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Stunning Switzerland (and roadtripping the nearby countries on a MINI of all cars)

If you have ever been to the Alps, you know there is something magical about the place. There is this strange pull to it that does not let go of you no matter the years apart, and if lucky, you suddenly find yourself at the same serpentine roads that mesmerized you a decade earlier. It is like nothing had changed.

 

It all started from a random joke of mine. And thanks to the spontaneous nature of my boyfriend, this joke soon turned into booking flights, a mini with a map (and gps just in case my map-reading skills were no longer up-to-standard), and a 950km road trip around Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany and France. 5 action-packed days with lots of driving, getting lost, near accidents, enjoying breathtaking views and yummy foods and stupid jokes and overall, an amazing spring break!

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Firstly, the mountains.

Early April is a terrible time to visit a Switzerland on a road trip as most Alpine crossings are closed, so we decided to take a train up to Kleine Scheidegg (2061m /6762 ft).

There is this certain feeling of freedom you get when standing of top of a mountain and glancing down, seeing the way the sun reflects off the snow and clouds that surround you. It is rare to just stop and enjoy the moment nowadays; standing still and taking it all in.

Like feeling the breeze of the wind, the way its coolness tickles your face and the freezing temperatures making your toes and fingers feel stiff as you stand on those snowy slopes. A gentle shade of pink creeps up your cheeks, you shiver yet smile, and think of all those happy childhood days of running around the snow with not a hint of worry. I think being on a mountain, or by the vast sea, or immersed in nature in general allows you to experience these moments of silence, reflection, relaxation.

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What a cliche it is to say it is like standing on top of a world, but then again isn’t this the perfect caption? At those altitudes simple everyday problems seems pretty insignificant when you cannot even point out houses down the valley, much less any people.

IMG_20170403_132916_977Secondly, the lakes were absolutely stunning.

It is easy to understand why this is a great destination for a relaxing summer holiday – especially near Luzern.

 

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Thirdly, the architecture.

This little village of Appenzell was beyond adorable.

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And lastly, this hidden spot behind a church in Bern was my favourite. We walked past at the perfect moment to see these shadows. Wow.

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Spring vibes from London – The best photos of 2017

Why do I love living near London?

Because every time you explore the city, you see something new. From the cotton candy coloured houses of Notting Hill to adorable walks along the canal in Apsley, the city and surrounding areas have something for everyone.

Here are my favourite photos from spring 2017 – the little moments captured by phone and edited using nothing but Instagram & Layout.

 

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The cotton candy houses of Notthing Hill

 

 

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Peculiar Portobello Road

 

 

Walk along the canal

Adorable Apsley at night

 

 

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Which one would you live in?

 

 

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The beauty of patterns

 

 

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Glorious Greenwich

 

 

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See the city from a new perspective – Emirates Air Line

 

 

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Silent evening in St Albans

 

 

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University life in the UK is Unbelievable

Life is pretty crazy, isn’t it? All of a sudden you wake up in a new country, still half asleep staring at the roof, and try figure out how you made it there. The sun is shining between the curtains, someone yells at the corridor, and the alarm clock is not-so-quietly reminding the lecture starts in fifteen so snoozing is not longer an option. Even now after two months, waking up here in the UK feels weird.

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  So happy the lecture finished in time to see this.

University of Hertfordshire. When uni started in Finland two years ago, I made sure everyone knew that this is where I would end up in for my double degree year. And here I am, and it is not what I had expected.

The first two months have been amazing. Crazy. Full of adventures. Filled with countless spontaneous trips and social gatherings, and lectures and group meetings and LRC evenings. Have luckily not needed to pull an allnighter there, been close though with the deadlines approaching…

I’ve met people from so many countries I’ve lost count, made friends with truly spectacular individuals and laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Have even managed to return the first assignments in time, join sports clubs, and sort out a part-time job for the rest of the year. It’s been exhausting of course, this life of mine, yet I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Going abroad teaches you not only about the world and other countries and cultures, but of yourself.

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St Albans – this is where I will graduate next year

You are actually much stronger, much wiser, much more equipped to deal with changes and conflict than you knew. There is this strange energy you have the first weeks of being abroad. You make friends without realizing, get to know the weird habits of your new flatmates, get all settled in to the tiny room you now call home. You learn to read the situation and know what topics are okay to talk about with whom, start to know your way around the campus and the city, and maybe learn the art of small talk the locals seem so fond of. Yet there is not really something as me-time, because let’s face it there is no time to waste staying home alone, what if you miss out! The weeks pass by and then one day it’s Friday night, you’ve been home all day doing nothing, and for the first time you actually can just take a deep breath and stop to think.

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A day trip to Cambridge

I smile when I think of the things that have happened, the kindness of strangers that have now become dear friends. The time  I was really ill – freshers flu is a real deal – and came home and my amazing flatmate had bought medicine and left it outside my door. Or the night it was freezing outside as we waited for the bus home and someone gave me their jacket even though they probably needed it more. The spontaneous travels, the laughter-filled wine Fridays, the “I’m coming over right now, let’s talk” phone calls from a dear friend. Teaching people to cook, and running around the campus trying to figure out where the pizzas are being delivered to . We study on campus, we live on campus. It’s all here – and it takes less than two minutes to walk both to the shop and to the lectures from home! It is overwhelming and stressful and tiring at times, yet I feel I would have missed out on so much had I stayed somewhere else. 

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An epic road trip to Glasgow – the street art there was just stunning!

Overall, I cannot say I miss Finland. I miss certain aspects of it, like family and my close friends that are now scattered around the world doing their exchange. And the academic world here is quite different from what I’m used to so there is real pressure to do well for the final year… But with the support Herts has to offer, and thanks to my lovely local and international friends, I think the next few months will be just as great as the last two.

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A weekend trip to Edinburgh. This trip proved that spontaneous decisions made over a game of pool and table tennis can lead to truly amazing holidays & new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why haven’t you visited New Zealand?

I am here to prove you are missing out big time if you don’t have New Zealand as your next long-distance travel destination. Finns, forget about Thailand and Bali. NZ is the place to be – and Australia isn’t too bad of a place to stop over on the way either.

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“Never say goodbye, because saying goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting” (Peter Pan)

First though let’s be honest. Yes, it’s expensive to get there – but I am, among so many others, a living proof you can do it even with a student budget (and a few years’ of work + saving live crazy of course).. Secondly, it takes a hell of a lot of time to get there so you wanna stay for at least a couple of weeks. Preferably longer, especially if you are such a cheap-ass stingy person like me and rather travel for 42 hours and change planes five times just to save 300e. (Note, that 300e later paid for my sky diving adventure in Australia, so I gotta say it was totally worth the physically and mentally exhausting 42 hours. One way that is.). But, if you don’t go, you’ll regret it – so start saving up for your next big adventure!

Anyway, the top three things you probably know about New Zealand so far are:

1. Amazing nature.

Thanks to movies such as The Lord of the Rings, The Last Samurai, Whale Rider etc. I am pretty sure you have a pretty good idea of what an exotic beauty, blue sea and emerald green scenery awaits. Beach holiday, hiking or culture – it’s all there.

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I went on a quiet stroll on this beach, somewhere near the Bay of Islands maybe, two weeks before leaving for good in 2014

2. Sheep.

There’s a lot of them – enough actually to be frozen and shipped across the globe just to be sold in pretty much most supermarkets here in Finland… And I think during some English lesson in high school I learned that there are ten times more sheep in that country than people- though the truth is actually closer to six. Anyway when you get to NZ majority of the sheep are actually down south and people up north, or that’s how it seemed anyway, so you as foreigner end up more or less confused with the sheep shagger etc. jokes Aussies had been telling you about the Kiwis.

3. Wine? Rugby?

The third one is a little more difficult to come up with. I’d guess you’ve tried some excellent NZ wine? Or maybe you know rugby and the goosebump-raising, crowd-silencing war dance “Haka” the All Blacks do prior to the big games. Wow. Just wow. Google it.

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Me, Laura and her two brothers on Mt Taranaki, 2009

Anyway, recently my friends asked for advice re the Working Holiday visa and general life in New Zealand as they are heading over there later this year. And as so many great memories have now flooded my mind completely drowning out the important university assignment stuff that ought to be a priority over this silly daydreaming about going back to my second home once more, I decided to write down some key things here. Just thinking about the time spent in NZ makes me smile..

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Four hours. One fish. Still smiling.

So the top 3 things I hope you don’t miss out during your trip down under are:

Surprise surprise,

1. Amazing nature.

Yup you’ve seen photos, but in reality it’s even better. I loved the long scenic drives down the coast; having the bright blue water on the right and green hills and bushes filled with odd-looking plants on the left, with snow-topped mountains in the distance. Or the evergreen rain forests, gorges, waterfalls, and so on – hiking is definitely one of the must-do’s of your trip.

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We were camping by this stunning river, somewhere near Taupo

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Found this on the door one morning..

Why not conquer a mountain while you are there, climb to the top of Mt Taranaki for example? Or explore the Waitomo Caves and see the fascinating glowworms? Maybe even check out some wine regions? And it’s nice to know that as oppose to Australia, everything in the good old NZ is NOT trying to kill you so can feel pretty safe with all the wildlife and spiders and such.

Most of the time.

But forget about the daytime beauty. It’s is night when the magic happens.

Imagine. The sky gets filled with stars, with Milky Way showing it’s gorgeous form right above you as you get surrounded by a strange silence, wrapped in a comforting pitch-black cocoon with the stars forming a sparkling map of past and future, a place where you feel alone and small and insignificant, and empowered and alive and the ruler of the world all at the same time for that one moment when you just let go of everything else and be amazed how good it feels to be there. To feel fully free of constraints. To feel alive.

Please Google “New Zealand night sky” and see what I am talking about!

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Please let me introduce: Graeme, aka world’s best host dad and the bbq master of the family

2. Food.

Now I do admit NZ does not have the stereotypical stuff like what pizza is to Italy, sushi to Japan or tortillas and salsa for Mexico. But what is has is a wonderful melting pot of fresh produce, world-class wines (that don’t cost a fortune!) and some of the best seafood and meat available! There’s just something cozy about the Sunday dinner of roast lamb and three veggies. Not to forget fish n chips, or Chinese takeaway or any other fast foods enjoyed on Fridays by the beach – if it tastes good, does it really matter where the original recipe came from?

Paua jewellery is gorgeous, but why not taste the actual seafood? Or whitebait omelette? Maybe go to Rotorua and try the traditional hangi? For dessert there are so many puddings to choose from – but boysenberry, hokey pokey or rocky road ice cream, Pavlova, and maybe also Jaffas and pineapple lumps are among the things you do wanna try out yourself. ❤ And I gotta say, the beer and wine selection is pretty good, pretty good indeed. And I heard in the last couple of years they have started to get some decent local ciders as well 😉 I wouldn’t recommend trying to try drink a Kiwi under a table though…

3. Culture.

It’s seriously a laid-back, chilled, an informal and relaxing life they enjoy there. Yet everything works, things get done, and at the end of the day you can hang out with friends and have a beer while waiting for the bbq to heat up. In summer time life is great and the beaches are filled with people, in winter it’s cold and wet and quiet, quite like everywhere else. But they don’t usually get totally covered in snow in winter which is nice, and most of the time don’t need to pay attention if there’s a + or – when talking about the outdoor temperature. Little happy moments of life aye. By the way, you can actually get sunburnt in winter – I learned it the hard way! Sissel my dear friend, that’s a warning for you.

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WOMAD 2009

Nevertheless, with culture I also want to emphasize the arts – have you seen the amazing detail of Maori tattoos and carvings for example? Or read about the history? Don’t forget the music and the great local bands (check out music festivals such as WOMAD), or the abundance of different culture and sporting events – you need to check out the atmosphere of a proper rugby game at least!

 

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NZ is home to some pretty decent street art

Moreover, there are also the crazy tourist attractions and the adrenaline-spiking stuff like bungee jumping, skydiving and hang gliding among many others.. That country knows how to keep the tourists from getting bored!

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Queenstown – home to every adrenaline sport you need

So all in all, if you go there on a tourist visa or stay longer and complete a working holiday, I assure you there’s plenty to see and experience. And their tourism services are world class and the locals are super nice! Even though during my three years there I had plenty of ups and downs, a true culture shock many times over, all in all it was an amazing experience thanks to all the truly spectacular people I met ❤ One day I’ll be back.

So what are you waiting for, why aren’t you booking your flights already?

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Chasing the bubbles at Back Beach, New Plymouth

 

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You can fall asleep on a motorcycle – The five things I learned while exploring Europe

I bet you are thinking “There is not way you can fall asleep on a motorcycle. You’d fall”

Mum is driving. Scotland. 2004.

Mum is driving. Scotland. 2004.

Well… Imagine a tired 13-year-old who has spent the whole day wearing black driving gear under the scorching hot sun of Italy, a child who has spent the last two hours singing out loud while being comfortably covered from the wind by their mum or dad who is driving. Sleep was definitely one of those things I had mastered; waking up when banging on my head to the driver’s back was a norm back then. Singing, well that is another thing.

Motorcycle travel was the highlight of my childhood.

The crew. Scotland. 2004.

The crew. Scotland. 2004.

From driving through the fog in the moors and mountains of Scotland to singing until I could no more on an endless drive in the Autobahn and the Alps. And getting lost when I pretended I knew where we were when it was my turn to navigate; I am not the best at admitting am wrong. Looking back, I don’t think I ever appreciated all that I experienced, nowhere near as much as I should have.

And that’s why I am writing this post now, to let you know of the five most important lessons that I, now almost 10 years later, still remember.

Scotland. 2014.

Scotland. 2004.

1.) Travelling with your family totally beats travelling alone. Even when your parents get to say “I told you so” when you get cheated in Venice.

Germany. 2003.

Germany. 2003.

I guess we were quite a sight back then, mum and dad on their motorcycles with two girls travelling behind them. What’s a better ice breaker than pulling up with two under 12-year-old hooligans to a loading dock of a cruise ship; me and my sister casually walking around carrying the driving gear amidst the truck drivers while mum and dad secured their bikes onto the ship. I can still remember the joke I told in Scotland, how the bunk bed was shaking when everyone was laughing hysterically. And the time when me and Jaana got totally cheated in Venice (losing 5e was not as worse as realizing the paper dolls we bought could actually not walk.. Dad’s “I told you so” was so deserved that day.). The day when my thumb got crushed between the fire door of a cruise ship on the second day of our trip, and having to wear dad’s gloves for a week. The feeling of running around in circles every time mum added moisturizer on my badly burned back in Italy.

Somewhere on the Alps. 2006.

Somewhere on the Alps. 2006.

And the time when I got angry over something in Switzerland, locked myself in the shower and sang Frederik’s “Tsingis Kahn & Rasputin” (oh my god, the song choices…) only to calm down and find out people down in the hostel reception had heard it all – well at least my family got to have a laugh!

2-4 weeks of intense travel with your family every summer for six years can to some sound like the start of a horror story; to us it was a marvellous mixture of “I hate you – I love you” roller-coaster of emotions and a true learning experience. I love my family.

2.)  It pays to learn the language beforehand. Though as proven by dad many times; when you don’t have a common language, speaking Finnish loud enough will usually get things done.

“When there’s a will, there’s a way” is true especially when talking about getting food. Oh there is not much I would not have done to get ice cream; not speaking the local language – or more than a few words of English – was no way near good enough a reason to stop me and my 8-year-old sister from getting ice cream in Slovenia. And the lack of common language never stopped mum and dad from asking for directions, or finding accommodation in little villages throughout France and Italy. And I cannot begin to explain how proud I felt when being able to somewhat understand directions and buy train tickets in a small Polish town using my pretty much non-existent Russian skills as a last resort.

The courage learned at a young age as been a real asset in life later on – who cares about grammar as long as you get your point across.

Italy. 2003.

Italy. 2003.

3.)  Try out new foods. Though potato and fish pizza sucks, and don’t drink the water meant for washing your hands in some Asian restaurant. 

I was really picky, can still remember some morning buffets at cruise ships when my diet consisted of 10 Carelian pastries (rye & rice) and an egg. Or the time when I tried to order a potato-fish-dill-mince-tomato pizza with just bolognese sauce in Latvia – ended up getting everything but that. And damn I still cannot stand the smell of salted peanuts and dried salami – the things my sister and dad loved to have for snack in small confined spaces we slept in. I think I got scarred for life.

But overall, being there to try the “real” Italian ice cram and pizza, the amazing baguettes and croissants in France, and breakfast cheese rolls in German hostels definitely tickled the taste buds of a young Finn used to a quite well non-varied diet by choice. My love and passion for food was born back then; a diet always fails if I am presented with pastries straight from the oven.

4.) People are nice. Talking to them is fun. Even the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club members were real nice and polite. 

I like to talk. To learn from people, to get inspired, and I have always been curious about my surroundings – pretty chatty overall. Even though because of the language barrier, the childhood trips mainly consisted of joking around with my sister and telling stupid stories in Finnish over the radio phones to entertain ourselves over the long drives, I think being exposed to a variety of people from different cultures and backgrounds has definitely helped shape the view I hold on foreigners and other cultures nowadays. Camping grounds and hostels are the best places to learn the art of small talk. And having a sister is a blessing when you are bored and there are no interesting people around.

On a train through Germany I think. 2006.

On a train through Germany I think. 2006.

I think a child does not discriminate unless being taught to do so, of course something different can be perceived as scary and avoidable as a first instinct, but encouraging your children to engage with others from an early age is one of the best lessons you can teach them. Both in your home country and abroad. Amidst all the terror and instability the world is experiencing right now, a non-judgmental and open approach is the key to achieving integration and cross-culture co-operation.

5.) And finally. Adventures and an adrenaline rush are amazingly addictive. From roller-coasters and 200 kmph Autobahn experiences to now being in love with skydiving and bungee jumps – this world we live in is full of cool stuff. Make the most of it.

Self-explanatory. Life life to the fullest – you will regret if you don’t. Don’t come up with excuses and postpone making your dreams a reality – with hard work everything is possible. That’s what my parents taught me, that’s the guideline that has got me where I am in life – start with small things and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.

I don’t have a motorcycle licence yet, but I will hopefully get to follow in my parents’ footsteps one day. Why stay at home, when there’s such a beautiful world out there.

Col Du Calibier - the Alps. 2006.

Col Du Calibier – the Alps. 2006.


I cannot thank my parents enough for saving like crazy so we could have that one holiday together over the summer when growing up – and for having enough faith in us girls by letting us have a part of the planning process as well. I am aware of how privileged childhood I had, and thus this post is both a big thank you to my amazing family, and at a same time an encouragement for anyone out there wondering if they should explore the world or show it to their children

– Do it. It is the best gift you can give.

The Alps. 2006.

Me admiring the serpentine roads at the Alps. 2006.


PS. My dad has written a travel journal in Finnish about all this. In case you need some practical tips re motorcycles and travelling with two kids, it might be helpful. It will be available in English also, one day in the future, when I find the time to translate it all… 🙂 Thanks mum and dad for the photos used on this post btw ❤

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Dublin, I miss you my darling

It is not that often that you go on a holiday, and walk out of the plane and feel like you arrived home.

Dublin. It is hard to say exactly what it is about the city that attracts, fascinates, compels me so strongly. The city is a bit run-down, old and dusty but has that cozy worn feel to it, like an old blanket with its colours having faded so long ago you can barely remember. There are short red brick houses lined up next to each other, stairs leading to the brightly-coloured doors in the suburbs and abundance of flowers bringing life to the otherwise quite modest surroundings. Everything you need is within a walking distance, the city is big and full of life yet the atmosphere is strangely relaxed, welcoming. Groups of people sit by the river sipping the gorgeous creations of the local breweries, the sun starts to slowly set as the office buildings release the weary workers from the day’s duties – people smile as they casually stroll past, it’s time to head off to the pub to socialize for a bit. I love and loved the atmosphere, the pub culture, the casual hanging out and chatting to strangers over a pint on a Monday evening. Monday. No one is out in Helsinki on a Monday.

Irish beef – y.u.m.m.y.!

I was lucky to have a dear friend having just moved to Dublin for there was someone familiar to spend the evenings with after exploring the city during the days. We would cook, chat, go on casual strolls around the neighbourhood and stop for a pint or two -or four- over the coming days with her wonderful friends.

As I was alone during the days, I would have one goal per day,

to go where I felt like, to follow the flow.

Day one: a book + beer + beautiful weather

The aim was to talk to strangers – much easier than I could ever have expected as people mistook me for a local thanks to my reddish hair and fair complexion. The aim was to get lost, to wander around the smallest of alleys, to stop to listen to the street musicians and watch the people going past. To smile ’till my jaw hurt, to absorb the international vibe to the fullest, to smile and politely nod when understanding nothing of the charming (and often drunk) Irish men who came to talk to me.

After three days of soup and sandwiches, I needed something else for lunch.

I admired countless pictures at photo exhibitions and corner galleries, black and white war images and portraits of the unknown heroes stirring some feelings deep within, I stopped by museums, admired the architecture. Shopped till I dropped – the vintage shops have some true gems in them, then grabbed some lunch and read a book in the park surrounded by tourists and locals enjoying their lunch breaks in the sun. I felt like I belonged, I felt comfortable even casually strolling through supermarkets for everything reminded of my beloved New Zealand – even got my friend hooked on hot cross buns and the sweet sultana scones. Heh, even the thought of that place makes me smile, now, two months after being back in Helsinki – yet another place in this world I call home.

It is crazy to admit I was in Dublin for only five days, but felt truly sad to leave. Maybe I’ll try suss out an internship there, or at least go for a longer visit and not miss out on the Whiskey Friday.

Dublin my darling, I will be back.

Thursday night – a pint, or four, and dancing ’till we could no more. Brilliant, the perfect ending to a wonderful holiday.

Ps. Isabel, thank you for letting me stay at your place. You are awesome ❤

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The night has fallen – London 2015

One of the most inspirational places I’ve visited for a while is the good old London. Had totally forgotten how much I admire the architecture, atmosphere and art displayed all over of this city.

Loving this statue

Loving this statue

Here are some of my favourite shots from Sunday night, 12.7.

The night started with a quick tour and the main sights

The night started with a quick tour and the main sights

The licence plate.. Awesome!

The licence plate.. Awesome!

The Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge

And a couple of more “arty” photos from the Tower Bridge;

Some experimenting on the bridge

Some experimenting on the bridge