I have always been a city girl at heart but, once in a while, my body just screams for a little nature time. Unexpectedly a window of a week opened smack bang in the middle of wedding season, so I grabbed the opportunity and hopped on a plane to Slovenia. My friends and I rented a cottage near Lake Bled for 4 nights, then an apartment in Ljubljana for the weekend. I made a video to try and convey the peace and beauty this country has to offer.
We swam in both Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj, and also took a drive through Triglav National Park. It struck me how much Slovenians loved and respected their land, and how quietly proud they were to share it with visitors. Food-wise… expect a lot of processed pork! Slovenian cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours – Italy, Austria, Hungary, etc. We sampled traditional dishes like cheese dumplings, beef broth, an array of pork sausages and hams, as well as impressive seafood.
I’ve returned to my regular life feeling re-energised with a clear head (and lungs). Would definitely recommend this country if you’re looking for some quality relaxation amidst fairytale-esque lakes and mountains. Hvala, Slovenija!
After an incredible trip to Copenhagen last year, I was eager to return and discover more of Denmark. The people, culture, food… I seriously love it all. So when Visit Denmark got in touch about a press trip to Aarhus, I immediately jumped on board to experience the country’s second largest city. I spent a weekend exploring with some fellow Instagram buddies and made this video to give you a taste of what we got up to…
It all began with a bike tour courtesy of Cycling Aarhus. Though it was rush hour on a Friday afternoon, it was abundantly clear how cycle-friendly Aarhus is… especially compared to the intimidating roads of London that I’m accustomed to. The tour was a great way for us to get a feel for the layout of the city, starting in Aarhus Ø, the harbour development area. Here we learned how the Danes are building the city’s future in a socially sustainable way. A third of the development is set aside as affordable housing to promote a diverse community. A beach has been constructed where locals can play sports and enjoy drinks by the water. A balloted urban garden (Ø-Haven) thrives with strawberries, carrots and much more.
The area now known as Aarhus Ø used to house nothing more than industrial shipping containers. Now it boasts some really innovative architecture, like The Iceberg building. The roofs have peaks and valleys, and the blue glass on the balconies appear deeper and darker as you reach the bottom (much like a real iceberg).
A short bike ride from the waterside, we found ourselves in the very photogenic Latin quarter. This is the oldest area of the city and is buzzing with cozy cafes, cool boutiques and impressive street art. Tucked away is the residential street of Møllestien. Here, the cobbled street is lined with little half-timbered houses built in the 19th century. I wonder what stories lie behind their wonky doors and multicoloured walls covered in hollyhock?
One of the most recognisable icons in the city is Your Rainbow Panorama by Olafur Eliasson, a 150m long glass circular walkway that sits on top of the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum. When I first stepped inside the installation, I had a few moments of disorientation as my senses adjusted to the colours around me. In the artist’s own words, it “…establishes a dialogue with the existing architecture and reinforces what was already there, that is to say the view across the city. I have created a space that can almost be said to erase the boundary between inside and outside – a place where you become a little uncertain as to whether you have stepped into a work of art or into part of the museum. This uncertainty is important to me, as it encourages people to think and sense beyond the limits within which they are accustomed to function.”
As a creative, I love admiring others’ art and craft. Godsbanen is a cultural hub in Aarhus, with workshops, studio spaces, dance halls and more. The site has been renovated from one of Denmark’s largest train freight yards. On a sunny Saturday, it felt like the perfect place for a free yoga class, a game of volleyball with friends and a stroll through the market stalls.
Of course no weekend in Denmark would be complete without some smørrebrød. The founder of Langhoff & Juul cafe has a passion for organic produce, and has created a space that is welcoming as it is beautiful. I loved the natural elements in the interiors, the funny quotes dotted around walls and (of course) the food! We enjoyed a range of smørrebrød - avocado cream, cottage cream, pea shoots, cucumber and pistachios; fish balls, pickled root vegetables and dill; and raw marinated potato, fried onions and mayonnaise - on homemade rye bread.
I’ve never experienced a museum quite like Den Gamle By (or The Old Town) where I was transported through different eras of Danish history. Homes and streets from as far back as the 18th century have been moved here brick by brick, to show visitors what everyday life was like. I explored a merchant’s home in 1723, a bookshop in 1927, a hippie couple’s flat in 1974… I wonder what new snapshots of ‘history’ from the 21st century will make it into this museum in a hundred years?
It’s easy to understand how Aarhus earned the title of European Capital of Culture 2017. There is something for everyone in this city and I have definitely fallen for its charm.
Disclosure: I was invited on this trip by Passion Passport.
After discovering Hong Kong with Passion Passport and Cathay Pacific, we set off into smaller groups to explore a few other destinations in Asia. My travel buds – Alan, Neil and Callum – and I headed to Siem Reap in Cambodia. It’s been a few months now, but the memories and feelings are still so vivid. (Check out my fish amok recipe and a few thoughts on Cambodian food.) I wanted to share some more photos from our adventures.
Wherever I go, I try to visit where the locals do their food shopping. It’s a fascinating place to people-watch, observe what foods we share in common and learn about new ones. There was so much to take in at Psah Chas – the colours of the exotic fruit, the smells of herbs and fermenting fish, and the sound of the Khmer folk chatting and doing trade.
Tucked in between busy streets in the centre of Siem Reap, we stumbled upon a little haven called Wat Damnak. It used to be a palace, but is now home to a school, public library and a few educational charities. Definitely worth an explore.
There are over 3000 ancient temples across the country. Even though we were only in Siem Reap for a few days, we made sure to pay our respects and take in the wonder of a few of them. Beng Mealea is a sandstone Hindu temple that is charmingly intertwined with the forest around it. I thought it had a completely different vibe to the majestic Angkor Wat, and I thoroughly enjoyed clambering over the rocks and roots to explore deeper.
Angkor Wat is huge! We made two journeys to explore the compound, the first was at golden hour in the evening, shortly before the temple closed its doors to tourists.
Knowing that most visitors start at Angkor Wat at sunrise, we headed for Bayon… and our decision definitely paid off! Arriving at the silhouetted giant heads before dawn, there wasn’t another person in sight apart from a few monks that glided through the complex silently. As the sun rose, the temple’s 200 faces of Lokesvara all smiled serenely, and that morning it felt like a secret that we were briefly allowed in on.
I am eternally grateful to Passion Passport and Cathay Pacific for bringing me on this trip of a lifetime! I hope to return to Cambodia to explore more of this beautiful country, learn of its poignant past and meet more wonderful Khmer people.