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.

I’m in Berlin!

Sandra Juto Instagram
Sandra Juto’s Instagram

Blame it on watching too much of late night Arte but I always thought that Berlin was way too cool for me. I envisioned it as a massive slab of concrete covering a raging rave scene and bizarre fetish clubs. I remember this show about a little old shack called ‘The End of the World‘ near a river where people-in-the-know would come party like there’s no tomorrow. I thought then ‘Surely I would never get invited to a place like that‘ so I kind of crossed off Berlin from my wanderlust list.
But in the past few years, thanks to blogs, I started seeing a different side of Berlin. It suddenly seemed like a great place to actually live in (and not casually lose a liver), I keep reading about bright brunch places, charming flea markets and an all-round creative food scene. I’ve pinned all the places I want to check on Mapstr and for the first time, I’m left with more eateries than sightseeing sites on my map.  I’m especially interested in the Vegan scene, I’m not one (yet?) but I do wonder if it would be easier in a city like Berlin. I’m using Airbnb for the first time so it’ll be interesting to fully immerse myself in the Berliner lifestyle.
This is what I’m looking forward to do the most over the next few days.

  • go to a vegan supermarket and prepare a meal
  • take silly pictures in a street photoautomat
  • visit the rococo palaces of Charlottenburg and Sanssouci
  • walk in the Nikolaviertel neighbourhood where houses look like cakes
  • sample the best falafel dishes in town
  • browse lots of flea markets
  • admire walls and walls of street art

If you want to know what I’m up to while I’m here, you can follow me on Instagram for daily Berlin updates. Also, Have you ever been to Berlin? I would love to hear if you have any recommendations and your overall impression of the city :)

Zwartbles Farm | co. Kilkenny

The weeks following the Paris Attacks, nothing seemed of importance anymore. Certainly not travel or my microadventures I usually like to write about here. One thing kept me sane though: reading about people’s kindness, about their humanity eclipsing the surrounding darkness. It reminded me then that I had met an extraordinary woman last year whom I hadn’t talked to you about yet and I promised myself I would write about her as soon as writing made sense again.
Zwartbles FarmZwartbles Farm

I was lucky to meet Suzanna during a blogging trip to Kilkenny last year. A handful of bloggers and I were invited to explore the county’s food and craft trails. Just as our journey was coming to an end, Suzanna very generously invited us all in her farm at the last minute. As our car pulled up in her courtyard, it felt like we had just entered the setting of an epic Victorian novel. The farm house looked like the cosiest place on Earth.

The woman of the hour, like an unwavering captain, gave us a brief introduction of her fleet and the work she does at the farm. After a few minutes, it became apparent to my untrained ear that there was a melodic American twang in her speech. Indeed, Suzanna was born in New York but she later moved to Ireland to manage the farm that has belonged to her family for generations. Against all odds, she invested in a few Zwartbles sheep whose black wool was rather unpopular. Undetered, Suzanna managed to get people on board with her project and she’s now famous for the beautiful dark blankets, rugs and yarn she produces from her herd.

Zwartbles FarmZwartbles Farm

She then led us in a tour of her property. First stop, the apple and pear orchard where crates full of produce awaited us. We were invited to pick some and this simple gesture filled me with glee, knowing that I would be able to cook with an ingredient that had freshly fallen from one of the happiest trees in Ireland. We also bonded with Bodacious, the cat shepherd which stunned Suzanna a bit as he’s not usually that friendly with strangers. They must have been some powerful cat ladies in our group!

It was then time to meet “Suzanna’s girls“. Here they come…
Zwartbles FarmZwartbles Farm
As soon as we stepped inside the Zwartbles pen, a wave of chocolatey fluffiness charged at us. I’m not going to lie, for a second I thought I was about to get trampled in a stampede. I had never witnessed such enthusiastic sheep behaviour, they jumped around us like excited puppies. Suzanna had a name for each one of them and the fact that she mentioned in passing that their meat tasted sweeter because of the apples they eat from the ground didn’t even make me shudder. She prides herself in giving her animals a good life and it showed, unequivocally so.
Zwartbles Farm

I could have photographed these little cuties all day, I actually was the last one to leave the pen while Suzanna was patiently waiting for me to close the gate. Unfortunately night was falling fast and in the dusk’s last breath, Suzanna quickly showed us her other pride and joy, a herd of Clun Forest sheep. Funnily enough, this breed stands on the opposite side of the personality spectrum. They’re rather frail and timid creatures, and in lieu of a friendly stampede, they felt more comfortable at a distance, observing us, their rabbit ears pointing towards the sky.

To my greatest joy, we also met some alpacas and discovered a rather amusing fact. They’re used on the farm to protect the animals from foxes. They’re actually very efficient guards as they’re able to knock the predators out with their fast side kicks. Who knew alpacas were ninjas in disguise?!

Zwartbles Farm
Zwartbles Farm
We then met the horses and had a wander through the kitchen garden where grew, to my surprise, grapes. Actual grapes in Ireland, isn’t that amazing?!

When it got to the point where we couldn’t see our own feet anymore, we followed Suzanna in her cosy kitchen for a cuppa and chats. Inside, she surprised us with lamb chops, sprigs of sage and a recipe of her own including all of the ingredients she had so kindly given to us that eve. I unfortunately couldn’t stay as I had a train to catch but one thing I’ll say is I felt energised and inspired by this meeting, I love how Suzanna went with her gut feeling and made the ‘black sheep’ happen in Ireland but above all I admire how she’s in tune with nature, working with it to place on her table and her customers the most beautiful produce.

I’ll end this post by warmly recommending you to follow her on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter if you haven’t done it already. I’ve never seen a business use social media in such fun and genuine way before. Every day, she involves her followers in the daily tasks of a farmer. From the birthing of a lamb to Bodacious, the cat shepherd, sleeping in the crockery, her and her companions will make you smile, sometimes several times a day; and lately, I’m sure you’ll agree, we all need that extra dose of cheerfulness.

More information on Zwartbles Farm and its shop on their website.

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)

The Geffrye Museum | London

Geffrye MuseumGeffrye Museum
Exactly a year ago, I was spending a few days in London and I visited the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch. I was lured in by the promise of period rooms. I already briefly touched on it in a previous post but basically the museum explore the evolution of English homes over 400 years. I wanted to delve a bit deeper into it today as their annual Christmas Past exhibition is back on.

Eleven rooms are dedicated to the recreation of the living spaces of the middle class and how they would celebrate Christmas from the 1600s to the present day. The food on the table, the ornaments and the traditions evolve as you change rooms. Watch Mince pies, colourful jelly, parlour games, mistletoe, tree decorations and everything that is quintessentially English make an apparition as you go further in the exhibition. It’s like a trip in the Christmas tardis.

Geffrye MuseumGeffrye MuseumGeffrye Museum
Geffrye MuseumGeffrye MuseumGeffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum

Unfortunately, the garden was closed when I visited but it looked gorgeous from what I could see from the window of the conservatory. That room was actually my favourite, it looked like something straight out of Mary Poppins, the pastel walls reminded of the underworld of Bert’s chalk drawings. The circular shape, of the merry-go-round, even the horse on the wall had the distinctive Disney long muzzle.

The museum is located in former almshouses that were destined for the poverty-stricken pensioners of the Ironmongers Company. It was built in 1714 by Sir Robert Geffrye, Master of the company and Lord Mayor of London. Facing the building lies a park where it feels good to take a break from the busy road outside.
Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum
Geffrye Museum

In one of the wings, two of these almshouses have been left in their original state and they are now open to the public on certain days of the week. Compared to the cosy Christmas rooms in the main part of the museum, they did look spartan but it was a very tangible way to picture the conditions in which the retired of the Iron trade and their family were living in the 18th and 19th century.

Geffrye Museum
Practical Information

The Geffrye Museum – website
136 Kingsland Road
Shoreditch
London E2 8EA

The Christmas Past Exhibition is on until Sunday 3 January 2016

Opening Hours
10am – 5pm (Tue – Sun; Bank Holiday Mondays)

Admission
Free (there’s £4 entrance to the Almshouses, check the museum’s website for tour schedules)

Overground
Hoxton Station

Bus
67, 149, 242, 243 & 394

A Very Dublin Christmas Gift Guide

After watching A Very Murray Christmas on Netflix, the festive spirit has finally managed to get a weak hold on me. I thought while the feeling lasts, I would put together a little Christmas gift guide here … “gift guide” who am I kidding, this is clearly my letter to Santa, poorly disguised.

Just as with my previous one, this is an opportunity for me to showcase some of the best indie shops in Dublin and celebrate their owners’ talent for curation. And this year, the selection was especially tricky as I discovered so many shops I fell in love with. It is a very Dublin-centric assortment, but most of the shops actually ship worldwide if anything catches your eye.

A Dubliner's Christmas Gift Guide

1. Huns Cocktails Print by Aoife Dooley (Damn Fine Print, 30€)
Aoife Dooley’s serialised portrayal of a certain Northside Dublin’s subculture is one the funniest thing that has come out of 2015. If you don’t follow her Instagram Dublin Hun, you really should, ye tick. As part of the Bram Stoker Festival, the studio Damn Fine Print released a limited edition of her hysterical piece ‘Huns Cocktails’ with special glow-in-the-dark ink to celebrate Dublin’s nightlife.

32 North Brunswick Street, Stoneybatter
(Worldwide shipping)

2. Tickets to Mary Poppins, The Musical (Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, 25€-68€)
I have never seen a musical so I feel like this would be a magical first. I’m already a big fan of the Disney film, but Mary Poppins on stage, scripted by no-other than Downton Abbey King, Julian Fellowes… I mean, where do I sign?! It will play the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until 9 January 2016.

3. Christmas Platter (Pottery Corner, 25€)
I discovered the distinctive white & blue crockery of Pottery Corner on a stand in Taste of Dublin this year. I’ve been lusting after their pieces ever since. That platter is part of their newly released Christmas Collection and I would love to see it on my festive table. Or any of their dreamy pieces really.

Pottery corner has a stall at the Terenure Village Market on Saturdays
 (Shipping is only available in Ireland & Northern Ireland)

4. Stone Dining Plate (Industry & Co, 16€)
I love the look of these plates, the slightly raised edge make them look so modern. They come from no other than the insanely cool shop Industry in the Creative Quarter.

41 a/b Drury Street, Dublin 2
(Worldwide shipping)

5. Three Candle holders (Article, 22€)
The display of an object of Scandinavian design should be a Feng Shue rule, in my opinion. They do make everything look balanced. Mix this brass centrepiece with green foliage on a crisp white-clothed table for a minimal yet striking Christmas decor.

Powerscourt Townhouse, South William Street, Dublin 2
(Worldwide Shipping)

6. Black Pineapple Candle Holder (Dust, 14.95€)
Is anyone sick of the pineapple trend yet? I sure am not! You can trust the ultra chic Dust shop to get your exotic fruit fix. My personal fave is this gunmetal little number but keeping with the theme, they also have slick stickers and one shiny washi tape.

4 Grantham Street, Dublin 8
(Worldwide shipping)

7. Boketto Bangle (Inner Island, 139€)
I discovered Inner Island on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the company’s aesthetics: minimal, soft, feminine but with powerful lines. I especially love the design of this bangle.

Inner Island Jewellery is also stocked in Om Diva, The Loft Market and Seagreen
 (Worldwide shipping)

8. Rifle Paper Co 2016 Floral Planner (Moss Cottage, 37.95€)
Would you look at this? Isn’t this perfection in a shape of a planner? This beauty can be found at Moss Cottage where Jen stocks the best selection of Rifle Paper Co stationary in all of Dublin, among the prettiest bits and bobs only she has the knack to curate.

14 Main Street, Dundrum
(Worldwide shipping)