The Nizwa fort [Oman’s most visited monument]

The Nizwa Fort nested among mountains and oasis with the souk spreading at the foot of its recognisable tower is a must-see.

When Oman converted to Islam peacefully and by faith in the 8th century, the idea to create a true Muslim state was paramount, and prior to today’s sultanate, the Imamate was ruling the country. Religious and political powers were consolidated in the hands of the elected Imam in the capital Nizwa (until the coastal Muscat became the capital in 1793). As such, Nizwa has been the centre of religion and also of politics for many centuries, calling for new standards for fortified buildings in a land divided among many tribes. keep reading

A night at the opera in Oslo

Inaugurated only in 2008, the Oslo Opera House has already become the landmark of the Norwegian capital. Its architecture intrigues. Like an iceberg floating in the Oslo fjord, locals and tourists alike climb it to reach its roof via soft inclines or explore its warm and modern foyer. Far from the elite image of most opera houses, the Oslo Opera House is an open space decisively. It has revolutionized its area, a former shipyard cut off from the rest of the city by an ugly highway that was forced underground, and made it a favourite promenade attracting recommendable neighbours like the new Munch Museum or the bar code urbanization project. The building fascinates, and the temptation of exploring its ins and outs only grows bigger as one approaches it.

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How to visit a mosque: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

I am rolling the sleeves of my shirt down to my wrists. In my bag, I grab a pareo that I carefully wrap up around my head in order to hide my hair. I motion with confidence towards the women’s entrance of the mosque, when I am called back: my pants show my bottom and that is not acceptable here at Sheikh Zayed Al Kabeer Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Also known as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, this half-a-billion euro place of worship is the largest of the UAE, and can host more than 40,000 worshipers. I am Keep travelling!

Decrypting the temple of light, La Sagrada Familia

Standing on the bunker del Carmen overlooking the city of Barcelona bathed by the sunset light, La Sagrada Familia boldly rises above the buildings. I have always had mixed feelings passing by the grey façades of the most visited landmark of the capital of Catalonia invaded by hordes of tourists. It is only by entering this basilica that I went from a dubious passer-by to being an admirer of Gaudí’s technical genius and refined symbolism.

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From modernist to modern: Casa Batlló, Barcelona

At the turn of the 20th century, the Passeig de Gràcia is the place to settle in for the powerful and wealthy of Barcelona. In 1903, Josep Batlló a rich textile industrialist buys a 25-year old house on this most prestigious street of the new and modern El Eixample district. However, Batlló’s house looks a bit dull Keep travelling!

Meet Darth Vader on La Pedrera, Barcelona

La Pedrera is an innovative & iconic building in the heart of Barcelona designed by Gaudí. Some say its rooftop may have inspired George Lucas as he was writing Star Wars…

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Palau Güell, Barcelona

Walking down the Ramblas and slaloming between noisy groups of tourists and insisting street sellers, we make a right into a quiet side street. A few metres further and the craziness of the Ramblas seems like a distant memory. We have just arrived in front of Palau Güell, Gaudí’s first major assignment for his most loyal patron, the rich industrialist Eusebi Güell. Keep travelling!

A symbol of Catalan pride, the Palau de la Música, Barcelona

Slightly more than a century ago, the pride of Catalonia already echoed loud and clear, carried by the Catalan Modernist architectural movement and the Renaixença cultural movement. The Palau de la Música in the gothic Barcelona is the communion of these influences. The most representative examples of this Catalan pride, it is one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world.

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World’s most beautiful hospital: Sant Pau, Barcelona

The Sant Pau Art nouveau site is off the very beaten path of the modernist landmarks of Barcelona. A stone’s throw away from La Sagrada Familia, it is an impressive hospital that was built in the early 20th century and one of the most beautiful examples of modernist architecture.

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The medieval splendour of Carcassonne, France

We are standing a few kilometres south of the fortified city of Carcassonne, with the vineyards rolling down from our feet to the base of the majestic ramparts, and the Black Mountain in the background. In Southern France, Carcassonne is a marvel of the Middle-Ages: an entire city completely fortified with its narrow cobblestoned medieval streets, its imposing castle, and gothic basilica. Carcassonne remains the most complete example of French medieval military architecture, and it took about 25 centuries to shape Carcassonne as it is today…

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The Frick Collection, NYC

The Frick collection is home to one of the finest collections of European paintings in the United States, showcased in a mansion on Central Park in a domestic interior.

Entering the private collection of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) is stepping into an elegant mansion highlighting the wealth and taste of the coke tycoon. Keep travelling!

Photo gallery: Notre Dame de Paris

I may have passed by it thousands of times in Paris, my home town. Still: every time I walk by, I have to stop to admire its stunning architecture, detailed sculptures, scary gargoyles, and beautiful glow in the evening sun. In more than 850 years, it has seen Keep reading

The Morgan Library: a must-see jewel of NYC

The Morgan library is not on every tourist trail in New York City, and is a masterpiece housing a tremendous collection mostly from the Middle-Ages and Renaissance gathered by Pierpont Morgan, a man who shaped the U.S.A.

Being born and raised in Europe, we are quite familiar with the Middle Ages and the Renaissance eras. Italy and its treasures like Florence, the medieval wonders of France, the UK or Prague, etc. are sites we have been lucky to visit. Heading to New York City, our first reflex is not to head to the repositories of the old world, but to discover its urban jungle and Keep reading

The most atmospheric wat of Chiang Mai, Thailand

The chanting of the few dozen of monks, dressed in their traditional orange robes, continues. The monks pray, their voices low in the large and dark atmospheric prayer hall made of teak that is decorated with flapping orange flags. Keep travelling

Photo of the day: French touch in Vientiane, Laos

As a former colony of France, it is not uncommon to see French colonial architecture in Laos and more specifically in its capital Vientiane. Keep reading

A visual tour of the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

The grand palace of Bangkok is amongst the most visited monuments of Thailand, if not the most visited one. Keep reading

An off-track motorbiking adventure to Beng Mealea, Cambodia

I decide to stop my motorbike in front of the narrow improvised bridge. I feel relieved and worried at the same time. Relieved, as the previous river crossing did not offer the luxury of a bridge. I had to launch my semi-automatic 125 cc Honda Dream motorbike into the murky stream and use all of my skills to extract it from the water in which it was immerged wheel-deep. Worried, as this wooden bridge is no more than 50-centimetre wide, with no rails to prevent a potential fall into the water, and for good measure a missing plank in the centre leaving a gap just the right size to sink the front wheel in.

I am looking at my partner with envy as she has already crossed. When she turns her head, I capture her smile and instantly come up with a genius plan Keep reading

Photo of the day: Why are Scandinavian cottages red?

The traditional red cottage is the typical postcard of rural Scandinavia. The red colour was not chosen for aesthetic reasons: Keep reading

Photo of the day: The old Gavle, Sweden

The Old Gavle could be salvaged from demolition during the 1960’s. Today, about 60 properties remain, showcasing a typical Keep reading

Crossing the bay of the Mont Saint Michel

It has been a long trip, walking for hundreds of kilometres. Setting off about a month ago, we have just arrived at the foot of the last obstacle. It is so close and yet, it seems impossible to reach. The high tide covers up the whole shore and I fear greatly for this life-threatening crossing on foot to the sacred island Keep reading

Photo of the day: the Dancing House in Prague

Among Prague’s historical houses, the Dancing House by the world famous architect Keep reading

How Panama changed the world

The colourful roof of Panama’s Biomuseo designed by the world-famous architect Frank Gehry rises above the horizon of the Amador Causeway. Located along the entrance of the Panama Canal, the causeway used to be owned by the USA and was left barren after Panama regained its territory on 31 December 1999. Frank Gehry’s Panamanian wife took part in the discussions about what to do with the land, and soon crucial decisions were made to build the extravagant Biomuseo. Keep traveling

Photo of the day: Play of lights

Beautiful play of lights on the Roman walls of the Saint Sauveur basilica in Keep reading

Photo of the day: Granada, Nicaragua

The colourful facades of Granada’s houses are still visible today and give the city its character. Founded in 1524 by Fransico Hernández de Córdoba, it was named after the ancient city of Granada in Spain. It long rivaled with Léon to be Nicaragua’s  capital until Keep reading

Photo of the day: Cathedral of Leon, Nicaragua

A UNESCO world heritage site, the cathedral of the Assumption in Leon is an impressive building and remains the largest cathedral in Central America. Center of life of the city, it is located on a lively square, while food stalls are aligned along its back wall. Keep traveling!

Photo of the day: Leon, Nicaragua

Second largest city of Nicaragua, Leon features many colonial buildings and churches, like San Juan Bautista that is featured on this picture of the day. Beyond the history, Leon is a  Keep traveling!

Tikal: where nature and culture merge

 

It must be a tyrannosaur-rex, I think, while I turn on my side in another useless attempt to fall back sleep as the sun is almost rising. The roar from the Guatemalan jungle is so loud that I fear the size of the animal making this much noise, especially while spending the night in a small tent… Keep reading

Exploring the cradle of the Maya civilization, El Mirador, Guatemala

From the top of the 77-metre high massive pyramid of La Danta, the huge city sprawls at my feet. From the grand plaza on which La Danta stands, a broad street paved with white stones leads to the Great Acropolis, Keep travelling!

The stunning Sainte Chapelle, Paris

Notre Dame de Paris is the most famous church building of the capital. And it is stunning, indeed!

La Sainte Chapelle, or the Holy Chapel, is only a few hundred meters away and is a gothic jewel not to be missed. Keep reading

Hiking from Magome to Tsumago: timeless Japan

With the 4-day-Yari-dake hike we have just finished the day before, and still being used to waking up at sunrise, we decide to go for an 8-km stroll between the timeless villages of Keep reading

Temple hopping in Kyoto: top 10 & travel tips

I am biking like a mad woman on the sidewalks, with my knees almost hitting my chin at every turn of the pedals on my ridiculously small bicycle, ringing the bell to warn pedestrians in the busy streets, who weirdly enough do not seem surprised by that tall Dutch woman showing off her bicycle skills on that tiny Japanese bike. Overtaking herds of tourists, I am temple hopping in Kyoto! Keep reading