Of laneways and street art: my tribute to Melbourne

It is a city that holds the glory of being the culture and fashion capital of Australia. It is a city has the honour of being the biggest Greek city outside of Greece. It is a city where Australia’s colonial heritage does more than just a tiny ‘peek-a-boo’ from behind lofty skyscrapers, modern architecture and leafy green avenues. It is a city where I witnessed the greatest number of youth sporting bright blue hair. A city that takes something ordinary and attempts to create something unique out of it. The hipster cool of Australia. The scene of Australia’s best coffee. The land of grungy street art. The place that made hanging out in seedy alleyways cool. Honestly, if there is a place to live in Australia and enjoy urban life to its greatest extent, it is Melbourne and there is no ambiguity about it. You love the beach? Brighton beach with its iconic bathing boxes is right there! Or make it a day trip by going down to the Great Ocean Road! You love the river? Yarra and its beautiful riverside with fancy restaurants and oh-so-stunning views are at your doorstep. You love wine? Yarra valley, Australia’s premier wine region is an hour and a half’s drive away from the city. And not just wine, the countryside is replete with beautiful forests, natural parks, mountains and stunning views. This post has been a long time coming. However, I’ve finally managed to be organised enough to present to you my small tribute to the city of Melbourne, hoping that these select photos will inspire you to pack your bags as well. Enjoy!

THE URBAN SNAPSHOTS

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Melbourne’s waterfront offering picturesque views. In photo: Evan Walker Bridge
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The iconic Melbourne yellow. In photo: Scots’ Church, Collins Street. 
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State Library of Victoria
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Shrine of Remembrance
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Contrast. As seen on Flinders Street. 
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#Loveislove

THE FOODGRAM

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Amazingly creative and delicious desserts at Dex2Rose. Tucked away in a little laneway (where else?), you have to try this little unassuming joint! Pictured above is Milky Playtime, but the star of the show is definitely ‘Mist in the Woods’. It involves a chocolate tasting plate of house made delicious lightly spiced hot chocolate, raspberries, salted caramel gelato, marshmallows and a little fire pit. There is a little glass of water, into which the waitress pours some liquid nitrogen, resulting in a ‘mist’ (rather a fog- which by the way smells HEAVENLY), all over the tasting board, reminding of crisp early winter mornings. This is the time to start toasting your marshmallows onto the little fire pit, and get lost imagining yourself camping in some secluded forest.  Address: 377-379 Little Bourke Street.
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If you are in Melbourne, you HAVE to try Greek food! Here I am at Tsindos, one of the most authentic Greek restaurants right on Lonsdale Street- the place that used to be a hub of Greek culture in Melbourne.
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If you want fancy Greek food, then definitely give ‘Gazi’ a try. Owned by star chef George Calombaris, the food at this restaurant speaks volumes about why Colombaris is one of Australia’s most well known faces. And it’s right in the city centre. Score! 
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Located on Centre Place, ‘The Little Den’ has a crazy long list of chais (if you are a chai lover that is). Tried their Rose chai and Coconut chai. Especially recommended when Melbourne weather decides to go a bit sombre.
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Random Sunday food markets be like
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Guava ice cream at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie.
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Yarra Valley Chocolaterie is stocked with delicious varieties of chocolates, many of which are combined with unusual flavours. And these weird combinations actually work! These are some of the ones I bought, but there are far more unique combinations in store. And there’s also loads of free chocolate available!

STREET GRUNGE

Hosier Lane
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The artists’ work is always in progress so you’ll always catch fresh graffiti every time you come.
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Southbank
         

YARRA VALLEY

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Warratina Lavender Farm, nestled at the foothills of Dandenong Mountain Range.

TarraWarra Winery. Stunning location, beautiful tasting wines, a free tour at one of Australia’s premium wineries.
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Yarra Valley Chocolaterie
Maroondah Reservoir. Just half an hour up the road from Yarra Valley Chocolaterie. Entry is prohibited inside, but you can stop by to take in the picturesque views before continuing along Black Spur Drive.
Black Spur Drive, one of the most picturesque roads in Victoria.

El fin.

Cover photo: Night view of Melbourne Riverside, featuring the Yarra River and King Street Bridge.

Paris Is Always A Good Idea

Ajoutez deux lettres a Paris et c’est le paradis.

Jules Renard, writer

Add two letters to Paris and it is paradise.

When Jules Renard uttered this famous quote, he could not have been more correct. There are very few places in the world that are able to justify the hype surrounding them. Paris not only justifies that hype but threatens to challenge it, mock it, as if describing its beauty and sophistication is beyond the realm of human intellect.

I found myself in Paris in April 2012- an unexpected and impromptu trip. This was a time when photography and the creative arts barely interested me. It was also a time of great, many personal tragedies and I credit Paris for coaxing me out of my shell, for making me believe at the time that beauty still existed in the world. 

I apologise in advance for the quality of photos, but I do hope they capture a sense of allure that Paris has to offer to any traveller lucky enough to visit. One day, I hope to go back again. 

Amidst Nature
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Jardin Des Tuileries
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Jardin Du Palais Royal
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Jardin Du Palais Royal
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Jardin Du Luxembourg
Parisian Streets
Casual shot of Parisian street life
As seen on Place De La Concorde
Cartier showroom...
As seen on Avenue Des Champs Elysees
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As seen outside Cite (Paris Metro): Hire a bike for 20 euros per day
French street signs lol.
Near Cathedrale Notre Dame De Paris
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Unknown street, Paris
Architectural Details
Details of the fountain
Fontaines De La Concorde
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Cathedrale Notre Dame De Paris
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Cathedrale Notre Dame De Paris: mass in progress
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Opera National De Paris
Iconic Buildings
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Palais De Justice
Me and sister posing lol.
Arc De Triomph
Grand Palais
Grand Palais
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Palais Du Luxembourg
Cathedrale de Notre Dame
Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
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Le Tour D’Eiffel

So, what do you think? Does Paris sound like a good idea to you?

Cover photo: View of Pont Alexandre III and River Siene, Paris.

My Moroccan Adventure- a photo essay

Every country has a word that can be used to describe it. For example, Spain is passionate, India is colourful and Morocco…well, it’s unique. For a small country sitting on the western edge of Africa, Morocco offers plenty to keep your senses busy and happy. But it’s not just that. It’s the fact that anything that you will encounter in Morocco, you’ll be hard pressed to find it elsewhere in the world. Be it the type of architecture, the mouthwatering tajines and couscous, the cosy djelaba gown or the famed argan oil, Morocco just does things differently, and that is what makes it more alluring to its visitors. Oh, and did I mention the huge variety of stunning landscapes that are also on offer? If you’re asking me whether you should go to Morocco, well I’m asking you, why the hell haven’t you been yet?

Landscape

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Morocco offers stunning landscape to wander around. It has nice beaches too, but they were not a part of my itinerary. Clockwise from left: outside Ifrane;  sunset in Sahara desert; on the way to Merzouga; farming land near Volubilis; Skoura valley with date palm oasis; Tizi N’Tichka pass (highest motorable pass in Morocco)

Architecture

Mosques, madressas (Islamic schools), mausoleums

Mosques, madressa and mausoleums play an integral role in Morocco’s religious life and it is no wonder that Moroccans have traditionally invested a lot of effort in designing these spaces. The mosques range from very old and historic to very new; very grand to  very humble. Mosques usually stand on their own, although madressas and mausoleums can also feature a mosque within their compound. 

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Religion and architecture (clockwise from left): the famous Hassan II mosque, Casablanca; women’s section of mosque beside mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat; the inside of men’s section of a mosque at a highway restaurant; a village mosque; the famous Koutubia mosque, Marrakech
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Religion and architecture (clockwise from left): mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, Meknes; the famous Qarawayyin mosque, Fes; madressa in Chellah, Rabat; mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat; madressa Attarine, Fes; madressa Bou Inania, Meknes

Rural

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Rural- scape: Humble housing in villages. Houses are made of sun-hardened mud bricks, then additional mud is plastered over to increase durability.

Kasbah

Kasbah means either a fortified house or a village. Kasbahs are a reminder of Morocco’s rich history when different dynasties competed for power. The design of kasbahs placed more emphasis on practicality than aesthetics. Kasbahs provided protection against various adverse elements, such as an outside enemy, severe weather, and drought. 

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Kasbah living (clockwise from left): Kasbah Amridil (fortified house); Kasbah Amridil from inside; the oldest kasbah in Morocco; Ait Benhaddou (fortified village)- the site of filming of many movies such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones.
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Kasbah living: Kasbah Oudaia (fortified village), Rabat. 

The inside of this kasbah stores a very nice surprise once you walk in. The old, stoic exterior gives way to refreshingly chic interior and is a great example of Moroccan culture infused with European influence. These photos do not do justice to how beautiful a walk down the meandering lanes of this kasbah really is. 

Palaces

The Royal Palace of Fes, or Dar-el Makhzem, is a 17th century palace that is still used as the residence of the royal family when they are in the city. As a consequence, the palace is off limits to public. 

The word ‘bahia’ in Marrakech’s Bahia Palace means beautiful in Arabic. It was built by Morocco’s grand vizier Si Moussa in 1860s, although additional features were added by his slave (who later made himself the vizier) Abu Bou Ahmed.This final version of the palace was supposed to house Ahmed’s four wives and 24 concubines. 

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Palaces of Morocco (clockwise from left): Stunning brass door handle at the Royal Palace, Fes; Royal Palace in Fes (entry is not permitted inside); brass gate in full glory; Bahia Palace, Marrakech; ornate detailing on Bahia Palace’s exterior
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Bahia Palace, Marrakech
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Bahia Palace, Marrakech. Clockwise second photo from left: Riad, or courtyard, of the palace. A ‘riad’also means garden, greenery, or richness in Arabic and Saudi Arabia’s capital ‘Riyadh’ takes its name from this particular term.

Funduqs (Caravanserais)

A funduq was another type of ancient building frequently found in Morocco. It was used as a commercial as well as a residential property by merchants visiting a city. The bottom floor functioned as a store whereas the upper floors were reserved as residential quarters.

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The Nejjarine Complex (Funduq), Fes
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The Nejjarine Complex (Funduq), Fes

Throughout Morocco, the most stunning and unique examples of buildings I came across were from the Marinid dynasty. The Marinids were a Berber dynasty that ruled from 12th to 14th century in Morocco. Their buildings are distinguished with elaborate carvings in plaster, zellij (tilework) and generous use of cedar wood. The amalgamation results in a resplendent form of architecture that is unlike anything I have ever witnessed. 

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Madressa Bou Inania, Meknes
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Carvings in plaster are utilised lavishly, not just in Marinid architecture but even in buildings proceeding that period. 
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Exquisite cedar wood carving
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Madressa Al-Attarine, Fes
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Food

The mainstay of Moroccan cuisine is couscous and tagine, and they come in a lot of variety. Do try their harissa (chilli sauce), harira (chickpea soup), pastilla (sweet-savoury pie), and camel meat. FYI if you are a vegetarian, you will not be let down by the local cuisine. Moroccans are not raging meat eaters, despite popular belief. This is mainly due to the cost of meat being high and the average family size still being large by many people’s standards (around 5 children!)

Try these drinks: mint tea, nous nous coffee (means half coffee, half milk), avocado-orange juice, Hawaii® tropical juice (commercial drink with soda), panache tropical juice (freshly made fruit juice in restaurants)

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Morocco Feed (clockwise from left): vegetarian couscous; vegetarian appetisers spread; chicken pastilla; berber eggs; standard breakfast fare; harira (chickpea soup); chicken tagine. Centre image: camel meat burger
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Morocco Feed (clockwise from left): Homemade harissa paste (red chillies, lemon, garlic) from a Berber family in M’Goun Valley; mint tea; Hawaii tropical drink; street food with panache tropical drink on extreme left at Djmaa el Fnaa, Marrakech; cactus fruit (another street delight); orange-avo juice

Medinah and souqs 

Medinah refers to the old part of a city and souq is a market, which is commonly found inside a medinah. A stroll through the souq can be quite an experience, which will feel like a sensory explosion. A souq sells all sorts of things that are required in everyday Moroccan life- clothes, food, groceries, accessories, home items, you name it. However, each craft has its own section inside a souq, such as the brassware section, the leather section, the ceramic section etc. There are convoluted little maze-like lanes in which you can get blissfully lost (or frustratingly lost if you have less time on hands). You will get persistent shopkeepers calling you out in Arabic or French to look at their wares and if you decide to go in, there will be plenty of haggling involved. 

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Souq inside Fes medinah
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Souq inside Meknes medinah
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Souq inside Marrakech medinah

About

She wanted to travel the world…and so she did.

Anonymous (but describes me well)
About the blog

Hey there!
My name is Vrushali, and welcome to Navigating Without Borders! Having lived in five cities in three different countries, the desire to know various cultures was long planted inside me, way back in my childhood.
As a person with a constant hunger to travel, I found this blog with the intention of recording my experiences visually and in writing. Here, you will find photo essays with some of my best visual work under the ‘Inspire Me’ section, in case you are in need of some travel inspiration (don’t judge me- I’m still learning!). And for those of you who already know where they want to go, you will find posts related to some practical information about your next destination under the ‘Travel Guide’ section.
For other travel- related topics, such as my personal observations and reflections, be sure to check out the ‘Other Resources’ section.
I hope that through this blog, we are able to interact and inspire each other in equal measures.
My website is still a work in progress as this is not my full- time job, so just be sure to bookmark it, subscribe to it, visit it often and you won’t miss out on any new adventures!
Also, be sure to follow me on my Instagram as it gets updated more frequently than my blog.
See you soon!

About the woman behind the blog

Vrushali D is a travel enthusiast who is always searching for her next adventure. When not travelling, she likes to focus on writing, flexing her culinary muscles, practising yoga and exploring anything Spanish. Her Spanish exploration has led to her spending a year in Madrid, learning Castellano and rediscovering her passion for following her dreams.

Cover photo: View of the old city of Jodhpur from Mehrangarh Fort, Rajasthan.