Category Archives: Photo Essays

Ghent Under My Skin

I am fortunate enough that most of my travels are in a sense, ‘co-sponsored’ by the company I work with. I travel for work, be it coach camp, conference or training course, and always take the opportunity to take a few days either side of the event to explore the place I’m at.

This time my travels took me to gorgeous gorgeous Ghent, in the Flemish region of Belgium. The 3 days I spent in Ghent was enough to whet my appetite to want to return and spend more time exploring. I also want to return in the spring or summer months, because the 2 degrees (Celsius) weather is something I am not used to. It was icy and I bundled up sausage-like with gloves, scarf, woollen beanie, and layers of clothing underneath my coat.

Ghent in 2-minutes

Ghent in Motion was shot over one year,  in and around the city, trying to catch the daily vibe of the city. Have a look at the video below showing a 2-minute teaser.

How I got there

From South Africa, I flew to Amsterdam (next time I will fly via Paris, it seems to be more straightforward), and took a train to Antwerp where I hopped on to an intercity train bound for Paris that stopped at Ghent St Pieters station.

Amsterdam to Antwerp, then on to Ghent
©2018 Regina Martins

Transport in Ghent

I walked everywhere, starting with a 1km trek from the station lugging my 14kg suitcase. I really must start travelling with a large backpack. Easier to carry and will encourage me to pack light, although I have to say that this time around I packed lighter than what is usual for me. I could have taken the tram but I had no energy to figure out how to buy a ticket and ensure that I got on to the right tram. The trek helped me get the initial layout of the area in my mind, and it put a whole lot of steps on my daily 10,000 steps requirement. Eventually, I realised that all trams go past the station and tickets can be bought at each stop at a coin-operated machine.

By the time I got to the Airbnb the sun was setting and I saw no food shops, coffee shops or restaurants open in that part of town. I was tired from the travel and all I wanted was to do was take a hot shower, have a decent cup of coffee and cocoon in the warm flatlet.  And eat something that was not bread-based or served in small plastic containers. On my trek to the flat I saw someone on a bicycle with an Uber Eats cooler bag at the back, so Uber Eats it was. The food arrived within 30 minutes of my order (on a bicycle). I was mightily impressed.

Ghent also has the largest pedestrian area in the centre of the city and most people cycle. It has a street where bicycles rule (and cars have to stay behind the cyclists). It’s the largest car-free area in Belgium. Oh, and there’s boats too.

The pedestrian friendly streets of Ghent
©2018 Regina Martins

The food, coffee and chocolates

Ghent has the most vegetarian restaurants per capita in the world. I was spoilt for choice and this was a new reality for me, where I battle to find vegetarian food in most places I go to. The city has meat-free Thursdays (Donderdag Veggiedag) with vegetarian options promoted all over town with the distribution of veggie street maps. How delightful and thoughtful is that?

My first cup of coffee was the next day, where I ambled into an Irish pub for breakfast (they advertised breakfast, I promise) and was served coffee liqueur and chocolate with my cafe-au-lait. If this was going to be the norm (the liqueur not the chocolate) at the rate I drink coffee I was going to get drunk just on coffee.

Getting drunk on coffee in Ghent
©2018 Regina Martins

Chocolate was everywhere. Shops selling chocolate, hot chocolate, people walking the streets with a cup of hot chocolate in hand (as a sweeter alternative to the ubiquitous cup of coffee), waffles with chocolate. The tea buffet at the hotel where my training course was at had a selection of chocolates and cakes and cookies…all of them with chocolate. The smell of chocolate pervaded the streets – yum!

Festivities, festivities, festivities – and shopping

The Christmas lights were still up and the final days of the Christmas festivities happened the weekend I was there. I’m glad I caught the tail-end of it. When I left the stalls, Winter Wonderland exhibition and fun fair rides were being taken down. Of course, the winter sales were on with some good deals on the go.

The architecture

It’s the kind of place where every photo I took was a great photo because the subject matter was just perfect. Well preserved Medieval buildings sat right next to more modern ones. I visited the Gravensteen Castle and St Niklaas’s Church dominates central Ghent. The city houses many churches and I loved the sounds of the bells tolling each day (and twice on Sundays), calling the devout to mass.

St Niklaas Kerk to the right
©2018 Regina Martins

As mentioned before I want to return to Ghent, to get to know it better, from the history to the food to the people. It’s a city of quiet canals, chocolates, bicycles and friendly people. Ghent is rich in history, architectural wonder and cultural heritage, and it has got under my skin.


Last Week In Instagram Pictures

I was pretty much absent on the blogging front last week. Roll-call would have come up with silence. I was taking photos though so that I’d be able to report back to you that last week consisted of a wonderful trip to Cape Town. For work, off course. Any trip to Cape Town, even a work one is pleasant because, well, Cape Town. I have proof of this assertion…in the photos below. Take a look…

As the plane came in to land this is what greeted me. As you can see it was breathtaking so much so that I quickly switched on my phone to capture it before landing. How gorgeous is that?

#capetownwelcome #capetownsunsets🌅 as the plane was coming in to land. A minute later it dipped below the horizon.

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Then this was the view that greeted me when I woke up the next morning.

Imperfect pic of a perfect setting #viewfrommywindow

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And this one too.

A ship in harbour is safe but that is not what ships are built for. John A. Shedd #kalkbayharbour #quoteandsayings

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And on my return to the Airbnb from a yummy food outing this is what I found.

And a couple more pics before driving to the airport to catch the plane back home to Jhb.

It was a beautiful and cold day in #capetown today

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And this one too.

This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth. – From the journal of Sir Francis Drake, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580. 


Mercado Da Ribeira aka Timeout Market Lisbon

If you’re a foodie, you simply have to visit the Mercado da Ribeira. It’s across from the Cais do Sodré train station, so an easy walk from anywhere in downtown Lisbon. It reminds me of the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv but about 5 times larger.

I met my friend, Cristina, and we took a slow walk down the Rua do Alecrim to Cais do Sodré. I knew about this market but had never thought to visit. I was surprised at how the space had been so smartly converted into what it is now – the Time Out Market – combining the best of fresh produce, flowers, artisanal goods, an organic market, fresh fish, meat, a concert space, a start-up hub upstairs, and off course, all the eating places. You simply have to go and experience it for yourself.

©2017 Regina Martins

According to the Project For Public Spaces (PPS) “great public spaces are those places where celebrations are held, social and economic exchanges occur, friends run into each other, and cultures mix.” They go on to say that “when theses spaces work well, they serve as the stage for our public lives.” The Mercado da Ribeira and Time Out Market certainly lives up to this premise.

©2017 Regina Martins

Like most public spaces in Lisbon, history and culture is inextricably intertwined with food, wine and convivio (Portuguese for being together socially) – the things that characterise Portuguese culture.

©2017 Regina Martins

This market can trace its roots back to the 13th century and was once one of the most famous fish markets in Europe. In 2010 the Lisbon City Council began the process of rehabilitation and renewal into what it is today (you can read more about it here).

©2017 Regina Martins

The photo above and the one below show some of the original tiled murals which have been preserved over the centuries. They are intricate and beautiful. These murals have been recreated in some other places in the mercado as wallpaper or painted on.

©2017 Regina Martins

You can eat food created by high profile chefs who have established concept stalls of their restaurants in the food court.

©2017 Regina Martins

There are “24 restaurants, 8 bars, a dozen shops and a high-end music venue, all with the very best in Lisbon (the best steak, the best hamburger, the best sushi and the best live performances, amongst others)” – info taken from the Mercado’s official website.

©2017 Regina Martins

This is one of the many living heritages of the city of Lisbon.

©2017 Regina Martins
©2017 Regina Martins

The space includes a concert venue and a cooking academy.

©2017 Regina Martins

The Mercado also houses Second Home Lisboa, a workspace for start-ups, entrepreneurs and social impact organisations. For more info see here. I didn’t go up to take a look, something to do next time I am there.

©2017 Regina Martins

Cristina and I could not leave the Mercado without sampling pasteis de nata from Manteigaria, with coffee, off course. Doesn’t it look good? It tasted delicious!

©2017 Regina Martins

This was a wonderful find and I wish I had more time to explore it. I love the concept. When you are in Lisbon, you simply have to visit it. To whet your appetite even further, take a look at the concept video.



Photo Essay: Munich in Action

I haven’t posted all my pics from Munich. I hope you enjoy the gallery of this bustling city. Some of the photos were taken from atopHop On Hop Off bus hence the elevated angle and reflection from the window glass 🙂

It’s a large gallery. Click on any photo to scroll through the large version of the photos.



WordPress Weekly Photo: Lisboa Wishing…

This week’s weekly photo theme is wish, and it’s apt for me at this time of the year, as I yearn to be back in Lisbon, wandering through it’s historical streets.