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Aguille du Midi, Chamonix (France)

This time I rang in the New Year in a ski resort – surrounded by extreme snow and ice sport lovers. Every day, I woke up early to drive to the slopes, get my gear and make it through a day of ski lessons and practices with as little bruises as possible.

If you are anything like me – you need a day (or two) to bring down your level of adrenaline (and lets face it, to let your muscles and bruises have a break as well). Fortunately, Chamonix has more than just slopes and ski shops. Aiguille du Midi (or Needle of the South) is a mountain in the Mont-Blanc Massif that can be accessed by two cable cars starting in Chamonix itself. The first one takes you up to the Plan de l’Aiguille (2,300m) and the second traverses Les Pelerins glacier before rising up the North side of the Aiguille du Midi, landing at an impressive 3.842m above sea level.

This, dear readers, is the closest I could get to Mont-Blanc (for now…).

Note: taking the cable car may seem like a walk in the park, but it’s not for the faint-hearted. Its steepness and speed can be scary for some. Add strong winds at the top and be ready to hear some squeaks!

Stockholm at Dusk, Sweden

Does it ever get dark in this city? – I wondered while I looking over the city from the Gondolen Restaurant in Södermalm.

This time of the year, the night usually starts to fall at 10pm and the days begin again at 3am – my friend answered.

Isn’t it fantastic, to have 19 hours a day to explore a city that has that has so much to offer? It really gives you time and flexibility to structure your day the way you like – starting early to avoid the crowds, sleeping in late to rest from a big night in the city or even having an afternoon nap to recover in between sights. On the saturday night, instead of going out partying (which isn’t a budget friendly alternative in Stockholm), we went out sightseeing. We walked the streets and squares of Södermalm, Gamla Stan, Riddarholmen and Östermalm. After all, when you’ve got a city like Stockholm – add a dusky sky and romantic street lights and you’re in Wonderland.

London City, UK

During the Middle Age, Southbank developed as London’s outlaw neighborhood – a place where taverns, theaters, bear-baiting, cock-fighting and prostitution entertained the crowds. The borough was conveniently located outside the City’s walls, on the other side of the river. For decades, locals from the north side rarely crossed the river to the south, nor did the tourists visiting the City.

However, in the past few years, a series of projects have focused on improving this area – turning it into an must-see artistic hub with numerous museums and art galleries, as well as a real foodie heaven with the boom of old Borough Market.

Southbank is one of my favorite areas of London. Its tiny streets and alleys boast with history and diversity. Local pubs are authentic – small, dark and crowded. Its architecture is a perfect blend of the 18th Century industrial era and modern developments. But what really makes Southbank so special is its views over the City’s skyline during dusk or dawn.

Can you imagine having this view from your balcony?

Guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Guanacos are fascinating creatures. They often live in herds mostly composed of females, their chulengos and one dominant male, who needs to continually fight against other bachelor males that want to take over his position. He protects his herd from predators by carefully scanning the surroundings from the top and, when he feels a threat, he’ll alert with a high-pitched trill.

A though job, being a guardian of so many females and vulnerable new borns – luckily there are very few pumas in Torres del Paine National Park.

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina

The name Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) derives from Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first European to visit the land in 1520. As he approached shore, he was amazed by the size of the fires created by the aborigines to cook and keep warm. I can hardly imagine how anyone could survive to these extreme weather conditions without modern inventions. This shows that the aborigines’ skins, exposed to wind, cold and ice, developed in a completely different way from ours.

As we walked along the shore of Lake Fagnano, admiring the profoundly beautiful and diverse scenery, I couldn’t stop but wonder what else lies behind these high mountains and inside the dark forests. However, from its over 630km2 of land, only a small part of it is open to public.

 

Whale Watching in Los Gigantes, Tenerife (Spain)

We are obsessed with discovering the World.

We aim to step on land that no one or only few of us have visited before. We want individuality. Uniqueness. Experiences that will be recorded in our memory until we grow old. We travel around the globe by train, bus, plane and/or taxi (often using a combination of all of these) in a surprisingly short time span, only to visit somewhere we define as exotic.

The funny thing is – Sometimes the most unique and exotic experiences are right in front of our door step.

Rainbow after the Rain, London

I watch the news every morning while I’m having breakfast. I read the Economist on my bus ride to work. Once at my desk, one of my screens will shows the latest happenings in the economic and financial markets. Let’s say – I’m exposed to lots of new information, all the time. I love reading articles on new scientific discoveries or successful business cases. However, in current times, I find it increasingly difficult to spot some positive news.

With the thought of an eventual break-up of the euro, constant talks about a double-dip recession, Greece’s possible default, fears of Italy following (and being too big to be bailed our by its neighbors), top french banks being downgraded, I find it hard to keep my attitude positive.

Now that the euro zone is in a death spiral*, how can anyone remain optimistic?

I took the picture from my office on one of those miserable days filled with hopeless news. It reminded me that, in the same way that after the rain there will be a glowing rainbow; things will eventually get better – dark, wet and cold days won’t last forever.

*Source: The Economist, 9th of November 2011.

When thinking of cute villages, one will probably think of La Provençe in France. Switzerland has nothing to envy the french villes – or wouldn’t you love to live in this tiny street?

It’s everything about it. Its colorful but harmonized and traditional architecture. The climbing and twining plants covering the right building. The romantic street lamps and lovely restaurant and shop signs. The cathedral appearing in the background. I took this picture on a sunday at swiss lunch time and all I could hear were clinging plates and a a kid’s laughter. It was so peaceful, so calm. I will definitely miss this.

I can’t find enough words that suffice to explain how I feel each time I step on Madrid. The city has been part of so many important events in my life that I’m overwhelmed with familiarity and a feeling of simply belonging. When I walk its streets, thousands of memories flow into my mind. Living away from home for the first time. My first love. And my first heart-break. My best friends. Studying in the park. My graduation (and my second graduation, too). My first snowfall.

I took this picture on a sunday evening from a beautiful terrace overlooking la Catedral de la Almudena and Campo del Moro. In the distance, the outskirts of the city during the last few minutes of sunset. I’m still amazed about how a city I always believe to know so well, keeps on surprising me each time I return.

I’ll see you soon, Madrid.

Ouchy, Lausanne (Switzerland) – April 2011

Sunset on Lac Léman, Switzerland

I was born in a family of lucrative sailors, who dropped their anchor in the Canary Islands already many years ago. I grew up admiring pictures of my family sailing the Atlantic. I spent many weekends on a sailing boat with my best friend from school and her parents. I was invited to America’s Cup in Valencia, back in 2006. And now live watching little boats sail out each afternoon to enjoy the last rays of sun set behind the mountains.

Dear Universe: Are you trying to tell me something?