April 2020, the month of coronavirus lockdown. My breathing exercises in spring views of East London, UK

I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.

It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.

Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.

Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.

Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.

Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.

Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.

As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.

This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.

The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.

Canary Wharf

Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.

A walk in the port of Piraeus

Westward from the ferry port for destinations to the Cyclades and Crete, the port of Pireaus has a few hidden surprises.

Boats get larger and the space wider, abandoned warehouses as a backdrop, grafitti and murals galore.

The Chinese Road and Belt initiative will be redeveloping this area and on a beautifully sunny autumnal Sunday morning, I could not find an excuse to not document the blue of the sea with the yellows and blues of the ferries and the brownish grey concrete warehouses overshadowing the port streets.

I can’t predict what the port will look like in the future development, however I know for sure, the colourful ferries will still be floating on the beautiful coloured sea all the same.

Liguria, La Spezia and Cinque Terra

Best known for the five cliff hanging villages along the coast, Liguria offers an authentic taste of Italian daily life by the seaside.

I will begin with La Spezia. A true working port, La Spezia stole my hear not just for its maritime history. It is a truly multi cultural town, dotted with people from accross the globe. Along with the traditional Italian shops and cafes, many other outlets are run by North Africans, Colombians, central Africans, and Asians.

Architecturaly the town is brimming with traditional sepia coloured three floor tall houses, churches from centuries ago and stately complexes embracing church squares. The buildings feature high ceilings, large windows caressing the sharp shadows cast by the blissful Ligurian sun, spacious rooms and grand communal spaces.

The pace of life in La Spezia is slow. Even though I visited during a cold spell in early March, no rain or dropping temperatures can hurry the locals. And that’s the uniqueness of the town in comparison to other. Even though it is the gateway to Cinque Terra, and tourism is a key component to the local industry, it didn’t feel rushed or a place where locals hassle for a quick return. They appear relaxed, welcoming, open to chat and give directions.

The station is a central hub for trains to neighbouring towns and the main big cities in Italy like Genova, Rome and Milan. With a day travelcard, all of the five villages in Cinque Terra are made accessible in less than twenty minutes. Trains run twice an hour until midnight. In the summer, for those seeking the options of a town, an affordable option is staying in La Spezia and coast hopping across the beaches and fishing enclaves of Cinque Terra during the day.

The winning factor in all of this is the weather. The climate is mild, with plenty of sun and a light humidity bringing up the smells of the sea and mixing them up with that of the coastal flora and fauna and the warmth of the earth. Palm trees, pine trees, cactuses…you get the picture. For a real treat take the train from Milan trailing through Genova along the coast where you can discover the many more picturesque towns and villages spreading all along the coast, with none being similar to the other.

Cinque Terra is definitely the right choice for the most romantic and adventurous out there. The five villages of Monterosso, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza are stunning clusters of pretty multi levelled dwellings swirling down to the fishing ports, interconnected by a maze of steep climbing stairs, walkways and paths layered at variable levels of cobble and tile alleys between, under and below each architectural masterpiece.

The train service makes this a really accessible adventure, with the option of spending a couple of hours at each village, feasible, and even more so being well connected to major city airports a mere couple of hours away.

For a memorable breathtaking break in Europe, search no further. This is truly a stunningly beautiful and unique yet low budget opportunity for a break away from the city hassle in a landscape laid out unlike anything you may have seen before.