Autumn in Smaland, Southern Sweden

While we are all patiently waiting for spring to arrive in London, let me show you the wonderful autumnal colours of Smaland, a province in southern Sweden I visited back in October last year. 

This beautiful area is packed with picturesque lakes, pine and spruce forests and is just great for everything outdoors. It’s also home to Sweden’s famous children’s book author, Astrid Lindgren (think Pippi Longstoking). Some of her most well-known books are set in Smaland. 

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Our trip has started with an overnight stay at one of Smaland’s manor houses, Vastana Manor. As we arrived when it was already dark, it took us all morning to admire the house’s fascinating details.

We then headed to the old town of Granna, famous for its wooden red houses and rock candy making. You can find a few shops along the main street and have a go at making your own peppermint rock, which we willingly did. It’s such a fun process to watch and try! 

Granna Sweden

A walk around Granna to admire the red timber houses.

Granna Sweden
Granna Sweden

My favourite Swedish tradition that I happily adopted is ‘fika’ - a break with a coffee and a sweet pastry (Swedish cinnamon buns are just the best!) shared with your friends, colleagues or relatives. Of course, we stopped for a fika in Granna.

Granna is also known for its delicious organic ice cream (I opted for lingonberry, red berries common in Sweden) and crisp bread.

Granna ice cream

After savouring all the delicacies we boarded a ferry to Visingso island. 

Visingso Sweden
Visingso Sweden
Visingso Sweden

Surprisingly, there’s a muesli making facility on the island, home of Susanne Dalsatt and her family who have been producing organic muesli since 1972! 

Visingso muesli

A few more pretty red houses and autumnal hues of Smaland taken on the way to our next destination.

Smaland Sweden
Smaland Sweden

Have you ever heard about Bruno Mathsson? - I haven’t before this trip but this furniture designer and architect is well known in Sweden. His designs are really interesting and were way too modern for his time! Bruno Mathsson carefully studied the mechanics of sitting in search of the perfect sitting curve for his chairs’ designs.

Bruno Mathsson

We visited Bruno Mathsson Centre in Varnamo and saw his birth home which now houses a museum/showroom of his furniture (photos above). We were also lucky to be able to visit Bruno’s and his wife Karen’s house in Tanno. It was built in 1964 has been basically left untouched since the couple lived there.

Bruno Mathsson house

Autumn truly is the best time to visit Smaland - just look at those colours and patterns!

Smaland Sweden

This local specialty is called raggmunk - a dish made from grated potatoes, bacon and lingonberries. Not pictured here - a super fun Segway cross-country adventure we shared at Isaberg Mountain Resort.

I was a guest of Visit Smaland. All opinions are my own.

2 days in the French part of Switzerland with Nespresso

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by Nespresso to spend 2 days in their headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to learn everything about their coffee production process and sustainability initiatives. 

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I am very excited about the opportunity to work with Nespresso over the next 6 months as I've been an active user of their products for a few years already, and it's always fascinating to know more about the brand you encounter with on a daily basis.

For me coffee drinking is a serious business - I usually only drink one cup a day (2 cups max when I'm on holiday) so I want to make the most out of it! 

view of Lausanne from Nespresso campus

We started the trip with a tour of the campus that has this gorgeous view. We then learned about the sustainability program that the company has implemented on all levels - starting from the coffee farms to the factories and finishing with the packaging - Nespresso capsules are made of 100% aluminium which is fully recyclable (more on it later).

After a delicious lunch and coffee, we set to explore the factory where the capsules are produced. No pictures at the factory are allowed but I can assure you it's made up to all the possible standards of Swiss efficiency - the factory is a closed loop system in terms of energy consumption. Factory tour followed by coffee tasting and we even had an opportunity to channel our inner baristas (not as easy as it seems!).

coffee tasting

The day finished with a wonderful dinner at Lausanne Palace Hotel where we stayed for the night. It was really interesting to try the whole menu inspired by Nespresso coffee.

Dinner at hotel Lausanne palace

Next morning I set my alarm early to have some me time to wander around the beautiful Lausanne. I stopped in the old town and then made my way to the lake.

Lausanne lake Leman

The morning officially started at Nespresso boutique with a coffee recipe workshop. We tried a few coffee cocktails based on unexpected flavour combinations and saw a latte art demonstration just to realise once again that it's not as easy to make as it looks.

The day continued with a visit to the capsule recycling plant in Moudon where we saw with our own eyes that not only the aluminium capsules are fully recyclable but the coffee grounds are too - they are being separated at the facility and are later used for green energy and compost, so nothing goes to waste. 

When I shared stories from the trip on my Instagram I received many questions about the capsule recycling. There are a few options that are currently available in the UK:

- take a full recycling bag to your local Boutique

- request a collection when placing an order online 

- drop off your bag at any CollectPlus point (in case your Boutique is far away) with a dedicated label - more information here.

Did you know that Switzerland produces some delicious white wines? During the trip, we had an opportunity to meet Blaise Duboux, owner of the vineyard in Lavaux region and 8th generation winemaker. Blaise uses recycled coffee grounds to fertilize and nourish the soil in his vineyard. Not only the wines taste amazing but the views are incredibly beautiful too!

Lavaux vineyards

I was a guest of Nespresso. All views are my own.

5 days in Moldova, one of the least visited countries in Europe

This August Intrepid Travel commissioned me to work on an assignment on their trip to Moldova. I was caught by surprise and have honestly said that Moldova has never been on top of my travel list. You'll love the experience, they replied. And I did. Here's why.

Moldova Chisinau

Moldova is a small post-Soviet country land-locked between Romania and Ukraine - hence you might have never heard of it. In Soviet times, it used to be, together with Georgia, one of the leaders in wine production. I can see your interest is raising, right?

Moldova is currently rediscovering its winemaking past. In addition to old wineries, new ones, using modern technologies, start opening up - and that makes Moldova a great place to visit for all wine lovers. Did I mention it's super cheap too?

Et Cetera winery is one of the modern wineries located in the south-eastern part of Moldova. I loved the design of the space and all the home-made food that accompanied our wine tasting. That chair made of an old carped caught my attention too.

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Visiting Mitestii Mici is a completely different experience. This state owned winery was registered in the Guinness World Records as the biggest wine collection in the world holding nearly 2 million bottles! The cellars extend for 120 miles, of which 34 miles are currently in use. The cellar network is so extensive that it can be driven by car and the underground streets bear wine related names - like a Cabernet street.

Milestii Mici
Milestii Mici
Moldova capital Chisinau

Moldova's capital Chisinau was almost completely destroyed during the World War II. The city was later rebuilt in a Stalinist style.

For a real local experience in Chisinau head to the main market. It's great for people watchig too!

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Chisinau market

Don't miss Moldova's Orthodox monastery and archaeological complex Orchei Vechi. The cave monastery was built by the monks in the 13th century and remained inhabited until the 18th century. Later in the 1990-es a handful of monks restored it to its current state. You can also visit traditional Moldovan houses.

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This trip was my first experience with Intrepid travel. I loved their commitment to support the local communities by hiring local guides and experts, like the homestay lunch with a traditional pastry cooking workshop pictured below.

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A visit to Moldova couldn't be complete without a day in Transnistria, a country within a country that has its own currency and government, but is not recognised by any United Nations member state. If you would like to know how it feels to live in the USSR - Transnistria is a place to visit. Its capital Tiraspol is not particularly beautiful but you go there for an experience and not to admire the beauty.

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I visited Moldova as part of Intrepid Travel Moldova, Ukraine & Romania Explorer 13 days trip - more information can be found here.

Fun times in PortAventura

Last week I spent a few days in PortAventura, the most visited theme park in Spain. It is a perfect place for a family holiday or for a fun trip with a group of friends. Of course, kids are the ones having the most fun!                                                                                                    

The park consists of a few areas, each dedicated to a different part of the world: Mediterranea, Mexico, China, Polynesia, Far West, SesamoAventura and the newly opened Ferrari Land.

PortAventura Spain
PortAventura Spain

Mediterranea was the area I liked the most as it looks a coastal town in Catalonia with little fishing boats and lots of flowers everywhere.

Mediterranea PortAventura
Mediterranea Portaventura
Portaventura salou
Portaventura tarragona

SesamoAventura is themed to the Sesame Street characters and is aimed at the younger visitors of the park. It's so much fun to watch the little ones taking the rides with their parents or the more fearless ones doing it by themselves.

Sesamo aventura

Polynesia area is the most green and great for having a break with an ice cream in the shadow.

Ferrari Land is a new addition to the park (opened in April 2017) with its main attraction - the highest and fastest roller coaster in Europe! After an overwhelming ride don't miss out Formula One racing simulators and an interactive gallery of Ferrari history.

Ferrariland

After all the rainy days I really needed those few days to soak up the sun and enjoy relaxing evenings after days of active fun. Many thanks to PortAventura for having me!

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