Travel

Beautiful Architecture – C F HIM in Istanbul

I promised two weeks ago I would share my experiences in Istanbul with you but have not been able to do so until now. I apologise for the delay and hope its worth the wait.

Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) in all its beauty with a blue sky backdrop. This architectural beauty also holds great historical significance as it connects Byzantine and Ottoman Empires. It was once a church, then converted to a mosque, and now a museum. one of my fav monuments in the city

I will be sharing my experiences of Istanbul in two parts. The first article (this one) will look at this city’s architecture, where the second article will explore food, hospitality and the people.

First of all, whenever I talk about architecture in Europe, there are two main cities I benchmark my idea of beautiful architecture from which are Barcelona and Prague. I know other European cities have beautiful architecture as well, but the above two left a lasting impression on my mind for so many reasons. You can check out articles of my Prague experience here and here. But anyway, this article is about Istanbul so let me reel it in a bit before I get carried away with talking about other cities. Oh and the fact that Istanbul is not even in the European union is probably a good enough reason for me not to compare but anyway, moving on.

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue mosque) was built from 1609 to 1616 during the rule of Ahmed 1. This mosque caused an uproar within the muslim world when it was built with six minarets matching the great mosque in Mecca. The uproar prompted the Sultan to order a seventh minaret to be built in the Mecca as a gift. The blue most is opposite Hagia Sophia with less than four minutes walk between them

Ok, basically I have heard so many things about Istanbul from different people who gave good reviews about this city. At this point, you would think it’s a no brainer for me to just pick up my suitcase and head out there right? Well guess what, that’s exactly what I did. Apart from the little scare I got after seeing on telly the tragic occurrence of the Ankara bombing on the 10th of October, there was no stopping me from travelling to Istanbul. As with many of the places I travel to for the first time, I did not know much about Istanbul. In fact, I know so little that I couldn’t have told you more than 10 facts about this city. Shocking right? Well wait until you hear my big confession. Continue reading Beautiful Architecture – C F HIM in Istanbul

The Freetown Peninsular – beautiful beaches and more

Freetown! What can I say about this beautiful city that has not already been said? Apparently there is a lot more but I’ll save that for future posts as I have so much more to share with you all.

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For now, I am just going to share a few photos I took during one of many family vacations to this wonderful city. Before I leave you to enjoy the pictures, here are a few facts about this historically rich and important city.

– Freetown is the capital city of Sierra Leone.
– European explores first reached Freetown in the 15th century
– Freetown was had the first colony of freed slaves in Africa, dubbed the “Province of freedom”.
– Has the largest natural harbour in Africa
– Has West Africa’s oldest university, Fourah Bay College, established in 1827
– Population of a little over 1.2 million
– In a recent research, Sierra Leone is listed second on the list of countries with the best diets in the world.

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This is what lonely planet has to say about Freetown. “And it might just be the only capital in the world where when you emerge from the airport, blinking after an overnight flight, you find yourself standing on the wooden deck of a port flanked by a backdrop of mountains, beaches and palm trees so idyllic you wonder if it’s real. Well it’s all real, all of it – the chatter and the chaos and the colour and the dirt and the lush lobster dinners and the devastating war history – and those lovely white sands too”. Need I say any more?

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So when planning your next holiday, think outside the box and consider Freetown. The fact that it might not be the obvious choices for first time visitors makes it even more thrilling and satisfying to anyone that makes the leap of faith.

Just a quick note to say that the photos below do not cover the entire city and were taken at only two out of many beautiful beaches that dots the Freetown peninsular. Come back soon as I will be sharing my experiences with a bit of rich history of Freetown and its surroundings backed with beautiful pictures.

That English cottage life!

Lymington. Ever heard of an English town called Lymington? If you have, I must say that you are better travelled and better informed than I am. If not then you are in good company and bear with me while I put this post together. But before delving into details about Lymington, let me make a little confession by saying that I seldom visit the English countryside. Not that I do not want to but because I was of the mind-set that there are hundreds of countries and cities around the world that i’d rather visit first before exploring places closer to home. I used the past indicative word “was” above as this is no longer the case after my visit to Lymington. Thanks to a friend Oliver who put together an amazing weekend to Lymington for 21 people for his 30th birthday, I can now honestly say my interest in exploring the English countryside has been rekindled.

Sitting in one of the passenger seats of a 4×4 vehicle driven by the birthday boy himself on a Friday afternoon felt like forever in the London traffic. For a minute, I thought to myself it would have been much better to travel by rail rather than snaking through the streets of London already packed with vehicles, who like us, were leaving for the weekend. Soon enough, the temptation to coax myself to sleep (with only 2 hours sleep the previous night) crept into my thoughts but of course this would have been rude to the three other friends I was sharing the vehicle with. As we hit the highway toward Heathrow airport, my mind drifted again and I started counting the European cities I could reach with the amount of time spent driving to Lymington.

Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Prague, Florence, Lisbon, St Pertersburg all came to mind. Ok not St Petersburg but you get the point. My mind was everywhere but Lymington. As vivid imagination of what my next holiday should be like engulf my mind, Oliver interrupted my day dreaming to introduced us to a version of Charades he called Donkey. Not sure if the game itself is actually called donkey or just his way of insulting the loser who will be called donkey. #Sideeye. This lightened up the mood as we drove past beautiful landscape on both sides of the highway.

As laughter and jokes from the game filled the vehicle I got excited and started to look forward to the weekend.

The cottage, Silverland, is located within the New forest national park which means there are plenty of activities to do during our stay. After getting lost for about 15 minutes, we were greeted by the landlord who was waiting outside the property and ushered us in through an opened electronic gate that revealed a beautiful black and white 19th century English country cottage seated on 4 acres of land.

Imagine our delight and excitement. As Londoners, this was a welcomed change to the usual hustle and bustle of the city life. The thatched roof, wooden beams, leaded windows, inglenook fire place all gave the cottage an authentic period look, while the outdoor heated pool, treehouse and massive garden gave the property a modern functional twist. As we walked through the dark wooden front door it then occurred to me that I have never before been in an English cottage. Standing in the hallway, I noticed the spacious living room with cosy sofas to the right and on the left a door leading to the study. To my immediate right was the stairway decorated with African art leading up to the bedrooms, and just ahead was a door which I figured later lead to the kitchen. The kitchen is very spacious with two bay windows leading out into the garden. The interior décor vary from one room to another revealing art and wall hangings from countries around the world. Stepping out into the garden with a sizable swimming pool felt like I was stepping into a completely different world. The deafening quietness of the woods combined with the greenery of the garden and nearby bushes providing a perfect oasis of tranquillity. I could easily get used to this I muttered underneath my breath.

Lymington itself is a Georgian town located between Southampton and Bournemouth known internationally as a sailing resort. It has three marinas with a population of over 15,000 people. This coastal town is truly beautiful with so many outdoor activities to keep any visitor busy. North of Lymington is the ancient woodlands of New forest and to the south is the Solent. The Solent is a body of water that separate the Isle of Wight from the mainland.

Oh and yes, did I mention our trip to the Isle of Wight yet?

Our weekend away included a day trip to the Isle of Wight, which turned out to be one of my personal highlights of the entire trip. Listen, if you ever visit Lymington, I urge you to set aside time to visit this beauty. Better yet, make a trip solely for the Isle of Wight so you can experience what I am talking about. Everything was magical from the ferry cross to the walk along the Western Yar. The Western Yar is one of two yars on the Isle of Wight and the closest to Yarmouth harbour. The yar is so beautiful and tranquil and continue to reveal its treasures in the form of wildlife and natural beauty on each side of the foot tracks as we walked from the Yarmouth Bridge towards freshwater bay. The estuary is approximately 3.8 miles long so put on some comfortable shoes if you intend to walk the entire stretch.

Upon returning from the Isle of Wight, the smell of the barbeque, games in and around the swimming pool, music blaring from a playlist I made the previous night and sounds of happy chatters all underneath the stars of the night, the cottage yet again reveals another facet of its allure.

Needless to say that everyone was tired the following morning as we slowly filed into vehicles parked outside the cottage. It was time to return to busy and fast paced London. The cottage life has somehow come to an end. An end that seem to have come way too early.

Prague: The style capital for architecture in Europe – 2

As promised in a previous post about Prague, I have put together another set of photos of this wonderful city. This city does not need introduction when it comes to architecture. If you are into architecture then you would definitely appreciate the architectural diversity Prague has to offer. Lonely planet wrote “Prague is a living laboratory of 1000 years of European architecture. Fans of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, neoclassical and art nouveau will all find plenty to gawk at. Gothic marvels such as the Charles Bridge and St Vitus Cathedral rival the best in Europe. More eclectic 20th-century styles like cubism, functionalism and even ‘communism’ are represented as well, creating an entrancing labyrinth of contrasting styles that complete a remarkably cohesive whole”.

I would even challenge anyone who isn’t bothered about architecture to visit Prague and not be intrigued and stimulated by this. If and when you visit Prague, here are a few places, buildings and points of interest I would encourage visitors to see: Charles bridge, Old town square, St. Vitus Cathedral, Astronomical clock, Prague castle, Petrin Lookout tower, Dancing house, Prague national theatre, Kampa Island, Church of our lady before Tyn, National Museum, St Nicholas Church, and Powder gate.

I am sure there are many other places to see but these are just the ones from the top of my head.

Before you browse through the pictures, here are a few facts about Prague you might find interesting:

– Prague Castle is the biggest ancient castle in the world.

– Prague’s nick name is the city of a hundred spires.

– The population of Prague is over 1.2 million

– The Vltava River which is Czech republic’s longest river flows through Prague.

– Prague was the seat of two Holy Roman Emperors

Enjoy the photos and please leave a comment or share your experiences from Prague (if you have any) for other readers. thumb_IMG_5263_1024 thumb_IMG_5259_1024   thumb_IMG_5383_1024 thumb_IMG_5429_1024 thumb_IMG_5425_1024 thumb_IMG_5424_1024 thumb_IMG_5422_1024 thumb_IMG_5419_1024 thumb_IMG_5405_1024 thumb_IMG_5404_1024 thumb_IMG_5531_1024 thumb_IMG_5563_1024 thumb_IMG_5556_1024   thumb_IMG_5580_1024 thumb_IMG_5613_1024 thumb_IMG_5603_1024 thumb_IMG_5598_1024 thumb_IMG_5590_1024   thumb_IMG_5635_1024 thumb_IMG_5633_1024   thumb_IMG_5652_1024 thumb_IMG_5657_1024   thumb_IMG_5745_1024 thumb_IMG_5740_1024 thumb_IMG_5774_1024 thumb_IMG_5778_1024   thumb_IMG_5946_1024 thumb_IMG_5945_1024 thumb_IMG_5944_1024 thumb_IMG_5942_1024 thumb_IMG_5941_1024 thumb_IMG_5940_1024 thumb_IMG_5935_1024 thumb_IMG_5934_1024 thumb_IMG_5930_1024 thumb_IMG_5927_1024   Prague by River thumb_IMG_5907_1024 thumb_IMG_5865_1024 thumb_IMG_5905_1024 thumb_IMG_5896_1024 thumb_IMG_5887_1024 thumb_IMG_5884_1024 thumb_IMG_5880_1024 thumb_IMG_5878_1024 thumb_IMG_5869_1024 thumb_IMG_5851_1024 thumb_IMG_5840_1024 thumb_IMG_5833_1024 thumb_IMG_5832_1024 thumb_IMG_5822_1024 thumb_IMG_5821_1024 thumb_IMG_5819_1024 thumb_IMG_5810_1024 thumb_IMG_5804_1024 thumb_IMG_5802_1024 thumb_IMG_5801_1024