[SANTORINI] oo8. SNAPSHOTS & FLASHBACKS

I have been amassing a copious amount of photographs in these two years, it’s no surprise I’ve had to spend hours filtering through terabytes of memories. My favourites are heavily biased toward those taken in Europe, especially Greece and Santorini, and oh, Belgium and Paris too. I think I take too much pride in good photos I forgot to love the bad ones. Santorini will always hold a special place in my never-ending mental scroll of picturesque sceneries.

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Pictures speak more than a thousand words but there are emotions that words and pictures cannot contain. At this point in time I’m just really glad for all these memories I get to keep long after this phase of my life is gone.

Though I’m gonna miss living out of a suitcase (and a blue handbag, my Longchamp tote and my cabin carry-on), I’ll not miss a lot of things tagged to the cabin crew life.
So, cheers to an exciting new path ahead!

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[SANTORINI] oo3. LIVING ON THE EDGE

Sitting on the edge of Santorini’s peak, the dormant volcanoes that we can see are silent with power. The calm blue sea emanates with trillions of years of being. This sense of awe in the face of earth’s grandeur captures what each of us essentially are in the grand scheme of our universe – mere specks of inconsequential dust in space and time.

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Whilst we’re living on the edge of a fast-paced world, it’s a refreshing change to stop and admire beauty in the tranquil. I think I’ve learnt to appreciate life a whole lot more.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[SANTORINI] oo2. ALEXANDER’S BOUTIQUE HOTEL

For 3 days, home was Alexander’s Boutique Hotel, a resort-villa mid-waisted on the slopes along Oia’s breezy coastline. At night, Santorini’s otherwise pitch-black darkness is incandescently lit. A romantic glow permeates the scenic seaside village.

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At Alexander’s we experienced how it must feel like to reside in a cave! We were checked into 2 rooms: a family suite, as well as a windmill house at the very peak of Oia. The family suite was shaped like a cave on the outside, with a cavernous hole in the ceiling that makes the living room resemble the bottom of a well. I wouldn’t use ‘spacious’ in its description. With 5 people sleeping in its premises, it was comfortable, amidst its quaint, simple furnishing. Our walls were hand carved volcanic stone mixed with marble, like most of the other resorts on the island, hence everything felt cool to the touch.

Residents of Oia are known as Apanomerites (from when Oia was still Apano Meria). From 3 days of living alongside locals, I was thrilled to discover that none of these island inhabitants were fond of locking up their doors! They really sleep with their doors wide open to the Aegean sea breeze. Tourists like us are further made conspicuous with our bolted gates and tightly sealed windows.

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Hole in the ceiling
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Even with all the lights on the interior is still very dark
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My favourite space in the cave: the living room.

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From a high vantage point, Oia is a pretty village speckled with white and blue domed cottages, carved into the steep slope of the caldera – cauldron-like volcanic features formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. In the day, her slopes and walls are pristinely white, and one can almost never find a single spot of dirt anywhere, not even an architectural flaw. Or a stained window. Bathed in an sea of calm that is the South Aegean sea, she’s insanely picturesque. No wonder she’s is a popular spot for wedding and anniversary photography! Please, future hubby, take me here too.

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Looking for a place to stay on the slopes of Oia? Check out MYSTIQUE, Zoe Houses, Helianthus Suites, Oia Mare Villas, or Aethrio. Villas on the island don’t come cheap, but you pay for what you get and trust me, it’s gonna be worth it.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

See also:
[SANTORINI] THE ELUSIVE SUNSET

[SANTORINI] oo1. THE ELUSIVE SUNSET

I began my journey to Athens in Greece.

Everyone who’s ever read a summer issue of Condé Nast Traveller dreams of the perfect Santorini sunset. Elusive is the word: sunset at Santorini isn’t about the picture-perfect moment. It is the breathtaking instance when you first catch sight, with your very own eyes, the illuminated sphere of bright fiery orange, radiating pink at its periphery.

After a gruelling Singapore to Athens flight, we further endured 3 hours on a crowded SeaJets ferry alongside hordes of locals and tourists alike. SeaJets stops by all major Greek islands – Mykonos,Paros, Ios, Sifnos, Folegandros – you name it and SeaJets is cruising right by. It is the go-to transport of choice for island-hoppers looking to crash local beach parties. And trust me, Greek island parties are the bomb diggity. But partying aside, our tired bodies weren’t ready to rock and roll as yet. Thankfully the ride was relatively bump-free from the port of Rafina in Athens to Thira at Santorini. We managed to snooze for a bit.

Things to note when tackling the long island-to-island boat ride:

1. Always dress comfortably – slip-on sandals, loose tanks or tees.

2. Have a full meal before coming onboard. The snacks bar is overpriced and does not carry anything remotely nutritious.

3. Bring eyeshades/sunglasses, earplugs and possibly an electric fan.

4. Always purchase confirmed seat tickets. Whilst cheaper tickets without a seat may sound tempting in booze-induced states of high, you’ll be subjected to constant seat changing or else endure the entire 3 hours on your feet. How these tickets works: you get to sit if there are vacant ones available. At the next island-stop, someone else may hop on and that person has purchased confirmed rights to your seat. So, ciao comfy chair.

5. Bring some form of entertainment – a book or magazines. Only the bees in the hive behind the main TV could hear what’s going on onscreen.

At last we arrived at the island. Everything is forgiven when we saw

Snapped when we were forced to stop at a bistro/villa - our car refused to go upslope.
Quintessentially overexposed snapshot from the back-patio of a grand bistro/villa.

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I admit these weren’t the most professionally taken photos in the history of Santorini sunsets. But I’m dead proud to say I took them with my baby Panasonic Lumix GF6. The best places to view sunsets are along Oia (northern tip) and Fira (short promenade along the cliff edge near the Cathedral), or you could also check out GoGreece for how to get the best sunset experiences. I took these along the Promenade of Fira, and caught sunrise at Oia the morning after whilst enjoying breakfast in the comfort of our resort-villa. Utter. Bliss.

A latin phrase sums up my experience perfectly: ad astra per aspera, meaning a rough road leads to the stars. Incidentally this was also on Launch Complex 34’s memorial plaque for the astronauts of Apollo 1. The thing is, travelling is never comfortable or easy unless you’ve hired a private jet. Be prepared to jostle in the queue for SeaJets, semi-suffocate in the crammed ferry seats, endure long walks in search of your villa with your duffle bags, but all’s good when you see the dazzling light at the edge of the horizon.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures in Santorini.

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo8.GALERIES LAFAYETTE

And Paris is a woman’s town, with flowers in her hair;
– Henry van Dyke

A full-blown visual tour of Galeries Lafayette’s gorgeous interior: other than to gush over luxury goods I took the liberty of snapping otherwise passed-over gush-worthy details. Has anybody ever really highlighted the architectural wonder that is this shopping mall?

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Top-storey view: gorgeous and lofty. You could pretty much see a 360 of Paris.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo7.CARETTE

“When good Americans die, they go to Paris,’ the ghost said, after taking a drag on a small cigarette.”
― Karen Chance, Embrace the Night

The sky decided on delivering a full-blown shower and a trio of very drenched Paris Explorers braved their way on foot across the Eiffel Tower and towards Trocadero. Pretty much everywhere in Paris’ city centre you’ll be able to locate patisseries and cafes that are great for alfresco-dining.

A walking distance from Tour de Eiffel is The Carette Paris where locals and tourists alike can be seen nursing a cuppa, having pre-dinner drinks along the pavement portico, or enjoying a full-course dinner in its premises. Its interior decor is made up of beautiful pristine whites in stark contrast to the red velvet cushions and dark brown mahogany woods of their lounges and seats, which in my opinion is the classiest interior colour combination ever.

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Dinner was: iced chocolate, almond and cinnamon infused hot milk, a slice of insanely rich opera cake, a piping hot onion and cheese soup as well as assorted macarons!P1070099

A handful of pistachio, raspberry, dark chocolate and sea salt caramel, rose, and fudge cake macarons. My favourite was the pistachio. So yummy! ^^ See how Paris has spoilt me on the dessert front? Overloading on good pastries is a given when in Paris! They have an impressive collection of macarons on offer, you can never taste them all.
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And then there was this: the opera cake. I can never have another coffee/chocolate cake without thinking of this one.
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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo5.LÉON DE BRUXELLES

You know you’re in love with restaurant in a foreign land when you visit twice in 2 days, and already miss having it the moment your plate is clean. This was Lèon de Bruxelles for us, having found love in pots of garnished mussels in delectable broths and platters filled with basil sauce and melted mozzarella.

I know I’m definitely in love with Lèon’s cappucino with fresh whipped cream, meridional mussels’ gratin, creme brûlée, and waffles! For the curious, please do sneak a peek at their menu. I swear all this travelling spoils my appetite for food.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo4.PONT DES ARTS LOVELOCK BRIDGE

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there,
not even poverty, nor sudden money,
nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong
nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition

So we found two very different bridges padded with lovelocks of all shapes and sizes – symbols of timeless promises and devotion to one’s significant other-halves. The first one, Vedettes du Pont Neuf, was tucked away in a corner along La Seine (so if you walked down Notre-Dame to the Louvre you’ll see it on your right-hand side). Unlike the more popular lovelock bridge at Pont des Arts, this one hasn’t collapsed.

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Who could resist not taking selfies in Paris? Couples wishing to locate a spot for their locks will find a better chance at this place, and the view of La Seine is equally if not more breathtaking (sans the human congestion and men touting tourists to pay for souvenirs or a well-taken photograph).

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Oh what a face only a célibataire on a bridge of love would make.

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Onwards to the legitimate lovelock bridge – the Pont des Arts overlooking Pont Neuf at the Louvre Museum! The sheer number of locks amazed me, it’s really no wonder parts of the bridge have collapsed from the weight. Each day hundreds of new locks are added to the walls along the bridge, and seldom have any been unlocked or removed until the recent collapse. Many locks date back to the ’90s! Lovelock bridges are always a sight to behold – the greater significance of the locks far outweighs its physical presence on the bridge. So much hope for the future goes into each, of which the keys are deliberately lost. There’s no question why Pont des Arts remains an important icon in the City of Love.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo2.NOTRE DAME DE PARIS

“Paris is always a good idea.”
― Audrey Hepburn

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, which inspired Victor Hugo’s 1831 French Romantic/Gothic novel, stands resolute in the Parisian city center unscathed by ruining tides of time. The state of damnation of the Cathedral is the single most significant aspect of Hugo’s novel, influencing the ebb and flow of Notre-Dame de Paris’ main plot setting and focus of the story’s themes. For anyone who’s ever read the actual novel sans watching the Disney adaptation would understand that the original focus was not on the Quasimodo-Esmeralda-Phoebus love struggle but on the importance of reviving significant Gothic architecture that had served as silent witnesses of history.

The towering 13th Century architecture is regally flanked on both sides by the river La Seine. Blessed by good autumn weather, we had arrived at the Notre-Dame by taking a good long walk from Bastille whilst enjoying the amazing view of La Seine’s banks, cruising yachts, and river diners. Here are some shots I took with my Panasonic Lumix GF6! Please enjoy as much as I did the beauty of Paris’s very own Notre-Dame.

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With loads of love, from Paris!

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Inside the Cathedral: it is really dark and flash photography is (thankfully) not allowed. The stained-glass windows of Notre-Dame highlights Parisian heights of architecture and craftsmanship.

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The South Rose Window:

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Interesting to note: in the near vicinity lies the Crypte archéologique du Parvis de Notre-Dame which displays ancient, medieval as well as recent remains recovered under Notre Dame during preservation works! My colleague introduced me to an amazing documentary – Cities of the Underworld – that “peels away the layers of time-often literally hundreds of feet thick-to expose the incredible pasts lurking beneath some of the most populous cities on earth”. Paris is one of those cities with more than a couple of layers of intriguing histories buried in construction and time.

Notre Dame Cathedral
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II
75004 Paris

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[PARIS] oo1.KUSMI DETOX TEA

Whilst walking along Champs-Elysées my colleagues introduced me to Kusmi Tea, a brand of tea producing Russian-style teas and tea blends with headquarters in Paris. All of Kusmi’s merchandises and beverages are beautifully packaged in pretty tins and boxes perfect for gifts or simply displaying in homes. Couldn’t help grabbing a couple tins of loose tea-leaves and a pretty lime-green mug with an inbuilt infuser (because teabags may contain plastics which in the long run, isn’t good for you!) Look how pretty everything came in! IMG_3876.JPG The bright yellow tin contains BB Detox Tea, a blend of green tea, rooibos, dandelion and sweet fragrant grapefruit. It says on the inset pamphlet that it can be enjoyed iced or hot at any time of day, as the amount of caffeine is very light. I tried it early in the morning and am totally in love with the fragrance. As a detox tea, it smells and tastes too good to be true. I’ve tried Skinny Mint for a short while (that’s a another story), but this one tastes so much better and is cheaper too! Of course Skinny Mint effects are much stronger. The orange tin, aptly named EUPHORIA, contains roasted maté, chocolate and orange, and as the name suggests, is a total orgasmic tea experience. Now I know what to reach for when I’m craving a huge dose of chocolates…oh who am I kidding a double dose of Euphoria and chocolates is gonna be da bomb! IMG_3872.JPG IMG_3873.JPG IMG_3875.JPG IMG_3874.JPG The tea mug is kinda heavy with the infuser and all, but trust me, the fragrance is insanely good. I used to think Lipton White Tea and Lipton’s Strawberry Cupcake Green Tea were the greatest tea inventions of all until I met Kusmi. TWG Teas are literally not my cup of tea, and I especially hate their jasmine teas… it leaves that acidic aftertaste on my tongue! Wishing I’d gotten more of Kusmi’s teas. While referring to their web earlier, many other blends sound so equally orgasmic: St Petersburg – Blend of black teas, bergamot, red fruit and caramel Anastasia – Blend of black tea, bergamot and orange blossom Prince Vladimir – Black tea, citrus, vanilla and spices and so many more flavours! Tea lovers, give this a shot! xoxo, Viktoria Jean

[ROME] A NIGHT AT THE VATICAN

Probably the only time you can catch the night scene outside St Peter’s Square is if you spend the night at Vatican City, or if you’re reading this as I’m about to show you a couple of my night scene captures. Outside St Peter’s Basilica on the day we arrived, there was a huge preparation for an important religious mass that would take place the day after, hence in the evening and well into the night, throngs of people gathered outside St Peter’s Square, setting up temporary food stalls and flea-market style cabins showcasing collections of costume jewellery, fine jewellery, art, tourist mementos, souvenirs, little collectibles of Vatican’s finest architecture, and flowers – from fine skinny stalks to big fluffy bouquets. As midnight approached, the crowd thinned, and melancholic street-lamps were just about the only ones creating shadows on the sidewalks. This is Vatican City at night, for you.

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] 10 SNAPSHOTS OF VATICAN CITY

Bringing to you a quick showcase of the world’s smallest independent state – all 109 acres (44 hectares) around St. Peter’s Basilica and the palace of the Vatican. In and around are beautifully preserved cultural sites, lush green gardens, and museums which feature some of the world’s most famous sculptures and paintings. Home to architectural inputs of Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Maderno and Bernini, its chapels and homes distinctly echoes of Baroque and of the Renaissance.
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St. Peter’s Basilica:

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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] VATICAN CITY – A VIEW FROM THE TOP

The view from the top of Vatican City’s St Peter’s Basilica was exhilarating, breathtaking, and worth the claustrophobia-inducing flight of stairs we had to take to the top. Once in your life, or perhaps through somebody else’s eyes, you should see Vatican City from its proudest heights. Here are some pictures I snapped, enjoy! P1040925 P1050009 P1050005 P1050003 P1050001 P1040990 P1040984 P1040983 P1040971 P1040966 P1040964 P1040961 P1040956 P1040950 P1040949 P1040947 P1040946 P1040944 P1040942 P1040941 P1040940 P1040939 P1040937 P1040935 P1040933 P1040932 P1040930 P1040927

xoxo,
Viktoria Jean

[ROME] ST PETER’S BASILICA

We were both blessed and unlucky to have arrived in Vatican City the day before a huge and important event for the Catholic Church. Many parts of the basilica were closed due to preparations for mass. On the upside, we got to witness the procession which arrived to prep the church up. There were massive tables, grand velvet chairs and draped upholstery.

Due to a 3GB flurry of photographs I’d taken of Vatican City, there was a need to split my posts on St Peter’s Basilica into 4 separate pieces (and more to come!).

In chronological order (previous postings):
[ROME] THE VATICAN CITY
[ROME] INNER TRIMMINGS OF THE VATICAN CITY
[ROME] LIVING, BREATHING ART

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Body of a great matyr
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xoxo,
Viktoria Jean