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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Themost 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 weekin 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.
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.
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.
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.
Copenhagen has been high on my travel list for a while now. Being known for its great design scene and the Nordic cuisine, I didn’t know what to expect before going there. When I kept spreading the word I was about to travel to Copenhagen, a colleague of mine who is working in the PR and Tourism industry has suggested me to visit Hotel d’Angleterre when I am there. Not only that, but he also connected me to the lovely PR and communication manager of the hotel, who was generous enough to give me a grand tour on location.
The Hotel d’Angleterre is situated in the heart of Copenhagen’s fashionable Kongens Nytorv Square, steps from the Royal Danish Theater, the Nyhavn Canal and the famous shopping street, Strøget. With its recent most ambitious restorations in Danish history, the hotel is as elegant and sophisticated as the surrounding streets.
The story of Hotel d’Angleterre began in the 17th century when Jean Marchal, a servant of the royal court, and Maria Coppy, daughter to the royal chef, fell in love. In 1755 they established a restaurant on the King’s Square (Maria was known for her culinary ability) which later grew into a Palace and ultimately, the Hotel d’Angleterre. With a longstanding tradition of hospitality, the hotel became the premier social destination and over the years has hosted the world’s visiting royalty, dignitaries and celebrities who visited Copenhagen.
The original hotel structure was the neoclassic residence of Count Ahlefeld and the hotel as it stands today was designed by the Danish architect, Jens Vilhelm Dahlerup in the mid 1870’s. (Dahlerup designed numerous other iconic landmarks in Copenhagen, including the Royal Danish Theatre).
The Hotel Today:
The renovated hotel is featuring 90 rooms including 60 suites with spacious bathrooms and balconies. With pistachio-colored silk curtains (to allow the light coming in) and purple tones for the sofas and the beddings, the rooms convey elegance.
The stunning 250 square-meter Royal Suite features a grand balcony overlooking Kongens Nytorv Square and The Royal Theater, it has a dining room for 10 guests and a spectacular fireplace.
As the hotel has hosted countless historic events including formal galas, weddings, diplomatic assemblies and royal occasions, the historic Palm Court and Louis XVI Ballroom continue to be the most desired entertaining space in Copenhagen these days.
If you are visiting the hotel, make sure to pick inside the Palm Court. It is a stunner.
The Marchal Restaurant:
I was lucky enough to have lunch with my mom in Marchal restaurant. While my mom was so impressed with dining in a Michelin Star restaurant, I was heels over head with the fact I could shoot the amazing photogenic dishes and take a portrait of Ronny Emborg, the head chef, who was just nominated as a Michelin Star chef for the second time. But wait. There is more! Ronny himself walked to our table and served us with a marvelous dessert. I couldn’t ask for more.
Our lunch included six! courses;
We had Fjord Shrimps with tomato juice, dill and acidic cream
Glazed White Asparagus with smoked cream, lovage and buttermilk sauce
Fried Lamb and Sweetbread with green asparagus, truffle puree, gooseberries and glaze
Fried Beef Tenderloin with rehydrated beetroot, red currants and glaze with marrow
and two kinds of desserts;
Strawberry with Ice Cream on long pepper, buttermilk mousse and crispy vanilla flakes
Creme Anglaise with Sorbet Granite, tarragon emulsion and sorbet on celery (mind you, Ronny made it especially in front of us)
I wish I was a food critique who knows how to describe the rich and various flavors of the dishes, but I hope the images of food can speak louder than the words.