Andalucia in Spring, Part 2: Grazalema and the Sierra del Pinar

If you enjoyed the daffodils in Part 1 of the series, brace yourselves for more plants in Part 2. In this post we travel from the hotel through the village of Grazalema, and we gain a bit of height in the Sierra del Pinar (Pine Grove Mountain Range). To get started, a morning picture from the…

Andalucia in Spring, Part 1 (of many): on the hunt for wild daffodils

As hinted in my previous post (A day in Malaga), I had the wonderful opportunity to co-lead two weeks of nature tour in Andalucia, Southern Spain, last month for Naturetrek. Having painstakingly labelled my 1,143 pictures, I am keen to share a few here (there may be blue sky and colourful flowers involved, I am…

A day in Malaga: beyond the Costa del Sol

I was recently given the wonderful opportunity to co-lead botanical tours in Andalucia, Southern Spain, with the wildlife holidays company NatureTrek. More about that later… As I was getting to Malaga earlier than the group, I had a day to explore the city, and of course to discover its botanical heritage. After a misty arrival…

Alpines treasures in the Swiss Jura mountains

I was lucky last year to be able to attend the 6th Global Botanic Gardens Congress  organised by BGCI (the worldwide association of botanic gardens), possibly the best assembly of people interested in plants, whether they are scientists, gardeners, science journalists or education professionals. Held in Geneva, Switzerland, it took place over a week in June 2017,…

When old and new go together in Malmö, Sweden

As part of the We love plants! conference, our group of speakers was treated to a tour of the city of Malmö. For my 1st visit to Northern Europe, it was a fascinating day of discoveries. It started with a trip to Pildammsparken (the aptly named “Willowpond Park”), the largest park in the city with 45…

First there were rocks…

I am a botanist. I studied taxonomy, I learned all about plant ecology, I spent days looking at pollen grains under a microscope, I became a master of identification keys. Life made me deviate into horticulture, or shall I say, the art of understanding how to keep plants alive in cultivation. There is however one…

Danish day

I was invited earlier this year to talk at a brilliant conference in Malmö, Sweden (more about this later). My travel plans made for an early arrival into Copenhagen, Denmark (different country but only 20 minutes train apart). First glimpse of Scandinavian design at the airport, with this stylish church-like terminal building: As I had…

Borneo memories – Kinabatangan river

This blog post is going to feature a trip I made in 2010 to Borneo’s Kinabatangan river. What could prompt me to go so far down memory lane? The answer is a campaign launched on Twitter to save this Bornean biodiversity heaven from destruction. English naturalist & TV presenter Steve Backshall and his wife, Olympic champion rower Helen…

Austria, from Christmas markets to alpine flora

A trip to Austria’s 4th largest city, Salzburg, in mid-December, surely this means spending days in Christmas markets, tasting bretzels and buying baubles? Truth is, we did try a fair number of mulled wines (and even better, Glühmost, made with apple cider and many spices…hmmm). We enjoyed the sparkling lights, the hearty food, the joyful music and the…

Southern Hemisphere in Scotland: Benmore Botanic Garden

Scotland’s flagship botanic garden, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is, contrary to its name not entirely based in the city of Edinburgh. The collection is split across four sites: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore, each having their own specialties. Benmore, set within the Loch Lomond &  Trossachs National Park, is distinguished by its mountain character, and high rainfall (>2000mm) which makes it such…

A glimpse of Victorian Scotland

A change of scene (and country) for my next posts, which will be taking you to Scotland. The first stop on our trip is the Isle of Bute, a tiny piece of land located 30 miles West of Glasgow. Bute is usually reached by a ferry which arrives in the delightful town of Rothesay. This is the…

Ten days in Vietnam part 8: Last day in Halong Bay

Our next trip in the National Park was the village of Viet Hai, which seems to be a forced stop for tourists who land on Cat Ba Island during their boat tours of the bay. The view, especially around sunset time is pretty: The village in itself has little charm, with its shops selling overpriced fruits and…

Ten days in Vietnam part 7: Cat Ba National Park

I have been ignoring the blog lately, but I think it is now time to finish my little Vietnamese adventure tales. After a night on the boat in Lan Ha Bay, we stopped the next morning on Cat Ba island to visit the 160 km² National Park. We opted for the walking option, which gently followed…

Ten days in Vietnam part 6: from Hanoi to Lan Ha Bay

We leave Sapa in the afternoon, and head back to Lao Cai for the return overnight train journey to Hanoi. After a 2 hour train journey to Hai Phong, and an hour boat journey, we arrive on Cat Ba island, one of the two starting points to explore the very famous Ha Long Bay (think James Bond beach…