Last week, Little Venice hosted its annual Canalway Cavalcade, England’s largest gathering of canal boats, which lasted over three days. Held at the junction of the Regent’s and Grand Union Canals in Maida Vale, the event was attended by hundreds of boats, some of which had travelled from all over the UK. They were all beautifully dressed by their proud owners with flowers, flags, ribbons and all sorts of lucky charms. Fortunately the sun was there too which made for a really great day out.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to venture to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. I had never been before and didn’t really know what to expect – and I can say I was truly impressed: the fair was of a much bigger scale than I thought. The carousels, Ferris wheels and roller coasters were everywhere. And so were the food stalls, candy and souvenir shops. The Swiss, Bavarian and German theme was very much represented as well, with chalets, songs and mulled wine at every corner. Obviously, there was the must-have ice-rink which was so successful I decided to pass on that occasion – until next time!
To be fair, the full-on Christmas vibe was a little bit over the top, but at the same time feeling like a child again was thoroughly enjoyable.
Early October I was invited to a friends’ wedding in Marrakech, which was the perfect chance to discover the city for the first time. Obviously, I didn’t have that much liberty to explore the city in real depth, but I feel that if you use your time wisely you can actually get quite a lot out of your visit.
What probably charmed me the most was the Majorelle Garden surrounding Yves Saint Laurent’s house, now turned into a museum. The amount and variety of plants, cactus and flowers, along with the fountains and the famous deep blue used throughout the park made for an amazing garden of Eden. Obviously, the Medina was full of the charms and wonders typical of Morocco. Shops, craftsmen, narrow streets, mosques and such a crowd!! I am also glad I came across the medersa Ben Youssef whose architecture is a true splendor. All in all, a short and sweet city break.
Morocco is an amazing country with no less amazing art de vivre: the richness of the architecture, the skillful craftsmanship of the many indoors and outdoors ornaments, the refinement of the interiors, decoration and objects are the mark of a highly sophisticated culture and civilisation. The mauresque and Andalusian influences repeatedly show through monuments, such as the University of Al Karaouine, or palaces-turned-hotels for instance, making for a sense of majesty and simplicity at the same time.
As part of my September trip to Fez, I got to wander a lot in the city’s Medina. According to many, and to the Moroccans themselves, Fez is considered as the most authentic city of the kingdom: this doesn’t mean that there are no tourists – because they are present as anywhere else worth visiting – but it seems that Fez, unlike many other cities, is not trying too hard to flaunt its beauties. Its treasures are well hidden, and one will have to search behing closed doors to discover them. This may be achieved by looking into a few riads, those lovely small palaces built around indoors fountains and gardens, or by casting an eye in one of the small yet richly adorned mosques of the Medina. The colourful markets scattered across the crooked streets and paths are another jewel themselves. Fez definitely is a great place for anyone looking for an exotic change of scenery, and it makes for a very picturesque destination.
At the end of September I travelled to Morocco and spent a couple of days in Fez. Its millenary Medina is filled with treasures and surprises, and wandering through the maze of its small streets definitely is the best way to get a good sense of the heart of the city.
Tanneries, potteries, weavers, carpenters, painters, etc. there are plenty of crafts still being practiced and taught. All those traditions and this know-how were quite incredible to witness, at a time when we’re used to manufactured goods produced in factories. There, people are working with their hands, their skills and what they’ve learned, generation through generation. And it was beautiful to see.
For this last chapter about my trip in Istanbul, I wanted to share images of the bazaars and markets: these are a truly amazing aspect of the city, one that Istanbul is famous for. Obviously the Grand Bazaar is definitely worth a visit. To be honest I was a bit worried that it would be over crowded with tourists and feel like a gigantic maze of soulless shops. But I was quickly proven wrong. Of course there are tourists looking for the perfect gift, souvenir and other memorabilia to bring back home, but on the one hand, who could blame them? One can find the most amazing leatherwork , silverware and treats. But also, the well-named Grand Bazaar really is very big, so if you want to venture further and get a true feel of Turkey’s most renowned trading place, then you can easily loose yourself in the myriad of paths, explore the nice hidden cafés and restaurants, admire the thousands of colourful lanterns, fabrics and hookahs. Now, who’s hungry for some Turkish delights?
Istanbul enjoys a unique situation by the edge of the sea, at the crossroads of two continents, several cultures and civilisations. The atmosphere of its streets is light, busy and above all vibrant. But what would Istanbul be without its architectural splendours?
Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosquee, the Tokapi palace and the other wonders of the city are not only the physical records of an incredibly rich and agitated history; they mark the layers of time, they give a special window to each of the successive kingdoms, religions and visions of the world that have been carved into the face of Istanbul. They made it what it has become today. This is probably why Istanbul still holds this very special sense of mystery and sacred.
Besides its incredible location by the sea, the life and animation of the streets are what impressed me the most in Istanbul. Of course there are world-renowned landmarks that you cannot miss, but in my sense, simply wandering through the streets and getting to know the many neighbourhoods of the city is a wonderful way to get a flavour of Istanbul.
The streets are filled with all these “little nothings”: a woman selling flowers, corn, or pretzels, the crowd of people walking up and down the streets carrying children and groceries, calling up one another, women chatting among themselves, cats and dogs knocked out by the heat and desperate for a hideout in the shadow, the fascinating echo of the five daily prayers – all these small pieces of life brought together form the most lively and colourful canvas you can imagine.
A couple of weeks ago I went to spend a few days in Istanbul. The city really lives up to its reputation and it would be an understatement to say that I wasn’t disappointed: Istanbul is simply grand, magnificent, full of art and history, amazing by its architecture, lovely and full of inspiration in its quieter neighborhoods. In one word – gorgeous.
What I particularly liked about Istanbul is its situation by the sea, in-between two continents. The city is so expanded, it’s incredible to contemplate. But it is almost always freshened up by the ocean’s breeze. Obviously, besides the pure and salty marine air, the great thing about it is that one can find countless striking views of the Golden Horn. Uskudar, on the Asian side, provides a great promenade by the sea with fishermen, seagulls, wooden houses and children taking a swim. For other lovely marinas, look at Ortakoy or Bebek, both charming. Also great to wander about and have a nice bite, the fish market by the Galata Bridge has delicious fish sandwiches…