Meet Valerie :: Valerie Fernandez Photography (Vanuatu)

We kicked off a new series in January featuring traveling photographers from around the world (most recent feature here; to date, the list includes Italy, Canada, United States and Australia). We make no secret of the fact that we love travel. We love learning about other cultures. We love contributing to a smaller, more interactive space. With this in mind, we are going to be sharing local stories by local photographers from around the world throughout our posts this year.

This month takes you off-the-beaten track to Vanuatu of all places! A little backstory from the Lonely Planet: “Vanuatu is a Pacific island adventure far beyond any notions of cruise-ship ports and flashy resorts. Deserted beaches, ancient culture, remote and rugged islands and world-class diving are just a small part of the magnetism of this scattered 80-plus island archipelago”. (You will find an interesting interactive map on this web page.) We have mentioned previously that we love getting to know the photographers behind the stories. Valerie, from Valerie Fernandez Photography, is lovely to converse with; you can be forgiven for thinking that you are on island time, too, as her warm, relaxed nature is contagious (the thought of living somewhere where you can forget to bring your phone with you? Yes, please - sign us up!). Since the flight time from our hometown to Vanuatu is less than 3 hours, you can bet that we have added this slice of sand, sea & sun to our bucket list. Thank you for joining in, Valerie, and for sharing stories from your part of the world with us! Enjoy!

 

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Tell us about where you live?

I live in Vanuatu, a tiny island country in the South Pacific. It is about three hours flight away from Australia and New Zealand. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel a lot in my life and live in different places. I absolutely love discovering new places, cultures and people; however, I am also always happy to return home at some point. Beyond my obvious biases, there is something truly special about this country - something very raw, very simple and, to me, very authentic. I have found balance here between a life, passion and job that requires me to be connected at all times - as well as the need to actually not be connected at all times. It’s just easy to leave your phone at home around here. It’s easy to still connect with people face to face and not through some device. It’s easy to be spontaneous. I love that.

 

What makes your town/state/country unique?

Kava. Around 5pm here, most people are done for the day and usually gather in what we call “Nakamals” - a sort of outdoor version of a bar where one drinks “kava” (or other regular soft drink or beer). That’s probably the heart of the nivan culture and something unique. Kava is a drink extracted from a root with a very earthy, peppery taste. It isn’t alcohol. It is not a drug. However, it does have a relaxing effect (that turns to numbing if you abuse it). So everyday around 5pm, people gather for an hour - or two or three (it’s up to them) - and sit down outside. You will find some under majestic banyan trees or by the beach or wherever their favourite nakamal and crowd is. They just chat, catch up, connect. I love this about our culture. I love taking that hour of time to just be a human and connect with other humans, talking about everything and anything. Not knowing whether the conversation today will be silly and witty or deep and meaningful. I love that our lifestyle allows us be dedicated parents & committed business owners but still allows us time to be part of a community and see our friends almost every day. It gives us a wonderful balance. It allows us to transition nicely between our working day and our life at home, blow some steam, have a laugh, and still be back home early enough for family dinners, playtime and cuddles with our bub, and bedtime stories.  Both my husband and I have spent years in cities like London and Paris where the everyday rhythm is crazy. Therefore, we appreciate time as our most treasurable thing today.

 

If I traveled from the opposite side of the world, what should I visit in your country?

Tanna definitely. 100% Tanna. Vanuatu has about 80 islands. That’s a lot of tropical paradise to offer but Tanna is so special, it is actually, truly worth coming all the way from across the globe. Tanna is home to the world’s most accessible active volcano. By that, I mean that you can actually sit on its crater rim. As you watch the sun set over the ocean, you can witness the pure, raw force of nature. You will feel, hear, and see the volcanic eruptions and the sky and stars turn red (check out some footage here). If that’s not enough, Tanna has landscape like the moon, tropical beaches, lush green jungles, pristine waterfalls and blue caves all along its coast, accessible only by swimming in from the ocean. It’s a land for the old souls and the children at heart, the adventurers, & the wanderers.

 

Coffe or chai/tea?

Personally, coffee AND tea. ☺ I don’t know that I can shoutout for a fav coffee shop as that’s actually one of the things I miss about big cities… especially after 8 years spent in Paris where there are probably as many coffee shops as inhabitants. That isn’t to say we don’t have nice little coffee shops around here. We do but I can’t think of one that stands out particularly. What I can say, however, is that we have our very own coffee - 100% Vanuatu coffee. It is grown and harvested in Tanna and processed in Port Vila. That should be enough to make any coffee lover happy, don’t you think? And if that’s not enough, you could pair Vanuatu grown coffee with a Vanuatu tree to bar Gaston Chocolate, for example. ☺  Yes, we have that too. The cacao beans are grown and harvested in the outer island of Malekula, the chocolate bars are made in Gaston’s cute little shop downtown… and you can sip a cup of Tanna coffee while actually watching the chocolate being made!

 

Best breakfast café?

Hmmm… my loyalties are torn apart! I would say Jill’s Café for a typical homey feel. K2 for several reasons: amazing & healthy breakfast with a twist, traditional recipes revisited with local products & a creative flair, and wonderful coffee & fresh juice. Chantilly’s on the Bay, finally, for amazing breakfast with a view.

 

Three reasons for why someone should visit your country?

To unwind, stay in a heavenly resort away from it all and let the crystal clear waters and light palm breeze rejuvenate your soul and reconnect you with yourself and your loved ones. To go out of your comfort zone, experience a destination where twenty-first century lifestyle and traditional culture overlap, where you can have access to international standard comfort, or choose to be adventurous and go completely off-the-beaten tracks. Slow yourself. Come back to a rhythm that is healthy. Learn patience.

 

Any local legends?

None that come to my mind particularly. Having said that, the nivan culture is very, very mystic. Some of the most remote islands are known to be home to actual sorcerers and black magic. This is actually something that is taken seriously around here. As far as I’m concerned, well, just in case, I prefer to respect these beliefs. ☺

 

Train, bus or walk?

Bus. Our buses don’t follow a given itinerary. You stop them anywhere you would like a cab. Hop in, tell the driver where you are going and he will take you there. Bear in mind, though, that this works on a first come, first serve basis so it is worth making sure the bus you’re hoping on is going your way if you don’t want to end up going all over town before you reach your destination! ☺ (I suppose this could also answer your question about a local quirk! ☺)

 

Best accommodation?

There are so many options! Erakor Island is a small islet reached by a five minutes ferry ride over crystal clear blue waters with star fish all over the seabed. Breakas Resort for the surfing. Eratap and The Havannah for a truly romantic getaway. Ratua Island and Tanna Rockwater for absolute barefoot luxury, for a honeymoon or a quiet retreat.

 

Must see vantage point?

Clem’s Hill overlooking far into Port Vila, the harbor, Mele Bay, villages, coconut tree fields, Hideaway Island… there is so much of what is typical of Vanuatu in one panorama.

 

Most colorful character in your hometown?

Clement Martinez is maybe not the most colourful character in town but he is definitely worth visiting and chatting with. He is the friendly owner of “L’Houstalet”, a French restaurant he opened over forty - maybe even fifty - years ago now. And almost nothing has changed in the restaurant over the years. Clement and his restaurant are a part of Vanuatu’s history and have been the witness of it as well. They were here before we became an independent country, and they stay even after. If history isn’t your thing, he serves delicious pizza - as well as less ordinary dishes, such as lobster and flying fox. ☺

 

Number one thing you miss when you’re away?

My loved ones and my dogs. Also, the sights. I love the fact that I can see the ocean from almost everywhere, that nature is so present around us, & it makes me feel like I can just breathe better. I miss that when I’m away, for sure!

 

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You will find Valerie here:

Information :: What Makes an Image Important

Narrowing down the options when choosing a wedding photographer is typically multifaceted. You want to love the photographer's work. You want a personality that "gets" you as individuals and as a couple (put simply, you want someone relatable!). You need to be able to afford them. With this is mind, some of the most important reasons for why we blog regularly (fyi: we blog once a week and this is our 128th post) are:

  • to tangibly demonstrate how passionate we are about our role as wedding photographers

  • to show who we are and what this means to you as our client

  • to share tips and ideas

Essentially, the kind of information that we are hoping will be important during your decision-making process. Today, we are sharing a little more about us & some food for thought for our clients. A recent discussion about some of our most memorable & personal images to date was the catalyst.

We work really hard on perfecting our craft. We focus a lot of attention on people skills, composition, chasing the most ideal light, depth of field... have we lost you yet? ;) We decided to strip all that back during our discussions and we challenged each other to think of our personal favourite images (rule time: we could only pick a maximum of 2 images). Of course, we both gravitated to ones that have all three of us in them. However, we currently do not share images of our daughter, Chloe, online. So we started again. Naturally, our minds drifted to favourite shots of the two of us - mostly taken during travels. With that in mind (and as the exercise was beginning to feel too easy!), we narrowed the criteria down even further: Pete had to choose two images that featured only him and I had to choose two that only featured me.

{Try this for yourself! You might surprise yourself with what you end up choosing. Actually, why don’t you stop reading now and pick out your two all-time favourites. We’ll come back to yours in a moment.}

In the end, Pete settled on one image. He felt that this one summed up everything for him:

I chose two as they are from a similar time period (same year) but during very different experiences and I find the polarity striking:

Interestingly, all three are “okay” images (definitely not terrible). However, are they perfectly composed? Was the lighting nailed? Honestly, does it even matter? All three tell a story that is important to the subject. Pete chose his representative image for a range of reasons. Skydiving was a dream come true. He was proud of himself for taking the risk. Pete experienced freedom that comes with… well, jumping out of a plane with all risks carefully calculated. I chose my graduation image as I was (and am) so proud of this achievement. It is something that was the result of hard work & dedication. I chose the one from my first time experiencing snow. This moment features in one of the top 10 days of my life to date. Experiencing snowfall was (in my case, anyway) a magical moment. I don’t usually take selfies but this was a moment I wanted to freeze forever - literally.

When you selected your two images, did you think anything along these lines, “I really like x one but I can’t possibly keep it! If I took it again, I would make sure I was a little more off-centre. If it followed the rule of thirds, I think I would be more inclined to keep it”… “Hmmm, this is a good one but the shadows on my face are too pronounced. I think I will scrap it. Shame really as it always makes me feel happy when I look at it!”… “Oooops - the highlights are blown! Forget it! …

Correct me if I am wrong but I am guessing that you chose based on how looking at those images makes you feel?

Capturing an image in such a way that the subjects feel something for the rest of time is at the heart and soul of wedding photography.

In conclusion, we wanted to take this opportunity to re-frame the importance of capturing the moments that are important to you. Yes, we will strive for perfect composition, image processing, lighting, timing, & storytelling. However, we will not compromise storytelling & capturing raw emotion at the expense of perfection. We want the resulting images to tell your story; not be representative of our “brand” per se. We want you to love your wedding photography for a lifetime.

Meet Kitty & Mark :: Requiem Images (United States)

We kicked off a new series in January featuring traveling photographers from around the world (most recent feature here; to date, the list includes Italy, Canada, United States and Australia). We make no secret of the fact that we love travel. We love learning about other cultures. We love contributing to a smaller, more interactive space. With this in mind, we are going to be sharing local stories by local photographers from around the world throughout our posts this year.

This month, and our 125th blog post (random fact!), is all about Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (United States), through the eyes of Kitty & Mark from Requiem Images. One of our favourite aspects of organising these features is getting to know the individuals involved; lovely Kitty & Mark are no exception. We have really enjoyed learning about their colourful corner of the world (showcased beautifully through their emotional photography) - and the personalities behind Requiem Images, too. (Our little one is a fan of Daniel Tiger; there is an interesting connection below!) Enjoy and thank you for joining in, Kitty & Mark! (All images below were taken in Pittsburgh.)

 

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Photography by Requiem Images

 

Tell us about where you live:

We travel regularly and try to experience as many cultures as possible so my family and I like to consider ourselves more global citizens than anything; however, the home we own and where we spend most of our time is in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

Photography by Requiem Images

 

What makes your town, state or country unique?

Our city is unique because it’s like a hybrid of a small town and a city. We have a downtown with skyscrapers, lots of museums, parks, highways - so many things happening at any given time - but everyone knows one another and it’s essentially just a grouping of small, unique neighborhoods.

Also the bridges - Pittsburgh is rated 4th in the cities with the most number of bridges in the world.

 

If I traveled from the opposite side of the world, what should I visit in your town, state or country?

Mattress Factory, Warhol Museum, all the restaurants, Strip District, Lawrenceville - just make a week of it and experience all the little neighborhoods and see what each has to offer!

 

What is something quirky we would find in your town, state or country?

I wouldn’t say that Pittsburgh has one specific quirky feature, but rather that Pittsburgh is awesome because it is comprised of lots of little quirky aspects throughout the city and even its suburbs. Some great examples are The Mattress Factory (the worlds first museum dedicated to installation art), Picklesburgh (the highest-rated specialty food festival in the nation), the mass of dinosaur sculptures that can be found scattered around the city, monthly community ‘undies only’ bike rides, and so much more!

 

Coffee or chai tea?

Coffee. Because kids.

 

Best breakfast cafe?

Oooo that’s a good one! There are so many killer places to brunch in this town. If I absolutely have to chose, it's not necessarily a breakfast cafe but if I had to chose one place to go for brunch this weekend I would probably chose Eleven. My husband and I had brunch there for one of our first dates in Pittsburgh, so not only is the food great but the memories, as well. But seriously… there are tons of awesome places to brunch in Pittsburgh!

 

Photography by Requiem Images

 

Three reasons for why someone should visit your town, state or country?

It’s super friendly, has an amazing art scene, and an even more amazing food scene.

 

Photography by Requiem Images

Photography by Requiem Images

Photography by Requiem Images

Photography by Requiem Images

Photography by Requiem Images

 

Any local legends?

If we’re talking about people, there are loads! Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, Andy Warhol, Mr Rogers, loads of actors and musicians, etc.

If we’re talking events, I’ve mentioned several awesome happenings throughout the interview that are totally worth checking out!

 

Photography by Requiem Images

 

Train, bus, car or walk?

Always try to walk if possible. It’s best for the environment and it can do a world of good, especially for someone who is self-employed, to just get outside for a few minutes. Luckily, we live in an area in Pitttsburgh that’s very walkable. One thing that makes Pittsburgh awesome is that there are lots of little walkable neighborhoods around the city - but if we have to get somewhere on the other side of the city we drive. (I would KILL to have an awesome train system in town!)

 

Best accommodation?

As a wedding photographer, I am pretty familiar with a lot of the hotels in town and I definitely have my favorites. My first choice would probably be the Ace Hotel - it's a former YMCA facility with a super cool vibe, amazing natural light pouring into all the rooms, a restaurant with great food, innovative cocktails, and it's in the perfect walkable part of town. If Ace is booked, some other faves include Hotel Monaco, Hotel Indigo, and the Fairmont downtown.

 

Must-see vantage point?

Mount Washington. Hands down. It offers a view of the entire city that can’t be beat.

 

Who is the most note-worthy person to come from your hometown?

Of course as an artist I’m biased, but I’d have to say Andy Warhol. My husband argues that it’s Mr. Rodgers (even though it often rains, Pittsburgh is a city filled with beautiful little neighborhoods).

 

Most colorful character in your hometown?

I’d have to say Tracy the Trailer Trash Girl. However, Sharon Needles and Alaska both deserve honorable mentions.

 

Photography by Requiem Images

 

Number one thing you miss when you’re away?

Pittsburgh is amazing and wonderful but my honest answer has to be my comfy bed.

 

Photography by Requiem Images

 

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You will find Kitty & Mark here:

Meet Patrick & Josée :: Dyade Photo (Canada)

We kicked off a new series in January featuring traveling photographers from around the world (most recent feature here; to date, the list includes Italy, United States and Australia). We make no secret of the fact that we love travel. We love learning about other cultures. We love contributing to a smaller, more interactive space. With this in mind, we are going to be sharing local stories by local photographers from around the world throughout our posts this year.

This month’s feature hails all the way from Quebec, Canada. We have been conversing with Patrick Dubuc and Josée Grondin from Dyade Photo during preparation for the following (very informative) blog post. Patrick & Josée are a delightful couple! Such fun-loving, easy-going photographers. Then they submitted their images for the post and left us swooning and re-prioritising our bucket list. You will see what we mean. Enjoy and thank you for joining in, Patrick & Josée!

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

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Tell us about where you live

We have been moving a lot recently and have settled in Quebec City for about a year now. Both born in Montreal (about 2 hours and a half drive south-west from Quebec City), we love our new homeland because of its historical character and closeness to nature. Quebec City is pretty central to the province of Quebec and is an excellent base to make wonderful explorations.

 

What makes your town, state or country unique?

The province of Quebec is the only major French speaking province in Canada. The majority of its inhabitants speak French and English. Anglophone and Francophone cultures have been involved for hundreds of years and have greatly influenced our cultural heritage. Old Quebec City is the only walled city in North America. Inside its walls stands the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. And in front of this hotel, pedestrians can walk the Dufferin Terrace which offers magnificent views of the St. Lawrence River. From Quebec City, this river widens significantly to eventually become a sea.

 

If I traveled from the opposite side of the world, what should I visit in your town, state or country?

If you are into outdoorsy activities, you definitely have to take the time to go to Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve. This place is out of this world. It features colossal limestone monoliths that evoke landscapes from primeval times. Or do what we call the Tour de la Gaspésie, a legendary scenic drive that loops around the huge Gaspé Peninsula. Both National Geographic Traveler and Michelin Green Guide have recognized that it is an exceptional roadtrip to undertake.

If you are more into city effervescence and/or historical charm, enjoy the many attractions offered by the two major cities in the province. Montreal is a big, busy, exhilarating, cosmopolitan and artistic city with so much to see and do. Incredible entertainment, historic architecture, glorious food, vibrant culture and a night life that never stops: Montréal has it all! At a slightly quieter pace than her big sister, Quebec City has just as much to offer. European charm, UNESCO World Heritage site, museums, summer festivals and foodie’s heaven.

 

What is something quirky we would find in your town, state or country

If you ever come in the Province of Quebec on July 1st, you will be surprised by the number of moving trucks you will come across. July 1st is our unofficial National Moving Day! The majority of people who move from one rental to another do it that day.  It's unique in the world and we joke about having friends helping with the move getting paid with pizza and beer ;)

 

Coffee or chai/tea? (shoutout for fav coffee shop)

There are so many places to enjoy coffée or tea! Every Quebecer has his favorite coffee shop. But we are especially proud of our microbreweries. There has been a boom recently and several regional brews are emerging. Many areas in the province now have their Route de la Bière. So it's possible to add a microbrewery tour to your travel itinerary. What better way than to end a day of exploration with a drink in good company. We must say we have a preference for La Tête d’Allumette - beautifully settled in the Kamouraska region. One of the best places to enjoy a drink and the sunset over the St. Lawrence River.

 

Best breakfast cafe?

You have to have brunch at the internationally renowned Pied de Cochon located in the district of Plateau Mont-Royal in Montréal. It’s one of the most extravagant meals you will ever have. You can even have an ostrich egg for breakfast! Authentic dishes with real flavours of Quebec’s terroir.

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Three reasons for why someone should visit your town, state or country?

Nature is always on our doorstep. And as if that were not enough, we are blessed by four magnificent seasons that mark Quebec's landscapes and allow us to do so many different activities. In winter, you can go snowshoeing, skiing, skating; in summer, you can go hiking, boating and camping in the same places. In winter, you will experience -30℉ and huge snow storms while summer can be as hot as the Caribbean. Oh, and autumn is just icing on the cake with the most colorful scenery of golds and reds and oranges you will ever contemplate! Finally, we don’t want to brag about it but Quebecers are known for their “joie de vivre”, colourful French accents, culinary traditions, and the warm welcome we extend to visitors.

 

Any local legends?

Celine Dion… Does that ring a bell?  ;)

 

Train, bus, car or walk?

In Montréal and Quebec City, you can visit plenty of places by foot but if you truly want to immerse yourself in our beautiful province you have to have a car.

 

Best accommodation?

We are adventure lovers and we definitely have favorite places to sleep while on a trip. Have you ever thought of camping under the stars rocked by the breath of whales? You can do that at Camping Mer et Monde in Grandes-Bergeronnes. You can also sleep in a lighthouse on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River at the Phare de l'Île-du-Pot-à-l'Eau-de-Vie. And why not sleep in a transparent bubble at the top of a tree? Canopée-lit in Sacré-Coeur offers unusual accommodation located on a large forest estate with trails and rivers.

 

Must-see vantage point?

You have to see Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve one time in your life. You have to go skiing at Le Massif de Charlevoix where the mountain ends at the sea. You have to contemplate the sunrise at the Mount Royal Belvedere in Montréal while the city slowly wakes up. By the way, it is THE best spot for french kissing at sunset ;)

 

Most colourful character in your hometown?

In Quebec City, the world’s snow capital, our snowman mascot named Bonhomme Carnaval is the official representative of the Quebec Winter Carnival. White as snow and clad in the red toque and arrow sash of our heroic past, Bonhomme embodies the joie de vivre of Quebecers! Enjoy a glass of Caribou while taking in the festive spirit of the Carnival!

 

Photography by Dyade Photo

 

Number one thing you miss when you're away?

Our National meal - the Poutine! You have to try this dish of french fries, gravy and melted cheese ;)

 

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Everything you need to know about Dyade Photo here:

Name : Dyade Photo

Photographers : Patrick Dubuc and Josée Grondin

Location : Quebec City, Province of Québec, Canada

Website : https://www.dyadephoto.com

Intagram : https://www.instagram.com/dyadephoto/

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/dyadephoto/

Meet Jenn :: Jenn Terrell (United States)

We kicked off a new series last month featuring traveling photographers from around the world. We make no secret of the fact that we love travel. We love learning about other cultures. We love contributing to a smaller, more interactive space. With this in mind, we are going to be sharing local stories by local photographers from around the world throughout our posts this year.

For this month’s feature post, we had a chat with Jenn Terrell based in the United States. Readers are in for a treat as not only is Jenn lovely to converse with but her work has been internationally recognised (including by National Geographic Your Shot & Vogue Italia). We hope you enjoy Jenn’s feature and her inside scoop on her part of the world: Arkansas, United States. All images below were taken by Jenn and cover food, art and people found in her corner of the world. Enjoy!

This image was published by Vogue Italia and involved the following vendors:
Photographer: Jenn Terrell
MUA/Planner/Creator of the amazing crown: Veronica Jaquelinne Lopez
Model/Queen: Lagrea K Higgs
Gold Dress: Rosie Rose Designer
Venue: The Ballroom at I Street

 
 

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Tell us about where you live: I live in Bentonville, Arkansas in the United States.

What makes your town, state or country unique?: Bentonville is the location of the headquarters of Walmart. Because of that, several people travel to Bentonville each day for business, etc. On any given day you can hear a number of accents from different people at local stores. Bentonville is also in the Northwestern part of the state. There are lots of beautiful trails, mountains, waterfalls and more all over the state.

Jenn took this image of Hubert Neal, Jr painting in his studio. He is a Belizean American artist currently living in Bentonville. His work can be found at hubertnealjr.com. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

Jenn took this image of Hubert Neal, Jr painting in his studio. He is a Belizean American artist currently living in Bentonville. His work can be found at hubertnealjr.com. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

If I traveled from the opposite side of the world, what should I visit in your town, state or country?: Definitely visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The place is a never ending wonderland of art. It is an amazing place!

Beautiful Bentonville creating the backdrop for this image. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

What is something quirky we would find in your town, state or country?: I would say find people and talk to them, especially in Arkansas. Make a friend, grab a great cup of coffee and hit the trails or relax by the lake. I have also had a lot of luck thrift shopping here. I have found everything from a leather coach laptop bag for $25 to vintage cameras with lens that work on my personal camera.

Coffee or chai/tea?: There are lots of coffee shops in Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas in general. My favorite, hands down, is Onyx Coffee Lab. The one in Bentonville looks like something out of this world. The coffee is amazing and even the signature drinks are very unique. The vibe inside is really nice, too. It is great for photoshoots or relaxing with a friend.

Food recommendations?: The food here is also amazing! Many of the restaurants downtown are owned by chefs or have an executive chef. My personal favorites are Oven and Tap Restaurant (pizza and other delicious entrees), Little Beans (El Salvadorian Food), and Table Mesa (Mexican).

Best breakfast cafe?: The Station Cafe is great for that old school cafe vibe with delicious pancakes and biscuits and gravy. So good!

Three reasons for why someone should visit your town, state or country?: Three reasons to visit Bentonville are easy! One, Crystal Bridges Museum of Art. Two, you will make friends and, three, enjoy amazing food!

Chef Aria Kagan presenting at a Brightwater Salon event where an artist is paired with a chef for a night of food and art. Brightwater is a local culinary school. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

This image was taken at a Brightwater Salon event where an artist is paired with a chef for a night of food and art. Brightwater is a local culinary school. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

Any local legends?: Every now and then Alice Walton (daughter of the creator of Walmart) will come into Onyx and grab some coffee. I have also seen her on a golf cart in the Neighborhood Walmart parking lot.

There is also the Bentonville Film Festival every spring. Celebrities from all over come to Bentonville for it. You will see celebrities in the restaurants downtown and out and about. Once I saw Jon Heder (the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite) at Oven and Tap.

Jenn’s description for this image: “The gentleman looking out the window is Eric Trautman. He was my first landlord here and just a gentle soul. He has helped several local artists get their start”. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

Train, bus, car or walk?: Bentonville is a smaller town so renting a car is probably the best option. That or getting an uber everywhere.

Best accommodation?: 21C Hotel is definitely the best in town. Celebrities stay there when they come in. If you are looking for something a little more budget friendly, there are plenty of Airbnbs in town that are fabulous. Eureka Springs is also only about an hour away and it is a gem of a small town. There are lots of treehouses and cabins that can be rented there.

This image was taken outside of 21C Hotel. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

Number one thing you miss when you're away?: When I leave, I will miss Onyx Coffee, the amazing food and the great people that I have met in Bentonville. Tanyard Creek (15 minutes away) also has a beautiful waterfall that only takes a short hike to access.

Jenn tells the story behind this one: “I took this photo of Laverne Cox in Fayetteville (20 minutes from Bentonville). Her lecture was part of a series put on by the University of Arkansas. They bring in amazing speakers like her periodically”. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

This image was taken by Jenn of her friend, Roxana. Roxana is from El Salvador and they met in Bentonville. Jenn says of Roxana, “She has been one of the most amazing people to know”. (Photography by Jenn Terrell)

 
 

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You will find Jenn here:

Meet Matt & Grace :: Playground Love Weddings (Italy)

We are kicking off a new series today. We make no secret of the fact that we love travel. We love learning about other cultures. We love contributing to a smaller, more interactive space. We are going to be sharing local stories by local photographers from around the world throughout our posts this year.

For today’s post, we had a chat with Matt & Grace from Playground Love Weddings in Italy (seriously - check out their work for some stunning & emotive photography with impeccable attention to detail!). We learned a bit about their part of the world. It was too good not to share and, if you are anything like us, you are adding Matt & Grace’s recommendations to a well-loved travel notebook stat. Enjoy!

 

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Tell us about where you live: We live in Bellagio, a small town in the center of Lake Como. Lake Como is one of the most beautiful lakes in Northern Italy. It is full of old villas and breathtaking landscapes.

 

What makes your town, state or country unique?: Bellagio is timeless. The lake is full of small towns, like Varenna and Lenno. Como is the only big city and it’s a mix of cool urban life, mountains and lake.

 

If I traveled from the opposite side of the world, what should I visit in your town, state or country?: In Bellagio, you should visit Villa Melzi and its gardens. In Varenna, Villa Monastero and Villa Carlotta. In Como, you have to take the funicular to Brunate. There are so many places!!!

Photography by Playground Love Weddings (Villa Melzi, Italy)

 

What is something quirky we would find in your town, state or country?: There’s only one small island on the Lake, called Isola Comacina. The island is full of ruins of churches from the past centuries and has a restaurant; here you can drink a coffee flambé.

 

Coffee or chai/tea?: Let’s take a walk and reach the Caffè Sancassani, in Visgnola. It’s a hidden gem with a mix of traditional pastries — try a “cannoncino”— and healthy, fresh-baked cookies.

Photography by Playground Love Weddings (Villa Melzi, Italy)

 

Best breakfast cafe?: Bar Rossi , in Bellagio, is absolutely the most charming place for a breakfast coffee in front of the lake. The interior is furnished with wooden carved furniture that will transport you to the beginning of the last century.

 

Three reasons for why someone should visit your town, state or country?: You can visit an amazing place, full of history. You can take a boat and relax by yourself or you can go on a hike on the mountains. And, last but not least, the food is amazing! One of the typical products of the lake is the oil and it’s totally amazing!

Photography by Playground Love Weddings (Villa Melzi, Italy)

 

Any local legends?: Every year there’s a carnival in a small city called Schignano. It’s a crazy, funny & legendary event where people wear traditional masks and costumes.

 

Train, bus, car or walk?: In Bellagio, you must absolutely walk. For example, you can reach Punta Spartivento, the panoramical point, in just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre. Then use the boat to reach Varenna, Lenno and Como.

Photography by Playground Love Weddings (Villa Melzi, Italy)

 

Best accommodation?: Villa Serbelloni

 

Must-see vantage point?: Brunate in Como and Punta Spartivento in Bellagio.

Photography by Playground Love Weddings (Villa Melzi, Italy)

 

Who is the most note-worthy person to come from your hometown?: Alessandro Manzoni, a famous Italian writer, who lived in Lecco. But one of the most famous from the lake is George Clooney, isn’t it?!

 

Most colourful character in your hometown?: In Bellagio, you can find some sculpture of a really talented artist named Abele Vadacca. You can meet him at work in his studio-gallery in San Giovanni of Bellagio.

 

Number one thing you miss when you're away?: The fog on the lake during the winter time.

 

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You will find Matt & Grace here:

Christmas in Brisbane

We have been spoiled. We have enjoyed a European Christmas previously.

We spent Christmas itself in Dresden with wonderful friends. One memory (it has been five years, after all!) that we cherish, in particular, was perusing the Dresden Striezelmarkt, Germany’s oldest Christmas markets. That Christmas really set the benchmark for us.

Christmas in Brisbane is… well… hot. Humid. Steeped in commercialism

HOWEVER, Brisbane has a beautiful Christmas experience to offer in and of itself. To be honest, you really do not have to look too far for opportunities to make some lovely memories. As our Lord Mayor Graham Quirk is quick to point out: “Brisbane is a great place to live, work & relax - it’s a safe, vibrant, green & prosperous city, valued for its friendly & optimistic character and enjoyable subtropical lifestyle”. These characteristics & attributes are reflected in our unique celebration of Christmas.

FURTHERMORE, many of Brisbane’s Christmas events are free and family-friendly. You can find things to see & do in The City, South Bank and Roma Street Parkland. (If you are keen to see what we get up to in Brissie, jump on instagram and follow the hashtag #MerryBrismas.)

We have compiled some images below from our 2018 Christmas in Brisbane. We hope you enjoy!

There is something that is a quintessential part of Christmas for me (Em): Pete’s (very rum) Rum Balls. They are one of the highlights of my year. Pete has truly perfected his recipe. (One of the best things about them is that they are not geographically limited!)

We like to say that Queensland is “beautiful one day & perfect the next”. However, we experience extreme heatwaves & explosive storms during our summer months. One thing is for sure, though: if you are looking to escape the snow, Brisbane is a safe bet!

We indulged in a pizza cook-up at Northey Street City Farm. The catalyst was random musings during a community playgroup; everyone’s individual contributions came together perfectly. This will be a lovely Christmas memory for years to come - for both parents and children.

Brisbane Arcade usually looks pristine and welcoming but is particularly stunning at Christmas-time.

Queen Street Mall, including the Myer Centre animated Christmas window display, is worth looking at during Christmas.

Regent Theatre’s foyer is another recommended Christmas-related spot to check out.

The South Bank Christmas Gift Markets are quirky and inviting. You will want to stay for a while.

King George Square boasts The Christmas Tree and the City Hall Lights.

In conclusion, our city is beautiful and well worth a visit during Christmas. <3

Travel Diaries :: Prompts for the Journey Home

We have shared a couple of musings from our travels (here & here). We are continuing that theme today but from a different perspective. We have mentioned previously that we are not diary-type people but that we do enjoy chronicling our adventures. In fact, we make it a priority. On our way home, we pen our final thoughts: the good, the bad & the ugly. It is our way of summarising the cliff notes - or the key events & experiences, if you like - while they are still fresh.

On our way home from Europe, we interviewed each other with some of the following prompts:

Our holiday in review:

  • Most exciting moment

  • Most depressing

  • Most notable

  • Most life-changing (neither of our answers were very philosophical, by the way!)

  • Most confronting

  • Most relaxing

  • Most stressful

  • Most awkward

  • Most challenging

  • Most humbling

  • Places we must revisit

  • Most interesting people

  • Best hotel moment

  • Worst hotel moment

  • Strangest food

  • Best sugary treat

  • Biggest highlight

  • Favourite city

  • Least favourite city

When we visited India, we adopted a different approach. We made a list of things we would not miss about India and things we would. Here are just some of the things we listed that we would miss:

  • Friends/adopted family (both)

  • Curry for breakfast (Pete)

  • Organised chaos (both)

  • Polite hospitality (both)

  • Colours (both)

  • Masala chai tea (Em)

  • Architecture & art (both)

  • Roti, garlic naan & paratha (both)

  • Constantly exploring (Em)

  • Nat Geo in person (both; wonderful experience to see places we had only read about previously come to life)

  • Beeping horns (both; we actually adapted to the background noise and, in the end, it grew on us)

  • Eating with your hands (Pete; we were really nervous about this aspect of Indian culture upon arrival but we ended up adjusting within days and grew to enjoy this further tactile extension of the eating experience and found it hard to believe that we had been concerned in the first place)

Just reading through this list makes us want to go back to India stat. We are so glad that we recorded these feelings & thoughts while they were still fresh. The following two sentences sum up how we feel about documenting our travels. If you do not record these adventures, you may regret it one day. If you do record your adventures and you never look at your writings again, at least you had the choice. Do future you a favour and write it all down. Furthermore, you just might find that your trip home feels that little bit shorter. Or it could just be the “return trip effect” but that’s a different story. Happy & safe travels! :)

Travel Diaries :: Corrie Ten Boom Huis & Anne Frank Museum

We recently wrote a post addressing today's obsession with presenting a perfect & happy image (literally) on social media platforms, such as Instagram, and musing about the somewhat forgotten art of storytelling (perhaps with less filtering?) by way of handwritten diaries. We wrapped up the post with this: "We vote for both: enjoy and share with the world your highlight reel on Instagram (after all, holidays are usually a huge investment so enjoy reliving those memories over and over!) but also treasure those raw and gritty handwritten travel diaries over a glass or two of red (after all, those genuine and authentic moments are priceless)! Who knows... we might even share a story or two or three from our travel diaries this year. <3"

We are going to share below one of our journal entries from the 3rd of January, 2014. We had just visited both the Corrie Ten Boom Huis & the Anne Frank Museum:


"Today we set out to see the Anne Frank Museum (AFM), the Corrie Ten Boom Huis (CTBH), and go on a canal tour. We got 2 of the above done. However, although we only got 2 done, I feel as though I reached my saturation point today ... so much to write about! Firstly, we went to the tourism place across the road from Centraal Station to find out where the CTBH is located and how to get there (public transport). It turned out that it is in Haarlem and about 10 minutes walk from the Haarlem Station. As the CTBH stopped tours from 3 pm and the AFM closed at 7 pm, we decided to go for the CTBH first. We bought a day ticket for the train and got on for Haarlem.

On the way, the ticket officer asked for our tickets. We produced them. She took them from us and promptly got upset with us. It soon became apparent that we had (unwittingly) purchased a ticket for the tram and bus instead of the train. To make matters worse, it was with another company. How we had made this mistake was that most of the ticket machines required payment by card. The machine from which we purchased our tickets was one of the few we could find that accepted cash. Well, the situation could have been worse; the ticket officer, after we explained that it was our second day in the Netherlands, took the tickets from us and explained that we would have to buy new tickets at the station. So we did.

Image was taken by us during our holiday adventuring. (You can purchase original Ten Boom watches here.)

We headed for the Corrie Ten Boom Huis. It was a beautiful neighbourhood. It was surreal walking the streets Corrie and her family walked. We found the museum and I was so surprised to find that the jewellery shop is still open and trading under the Ten Boom name still. They were selling watches in the window - Swiss, et cetera - and some were just 'Ten Boom'. It was great to see.

We lined up with 3 Americans for the next tour starting in 5 minutes. A very friendly American lady welcomed us in for the tour and directed us to the living room. It was ... surreal. Having read the 'Hiding Place' and watched the film, it was hard to process that we were sitting in the living room of the Ten Boom's home. The tour guide talked us through the main parts of Corrie's story and, as she got to different sections of the story, we moved to different parts of the house. We got to Corrie's bedroom where the hiding place is. Pete and I stepped in. At one stage, while Pete was in the hiding place section of Corrie's room, the tour guide pulled down a curtain and closed the cupboard door to the opening into the hiding place. While it was dark, she started knocking on the wall and Pete later said the experience was unnerving and made the story of the 6 Jews 'held captive' in there for 47 hours more tangible.

We walked to St Bravo Church where the Ten Booms went to church. They were busy setting up for a winter festival tonight and we were fortunate enough that they were playing the pipe organ containing 68 registers and featuring 5,068 pipes. Mozart played the organ in 1766 and G.F. Händel also played it (the Christian Müller organ).

We went and had a high tea (of sorts) at Bij Babette just down the road from the CTBH. We indulged in delicious scones and an amazing green tea called 'The Love Potion'. We asked our friendly waitress to surprise us with a tea and she delivered.

Next stop was the AFM. After the cosiness and warmth of the CTBH, I found the AFM a bit sterile and detached but it was a powerful experience nonetheless. Such a strong story and very glad we went. It was particularly sobering to see Anne's name in a huge, fat in memorium book lising every Jew (103,000) who was killed in the Netherlands during the war. To think that so many people died senselessly was staggering and upsetting.

It was a buzz to see Anne's diary in the flesh - to see her handwriting with corrections, et cetera. It made it all so much more real. Another little thing that stood out to me was on a picture Anne had put on her wall of a pretty young lady (from a magazine or paper, I assume). It was black & white, of course, but Anne had coloured the lady's lips with a pink pencil. It was a reminder that she was just a girl doing girl things."


"Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart." ~ Corrie Ten Boom

We must learn from history.

Crisp, Curated Instagrams & Muddy, Unfiltered Diaries

We recently read a very endearing article (here) by Danny Wallace from Conde Nast Traveller regarding the evolution of holiday memory collection. In the good old days, handwritten diaries were standard. In today's culture, carefully curated images and stories are the norm. In the good old days, diaries were written for the person writing it (if intensely personal). Or perhaps for friends and family, as well, but still a controlled audience. One major purpose of Instagram is to share. Widely. In so doing, the world becomes a smaller place - in theory, at least. A side-effect is relinquishment of audience control unless the account is private. Memories are recorded with different target audiences in mind. Funnily enough, the content usually reflects this.

In our day to day life, we are not big diary people personally. Our calendar serves the only day to day purpose we need: keeping track of bills, appointments, sessions, etc. However, when we travel, we make keeping a diary a priority to the point that we actually plan part of our day around our diary. Every night, we try to find a quiet spot where we can have dinner (?glass of red) and record the details of our day. Every single day. We have found that if even 3 or more days pass, your memory of what happened when can start to fade and drift into differing recollections of what took place between observers and subjects. We record the good and the bad. We record the anticipated and the unexpected. We record the happy times and the sad. It's therapeutic in a way and clears your mind so you're fresh to welcome a new day of exploration and adventure. It also means we won't ever forget e.x.a.c.t.l.y what our holiday was like. This is why Danny's article resonated with us, we assume. We found this paragraph particularly pertinent:

"I think we’re in danger of only documenting the things we think we’d like to remember. The things that paint our trip the way we think the trip should have gone. The things you’d Instagram. But it means we risk turning those memories into a stylised highlights package or a magazine spread, when what makes it real and important are the small and everyday memories that slip between the cracks. Often, the things that make your trip memorable are those very things we forget, maybe because we mistakenly choose to. Those seemingly pointless, perhaps even, on paper, dull details that – when taken and put together – make up a wonderful whole."

We vote for both: enjoy and share with the world your highlight reel on Instagram (after all, holidays are usually a huge investment so enjoy reliving those memories over and over!) but also treasure those raw and gritty handwritten travel diaries over a glass or two of red (after all, those genuine and authentic moments are priceless)! Who knows... we might even share a story or two or three from our travel diaries this year. <3

Our own travel diaries to date; 302 pages worth.

Our own travel diaries to date; 302 pages worth.