For the second part of my trip with VisitBritain, I was so excited to explore the South West for the very first time. After checking out of the beautiful The Great Northern hotel, I hopped across the road to collect my hire car from Hertz St Pancras, loaded my playlist, plugged in my GPS and hit the road for Cornwall.
It’s an easy drive (via freeway the entire way), but a lengthy drive to take solo - so I took my time, and also made a quick diversion to Bristol for lunch and leg stretch. The drive itself takes around 5 hours, depending on traffic - a perfect opportunity to listen to some of my favourite podcasts and just be with my thoughts and the open road.
There’s so many beautiful parts of Cornwall - and much that I still want to see. But here’s how I spent three nights in Cornwall (and you should too).
Three years ago, with my life at a crossroads, I boarded a one-way flight back to Australia and my two years living in London came to a severed, abrupt end. It’s a city I had fallen hard for, and desperately didn’t want to leave, but the visa laws made it impossible for me to do anything but depart. [Read this post for the back story.]
Three years on, although the now completely healed, far more travelled and (I’d like to think) better version of myself has fully made peace with that chapter, just say the word ’London’ and my heartbeat will instantaneously quicken. It’s a place that I will always long for, in one way or another.
So, when an email popped up in September from the beautiful team at VisitBritain, expressing interest in working together, it was one of those moments that stopped me completely short - and despite a back-to-back schedule lined up to see out the rest of 2017, of course I immediately wrote back: yes!
Although I’d visited London a number of times since returning to Australian life, this trip felt different. It felt a beautiful irony to be invited back, in a different time, and different life circumstance; something the wayward girl of three years ago could never had imagined possible.
So there I was, on 23 October, seated in the emergency exit row with all of the legroom ever, and ‘Fever to the Form’ playing in my ears, bound for a ten-day solo adventure for the soul.
If you’ve followed my travels for a while, you’ll likely know that when it comes to cameras, I’ve always been a Canon girl. Not consciously, or for any particular reason, if I really think about it - it was just the first brand of Camera I ever owned (after saving for months, to take on my very first overseas trip to Japan!) Over the years, as I learned and evolved my photography skills, I stuck with the brand, outgrowing and upgrading a series of cameras from that first point-and-shoot, through to the EOS 5D Mark III that I’ve had for 2 years now.
I connected with Olympus through The Travel Bootcamp over 18 months ago, and after hearing a presentation about this brand, their history and their vision, I was immediately hooked. Unquestionably, Olympus are a leader in the consumer imaging market - and right from the start, I could instinctively feel how much they care. Not just about photography - and the technical, but about creativity. About customer experience. About the pursuit of everyone’s dreams. Even mine! Olympus are a brand with huge heart.
I wanted to try them out. If you’ve read my recent blog posts, you’ll see I have added not one, but two cameras to my family this year. First, I hopped around Italy and Greece with the PEN E-PL8 - and soon following that adventure, Olympus invited me to try out the OM-D E-M10 Mark III , which also involved an adventure to Queenstown, New Zealand (pinch me) and almost daily life adventures since.
While I tend to be the kind of person that finds something they love, gets too comfortable and sticks with one thing forever (I could literally eat at my favourite local cafe every day, and never tire) - it’s a different story with Olympus. It’s been a fun process to be kept on my toes, to learn two new cameras and experiment, pushing my photography skills and style, and evolving my ways a little, rather than sticking with what I know.
During my weekend in Queenstown with Olympus, we were lucky to be privy to a couple of photography workshops run by two photography experts that I admire and respect: perpetual traveller (and one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet) Lisa Burns of The Wandering Lens - and natural light portrait & family photographer Rachel Devine of Sesame Ellis.
It was a beautiful opportunity to learn from the best, ask lots of questions and work at up-levelling my photography skills, and put new techniques into immediate practice while surrounded by insanely beautiful scenery.
Here are five photography tricks I learned on the road, and have taken home with me from this adventure with Olympus!
Straight off a plane from four weeks wandering Italy & Greece, I arrived home to find a very special delivery at my doorstep: a carry-on suitcase, a brand new camera (details below!), an itinerary, and a plane ticket. I swiftly unpacked, washed some clothes, repacked, swapped over cameras, and headed back to the airport just 24 hours later - to board another plane. This time bound for Queenstown, New Zealand!
I had been invited to spend a weekend with Olympus, in the company of a group of other wonderful photographers + bloggers - and some of the beautiful Olympus family - and jet lag was never going to get in the way of such an opportunity. I had never been to the South Island before, and flying in between the snow-capped mountains as our plane descended into Queenstown was something impossibly magical. Better still, the trip was to celebrate something pretty exciting - the launch of the new OM-D E-M10 Mark III. It was a wonderful opportunity to take this brand new camera away so soon, and to learn about it on the go, while exploring an incredible part of the world.
Here’s a recap of what went down, month by month.
[If you've landed on this post and haven't read Part 1, head this way!]
You know those places that you can never-not remember dreaming about? Those ‘one day’ destinations, that for a long time, you build in your mind an idea about, and wonder whether the real-life version will measure up to those years of imagination?
The Greek Islands have always been that bucket-list destination for me. And, after spending a week of island hopping there, I can testify that the islands are beautiful. IMPOSSIBLY. BEAUTIFUL. Even more vividly so than I could have ever imagined.
After our days in Italy, living La Dolce Vita, Charles and I flew into Greece for a week of late summer island hopping, from Mykonos to Santorini.
As it happened, I was struck down on our second day in Greece with a horrid head cold and nasty dose of laryngitis, which meant I spent more days than I wish to remember feeling too unwell to be anywhere but in bed, and we couldn’t explore nearly as much as we had hoped to. We also lost our luggage in transit, and I lost my voice for more than 10 days (although Charles didn’t mind that part!) Gratefully, got our luggage back after 24 hours of calls, airport visits and Greek translating, and my voice came back eventually.
The jingle bells have been faintly ringing in our studio for a little while now, but today it’s the 1st December, and therefore officially acceptable to BLAST the carols and spread festive cheer (right?!)
We have so much to be grateful for right now - it's been an amazing year for us. We’ve grown, connected, wandered and reached corners of the world we didn’t [ever] expect. But, without you, we’d have done none of that. For the constant flow of emails of encouragement along the way, for your orders, for selling out 2018 planners in record time, for the coffees (and wines) delivered to our market stands - every day it continues to blow us away with how greatly we feel loved and supported by you - our community.
So, we’ve been busily hatching away a plan for Christmas… so that we could give you something bigger than us. And better yet, we've teamed up with an army of TWELVE of our favourite brands [friends!] we have collaborated with throughout 2017, to join us. We have a prettttyyy amazing lineup in store. There’s TRAVEL prizes. There’s EDIBLE (and drinkable) prizes. There’s EXPERIENCE-based prizes. Oh, just you wait!
Over a year ago we – Emma and Sonia – got together as we usually do when we’re both in the same city, at the same time. But there was something different about this time. Something more was bubbling away under the surface.