Hands shaking, skin writhing with goose-bumps, eyes transmogrified into salty pools dangerously close to breaking their banks, I jumped off the mountain. Alive with … fear? No. I thought I’d feel some sort of fear or nervous energy despite my love of heights and exhilaration for extreme sports, but I was just cold. My skin burned under its multiple layers, my eyes blinked away tears that threatened to freeze into icy needles and slice my retinas like chilled scalpels, my fingers trembled in their gloves, almost unable to hold the thick ropes on either side of me, and my toes curled in their boots. It was an unseasonably warm winter for the French Alps, with snow only making an appearance at particularly high altitudes, but that day the air itself cut into me, nipping at my body like a playful puppy unaware of its own strength, tugging at my hair with the help of an icy wind that was utterly untroubled by the weak rays of the afternoon sun. I suppose when you jump off a mountain and rely on nothing but the wind to catch you, when you turn and weave and pirouette through skies whipped into a furore by the unpredictability of an approaching storm, even a mild winter can turn dark and cold before your eyes.
I just love exploring the regal architecture of Europe, whether it be an abandoned stronghold set high on a hill, an old fashioned towers and turrets, battlements and parapets castle, or a working palace complete with lush gardens and gilded statues. History, culture, art, and architecture, hang from every wall, seeping into the thick, musty fabric of the heavy curtains and pushing their way into the fissures in the brick, spilling their secrets as you breathe in the air of royalty, relive the momentous moments that have helped to shape entire cities and countries, and walk in the footsteps of those who have trodden the same path centuries before. There’s always something new and unique to be found in these buildings, and so I thought I’d share a photo album of some of the ones I’ve had the fortune of coming into contact with throughout my travels, and take you all on a regal walk alongside me.
Exploring parks and gardens is one of my favourite aspects of travel, as it offers a chance to get closer to local flora and fauna, to observe the daily wanderings of locals, and to spend some quality time alone with nature, away from the bustle of the daily grind. Meandering along hidden trails or simply sprawling out on a bench by a lake or on a patch of dewy grass allows you to digest your journey, quietly reflecting on your footsteps and gaining a deeper appreciation for the clean, crisp air that surrounds you. Remembering my own cathartic experiences, I thought I’d attempt to collect some of my shots from parks and gardens around Europe. I’ve done my best to focus on pure nature rather than any monuments or tourist attractions that lie within, as I just wanted to share some of the rich landscapes that Europe has to offer, even within its largest cities. Enjoy.
I’ve never quite understood the expression, ‘Such-and-such place feels like home.’ I mean, I understand it, I just don’t understand it. Do you understand? I suppose it makes sense in a small number of cases, but I feel like this phrase is overused, bandied about in a feeble attempt to garner some culture or to appear more cosmopolitan than one actually is. Because it’s okay and indeed of immense importance to engage with things that are unfamiliar. It’s okay to love a place even if its language, customs, and culture is entirely foreign to you. It’s okay to ask for help or clarification or to feel like you’re somewhere very different from home … to set up connections elsewhere.
Montbonnot-Saint-Martin, the suburb of Grenoble where I briefly lived abroad
Well, not the road not taken (sorry Frost), but rather, in this case, the road less trodden. It’s well known that some places stand out from the throng, reeling in thousands of travellers like doomed fish caught on a line every year. We think of Italy and we imagine Rome and Venice. We think of Greece and we can see the Acropolis of Athens or the white, wedding cake peaks of Santorini emblazoned on our retinas. We almost hear Big Ben chime through the streets of Westminster and feel the fuzzy coarseness of bearskin hats when we speak of the UK, and the mere word ‘France’ conjures up a Parisian collage composed of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Unfortunately, these cities and their accompanying attractions are often crowded and expensive, not to mention so built up that they can rarely, if ever, compare to our own fantastical conceptions of them, often created from what we’ve read, heard, or seen depicted on TV.
The Eiffel Tower – Staple of sightseeing
Last year, in an attempt to honour this less frequently seen, and significantly more difficult to capture, side of Europe, I posted some photos on a blog titled Europe By Night. Remembering that post during my most recent travels, I endeavoured to find the inspiration to indulge in a little more night photography in an attempt to uncover more of the beauty that lurks in the shadows, sans, I was hoping, the copious blur and encroaching darkness that tend to turn up unannounced whenever I whip out the camera at night. I was a little more optimistic this trip, however, firstly because much of our travels took place over the Christmas season, which surely meant lots of twinkling lights and festive night markets, and secondly because our travels were taking us to Svalbard in the far North, where the sun wouldn’t be peeking its head over the horizon at all. My optimism paid off, because another trip, and a couple of half decent night/sunrise/sunset photos later (largely thanks to the superior photography skills of my partner), I’m happy to say that I’ve accumulated enough shots for another post. I will, however, be omitting shots pertaining to Christmas, as you can check those out here. Enjoy!
Albert Dock, Liverpool
Vienna is one of the most stunningly overwhelming cities I’ve ever had the privilege of exploring, and paying the Austrian capital a visit therefore offered a very different perspective from many of the other global pursuits I’d recently undertaken.