On a rare sunny day a few weeks ago, Ryno and I decided to head to the beautiful town of Franschhoek. This was before summer arrived and we were both keen to spend some time relaxing outdoors. So picnic basket packed (ready to be filled there) and books in hand we undertook the 40 minute drive to wine country.
Franschhoek is famous for their wine, but being the sweettooth that I am I can’t visit without a stop at Huguenot Fine Chocolates. Their store is located on the main streat and they give tours showing how they make chocolate on most days. I always find some exciting new flavours to try, but when in doubt their Strawberry Cream and Cherry Kirsch never disappoints. Along with some chocolates we also picked up some buttery croissants and parma ham for lunch before we headed to the Huguenot Monument gardens for some lounging.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to be living in Cape Town, as it is one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the world. Cape Town also happens to be incredibly rich in history.
Rhodes Memorial has become somewhat of a controversial monument and unfortunately part of it has been damaged by vandals. Perched on the side of the mountain, the views are spectacular and Sir Herbert Baker designs never disappoint.
This post has been hovering in my drafts literally for months! I got the opportunity to visit Mauritius with Starwood Hotels and Air Mauritius late last year, during the Mauritian summer, and loved absolutely every minute of it!
I had never had an island holiday before and being used to the cold, windy beaches in Cape Town I really looked forward to the prospect of a warm, calm beach. And Mauritius did not disappoint!
Siena was our final stop on our Italian trip and by that time we were dead on our feet. It was so nice to arrive in this small town where everything seems to slow down. We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Italia which was located just outside of town, close to the railway station. After what seemed like an endless amount of escalators we finally reached our hotel to drop our bags and head into town.
Siena was once the capitol of Tuscany, before the Black Death lead to its defeat by Florence. The ancient walled town is located right in the heart of the Tuscan hills, making it easy to see why it was once the capitol! The town is perhaps most famous for the Palio di Siena, a twice yearly horse race taking place in the Piazza dell Campo. What attracts most visitors though is its beautiful Duomo. Although it does not match Florence’s Duomo in size, the sheer magnificence lies in its beauty and the detail both inside and on its exterior is absolutely breathtaking.
Whilst the Duomo might have been what first attracted us to Siena, it is its Panforte or Siena Cake which guaranteed its spot on our itinerary. If we had more time (read money) we would have loved to attend a Panforte tasting but instead we stocked up on this delicacy at one of Siena’s many delis.
We spent the rest of the afternoon nursing our tired feet on the Piazza del Campo after which my fiancé decided to scale the Torre del Mangia for some magnificent sunset shots. From there you can admire the dome, the countryside, the Piazza del Campo and the beautiful colours of Siena.
We finished our short time here with a traditional Italian dinner at a small restaurant inside the city walls before retiring to out hotel. What a great way to end this magnificent adventure!
P.S. I’d like to thank my fiancé for all these beautiful pics. You can see more of his shots on his Instagram account.
It is kind-off hard to believe that we have been back home for almost a month already and I am still sorting through photos from our trip. We’ve also got a myriad of videos still lying ahead and I’m going away for work next week so I think it might take up until the end of the year to get through it all. Which isn’t a bad thing! We had such an amazing time and I really want the feeling to last for as long as we can.
We spent a glorious three days in Florence which in my opinion wasn’t nearly enough! Between seeing all the amazing art works and eating copious amounts of gelato we didn’t manage to get to everything on our list. We kicked off day one, which was technically a half-day with a visit to the Galeria del Academia for Michelangelo’s David. Trust me when I say that none of the copies come close the real thing. You can even see the veins on his arms and hands and it is about three times the size of a real man! The Galeria also has a few other impressive works like the Rape of the Sabine Woman, which you really have to appreciate from all angles and a few other famous Michelangelo works.
We stayed close to the San Lorenzo market so we visited it a few times during our journey. I ended up buying a leather handbag for about 40 euros, but we did have to bargain slightly. Don’t buy at the first stall you see as they all have similar if not the same bags and everyone makes their own price. The market is also great for picking up a few cool souvenirs.
On day two we hit the Uffizi Galery where I fell slightly in love with Botticelli’s Spring. The gallery also offers some great views of the Ponte Vecchio and of course a secret passage across the river if you’ve got a special ticket.
By this time of our trip our feet were really getting the better of us, as I’d wake up feeling just like I did the night before. So we decided to skip the climb up the Dome tower and rather enjoyed a slice of pizza overlooking the dome. That evening we grabbed some take away and a large bottle of wine and dined underneath the stars on the stairs of the Piazza Michelangelo overlooking the city. There was a live musician and we even met another South African who recognised our Afrikaans. We enjoyed the evening so much that we decided to do the same the following evening.
The next day we really tried to cram it all in and paid a final visit to the San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, an amazing food market where you can do some grocery shopping on the ground level and get your meal on on the first floor. The pizzas there are totally worth it! I also really wanted to see the Santa Maria Novella and visit its pharmacy. The pharmacy is unlike any fragrance store I’ve ever visited as it feels like you’ve stepped back in time. Sadly I left empty handed as I just couldn’t decide what I wanted.
A visit to the Boboli Gardens was one of the things at the top of my list and it did not disappoint- even though a large part of the gardens were off limits due to (what we understood between the broken English) trees falling. We also went in to see the Costume Exhibition and finished with the Bardini Gardens which were even prettier! Both gardens offer amazing views of Florence. From the Boboli Gardens we saw some typical Tuscan scenes and from the Bardini Gardens we got a great view of the city.
We finished off our final evening in Florence with a gelato watching the sun set over the beautiful city. I hope we get to return soon!
Photos taken either by me or my talented fiancée. You can check out more of his amazing shots on his Instagram account here.
Captivated by the detail…
Sculpture room in the Galeria
The San Lorenzo Market
I regret not buying one of these souvenirs
The long hall in the Uffizi
View from the Uffizi
View from the Piazza Michelangelo, the place we loved so much we went there twice!
Yes, I did ride the Carousel at the Piazza Reppublica
Browsing inside the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
Sweet treats at the Mercato Centrale
Ponte Vecchio Love Locks
From the inside
View from the gardens
The Costume Exhibition
The Porcelain Museum
Typical Tuscan views
It was clearly mid-autumn (even though it never felt like it)
We really crammed it all in to our last two days. We spent it running around trying to take it all in. We had only set aside one day for the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill but found ourselves moving from seat to seat when we finally made it to the Roman Forum. There is definitely a reason that the tickets are valid for two days! The queues to enter the Colosseum stretched for miles despite the fact that it was autumn (which we never felt) so we were really glad that we bought tickets in advance. Honestly I must admit that I was a little underwhelmed by the Colosseum but it might have just been my feet talking. It was really hard to grasp the historical value of the site when the sheer size of it overwhelmed us.
I really enjoyed the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill more although all the walking had definitely taken its toll. We were completely knackered by the end of the day.
On our last day in Rome we just did a little shopping on Via dei Condotti (hello H&M!) and explored a few of the side streets where we found some really authentic looking Italian alleys. This was surprisingly also the first time I noticed a real Vespa. We also returned to the Pantheon so that we could enter during daylight. For our final evening in Rome we went to bridge before ending our evening with some gelato and wine at this cute little restaurant and bar that had amazing live music.
I couldn’t believe how time had flown and that it was already time to move on to our next stop. Rome, you romantic, you really managed to seduce me with your opera on the piazzas, great pizzas, even better gelato and beautiful architecture. I can’t wait until we meet again. La Dolce Vita!
A very special place in the Villa Borghese gardens
Near the pantheon
The Pantheon in the evening
The Fontana della Spigna
Inside the galleries
We saw so many sculptures…
Ancient Egypt rooms
Sistine Chapel- a sneaky shot
They mimicked the Pantheon
The detail is absolutely overwhelming
The spiral staircase
The famous dome luring…
St Peter’s Basillica
It has already been a week and half since our return from Italy and I still haven’t managed to work my way through all our photos. I’ve decided to split our trip into four posts to give you a fair sense of what our trip was like. We spent our first three days in the Eternal City, Roma. These images take me right back to the streets of Rome and all the sweet memories it holds. Opera voices filling the air, rose sellers all around and the distinct smell of wine.
We arrived around midday on the first day of our ten day journey and were completely exhausted! We only managed to walk around our neighbourhood and rushed to greet the Colosseum before taking a nap. We ended our first day with a long walk to the Spanish steps (we stayed in an apartment close to the Colosseum) and also enjoyed our first, and arguably best, gelato along the way.
On our second day we headed to the Villa Borghese gardens and were sad to find that we couldn’t enter the museum without having pre-booked online (keep that in mind if you do plan to visit). The gardens were by no means a disappointing consolation prize as there is so much to see! It is also the place where we got engaged so I might be biased! If you’re looking for a seriously romantic spot you can’t miss the pond.
We spent the entire day there and on our way back to apartment we stopped at the Pantheon. The atmosphere in the evenings was electric as the temperature was slightly more bearable than during the day.
I wish we had a step-counter as we walked our feet numb in the Vatican Museum. Viewing the Sisteen Chapel has been one of my dreams ever since I learnt about in school and it did not disappoint! The only fault (aside from the distance covered) is that every room preceding and following the Sisteem Chapel was equally as impressive.
The Vatican Museums also offered a lot with regards to beautiful gardens, endless amounts of amazing art, sculptures and even a few rooms dedicated to Etruscan and Ancient Egyptian artefacts.
We already felt dead on our feet by the time we headed to St Peter’s Basilica but I simply had to see Michelangelo’s Pieta. It was so beautiful to behold but exceedingly difficult to capture on camera thanks to its thick layer of protective glass. The complete scale and amount of detail inside and out was absolutely amazing and I still can’t believe we saw it all. Apparently you can even climb the dome, which we were sad to learn of after we returned. Now we have a good excuse to return!
P.S. Some of these beautiful pictures were snapped by my talented fiance. You can check his Instagram account here for more images.