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.
If you are flying British Airways this month, don’t forget to grab a copy of High Life magazine and see my recent shoot of the vegan scene in Tel Aviv. If you are more of an audio passenger, you can listen to British Airways’ podcast and hear me talking about Tel Aviv’s night scene.
Imagine a carnivore/Scottish/Sikh/Comedian/Writer who is asked to put his steak-knife down and indulge in the Tel Avivian’s vegan scene. Sounds hectic and hilarious?
This is exactly how I felt after spending four intense days with Hardeep Singh Kohli, discovering, documenting and tasting some of the most delicious vegan places, one fork at a time.
To read the full article, click here.
Well, I am not a real foodie, but these four intense shooting days were incredibly delicious. I got to the point I had to hide behind my camera as I couldn’t eat more food. It was great to discover that veganism in Tel Aviv is taking off like nowhere else on the planet. It was more great to see a carnivore such as Hardeep, munching on falafel and grilled artichokes, or asking for another round of hummus.
Here are some of behind-the-scenes-pictures with Hardeep taking over this fun assignment. Obviously, they didn’t make it to the final layout.
I was planning to write this post right at the end of the year, but got caught up on some work and found myself already scheduling trips for the new 2015 year. Looking back at the images I took throughout the year and the new stamps in my passport, there is no doubt about it; 2014 was a very busy year.
When you do what you love mostly for a living, means you are willing to commit more and more time to your work and think about it 24/7. Not once did I say to some of my friends who are also creative independents that ‘I am my work and my work is me’. Taking a day off is usually taking a day off from myself. Or from my creativity, my head or from the way I look at things. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t complain. I am happy when I am busy and I can be climbing on walls when I’m not.
2014 was a year in which I ‘jumped’ on almost every opportunity I got and I didn’t hesitate to book flights and trips with minor preparations. ‘Don’t Think too Much but See What Happens’ was sort of a mantra.
At the end of February I traveled to Central Portugal. It was a new destination to explore that didn’t fall from Provence or Tuscany. I have visited in Coimbra and got a special permission to shoot the magical library in Coimbra’s University. I have shot many colorful Portuguese tiles in Aveiro. I walked trough olive groves, almond trees and vineyards in Alentejo, stayed in some chic wine hotels such as Casas Do Coro and Casa Des Penhas Dourades and caught up with good friends in Lisbon and Sintra.
Later on in March I flew to Paris to shoot a Patisseries Guide to Paris. By all means, it was the sweetest assignment of the year; sweet as the Mont Blanc Patisserie in Angelina (which, by the way, was the first Patisserie I shot on that assignment). But it was also a very hectic and intense four-days-shoot in which I had to photograph 32 patisseries all across Paris. During this sweet assignment, I met and photographed some of the top Patisseries Chefs in France, got into their kitchens (some of them are quite secretive) tasted the best Eclairs, Paris Brest, Saint Honore, Mille -Feuille and Macaroons. Here are some of the ‘Behind the Scenes’.
Right after completing my sweet adventure, I shot a great story for Feast Magazine about Rue du Nil. I got a glimpse into one of the smallest streets in Paris, (exit metro Sintier) a street which happened to set a new tone in the culinary scene in Paris. I happened to discover some of the most friendliest chefs, interesting store owners, a really good coffee spot I went back to and of course, some really good food. Luckily, a good friend of mine who has a great sense of style, joined me to this assignment and together we explored this 2nd Arr gem.
After spending two weeks in Paris, I have decided spontaneously to travel down south to the French Riviera and spend some time with two friends of mine; Liza, who was living in Nice with her husband (but was ready to move to London) and with the talented photographer Millie Brown, an Aussie expat who lives in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and photographs the Southern French region. Thanks to Millie and her beautiful blog, I got curious about shooting Laundry in Menton and South of France and this quick break in the French Riviera left me with a taste for more.
In May I have traveled to New York. My second home with a Capital H. I’ve stayed in Manhattan for the whole month; catching up with friends and colleagues and visiting all my favorite spots and hang outs. I cannot even described how much I missed the City. At the end of the month I was assigned to shoot a story for Lonely Planet Traveller, describing the top fun things to do in New York. I couldn’t have asked for more! It was a great opportunity to do some of the things I have always wanted to do but never really found the time.
Together with Orla, a fun writer from Lonely Planet Traveller, we cruised the city from Uptown to Downtown, using all sorts of transportation. We found ourselves trying out cocktails at 10 am in the morning (research for the article, mind you) in some of the sleek and chic bars at the Meat Packing District and later on rushing to Coney Island to interview some Circus performers, making sure to come back to the city and take a HipHop Class at Alvin Ailey School (research as well). I am anxious to share some more of my shooting experience but you will have to wait for March 2015 when the article will come out. Please stay tuned. I promise to blog about it in more details.
Apart from capturing Manhattan during sunsets and sunrises, taken from both Midtown and Long Island City, and discovering some of the most stylish secrets bars, I have also spent more time in Bushwick in Brooklyn, documenting some of the coolest street art walls by Bushwick Collective for my Street Art/Graffiti shoots collection. According to Vogue magazine, Bushwick is becoming, if not already, one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world.
On June 1st, I’ve jumped on the flight that took me from New York to Athens. Spending one night at Semiramis Hotel designed by Karim Rashid and waking up very early in the morning to catch a very early flight to Milos, the southwestern most in the Cyclades group. Milos was another assignment I got to shoot for Lonely Planet Traveller and it was such an educational experience. I have paired up with Duncan, a well travelled writer, who was interviewing some of the locals and together we documented their lives on that volcanic island.
One of my most memorable experience was not caught ‘on-film’. It was a Friday night, the last day before heading back to Tel Aviv. I was spending two days in the scenic fishermen village, Klima. My house was literally on the water and I could hear the waves while I was in bed. I was drinking my morning coffees and my evening wine with my neighbors; locals fishermen who hardly speak English. We communicated mostly with smiles and with gestures such as pouring wine and eating greek cheese.
Lonely Planet’s story is coming out this Summer and I promise to blog about it in more details once it is published. All I can say is that it is going to be a great and colorful story. I am really curious to see it on print.
I know it sounds very hectic, but for me, that was the way to go. I like it sometimes when my life are on the move.
I have stayed two weeks in Tel Aviv and at the end of June I have decided to escape the humidity and get some Scandic vibe in Copenhagen and Stockholm. My mom has always wanted to go so it was a good reason for me to travel again.
Ever since Noma was chosen as the best restaurant in the World, and WallPaper magazine named the Danes as the most beautiful people, it seems that Copenhagen got her groove back, and no wonder it is considered one of the coolest city in Europe. Talking about WallPaper magazine, Copenhagen is one of these places that look like exactly taken from the magazine’s pages.
We spent four days in Copenhagen, exploring the Danish Design Scene, the Nordic Cuisine, and some unique museums that left us in awe. We also got a glimpse inside Hotel d’Angleterre and had lunch in its Michelin Star’s restaurant.
Copenhagen was great and welcomed us with warm weather and long daylight time. It didn’t get dark before midnight, so I had more time to shoot.
After less than one hour flight we found ourselves in Stockholm, the Venice of the Scandic part of Europe.
It was in Stockholm when we changed roles and my mom was the impatient teenager who was anxious to visit the ABBA museum while I was waiting for her outside. The weather was a bit on the grey-rainy side, but Stockholm is such a beautiful city; a mix of modern design, cobblestone streets, medieval atmosphere (mostly in Gamla Stan area) and everyone is wearing H&M. I didn’t have any previous knowledge about Stockholm, to be honest. I was mostly following an article I read in Travel+Leisure few months before my visit, which directed me to the most stylish locations.
The highlight of my visit, which is highly recommended, not only for photographers, was Fotografiska Museum. It is located in a former customs house in Sodermalm and is showing work of photographers around the World. It has a great book shop and an amazing view from the third floor.
Another great thing about Stockholm, which matched well me and my mom’s personality, was the Swedish love for Coffee, or in other words, their Fika. Sort of like Starbucks coffee in every street corner in New York, same as in Stockholm.
In the first week of August I have traveled to Provence with a good a friend of mine who is the perfect partner for any Travel spontaneous decision. The only thing that guided my choice to start at Marseille was MUCEM and the fact that Marseille was chosen as the European Culture Capital for the year of 2013. We stayed in Marseille only one night and then we rented a car and traveled to Cassis, which was just magical with its turquoise color water (definitely I should go back) and the hidden Calanque. We took a boat ride to see three Calanques de Cassis and I got tempted to jump off the boat into the water.
From there we drove to Arles, where we followed the steps of Vincent Van Gogh . We saw Cafe Van Gogh, this is the Cafe than Van Gogh painted in The Cafe Terrace on the Place du Forum at night and the hospital where Van Gogh was taken after cutting off a portion of his ear. Throughout this trip I was in search of Lavender fields. I was happy to finally find them in Saint-Rémy de Provence, once I have visited the Saint Paul Asylum, where Van Gogh was hospitalized. Not once when I look at a painting in a museum, I wonder to myself how do life look like in these locations. Visiting Saint Remy de Provence was a great opportunity to see what inspired Van Gogh’s painting and what did he see around him.
Note to self: Keep taking trips following the lives of your favorite Artists.
Since I didn’t have enough of Paris in March (I never have enough of Paris actually) I booked another last minute flight to Paris at the end of September. It was originally to shoot the scenes of Fashion Week in Paris but I ended up mostly catching up with my friends and colleagues who live there. Coincidence or not, related or not, I have spent some time over coffee and wine with three Aussies photographers who I admire their work; Millie Brown who came back to Paris for fashion week, Carina Okula who I adore her work and sensitivity and Carla Coulson, who is such an inspiration for me.
I’ve spent some time with Gail from PerfectlyParis, who I became friends with after I have stayed in one of her apartments in Paris few years ago and photographed Chef Constance and her adorable baby in their cozy apartment. I jumped on a Culinary tour Baguette to Bistro, discovered some new cafes, ate a lot of cheese and most of all, enjoyed my friends’ company.
So the year is not over yet, and I’m trying to squeeze the last few months of it. In October I was a sent by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine to shoot a story in Antwerpen. It was my second time around in this fashionable city, and it was fun coming back and visiting some of the locations I have discovered at the first time, but this time of shooting was quite intense. Tight on a deadline, I managed to shoot more than 20! locations in 48 hours, making sure I cross off all the locations on the photography’s brief, knowing I don’t have a second chance to shoot it (Tight schedule, remember?)
As small as it is, Antwerpen doesn’t stop to amaze me. Shooting some of the most popular and high end restaurants, capturing delicious dishes which are kind of complicated to shoot and dealing with some of the top chefs, was a great learning experience. The Antwerpen story is coming out to print this Summer and I promise to write about it in more details.
And now it is already the second week of January, trying to get used to Two Thousand Fifteen. I already have few assignments booked and some new locations to travel to. As much as I am anxious to stamp my passport and jet-set the Globe, I am trying to breath in, enjoy the present and see what happens.
Have a Happy, Healthy and Well-Travelled Year.