Giardino

Instead of being huddled with the crowds, I decided to go visit gardens to get some fresh Tuscan sun and air. First stop is Giardino di Boboli, originally designed for the Medici and located behind Pitti Palace. The Giardino Bardini is an Italian Renaissance Garden located in the hilly part of Oltarno. Opened only recently to the public, it is one of Florence‘s well kept secrets.

Firenze

Three time lucky, as they say – and all my three visits to Florence have been a charm. I will never tire of this city. With most of the main sights lying within walking distance of one another, Firenze, is the cradle of the Renaissance and one of Europe’s great art cities. There is so much exquisite art and architecture within its ancient walls that it is easy to become overwhelmed. The plan is to visit sites I have not seen before. On exhibit at Palazzo Strozzi is Donatello, the Renaissance. A historic exhibition which sets out to reconstruct the…

Chianti Region

Spread between Florence and Siena in the heart of Tuscany, the Chianti wine region is the romanticized Italy of daydreams. Traversing the gentle hillsides, a twisting, picturesque route known as the Chiantigiana, landscapes are filled with terra-cotta-roofed towns, vineyards, olive groves and peppered with case coloniche (farmhouse). I based myself in Barberino Tavarnelle, located in a great position between the Val d’Elsa and Val di Pesa in the heart of Chianti, and only 25 kms from Florence. This is a part of Tuscany that is not too crowded and filled with charming, hidden corners. 

Siena

Siena is a city where the architecture soars. Effectively a giant, open-air museum celebrating the Gothic, Siena has religious and secular monuments that have retained both their medieval forms and their extraordinary art collections. Often referred to as Florence’s longtime rival, this city of rose-coloured brick seems to have come out on top in terms of a more unified preservation and grace. With steep, twisting stone alleys and churches, palaces, and crenellated public buildings draped across its gentle hillsides, Siena is for many admirers one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. It’s a feast for the senses and an…

Douro Valley

Located in North Portugal, Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site approximately 100 kms east of Porto. The Douro Wine Region Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world known for producing its cultural treasure – the strong and sweet Port wine. The region has been attracting international wine aficionados since the 18th century and the terraced fields on either side of the Douro River is a wonder to look at. The Douro River is the highest-flow river of the Iberian Peninsula. It rises in Soria Province, central Spain, meanders south briefly then flows generally west through the…

Chillax

Tofino is definitely a great place for a much needed “chill + relax”. From Vancouver Harbour, I took a one hour scenic seaplane flight to Tofino Harbour. Do note that the seaplane flights are very weather dependent (particularly fog), so be prepared to adjust your schedules. From the dock, it is a short 6 minute drive to The Wickannish Inn. Fondly called The Wick by locals, this Relais & Chateux hotel lives up to all the hype and accolades it has been getting. Located on a rocky edge at the northern cape of Chesterman Beach, the hotel is casually rustic…

Tofino

Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, the village of Tofino is situated within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. Surrounded by the vast expanse of the UNESCO Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region, the town is a popular year-round destination which attracts surfers, storm-watchers, and nature-lovers, among others. Being homebound for more than 18 months made me crave to be close to nature – and to be reunited with the Pacific Ocean is a bonus. Meares Island – Big Tree Trail Meares Island is one of the islands surounding Tofino that features old growth…

Maʿal-salāmah مَع السَلامة

“With Peace” in Arabic and a formal expression of goodbye. I say goodbye – it has definitely been one incredible and breathtaking experience to visit Egypt. Manial Palace, a former royal residence. was built for Prince Mohammed Ali Tawfiq, a descendant of Egypt’s famed ruler Mohammed Ali, and the uncle of King Farouk. It was constructed between 1899 and 1929. During this trip, I stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence. Though the hotel (there are two Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo) may have been built nearly 20 years ago, it maintains a timeless appeal and…

Karnak & Luxor Temples

Luxor is often called the world’s greatest open-air museum and there might be nothing in the world that compares to the scale and grandeur of the monuments that have survived from ancient Thebes. After the pyramids of Giza, Karnak is Egypt’s most important pharaonic site. Excavations over the years have gradually uncovered the original structure of the temple complex, which was built over a 1,300-year period. Luxor Temple is an elegant example of Pharaonic temple architecture. The temple was largely completed by the 18th-Dynasty pharaoh Amenhotep III and added to during the reign of Ramses II in the 19th Dynasty.

Thebes

Modern Luxor grew out of the ruins of Thebes, once the capital of ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom (1550–1069 BC). The Temple of Hatshepsut rises out of the desert in a series of terraces that merge with the sheer limestone cliffs behind. Discovered only in the mid-19th century, and still being restored by the Polish Mission.