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Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park is a wildly beautiful area of North Wales. Its vast number of peaks, lakes and quarries connected by trickling streams and rocky rivers create a photographer’s haven so it’s no wonder I love it! I first visited Snowdonia in 2013, and with my partner climbed the infamous Mount Snowdon. This spectacular mountain was our first stop in completing the three peaks (over the course of a year or so).

We took the Llanberis track, walking parallel to the mountain railway all the way to the summit. The scenery was stunning and thanks to the glorious sunshine, we were able to see for miles (I did, however, get sunburnt, even though it was extremely windy).

The track is reasonably steady, weaving around the mountain slowly but surely. It’s definitely suitable for beginners and offers spectacular views. The whole walk took us around 4 and a half hours to complete at a reasonably leisurely pace – with plenty of photography stops of course!

While in Llanberis, we stayed at The Royal Victoria Hotel, a little gem nestled within 30 acres of woodland and gardens. The room was perfect for a good night’s sleep after a long walk and there was plenty to see and do around the town. If you’re planning to climb Mount Snowdon, Llanberis is a great starting point and highly recommended.

As a keen landscape photographer, I will always remember my first trip to Snowdonia and because of its beauty, we have planned our next trip for the May Day bank holiday. This time we will spend a couple of nights in a farmhouse just outside of Bala. You’ll be able to read more about this trip once I’m back

 

Happy Nowruz!

Today at 4:15pm GMT Iranian all over the world celebrated Nowruz, better known in the Western world as the Spring Equinox. Nowruz, meaning new day is the start of the Persian year and signifies new life and fresh starts.

Celebrations start on the eve of the Wednesday before New Year, better know as Chaharshanbe Suri. Adults and children alike light bonfires and carry on the age-old tradition of jumping over them. With music playing and families singing and dancing, the celebrations go on into the night.

Haft Seen

The Noruz table is a significant part of the ancient celebrations. Called Haft Seen, the table consists of seven items beginning with the letter S, all of which symbolise different aspects of life.

1. Somagh (sumac) : symbolises the color of sunrise
2. Serkeh (vinegar): symbolises age and patience
3. Senjed (dried fruit from lotus tree): symbolises love
4. Samanoo (sweet pudding): symbolises affluence
5. Sabzeh (sprouts): symbolises rebirth
6. Sib (apple): symbolises health and beauty
7. Sir (garlic): symbolises medicine

Haft Seen tables often also include painted eggs and a goldfish!

Little boy peers over a counter behind the Iranian Haft Seen table at New Year
Haft Seen table at my mother-in-law’s home.

 

Haft Seen at the Tower Building Museum, Tabriz
Haft Seen at the Tower Building Museum, Tabriz
Iranian women stands behind her haft seen table for Nowruz
Latifa shows off her Haft Seen table.

 

The exact moment of Nowruz differs every year. This year Iran celebrated at 7:45pm local time. The day would have been spent preparing the delicious traditional dish of dolmeh (grape leaves stuffed with rice and minced meat) which is often left cooking as the new year passes. Last year I had great delight in preparing this traditional dish with my Iranian family in Tabriz.

Two ladies prepare dolmeh for Nowruz
My sister-in-law shows me how to prepare dolmeh the Iranian way.

 

plate of dolmeh cooked for the Iranian New Year, Nowruz
Dolmeh

After Nowruz, days are spent visiting family, eating great food and sharing stories. During my visit to Iran we spent many hours at our relatives houses and each time I was offered a vast array of sweets, nuts, chocolates and fruits. Every household wanted to display the best hospitality and it was a real treat to see how welcoming the Iranian culture really is.

Little boy sits cross-legged waiting for lunch
Elman waits patiently for his Nowruz lunch.
Hannah prepares a bowl of sweets for guests at her home.
Hannah prepares a bowl of sweets for guests at her home.
vibrant selection of treats available for Nowruz
Food offered at my partner’s Nana’s house.

If you ever get the chance to celebrate the Iranian New Year, please, don’t turn it down, you definitely won’t regret it!

I left my heart in Lanzarote.

After a long time waiting I was finally able to settle my travel excitement by hopping on a plane to Lanzarote. It was only a short 4 hour flight however, it felt like an eternity. All I wanted was to see some hot Canary Sun and take in another corner of the world.

This beautiful little island just 78 miles off the coast of Africa makes up part of the wonderful paradise of the canary islands. although windier than some of the other Spanish islands the all-year-round hot weather can draw a lot of attention.

With an abundance of wildlife coming into the shallow waters of Playa Blanca at Puerto del Carmen, there was plenty to do and see. Rocky landscapes, blue waters and sandy beaches were perfect for a bit of holiday photography. From sunrise to sunset and everything in between there was definitely plenty to get my teeth into.

The first few days on the wonderful island were filled with “100 things to do when it’s really windy on holiday”. Number one on the list: lie on the beach while sand blasts against your skin, giving you a free exfoliation. We were on our way to very smooth skin!

Once the wind had died down we booked ourselves onto a catamaran tour of Playa Blanca. I’ve never been on a catamaran before and it turns out when the waves start getting choppy you end up very very wet. They way down to Playa Blanca was fabulous. We had the fresh sea air billowing its way into our lungs, the great canary sun warming our skin and a large plate of Spanish paella to curb our appetite. It was heaven.

Once we anchored down, it took a while to decide whether our snorkels were going to have their fun. The sea was definitely cold.

We finally plucked up the courage to jump in and what a surprise. There were so many fish. It was truly amazing. Sadly, we hadn’t yet invested in an underwater camera so maybe next time I’ll capture some marine life. For now, the photographs are all above sea level.

The last few days were spent wandering around the town, buying tourist-focused gifts and eating ice-cream. We even had a go at the mini golf outside our hotel. Lanzarote provides such a laid-back way of life and Puerto del Carmen was the best place to have our first holiday. I’m so ready to travel again!

atlantic ocean crashing against lanzarote rocks

Playa Grande in Lanzarote looking back at Puerto del Carmen.

Rocky landscape in Lanarote.

Small coastal pathway leading between island villages.

landscape photograph of the Lanzarote coastline

Sunset in Lanzarote looking over the Atlantic.

Sunrise in Lanzarote looking over the Atlantic.

Sunrise in Lanzarote looking over the Atlantic.

Aeroplane wing in the sunset.

 

The start of a travel sensation?

Travel is always something I have loved. The thought of exploring foreign lands, immersing myself in ancient cultures and experiencing incredible natural wonders, follows me every day and every night.

I recently had the opportunity to visit somewhere not many people would consider for their first adventure. Iran. The ancient Persian country has a lot of bad press but what people don’t understand is the media probably wants us to hate every country that isn’t England or America. To be fair they probably don’t want us to like ourselves either.

Anyhow, I decided a trip to Iran would be the best way to immerse myself in a culture unknown in the western world. They are a first world country with third world values. Family comes first, no matter what. Technology is great, but it doesn’t rule their lives as it does here. Boys and girls still play outside, teenagers enjoy studying for a better future and adults do everything they can to make sure their family, brothers, sisters, children and parents, have everything they need to be successful in life.

Responsibility of their children doesn’t disappear when they hit 18 and leave for university. Parents will provide for their children for as long as they can, regardless of their age, marriage status or job.

Similarly, children spend more time with their parents. Family doesn’t just mean your siblings. It means cousins, aunts, uncles, your parents cousins, their cousins and even their cousins. If you are introduced to someone, there is a line of relation connecting your friend and the person in front of you, even if you are in a different town, city or village.

Ok, so lets relate this back to my trip to Iran. I stayed with my partners family. While I was there I must have greeted over 100 family members, all of which my partner knew by name and easily gave me a brief outline of his connection to them. (This is my cousins, uncles, grandmothers, daughter). It was incredible to be amongst such a large and loving family.

Ross and Ali cooking BBQ in the Garden

The scenery in Iran, especially in Tabriz, is absolutely, incredibly out-of-this-world, amazingly, beautiful. I was in Iran for a little over three weeks and I cannot wait to go back! Keep checking back for my next few posts which will highlight even more beautiful areas in Iran such as Sahand, Dik Darak and The Colourful Mountains.