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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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Croatia

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ITINERARY: This was a week long trip to the islands of Hvar and Brac in Croatia with two dear friends and it was all about relaxing and enjoying the nice weather. It was my first time to visit Croatia and I was blown away by the beauty of the place (it has a very similar vibe to some parts of Italy). The rocky beaches made for incredibly clear water that ranged from the most beautiful shades of green and blue depending on the time of day. And those sames greens and blues popped up everywhere on the islands (doorways, shutters, foliage) and were accented by an incredible orange/red that kept showing up in the roof tiles, boats, etc. When we arrived I was a little bit afraid that I had not brought enough film because everything was so picturesque!

TRAVEL TIME: For this trip we flew from London into Split via Zurich, hopped in a taxi to the port and then set off on a ferry to Hvar. The ferries run pretty frequently so no need to book ahead. After two days in Hvar we then took another ferry to the island of Brac and a short taxi ride (though a little scary as the roads were quite windy and mountainous) to our villa in Postira.

SLEEP: The first two nights we spent on Hvar at the Amfora Hvar Grand Beach Resort. My favorite things about this hotel were the view, the pool (which had a water slide!), proximity to the sea and the fact that it is a little bit away from the town center which can get pretty rowdy at night time. The rest of the week was spent in the town of Postira on Brac (another island just a short ferry ride from Hvar) at the loveliest little villa. The owners of the villa were so hospitable and greeted us with wine and a meat and cheese plate upon arrival. The villa has a beautiful ocean view, is steps from a lovely little beach, has its own pool and an outdoor grill that we used for almost every meal. It was nice to end the trip in a place that felt like a home away from home where we could cook for ourselves and stick to our own schedule.

EAT & DRINK: 

  • Hula Hula is a beachside restaurant and bar that was just around the corner from out hotel. We spent an afternoon here sipping on cocktails, eating and soaking up some sun. A great place to watch the sunset.
  • Hvar turns into quite a lively night spot in the evening and there are lots of places to choose from to grab a bite or some drinks. One spot we went to that had good cocktails and is located right along the harbour is Carpe Diem
  • Once we moved islands we spent most of our time eating and drinking at the villa we rented as opposed to eating out. We did have a great little neighborhood beachside bar that was a few steps from our villa but the town of Postira is so small I couldn’t find a website. Sorry!

TO DO: As I said before, this trip was all about relaxing and enjoying the warm weather and that is pretty much what we did! The beach or pool was visited every day and maybe interspersed with a drive to a new town, a walk to see some sights, or a competitive game of cards over a few beers. Pretty much every evening in Postira we had a BBQ and stuffed ourselves silly with delicious food. We came into the trip with no plans except for where we wold be staying and I would not have changed a thing!

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The Mews

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The Mews- I like to think of them as hidden secrets scattered throughout London. When I first moved here from the US, I had no idea what a Mews was. Originally they were a row of stables (back when horses were the preferred form of transportation) behind large city houses that opened up to an alley, lane or backstreet. Nowadays, most of these stables have been converted into homes. Most mews are much quieter than a typical London road (sometimes due to them being dead end roads) and I often find that they have a lot of greenery and other interesting features. Most of the mews I’ve photographed have been found while out for a walk. You wouldn’t even know most of them are there unless you turn a certain corner but when you do, you find yourself in a really beautiful and peaceful part of the city. I love exploring them and plan on adding to this series as I discover more throughout London.

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*shot on a Rolleiflex with Kodak Ektar*

Babylonstoren

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Itinerary: A week long trip in the wine country of South Africa (just outside of Capetown) as a belated 30th birthday celebration.

Travel Time: An 11 hour flight from London to Cape Town followed by a 45 minute drive to our hotel.

Accommodation: The main reason we chose to visit this part of South Africa was because of the hotel Babylonstoren. I had seen it mentioned on a few different blogs and travel guides over the years and had kept it in the back of my mind for when, if ever, we might head to this part of the world. Situated in the Drakenstein valley, Babylonstoren is a hotel, farm and winery all in one. Most of the grounds near the Cape Dutch-style guest cottages have been cultivated into beautiful gardens. It is really one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever been.

Highlight(s): Being my first time to set foot anywhere on the continent of Africa, I had high hopes for this trip and it did not disappoint. The beautiful weather, abundant sunshine and hospitality of everyone we met certainly helped, but the real winner of the trip was where we stayed. My favorite thing to do was take a lazy late afternoon walk through the expansive gardens. You might come across the chickens headed to the hen house for the evening, guests enjoying a cup of herbal tea in the greenhouse or maybe stumble upon a new section of the garden you had not explored yet. Most days were filled with grabbing breakfast at Babel (the restaurant on the grounds and where most of the edible things from the garden ares used), followed by a run or maybe a swim in the pool and a massage in the spa, then off to explore either a nearby winery or drive to the beach or Cape Town. And in the evenings when we returned to our cottage, we were always greeted with a lovely aperitif before heading out to grab dinner.

One evening when we came back to our cottage, we opened the door and were greeted by an owl that had somehow managed to fly down the chimney into our room! I, very bravely, ran as fast as I could out of there! The poor little thing was more frightened than anything and eventually we managed to open the back door to the cottage while it was hiding under a table and it flew out on its own.

It was hard to say goodbye to this place once it was time to leave but if we ever find ourselves in South Africa again, I definitely plan to stop by for even if just for a little visit.

 

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*shot on a Rolleiflex with Kodak Ektar & Portra 800*

The Lake District

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Itinerary: A weekend in the Lake District to explore the area and cheer on my husband as he competed in his first Triathlon.

Travel Time: About a five hour drive, depending on traffic, from London.

Accommodation: We stayed in the Highfield Hotel which is located in Keswick next to Derwentwater. The overall feel of the hotel is very welcoming and cozy. Our room was the “West Turret” room and featured a reading nook in the “turret” that had beautiful views of the valley. Breakfast and dinner were included in the rate and I could think of nothing better than filling up on the delicious full english breakfast before heading out for the day knowing that a hearty and warm dinner was waiting for us upon our return. I think my favorite thing I had for dinner was the venison- cooked to perfection and exactly what was needed after a day of hiking.

Highlight(s): The Lake District is one of the most beautiful parts of England in my opinion and the best way to see it is on foot. We only had about a day and half to explore the area so we set out first thing with a picnic in hand to Derwentwater where we hopped on one of the launch boats that cruises around the lake. It takes a little less than an hour to make a full trip around and there are various stops where you can hop on or off at your pleasure. We decided to take the long way around to the starting point for our hike which would take us over Ashness Bridge and up to Surprise View where you can view the whole of the lake below and the Catbells in the distance. We were there on an incredibly clear day and were even able to see Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance where Reid would be racing the following day (when the weather did not cooperate quite as much).

One thing I regret about this trip is not bringing our dog, Bonnie, along- she would have been in heaven going for hikes and swimming in the lake and the area seemed incredibly dog friendly. I guess that gives us a reason to head back to the Lake District in the future!

 

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*shot on the Rolleiflex with Kodak Portra 800 & Kodak Ektar*

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