IMG_5221.krIMG_5211Gibraltar monkeysIMG_5202.2.krIMG_5215.krBarbary ApesIMG_5196.2IMG_5209.krHalf a day in Gibraltar was hands down the highlight of my trip through Spain and Portugal, all because of these devils pictured above. Brazen, fearless, mischievous and so charming, they quickly had all the tourists in their thrall. And apparently they’re quite the food pickpockets – if you have anything edible, they’ll rip it out of your hands or steal it from your bag. I saw a pair tag team a robbery. One monkey opened one of those low ice cream fridges in an outdoor cafe, stole handfuls of Magnums, and then raced off as the owner came at them with a broom. His friend was covering for him the whole time. They then proceeded to unpack and devour said ice cream in full view of our cameras.

The famous barbary apes aren’t apes at all but monkeys and they come from Morocco (and Algeria). However, these immigrants have settled in nicely and are plastered all over the tourist  attractions in Gibraltar. They’re clustered around St. Michael’s caves and pay tourists no attention as they go about their business – you can see how close I got to some of them! One stood mere inches away as I snapped his portrait and the rest circled me calmly as they alternately fought and groomed. I was a bit more cautious with the mother and her baby, but she was quite calm as well and posed for a few shots. I think they have beautiful, thoughtful faces.

Gibraltar is a fascinating place with lots of history, especially for those World War II buffs, but I only had time for these creatures. I’m starting to think that I’d really enjoy a safari – animals are proving to be even more interesting to photograph than people (remember my obsession with pigeons? oh and the iguanas in Tulum…)

Happy Tuesday!

[P.S. Settling into life in New York and doing twelve things at once, so the updates are slow in coming! I hope to make a photo book of this trip as it was amazing and quite photogenic.]

IMG_4661.3Lisbon tile CollageIMG_4706.2.krIMG_4655-Recovered.krIMG_4667.2.krIMG_4719-Recovered.krIMG_4701IMG_4660IMG_4725-Recovered.krIMG_4737.krIMG_4733IMG_4610.krLisbon architecture CollageIMG_4629.2.krOutside Lisbon CollageIMG_4806.krIMG_4787.2.krIMG_4812-Recovered.krIMG_4786.krIMG_4767.kr“Lisbon is such a calm city. We make sure to stay here a week every year,” said the random elderly couple right next to us at the hotel breakfast. They then proceeded to gripe about America (telling us we didn’t look like your usual Americans so we’re ok) and talk about quack theories. But their comments on Lisbon stuck with me, because there’s probably no better way to describe it. Lisbon is a calm city. And all this despite being the capital of Portugal and its largest city, with plenty of history and beautiful, bright houses. It just hums with that quiet confidence of someone who knows their worth and won’t change a damn thing.

Lisbon was the starting place of the 12-day tour of Spain and Portugal that took us to Lisbon, all over Andalusia, and finished in Madrid. (Photos incoming) It was whirlwind, but we saw so much and now I have some pointers about what’s worth exploring in more detail. Lisbon – and Portugal in general – probably tops that list. We only had two days there, but I loved it! We set out to the Castelo de Sao Jorge first, to catch amazing views of Lisbon and the Tejo. Then we skipped over to get a pasteis de nata (little egg custard tarts), which I’ve only ever had in Paris at a Portuguese café (these were much better). The medievalist in me quickly honed in on the Carmo Convent, a medieval cathedral that was partially destroyed in the horrific earthquake of 1755. The Romantics left the ruins relatively untouched and now it’s a cool museum and a great photo opp.

The next day we had more of a structured tour, walking around the neighborhoods of Alfama and Baixa, ending with a visit to Belem and its famous tower. After a trip to Sintra and Cascais (photos to come later) we were back in time to stroll to the waterfront and watch the sun set over the river as some seriously talented guy made sculptures out of sand (it almost seems like a shared pastime with Spain, because in Torremolinos there were some serious sand castles with moving toy trains and painted designs).

We’ve only barely scratched the surface of this beautiful city and this beautiful country, so I can’t wait to be back! I’ve heard Porto is a great place to go in the north and then the beaches of the Algarve call. Hope you enjoy the photos!

A FEW TIPS

Hotel Mundial Lisbon

Praça Martim Moniz 2, 1100-341

The main draw is the central location as well as the rooftop bar with amazing views of both the Castelo (beautifully lit up at night) and the rest of Lisbon.

Hotel Solar Dos Mouros

R. do Milagre de Santo António 6, 1100-351

Close to the Castelo on your way down. It’s inside a hotel, but the restaurant had a separate entrance. Delicious spreads and refreshing sangria – but the views on the terrace are some of my favorites.

If you’re into it, pick up a few cork products and some tinned sardines and maybe some tiles. I couldn’t get too crazy with the home decorating, as I am renting in NY, but a girl can dream…

(Funny story, had to buy some plates for the apartment and ducked into west elm only to find their new line of reactive glaze plates made in – you guessed it – Portugal. Of course I bought some.)

Postcards from CharlestonAngel Oak artisteIMG_3431.krIMG_3465.krIMG_3469.krIMG_3530.2.krIMG_3527.krCharleston triptychIMG_3523.krIMG_3511.2.kr

Invariably, once every other issue, Conde Nast World Traveler magazine will sing the praises of Charleston, SC. After so much subliminal (or not really) messaging, I had to go and see for myself! Took a few days over spring break to thaw and visit Jake in his home state, complete with 75+ degree weather and enough sunshine to make me half a shade darker. I found this to-do list from Conde Nast fairly useful, as it pointed us in the direction of Leon’s Oyster Shop on King Street – amazing seafood and poultry, Jake swears the chicken sandwich was the best he has ever had.

Other than that, we spent the day wandering King Street, the Waterfront Park with its Pineapple Fountain (I was obsessed) and the Historic District with its colorful buildings. And I almost forgot to add the Angel Oak, reported to be 400-1500 years old (Wikipedia says one thing, the actual park, another). It was a little stopover before we reached Charleston on the way from Savannah. Such a peaceful place, with dappled sunshine and branches that just beg you to film some magical/scifi movie there. Spent the rest of the break in Savannah and other parts of South Carolina, which I will post shortly, as well as a little artistic portfolio shoot I did for my friend.

Have a great weekend!

IMG_2529.krIMG_2501.krIMG_2503.krAmsterdam CollageIMG_2436.krIMG_2463.krJust wanted to share a few photos of my December trip to Amsterdam before I became overwhelmed with work this weekend. Unfortunately, Amsterdam was overcast every day I was there, except the day I left, of course. But it was beautiful nonetheless, especially with the annual light exhibit at almost every bridge!

I stayed in the outer canal region near De Pjip in a former brother -turned – hostel Cocomama which was about as Amsterdam as I figured I could get. The number of bikes was disorienting, especially since they all had right of way, as was the number of tall, beautiful people in muted colors. I always have this system, of going to a place once for a few days, and then, if I decide I love it,  I go back for longer. I feel like that way you get oriented the first time and can make better choices about what you want to explore when you come back. I did this with Paris, multiple times and this past time, which was my third in the city, I had a special sort of pleasure in exploring the really hidden gems I had missed the first time. The bucket list still got longer, inexplicably. So all I say to Amsterdam is that I’ll be back, maybe in time for warmer weather!

IMG_2194.krIMG_2205.krBruges from aboveBruges StreetsIMG_2210.krIMG_2293.krIMG_2284.krIMG_2258.krMinnewaterBruges CanalsSunriseIMG_2320.krIMG_2316.krIMG_2306.krIMG_2321.krAs soon as it was confirmed I was going to Brussels, I knew I had to visit Bruges. I actually do not remember when I first saw or heard about Bruges, but it’s always been lodged in my head as a must-visit, like a memory from a previous life. After a week of getting over my jet lag and settling into Brussels, I took a train for an overnight stay in Bruges.

One of the things I love about Belgium is how accessible the country is – from Brussels every corner of Belgium is at most an hour away by train, so it took me no time at all to skip giddily down the medieval streets along with all the other day trippers.

Bruges, or Brugge natively, is dizzying in how pretty and uniform it is. Uniform not in the sense that all houses look alike, but it is as if everything was frozen in time, much like Siena actually. I stayed right in the heart of the city, a few steps from the Belfort, Bruges’ bell tower and symbol of medieval civic liberties. The amazing views set to the chiming bells was worth the somewhat claustrophobic climb and it allowed me to work off all the chocolate and waffles I had been consuming! I also made it a point to walk through Minnewater park – it is said if you cross the bridge, pictured above, with a loved one, you will be together forever. The Bruges Beguinage is also amazing and I picked sunrise to walk through it, before all the tourists poured in. The Beguines were female lay devotional communities spread throughout Northern Europe, especially the Low Countries, in the 13th – 16th centuries. Either way, it’s a lovely courtyard with bending trees and swans in the surrounding canals.

I would love to write a fully comprehensive travel guide for Bruges, but the best thing is to wander around the city – it’s very small, so you’ll stumble on everything in your guidebook within minutes of each other. My goal here is only to whet your appetite. 🙂

NOTE: Most things are closed on Monday, so if you’re going overnight or on a day trip, avoid Bruges on Monday!

Likewise, I tried to speak French in Bruges but more often than not, unlike Brussels, I was answered in English. A lot of this has to do with the political and cultural divisions within Belgium itself, so if you’re going north or away from France, it’s best if you use English. In Brussels it is quite the opposite, not so many people know English but French lets you get around easily.