Venice Moments

Venice is the definition of creativity. Built on water, this slightly wonky city is full of photographs ready to happen. There are art galleries, gondolas and of course, the Grand Canal. Built on one hundred small islands in the Adriatic Sea, there are no roads – you enter this interesting world of water buses and speed-boat-taxis…

I spent four days in Venice when travelling through Italy. Whilst Venice can be expensive, we found that renting a house in a residential area made the experience very affordable, and allowed us to see the reality. Most of our time was spent visiting art galleries, riding the water buses and walking down alleys. We did also make trips to other islands such as Burano (as you will have seen here on Instagram) and Murano which is famous for glass making.

Venice is ephemeral. Everywhere you look, there is a new moment about to unfold and last only a split second. As a photographer this was definitely something that I wanted to capture – I’ve always been excited by capturing moments! It’s truly beautiful.

North Coast 500 | John O’Groats

Many travellers complete the North Coast 500 at least once in their lifetime. This 516 mile route takes you around the north coast of Scotland, staring and ending at Inverness Castle. I spent a week exploring Thurso and John O’Groats on my UK travels, which lies along the route.

Thurso

Whilst visiting my friend Cara’s family, I visited a few different places along the North Coast 500 route. First of all, Thurso is the most northerly town on mainland Scotland making it quite significant. From here we took a number of drives to visit different places.

 

Freswick

Up first was Freswick Bay, slightly south east to John O’Groats. This beautiful beach appears almost untouched apart from the humble castle that stands amongst wild flowers. We were fortunate to know the owner of Freswick Castle and ended up spending the evening there, talking about our recent trip to Guinea. Exploring the beach, sitting warm by the fire and watching the sun set was the perfect end to a summer’s day.

The castle is not just an old ruin, but an active hub; events are held, retreat days are available and the Freswick Castle Arts exhibitions are said to go down well.

Duncansbay Head

When we speak of Scotland’s most northeasterly point, many think of John O’Groats. Whilst, yes, this is correct, when we look at the specifics, the precise point is Duncansbay Head. You can drive up to the lighthouse at Duncansbay Head and then take a walk along the coastal, cliff-top paths. Not only is is incredible to stand at the tip and be able to see coast at either side, but also along the Eastern side lie the Duncansbay stacks.

Duncansbay has some stunning views and it’s also a brilliant place to play “spot the part of the map,” since it’s geographical features and coastline are so distinct!

John O’Groats

 

Finally, we couldn’t drive past John O’Groats itself! We did the classic photograph infront of the sign and I enjoyed photographing the architecture. However there isn’t much in John O’Groats itself – if you want civilisation, then you’re best off stopping in Thurso!

This small taster of the Scottish Highlands has shown me how beautiful the UK is and I certainly want to do the rest of the North Coast 500 one day! If you’re considering it, I’d say do it! Enjoy the photographs!

Eleanor ♥

Kambadaga Falls

One of the best advantages of living in a “forgotten” country (Guinea), where no tourists are found, is the opportunity to discover landscapes that only few eyes have seen. Kambadaga falls are found in the Fouta Djallon and were described to us by a colleague as, “the most spectacular waterfall I have ever seen.”

We drove out to Kambadaga for the day which was surely an adventure. We started at the top with a classic picnic of local baguette bread and “laughing cow” cheese triangles, after which we then dived into the pools to cool from the hot African sun. You don’t quite realise the gravity of such a place however, until you drive out and view it across the valley. As you can see, Kambadaga is a humoungous cascade.

As you follow the river to the head of the fall, you pass a wire bridge that is used by locals to cross the falls. If you are daring enough, you can take up the river crossing challenge however neither one of us fancied risking the rickety bridge! Our colleague had a shot but as you can see, we stuck to the wooden ladder and went no further!

Finally, we followed the trail through the bush to the head of the waterfall. We payed a local guide to show us the way and spent so long standing in awe! We had the place to ourselves and with the supervision of our long-term colleagues, went right up to the edge and peered over…

What a drop! Lying down and peeping over the edge allows you to grasp the sheer incredibility of this place. You feel the mist rising against your face and the gushing sound of water fills you with adrenaline. I’m quite a dare devil and I loved it! When you stand up again, you view the surrounding valley of the Green Green Guinea.

Guinea is seen as “undesirable,” or “forgotten,” and even it’s natives are unaware of it’s beauty. As a result, tourism has never really hit this place. Whilst a few travellers may stumble across the beauty of this resource rich African land, it’s beauties will probably only ever be shared with a few, relative to large touristic tropics. In a way this is reassuring – Kambadaga will always be protected. Yet at the same time, I so wish that the people of Guinea would appreciate their own wonders and develop them!

Exploring Kambadaga really does make you feel like you’re on top of the world and I am incredibly grateful for the privelage I had to encounter this unknown wonder. If there’s anything I really took from this day, it was a desire to visit more “forgotten places.” To forget the generic tourist destinations, pick an “undesirable” spot on the map and just go. You never know what you may find. And you may just have it all to yourself!

Which country has always been at the bottom of your list?

Green Green Guinea

If you have read my recent relaunch post, New Perspectives, you will know that I have recently returned from six months in Guinea, West Africa. Guinea Conakry has such a beautiful landscape! Whilst it may not have your typical safari wildlife, it has mountains of jungle, plantation and other greenery.

Unfamiliar Landscape

Flying over Guinea on our arrival was exhilarating. Expectations of desert were tossed away as we encountered such a glowing green landscape! Whilst I’m not quite sure whether this is fortunate or not, I know that seldom people know of Guinea’s existence, and even fewer have visited. It was an honour to spend so much time in such a jaw dropping country!

Here are a few of my best photos from the sixth months, although they can never truly do it justice!

Eleanor ♥

Baltic 6 | Denmark

I can’t quite believe that we are at the end of our Baltic 6 series! Travelling the Baltics has been such an amazing experience and it has opened my eyes to the Scandinavian way of life. Today we are visiting no other but the centre for design – Copenhagen! Along with Oslo, Copenhagen is somewhere I’ve always dreamed of visiting and it definitely won’t disappoint…

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Copenhagen is a huge city! Unfortunately we didn’t have very long at all since we’d squeezed this trip in on our last day however thanks to previously planning a route through the main sites/districts, we were able to cover a huge amount in just about four hours! To add to the adventure, I created a bucket list of things to do in Copenhagen and somehow managed quite a few!

_MG_2678First of all, we walked to Nyhavn, the more famous 17th century waterfront and canal, adorned with colourful restaurants and cafes. We went over the bridge and followed the canal round to the open water where we came across a lot of modern architecture.

The district was number one on my bucket list so it was great to be able to see it however due to the rush, I felt like I didn’t fully experience it and would love to go back and spend afternoon exploring the region!

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_MG_2726Our planned route then took us through the Amaliehavn, past the fountain in the garden of the Amalienborg Palace. We stopped off at the Design Museum, and eventually made it up to the little mermaid statue. The design museum again was a must see on the bucket list. Not only was it free to go in, but the exhibitions were amazing! We set ourselves a strict 40 minutes and were blown away by the features. I have honestly never been inside such a creative design museum! The main exhibitions included a chair design exhibition, full of the most genius and crazy chairs ever, an architecture exhibition, fashion design and also Oriental art and design. It explained design processes and concepts as well as being a maze of creative exploration.

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_MG_2738Next on the list? You should know by now that exploring the quieter residential areas is always my goal! We walked back from the Mermaid (that happened to be right on the outskirts) through the Center of Churchill Park in Kastellet and then through residential streets. The neighbourhoods in these regions were so distinct and separate from each other in their architecture! We walked past colourful residentials, cobbled blocks of houses, and little bakeries which led to our next bucket list goal – to hunt down the best danish pastry!

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_MG_2759If you think we’d already walked a huge distance at half time, you’re right. But the challenge had only just begun. Surprisingly, danish pastries are hard to find in Copenhagen! We could have settled with a supermarket savoury looking pastry, or we could have walked miles for another hour, winding in and out of cobbled lanes and peering in cafe windows… Of course we chose the latter.

We headed to shopping central, Stroget which is home to designer boutiques, the stork fountain and hundreds of coffee shops. We spent time wandering through the main shopping street, exploring the square and _MG_2755stepping up and down all of the cobbled side-streets, window shopping and trying to sniff out the best place for a coffee (and pastry!) This challenge spurred us on and actually forced us to make the most of our time by constantly looking for more! We just kept turning corners, finding churches or new avenues. Half of what we saw, most wouldn’t have due to disregarding side streets when route planning.  It was also an excellent way to try and soak up as much of the atmosphere and lifestyle as possible in our limited time.

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Eventually we made our way back to our starting point, Borsen. Then we found it – the trusty 7eleven selling every kind of pastry you could imagine! 7eleven is essentially a Scandinavian chain. I guess it’s a cross between a newsagents and a UK Gregg’s, selling coffee, bakery items, sweets and other snacks… I chose a jumbo kanelsnegle (cinnamon bun) and it was definitely worth the wait! It was enormous too! With about 40 minutes to spare we decided to call it a day, resign to a bench in the square and enjoy pastries whilst watching the city go by. It’s the moments like these that give you that content feeling in your heart – Copenhagen we loved you!

IMG_20170727_125218_879Thank you for coming along with me this summer! We’ve hit Oslo, Gdansk, St.Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen! Which is your favourite? I have to say that Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen all come close. I would love to visit Copenhagen again one day – it’s one of the largest cities that I visited and there’s a huge list of things still left to do there! But who knows where we will go next? All I know is that I can’t wait to take you all along with me!

Eleanor ♥

Baltic 6 | Sweden

GIMME GIMME GIMME a man after midnight… Welcome back to Baltic 6! Today we are heading to the fifth destination: Stockholm. Consisting of 14 Islands and more than 50 bridges, it’s the country’s capital.

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Sweden being a huge pop-music producing nation only meant one thing – ABBA. Stockholm was golden. We took the bus into the centre and hopped out onto a side street just over the canal from the palace. For some strange reason the surrounding trees had leaked sap all over the pavement and our feet stuck to the floor, so we essentially landed in Stockholm either looking like cool ninjas, or just silly tourists caught in a sticky situation…

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_MG_2538Crisis over, we headed over the canal, up past the palace and towards the Gamla Stan Old Town. Like Finland, Stockholm was strangely quiet for 10am on a Monday morning and shops in the Old Town were all still closed. However it was still wonderful to wander the cobbled streets, winding between orange buildings made golden in the sunlight. It was fun to explore – we found “Galleri Eleanora” and another window with a sign “gone fishing, back 28th August.” Clearly the Swedes are very relaxed and very, very cool.

_MG_2531_MG_2529_MG_2524We then walked back along the river and over to one of the smaller islands, containing lots of museums including an architecture museum which unfortunately was closed. Then we took the ferry to another amusement island, Djugarden Island, containing a theme park and The Abba Museum. This museum was honestly the highlight of our Stockholm trip! It was like one huge Abba party – interactive karaoke, dancing, and piano rooms were mixed with information and hundreds of costume collections, records and more! One room was simply filled with disco lights and played Abba hits nonstop! I felt like I’d been transported back to the 70’s and as a big Abba fan, I LOVED it!

_MG_2521Following this we headed back on foot, stopped at a supermarket for a late lunch and then attempted to head back on the bus. However the transport system is not very tourist friendly at all – locals have travel cards and tourists must buy individual tickets from machines. Except machines are rare to be seen and dotted around the city in random locations. When we eventually found one, it was out of order so in the end we had to walk back to our cruise ship. Although it was nice to trek through the residential areas of Stockholm.

_MG_2543_MG_2629The following day, after slowly weaving in and out of little islands (at some points you could actually reach out and almost touch them) and enjoying panoramic views, we stopped off at Karlskrona. It’s simply a small Swedish town home to the navy museum. We had an afternoon wandering the small town, visiting churches and enjoying the harbour view from the window of Wayne’s Coffee. The landscape of this town was beautiful and it was such an experience to be able to sail from Stockholm to Karlskrona – we saw so many scenic islands and settlements!

 

Sweden was simply put – Sweden! Again, another country leaving a lasting impression!

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Thanks for reading – come back next Wednesday for out final edition of Baltic 6!

Eleanor ♥

Baltic 6 | Finland

Welcome back to the fourth edition of Baltic 6. Today we are transporting to Helsinki, Finland’s capital! Helsinki is a coastal city made up of small islands and large expanses of green parkland. It’s an active but small city with some incredible views!_MG_2463

_MG_2468I travelled through Helsinki on a bike – my family and I decided to try something new and sign up for a guided cycling tour. Cycling through the city was incredible! We started our Sunday morning by trailing through parkland, across islands and past holiday homes or, “weekend cabins.” It was very serene and we were occasionally joined by locals jogging or taking a ride in their yachts.

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Sundays are still in Finland. Even the coffee shop on the Seurasaari Island (an open air museum) refused to serve until 11am! I actually love this fact – Sundays are sacred in Scandinavia. In England, the country rarely stops – even on Christmas day, citizens work or busy themselves travelling. Finland has it right – it’s the perfect place for a retreat!

 

_MG_2486_MG_2495_MG_2490Towards midday we headed back towards the city centre, past the Sibelius Monument and Olympic stadium, over the cobbled square containing the cathedral and to the quayside. We then set free on foot to wander the centre and browse quayside markets selling postcards, fresh cooked salmon, vegetables, nuts, crafts and other souvenirs.

In total we covered about 20 miles. It was the best bike ride I’ve ever been on and it’s definitely inspired me to think about cycling when travelling in the future. You are able to see so much more and there’s something adventurous about exploring the terrain and wider landscape of a city!

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I never imagined a city built over a series of islands, which is not only architecturally interesting in the way that it functions but is also very adventurous! Thank you for joining me – if you love the outdoors, Helsinki is definitely for you!

Eleanor ♥

Baltic 6 | Russia

Welcome back to week three of our Baltic 6 series! If you’re new to Distinctivemode, Baltic 6 is a 6-part series that transports you to 6 Baltic destinations. Here you will find photographs, reviews and your very own tour guide! So far we have visited Norway and Poland. Today we are taking a trip to the height of the Baltics: St Petersburg!

Of all six destinations, Russia provided the most distinct experience. Having left Europe (or atleast the EU!) for a large, ex-communist city, I found my senses were bombarded with the unfamiliar. Despite not having visas, we were allowed to take a coach trip and walking excursion supervised by a tour guide and it was definitely an experience! Most buildings are square, the residential areas house cloned apartment blocks, the river is home to submarines, the highway something from a sci-fi movie and of course, the outskirts reveal what is left of the forest landscape.

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_MG_2190I spent two days in St. Petersburg due to its enormous 1439 square kilometre radius. On the first day we visited the Peterhoff Palace and Gardens which is lavished in gold both inside and out. The gardens are home to an abundance of fountains (including trick-fountains) and from the palace you can look out towards the gulf of Finland. A lot architecture in St.Petersburg is of the architect Rastrelli. In fact I have always admired Rastrelli’s colourful work and it was amazing to visit such buildings whilst also taking a look at the interiors!

After a 40 minute bus ride, we found ourselves back in the city centre. We stopped off at a government controlled souvenir shop selling Putin memorabilia and Russian dolls (yes it really was comical), which also kept offering free vodka (everyone declined). I think our tour guide found it just as strange since she kept trying to make jokes about the KGB…

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_MG_2334We then headed to the riverside and visited the Winter Palace and Hermitage Museum, both also works by Rastrelli. Again everything came with typical gold detailing and lots of colour. The winter palace (once home to the Russian monarchs) is now combined with a complex of buildings to make up the State Hermitage Museum, an enormous collection of artwork. We spent about 3 hours there yet still only saw a glimpse of what was there. They had works from Da Vinci, to Rembrandt, Dyke and hundreds of other Russian, French, Italian, German, British artists. You could spend days in The Hermitage – it is an artist’s daydream!

_MG_2262What’s unique about The Hermitage is that not only does it house such a large collection of art, but it’s all displayed amongst the restored palace interiors. You walk through living quarters and chapels admiring both the decor and the masterpieces. Unfortunately though, the Russians don’t seem to care as much about the preservation of the art. When I visited, it was raining and most of the windows were open. The works weren’t shielded from the light either – it’s a disappointment to think that these famous works will fade due to not being cared for as much as they should be.
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_MG_2385Finally on day two, despite the pouring rain we took a walking tour through the city centre towards the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. This church truly is magnificent. The orthodox built for the monarchy, is decorated with domes and lavished with mosaics inside. It’s built on the spot where Alexander II was murdered acting as a memorial, which led to the renaming from the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.

Being able to walk around the church and surrounding area was so great! Again the architecture didn’t fail to disappoint. I was able to taste the culture and city life a lot more to. Streets were busy, roads clogged, and everything was extremely high-pace. If I’m honest, I didn’t really like the atmosphere. The Russians working in the museums were rather strict and unfriendly, and everywhere you go you are bombarded with other non-visa tourist groups and are constantly on the look out for pick pockets.

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St. Petersburg was an unforgettable experience to say the least! I left educated about the previous monarchy, the uprising, and general modern russian lifestyle. Whilst I didn’t particularly enjoy the atmosphere and am unlikely to visit again, I am thankful to have been able to glimpse the world from a soviet perspective. Russia should certainly be on everybody’s bucket list!

Thank you for coming along with me this week! I wonder: where will next week’s edition take us?

Eleanor ♥

 

Baltic 6 | Poland

We are back again with our Baltic 6 tour. Last week we were in Norway and today we are headed to Gdansk in Poland. The centre of it’s main town was destroyed during the war but reconstructed after WW2, Gdansk is a scenic, historic old harbour town.

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_MG_2163Upon arriving we headed straight to the old town formerly known as Long Market and wandered through the streets. The houses are so colourful and it feels like you’re walking through a fairy tale. The streets are cobbled and historic houses are homes to cafes, boutiques and bars. The place is also home to Neptune’s fountain, made from bronze.

As you can see from the photographs, it’s the perfect place to spend your morning!

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_MG_2129We then headed to the Cathedral and climbed up the tower to view the city from above. Climbing the tower was an experience in itself – I have never climbed such a steep and narrow spiral staircase before in my life! I was really glad to reach the top! The view was incredible to. Even from so far up the colourful facades of buildings could still be seen. It was interesting to see the areas where construction is still continuing. I think it’s brilliant that the Polish are carefully and meticulously rebuilding the city to look how it used to instead of replacing their heritage with modern architecture.

 

After exploring we decided to stop in a little Polish cafe for a coffee. Polish coffee blew my expectations away! I ordered an espresso blended with agave and coconut milk and it was honestly one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. Since everything in Poland is ridiculously cheap, it didn’t cost a lot at all either!

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IMG_20170719_102529_890IMG_20170719_102529_891Whilst the majority of the city is being reconstructed in it’s old style, on the outskirts you can still find some very modern architecture being built. I can only imagine what it will look like as a city in the next ten years.

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_MG_2147 - CopyI absolutely loved Gdansk and it was such a relaxing day trip! The architecture is beautiful, everything is incredibly cheap and the place has a wonderful atmosphere. I had never thought of Poland as a travel destination before but my perspective has definitely changed. Who knows, one day I might go back for a little bit more!

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If you want a holiday on a budget, Gdansk is definitely the Baltic region for you!

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Baltic 6. Come back this time next week for a trip to Russia!

Eleanor ♥

Baltic 6 | Norway

I’m back after a two week break and excited to be sharing a whole lot of creative posts with you! Over the past fortnight I have travelled across the Baltic sea, stopping off at a number of Scandinavian Countrries. Not only was this an eye-opener to the Scandinavian way of life but I was enriched with culture, architecture and spectacular views. I am extremely thankful to my parents for allowing me to come along on the cruise and celebate their 25th wedding anniversary with them…

Without further ado, I introduce you to the Baltic 6 – a series of photography posts from each of the 6 destinations: Norway; Poland; Russia; Finland; Sweden and Denmark. Every Wednesday we will tour another place! Today we are hitting Norway – sit back, relax and enjoy the views!

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Our Norwegian destination was Oslo – the country’s capital. Upon first setting foot here we took the tram out of the city, up to the Vigelandsparken sculpture park in a more residential area of Oslo. The journey was very scenic winding in and out of architectural buildings, up hills and past some very pretty, typical Norwegian homes. The park itself is the world’s biggest sculpture park made by one artist. It was great to walk around, enjoy the fountain view and explore the sculptures, that all seemed to depict humans wrestling with each other.
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We then headed back to the city centre and took a walk through the main square towards the palace and back again. I noticed that in Oslo the streets are very clean – there is little pollution (only electric cars are permitted) and no litter. It was beautiful.

_MG_1945_MG_1947Following this we visited the city hall – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the beautiful interiors! The walls were lavished in marble, mosaics and paintings which brought the place to life. The first floor gave way to a vast open space where people could sit, walk, think, and simply be. It was exactly what a city hall should be. Upstairs there were more decadent, smaller rooms that looked out onto the harbour and even openings in the inner walls for peeking down onto the space below. It’s free to go in and I definitely recommend it if you’re ever in Oslo!

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_MG_2031_MG_2031_MG_2012Finally, we payed a visit to the Opera House designed by the Architect Snohetta. It opened in 2008 so is a reltively new piece of architecture and its modernity stands out. I think you’ll agree, the sharp angles combined with water reflections in the glass work make it look like some kind of scandinavian ski slope. Except it’s an opera house! I didn’t get chance to go in but I’m sure the acoustics are amazing.

In fact the roof of the building was designed so that people could walk up it and view the city from the top. It was quite a surreal experience to do this since I’m really interested in architecture that interacts with citizens.
_MG_1994I had the most amazing time in Norway and look forward to going back one day. However I have to say that due to citizens there being generally higher-paid, everything is very expensive! Thankfully we got away with just buying tram tickets and some snacks in a supermarket (which was extortionate at £25 for some crisps and biscuits) and I’d hate to know how much it would cost to stay overnight! Despite this, it’s a beautiful place and a must visit! _MG_2023Thank you for coming along with me! Is Norway somewhere you’d like to visit?

Eleanor ♥

P.S come back next Wednesday for our trip to Poland!

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