New York, United States

What can I say now? It has always been my dream to wander the streets of New York, admiring breathtaking skyscrapers and enjoying a walk in the famous Central Park. My dream came true this year!

Anxious that I wouldn’t get a tourist visa for the US, undecided how I should travel from Montreal to NY and with no idea where I should stay, I managed to overcome everything and realize my dream. My first step out of the Penn train station at 10PM introduced me to a breathtaking view of New York’s pièce de résistance - the Empire State Building. I was too afraid to take the subway to my Airbnb host, so he advised me and my Mum to take a cab instead, as that would be the quickest way. My host lived in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a lovely neighbourhood with loads of restaurants and cafes. The journey with the yellow NY cab has been a very funny experience since we found out that the driver is from Turkey and one of his best friends is married to a Romanian woman. Loads of stories were told in 15 minutes!

We only had 2 days to explore the city so my Mum and I have been very organised in planning exactly what and when we want to see. I can tell you, I have never walked so much in my life. From 8am to 10pm, walking almost nonstop, without even noticing how time went by. We managed to see a record number of attractions, from Central Park to Rockefeller Center, Central Station, NY Public Library, Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and so much more. I overcame my fear of heights and decided it wouldn’t be a complete visit in NY without going to the top of the Empire States Building.

When we reached the 80th floor, I couldn’t feel my legs anymore and my heartbeat was over the top. A small museum explaining how they built everything in 12 months in the ’30s made me panic even more. No windows. I was already considering going down. After multiple arguments with my inner self, I decided. I must do it. I must be brave. So I took the lift to the 86th floor. Of course, now there were windows and a terrace full of people. It took me around 5 minutes to get the courage to go out on the terrace. A bit more courage to get near the fence for a photo and slowly, I started to like the feeling and the view! All of a sudden, I didn’t want to go back anymore. I took dozens of photos and admired one of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen.

I would definitely love to live in NY, at least for a while. The city is way too beautiful not to attract me. I am in love with big cities and I would love to explore its vibrant secrets and unique restaurants. It’s a shame I didn’t get the chance to see Brooklyn this time, but I certainly will the next time I’ll be there!


Croatia

I can honestly say that during one week, we managed to travel through the entire Croatia. Of course, without a huge budget we were only able to stop at the Pag Island, Plitvice National Park and the Dubrovnik coast. Nonetheless, this trip took as through 10 countries in 14 days : Romania, Hungary, Austria, Germany, England, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia! I can write so many things about this country, but I’ll summarize everything to my 4 favourite things.

The first thing that amazed me about Croatia was the infrastructure. Amazing! Considering they have only joined the EU in 2013, I could not believe how many highways they built without any European funding. The highways are also very very impressive. Dozens of tunnels that can sometimes reach six kilometers in length cross huge rock mountains all over the coast. National roads are also very reliable and not that busy. It’s normal since the country’s population is only about 4 million people I guess.

Next thing I really liked about Croatia is the sea. Absolutely beautiful. The sea has a unique shade of turquoise which makes the water look very very clear. It’s a real pleasure to take a bath in the Adriatic Sea. We have spent a long time on the coast roads, as well, so we were able to admire some beautiful remote beaches along the way. One drawback is that the beaches only have rocks.. Which is not that great if you’re used to soft sandy beaches.

A hidden treasure, many could say, is the Plitvice National Park. We mainly saw rocks and rocks and rocks along the entire southern part of Croatia, so when we reached this amazing green landscape in the central area, we were flabbergasted. If you are only driving on that road and you wouldn’t notice all the hotels in the area, you wouldn’t guess such a treasure is hidden in that forest. The first entrance to the park immediately introduces tourists to an impressive 78 meters high waterfall. The track takes you along 16 amazing lakes, all situated at different altitudes and dozens of small waterfalls. It is, honestly, like nothing I have ever seen. A truly unique place that makes you wonder how nature can be so diverse and beautiful. The ticket includes trips by boat on the largest lake, Kozjak, and a ride with a very funny bus, between the entrances.

Last, but not least, I have been impressed by Dubrovnik’s old town. Extremely familiar to me from the famous TV show, Game of Thrones, where the old town is Westeros’s capital, King’s Landing. Croatia also hosted the place where they filmed the Red Wedding, the King’s Landing Red Keep and the city of Meereen. A Game of Thrones tour is available for true fans, but it is quite pricey (over 50 euros). The old town is very very well preserved, making tourists believe they have stepped into a time machine. Considering it has an incredibly rich history and survived multiple sieges, the citadel looks as new and I was surprised to see a lot of locals living in the old houses.

I would definitely recommend Croatia to all of you and I’ll leave you with some photos I have taken along the way!


Bergamo and Como Lake, Italy

A quick weekend in November in the Como lake area was enough to understand the peacefullness of the area and to regret not seeing the beauty of the coast in spring, when flowers bloom. Renting a car was the best thing to do here, as you have interesting landscapes to see on the roads that circle the Como lake in Italy.

Unfortunately, while we visited Milan it was raining heavily, so we could only see the most important attractions : the impressive Dome, the galleries next to it and the Sforza Castle. Bergamo, on the other hand, was a bit more inviting in regards to the weather, so we could experience the old citadel a bit more. We were impressed by the way the buildings were preserved, making you feel like you were still part of those medieval times. The citadel also offers a beautiful view on the surrounding areas of Bergamo.

Another beautiful surprise was Bellagio, a small town on the Como lake’s coast, with impressive villas and gardens. As we were lucky to go there during extra season, the town was very quiet so the 3 hour walk there was extremely enjoyable for me. I prefer seeing all bits and pieces of a beautiful place without a huge crowd of other tourists around me.

I would definitely recommend seeing this area, however, during spring, preferably on a sunny weekend in March or April. November was a bit too rainy for us, but I’d definitely like to return here and admire the beauty of the scenery enriched by the spring’s colours.

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Bergamo

 

Bellagio

 

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Bellagio

 

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Istanbul, Turkey

I wanted to go to this city for a long long time. It’s so close to where I live, but still, I have never had the chance to travel there. So I got to spend 3 days in the wonderful Istanbul, but unfortunately, they weren’t enough. This city is so large and vast you must dedicate it at least a week in order to explore it properly.

The first that come into my mind when I think about this place are the sweets! They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen or tasted. They’re incredible! It’s a miracle how I didn’t gain more than 5 kilograms while I was there. Everything was so tempting I could not resist to try each day something new. Another thing that I’ll also remember is the kindness of all the Turkish people. They all look like great salesmen and try to talk you into buying anything, anywhere, but they would never mind if you said ‘no’. I loved that I could negotiate buying a wonderful cashmere scarf and I got it at almost half the price he initially proposed. This is a great culture and it got me to realize the numerous similarities it has with my country and especially with the south east region where I’m from. It’s no surprise as it has been for more than 3 centuries under the Ottoman power inheriting words, customs and most importantly, recipes!

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Mallorca, Spain

I can honestly say this island surprised me quite a lot. I did not expect so many beautiful landscapes on a Spanish island I’ve only heard of once or twice before. Even though its ‘sister’, Ibiza, is world renowned for the clubs and parties, Mallorca has a completely different vibe. It looked to me as a perfect place to relax, lay on the beach while drinking a cold sangria and admiring amazing wonders of natural beauty.

What I can truly advise you is that Palma is not such an amazing place. In only half a day you can see almost everything the city has to offer. What’s truly interesting are the beautiful villages around the island and the remote beaches that take you breath away. The roads are also incredibly spectacular and I found myself not only once panicking a lot as I saw the abrupt coast we were driving on. But, heh, that’s part of the Mallorcan experience, right?

Enjoy bellow some of the beautiful shots I managed to take while on this quick 3 days holiday in Mallorca.

The streets of Palma

The streets of Palma

The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (La Seu)

The Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (La Seu)

Houses in Palma

Houses in Palma

Port de Soller Beach

Port de Soller Beach

Beach Bar in Port de Soller

Beach Bar in Port de Soller

The road to Sa Calobra

The road to Sa Calobra

Our road companion

Our road companion

Sa Calobra Beach

Sa Calobra Beach

Sa Calobra

Sa Calobra

Soller Cathedral

Soller Cathedral

The Soller Train

The Soller Train

The streets of Soller

The streets of Soller

Port de Soller

Port de Soller


Barcelona, Spain

Three days in Barcelona – that is all you need to fall in love with the beautiful Catalan capital, a pure expression of sound, music, colour, life and creativity. I felt a really strong connection with this city, as it reminded me of home, of a subtle latin vibe. I felt complete.

The soft sand and chilly sea breeze helped me recover from missing my beloved Black Sea. The friendly and inviting people reminded me how warm and helpful are people from the south. The guitar music playing in the background of Parc Guell sounded heavenly and went straight to my heart.

Of course, I believe that a true trip to Barcelona would only be complete by watching a match on the Camp Nou stadium. The game I was lucky to catch during my stay was between FC Barcelona and Osasuna, a game from the La Liga championship. This was the first football game I’ve been to in my life. And I am sure it was pretty .. Awesome!! As soon as I saw the huge stadium I was extremely thrilled, taking hundreds of photographs, acting like crazy. As soon as I finally cooled down a little bit, the game was just about to start. And there was no time for cooling down, except from the 15 minutes half break. Messi scored his 369th and 370th goal for Barcelona just in front of my eyes, becoming the best scorer this team has ever had. The whole stadium went crazy, singing all types of songs, making waves or shouting different players’ names as loud as they possibly could. It was a beautiful game, although Osasuna represented no threat at all for the catalans. It only made them stand out and allowed them to score no less than 7 goals. The experience was, however, totally unique. And the fans, well, the fans amplified everything by 1000.

Returning to another spirit of Barcelona, I can say I was completely amazed by an authentic catalan experience in the Gracia area. A bohemian neighbourhood, it preserves the true spirit of Barcelona. It is a place for creativity, relaxation, culture and colour. Small cafes or local restaurant offer you the best selection of dishes, carefully prepared. I enjoyed an amazing Sangria with the traditional seafood paella. It was simply delicious. Could not be anyway better.

Definitely another thrilling experience was the trip with the Vespa. Barcelona has an amazingly fluid traffic, compared to other large European cities and this allowed novices like us perform great with a Vespa throughout the entire city and not only. We also managed to reach one of Barcelona’s highest points and that is Tribidabo, which offers a breathtaking view over the entire city.

I will leave you with some photos I’ve taken and I truly recommend you to visit this wonderful place which has so much to offer than the renowned tourist attractions. I will surely come back to explore it again and again and again. It convinced me 100%.

Camp Nou

Camp Nou

Before the match

Before the match

Iniesta training before the match

Iniesta training before the match

Barcelona training

Barcelona players after training

Before the match

Before the match

Barcelona - Osasuna

Barcelona – Osasuna

Messi

Messi

View from Mirablau Cafe

View from Mirablau Cafe

Unique Gaudi Architecture on Passaig de Gracia

Unique Gaudi Architecture on Passaig de Gracia

Beautiful boat in Barceloneta Port

Beautiful boat in Barceloneta Port

Barcelona's Beach

Barcelona’s Beach

In front of Sagrada Familia

In front of Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Sculpture on Sagrada Familia

Sculpture on Sagrada Familia

TIbidabo Amusement Park

Tibidabo Amusement Park 

Tibidabo Amusement Park

Tibidabo Amusement Park

Hiring a Vespa for the day

Renting a Vespa for the day – best idea ever!


London, England

A week ago, I have just finished my lovely trip in London. Yes, I can never get enough of that wonderful city!Everytime I get there my mind says “Raluca, you want to live here one day!” – and I couldn’t agree more!

I don’t know what makes it so beautiful in my head but I feel like I belong and fit in there perfectly. If I’m not wrong, I believe this is my 6th or 7th time in London and I always manage to find new and interesting stuff to do there. And I am not even close to doing everything you can in London – I have still got loads of places to go to, loads of theatres to see, museums to visit and buildings to admire.

One of the most interesting spots in London this time has been the Science Museum, just a few minutes away from Hyde Park. Unfortunately, I haven’t been lucky enough to see the Web Lab exhibition hosted by Google – those guys were just packing up everything and telling me “We’re sorry, it was about time this exhibition was closed – it has been here for almost 1 year and a half!”. “Que dommage!” – a French man might say. Why haven’t I known about this? However, my sorrow has been eased by another exhibition about Alan Turing – Life and Legacy. Alan Turing (1912-1954) has been one of the pioneers of computer science, as well as a key codebreaker during the Second World War. He had an extremely interesting life and his ideas have shaped what we now use every single day – computers, laptops, tablets almost everything which has ‘a mind of its own’.

Now, this article is getting quite long so I might as well stop here, as much I would love to tell you more about the Science Museum, I can only truly recommend it to you, whenever you’ll get the chance to visit London. Below I attached some photos I hope you’ll enjoy (sorry for their quality – photographs are not one of my cornerstones ):

The pilot ACE computer

The pilot ACE computer

 

The Enigma Machines - used in World War II to send encrypted messages

The Enigma Machines – used in World War II to send encrypted messages

Mechanical Calculating Machine 1849

Mechanical Calculating Machine 1849

Computers in the 60s

Computers in the 60s

Big Ben from Trafalgar Square

Big Ben from Trafalgar Square

Saint Paul's by night

Saint Paul’s by night

the O2 arena

the O2 arena

Wembley Arena

Wembley Arena

Greenwich

Greenwich

On my way back home above the North Sea

On my way back home above the North Sea

 

 

 


Rome, Italy

I believe that everybody sees Rome in a particular, different way. You cannot describe it as a whole because Rome manages to get inside your soul and reflect its beauty in a special way for each person. That is a feeling I have never felt in any other city I have visited before.

One thing that I believe astonishes everybody is the mix of ages combined into one single city – antique, medieval and modern. All under ‘one roof’, let’s say. You get to see how people were entertained in the Colloseum 2000 years ago, and in 5 minutes reach medieval churches which reflect the Renaissance, admiring impressive works of Michelangelo, Bernini and Donatello and afterwards enjoy a nice film in an open-air cinema in the Villa Borghese Gardens.

Scores of fountains all over the city enrich the beauty of the small piazzas. Hundreds of small ristorantes invite you to taste one of the best cuisines in the world – I personally believe there is no way you can enter an Italian restaurant and not find something you may like. Thousands of vespas pack Italy’s capital city, cleverly making their way among the confused tourists.

The ‘Eternal city’ represented to me a place which has to offer something for each individual. It offers romance, it offers art and culture, history, it offers a great cuisine, luxurious shopping areas, neighbourhoods for workers and also entertainment clubs for those who are in search of fun. Enjoy the photos!

Police officer in Piazza Venezia

Police officer in Piazza Venezia

Piaza Navona

Piaza Navona – Bernini Sculptures

List of all the Popes in Vatican

List of all the Popes in Vatican

Campo de’ Fiori

Piazza San Pietro Vatican

Piazza San Pietro Vatican

Bocca della Verita

Bocca della Verita

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

Room of the Maps - Vatican Museums

Room of the Maps – Vatican Museums

The School of Athens - Vatican Museums

The School of Athens – Vatican Museums

The Colloseum - how it looked initially

The Colloseum – how it looked initially

Rome's streets

Rome’s streets

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

Changing of guards in Rome

Changing of guards in Rome

With the Brass Band

With the Brass Band

Small Ristorante in the Trastevere Neighbourhood

Small Ristorante in the Trastevere neighbourhood


Napoli and Capri, Italy

I don’t even know where to start describing Napoli. I was surprised. Amazed. I have never seen anything like this in my life… not in a positive way. In short Napoli is the best example of the southern chaotic Italian city. Dirt, thieves, whistles on the street, no space, no rules, no order, no work, no air. I cannot say I disliked it, in fact, I was so curious and excited to see something like this I could not take a break to take enough photos. Take a look:

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Napoli

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Napoli

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Napoli

Even though it was something new, I was far more excited to visit Capri – a luxurious island, 45 minutes away from Naples by ferry. A change of 180 degrees compared to Naples. Not quite inspired, though, I thought I should put on my newly bought platforms. After no more than 30 minutes I found out that God made me tall for a reason. I absolutely cannot walk on such high heels for an entire day. As painful as those walks in Capri were, as breath-taking the views revealed from the top of my platforms. A one-hour cruise around the island has been probably one of the most wonderful memories I’ll ever have. I fell in love with the purest blue I have ever seen. The water was so clear I could see the corals and the sand at the bottom of the sea. Scuba diving must have been a wonderful experience in those lagoons. There is no picture in the world that can describe the shades of blue I’ve seen.  The high cliffs showed me incredible wonders of nature, while the expensive yachts and cribs made me dream with my eyes open. No wonder celebrities such as Bill Gates or the owner of Swarovski chose to build summer houses or buy yachts on this remarkable island.

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Capri Island

Huge lemons in Capri

Huge lemons in Capri

Wonderful garden in Capri

Wonderful garden in Capri

The elephant

The elephant

The Blue Cave

The Blue Cave

Capri - one hour cruise

Capri – one hour cruise

Lovely shade of blue

Restaurant's lovely interior design

Restaurant’s lovely interior design

On the streets of Capri

On the streets of Capri

I hope you’ll like the pictures I have taken and I’ll write to you again after my 5 days stay in Rome. I am so looking forward to it! Until then, Buona note!