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Sivan Askayo


The Rise and Buzz of Athens

June 28, 2017

View of the Acropolis during Sunset

In the last few months I have visited Athens twice on assignments. The first time was an assignment for Virtuoso Life Magazine, in which I shot the Night and Bar scenes in the Greek Capital, and the second time was for Conde Nast UK, in which I shot some of the city’s new spots. While I’m writing these words, I am planning my third visit to Athens. This time it is a shoot for an in flight magazine. Stay tuned. Being in Athens on assignments for two of the trend setters magazines, was a sign for me that the city is ‘on the rise’, getting trendy, and soon, will be packed with tourists.

For a lot of people Athens serves as a stop – over before flying to one of the Greek Islands,  but if you are already planning a trip to Greece, I highly recommend to spend a few days in Athens and explore its culture and city life.

Recently, Athens is being praised as the “New Berlin” since artists and curators from Europe are moving in, attracted by what is considerably a cheaper cost of living, edgy nightlife and a vibrant and upcoming cultural scene. Even though much has been said about Greece’s recent economic troubles, you hardly experience it in Athens. From Kolonaki, Athen’s affluent neighborhood, to Plaka (which is more touristic) the local Athenians fill the sidewalk cafes and restaurants and pack the city’s bars. Very recent, the Art scene in Athens got a boost with the 630 million euro Starvos Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, which hosts the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera and a huge park around it. There is a new wave of creativity in the city, not only in the Art scene, but also in the culinary and hospitality scenes.

If you are up for exploring the Greek Capital, here are some of my recommendations:

Sleep on a Customized Mattress

Imagine stepping into a hotel and choosing any kind of mattress you want to sleep on? Sounds like the best deal for me.
The Greece’s premium mattress company, CocoMat has opened a 4-star hotel in Kolonaki, Athen’s upscale, wealthy and chic neighborhood. The hotel is located above the mattress store, where you can buy your customized mattress, bed sheets, pillows and other bedroom’s accessories. The hotel’s motto ‘Home is where your Bed is’ describes well the benefit of choosing the kind of mattress you want to sleep on. Beside comfy beds and relaxing experience, the hotel also offers a great and rich breakfast and a nice rooftop with a wide city’s view.

CocoMat Hotel, Kolonaki, AthensUrban Suite, CocoMat Hotel, Kolonaki, Athens, Greece

Where the Athenian Hipsters go for Brunch

Bel Ray Bar is a great hipster-ish brunch spot in Koukaki, the new art and nightlife district in Athens. What used to be a car-repair shop, is transformed into a bright space filled with wooden chairs and tables, indoors and outdoors. On a Sunday you can find party-goers who just woke up and need a caffeine shot, young families who want to have a lazy breakfast where the kids can run around, and some locals who are just happy to have an open place so close by. The menu can vary; from an Asian-Thai food to Croque Madame toast with a twist. I can swear I had the best frappe there, which made it worthwhile to hassle all the way there.

Bel Ray Brunch Spot, Koukaki, AthensBel Ray Brunch, Koukaki, Athens, Greece

The Hottest Table in Athens

Nolan, the Greek – Japanese fusion from one of the city’s hottest young chef Sotiris Kontizas, is a small cornered restaurant but with a long waiting list to be seated. With a Greek father and a Japanese mother, Sotiris has developed his own hybrid cuisine such as soba noodles with smoked salmon and tahini, shrimp and anchovy in rice paper, or mackerel with smoked bacon and beans (picture below). These unique combinations and flavors granted this little joint a great reputation and popularity among the restaurants in Athens.

The oldest Distillery in Athens

During one of my strolls in Plaka area, I came across an interesting and colorful Bar, called Bretto’s. I made myself a mental note to come back during the evening hours, when the bar is more alive. And indeed, it was worth it. With an impressive bar back illuminating hundreds of colorful bottles, this bar is also the oldest distillery in Athens. They have created their own ouzo since 1909, and some types of ouzo are sold only there and nowhere else. Beside that you can try raki and brandy or try a wine tasting during the day. If you can choose and plan, have an after dinner drink at Bretto’s.

Brettos in Plaka, Athens

Getting Artsy

The Museum of Cycladic Art holds over 3,000 crafts of Cycladic, Ancient Greek and Cypriot in the galleries of the museum, over four floors. One of the museum wings hosts temporary exhibitions (when I’ve visited there was an Ai weiwei exhibit) and the museum has recently gone under light constructions in the cafeteria and the book and gift store.

Atrium Cafe, Museum of Cycladic Art, Kolonaki, Athens, GreeceEntrance Hall Exhibits, Museum of Cycladic Art, Kolonaki, Athens, Greece

The Acropolis Museum is a must, when visiting Athens. It is like being in New York and not paying a visit to the Metropolitan museum (in my opinion). It is an archaeological museum which holds and houses the findings of the archaeological site of the Acropolis and its surrounding slopes. I highly recommend to dedicate a full day visiting the Acropolis site (get a guided tour if possible) and then pay a visit to the museum. These two sites compliment each other perfectly. It has been a while since I read some of the Greek Mythologies, but visiting the museum made me feel as walking inside of a Mythology book.

Acropolis MuseumAcropolis Museum, gallery of the Slopes of the Acropolis, Plaka, Athens, GreeceAcropolis Museum, Exterior and facade, Plaka, Athens, Greece

Get out of Town

You don’t have to go all the way to Lesvos in search of healing mineral springs. There is one only 30 minutes car drive from Athens, called Vouliagmeni Lake. The lake is well known as a thermal natural spa, rich with minerals such as potassium, lithium, calcium, iodine and more. These minerals are known for relieving bone and muscles pain, help with skin problems and other dermatological diseases. The beauty of this lake is mostly by its green water color and its surroundings of bare cliffs. We spent half day there on a Sunday. The lake is surrounded by beach chairs and umbrellas and there is a cafe-bar-restaurant that serves great food. We wanted to feel like the locals who treat themselves for a gateway from town.

Vouliagmeni Lake


My Dream Assignment in St. Barts

May 16, 2017

Baie de St-Jean, St Barth

“Yes, I’ll do it”

It took me less than a minute to answer the Photo Editor of Virtuoso, when she asked me if I would like to travel to St. Barts for a shoot.
I was literally boarding the plane to Galapagos (on a different assignment) when I got that offer, so didn’t have too much time to contemplate. And why should I, right?
Flying to the French Caribbean and shooting the food and wine scene is always a good idea.

Mid March I found myself on the plane heading to St. Maarten and from there, a ferry ride to St. Barts. What was supposed to be a smooth ride, was not smooth at all. In a midst of a small storm and bad weather conditions, the 50-minutes ferry ride from St. Maarten to St. Barts was a deja-vu to one of the scenes in ‘Titanic’. Waves crashed on the ferry windows. I looked at my boyfriend who was trying to hide his fear. He had that weird expression on his face, apparently he was calculating the time it should take us to grab the life vests from the front.
Rest assured, we were OK and we didn’t need the life vests.
We landed safely in St.Barts, stamped our passports (because we were in a French island) and were so happy to be in-land.

You can see the full article in Virtuoso Life Magazine May/June Issue and read about some of my favorite locations, which made my assignment a dream one.

Hotel Le Toiny

My first stop was Hotel Le Toiny, a 14- private villas hotel, with a private beach club and a great restaurant.
When I got to my room, excuse me, my villa, the first thing came to mind was how white and bright everything was. I belong to the type of guests who don’t feel comfortable from the cleaning lady thus make sure the room is not too messy. Having an all-white villa, I wanted to make sure it stays white.
After we checked in, we head to the beach to have lunch. We tucked our bare-feet in the sand while sipping rosé and nibbling delicious sea food. For those who are looking for the Relais & Châteaux experience, this is the place to be. The hotel is located on the hills at Anse de Toiny. If you fancy to go to the beach, there is a special car which drives the guests down the hill, right to the beach club.

Hotel Le Toiny, St. BarthHotel Le Toiny, St. BarthHotel Le Toiny, St. Barth

My favorite place in Le Toiny (If I need to choose one beside the beach club) is the outdoor bar thanks to its fuchsia pink high chairs and shell-wall. And here is a scoop; this image almost made it to the cover of Virtuoso Life May/June issue.

Outdoor Bar, Hotel Le Toiny, St. Barth

Le Guanahani Hotel

Le Guanahani Hotel was the second one I shot and stayed in. The hotel is located in a beautiful – turquoise- water lagoon, at Grand Cul de Sac. Some of the villas are located on the beach, some have a beautiful view from the open terrace. Le Guanahani felt so Caribbean to me, thanks to its location and access to the beach. One of the things that gave the hotel its french flair is the Spa and amenities, all by Clarins.

Le Guanahani Hotel, St. Barth Le Guanahani Hotel, St BarthHotel Le Guanahani, St.Barth

If you happen to visit and stay in Le Guanahani, don’t skip lunch at the Indigo beach restaurant and order the avocado crab grapefruit appetizer, paired with a rosé wine, of course. And if you are adventurous, or want to get a postcard shot, climb up the rock at the end of the beach so you can get a view of the lagoon.  I did it a few times, during sunrise and during sunset. You can see some of my favorite images of Le Guanahani here.

Guanahani Hotel, St. Barth

Le Tamarin Restaurant

Truth is, there are lots of great restaurants in St. Barts. There are those who offer a great view in addition to their food. A good example is Santa Fe restaurant, located on a mountain top and overlooking Saline beach. There are those who offer a great party scene such as Bonito restaurant, with a DJ on set,  playing Euro Caribbean vibes into the wee hours. My favorite one was Le Tamarin, a hidden gem in a secret lush garden, which offers a French Asian cuisine while you are sitting under and in between the trees. If you are coming with a toddler, you will find Le Tamarin a very toddler friendly place, thanks to its kids area and toys, and the colorful parrots under the massive beautiful tree at the entrance.

Le Tamarin Restaurant, St. Barth chef Charlie Boultier holding Ceviche of fresh local fishg


My Well Traveled Year of 2015

January 2, 2016

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 (20122013, 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.

Travel in Val Gardena

Travel in Val Gardena Italy

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Shooting Priorat Wine Region for Wine Spectator Magazine, October Issue

October 6, 2015

“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.

Pioneers of Priorate, Spain


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Shooting Costa Dorada for Wine Spectator Magazine, October Issue

October 4, 2015

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)

Costa Dorada for Wine Spectator Magazine


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Shooting Lisbon’s Food Scene for Virtuoso Magazine, September Issue

September 1, 2015

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.

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.

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.

Mercado da Ribeira for Virtuso Magazine

Mercado da Ribeira for Virtuso Magazine

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Design & Lifestyle Travel

Very Eco-Friendly Hotels in Portugal

July 30, 2015

Luz Hotel

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.

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Luz Hotel

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


The Feast of the Trays in Tomar

July 28, 2015

Sivan Askayo -Flower Festival-23

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… )



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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.

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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.


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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.


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If you have the chance to plan your next trip to Portugal, don’t miss Tomar with its beautiful streets and welcoming people.


Shooting Antwerpen’s Design Scene for Conde Nast Traveller, July Issue

July 15, 2015

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 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.

* t’Zilte is a two-Michelin starred restaurant at the top of the MAS restaurant. Worth going for the views alone (the port and marina of Antwerpen) but the food is some of the most sophisticated in the city.

* 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.


Fifty Shades of Green, Terceira Island

May 21, 2015

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.