Five Essential Ingredients for Learning A Language As An Adult

We always hear that children have the advantage in learning a second language and that once we hit a certain age our brains become stuck and slower to learn. However, we are not so sure that learning stops at puberty. Having known many clever multi-linguals who have managed to learn a language well past the age of pimples, we decided to ask around for advice on the key ingredients for learning a language as an adult.

According to our sources, and to personal experience, the secret of mastering a new language as an adult comes down to 5 key essentials; Intensity, Immersion, Incentive, Interaction, and Fun.


Sorry people, a one-hour class once a week is just not going to get you speaking fluent Spanish for your next holiday. There really is no alternative to just putting in the hours. Better to do a short intensive class than to spread your learning out over years. Take a couple of weeks out of your schedule and enrol in a short intensive language class. Which brings us to the next essential…


Sinking yourself deeply into the language is the best way to learn. By putting yourself in a position where you need to use the language to communicate, you will have no choice but to use your new skills. These real-life lessons are the key to fluency. And, what a great excuse to book that holiday in France! Surround yourself with people who will only speak that language and you will be sounding like a local in no time.


Nothing happens without the will to change. Learning a language is the same; with a strong incentive you can pick up a new language much easier. Perhaps this is why so many international couples learn each other’s language so quickly. They have a natural incentive to learn. But, you don’t need to find an Italian lover to find the incentive to learn Italian. You can create an incentive in many ways: an incentive to communicate at work, an incentive to speak well on holiday or even an incentive to watch foreign films in their original language.


No man is an island and no language can be learned in isolation? Languages are living things and you must use them to learn them. Many would-be learners are tempted to rely on an app or an online program to learn a language. While there is some benefit to learning vocabulary and grammatical structures this way, without practice these lessons fade in time and become of little use. And, worse, many online learners find out the hard way that they have learned the language wrong in some key way and cannot use it to communicate in real life. Bummer!


Finally, the last key ingredient is of course fun. Learning a language needs to be enjoyable. In order to stay engaged and actively learning it, is important to have a little fun with learning. Appreciating the language, laughing at your attempts to use it, learning the jokes or how to make a cool play on word; these are the things that make a language come alive. Enjoy the thrill of understanding the words in a song, or finally understanding the joke. Language learning should never be too serious and a good dose of fun adds an essential flavour to the learning journey.

Make the most of these 5 essential ingredients, get over your fears of making mistakes, and jump right into learning that language you have always wanted to.

And, if you remember one thing from this post, we hope it is that you are never too old to learn a new language. To encourage you we have translated the phrase into some of the languages spoken by the people behind ILNI;

“You are never too old to learn”


“Men is nooit te oud om te leren”


“Du bist niemals zu alt zum Lernen”


“Non è mai troppo tardi per imparare”


“On est jemais trop vieux pour apprendre”


“Kamu tak pernah terlalu tua untuk belajar”


“Mahi ra har vaghat az ab begiri tazas” – Literally ‘It doesn’t matter when you catch a fish it is always fresh’

Our 8 Most Powerful Post-Holiday Blues Busters

It is that time of year when most of us are suffering from a small dose of post-holiday blues. We have left behind the sunny beaches and lazy days by the pool and are now faced with the reality of being back to work. Ouch! Even if you love your job the effects of that post-holiday slump can be tough. We have put together our list of the best ways to recover from any post-holiday blues you might be feeling.


  1. Set some big audacious goals for the rest of the year


Having a goal that you really want to achieve is the fastest way to set your mind on the future rather than on the holiday that has just finished. We believe in big audacious goals that really excite you! Try making a list of 2 or 3 fabulous things you want to achieve in the coming months and watch those blues fade away.


  1. Find your groove again.


Getting back into the usual routines of life might seem counter-intuitive when you have just got back from an adventure vacation. However, most of us are actually creatures of habit and being back into a routine can help us pass through a period of post-holiday blues much quicker. So unpack that bag, get your grocery list written, and get back to the gym. Whatever, your usual routine is, get back into it with gusto as soon as you arrive home.


  1. Bring back some inspiration from your holiday


Just got back from Spain or Italy? Fabulous! Look up a great paella or risotto recipe to cook and then invite some friends over to share it. Create new memories with the people you love with some post-holiday inspiration.


  1. Get creative with holiday memories.


Find a new way to remember your holiday that is more meaningful and lasting than just posting a few holiday snaps on social media. Why not choose one or two great photos from your trip to be printed and framed. A large canvas, with a photo taken by you, will bring back the feel-good memories of your trip immediately and ensure you have some unique artwork in your home.


  1. Get some easy wins in the first week.


An easy win is basically any task we can quickly and easily mark off our to-do list. In your first week back fill half of your to-do list with easy to do tasks. Make them simple tasks that can be completed quickly and easily and give you the immense satisfaction of ticking off your list of things to do. Getting in some quick easy wins will get you back on a roll much quicker.


  1. Treat yourself


Just because your holiday is over, does not mean you have to stop treating yourself. Plan a mid-week treat to celebrate making it to Wednesday on your first week back. Treat yourself to something special, maybe a meal out, a bunch of flowers, or a new handbag.

  1. Explore More


Part of the fun of holidays is exploring new places and trying new things. We often think this cannot be done where we live, but we beg to differ. Somewhere in your neighbourhood or city is a new café or restaurant waiting for you to try. Or perhaps you prefer to visit a movie theatre and see a new film or explore a park you haven’t visited before. Make an effort to try to bring some of that holiday adventure into your daily life and sweep those post-holiday blues away.


  1. Plan your next trip


If all else fails, get busy planning your next holiday. Even if it is another year away, at least you then have something great to look forward to. Find some inspiration online and make a list of new exciting places to visit and then start making some plans.


We hope our list of blue busters will help you make a speedy recovery from any post-holiday blues and that our ideas help you to blow away any lingering gloominess about being back from holiday.



Far from the Maddening Crowd – 10 Alternative Vacation Spots this Summer

We love summer holidays, and we think it is the perfect time to explore new places and alternative vacation spots that are less known and less crowded. Get away from the crowds of sunburnt tourists and over-crowded campsites with our list of 10 alternative vacation spots for the summer holidays.

  1. Budapest, Hungary

With a rich history, beautiful architecture, lively nightlife, incredible food and an abundance of thermal baths to relax and recover in, Budapest is a quirky alternative summer holiday destination. Visit for the breath-taking views and sacred wonders combined with lively terraces, beautiful parks and lavish spas this city has to offer. Being bored is definitely not an option in this lively Hungarian city that needs to be on your summer holiday list.


  1. Segovia, Spain

Segovia, Spain is a place of romance and history. The ancient Roman aqueduct, fairy-tale castle, awe-inspiring cathedral, exquisite Romanesque churches, and mystical monasteries make this a perfect alternative to a crowded beach this summer. Read more about why we think this is a great place to visit in our blog post about visiting Segovia.

  1. Sylt, Germany

High up in the north of Germany, right on the border with Denmark, lies the remote North Sea island of Sylt. With high sand dunes, lush wide beaches and an abundance of wildlife, Sylt is a premier vacation spot that no one seems to have heard of. What were once ancient whaling villages, have now been turned into seaside resorts along the island’s pristine, sandy beach, that stretches for more than 40 km. Hire an old-fashioned canopied beach chair made of hardwood and wicker, and lined with blue and white striped cloth and sit back and relax in this remote location this summer.

  1. Lisbon, Portugal

One of our favourite destinations, Lisbon is a lively and picturesque city filled with reminders of an incredible history. Castles, open-air markets, fantastic traditional foods and live music, this harbour side city will have you coming back for more. Read more about this fabulous city in our post 48 Hours in Lisbon

  1. Kyoto, Japan

Ancient temples, tea ceremonies, centuries-old craftsmanship, kimono-clad Geisha, and Zen gardens; Kyoto is the perfect polar opposite to a crowded beach holiday. Stay in a traditional Ryokan inn and experience the exceptional food, culture and flawless hospitality that Japan is so well known for.

  1. Siem Reap, Cambodia

Get up early to watch the sunrise above the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap then spend your days exploring this 12th century royal city complex. Cambodia is the perfect holiday destination for history buffs, foodies and adventurers, and Siem Reap is the cultural centre. Be amazed by the rich history of this region, while enjoying sumptuous spas, world-class dining and a unique cultural scene. This is one summer holiday you will never forget.

  1. New Zealand

If you really want to escape the summer crowds, why not take a skiing holiday on the other side of the world. Beautiful in any season, New Zealand is guaranteed to make you feel far from the maddening crowd. From skiing on picturesque snowy peaks, soaking in thermal hot pools, to visiting awe-inspiring glaciers, this country is packed with fantastic experiences around every corner. We spent a weekend in Wellington, New Zealand and declared it one of the world’s coolest little cities, read about it here.

  1. Fiji

This South Pacific paradise is the perfect getaway this summer. Made up of over 300 small islands, Fiji is the place to relax on beaches with the most perfect views this beautiful planet has to offer. Read more about escaping to paradise in our blog post here.

  1. Costa Rica

If you are looking for an eco-tourism destination this summer, our pick is Costa Rica. Home to the largest protected areas in the world this is the place to enjoy exotic wildlife, pristine beaches, rainforests and volcanoes. With 20 national parks, 8 biological reserves, more than 1200 km of coastline and plenty of eco-conscious boutique hotels, Costa Rica is the perfect green choice for your summer holiday.

  1. Meno, Botswana

Forget camping in your usual holiday spot this year. Instead, enjoy a safari room in the Meno a Kwena Bush Camp in Botswana. Watch wildebeest, elephants and zebras wander by while you relax with a cocktail outside your tent. Follow the San Bushmen out on a guided walk or take a wildlife watching boat trip down the Boteti River. With only nine tents in this luxury safari camp, you don’t need to worry about crowds on this safari holiday!

Our planet offers so many incredible locations that are just waiting to be explored. Picking just one place to visit this summer is the hardest part. Where will you go first?

36 Hours in Segovia – One of Spain’s Best-kept Secrets

The Telegraph recently published their 2018 travel destination list of Europe’s best-kept secrets to visit. Segovia, Spain was one of the places featured on this list, and so, we decided to find out for ourselves what makes this city so special.

This sleepy Castilian town dates back to the 2nd Century when the Romans made it a major outpost and built a towering aqueduct that still stands today. Segovia is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and has the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in Europe. Even more enticing, are the strange connections this city has to Christopher Columbus and Cinderella.

Stay in an old Convento

We suggest staying right in the heart of this beautiful little city and our pick is the Convento Capuchinos. A large 400-year-old estate right in the centre of the historical quarter, this hotel started life as a convent. Now considered one of Castilla’s most unique 5 –star hotels it is more about luxury than the austerity of its religious past. The rooms are elegant and spacious, and the service is impeccable.

Visit the Cinderella Castle with links to Christopher Columbus.

The Alcázar de Segovia stands in the centre of the city and is a royal palace built sometime around the 11th century. It was from this castle that Queen Isabel agreed to fully fund Christopher Columbus’ exploration of the New World. The castle is also renowned for being Walt Disney’s inspiration for his Cinderella’s Castle. This unique fairy tale-like palace is now one of the most photographed castles in the world.

Little Known Lunch Spot

When you are ready to stop for lunch, a short distance from the castle is a small hidden gem called La Almuzare. This little lunch spot is a dedicated vegetarian restaurant that offers more than 17 innovative salads along with pizza and pasta. It is a cosy and artistic spot that is perfect for lunch before heading on for more exploring. This little-known lunch place has no website, but it is open daily and you can find it at Calle Marqués del Arco 3

Get Up Close To Roman History

The Roman aqueduct slicing through the city is the main reason most people come to visit this town. An incredible feat of Roman engineering and the aqueduct travels for 894m with an impressive 160 arches. Built around 50 AD, it is a testament to the talent of Roman architects. As you walk along this extraordinary structure you will see for yourself the skill that went into building something that still stands almost 2000 years later. For the best views and photo opportunities, we suggest standing at the top of the Postigo steps next to the visitor centre.

Drinks, Tapas and Winding Down in Style

After a full day exploring the city, we suggest heading towards the Plaza Mayor where you can unwind on a terrace with the spectacular backdrop of the illuminated aqueduct. In the Plaza and streets surrounding you will have no shortage of options for trying some of the typical Segovian tapas. Be sure to also try the specialty wild mushrooms.

As the night progresses live music can be heard spilling out from the many lively bars and restaurants in the area. Calle de la Infanta Isabel is one of those Spanish streets that you’ll definitely hear before you see; locals call it ‘Calle de los Bares’ (Street of the Bars). Walking back to your hotel you can find plenty of places for a last drink of the evening as you enjoy the scenic city at night with all of its monuments lit up in lights. Magical.

Spend the morning soaring over the city

Get up early the next morning to watch the sun rise over this historic city from a unique vantage point in a hot air balloon. Flying above the aqueduct in a colourful balloon and seeing the panoramic views makes the early morning start well worth the effort. Hear about the city’s history from your pilot and have your camera ready to capture photos of the Alcázar and aqueduct as you drift slowly across the city for an hour. Return to the ground to a prepared Spanish brunch and glass of cava.

One Last Shop Before You Leave

Before driving back to Madrid, make some time to call in to the Singular Olivia store. A beautiful little shop filled with natural soaps, candles and good oils created by a self-titled ‘slightly crazy chemist’ who was sick of industrial products. All items in the store are eco –friendly and made from organic raw materials. Even the wrapping paper is recycled and coloured with natural inks. Pop in and check out their wonderful cosmetic selection or pick up a unique gift to bring back home.

After 36 hours in this beautiful city, we think you will become a fan of finding more of the world’s best-kept secrets. We certainly are!

7 Unusually Compelling Reasons to Visit Scotland

Scotland is too often overlooked as a travel destination in favour of other European destinations, but we think it needs to be on everyone must-see list. From this land of mystery, stunning landscapes and fascinating history we have gathered our 7 compelling reasons why we think Scotland is worth a visit.


Scotland is one stunningly beautiful, wild and rugged country, so, it is not surprising that is has been the backdrop of so many famous films. If you are looking for some fantastic places to visit and extremely photo-worthy sights we suggest Stirling Castle and the surrounds. Located just outside Stirling in the battlefields of William Wallace’s famous battle for Scottish independence from the English King Edward I, the castle and hills were also the locations for the filming of Braveheart starring Mel Gibson as the brave Wallace. The 12th century Stirling Castle has been lovingly restored to its former glory with staff on hand to tell you all the tales of the original William Wallace or Hollywood gossip about the filming of the movie. Just across on the next hill is the Wallace Memorial a splendid 246-step tower, which offers incredible views over the entire area of the battle, and some more very photo-worthy scenes.

Hogwarts Express

The Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William was made even more famous when it was used in the Harry Potter films as the Hogwarts Express. It travels daily from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct on a six-hour return journey through stunning mountain scenery and wide-open landscapes. We suggest sitting on the left-hand side of the train for the best views and photo opportunities.

Unsolved Mysteries

No trip to Scotland would be complete without visiting the site of one of the world’s most famous unsolved mysteries, the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster. According to legend, this monster has made a home of this beautiful loch for countless centuries. If you aren’t lucky enough to see a monster, you can still see the much-photographed Urquhart Castle that stands alone on a thin slice of land jutting out into the Loch. Now a spectacular ruin set against the stunning lake, it is one of Scotland’s most photographed buildings.

For a more intellectual mystery, visit The Rosslyn Chapel famously featured in the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

‘When I decided to write The Da Vinci Code, I knew that its finale would have to take place at the most mysterious and magical chapel on earth — Rosslyn.’ 

Dan Brown

This beautiful Chapel holds a mystery beneath the floor in a stone crypt that according to legend is where the treasure of the Knights Templar is hidden. Visit and experience the aura of mystery that has caused this intricately carved chapel from the 15th century to become the subject of conspiracy theories that date centuries.

The “right to roam”

Scotland has a rule that applies to all land called the ‘right to roam’. Meaning you can walk almost anywhere in this beautiful country without fear of trespassing. So, if you spot a fantastic sight and you want to get in closer for a better look, you can! Enjoy one of the few places in this world where you can take a walk in the countryside without limits and let your curiosity take over.

Castle Stays

When in this romantic part of the world, it only seems right that one should indulge in a night in a Castle. Browse through some of the many Castle accommodations on Scott’s Castle Holidays and find yourself a medieval castle to call your own for a night or two.

Our favourite is Kilbryde Castle where Sir James Campbell and his wife Carola will welcome you to stay in the castle that has been the home of their family since 1659. Stay in the former kitchen and lower residence with access out into the majestic gardens that attract visitors from far and wide on the few days they are open to the public. This accommodation option is guaranteed to make you feel a little bit royal.


The vibrant capital of Scotland needs to be on every list of places to visit. This historical, yet modern, city is a striking mix of old cobbled streets, medieval buildings and traditional stores together with modern shops, edgy festivals and a lively nightlife scene overlooked by Edinburgh Castle sitting atop of an extinct volcano in the heart of the city. Add to this the sounds of bagpipes, Gaelic singing, the smell of the great food scene, and the taste of an aged whiskey and you will never want to leave this city again.


For our final reason to visit Scotland, we had to mention the traditional Scottish Kilt that is still a common sight, worn proudly by many men in town and country across Scotland. Perhaps we have seen Braveheart a few too many times, but we just love seeing a man in a kilt. Luckily Heritage of Scotland still stocks a full range of Kilts for all the clans, along with a wide range of stunning accessories, clothing and even tartan dresses that would make a perfect memento of your visit to this incredible country of mystery, history and more.

And as the Scottish farewell goes ‘Haste Ye Back’ or ‘come back soon’.

Disconnect in Paradise – Fiji

As summer approaches we can’t help but begin to think about holidays and booking a place to disconnect and escape from it all for a week or more. If you are looking for a holiday destination that offers relaxation, rejuvenation and a chance to really switch off from work for a few days, we think an island escape is just what the doctor ordered and our pick is Fiji.

Located in the South Pacific, this small island paradise is about as far from the maddening crowd as you can get. Made up of over 300 small islands, Fiji is a place to really relax and soak in some of the most perfect untouched views this beautiful planet has to offer.


Our favourite island to escape to this summer is Castaway Island; a small exclusive island located 20km off the coast of the main island and Nadi International airport. Accessible only by boat, seaplane or helicopter, you can really disconnect and enjoy the island’s gorgeous white sand beaches, pristine clear water and vibrant coral reefs. The only downside you may never want to leave.


Castaway Island is home to one of Fiji’s most luxurious resorts, the Outrigger Castaway Island Resort. Stay in one of the resort’s traditional Oceanside Bure bungalows complete with modern amenities and five-star service. With own private beach to wander along undisturbed and a coral reef a few steps from the shore just waiting to be explored, you will not miss an Internet connection. Welcome to total relaxation.


If you feel like moving from your beach utopia, Heli Tours Fiji are ready to take you on a breath-taking scenic helicopter flight of the islands. They can arrange private flights over the main island where you can see the mountain range they call the ‘Land of the Sleeping Giant’. Your private pilot will be able to tell you the legends and stories of this fabulous Pacific paradise as you also fly out over the many islands scattered in this idyllic spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Sail Away

Once you have seen the islands from the air, you will want to get out on the water and really see their beauty up close. Coral Cat Sailing offer exclusive sailing trips letting you relax on a spacious deck under the sails while your captain sails you around the aquamarine waters and towards some of the more remote islands on the outer reef. Look out for the dolphins, turtles and flying fish! Stopping for the afternoon at one of the more remote islands allows you to enjoy snorkelling on the reef or relaxing under palm trees while the crew prepares a traditional Fijian BBQ lunch. A perfect way to wind down and spend some time disconnected from the modern world.


For a fabulous gift or memento from your trip to this Pacific paradise we love Hot Glass Studio. This local glass studio produces some of the most fantastic glass creations we have seen, all in the stunning blues and turquoises of the Fiji islands. We guarantee you will find something unique and beautiful in this studio that will not look out of place in any part of the world.


Wild Thyme is our pick for dining in tropical style. Not only is this restaurant noted as Fiji’s top modern vegetarian dining experience, Wild Thyme also delivers impeccable service in a perfectly intimate tropical location with spectacular views out over the ocean.

We suggest starting with the Beetroot Carpaccio, followed by the Baked Spiced Pumpkin Crunchy Rice Balls, served in shaved coconut, sautéed bok choy and ginger saffron foam. To finish you must try the Adi Chocolate Tart served with coconut ice cream on a sea salt crisp. Divine when also paired with one of their large selection of vegan wines or bespoke cocktails.


In our opinion, an island getaway is all about relaxing, and a little bit of pampering. Our favourite spot for both is the Bebe Spa. Located on a hill known to locals as Vakalomalagi Hill or Heavenly Hill, you will be reclining above a lush tropical rainforest overlooking the ocean and feeling the fresh ocean breeze while enjoying one of the many traditional treatments on offer. We suggest the Vakaviti Massage to release the tension of the modern world. A combination of Fijian and Hawaiian massage you will be in a state of serenity before long. Finish with a shower in the sky on one of the many private balconies overlooking the ocean from on high.

Unlike many holidays, an escape to Fiji is a chance to really switch off from the world, and actually relax and unwind. We know you will return home refreshed, rejuvenated and wanting to go back for more. That is, of course, if you don’t decide to stay on Castaway forever!

24 Hours in Hong Kong – The Pearl of the Orient

Famously known as the Pearl of The Orient, Hong Kong is a heady mix of traditional and modern Asian cultures, combined in a loud, bright and intoxicating city that goes all day and night. We love visiting this city that never stops and have gathered together our picks of the best this city has to offer in a 24-hour stopover.

Stay in Style:

The Peninsula Hotel is the classic choice to stay when in Hong Kong. Established in 1928, this Grand Old Lady is still one of the top hotels in this former British Colony. With a helipad on the roof and a tea-time orchestra in the lobby, this hotel gracefully spans the divide between Hong Kong’s regal past and high-paced present. Known as the ‘Grande Dame of the Far East’ the Peninsula combines classical grandeur and timeless grace with modern amenities and exquisite service. Filled with artefacts and antiques you will be reminded of a time when travelling to the Orient was a glamorous adventure. Immaculate attention to detail and luxury rooms which can include a ‘flight-seeing’ helicopter tour of the city make this our pick for your stay in Hong Kong.

Shop In Luxury:

Hong Kong is one of the most exclusive shopping destinations in the world. With most of the world’s most exclusive and premium fashion brands claiming their spot in the best of the city’s luxury malls. Our pick of the best mall in town is the Landmark Mall at the base of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The Landmark houses more than 120 top brands stores including Gucci, Mark Jacobs, PRADA, BVLGARI and Cartier and let’s not forget Hong Kong’s own Vivienne Tam.

If you are looking for something more authentic to the region, the famous Hollywood Road in Soho is where you will find high-quality Chinese antiques. With everything from Ming vases to jade artefacts, these dealers are known for their excellence in sourcing and certifying genuine antiques from China. Our favourites are Oi Ling   for their Chinese terracotta pieces and KY Fine Art who are experts in Chinese art and ink prints.

Indulge in Five Star Cuisine:

Grab a traditional Hong Kong Breakfast or Lunch at Hong Kong’s most famous Dim Sim Restaurant, Tim Ho Wan. Famous for their world-renowned traditional Dim Sim menu, Tim Ho Wan is also known for being the world’s cheapest Michelin star restaurant, after stubbornly refusing to raise their prices despite the accolade. Making this little Dim Sim house one of the busiest little places in town, so get there early if you do not want to be disappointed. We love the steamed shrimp dumplings (ha jiao) that have been steamed with ginger and garlic. And, you cannot leave without trying the fresh Turnip cakes and the deep-fried glutinous rice dumplings (ham siu gok).

For a more sedate dinner in the city, we suggest 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana.

Chef Umberto Bombana is known as the best Italian Chef in Asia and his Hong Kong restaurant is the only 3 Michelin Star Italian restaurant outside of Italy. Otto e Mezzo is an unforgettable experience and celebration of Italian lifestyle, art and life’s pleasures where Chef Bombana promises to please using the best ingredients from local and international markets. The regularly changing a-la-Carte ‘Lunch 8 ½’ and ‘Dinner 8 ½’ Menus are filled with fantastic dishes that will delight all.

See The City Sights:

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a trip across Victoria Harbour on the retro Star Ferry. A 30-minute ride across the remarkable harbour will land you on Hong Kong Island and at the base of the Peak. Ride the Peak Tram up to the top of the Peak for views out across the Harbour to the stunning skyline of this modern city. The Peak Tram was famously featured in the 1955 movie Soldier of Fortune starring Clark Gable (Clark rendezvoused with Susan Hayward at The Peak just before the film’s closing credits).

As the evening falls on Hong Kong a spectacular harbour-side event begins; The Symphony of Lights. A multimedia light show that sets the harbour ablaze every evening to a soundtrack provided by the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Iconic buildings on both sides of the Harbour are lit up with thousands of lights, searchlights, LED screens and lasers all working together to make a city-scape symphony. You can see this sight anywhere along the water’s edge and the soundtrack is played from loudspeakers for the 7 minutes of the show. It begins at 8 pm sharp every evening and is well worth pausing to see.

Enjoy the Night:

As night falls on this city don’t think this slows down a beat. The Temple Street Night Markets begin as the sun goes down. Filled with traders selling everything from Chinese tea and treasures to touristic trinkets and knock-off brands, this vibrant and busy marketplace fills with locals and tourists alike coming out to shop while enjoying the live music, and treats from the many street food vendors.

If, after the buzz of the night market, you are still not ready to retire to your hotel, head to Lan Kwai Fong the popular late night street. Bars, clubs and restaurants turn this street into Hong Kong’s party central every night. Enjoy some live music, late night food and cocktails in the humming atmosphere that is Hong Kong after hours; in the city that never stops.

A Weekend in One of the World’s Coolest Little Cities – Wellington

Wellington is the vibrant urban capital of New Zealand and well known as one of the world’s coolest little cities to visit. In recent years it has become home to international film stars during the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit. The relaxed atmosphere of this compact capital city located on a picturesque harbour and surrounded by wild native bush covered hills makes Wellington a popular spot for visitors and locals alike.

Staying Cool

The QT Museum Hotel is our pick of the coolest place to base yourself for a weekend. A luxurious boutique hotel located right on the harbour you will be able to enjoy the fantastic views of the large natural harbour, as well as be in close walking distance to the main shopping, craft-beer bars, cafes and the modern national museum Te Papa. Filled with more than 160 original artworks this hotel is described as eccentric creativity meets luxury travel.

Cool Scenes

A trip to Wellington, aka Middle Earth, would not be complete without visiting some of the filming locations from the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Fans of the films can join a location tour to visit the Outer Shire, RiverDell and Helms Deep before going behind the scenes at the Weta Studios, the Academy Award-winning design company that created the special effects and props for Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Thor, District 9, TinTin and the Chronicles of Narnia.

Lunching Like A Local

For something fresh, simple and light with a distinct New Zealand taste, Aro Street Café is the place to go. This iconic city café and bistro has been serving up local favourites for more than 20 years. Try their Cranberry & Brazil nut muesli with roasted stone fruit & Zany yoghurt or the poached eggs with braised lentils, buttery spinach & grilled ciabatta. Finish with a cup of their house-roasted coffee before heading off to explore more of the city.

New Zealand Designs

In the afternoon head into the central city for a spot of shopping with Wellington shops serving up something for everyone, from quirky and eclectic to high-end local designer brands. Our pick to check out while you are here; World.

Step into the modern warehouse space of this premium New Zealand fashion line.  Fuelled by their energy and passion, this label has developed from a cupboard at the back of an arcade, to one of the leading fashion houses in New Zealand.

Vessel on Victoria Street is a must-see shop displaying a range of exclusive ceramics and homewares by Kiwi artists. It’s a local favourite and perfect for finding something unique to remember your visit to this city.

The Old Bank Arcade on Lambton Quay with three floors of specialty shops and some of New Zealand’s top designer fashion brands such as Ricochet

Taylor and Workshop.

Eco-Dining at Logan Brown

For dinner, our pick is Logan Brown. Ranked amongst Wellington’s best restaurants, it oozes class without being overly formal, and we love their commitment to minimizing their ecological footprint by caring deeply for the New Zealand environment in every aspect of their business. Located in a 1920s banking-chamber dining room, Logan Brown is the place to really experience a genuine taste of New Zealand cuisine. ‘We proud to represent the best of what our people and country produce, sustainably and ethically’ says owner Shaun.

Try their Risotto with charred corn, cauliflower, aged Parmesan & crisp shallots or the Heirloom tomatoes with Rewana Bread, Tanara, Pickled Cucumber and Koringo. And finish with a New Zealand classic Hokey Pokey, Salted Caramel Ice Cream, Coffee & Milk Crisp

Wild Nightlife

For a different type of nightlife while in Wellington head to the famous Zealandia By Night Experience.

This after-hours tour by torchlight of Wellington’s ecological sanctuary will bring you up close and personal to some of New Zealand’s best nocturnal critters. Little spotted kiwi birds, glow-worms, Tuatara lizards and, and longfin eels are some of the cool wildlife you might catch a glimpse of on your night-time adventure.

Midnight Snacks

If you are looking for the usual type of nightlife, back in the city you will find no shortage of live music, vibrant bars and local hangouts along Courtney Place which goes all night and into wee hours of the morning.

But, before calling it a night, grab a quick midnight snack at Midnight Espresso (187 Cuba Street), the perfect urban café for late night coffees and snacks. Try their giant hot chocolate with marshmallows to finish the night with a warm glow.

Just like the chocolaty goodness of a Midnight Espresso hot chocolate, Wellington will leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling that will make you want to come back and spend some more time in this very cool little capital city.



Verona, the City of Romance

In Fair Verona where we lay our scene.…

Almost 500 years ago, Shakespeare chose Verona as the backdrop for one of the most famous love stories in the world. This picturesque Italian city remains a popular destination for modern-day lovers wanting to immerse in the romance and beauty of this fair city of Verona. And, as this is the month of love, it is the perfect time to share our picks to visit when in this city of love.

Stay in Love

Our pick of the most romantic place to stay in the city is the Grand Relais – The Gentleman of Verona. Located in the heart of the city only a short walk from the main piazza and Juliet’s infamous balcony, this sixteenth-century residence offers luxury boutique accommodation, fine cuisine and international 5-star services. The hotel has maintained an old world charm but with modern updates, immaculate décor and beautifully designed spacious rooms. With a matchless location and exquisitely tasteful Italian style, this place is perfect as a romantic base from which to explore the city. For extra romance ask to stay in the Star room, the La Stanza delle Stelle. Featuring original stucco work and a 16th-century fresco along with fine antique furnishings this room could be the scene of a Shakespearean romance.

Romantic Dining

When you are ready to dine, The Casa Perbellini on the Piazza San Zeno is the place to take that someone special for an evening of romance, wine and Michelin star dining. The chef Giancarlo Perbellini cooks in an open kitchen thus removing any barrier between him and his guests, making his kitchen the stage in a spectacular dining experience. Reservations are essential as this is an intimate dining experience with only a few tables.

The Romance of Perfume

In the centre of Verona you will find the Merchant of Venice. A famous shop dedicated to the art perfumery with a luxury line of Italian perfumes made in Venice and named after the famous play. Enter the shop through a beautiful doorway and into a showroom of Italian hickory wood, that embodies the romance of the Italian merchants bringing spices and goods from exotic places. The shop is infused with culture, luxury and the traditions of Venice; maps of the “mude” trade routes, rich wallpaper and soft carpeting combined with ornate tables displaying Murano glass decanters filled with exotic smelling perfumes. You will fall in love with this little shop and the Merchant’s divine scents of romance.

Wine, liquid romance

No visit to this region would be complete without a wine tasting. The Villa Mosconi Bertani located 30 minutes out of the city is our pick of the place to savour the experience of wine tasting in the heart of this romantic region. The Villa and gardens have stood here since the 1700s and the cellars even longer. Famous as the birthplace of the Amarone Wine, visitors are welcome to join guided tours of the estate including the Romanticism inspired gardens, the Amarone and Valpolicella vineyards as well as the historical cellars. Then relax while meeting with the wine-makers and tasting some of the estate grown wines.

Follow the Romance To Juliet’s Balcony

Of course, no visit to Verona would be complete without visiting one of the iconic sites inspired by the story of Romeo and Juliet. The most famous of these is the Casa di Giulietta, the home of the tragic Juliet Capulet and featuring the balcony where the imagined scene of Romeo declaring is love could have happened. A busy touristic place, but worth a quick visit to say you have been.

Soak in the Romance of the past

The historical Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori, with their colourfully frescoed and lace-like facades are a short stroll from the famous balcony and are the perfect place to relax, unwind and enjoy the ever-present romance of this city. Sitting outside one of the many cafes and restaurants on the piazza in the warm Italian sun with a glass of the local wine is the perfect way to relax at sunset with that special someone in the dreamy glow that makes Verona the Italian city of Romance.


A Conversation with Mirte van Wijngaarden

Freelance Fashion Designer with an innovative vision of fashion

Mirte’s work is instantly recognizable through her use of existing fashion elements which she changes into new ground-breaking designs. She loves to combine different textures and materials in ways that create unique volumes and shapes. The result: an innovative vision of fashion.


How long have you been a fashion designer and what brands have you worked with?

I have been a freelance fashion designer for 5 years now working with such brands as ILNI, Cedric Jacquemyn, 2UNMLITED, Dotan music, Armin van Buuren, Naturalis, Femmes Des Sud.


What is the biggest challenge in your line of work?

The biggest challenge is to continuously find ways to spark inspiration. This is essential if you want to stay innovative in design. In addition, you must allow yourself to continue to reflect on yourself and your designs.


In this type of work deadlines are important. How do you cope with deadline pressure?

Fortunately, I work best with deadlines. I like them because they force you to move quickly and make choices. Perhaps it is part of the adrenaline that kicks in, but for me working with a deadline is best.


What qualities do you think one needs to have in order to work in the fashion design world?

To work in fashion you obviously have to be creative. On top of that you must be open to everything around you. Fashion design can be very diverse, one week you are designing a bag, then a range of clothing the next week and a collection book for a brand the following week. Therefore to work in design you must be able to keep being inspired and pushing yourself each time.



What is the strangest or most fun thing that you have ever encountered in your work?

Hmm, I need to think on this for a minute… I was asked recently if I wanted to make a hand puppet for the COMICCON. I had no idea if I could do this kind of design or not, but I was interested to challenge myself with something new and I succeeded. This was quite a challenge!


How important is social media to you and why?

Social media is very important. In this industry you need to have great accessibility. It also creates a platform to share your work in new directions. For example through the use of hashtags on Instagram, your work can be found by a wide range of new people. I think that the creative world can no longer do without social media. It has become an important part of the entire process of inspiring and being inspired.


Where do you see yourself in five years from now? 

I hope that, as a freelance designer, I have managed to put myself on the map.


Where is your favourite vacation destination?



What are your plans for the weekend?

On Friday evening I usually go out to dinner with friends and on Sunday I like to be with my family.


You can visit Mirte on her

Website: or on Instagram