Enchanted Vilnius

20170530_135249 (2)Sometimes taking a leap of faith, or a road trip, to a place unknown can lead to the most beautiful surprises. When my cousin proposed a visit to Vilnius, Lithuania during my three week stay in Europe, I wasn’t immediately swept off my feet. I dreamt of Vienna, Prague or Stockholm. The small country  of Lithuania was never on my radar as a tourist destination. Images of many former eastern block nations danced in my head like a depressing film noir. What could I possibly see or enjoy in Lithuania for one day, let alone three! I was primed to be enchanted.

The six hour comfort bus ride from Bialystok (for which I paid $38 round trip!) to Vilnius was filled with naps and stork spotting, wifi and snacks. I barely realized how much time had passed when we pulled into Lithuania’s capital city. A city where almost 700 years of history mingles to highlight its past with the emerging bright future. Where any visitor with euros in their pocket and speaking nothing more than English can feel at ease. Where I was reminded of how much this city and country were a part of my own Polish heritage.

20170530_172032 (2)20170530_172538 (2)20170530_172715 (2)20170530_173036 (2)      20170530_172829 (2)20170530_172648 (2)20170530_173153 (2)20170530_173733 (2)20170530_175717 (2)     20170530_174822 (2)20170530_180004 (2)20170530_175651 (2)20170530_173529 (2)20170530_172507 (2)20170530_172205_HDR (2)20170530_182358 (2)20170530_182412 (2)20170530_183520 (2)20170531_184953 (2)     20170531_190636 (2)20170531_190625 (2)20170530_183447 (2)20170530_182533_HDR (2)20170530_182549_HDR (2)20170530_184359_HDR (2)20170530_184529 (2)20170530_185021 (2)20170530_184858 (2)20170530_185311 (2)     20170530_184840 (2)20170530_184915 (2)20170530_183912 (2)20170530_185535 (2)20170530_190200_HDR (2)    20170530_190119 (2)20170530_191730 (2)20170530_191615 (2)     20170530_191618 (2)20170530_204718 (2)20170530_194214 (2)20170530_195652 (2)      20170530_195346 (2)20170530_191802 (2)20170530_191953_HDR (2)    20170530_191914 (2)20170530_192417_HDR (2)     20170531_132520 (2)20170531_132323 (2)       20170530_182504 (2)20170531_182256 (2)20170531_135653_HDR (2)20170531_140949_HDR (2)20170531_140800 (2)       20170531_140810 (2)20170531_141457 (2)20170531_123012 (2)20170531_123152_HDR (2)As always it is near impossible to present in a few words and photos what a country or a city has to offer. There are so many beautiful places around the world that need to be seen with your own eyes. I’m still slowly checking off my extensive travel list, as each year I make a choice between seeing something new or returning to a place I have come to love.

Vilnius is definitely going on the “must return” list. I hope you will travel there yourself and become enchanted!

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Welcome Home – Bialystok

20170525_164849I am almost embarrassed to say that it has taken me 14 years (eek!) to return to my homeland and the city where I was born, Bialystok. It also feels like it has taken me ages to write this blog post. In my defense, I wanted to do justice to a beautiful city that shaped my childhood and my initial outlook on the world.

I poured through almost 300 photos knowing I could only share a glimpse of my three week visit. Many of the photos were very personal as I met with family (thank you Agata for being an amazing host and cousin!!) and old school friends who made me feel like I never left (I can’t wait to continue these friendships for years to come!). I ate the most incredible food, practiced my language skills (not as bad as I thought) and even caught up on this summer’s best movie, Wonder Woman! The weather was incredible as I explored the city mostly on foot, stopping more often than not for a daily dose of ice cream. I cannot believe I didn’t gain weight ;). I hope you enjoy my adventure!

The historic and colourful city of Bialystok, situated in northeastern Poland, received town rights in 1692 but there is documentation that in 1437 the area was identified for settlement and gifted by the Duke of Lithuania to local nobility. In the intervening 5 centuries, it has undergone many changes that reflected the evolution of world history and politics. And even the last 14 years have created a city that is making its mark as a wonderful place to live and a new travel destination, especially for eco adventurers. I am very proud of what the city has become and look forward to many more visits.20170525_164739 (2)20170525_164729 (2)20170529_134123 (3)20170603_185746 (2)20170603_180912 (2)20170525_165120 (2)        20170525_164744 (2)  20170525_164843 (2)20170529_134132 (2)20170529_134356 (2)20170529_133115 (2)20170605_175408 (2)20170605_175014 (2)20170609_145025 (2)20170609_144734 (2)        20170609_144918 (2)  20170606_120146 (2)20170606_120313 (2)        20170606_120532 (2)20170606_120205 (2)20170526_130438 (2)20170603_181653 (2)       20170606_115453 (2)20170606_120752 (2)20170606_120757 (2)        20170606_120809 (2)  20170606_122237 (2)20170609_141202 (2)20170606_122451 (2)20170606_121714_HDR (2)        20170607_163042 (2)20170607_163422 (2)20170525_164804 (2)20170529_135514 (2)   20170529_141626 (2)        IMG_20170529_135745 (2)20170607_151231 (2)20170607_151303 (2)20170607_150951 (2)        20170607_144525 (2)20170606_151239 (2)20170606_151456 (2)20170606_151310 (2)        20170606_154431 (2)20170606_151509 (2)20170609_212320 (2)20170609_212326 (2)20170609_212659 (2)20170609_212536 (2)20170610_212651 (2)I hope that you enjoyed this brief introduction to my home city. There is so much to do and see in this beautiful part of Poland. I invite you to take on the adventure and visit a place that is not often on the tourist radar.

While in Poland, I took a brief trip to the old town of Vilnius in Lithuania. In an upcoming post, I will introduce you to a city that had played a major role in the history of my country. It was my first visit and one of the most pleasant surprises of my vacation.

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Paris…Encore!

Eiffel Tower, Paris, FranceI hardly need an excuse to hop on a plane headed to Paris. When the opportunity arose to visit one of the most beautiful cities in Europe for a second time in less then a year, well…the photos tell the story. And boy were there ever many photos. It has taken me a while to sift through all the images (and to deal with my feelings of coming back to earth after the best vacation EVER!).

Having already done three other posts on Paris, which you can find here, here, and here, I have decided to share images that best represent my favourite aspects of this trip. And you will surely notice all the food shots liberally sprinkled throughout. The boy and I truly indulged in a range of gastronomic delights. Enjoy!

Rooftops, Paris, France      Place des Voges, Paris, FrancePlace des Voges, Paris, FranceChantilly cream and strawberries      Coffee, Merci, Paris, FrancePamela Popo Exterior, Paris, FranceGraffiti, Paris, France      Falafel, L'As de Falafel, Paris, FranceLe Sevigne restaurant, Paris, FranceTango dancing along the Seine, Paris, FranceCafe Louis Phillipe, Paris, FranceSky, Paris, France      Cafe Louis Phillipe, Paris, FranceStreet crowds, Paris, France   Sunbathing along the Seine, Paris, France      Street, Paris, FranceShelves at Maison Plisson, Paris, FranceDeli counter at Maison Plisson, Paris, FranceBuildings in St Paul, Paris, FranceStreet art, Paris, France      Installation, Place des Voges, Paris, FranceArt Installation, Place des Voges, Paris, FranceMacarons, Paris, FranceFrench pastries, Paris, France   Eiffel Tower, Paris, France      Boule players, Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris, FrancePony rides, Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris, FranceAu Beurre Sale creperie, Paris, FranceRestaurant patio, Paris, FranceCafe tables, Paris, France      Crepes for lunch, Paris, FranceCrowds at Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris, FranceEiffel Tower, Paris, France      Spectators, Jardin de Luxembour, Paris, FranceBoule players, Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris, FranceBee hives, Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris, FranceTuileries, Paris, France Conran Shop, Bon Marche, Paris, FranceThe Tuileries, Paris, FranceGarden, Petit Palais, Paris, France      Statue of a girl with a monkey, Petit Palais, Paris, FrancePalais Royal, Paris, FranceThe Tuileries, Paris, France      Duck confit with crisp potatoes, Cafe Hugo, Paris, FranceMaison Angelina, Paris, FranceCafe gourmand, Cafe Hugo, Paris, FrancePatio, Cafe Hugo, Paris, France      Cheeseburger and fries, Cafe Hugo, Paris, France  Cobblestones and Cappuccinos, Paris, FranceUntil next time Paris! À bientôt!

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Door Knockers of Malta and Gozo

Lion head knocker on red door, MaltaThere is one more thing I have to share with all of you from my trip to the magnificent islands of Malta and Gozo. At every turn, and down every street, beautiful knockers dot the doors of Maltese buildings like opulent jewels. Known as “Il-Habbata” many are intricate works of art in bronze and brass.

The sea-faring nature of the island is reflected in many of the motifs like dolphins, seahorses, and sirens. But you will also find faces, coats of arms, and animals. More importantly both the knocker and the colour of the door, some dating hundreds of years, represent the personality and taste of the home owner. And based on some of my examples, I would be more than happy to make their acquaintance.Brass hexagon door knocker, MaltaBronze angel knocker on wood door, MaltaCoat of arms knocker on red door, Mdina, MaltaPig head knocker on red door, Valletta, MaltaEagle knocker on pink door, MaltaLion head knocker on purple door, GozoAngel head bronze knocker on wood door with studs, Valletta, MaltaDetail of angel knocker on wood door, Valletta, MaltaBronze dolphins and Malta Cross knocker on wood door, MaltaBacchus face knocker on green door, GozoBrass Bacchus face knocker on cream door, GozoBrass Bacchus face door on brown door, GozoBronze creature face knocker on white door, GozoDolphin knockers on blue door, GozoBronze stylized dolphin on blue door, Valletta, MaltaBrass circle door knockers, MaltaStylized dolphin on purple door, Valletta, MaltaGirl Scout clover knocker on navy door, Valletta, MaltaBrass mythical creature knocker on wood door, MaltaBronze mythical creature knocker on wood door, MaltaThere are many more whimsical knockers and colourful doors than I could possibly include in this post. I encourage you to discover them yourself on a trip to to the mystical island of Malta.

Bonjour Paris Part 3

Green chairs in Jardin du Luxembourg, ParisGreen spaces abound in cosmopolitan Paris. From tiny squares filled with laughing children, embracing couples, and tired tourists to sprawling parks dotted with iconic metal green chairs and their sunbathing occupants. Everyone has a favourite.

Two of the biggest and most famous happen to be Jardin du Luxembourg and the Tuileries Gardens. And I count these among my MUST stops while in Paris.

The first dates back to the 17th century and was constructed as a royal residence. The palace still stands as a crowning jewel of the park, but its real treasure are the beautiful fountains and statues sprinkled among the lawns and tree-lined alleys. It’s worth the hunt to find them all!

This is a place were real Parisians come to play and relax. Whether listening to live orchestra or pushing sailboats across a circular basin, it’s a little piece of heaven for old and young alike. I usually stop at the nearby Grand Epicerie to stock up on cheese (Comte is my current favourite), and baguette. And with those in hand I head for a quiet corner to put my feet up and watch the world go by. Listening to the orchestra in Jardin du Luxembourg, ParisPalace du Luxembourg, ParisWater basin with sail boats in Jardin du Luxembourg, ParisPalm tree in Jardin du Luxembourg, ParisFor a stroll along the dusty paths of the Tuileries Gardens you have to cross the river from the Left Bank. Or, post a lengthy museum visit, head straight out of the Louvre toward the masses of tourists swirling in front of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. The magnificent green gardens lie just beyond and provide some of the most memorable photo opportunities in Paris (the iconic Louvre Pyramid and the Eiffel Tower are only two of your background options)!

These gardens also began their existence as part of the royal residence of the French monarchy in the 17th century. The strewn green chairs, the reflective pools, and flower filled beds all appear very similar to the Jardin. But to me, the Tuileries have a more formal feeling. This is where you come to see and be seen. It’s not by chance that the manicured lawns and gravel alleys appear in photos during Paris Fashion Week every year and that many films have made use of the sprawling elegance of the area.

Chic shopping districts like Avenue des Champs-Élysées and Faubourg Saint-Honoré are only steps away. And  mouthwatering macarons from Ladurée or hot chocolate from Angelina’s are available to-go for an impromptu posh picnic on the grass. I’ve enjoyed my share during this trip.

So if your time in Paris is limited make sure to head for this fabulous green heart of the city. I guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for.Bridge to the Louvre Palace, ParisRoof and facade of the Louvre Palace, ParisWater sprinklers in the Tuileries Gardens, ParisView of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens, ParisAlley in the Tuileries Gardens, ParisGreen chairs in the Tuileries Gardens, Paris Pond with statue in the Tuileries Gardens, ParisCarrousel, ParisCaroussel at the Tuileries Gardens, ParisAnd I couldn’t leave off my travel blog without the image that sums up the city for me, the Eiffel Tower. I glimpsed it often while roaming around Paris, and each time I was filled with joy which reminded me that I was in my favourite place on earth!Eiffel Tower from the roof of Printemps, ParisThank you for coming along on this trip. I hope you have enjoyed it. Let me know what your favourite part was!