Text: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau Photographs: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau
Once past the cruise tourists who tend to stick to the UNESCO World Heritage Bryggen and to the funicular that takes them up Fløyen, Bergen is a charming city with many hidden gems waiting to be discovered. This harbour town has retained its cosmopolitan character and the second city of Norway after its capital Oslo, is very welcoming. This student town is vibrant, surrounded by beautiful mountains and spread around the water: an easy access point to the North Sea that has made Bergen what it is today.
Text: Claire Lessiau Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
A trip to Cape Town seems to systematically include at least a day in the vineyards, very often on exclusive wine estates around Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, about an hour away from the city. It is true that the quality of the wines combined to the beauty of the vineyards calls for an exploration. Stellenbosch can be overwhelming with its hundreds of wine farms. Franschhoek tends to oversell luxurious vineyard experiences rather than high quality wine tastings. Our favourite wine route is much closer, right in one of the most beautiful suburbs of Cape Town, in the cradle of South Africa’s wine making. Only a twenty-minute drive via Victoria Road lining the stunning Atlantic coastline, cooler climate award-winning wines are produced on about 400 hectares. Let’s explore this intimate wine route…
Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
South Africa attracts for its safari game reserves, varied landscapes, surfing spots, beautiful Cape Town and the very well-marketed Garden Route. A day in the vineyards of Stellenbosch or Franschhoek is often part of the trip, but the rainbow nation is not necessarily renowned for its gastronomy. However, for the past ten years, the food scene in Cape Town has gone from non-remarkable to exquisite. If there are no restaurants rewarded with Michelin stars in the country, it is simply because the French prestigious guide does not operate on the African continent. Nevertheless, Capetonian restaurants have become used to hitting competing lists of world’s best restaurants such as the Test Kitchen in Woodstock, or La Colombe in Constantia. If it has become quite noticeable, and has also hit the top of these lists, there is still a little gem for the ones in the know… The Chefs Warehouse… Started as one location in the city centre in 2014 by chef Liam Tomlin, and expanded since, the dish-sharing restaurant concept combines delicious food artistically plated in remarkable locations with a fantastic service and a great attention to details.
Text: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
The cold water of the rain shower feels good: it has been a long drive with the very last stretch on a hilly rough dirt road in the burning sun before we eventually arrived at the lodge. As I am contemplating the view on the endless rolling hills in my favourite wilderness of South Africa from the shower, I am startled. I jump out onto the large outdoor private deck of our villa and with my hands – and everything else for that matter – still wet, I grab my binoculars: “rhinos!” I observe three of these prehistoric animals with their so coveted horns roaming the opposite green slope: a calf which I estimate no older than a few months, its mother and another white rhino that could be the calf’s older sibling. I feel extremely privileged to witness this scene as their numbers are dangerously plummeting and rhinos are on the verge of extinction, being poached to feed the insatiable Chinese market. For sure, the Isibindi Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge that sits at the edge of the Hluhluwe iMfolozi game reserve in Kwazulu Natal, is well named! If the head of Isibindi Africa Trails, Nunu Jobe, is as pertinently nicknamed, I hardly dare imagining what a walk in the African bush with the “Rhino Whisperer” holds for me…
In less than 200 years, Hong Kong has been transformed continuously from a fishing village into Victoria City, from a warehouse into a manufacturing centre, into a services hub, and into today’s modern metropolis and global financial centre. With such a fast rate of change, Hong Kong is facing a real challenge: sustaining its growth that has made Hong Kong what it is today and is its essence, while conserving the heritage that makes this megapolis so unique.
Even though our alarm clock is set at a shockingly early 3:30 a.m., I am so excited that I wake up five minutes before it goes off. Today is a big day! After dressing fast in my technical outdoor gear and warm jacket, I grab my headlight and toss my backpack over my shoulder. I gulp down a coffee before heading out: after last night’s gargantuan dinner in a traditional Réunion fashion with home-grown lentils of Cilaos, a chicken cari and a few delicious rhums arrangés (infused rums) this is the most I can ingest for the moment! Keep traveling!
89 days and 9,722 kilometres across South Africa, including a good amount on dirt roads, through 4×4-only mountain passes, along wild coast trails, across the last bit of sand forest left on the planet, side by side with elephants and lions to bring you the best adventures of South Africa!
Beyond the Big 5, South Africa is a fantastic playground for the outdoor enthusiasts, and here are the Top Keep exploring!
It is getting dark fast now the sun has set. A jackal scurries on the African soil that is still warm after a hot summer day. Crickets tune in forming a loud orchestra while bright stars start decorating the sky, one by one. Agile nightjars catch moths and other insects in the faint headlights of the open Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4 safari truck in which we are seated. A woollen blanket keeps my legs warm while I tuck away my Canon camera after capturing some of Africa’s most emblematic animals. I am keeping an eye out for leopards, bush-babies, genets, and other nocturnal animals which eyes would lit up in the respectful infrared light that our tracker moves up and down the trees. Suddenly, Keep travelling!
Imagine one dome covering all continents, all countries, and all civilisations, shining its light on all of them equally, unique as they are. A stroll underneath the ever-changing calligraphic shades of the dome, crossing oceans from one theme to another leads the visitor to all corners of the world in a search for universality where human concerns and evolutions are central. The specificity of Louvre Abu Dhabi, a universal museum at the crossroads of civilisations is to put these civilisations in regards. Keep travelling!
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 traveling!
The majestic temples of Angkor are victim of their own success: with 4 million visitors a year mostly during the dry season focusing mainly on three temples, the atmosphere can be lost. Still, it is possible to experience the Angkor temple complex off the beaten path for a fantastic and authentic discovery, unravelling the splendour of the great Khmer civilisation.
The five towers of Angkor Wat symbolizing Mount Meru, Cambodia
Sunrise on Angkor Wat, Cambodia
I skilfully steer my mountain bike along a few pointy rocks on a narrow single track through the jungle of Cambodia. In front of me appears a desolated ruin, half swallowed by tree roots of strangler fig trees. Birds sing, butterflies flutter around reflecting the strong sun rays peeping through the dense vegetation on their brightly-coloured wings, and a cat yawns while stretching its front paws on the step of the almost-millennium old Khmer temple of Preah Khan in the temple complex of Angkor.
Old and rusty train tracks half-hidden by blooming flowers on which butterflies and bees feed, joggers drinking from refrigerated fountains, passers-by photographing modern art, tourists enjoying their coffees seated on design benches, white collars on Keep traveling!
About 32°C and a bright sun, walking the streets of Panama City. I would kill for an ice-cream! But I must admit that the traditional Central American ice-creams sold in the streets, consisting of grated ice in a plastic cup topped off with a chemical colorant, or the industrial ones packed with sugar are really not tempting to me. That is precisely when I remember my discussion with Maria from Café Ruiz in Boquete and the fact that she supplies a high-end ice-cream store in Casco Viejo, the charming neighbourhood of the capital… Keep traveling!
After three months on the road through Central America, crossing the bridge of the Americas, we arrive in Panama City, our last stop before flying back home. It is by far the most modern and vibrant capital of the eight countries we have visited during this trip: its modern skyscrapers, architectural landmarks, and well maintained parks show its prosperity, mainly due to the business revolving around the canal. When the sun sets on the Pacific ocean, lights colour the skyline, fancy cars take the streets, and dressed-up locals make their way to Casco Viejo, the old quarter of Panama City where its booming nightlife is about to start.
Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country. Keep traveling!
Nicaragua is crossed by a long volcanic chain running from north to south, with volcanoes such as Telica, Masaya, Mombacho, Concepcion, Maderas… many of which still active. Close to Granada, a 6-kilometer-diameter and 100-meter deep crater is filled by fresh water: this is the stunning Laguna de Apoyo, and most likely one of the most enjoyable swims in the country! keep traveling!
Article updated on May 22, 2020 Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
During the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), an ancient route called the Nakasendō, literally meaning the Central Mountain Route, connected the political capital Edo (today’s Tokyo) to Kyoto, home to the Imperial Palace. Samurais and merchants used to cover its 534 kilometres through mountains and valleys. Today one can still hike the historical trail, its most atmospheric stretch being between the villages of Magome and Tsumago to explore a rare and timeless Japan.
Article updated on May 23, 2020 Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Kaiseki-ryori is an art type, a true haute cuisine experience (comparable to Michelin-star restaurants) and the crème de la crème of Japanese gastronomy, serving and presentation. Kaiseki is a must for Keep savouring!
Article updated on May 12, 2020 Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen
Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns. More than a place to sleep, they convey a lifestyle and tradition that is a must to experience for any traveller to Japan. In this article, read about a typical ryokan experience and learn about the etiquette to make your stay a success!