For the last few years, or actually since my blog exists, I am trying to keep up with the tradition of writing a summary of my previous year in terms of my work and travels. Looking back at my previous posts from previous years (2012, 2013, 2014) is a great opportunity for me to see my growth personally and professionally.
2015 has been quite a busy year for me. I’ve been traveling to Europe, the US and Africa. The latest has been an eye opener experience I will not easily forget. And while I was back in Tel Aviv, I was busy shooting stories in the city for various magazines in Europe. Tel Aviv seemed to be a popular destination to write about.
In January I have travelled with my boyfriend to Val Gardena, in the Dolomites of South Tyrol. As a semi pro skier, he wanted to teach me how to ski. Since I have never skied before (not even when I was living in New York) and after three try outs that failed to keep me standing still on the snow, I have preferred to take pictures and document others skiing, then sliding the snow slopes myself.
The end of February took me to Portugal again, this time to the Azores Islands. First I flew to Lisbon’s airport and from there, a direct flight of SATA Airlines took me to São Miguel Island, the biggest island of the nine. São Miguel was a great combination of wild nature and old heritage. The island’s volcanic craters and green mountains were some of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen. I also visited Terceira Island for one day. It is a much smaller island than São Miguel, but also rich in terms of natural sights.
I tend to be a more ‘city-dweller’ traveller but the Azores experience has taught me to enjoy the low-key and slow paced kind of travel.
Right after The Azores, I took a flight back to the mainland of Portugal and straight from Lisbon’s airport, I hopped on a train, taking me to The Algarve. The Algarve is Portugal’s southernmost region, and is known for its sunny Mediterranean climate and its curvy beaches. I visited during the first week of March so weather was not that warm and I couldn’t really relax at the beach, but nonetheless, I could enjoy watching the brave surfers who attend the cliffy beaches of Sagres.
The month of April was one of the busiest months for me this year. And one of the most travelled.
I was lucky to have a great opportunity to join Safari Company for 10 days in Tanzania and Zanzibar to document some of the greatest and luxury resorts at the foot of the Kilimanjaro and around. It was not a typical Safari trip for me. In fact, I visited the Ngorongoro Conservation area only once and managed to spot lots of zebras and few elephants.
I have visited South Africa twice when I was a little girl, but back then, I was too small to carry a camera and too young to remember. But this visit to East Africa was an eye opener for me. The endless sights and photo-ops while we were driving from one place to another, left me awaken and alert most of the time. My mind was consuming so much colors and sights that six days in Tanzania seemed much longer.
One of the most memorable experience was to spend a night in Arusha National Park, in a luxury tent and wake up at 6am by a glorious sunrise overlooking the Kilimanjaro.
Right after Tanzania, we flew to Zanzibar for four days of relaxation and change of scenery. Seeing more shades of blue and turquoise than shades of greenery. We stayed in some of the greatest luxury hotels, including The Baraza Resort, which was quite magical, designed in an Aladdin’s style.
Zanzibar is beyond wild and beautiful. I wish I had more time to explore this reef. There were so many times I wanted to jump off the car and photograph all the sites I saw. The vivid colors of clothes and fabrics worn by the women there could be well captured by my lenses (if only I could follow them) but the locals were already sort of ‘trained’ and tend to hide or run away from the camera or even ask for money to be photographed.
I made a note for myself to come back there one day, but more for vacation, and less for work. Who knows… maybe in 2016.
Ten days after I came back from Zanzibar, I found myself on the plane again. This time to Sicily, with Meirav, a good friend of mine, who is the perfect partner for girls trips. We tend to have a yearly tradition and fly the two of us to a new destination we both wanted to visit.
Sicily was a destination we both wanted to explore and see. We didn’t even have to convince each other. We toured the island for seven days mostly in the East- North part of it. From Syracuse to beautiful Taormina, driving to Erice, staying at the beach side of Cefalu and the high light of the trip, Scopello, a tiny village on the coast between the fishing and resort town of Castellammare del Golfo and the Zingaro nature reserve.
If you plan to visit Sicily this coming year, I highly recommend to book a room at Tonnara di Scopello, an old tuna fishery village converted into a small hotel.
Beyond the beautiful sights of Sicily, the old Sicilian villages on the mountains and beyond, the rough and funny Sicilian characters, the food was great. Especially the desserts. Where else can you get a gelato in a brioche? or Cassata Siciliana? Not to mention the well known Cannoli.
Indeed, I saw only a small part of Sicily, and I wish I had more time there. Next time there I plan to explore the south part of Sicily or maybe one of its Aeolian islands. Even though I was there in April, which is an off season, I wish I could travel in a warmer month (despite the mass of tourists) and could have a dip in the ocean.
June was quite a big month for me. I turned 40!
I am not a big celebration person, and prefer to keep my birthdays very low key or hush hush, even if it is a round and significant number. Therefore, I have decided to celebrate it in New York (my second home) only with my boyfriend. It was his first time in New York and for me it was like coming back home.
We were in New York for a month. Even though I have been living there for 12 years, it is never enough for me. It was a great month catching up with my friends and colleagues and showing my boyfriend my favorite locations. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my big 40th.
On the day of my birthday I have decided to visit the new Freedom Tower observatory which was recently opened. It was a great opportunity to see the city from the 100th floor, a view I have never seen before. (in fact, not since September 11th events). This month flew by too quickly for me. A New York minute is always too fast and I can’t wait to visit it again.
During the first week of July I flew to Portugal again (second time this year) to participate and document the Festa dos Tabuleiros in Tomar, Central Portugal. Together with other photographers and journalists from Europe, we were invited by the tourist office of Central Portugal and got a special glimpse of the festivities and preparations. The Feast of the Trays or Festa dos Tabuleiros is taking place every four years in Tomar and the citizens of the city are getting ready for the big celebrations a few months in advance. They spend hundreds of hours making endless number of paper flowers to decorate their streets. While visiting Central Portugal, I have stayed in some great hotels, Eco Friendly hotels which became very popular recently. You can read more about them here.
I had only two days (or actually a weekend) in between leaving Portugal and flying to Spain, to photograph two stories for Wine Spectator Magazine, one in Priorat and the second in Costa Dorada, both in the Catalan region. Apparently, it was one of the hottest weeks of July and it was quite unbearable to be outdoors during noon time. Lucky Spaniards, they have their special Siesta, but it didn’t really affect me. I continued hopping from one vineyard to another, meeting interesting wine producers, vineries owners and sommeliers.
It was my first time shooting a wine story for a big and important magazine such as Wine Spectator. And I must admit, I have learned a lot about the importance of wine and the culture around it. This time I had a glimpse to a small region in Spain though and I hope to keep shooting more wine stories in the next years to come.
In the first week of October I traveled to the French Riviera with my mother. It was one of her dream destinations to travel. Monaco in particular, as she was curious to get a glimpse to the life of Princess Grace Kelly and her daughters. We stayed in Nice for five days and from there we drove the scenic roads along the coast. One day we drove west to the direction of Antibes and walked around the old city. The other days we drove east toward the Italian border and we stopped in various regions such as the colorful Villefranche Sur Mer with its great bay and fishing boats, Monaco and Monte Carlo with its high rise buildings, massive glitter yachts, the palace and the casino. My favorite towns were Cap Martin and Cap Ferrat, where we visited Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. On the last day we drove all the way to Menton, which is right next to the Italian border and known for its Lemon Festival.
Weather was great, even though it was already October, the beginning of off season. Indeed, we didn’t dip in the ocean, but at the same time, we didn’t get stuck in massive traffic jams along the coast, which is very typical for the Summer.
Traveling off season has lots of benefits. It is definitely a trend I would continue in 2016.
My last trip in 2015 was in the last week of October, when I traveled to Tuscany with my boyfriend. This trip actually made it my third visit to Italy this year. Not that I have planned it in advance, but that’s the beauty of traveling. I have never been to Tuscany. Few years ago I have traveled to Florence on my own for six days, but I have never stayed in the countryside of Tuscany.
We stayed in a nice resort in Fontebussi, and from there we drove around everyday to a different city; We spent one day in Siena, visiting its grand Duomo, drove to Florence to meet my photographer friend Peter, had a delicious long lunch in Arezzo and visited the tall towers of the medieval hill town San Gimignano.
I highly recommend to visit Tuscany in the Fall. The changing colors of the tress and the beautiful orange foliage add to a special atmosphere in this region. It matches perfectly with the yellow-orange-pink colors of the Tuscan buildings.
This time of the year I tend to read the various lists of the Travel magazines and their recommendations where to visit in the year ahead. I make notes to myself, I read more about the places I am curious about and sometimes I even start to make plans in advance.
However, the nature of my business is surprising and not always planned and expected.
I can only wish myself that 2016 will be as exciting, well travelled, inspiring and photogenic, like 2015 has been.
Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year
“In Priorat, the roads twist and turn through the hills and leave the sun behind. You can see it and feel it. Priorat is a world apart”
This is how Sara Perez, the woman behind Mas Martinet, describes this rich wine region in Spain, where she and her father, Jose Luis Perez, play an important role as part of the pioneers of Priorat.
In July, I was assigned by Wine Spectator Magazine to shoot the lead story of October issue about Priorat; one of the greatest wine regions in Catalan, Spain. I got a very detailed shooting list with names and addresses of the people I was about to meet and shoot. These were the pioneers of Priorat; the leading figures of the wine industry in that region. It was an intense assignment. Shooting from 7 in the morning (to capture the sunrise over the vineyard) till sometimes 9 in the evening, when the light was orange and soft. But nevertheless, it was a fun assignment, in which I have learned so much about wine and met incredible friendly people, who are proud of what they do, and obviously, proud of their wine.
“Priorat is a small wine district in Spain’s Catalonia region. It hides behind the Montsant, a steep wall of cliffs that rise above the Mediterranean coast a hundred miles south of Barcelona. Tucked into a series of inland valleys, the vineyards climb steep hills that wind around small rivers. Villages nestle into the slopes, with stone houses lining narrow streets.
In the 1970s, a group of outsiders-idealistic, impractical, indefatigable arrived with a vision of a new Priorat. Rene Barbier, a wine merchant from Tarragona and Carles Pastrana, a Spanish journalist, were the catalysts. Having enticed a few friends and investors to join them, they began to plant new vineyards. The work took time and their first wine was made in 1989. It was a group effort, produced communally in Grattalops and bottled under several different labels”
Barbier (standing, right) became a key figure, producing benchmark wines at his Clos Mogador winery and mentoring a vibrant network of vintners who in turn pushed Priorat to improve and evolve. His son, Rene Jr., (sitting, right) works with him at Clos Mogador and also makes wine with wife Sara Perez.
“Sara Perez (standing left) and her father, Jose Luis Perez, are key players in the Priorat Saga. Jose Luis was one of the pioneers in the 1980s alongside Barbier and Pastrana, helping to initiate the original revitalization of the region…she spent her childhood observing her parents’ experiments and in 1996, after studying biology in Barcelona and enology in Tarragona, she returned to Priorat. With time, she became a champion of Granacha and Carineana (types of grapes) which she considers the authentic grapes of Priorat. In 1999 she discovered a new site after following an eagle! to the top of the hill. She named it Els Escurcons and planted mostly Granacha grapes”
I was welcomed warmly to Sara’s house to have lunch with her and her husband Rene Barbier Jr. (It is a great story how they met and fell in love even though they knew each other, at least by name for years). She is not only beautiful with great smile and an endless energy, she is also a mother of four and a great cook. For me, it was a great experience to sit around the table with her family and some of her business acquaintance, opening few bottles of wine during lunch time, and talking about the industry. After lunch I went with Rene Jr. to meet his dad and to photograph them, both in the winery and the vineyards, and around late afternoon Sara picked me up with her truck and drove me to the top hill of Els Escurcons. The view (which is the opener image) could take your breath away.
Carles Pastrana (sitting, right) and his wife, Mariona Jarque, came to the village of Gratallops in 1979 and began working with Barbier…with time Carles opened his flagship Clos de l’Obac, which blends equal parts of Granacha and Cabernet with dashes of Syrah, Merlot and Carinena. His winery, Clos de l’Obac is just next door to Barbier’s winery, Clos Mogador.
It was great to follow Carles for the shoot and hear his stories about the history and the changes of Priorat throughout the years. His vital energy and his ‘young at heart’ attitude (wearing red sneakers) was a cool breeze in one of the hottest days of July, in that area of Catalan.
The next morning I was about to shoot Torres, one of Spain’s most important and innovative wine companies, which is located near the village of El Lloar. The instructions were to shoot the modern winery quite early in the morning, when there is a great light casting the Montsant mountains. By 7 am I was already at the winery to meet Christoph Kammüller, who is in charge of the winery’s press and communication matters. Together, we were looking for great angles to shoot the facade of the modern winery and I got to see around the 185 acres of vineyards. It was too early to try a glass of wine from Torres and I continued to the next destination.
My last day of shooting, before heading back to Barcelona, was dedicated to photograph Alvaro Palacios (standing right), one of the region’s largest private wine producer.
“Palacios was born into a wine family in Rioja and trained in the chateaus of Bordeaux. He was not one of the original Priorat founders, but he knew about them from the early days. In 1990, when one of the original investors wanted out, Palacios purchased Finca Dofi and began his career in Priorat. He was 28…He soon purchased L’Ermita site and bottled it as a single-vineyard wine, which soon became the most prized and most expensive wine from Spain. In 1997 he built his modern winery overlooking Gratallops (above left) and it serves as a meeting point, winery, office space and Alvaro’s private home at the second floor.
When I entered the winery, Alvaro was already ready for the shoot. I also photographed him for the cover (see above) and it seemed Alvaro was well experienced with photo shoots.
This July I was assigned by Wine Spectator Magazine to shoot two stories for their October issue. One story is about Costa Dorada and the second is about Priorat Wine region in Catalan, Spain.
Costa Dorada or ‘The Golden Coast’ is only a 40 minutes drive from Barcelona and it is a perfect destination for a Summer Family vacation. It is a rich territory with a long coastline along the Mediterranean dotted by 20 colorful villages and towns, spread out between the sea and the mountains. But not only the sunny beaches and the golden sand. Vineyards, olive groves, hazel and almonds trees can also be found.
Scroll down to read more about some of the areas’ highlights and the best locations I’ve shot. (original text from article)
Where to Eat:
Costa Dorada Restaurant
You will remember this place for the lazy afternoon experience: eating seafood a few steps from Sitges’ San Sebastian beach while nursing a bottle of cool Cava. A near 50-year old institution run by second generation owner Montse Bigaire and her chef husband, Joan Vidal. The specialty is paella that comes in several different versions including classic seafood paella and black rice style colored with cuttlefish ink.
It is a great place to watch the beach scene and listen to the Catalan chatter mixed with the splashing of the waves.
Costa Dorada, 27 Carrer de Port Alegre, Sitges.
A stylish loft-like setting next to Tarragona’s gothic cathedral, AQ seats up to 60 diners spread through three rooms with dark wood floors, black and ochre color walls and soft spotlight. Run by chef Ana Ruiz and her husband, Quintin Quinsac (therefore the AQ name). Quintin leads the wine program (check the wine cellar with 150 Catalan wines) while Ana and her team cook one fixed seasonal tasting menu that changes regularly, and is sometimes built around a single ingredient.
AQ, 7 Carrer Les Coques, Tarragona.
El Celler de l’Aspic
If only the rest of the world worked this way; a restaurant where you pay less for wine than at a local wine shop. Owner, sommelier, chef and Priorat native Toni Bru offers wine from a list of labels at producer prices. Naturally, this modern casual, loft-like space at the edge of Priorat is a must for every Priorat-wine-lover. Bru, who spent years cooking along the Ebro delta and returned to Priorat in 2003, expertly celebrates the Catalan larder. Great food and Toni Bru is such an great character.
Check the restaurant hours as it is not opened everyday.
El Celler de l’Aspic, 31 Miguel Barcelo, Falset
On a back street behind Cambril’s bustling restaurant-packed fishing port, father and son team of Joan and Arnau Bosch cook up a perfect storm of local fresh seafood at this family institution first awarded its Michelin star 31! years ago. A light, elegant modern restaurant divided into small intimate dining areas, Can Bosch is packed on weekends by well-heeled local families who come for the inventive tasting menus topped by a (market price) Lobster menu. Wine lovers come for the impressive 1500 label wine list of sommelier Manel Subira whose knowledge and experience are way beyond you can imagine. It is an amazing food and wine experience and the staff is lovely.
Check the restaurant hours as it is not opened everyday.
Can Bosch, 19 Rambla Jaume I, Cambrils Port
Where to Stay:
Mas la Boella
A verdant bird-filled oasis on the planes outside the urban spawl of Tarragona, Mas la Boella and its colorful elaborate shaded gardens with fountains and a swimming pool, nestle on an ancient (12th century) farm with seas of olive trees for the production of oil. La Boella also have vineyards that produce small quantities of Tarragona red wine. Opened as a hotel six years ago, La Boella offers one of the most luxurious experiences of Costa Dorada. Six suites are housed in a pair of old farm buildings and seven suites are housed in the modern pagoda, featuring garden balconies.
Reserve a free tour of the modern oil mill with a tasting of La Boella’s varietal oils and dine in the elegant gastronomic restaurant in the old mill, featuring a list of 180 wines.
Mas la Boella, Autovia T-11 exit 12, Tarragona
Those of you who follow my blog and my recent travels, know that I have a soft spot for Portugal in general, and Lisbon in particular. For the last three years I’ve been visiting Lisbon six times already and shot hotels, restaurants and street scenes for various magazines. You can see some of my Lisbon’s posts here.
From an outsider point of view, and as a photographer, it is great to see how the city has changed through these year.
The city is buzzing with tourists, the cafe’s are packed with people, new wine boutiques, boutique hotels, trendy restaurants, chefs’ restaurants, colorful tik-tok taxies, yellow trams riding back and forth the historic route of Lisbon. Even the sardines smell better. I call it The Revival of the City.
When Virtuoso magazine has asked me to shoot ‘Lisbon Tasty Renaissance’ a food story about Lisbon, I said Yes right away. Especially since the Portuguese kitchen is one of my favorite.
I was lucky to shoot some of the top chefs in Lisbon, such as Jose Avillez and Joao Rodrigues, who both won a Michelin star. I also shot the new Mercado da Riberia and some other great restaurants and bars. It was a great way to discover Lisbon through the food.
You can download the full article here, or scroll down for some highlights and addresses from the article, for your next travel in Lisbon.
Mercado da Ribeira
Start your exploration of the Mercado da Ribeira by nibbling on petiscos, the Portuguese equivalent of Spanish tapas, a tradition of small bites that is rising in popularity in Lisbon. These might be a vinegary octopus salad, fried green beans, or local cheeses. Sip wild cherry liqueur and eat a prego, or steak sandwich, served on soft, circular bolo do caco bread. Sample bites of cured ham and sausage, sourdough acorn bread, and creamy cinnamon gelato from Santini, and make sure to buy a small bottle of local piri piri chili oil. With around 30 stalls, you can easily wander and try whatever looks good. One of the best souvenirs is inexpensive but high-quality tinned fish at the Conserveira de Lisboa outpost. For kitchenware and other Portuguese-made finds, browse the shelves of local favorite A Vida Portuguesa. Rua Anchieta 11.
Cantinho do Avillez
José Avillez is the most visible chef in Lisbon’s evolving dining scene. At Cantinho do Avillez (Rua dos Duques de Bragança 7, Mártires; 351-21/199-2369), a buzzy, appealing spot in the Chiado neighborhood, diners linger over lazy lunches of green curried meatballs and chilled Portuguese white wine. Mini Bar (Rua António Maria Cardoso 58; 351-21/130-5393), inside a local theater, serves reasonably priced, elaborate mini portions, such as tuna tartare cones and a ceviche of Algarve prawns. Belcanto (Largo de São Carlos 10; 351-21/342-0607) makes for a grand night out. “Belcanto is one of my favorite restaurants in Lisbon,” says New York City-based Virtuoso advisor Martina Reznick. “The avant-garde food is delicious, fresh, and beautifully presented. The service, wine list, and ambience are excellent as well.”
If you’re feeling daring, call one-Michelin-starred Feitoria Restaurante & Wine Bar 48 hours in advance to book the “creative menu,” which leaves you in the hands of chef João Rodrigues’ whimsy, tailored to your preferences, such as a secret spin on Algarve shrimp or Angus sirloin. Located in riverfront Belém, Feitoria evokes Portuguese gastronomic history and traditions with its tasting menus. Doca do Bom Sucesso; 351-21/040-0207.
The latest restaurant to join the inter-national cuisine trend is A Cevicheria, a Peruvian spot by chef Kiko Martins specializing in ceviches. End the meal on a sweet note with the dulce de leche piña colada dessert. They don’t take reservations, so show up around 7 pm, before the dinner rush. Rua Dom Pedro V 129; 351-21/803-8815.
In an intimate sliver of a space in the bohemian Bairro Alto district, 100 Maneiras welcomes guests with a warm interior and an adventurous tasting menu (there is no à la carte menu). Well-known chef Ljubomir Stanisic shows off his quirky personality in dishes such as poached eggs with truffles and corn-bread “sand,” and dehydrated codfish with coriander oil. Rua do Teixeira 35; 351-91/030-7575.
By The Wine
Opened by one of Portugal’s oldest and most highly respected wine producers, lively By the Wine José Maria da Fonseca bar in Chiado serves even the most expensive vinhos by the glass in a space that resembles a futuristic subway tunnel. Small snacks include local cheeses, mussels, and a fantastic sirloin prego on bread from the Algarve region. Rua das Flores 41-43; 351-21/342-0319.
You could linger for hours at bright and airy Choupana Caffé, a local favorite and a welcome change from the red velvet and dark wood of the city center’s old European coffeehouses. Create your own treat at the organic yogurt bar for breakfast, or try Choupana’s crisp salads, homemade soups, and hot sandwiches for lunch. Avenida da República 25A; 351-21/357-0140.
In my recent visit to Portugal (beginning of July) I had the opportunity to stay and experience three different Eco-Friendly, Nature-Connected kinds of hotels.
In fact, it wasn’t the first time I stayed in an eco-friendly hotel in Portugal. My first time was last year, when I spent one night at the Eco Suite in Casas do Coro. I remember this experience very well, and since then, I was seeking for more opportunities to stay in places like this.
Eco hotels and Nature connected ones are on the rise these days in Portugal. The tourists who are traveling outside of the big cities such as Lisbon or Porto, might be looking for something different or more unique.
There are the well known Pousadas hotels in Portugal, which are mostly castles and palaces that have been transformed into hotels, and there are also these new eco-friendly, nature hotels, which offer a different type of experience.
The Luz Houses in Fatima
Luz houses is a 15-room village in the city of Fatima. The terra rossa colored houses are located in a garden surrounded with trees, which allows privacy and an immediate connection to nature. There is the ‘mother-house’, which includes the reception desk, the dining area and the comfortable living room with a fireplace. The color scheme is perfect, in my opinion. A combination of redish brown walls outside with light turquoise and white as for the furniture.
The rooms are light and pastel colored, with wood’s natural colored elements and simple concrete floor. They are very opened spaced and airy and the bathing area is an integrated part of the room itself, with no dividing doors. Each room has a small kitchen and a dining area, especially for guests traveling with kids.
The couple behind Luz Houses is Pedro and Ana, who live with their two little girls just next door. They didn’t hesitate to accept a challenge and convert the simple and ancestral houses, into a small designed paradise to those who are seeking to get away from the stress. Ana, who is an architect, is the one who is responsible for the design, the colors, the furniture and the little details that make this place so magical.
For reservations: Luz Houses, Rua Principal nº 78, Moimento, 2495-650 Fátima, Portugal
Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel
I didn’t get the chance to stay in Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel, but I had a delicious lunch under the trees. When I first entered the hotel, I was welcomed by a familiar wall collage made by my talented friend, Margarida Girao. I love seeing her Art in beautiful locations.
The hotel has 12 different rooms, each room is designed differently, expressing a certain emotion. The highlight of this hotel, beside its gorgeous outdoor pool surrounded by nature and trees, is the cooking experience it offers. Dinner can be in the format of a cooking lesson. How fun can it be to cook dinner with your friends or family in a well equipped and designed kitchen and not to worry about the dishes? Grab an apron and join the chef to cook dinner using the best ingredients this region has to offer.
Watch the movie of the hotel here.
For reservations: Cooking and Nature Emotional Hotel, Rua Asseguia das Lages nº 181, 2480-032 Alvados – Portugal
Areias do Seixo Hotel
In my last day in Central Portugal I got to stay in quite a magical hotel, called Areias do Seixo. Located in Santa Cruz, an hour drive from Lisbon, the hotel is just about off the sea, separated by some sand dunes and pine trees. I could easily step out of my room and walk toward the private beach of the hotel. Even though weather was a bit grayish, I took off my sandals and walked barefoot on the sand dunes. It felt so good. In a way, it It reminded me of my childhood.
The hotel is definitely connected with Nature. Using materials such as regional stone, pebble, glass and wood, with natural polished concrete floor and olive trees growing almost everywhere, including in my bathroom. I like the simplicity of these bare elements, and yet, every detail of the design was carefully and perfectly chosen.
This hotel is an ecological place using the principles of sustainable tourism: energy efficiency, renewable energies and the use of natural resources.
The hotel has a great restaurant, which is opened to everyone (reservations are highly recommended). The philosophy behind it is to make the most of what our Earth has to offer; whether getting fresh herbs and vegetables from the hotel’s organic garden, or fresh seafood from the sea. While I was having lunch, I could spot the chef stepping out from the kitchen and hand picking some herbs and spices for my salad. When the chef heard I was vegetarian, he made sure to spoil me with some delicious home made bread and aubergine spread. The menu is changed regularly in order to adapt to only the freshest products.
Check out the restaurant website for more info.
The hotel has only 14 rooms in the main building and eight villas for family rentals in a building next door.
Each room of the hotel is designed differently, but they are all overlooking the garden and the sea. (I think only the penthouse suite has a sea view). I stayed in Oliveira Princesa room (the Olive Tree Princess) named (clearly) after the olive tree I had in my bathroom. Needles to say how many pictures I took of this bathroom heaven.
The hotel has few room types; The Gold Rooms (5 rooms) which focus on the secret world of color, texture and sensation. The Tree Rooms (4 rooms) which has some African inspirations. The Love Rooms (4 rooms) with some North African Moroccan inspirations, and The Land Room (1 room) also called Jasmine. It is the only room that doesn’t have a sea view but instead, has a small private garden with olive trees.
The hotel also offers various SPA treatments with two massage rooms, sauna, Turkish bath and relaxation room, outdoor swimming pool, cinema room (where you can choose a movie from a selection of DVD’s) and a beautiful Greenhouse, which is mostly for events and celebrations.
For reservations: Areias do Seixo, Praceta do Atlântico, Póvoa de Penafirme, 2560-046 A dos Cunhados, Portugal
Another new Eco-Friendly hotel is Vale do Rio, located in the North region of Portugal. The hotel produces its own energy using a mini-hydric system that was on site since the end of the 1800’s. I haven’t been in this hotel, hence there are no images, but I promise to update once I stay there.
If you happen to be in Portugal during the month of July, I highly recommend not to miss the beautiful city of Tomar and the Feast of the Trays celebrations.
However, there is a catch. The Feast of the Trays, or Festa dos Tabuleiros, is taking place only every four years, and the next time will be in 2019.
I was lucky to experience this beautiful festival this year and learn more about the city’s traditions.
The Tray Festival or the Divine Holy Spirit Festival is one of the most ancient cultural and religious events in Portugal. If you want, you can compare it to Thanksgiving, as both holidays’ origin is in the Harvest. It is a very colourful festival, thanks to the beautiful paper-flowers decorations in the streets of Tomar and the flowers tabuleiro (tray) the girls carry on their heads.
The citizens of Tomar are getting ready for the big celebrations a few months in advance. They spend hundreds of hours making endless number of paper flowers to decorate their streets. The residents of each street are coming up with an idea or a theme or colour, and they work together on creating the decorations for the festival. It was great watching them uniting around these decorations; from young kids to the elderly; They were all motivated to have their street the best it can be. (One of my colleagues was joking and said that this is the time there are no arguments between neighbours… )
But beside the paper decorations, the citizens of Tomar are decorating their terraces with their best colourful blankets. I’ve learned it is a Portuguese tradition (not only in Tomar) to put the best blankets outside the windows, when there is a religious festival or a procession. Most of the time, these blankets are hand made and pass from one generation to another, mostly for these religious holidays.
There are several ceremonies of Festa dos Tabuleiros that are still maintained and kept in Tomar and some, that are slightly changed and adjusted to current days. For example, the Butler procession. Originally, the butler procession was a symbol of wealth and abundance, represented by bulls, or ‘The Holy Spirit Cows’. These bulls were paraded in front of the locals and afterwards were slaughtered and their meat was shared among the crowds. Whether rich or poor. This act was a symbol of brotherhood among the locals. However, since 1966 the act of slaughtering these bulls has been stopped and the meat is obtained from the owners of the Butcher shops to the families who need the most.
The parade is followed and accompanied by the local orchestra players. A great honour is given to the Butler of the parade, the City Mayor and the communities members who are dressed black and white, with a red ribbon around their neck.
The most colourful and beautiful part of the parade is the Partial Parade, followed by the Tray Parade. It is when the girls from the different chosen parishes are carrying flower baskets on their heads and march from a location outside of the city centre and pass by the Nobel Court and City hall, where the Butler of the parade, the City Mayor and the Town Council are sitting and observing the parade.
The girls are the ones who carry the heavy flower baskets, decorated not only with flowers but also with bread loaves, which are later on given to the public.
Every girl is accompanied by a guy, who is not allowed to carry the basket but only there for help and support in case the girl is losing her balance or the basket is falling.
The parade passes through Tomar old town, through the City Hall and ends at the park, where the baskets are nicely put and held before the last parade, taking place on the same evening.
If you have the chance to plan your next trip to Portugal, don’t miss Tomar with its beautiful streets and welcoming people.
What if I had less than 72 hours to shoot 20 locations in Antwerpen, the Fashion Capital of Belgium?
It happened last October when I was visiting Flanders and got assigned to shoot a great story for Conde Nast Traveller about the design and creative scene in Antwerpen. It wasn’t about the ‘Antwerp Six’ designers, nor about the Diamond industry the city is well known for. This 10-page article is mostly about trendy hotels, new restaurants, bars, cafe’s, upcoming designers in their boutiques, all perfectly designed.
In fact, it wasn’t my first time visiting Antwerpen. Some of the locations I shot, I knew from a previous visit to Antwerpen. You can read more about it here, so it helped me to navigate faster throughout the streets. This current assignment was hectic and busy.
But beside the tight schedule, the challenge was the weather. Grey sky and rain didn’t really help to portray a story which would run in July… I prayed for some Sun, and when it came out, I shot outdoors as much as I could.
To download the full article, please click here. To get some of the highlights addresses and top locations of this stylish city, please scroll down.
Where to Stay:
* Owners Ilse Cornelissens and husband Tim Van Geloven lived on the upper floors of concept store Graanmarkts 13 until they moved out and opened The Apartment (Summer 2014). The interiors are distinctly Scandi-slick. The bathtub is marvelous and the sunny terrace compensates for rainy days.
* More ‘bed and coffee’ than anything else, Room National‘s three rooms are perfectly placed for shopping on Nationalestraat and checking out fashion exhibitions at MoMu. The room to book is 01, an all-white suite (designer and stylist sisters Vera and Violetta Pepa did the interiors)
* Hotels in Antwerpen can be a bit hit and miss, but contemporary boutique Hotel Julien is the exception, with a busy bar, small spa and fantastic views of the cathedral from the roof terrace.
Where to Eat and Drink:
* Fresh in flavor and though, simple dishes by chef Seppe Nobel incorporate honey from Graanmarkt 13‘s bees and vegetables from the kitchen garden. Gin and Tonics are artfully garnished with basil and violets grown on the roof. Seppe is extremely friendly and helpful in choosing the right dish. Highly recommended to make reservations.
* Eye-catching interiors and exquisite cooking make The Jane to be the hottest table in Antwerpen. Located in a renovated chapel in one of the up and coming areas in Antwerpen,designed by Piet Boon and ran by chef Nick Bril, this restaurant is a mix of design, designed food and amazing music, which set up the atmosphere. Reservations are a must.
* Konditori is a hip bakery which supplies The Apartment with breakfast of Paris-quality croissants, fresh bread and cloud-light custard cream pastries.
* If you are looking for a relaxed neighborhood restaurant in Berchem area, try Veranda. Simple, yet cosy design with some low-key fashion crowd.
* You might need a taxi to get to Het Pomphuis, but this place worth the travel. A formal dining in an unusual setting, housed in an old-dry dock pumping station by the docks. Peer over the banister of the grand stairway to see some of the old iron pumps below.
* Up for a coffee place? Try Normo. A micro-roastery, shop and cafe serving proper drip-filter coffee and cold brews for those who take coffee seriously. (Like me).
* And if you are more of a cocktail person, and even if you are not, you must head to Dogma Cocktails. The young mixologist Didier Van den Broeck is cracking tiki cocktails based on your preference. His knowledge and memory is phenomenal.
* When I entered Korsakov Cafe, I couldn’t stop shooting. Simple, wooden furniture and colorful tile, this is a corner cafe where you might see a local model hanging out there, or even Mario Testino popping for a Vogue’s shoot.
* Dome sur Mer is a relaxed seafood restaurant and sister of Michelin starred restaurant Dome.
Where to Shop:
* Buy into the Graanmarkt 13 lifestyle, with ceramics and glassware from the restaurant and The Apartment. Various local designers in this A-list curated store.
* This place might look like a film set props warehouse, with industrial lights, chesterfields, hanging model planes and mannequins. If you are in favor of vintage style, Loft Styles, is the place to go. Better go there on a Sunday when the whole street comes to life and crowded with locals and tourists.
* At the same street as Loft Styles, Recollection was one of my favorite. It is a smart store for modern lifestyle essentials; From Maison Martin Margiela homeware to art and design books and Aesop products. I felt like I stepped into one of Alice in Wonderland’s holes.
* In contrast to the city’s many traditional diamond sellers, Wouters & Hendrix is a unique jewellery line by two young Academy graduates. Don’t be surprised to find pieces with unusual chicken-feet clasps and jagged edges.
* Helder is an interior design studio which spills into a shop for sleek lamps, handmade jewellery and chic embroidered badges.
* Just across the street there is Magazyn, a black and white, copper, glass and leather design objects for the home.
* One of the most talked about boutiques is Atelier Solar. Located in a less stylish area of the city, this beautiful store is setting the tone for this up and coming area. Great space, with a small garden and a kitchen, when temporary parties and some cooking are taking place. If you are lucky, you can catch the owner/designer Jan Jan Van Essche or the co-owner Pietro. Young and artistic crowd. Great Space.
Have you ever wondered how many shades of green there are?
I stopped counting when I reached the top of Serra do Cume in Terceira island in the Azores. Serra do Cume is a complex of mountains and the view from the top was beyond beautiful; Hundreds of squared green patches of grass, which are mainly used for feeding bulls and cows. This scenic viewpoint is considered one of the island’s most beautiful landscape, and I highly recommend to drive up the mountains and not just drive through them.
I have stayed in Terceira only for 24 hours and drove through a combination of Nature and City life. If you are visiting this beautiful green island, here are few suggestions not to be missed.
My day started with a climb to Mount Brasil and ended with an overview of the city of Angra de Heroismo (see below). The entire city spreads out over the gentle hill that faces the sea, and in the background is the almost circular form of Mount Brasil.
Mount Brasil is a volcanic mountain which has a central crater surrounded by four hills. It forms a peninsula creating the bay of Angra.
If you climb up the mountain (probably by car) you should reach the Pico das Cruzinhas (the peak of the little Crosses) where old items of artillery recall the days of Second World War. This is a place for a few minutes of awe and inspiration, and to enjoy the beautiful view of Angra do Horoismo.
The city of Angra de Heroismo is best explored by foot. Walking through the cobble stone streets, you will discover some bright coloured facades with windows coloured frames. Don’t miss a beautiful view of the port and pay a visit to the city Cathedral.
Walk up Rua Recreio dos Artistas, where colourful houses (coloured doorways and windows) form part of the city’s characteristic structure, and walk through Rua da Se, which has been the main route through the city since the 16th century.
I happened to visit the Se Cathedral of Angra do Heroismo, with its majestic entrance staircase. I was quite surprised to see its modest interiors, quite different than what I’m used to see in Churches. Apparently, there was a massive earthquake in 1980 in Terceira, which caused an extensive damage to the building and one of the bell towers was completely destroyed. Five years later, a great fire destroyed most of the interiors, from the carpentry, the organs and the framed ceiling decorations. Despite these disasters, the Cathedral is still one of the most important to the Azores.
For the last three years I have been traveling to Portugal to photograph its beauty.
I have been to Lisbon a numerous times, captured Porto on a rainy weekend, been to the university of Coimbra, passed through Aveiro, and wined and dined in Alentejo, the so-called Tuscany of Portugal.
The country is fascinating and has all the elements to make it (if not already) as one of the most desired and affordable destinations to travel this year.
It was only a matter of time for me to travel to The Azores Islands, (total of nine islands) which were created out of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. The islands are located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, only one hour flight from Lisbon and five hours flight from Boston. The SATA airline, which has various routes, makes the Azores more accessible and closer than ever.
In previous posts, I mentioned my love for Portugal mostly thanks to its people and their desire to travel. The Portuguese are known for discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Canada, Asia and Brazil, in what became known as The Age of Discovery. Therefore, many of the Azores’ inhabitants are descendants of explorers who settled there several centuries ago.
Throughout the history of Portugal and with the restoration of Portuguese independence (1640) São Miguel, the biggest of the nine islands, was considered a central commercial base where ships crossing the Atlantic, stopped there for fuel. The island was sometimes considered as ‘The gate to Europe’.
In this island, which can be easily called Heaven on Earth or Paradise, I have found timeless natural beauty and timeless heritage sites.
Here are the ones not to miss;
* Lagoa das Sete Cidades:
The Lagoon of the Seven Cities is a twin-lake resort, Lagoa Verde (Green Lake) and Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) are so called for the reflection of colour in the water; each side of the lake reflects the sunlight in different colours and shades and creates this beautiful sight. Even though technically it is considered as one lake (it is only divided by a narrow passage and crossed by a bridge) most refer to it in terms of two separate ones. They are located inside an inactive Volcano with a 12km perimeter.
As weather can be very tricky in the Azores, this lake (like others) can be hidden from sight when it is foggy. I had to return a second time to experience this view in full glory when it was sunny.
In 2010, the Sete Cidades Lagoon was voted as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal and became a sacred place in the Island.
* Lagoa de Santiago:
Here is a confession to make; the view of Lagoa de Santiago from Pico da Cruz, is one of the most remarkable sights I have ever seen. I had to take a short video with my iPhone as a proof to myself that I was actually there.
The ten minute walk from the parking lot all the way to the peak of the mountain and the vista point were easy to walk. Not even the luscious flora along the way prepared me to what I was about to see.
I was very curious to see and understand what my tour guide, Cecilia, referred as Paradise, or as The most beautiful place on Earth. ‘I consider myself very lucky’ Cecilia kept telling me, ‘because I live in Paradise and soon you will see what I mean’.
And indeed, it was a jaw-dropping experience. Lagoa de Santiago is one of the most beautiful natural sites, and words cannot well describe it.
* Lagoa do Fogo:
Lake Fogo or Lagoon of Fire, is located in the center of São Miguel in the crater of an extinct Volcano. This enormous lake with its clear waters, peninsulas and white sand beaches (in some of its parts), is classified as a Nature Reserve. I reached the vista point of Pico do Barrosa on a very windy day, but luckily a clear day with no fog.
This lake is the highest above sea level in São Miguel and one of the largest of the water-bodies in the Azores.
Driving through São Miguel’s many Volcanic craters and green mountains, I couldn’t help but think that this island can be the perfect backdrop for the movie set of Lord of the Rings.
On my second day, while I was visiting one of the churches, a group of men in colourful shawls and scarves, with back-packs on their backs, gathered outside the church in a circle and chanted some prayers. For a second, I thought someone was filming a movie and these men were actors, but apparently these Romeiros (Pilgrims) were following a tradition of walking for eight days across the island, from early morning till night. This tradition is taking place in the period of Lent, before Easter. These Romeiros carry backpacks, filled with food they get from families who host them and offer them a place to sleep during the night. (It is considered an honour for these families).
It was then when I realized that São Miguel is also renowned in terms of religious belief.
On my last day in São Miguel I stayed in Ponte Delgada, the biggest city in the island, where most of the religious monuments are located. The original plan was to have some free time to walk around and experience the city, but a meeting with Eduardo Elias from Turismo office of the Azores, turned this day to one of the highlights of my trip. Eduardo, who heard that I am originally from Israel, prepared a special tour following some important religious sites.
* The Holy Christ of Miracles:
We started with the Holy Christ of Miracles, which is located in the Convent of Our Lady of Hope, (in the church of Nossa Senhora da Esperanca). We were directed to one of the rooms in the lower level. At first, I was admiring the colourful flower ornaments around the room, but only then did I notice the image of the Lord Holy Christ of Miracles opposite the main altar and at the end of a blue Azulej tiles corridor. The glorious image of the Lord of Miracles is an impressive bust of natural size, representing Jesus as ‘Acce Homo’.
The image of the Holy Christ of Miracles is from the beginning of the 16th century and was given by the Pope Paulo the third to two ladies from São Miguel, when they went to Rome to ask permission to build the first convent of nuns in the island. It was first located in a convent in Vale de Cabacos near the sea, but since the convent was exposed to Pirates attacks, it was agreed to move the image of the Holy Christ of Miracles to the Monastery of Esperanca, where it is today.
Since 1700 there are celebrations in honour of the Holy Christ of Miracles which last for one week in May. During the second day of celebration, which is a Sunday, the people of São Miguel are showing their faith and devotion for the Holy Christ by walking the streets of the city, carrying the image of the Holy Christ of Miracles. This week is one, if not the most important week in Ponta Delgada. It is followed by celebrations, feasts and cultural events, and thousands of Azoreans fly from Portugal, Brazil, US, etc to participate in these celebrations.
and last, but not least was visiting the Synagogue Shaar Hashamaim in Ponte Delgada. I must admit that this visit was one of the peaks of my trip and brought some tears (of happiness) to my eyes.
* Synagogue Shaar Hashamaim:
We met with Dr. Jose de Almeida Mello, an Historian (who carries numerous honour titles) at the entrance of an old building in Rua do Brum. The domestic architecture of the building, the lack of any Jewish symbol didn’t prepare me to what’s inside. If I was by myself, passing this building on a regular day, I would never have thought that behind its doors there is the synagogue and the Hebrew temple of Ponte Delgada.
Dr. Jose Mello, who I fully admire, was appointed by the Israeli Community in Lisbon in 2003 as a co-ordinator of a committee which was responsible for the restoration and conservation of the synagogue. For the course of 12 years, he has investigated the history of the synagogue and took upon himself its restoration in order to turn it into a valuable and cultural patrimony of the city of Ponte Delgada.
The synagogue itself is hidden behind a wooden door. When the door is closed, nothing really hints that behind it, there will be the praying room, coloured light blue, with good natural light coming through two windows. In the north part of the room, there is the holy Torah with the prayer books inside.
Shaar Hashamaim is about to be opened soon to the public as a museum and a space for culture and tourism.
I encourage everyone who visits São Miguel to pay a visit to this museum, as a reminder of history, heritage and one person (Dr. Jose Mello) devotion.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
As a Travel photographer, not once do I get to shoot hotels for Travel Magazines.
I have contributed to Travel+Leisure World’s Best Hotels books in the years of 2013, 2014. I have shot Nhow Berlin and Semiramis both by Karim Rashid. I have photographed Palacio Belmonte in Lisbon for Marie Claire UK and I had a glimpse of the elegant d’Angletter in Copenhagen.
But shooting The Norman, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Tel Aviv, is completely something else!
Stretched over a period of almost six months, shooting all types of rooms and suites, waiting for every little detail to be perfectly placed and working with an incredible creative team of people, made it to a beautiful result.
The hotel is well situated in King Albert Square, just across the street from the Pagoda House and off Rothschild Boulevard. It is a great addition to the ‘White City’, Tel Aviv’s UNESCO heritage site, as it is comprised of two historic and iconic buildings. Both buildings were impressively restored to the glory of the 1920s but well equipped with all technologies and comfort of a top class 21st century hotel. In between the two buildings there is a fragrant citrus garden, which is a great reminder to the original orchard in old Tel Aviv.
The main building (colored light blue) comprises of 30 classic and duplex rooms while the second building (I call it the beige one) has 20 suites, each designed differently, including two penthouse suites with separate entrances.
It was a great challenge (as a photographer) to shoot the different types of rooms, taking into consideration to keep the same vibe and character of this gorgeous hotel. But at the same time, the process was very rewarding. I had to be aware of all the little details: how the window light is falling on the sheets, how the color of the flowers is matching the rug (or the curtains) and how the pillows should always be wrinkle-free. And always keeping in mind what angle of the frame will speak to the feel of ‘Timeless Elegance’ and ‘Redefining Luxury’ .
My most favorite area to shoot was the Library Bar, thanks to the almost-endless-natural light coming through its wide windows. I must confess that each time I carried my camera with me, I snapped a picture of that corner of the bar, exploring the light falling on the golden patterned floor, highlighting the green covers of the bar chairs. The Library Bar is an elegant 1940s colonial style bar with an impressive collection of Whiskey and cocktails.
Another space with some gorgeous light is The Norman Restaurant, also on the first floor.
It is a brasserie style restaurant, serving French Mediterranean cuisine throughout the day. The challenge in shooting this space was in the flickering mirrors in between the two seating areas. I had to find the right angle that didn’t show my reflection or didn’t send back light to my flash. Changing the angles of the mirrors and standing on a ladder was a great solution.
If you happen to book a breakfast reservation, go for the Eggs Benedict choice. The chef managed to come up with the perfect Hollandaise sauce.
And then there is Dinings.
Originally from London, the Japanese tapas restaurant opened a branch in Tel Aviv on the third floor of The Norman. As part of the design, Dinings has a live sushi counter and partially open kitchen. My favorite part of the restaurant is the terrace and the outdoor dining area, overlooking the high rise buildings of Rothschild Boulevard.
On set I had the honor of photographing Mister Chef, aka Masaki Sugisaki, the executive chef of Dinings in London, who came to Tel Aviv to open the second branch. Masaki was super co-operative and patient with my requests. I guess patience is a virtue when it has to do with making some of the best Japanese food in the world.
What makes the hotel so great and remarkably beautiful is the infinity pool on the rooftop floor. At the end of every shooting day I wanted to jump right in and swim.
The view is remarkable and for a minute, you might think you have been transported somewhere else… The high rise buildings in the background and the white umbrellas are the perfect backdrop to end the day.
The Norman Hotel, 23-25 Nachmani street, Tel Aviv.
To see more of my photos of the hotel, click here.