Picturesque canals, ornate medieval buildings, an imposing castle, a line of towers, flowers galore, a dramatic Gothic cathedral, and the superb Renaissance masterpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.
When I headed to Ghent earlier this year, I was all about the Flemish Renaissance and Gothic encounters. And beer and waffles, obviously. So I was intrigued to learn about a small alleyway in the heart of town that’s a little more modern in both appearance and concept.
Werregarenstraat connects Hoogpoort and Onderstraat. Once a dull, unimpressive alleyway, it was transformed during the 1995 Ghent Festivities (Gentse Feesten) cultural festival, when organisers encouraged graffiti artists to decorate its walls. The colourful, chaotic result was such a success that officials declared it a permanent graffiti exhibition, open to all. With one rule – don’t paint over works that are better than your own.
Part sculpture, part architecture, the Atomium is a giant stainless steel atom that towers over the north of Brussels.
This unique structure was built in 1958 as the centrepiece of the World Expo, the first universal world exhibition of the post-war era. Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it was only ever intended to be a temporary structure, but it fought its way into the hearts and minds of locals and visitors, and became an icon of the city. It’s now the top tourist attraction in the capital of Europe. And it’s here to stay.
Stepping from the cool air-conditioned car, the heat engulfed me. I gulped from my bottle, grateful as the cool water trickled down my throat. The landscape was almost entirely devoid of colour, except for the parked cars and a blanket strewn across the back of a camel, resting in its uncomfortable-looking squat while waiting for a paying rider.
Squinting into the distance, the undulating curves of hills and mountains stretched endlessly, their beigeness broken only by occasional patches of scrub. It was a hostile, dry, hot landscape. We were heading into the Israeli desert. Read More
Montpellier’s Jardin des Plantes is the oldest botanical garden in France and one of the oldest in Europe. It’s not the largest botanical garden I’ve ever visited, neither is it the best kept. But it’s utterly charming.
I wandered around in mid July, when I had a few days in Montpellier following my favourite festival, Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival in Sète. I didn’t immediately take to Montpellier. My Airbnb was a bit meh, the tram machines twice swallowed a load of coins without spitting out a ticket, and I was missing Sète, the beach, the market, the smell of the sea, the screams of the swifts that danced around my apartment, and all that glorious seafood. But the minute I wandered into the garden and strolled beneath a tree blooming with brilliant pink blossom, pausing to listen to the cicadas screeching their deafening midday song, I returned to the present, refocused my attention on my current adventure, and a slow smile of contentment crept across my face. Read More
As my days in Gozo draw to an close, I’m filled with the bittersweet emotions that often accompany me on my nomad journey. Sadness at leaving a place I’ve grown to love, mixed with excitement for the new adventures ahead.
I’ve been in Gozo for three months, the second longest I’ve lived anywhere since I dived into this lifestyle in January 2015. Despite the fact that my accommodation caused me more stress and anxiety in the first two months than pretty much any other place I’ve stayed (though my house in the mafia district of Catania, Sicily, came close), there are many things I’m going to miss about this charming little island.
Top of my list is the deliciously warm, sparkling Mediterranean Sea, always in sight on an island this size, along with my daily dip in picturesque Xlendi Bay. Then there’s the magnificent, rugged coastline dotted with caves and gorges, and the warm, friendly Gozitan people. So it seems fitting that the last photo essay I’ll post from Gozo celebrates all three things.
This mini photo essay comes from a sunset cruise I took around the coast of Gozo with Adrian Borg, his fabulous boat, Vitamin Sea, and a group of friends, a mixture of locals and other travellers. Read More
Today, I have a first for The Road to Wanderland – a guest post from fellow travel blogger, digital nomad, and history lover, Stephanie Craig, who I met at TBEX Jerusalem earlier this year. Steph’s coming to visit me here in my little island home on Gozo next week. In this post, she talks about her previous visit to Gozo, the loss of the Azure Window, and the art of travel by intuition.
Take it away, Steph…
I learned about it on Twitter.
I was still lying in bed, my nine-pound dog standing on my back making chattering noises at me, telling me it was unacceptable to be in bed so late in the day. She wanted breakfast.
I wanted to sleep, but I made my first move to oblige her by picking up my cell phone and, with one eye open a peak, checking each of my accounts one by one: email, Facebook, Instagram, etc.
Until I got to Twitter. That’s where I saw the news that Malta’s Azure Window had collapsed into the sea that morning. I continued to blink at my phone, wondering if the single eye I had allowed open was adjusting to the light properly. Maybe it was playing a trick on me?
But it wasn’t. The headline was there, and the window was gone. I burst into tears.
The tears surprised me. I was one of the lucky ones. I’d gotten to see the Azure Window in person a few years earlier. Shouldn’t I feel relieved I’d made it before it was gone? Read More
St Hilarion Castle sits atop a rocky crag in the Kyrenia Mountains in Northern Cyprus. As you approach this magnificent landmark, it’s difficult to pick out the crumbling buildings from the craggy landscape. Look up from the foot of the castle, however, and you’ll see the mighty stone walls and half-ruined buildings with their elegant turrets, tumbledown towers and graceful arching windows. It’s said this crusader castle was the inspiration behind the fairytale castle in Walt Disney’s Snow White. Whether this is true or not, it’s the sort of castle I used to dream of as a kid, and I couldn’t wait to climb to its lofty summit and drink in those glorious views. Read More
The Church of the Pater Noster sits at the top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, close to the Chapel of the Ascension. Surrounded by peaceful gardens, it’s an oasis of calm in comparison to the hustle and bustle of the Old City, over which it commands a bird’s eye view.
Birthplace of Aphrodite, UNESCO World Heritage Site… The pretty port town of Paphos in Cyprus has many accolades to its name. In 2017, it adds one more: European Capital of Culture.
I lived in Paphos for a few weeks last November and December. Despite the fact that the entire old town was a ginormous building site in preparation for its European Capital of Culture status, I loved my time there. I mean, my Masters degree is in Greek archaeology, so give me a pile of old ruins to scramble around and I’m happy!
One of my favourite places in Paphos is the Tombs of the Kings, just north of Kato Paphos. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, these monumental underground tombs date back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and they’re carved out of solid rock. I went twice. Once with a friend, but I had to go back on my own to satisfy my inner Lara Craft and really spend time getting to know the site. I visited in the early afternoon, when the sun turned the tombs the colour of fresh honeycomb. Eventually, I’ll write a longer post about my time in Cyprus. Until then, here are a few of my favourite pictures from that trip for this week’s mini photo essay. Read More