Barcelona Day Four: Easy Mazes and the Gothic Quarter

Our last day here in Barcelona started slowly as our over-priced cocktails from last night took a grip. After re-hydrating we sloped towards the nearest cafe we could find. Typically we found the best breakfast spot on our last day. It was a tiny, albeit slightly cramped veggie cafe. But it was cheap and delicious.

After consuming some food (5 plates of food to be precise..) we strolled around the nearby gothic quarter; home of the town hall and very impressive gothic cathedral. The area was buzzing with locals, tourists and street sellers.

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 19.40.13

When i’m in a new city I like to try out the different modes of transport they have on offer, and Barcelona has trams. So we boarded a tram to our next and last destination of the holiday- a hilltop maze. unfortunately it turns out the tram lines are very limited and we had to get off after two stops to get a bus. We both needed the toilet and luckily we had got off the tram near a new, and very modern shopping mall in the middle of nowhere. There was music playing out speakers around the shopping mall, if you’ve ever played Sims, you can imagine the music playing.

We also realised we hadn’t consumed any water for a very long time so headed into a CarreFour super market- well we tried. The entrance wasn’t very clearly marked (considering Alex speaks both Catalan and Spanish)  so we just headed backwards through the self checkouts so we could get into the supermarket. But one lady on the checkout did not take us ‘breaking in’ to the shop very kindly and proceeded to shout at us then call security..

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 20.11.35

So after that slight misunderstanding we boarded the bus; drink-less.  It dropped us at the bottom of a massive hill, on a road, with no pavement and no phone signal. Against our better judgement we started to walk up the giant hill.. And to our surprise the winding path did lead us to a beautiful gardens complete with a maze..

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 20.04.36

Although often the main selling point of these gardens is the maze, it was very small thus easy to complete. The real charm of the place is the hidden, secluded paths winding through forests, past waterfalls and beautiful wildlife.

As we reached the exit of the gardens and the entrance of the metro it dawned on us that this was the end of our holiday. So we collected our luggage, stocked up on tapas and spent our euros in duty free. So here we are at Barcelona airport planning our next trip whilst waiting for our delayed flight home..

Portraits at the Barbican

I have now been studying for my Masters in Photography for over a month- and I can’t believe how quick its gone! So I thought I’d share with you some of the work I have produced so far, starting with the very task: portraits.

I chose the Barbican as the backdrop as its one of my favourite places in the whole of London. It was an incredibly overcast day so the lack of light made it challenging.

I had to select 5 and these were my picks..

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 18.29.47

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 18.28.35

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 18.30.07

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 18.27.51

Screen Shot 2018-10-31 at 18.29.20

Lisbon Travel Diary: Eating the Most Famous Custard Tarts in the World!

Belém, a district famous for it’s custard tarts and monastery, is just a short tram ride away from the city centre. Unfortunately for us the tram didn’t turn up for half an hour and the queue was so long we wouldn’t of got on the first couple of trams that arrived.

So we made the decision to take the metro- only problem was the metro doesn’t go to Belém. So just two metro’s and a train later we finally arrived.  First impressions was busy- so so busy. Filled with tourists and students spilling out the cafe’s and taking in the beautiful architecture of the monastery.

Like many visiting, first stop was lunch. After trying to find a seat in a few restaurants we stumbled into a burger place. Turns out this place was a cosy, artisan burger joint and the best decision we made all day- it was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately I was so hungry I ate it before I could take a picture but this is the front of the restaurant, if you ever visit Lisbon I highly recommend a visit..

unnamed

With our stomachs full we headed to the windy riverside to see the gigantic monument; Padrão dos Descobrimentos.

The 171ft tall monument was finished in 1960 after 2 years of construction. It sits on the edge of the Tagus river and has a viewing platform at the top. There are 33 sculptures surrounding the monument representing figures (mainly white men) from history, with Henry the Navigator leading from the front.

The size and detail makes this a must see for a visit to Lisbon, as is the most famous Portuguese custard tart cafe. Pastéis de Belém house’s the most secretive recipe in the whole of Europe. The recipe was first created by monks 200 years ago and the recipe has not changed since. It is so secretive only 3 people know the recipe-and they won’t travel in the same car together. The custard tarts are so popular on an average day they sell 20,000!

img_0254

The queue came out the entrance all around the block.  But as we weren’t planning on returning to Belém during our time in Lisbon we joined the masses. And to be fair, the queue went down extremely quickly and before we knew it we were inside ordering a couple of custard tarts to take away. And boy, did they live up to the highest of expectations, well worth the wait.

img_0253

To end the day we headed back into the centre of Lisbon, this time by bus, and took a funicular up to a stunning viewpoint across the city to watch the (cloudy) sun set.

unnamed5

Lisbon Travel Diary: The Oldest Bookshop in the World!

Our second full day here in Lisbon started with a free walking tour I had booked. I had done them in Prague and Bratislava a few weeks ago and really enjoyed them. Learning about the history of the places we stood really helped me feel more connected to the city and understand the city in the context of Europe.

The meeting point was in the Chiado neighbourhood- named after Antonio Ribeiro, a 19th century continually drunk poet with a high-pitched voice (Chiado means squeaky).

Antonio Ribeiro Statue

The tour was led by Luis, a small but energetic 25-year old local who has lived in Mozambique and all around Europe before moving back to Lisbon to lead walking tours.

The tour was 3 hours long, but they really did fly by. Lisbon has enough interesting history to entertain for days from numerous invasions, revolutions and finding Brazil to how they stayed neutral in the Second World War by selling tungsten to the Nazi’s and lending land to the allies.

The tour also took us pass a bookshop, but not any old bookshop. The oldest bookshop in the world! (or universe as Luis put it).

On every travel website or book you look in the Santa Justa elevator is recommend as a much do. Yet both our tour guide and hotel receptionist said that it is overrated- yes it provides great views at the top but it’s not worth paying €5 to queue for half an hour to then go in a lift for a few seconds. So instead Luis led us to a staircase- after climbing for a few minutes we were right at the top of the elevator! No queues and no charge! The panoramic views gives you a real sense into how the streets of Lisbon were designed and you can pick out all the different, individual neighbourhoods.

After the tour ended at 2pm we grabbed some lunch and our first Portuguese custard tarts. As it was sunny we decided to catch a boat across the river to explore the city of Almada and walk up to Christ Rei (a 25m high statue of Christ which sits at the top of a hill). With my embarrassing seasickness in tow (it was a 5 minute river crossing) we started our walk. The Hill was deceptively huge and took a sweaty 45 minutes to reach the top. But boy was it worth it, although not religious myself it’s hard not to be impressed with the sheer size and architecture.

It costs €5 Euro’s to get a lift to the top, and if you’ve made it this far you might as well pay. Once you get to the top you are faced with a breathtaking 360 view.

After taking in the view at all angles and gawping at the ginormous statue ( which is based on Christ the Redeemer in Rio) we headed back down and started on the long walk home…

48 Hours in Krakow

The journey from Bratislava to Krakow was a very, very long one. It consisted of a 2 hour bus journey to the edge of the Czech Republic then a 5 hour bus journey to Krakow. The entire journey consisted of me and Emily slowly dehydrating in an effort to avoid using the one, incredibly smelly bus toilet (not recommended).

But finally at 9pm we made it to a very cold Krakow. After checking-in to our hostel we grabbed some dinner and crashed into bed.

Day One

From start to finish it was a day of contrasts. It was pouring with rain from the minute we woke up from our poor night sleep (hostels..)  and didn’t stop the entire day. But while getting completely rain-sodden I was continually taken aback with the beauty of Krakow and the sheer amount of pastry/chocolate shops.

We walked and walked and walked. Exploring every area recommended to us by the receptionist at the hostel. From the old town and jewish quarter to the winding river and graffitied back streets.

00439361-eb55-4876-8f8e-a25a41773ba31a449783-9181-4173-8ce2-6b501a9b3758

We took ‘essential’ shelter in pastry shops throughout the day. At one point my coat was so wet and both my shoes were filled with puddles I had to use a radiator in one of the shops. While waiting for my clothing to get slightly less wet we chose our next destination- the Schindler museum. With a Trip Advisor score of 4.5/5 our hopes were high.

f7afeadf-21ca-4d06-a5f5-24ebbaf3d05c

My biggest highlight of the museum trip was the free cloak room. The museum was extremely text heavy with information on literally every wall, but oddly there was only one room dedicated to Schindler himself. Due to the rain (and trip advisor score) the museum was very busy, and despite a visitor limit I still found it too busy and hard to take my time to absorb all the information.

Despite both the weather and museum I loved my first day in Krakow. The architecture is stunning, the city is buzzing with locals and tourists alike and there’s plenty of bars to keep you occupied in the evening.

d4e54c88-59a8-4ca4-a85e-4afbe817d797

Day Two 

Our second day in Krakow started at 6.45am. We had booked onto a tour of Auschwitz. The tour stared with a pick-up at a near by hotel- easier said than done. When no one came to pick us up in the lobby at the appointed time we decided to go looking for the coach ourselves- needless to say we almost missed the coach with our ‘exploring’.

The hour journey consisted of being introduced to our tour guide and watching a video giving a history of the two sections of the Auschwitz camps. It was hard but essential viewing to give substantial context to the day.

Overnight the rain had turned to snow and the temperature had dropped. As we stepped off the coach it was absolutely perishing, with a constant,brutal wind and temperature of -12 degrees. The tour of the two camps took three hours. It was a gruelling day learning of the horrors that took place in the very places we were standing. I was taught about concentration camps at school but being there in person creates a feeling like no other.

8e8ee245-2b67-4d0d-ad31-35c9f8845e53e3f71b3b-aca5-492d-b3c0-db600b5279cb

With the weather replicating that of the winters during the war it made it incomprehensible how anyone survived. It was a hard-hitting day but one I would recommend to visitors of Poland.

f952c1f7-be39-4eca-87a9-a5f2761d94c4

After being dropped off back in the centre of Krakow we took refuge in a restaurant to get out of the wind. After warming up we headed back to the hostel. Only problem was our keys didn’t work- we were now stuck out in what was now -14 degrees. Thankfully another resident at the hostel came down the stairs and opened the door from the inside- well tried too. Turns out the keys weren’t the problem- the lock on the door was broken. Long story short, we spent another 30 minutes in the freezing cold before being rescued by finding a back entrance to the hostel.

Our next and last stop is Prague, I am very excited as I’ve heard good things but wish we had more time in Krakow as its turned out to be real hidden gem!

1398ae7c-59c1-445b-8486-9303648e67ac

Me enjoying the snow and the rare glimpse of sunshine!

36 Hours in Bratislava

Entering into Bratislava, Slovakia, myself and Emily had no idea what to expect from such a new country (25 years since it became independent).

As we walked through the train station, our first impressions weren’t brilliant. It was run down, busy and unclear which way was the exit into town. Thankfully as we left the station and found our hostel, just a 10 minute walk away, we were greeted by beautiful buildings and friendly locals enjoying the last of the sun.

By the time we checked in and sorted out our bags we didn’t have long before the sunset so we decided on a walk along the Danube (and a McDonald’s pit stop) to get a feel for the place.

Immediately we could tell, despite being the capital city, it is very small. When I googled ‘what to do in Bratislava’ the vast majority of activities suggested were day-trips to the surrounding countries..

But we were determined to see the best of Bratislava in the 36 Hours we were there so while using the free McDonald’s wi-fi we booked ourselves onto a free walking tour the next day.

Day One

Our first and last full day started with us dragging ourselves out of bed. Despite going to bed relatively early with the best of intentions, our fellow hostel roommates made consistent noise until 4am so the sound of the alarm was not a happy one. Still we managed to get to the meeting place of the walking tour with 5 minutes to spare.

The tour was led by Martina, a 25-year old Slovakian who has lived in Bratislava her whole life. Her energy and enthusiasm for her city was infectious and breathed life into the old buildings. The tour was 2.5 hours long but the time flew by. It was incredibly informative about Slovakia’s varied past and how it became what it is today. We also stopped at lots of photogenic spots..

The final stop felt like an odd one- a small square opposite a university building. But as Martina began to explain why we were there, the significance hit me. In 1968 the Soviet Union sent armed troops and tanks into Bratislava to end their liberal policies.

They targeted this square where shocked citizens of Bratislava came out to confront the troops. At that time word-of-mouth about the Soviet’s movements travelled slowly but one photograph travelled the world. A young photographer had gone into the square, shot images, developed them and snuck them out the country to gather the worlds media attention. Within days the photograph was splashed across the front pages of newspapers all over the world including the Nee York Times. For his own safety, Ladislav Bielik, the young newly-married photographer didn’t disclose his identity. It was only after his early death in 1989 did his family find the negatives to confirm it was he who took the photographs.

As a photography graduate and fan of street and documentary photography I have known about this image for years; it was extremely humbling to stand in the spot Bielik captured the image:

©Ladislav Bielik

Bratislava is filled with history and is currently dealing with a political crisis but its buildings are beautiful, the locals love their city and it’s a great transport hub to other countries. I would strongly recommend stopping off for a day or two if you’re travelling around Eastern Europe.

With weary legs we headed to a restaurant recommended by our tour guide. I tried the national dish of cheesy gnocchi with bacon along with Slovakia’s very popular (and healthier) version of coca-cola, Kofola.

Tomorrow we are spending most of the day on a bus travelling to Poland including stopping off in a tiny village in the Czech Republic, it’s sure to be another adventure..

The Barbican in 35mm

The Barbican is one of my all time favourite places. Often devoid of tourists it houses a cinema, brilliant exhibition space and a conservatory- open only on sundays and free to all. The architecture is the main stand out point- brutalism.  Here are shots I captured during our time exploring the Barbican.

 

IMG_20170810_0004IMG_20170810_0009IMG_20170810_0002IMG_20170810_0006IMG_20170810_0003IMG_20170810_0007IMG_20170810_0010IMG_20170810_0004IMG_20170810_0008

As always you can find me on Instagram @madisonbeachphotos and over on my website.

 

Walking the Thames

The Thames is one of the most famous rivers in the world at cuts through the centre of London. On a recent day off I decided to walk from St.Paul’s Cathedral, north of the river, along and over to the Tate modern and the London eye taking snaps along the way.

DSC02013DSC02017DSC02014DSC01987DSC02010DSC01979DSC01969DSC01990DSC01981DSC01967DSC01993DSC01994DSC02002DSC01973

Instagram @madisonbeachphotos

Through the photographers lens

A lot of people have asked me what it’s like photographing on the streets of London. So rather than trying to describe it I thought I would show what it’s like. I have created an experimental point-of-view video capturing what it’s like to photograph such a busy city.

 

Let me know what you think and if you would want to see any more of these kind of videos! As always you can find me on Instagram @madisonbeachphotos and over on my website.