My Well Traveled Year of 2015
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