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
4. @helloemilie

Wherever she goes, Emilie seems to always travel inside a perfect bubble of golden hour and bokeh. Her self-portraits where she gazes into breathtaking views while wearing a boater hat have become a bit of an Instagram institution. She embodies wanderlust to a T.

Follow @helloemilie

Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
5. @ancienm

I simply adore the soft, feminine, muted-pastel-toned vignettes of Ravza’s life in Istanbul and elsewhere. But recently she made my jaw drop to the floor when she documented her pilgrimage to Mecca. Her female photographer’s perspective on the experience is one rare precious gift.

Follow @ancienm

Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
6. @adampartridge

Adam’s pictures make my heart swell with nostalgia. He specialises in photographing the South of England, more specifically the county of Dorset. I holidayed there when I was 15 and every time one of his blue-toned, tranquil pictures pops up on my feed, I wonder why I haven’t come back there yet.

Follow @adampartridge

Favourite Travel Instagram Account
7. @sixsevensix

Whenever I feel uninspired by Instagram, a look through Robin’s profile is often all it takes to light my spark back. Not only does he finds the best facades in London but his angles make London even more cinematic, if that’s possible!

Follow @sixsevensix

My Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
8. @dagmara_ch

I’m going to throw it out there, it might be a tad controversial, but I’m not the biggest fan of Paris. Yes, it is one pretty city but I find the place way too stressful to ever really enjoy my surroundings. I think Dagmara is slowly making me realise that there might be a more peaceful, green and charming side to Paris that I managed to miss during my previous visits.

Follow @dagmara_ch

My Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
9. @neumarc

Marco is probably the instagrammer I have been the most loyal to. Even after seeing Venice with my own eyes a couple of years ago, I still go back to his feed with the same anticipation I felt when planning my trip to La Serenissima. Venice is small but she has many faces and moods which Marco captures in the most sublime way.

Follow @neumarc

My Favourite Travel Instagram Accounts
10. @theprettycities

The Pretty Cities does what it says on the tin, that is showcasing charming urban scenes from all over the world. The account is curated by insanely talented @siobhaise, whom I would have totally put on this list had I not already featured another London ‘grammar

Follow @theprettycities

And there you have it my 10 favourite travel Instagrammers. Now it is your turn, who tickles your wanderlust on Instagram?

You can follow me @theartofexploring on Instagram.

The Art of Exploring shortlisted for an award!

Happy Times

HAPPY TIMES indeed! I’m delighted to tell you that my blog has been nominated for best travel blog in the Littlewoods Ireland Blog Awards! I’m not going to lie the competition is tough, so many travel bloggers with great talent out there but if you would like to support my blog, you can go directly to this link and give me a little click. Voting will be open until this Tuesday, the 23rd of August. Thank you <3

Top 5 Places I Visited in 2015

Since it’s time to reflect on the year that has been, I thought I would do a little top 5 of the places I visited this year. Even though I thought it would be a year of little to no travel, I ended up visiting a few countries: Italy, Spain,  France, Belgium, and covering the UK via England, Gibraltar and Scotland. So 2015 was great for good travel surprises and last minute trips! My only regret travel wise is not making enough time to visit new places in Ireland.
Venice
VENICE (ITALY)

The year started with a bang as I headed to Venice in January. It’s probably a cop-out to mention a whole city in this list but it’s hard to detangle what makes Venice a magical place (although, if forced to pick, I’d say the island of Burano and the bookshop Libreria Acqua Alta stood out a smidge). But overall, what stays with me a year later, is just wandering aimlessly in its alleyways and casually taking the boat like one takes the bus. It all feels now like a distant mushy dream but every now and again when I stumble upon a picture of the Grand Canal I genuinely get teary-eyed to think I was once standing there.

For Venice recommendations, you can scroll through my Venice category.Killiney Hill
KILLINEY HILL, DUBLIN (IRELAND)

Back in April, I took the Dart to Killiney Hill for the first time. Not only the views over the Dublin Bay are breathtaking but it comforted me into the idea that life is as much about the micro adventures as the big ones. When I started this blog, I set out on exploring what’s on my doorstep instead of being mopey about everything. A big trip can recharge your batteries like nothing else, but finding a love for your surroundings is the ultimate generator. This is something I want to advocate more through this blog.

More on Killiney Hill.Saint-Julien-Chapteuil
SAINT-JULIEN-CHAPTEUIL, AUVERGNE (FRANCE)

Summer was supposed to be a quiet one, spent on the Emerald isle. I started it with the best intentions of exploring new places in Ireland but somehow I ended up on the continent for most of it. I’m not complaining about it, quite the opposite, it was a great Summer and the last minute decision of visiting my friend and her little family in this little French village was a definite travel and life highlight of 2015.
Nestled among volcanoes, Saint-Julien-Chapteuil was a wifi-less haven made for afternoon naps, slow cooking, market browsing and easygoing hikes. The picture was taken from the house patio where we would eat dinner and be treated to dazzling sunsets above the mountains.God's Own Junkyard
GOD’S OWN JUNKYARD, LONDON (UNITED KINGDOM)

Nothing really prepares you for a room, from floor to ceiling, full of neon signs. I’d imagine the insides of a unicorn being a similar sight. This magical cloud of pink can be found inside an unassuming industrial estate in Walthamstow, a town so East of the Big Smoke that you wonder if you’re actually still in London. Well worth the bus journey!Glen Coe
GLEN COE, SCOTLAND (UNITED KINGDOM)

To say that the Scottish Highlands left a lasting impression on me is quite the understatement. Back in September, I crossed Glen Coe very briefly by car with my brother, unable to stop for very long as it was chucking it down with rain but the journey across those mythical mountains was akin to a mystical experience. The feeling was heightened by the fact that my brother and I were at the same time absorbed in a deep chat on life and the meaning we’re trying to make of it all. As you do :)

Instagram: July 2015

Wow, July was a whirlwind. Just as I was coming to terms with the fact that this Summer will be a quiet, travel-free one (remember I even made an Irish Summer checklist to make sure I explore my surroundings), travel plans landed on my lap from right, left and centre. Well don’t get excited, it’s nothing too exotic, but for someone who planned to stay at home the whole Summer, going through 3 European countries in a couple of weeks comes as a bit of a shock to the system.
So let me get you up to date if you haven’t followed my peregrinations on social media (I owe you an apology this month has been very quiet on the blog but should you ever be curious where I’m at, you can follow me on Instagram, I update it almost on a daily basis).

I started the month with the making of two other video guides with Emily. This time we tackled Dublin city centre and Howth, which is Emily’s backyard and it ended up being my favourite neighbourhood we filmed. And it meant I finally got to see the Howth cliff walk which was on my Summer checklist. I do want to go back though and hike the whole perimeter of the peninsula.
Another place I managed to cross off my list is the lavender field in Kilmacanogue, county Wicklow. I meant to talk to you about it before the end of the month as the harvest sale event only happens during July but I failed you as a blogger. Sorry. It will be the subject of my next post here though! Also, I couldn’t go to Kilmacanogue without checking Avoca’s flagship store which is way too dreamy for words. The flowers! The homeware! The stationary! The teas! … sigh.

Instagram July 2015
July blooms / #DublinGhostSigns near Moore St / Emily vs. Dublin
Beautiful hairdresser’s shopfront / Flower stall on O’Connell St / Baily Lighthouse, Howth
Rialto Market in Venice / Lavender Field in Kilmacanogue / Whimsical crockery in Avoca

It was then time to leave for the Motherland, aka Belgium by way of London, to catch the Eurostar. I spent a few days in Brussels, mainly catching up with family and friends and playing tourist on my own turf. After that, I took two trains (via Paris) to a secluded village in the mountains of Auvergne where I spent a week with a very dear friend of mine and her little family. It was probably one of the most relaxing, wifi-free holidays I ever had, I took a lot of pictures so will talk more about it soon.

Instagram July 2015Nissan Figaro parked at St Pancras / The interesting facades of my hometown / Grand-Place, Brussels
View from Gare de Lyon, Paris / The cutest door in Saint-Julien-Chapteuil / Ghost sign on the high street
Le Puy-en-Velay / Classic car in Saint-Julien-Chapteuil / Doesn’t it look like a film set?
Instagram July 2015
Galeries de la Reine, Brussels / This restaurant’s sign <3 / Loved the rice paper rolls in Knees to Chin!!

I’ve been back in Brussels for a week now, spending more time with family and friends, eating all the good food (Man, I missed bread) and soaking up sun rays in preparation for my return to that little green island under a perpetual cloud. But before that, I’ve got one more destination up my sleeve. But I’m sure you can guess what that is!

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Instagram: June 2015

Last month started with a little trip to the South of Ireland where I was attending a wedding. The wedding itself took place in a church at the top of a hill, overlooking Dungarvan bay and its oyster farms. These were breathtaking views, to say the least.
For the reception, we headed to Ballycotton, in county Cork, which had the recipe down for the perfect Irish seaside holiday, what with its cute lighthouse and its wide beaches (making a mental note to come back).
Back in Dublin, I went to the food festival Taste of Dublin for the first time! It is set in the beautiful Iveagh Gardens and the general easy-going atmosphere as well as the accent made on good local Irish food reminded me a lot of Bloom Festival.
I also got to explore two more neighbourhoods with Emily: Baggot Street and the Liberties. They were full of good surprises like these scrumptious cakes in Eathos and the colourful cottages behind Meath Street. Add the usual #dublindoors, flowers (yay for peony season!), parks, street art and classic cars and you have my month of June seen through my phone!
Also, I wanted to mention that I had a little feature on the Guardian Cities instagram account, I listed some of my favourite Dublin instagrammers, if you’re looking for people from around here to follow!


Instagram June 2015
Rhododendrons / Fresh in Temple Bar / Laundry day in Burano
Burano Island / Wedding reception / Dungarvan bay
Countryside pub / Classic wedding car / In love with ‘Pottery Corner‘ at Taste of Dublin

Instagram June 2015
tea time at Eathos / The Shebeen pub / Jungle door
The Swan bar / pink door+bicycle=<3 / broken Jag
Rainy evening at the park / Newmarket Square Street Art / #straightfacades

Instagram June 2015
Dalkey village / Killiney Hill / Cute cottages in the Liberties
Street art in Temple Bar / Buying peonies at the market / The beautiful pink building on Pembroke Rd

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Instagram: May 2015

☀️🌳 #WHPstrangelight @instagram
Can I say a clichĂŠ and then I promise I will never mention this here again? … Where does the time go?? The month of May flew by like no other. I came to like these posts as they help me reflect and make sense of the past month but I’m struggling to visualise what May was like here . I had a 2 week Instagram break as I was a bit taken by a few worries and stresses, which is a recurring problem in my life. I get overwhelmed really easily and feel like hiding. I’m adamant not to let this summer slip by so I think I’ll make a little Irish Summer checklist of the places I want to visit the next couple of months. I don’t have any travel plans in sight so I’d like to take this time to explore Ireland. Would you be interested in seeing this list here?
But let’s go back to May as it wasn’t all dread and gloom! Here are some of the highlights that were caught on Instagram:
– Eating a courgette cake (?!) and catching up with Magda
– Going to an eerie exhibition with Nancy and being inspired by her enthusiasm for Dublin (I found the knight on the segway on my way to meet her)
– Exploring neighbourhoods with Emily and finding joy in creating something with someone else
– The marriage referendum which brought so much happiness and celebration to the country
– Having a picture featured on Design*Sponge‘s instagram #fangirl

Instagram May 2015
Dublin’s Botanic Gardens / The beautiful shop Dust / Catching up with Magda in Slice Cafe
Perfect Georgian symmetry / Street art by NUNC / Missing London, always
Vintage station wagon / Street art by Joe Caslin / Dublin in Love

Instagram May 2015
Ireland said YES / The tiles in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church / The prettiest building in Temple Bar
Flower stalls on Grafton Street / Francis Street / Lighthouse Cinema’s cheerful seats
When hair and doors match / More Dublin’s Botanic Gardens / #thedoorsofdublin

Tell me about your month of May! Are you ready for Summer? Do you have epic travel plans in store?

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Instagram: April 2015

How was April for you? Summer came early in Dublin this month, with two beautiful weeks of unadulterated sunshine. If you’ve ever lived in Ireland, you know that this is something so rare and precious that being inside is accompanied by the most crippling FOMO. So I tried to make the most of it, I’m actually surprised there’s not more cherry blossoms in my feed, I must have snapped every single pink tree in the capital.
I visited three new-to-me awesome places this month. First, the shop Dust where I got a copper tape and now literally want to tape everything. But I managed to restrict myself to my desk area where it’s safe to say copper has well and truly taken over (I will talk to you about Dust tomorrow and other great interior design shops in Dublin so make sure you come back if you’re into your home decor).
Secondly, I finally managed to eat at the most instagrammable cafĂŠ in Dublin: The Fumbally. I don’t know why it has taken me so long but I’m happy to report it’s as delicious as it is visually pleasing!

Instagram April 2015
Magnolia tree / Easter treat / Sunset on the Poolbeg Chimneys
Purple blooms in Airfield Farm / Succulents in Dust / All the copper things
Solo Parking #1 / Dublin’s Botanic Gardens / The Fumbally

Lastly, I climbed up Killiney Hill for the first time and, oh my God! There was so much beauty to take in, between the yellow clouds of gorse and the panoramic views of Dublin. I couldn’t have dreamed of a better activity on a sunny day.
Also, a huge thank you to Emily from From China Village for featuring me in her list of Irish Instagram accounts to follow. I’m beyond honoured and I’m digging her Insta-wander series. Do check out her blog for some of the best Dublin tips you’ll find on the interweb!

Instagram April 2015
Killiney Hill / Solo Parking #2 / Knock knock
Spare your postman’s eyes / Strand Hotel in Bray / Ice-cream parlour in Bray
Christchurch Cathedral / Pastel Bray / Dublin’s Botanic Gardens

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Instagram: March 2015

Spring in Dublin (instagram)

And here’s another month through my phone! March is generally a month where I get itchy feet to go and explore Dublin.
Irish winters are not the harshest in terms of temperature but they’re gloomy, windy and wet. Not a great combination, I’m sure you’ll agree, for a wander. So after all these months being cooped up inside, I get the urge to reconnect with my surroundings as soon as Spring shows its first signs.
This month definitely didn’t break the rule. I didn’t look for many new places but rather revisited old favourites (the neighbourhood of Ranelagh is one).
I seemed to have had yellow first then pink on the brain and I thought I was getting the hang of the whole ‘Instagram theme’ thing but it didn’t last long. Does anyone of you stick to a palette? Do you have any tips?
I also snapped a lot of murals as I was taking part in the instagram challenge #PPArtAroundYou organised by Passion Passport (I got an honorable mention, yay!) and I got really enthusiastic about the Irish street art scene (I linked a couple of artists below if you’re interested).

Instagram March 2015
Pink princess mansion / Doran’s, one of the oldest barber’s in Dublin / Cute flower shop display
vintage cars FTW / Spring-y Georgian doors / my favourite #Dublinghostsigns
January+February Favourites / Ranelagh <3 / more vintage cars
Instagram March 2015
Spring has sprung! / A pink georgian door / I found a dragonfruit (!) + my current read
‘Home Villas street’ / An art deco building / ‘Only the rivers run free’ by ADW
The Bernard Shaw pub / ‘Don’t be afraid’ by Maser / Little Ass Burrito bar

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January + February Travel Favourites & more | VIDEO

January + February 2015 Favourites

Finally, a new video on the blog! Hopefully, the first of many this year. I decided to start a new series where I talk about my travel favourites as well as some other random bits I enjoyed every month. This time, I grouped the months of January and February together but it will be doing monthly instalments from the next video onwards.
I’m not going to lie I’m feeling quite nervous putting it out there in the scary world wide web as it is the first time I filmed a whole video facing the camera. One can only hope, that confidence and diction will get better with time and practice!

January and February were really good months when it comes to travel so it’s without surprise that Venice reigns supremes among this selection of favourites. I also fell in love with a podcast, a lipstick and a tea, among other things. Click play to find out more!

I hope you enjoyed it! What about you? What have you been enjoying recently? Do you have any podcast recommendations?