Travel Guides

Lens + Larder Workshop

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Hello! It’s been awhile! I’m not really sure where to begin but I am so excited to get back into creating things for Four By Three and this is my first post doing just that. In June of last year (2015) I had a baby girl and chose to put this blog on hold until I was ready creatively to continue with it. During that time through various people I follow on instagram I somehow stumbled across Lens & Larder, a series of workshops put on by the lovely Imen McDonnell and Cliodhna Prendergast along with guest collaborators varying from photographers, stylists and writers.

I just so happened to find them right before they were to hold a food photography and styling workshop with the enchanting Renée Kemps in Ireland at the beautiful and picturesque Ballyvolane House. I did a little looking into flights (pretty cheap and short coming from London) and checked to see if a space was available (there was!) and the next thing I knew, I was on my way to Ireland! The three days spent there were filled with lovely long conversations about everything from photography to being a working mom over delicious meals; foraging the grounds of Ballyvolane; meeting local vendors whose food and wares we photographed; learning to style a tabletop for a photo story; homemade butter and soda bread making demonstrations; having a gin tasting of the delightful Bertha’s Revenge which is made at Ballyvolane…it was a packed few days!

I was blown away by the talent of not only our hosts but also the other attendees and this workshop was the perfect jolt of creativity that I needed. Below is a visual snapshot into the workshop and the people I met. And if you have the chance to sign up for a Lens & Larder workshop, do it!

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Franschhoek, South Africa

franschhoek_01At the end of February we had some friends get married in South Africa and knowing this might be our last big trip before the little one arrives in May, Reid and I jumped at the chance to take full advantage of a long weekend in one of our favorite places. One of the nice things about traveling to South Africa from London is that you are only one or two hours ahead of your regular timezone and even though it is a long flight (around 11 hours) you don’t suffer from jet lag because there isn’t much of a time difference. So when we landed on a beautiful sunny day in Cape Town, we got into our rental car and headed out to Franschhoek in wine country where we would be staying for the weekend.

franschhoek_02franschhoek_03You may remember our first visit to South Africa when we stayed at Babylonstoren (probably still one of my most favorite places on earth). Unfortunately, it was already booked up when we got around to getting our hotel sorted but we made sure to stop by for a delicious lunch at their green house followed by a wander in the garden and of course checking out their farm and wine shop for goodies to take home. After we tore ourselves away we headed on to Franschhoek, about a 10 minute drive up the rode, and checked into the beautiful Le Franschhoek Hotel which came recommended to us by our friends who were getting married that weekend.

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franschhoek_05We lucked out with a seriously stunning view from our hotel room and I loved watching the sky change throughout the day. We could also see the pool from our room and I knew immediately that I wanted to relax there as much as possible. Overall, I was really pleased with the hotel and enjoyed wandering the grounds and soaking up all of the sunshine I could.

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The rest of our first afternoon was spent exploring the town of Franschhoek, which is very charming, followed by dinner at the hotel. Other than wedding activities, I knew I wanted to eat at The Table de Meye, a restaurant run by a wife and husband on a wine estate. I came across them through instagram and when they had a spot for lunch available on Saturday, I was so excited to get to go.

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Again the weather was absolutely beautiful so they had the different tables set up outside beneath the trees with beautifully mismatched place settings and floral arrangements. It all looked stunning and thought out but not forced. If the food had been sub-par, I still would have been a happy camper because of the setting but everything we ate was beyond excellent. You can see the menu we had that day on their blog here. I think Reid’s favorite dish was the starter of tomatoes on a puff pastry and of course I just about died when the dessert came out- a seriously decadent chocolate mousse.

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The rest of our time was spent wine tasting (for Reid, not me unfortunately), being outdoors as much as possible whether this meant having a picnic or taking a dip in the pool and of course, the main event, celebrating our friends’ wedding. It could not have been a more relaxing time and a great final trip as just the two of us. But hopefully one day we can make it back down south for a family trip in the future!

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A Look Back

Here’s a visual look back at the stories I’ve shared with you so far this year. I know Four by Three hasn’t been going for an entire year yet but I’ve been shooting for it for much longer than that. Anyway, thanks you much for letting me share these things with you and here’s to even more to come in 2015!

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Three Peaks Challenge

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Back in June, on the longest day of the year, Reid and I embarked (along with 12 other people) on what is known as the Three Peaks Challenge. The Challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales within 24 hours. I like to think of myself as a someone who stays in shape (I like to run quite a bit and try and do various races throughout the year- 5k’s, 10k’s, sprint triathlons) but this was not only the most physically challenging things I have ever done but possibly also the most mentally challenging.

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We began our trip the day before by flying from London to Glasgow (barely an hour flight) and meeting up with the rest of the group and the van that would be home for the next day or so. From the airport we drove further up north to the town of Fort William which is only a five minute drive to the base of Ben Nevis, our first peak to conquer the following morning. That night I didn’t sleep very well, mostly going over lists of things in my head making sure we had enough water, food and the right clothes. That morning we had an early wake up call followed by a hearty breakfast and then hit the trail!

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Ben Nevis is the highest of the three peaks and begins closest to sea level meaning it has the greatest vertical ascent of the three. We had pretty good weather ranging from sun to light showers and saw all types of people competing in the challenge. We even saw a group of who looked to be in the military carrying a tub up and down the mountain! The most incredible thing happened just as we reached the summit when the clouds parted to reveal the most beautiful view of the valley below. Seeing as you are against the clock, we had only a few minutes at the top before we headed back down. Partly due to the size of our group and a few injuries that happened on the way down, once everyone completed Ben Nevis we found ourselves behind schedule as well as loosing 8 people from our group who could not continue on. At this point, Reid, myself and the two others still ready to go had to make a decision if we wanted to keep going- something we all really wanted to do- so we decided to continue on our own.

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After we dropped the part of our group that could not continue off at the airport, the four of us plus our two guides continued on our roughly six hour road trip south to Scafell Pike in England’s Lake District. This next climb was going to be a bit of a challenge since we would have to climb in complete darkness due to the fact that we were significantly behind schedule. Luckily one of our guides was from the Lake District and knew Scafell Pike like the back of his hand. I almost think that climbing in the dark made it better for me mentally because I couldn’t see exactly how steep the climb was beyond the few feet that was visible from my headlamp. Our climb started around 11 pm and once we summited we were the only six people at the very top, a big difference from the busy trails of Ben Nevis. It was pretty amazing to sit under the stars surrounded by the quiet but once again, we couldn’t linger too long and began our descent. I hope to return to Scafell Pike one day during the daylight so I can see the trail that we actually climbed.

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After Scafell Pike and another five hour drive later we found ourselves at the base of the final peak of the challenge, Snowdon in Wales. We were greeted with the most glorious blue skies during this hike and I think that really brought everyone’s mood up. I’ll admit, that my legs were pretty creaky when we first started- I think I was walking about the pace of a ninety year old. Even though I was in the most pain physically during this climb (my knees were giving me trouble) I still found this peak to be my favorite of the three. The landscape was insanely picturesque and it also helped knowing that we were so close to the end though this was the only hike where we summited and descended via different routes (which meant that on the way down you weren’t really sure how much further you had to go because there weren’t any familiar markers). All in all, when we made those final steps to the finish, I had never been so happy to see the such a smelly van in all of my life. Having 6 boys (2 guides, one driver and three hikers) plus myself traveling in a small space for over 24 hours did not make for a clean vehicle.

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From there, we were driven to the nearest train station and hopped on to the next train to London (boy did I feel bad for the other passengers in our car as I’m sure we did not smell of roses). I spent most of the trip staring out the window at the passing landscape and dreaming of soaking in a nice warm bath and eating something other than nuts, dried fruit or beef jerky. The memories of the previous two days washed over me and I basked in the accomplishment of having climbed all three peaks. I couldn’t believe we did it and I’m so glad that we did. If you are ever thinking of trying this out, please drop me a line! I am more than happy to act as a sounding board or give advice for your adventure!

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Bali

bali_01Falling asleep to the sounds of waves crashing and the feel of the ocean breeze on my skin, waking up to the first light of the sun breaking over the horizon, walking barefoot in the dewey grass, tasting the sweet fresh fruit for breakfast… our recent short trip to Bali was a delight for the senses. This was my first time to visit this beautiful island and the only thing I would change would be to be able to stay longer.

We stayed at the beautiful Villa Campuhan which we booked after seeing photos of it on some of my past wedding clients’ instagram accounts. Since this trip was added on to the end of a work trip to Hong Kong, we only had 2 full days to spend in Bali, the first of which we used to relax by our private pool and soak up some sun. The next day we did venture beyond the villa and visited the amazing Pura Lempuyang, the Tirta Gangga water palace and some nearby rice terraces. Since we were staying on the eastern part of the island, we pretty much stayed that way which meant we did not have time to check Ubud or Seminyak but I guess that gives us a few excuses to try and make another visit, no?

One of the highlights for me was being in Bali during a full moon which meant we got to see the locals dressed up and preparing for celebrations at temples across the island. It was a beautiful look into the lives of those that call Bali home. I don’t think my words can do justice to the beauty of the place or the kindness of the people, so I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story…

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