On Brexit

As most of you know, I am an American living in London. So many of my US friends and family asked what I thought about Brexit, the email below was edited to the point of publishing. At least publishing here.

 

Hey,

I feel sad about the Brexit vote. It has been weeks and I just can’t shake it.

Migration is one, if not the, key issue here. This mentality is at its best protectionist and at its worst xenophobic.  Both feel like a step back for British society. The UK has always seemed to me a more tolerant place than the US, but the Brexit vote brings that into question. I do not, by any stretch, think that most people who voted to leave are racists or any of the other horrible words thrown around the Internet. The problem is with rhetoric and thinking like that used by Nigel Farage vindicated by the leave vote, this condones the behavior of racists and bigots. It also condones a mentality, which allows people to speak out because they are afraid of people who are not like them. We have already seen the impact of this.

I understand there is a case to be made for protectionism. There are costs related to free movement of labor that are not included in GDP numbers. There are costs to workers, to communities, to families. These may be the people who feel angry right now. There are a huge number of people in the UK who feel disenfranchised by globalization. They feel hard-done-by in the context of recent history. (There are parallels to what is happening the US, but not worth getting into here). By voting to leave the EU, their voice has been heard. It makes me sad that I don’t know of an alternative solution from remain policy makers that addresses their needs.

But, the leave campaign sold them a story that was disingenuous and an oversimplification of complex issues. They were not explained why a strong sterling is important to the UK economy. The UK is a much greater importer than exporter, the prices people pay for everyday goods reflect the strength of the sterling. If GBP falls, prices across the UK may rise. Inflation is scary. The property market is the cornerstone of household wealth in the UK (no pun intended). This is propped-up by foreign investment and the view that the UK is a stable, low risk place to invest. The Brexit vote has brought that into question. Foreign investment has already started to slow. This will hurt house prices and the UK economy more broadly. Did the people who voted leave ever think the value of their house would fall? Or that this would result in jobs leaving the UK? Probably not. Understanding the impact of trade, foreign exchange, movement of labor and FDI on the economy and on the middle class’s lifestyle is complex. I expect leave voters truly had no idea of the risks they were taking. We have already seen the leaders of the leave campaign shirk under the weight of their responsibility to steer the UK economy through the next few years. They did not have a plan. That’s terrifying.

Finally, if the UK is able to meaningfully change immigration policy (which will be hard to impossible without destroying its trade deals with the EU), this will slowly but surely make Britain a less competitive economy. In a number of years, it will no longer have a seat at the table with the world’s powers. Regardless of how Britain views itself, the strength of its economy and its attractiveness to investors will be judged on the world’s stage and it looked much stronger in the EU than out.

So yeah, I feel sad. I feel sad because Farage won. In the words of Gary Lineker, he’s a dick. I feel sad because middle class people were miss-sold a broken dream. I feel sad that politicians who have not resorted to demagoguery do not have a satisfying answer to address leave voters concerns. I feel sad that a country I love is going to face years of an uphill battle, it did not have to fight. I feel sad that London, which has thrived culturally and economically as a European hub, risks losing its non-British population.

Love, M.

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Donostia

San Sebastian and Bilbao

March 2016

2 Days away

Me and J

By British Airways

Stayed at the beautiful Hotel Maria Cristina

The gist of it:

I turned 30 in February. Don’t worry before turning 30 I freaked out and booked trips to Bali and Ibiza, so it is not all bad. But I turned 30. And for my birthday J took me to San Sebastian (Donostia) for the weekend.

I have wanted to visit San Sebastian for years. I clearly spoke about it a lot as well (sorry J) because he knew just where to take me. Suffice to say, he nailed the weekend. Also, it is a great place to visit and relax because there is not much to do there besides enjoy the food, wine and seaside. That said I still managed to convince J to go to the aquarium, which is great.

The main event in San Sebastian is the pintxos. The first night I convinced J to book us a tour guide to take us bar hopping. It definitely was not necessary but I enjoyed getting to know our guide and chatting about her life as a 20-something girl in Basque country. We have done a lot of traveling, J and I, but we rarely get a chance to hang out with a local that way. Our guide was very well informed, but she did tell us that txakoli (the local white wine) had so little alcohol that “you cannot get drunk” drinking it. 4 four bars in, I definitely figured out that was not true.

I feel like I should recommend bars and pintxos, but there were so many great places and so many delicious things. A few that really standout – Zeruko, recommended dish the bonfire. Borda Berri, veal cheek with red wine sauce and the grilled octopus. Martinez, stuffed pepper. Gandarias, the sirloin. We also had a lovely sit down lunch at Narru.

On Sunday we went to the airport via the Guggenheim Bilbao. I did not know what to expect, but I really enjoyed the museum. It is a manageable size and I am a huge fan of Richard Serra. We ended up having lunch in the museum because of bags and convenience. The restaurant was again great. I wonder when do the Basques eat badly?

What I read:

Original by Adam Grant (highly recommend)

What I re-read/watched:

Having a Coke with You by Frank O’Hara because San Sebastian.

Top recommendations:

Just go.

Next time:

I would definitely book one, or more than one, of the Michelin starred restaurants outside of town. They are expensive and we were only there for two days, but next time. The one we considered booking was Arzak.

Pictures:

I will fully admit that I failed photographing this weekend for the blog. I find shooting food indoors difficult and, honestly, I just wanted to enjoy every pintxos, instead of photographing every pintxos. So, I am sorry about that.

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The view from our hotel room

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J in the rain. Did I mention it rained all weekend?

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Plaza de la Constitucion

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Playa de la Concha

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Atlantic swells

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My feet in the aquarium

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Photographing strangers in the aquarium

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Lunch at Narru (instagram filtered)

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Our massive bed

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pintxos on pintxos on pintxos

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Looking back at the beautiful Hotel Maria Cristina

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So long San Sebastian

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Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

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Koons’ Tulips

 

Copenhagen: Palm Trees & January

Copenhagen

January 2016

3 Days away

Me and my cousin K

By British Airways

Stayed at this lovely Airbnb

The gist of it:

K and I were committed to going on a weekend away together this past January. We went through a list of options and settled on Copenhagen, where neither of us had ever been. Even though January was a cold time to visit and the days were short, everywhere we visited was bustling. Cold countries know how to keep warm in winter.

We stayed at an AirBnB in Vesterbro. The location was slightly outside town but the trains were great. Even when I screwed up the currency  conversion and put over GBP 100 on my travel card (idiot), the lovely lady working at the ticket counter in the train station refunded me the cash no questions asked. I will forever be grateful to the people who work for the Danish metro.

We found everything we thought we would find in Copenhagen – amazing food, drinks and design. Even the 7/11s were a delight. Two of my favorite spots we went to were bars, Mikkeller Bar (craft beer) and Lidkoeb (cocktails). We also ate well. Which you would expect! For our expensive dinner we went to Cofoco and it was really not that expensive in the end. I did not know when I booked it but the brand Cofoco was everywhere! The chef clearly has a knack for expansion. Our meal was delicious as well.

We walked a lot. I feel like we saw most of the city, but we did not put any pressure on ourselves to see all the sites.  The Tivoli gardens were closed for winter, so we could not see the site. We didn’t go into the design museum but the gift shop is great.

One of the only destination on our list was the Torvehalleren. K works for the Boston Public Market and wanted to check out the Danish equivalent. We also stumbled into the botanical gardens and Ny Carlsberg Glyptoteket. Both of which featured palm trees in abundance. We ended up having lunch in the atrium of the Glyptoteket to spend more time in the green. The lunch, like everything else in Copenhagan, did not disappoint.

What I read:

How to be Both by Ali Smith

Photos:

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Copenhagen

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Is it too early for spring? Probably.

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Some of Torvehallerne’s produce

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Botanisk Have

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K in Botanisk Have

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Rosenborg Slot

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Kongens Have

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Kastellet

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Den lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid)

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The atrium at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

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K wandering through the Glyptotek

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A snowy corner in Christianshavn

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Girl’s Guide to Paris

For those of you who follow me on Instgram (@mazpol), you will know that I have been to Paris quite a lot recently but I have not blogged about it. My girlfriends and I have been making an effort to go because we all turn 30 this year (gulp) and it is such a doable trip. I do not have a lot of pictures to share because the trips have been about coffee, shopping, wandering, wine and seeing where the night takes us. But I wanted to do a post so that I have the beginnings of a list of my favorite Parisian restaurants/shops/bars in one place. The stories are not for the internet.

Location, location:

Airbnb! One the best parts of being Paris are the markets, the boulangerie and the fromagerie. Its easier to embrace it, if you are staying in an apartment. I think the best neighborhood for tourists is Le Marais. It is really central but still feels like a neighborhood. Clearly the Latin Quarter has its charms but it’s a little more touristy in my opinion.

We have recently stayed a little further out, close to Republique and Oberkampf. Lots of fun bars and restaurants around. It is also slightly less stuffy, and definitely less expensive, than central Paris.

Restaurants:

Ober Mamma – Pizza and hot waiters (sorry J).

Le Dauphin – French tapas in a cool minimal interior.

Brasserie Barbès – Sit upstairs for a view of the busy street below.

Hôtel Costes – Cool and knows it. Only come close to pay day.

Le Derriere – The interiors alone are worth a visit.

Le Fumoir – I went here with colleagues, when I was in Paris for work. It was busy, tasty and central.

La place du Marché-Saint-Honoré is not a restaurant. It’s a square in central Paris with a bunch of good lunch spots.

Bars:

Andy Wahloo – I have never actually been, but I really want to go. It’s next to Le Derriere.

Le Perchoir – great view, cool crowd.

Café de Flore – technically a restaurant, also an institution.  The food is expensive. Best to stop by for a coffee or glass of wine and sit outside.

Candelaria – cocktails!  Better for small groups or couples.

For Later:

Silencio – Full disclosure, I am no pro when it comes to club research. Carmen has also been recommended to me. Pigalle has a bunch of late night options.

Shopping:

Chatelles – chic slippers.

Eric Bompard – cashmere, cashmere, cashmere.

Le Bon Marche – everything in one place.

A.P.C., Isabel Marant, Sandro – I know they are pretty much everywhere but if it is les soldes. There is also a Sandro outlet, or a Sandro with last season’s clothes, at 26 rue de Sévigné.

Maison Kitsuné – because Kitsuné.

Simrane – prints to die for.

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Andalucia – Ronda

Ronda, Spain

3 Days

By our trusty car rental and via Antequera

Stayed at Finca Naranja

The gist of it:

The last stop on our road trip was Ronda. We got there via Antequera. Antequera was lovely but there was a Flintstones (?) carnival going on, which was as weird as it sounds. We had a GREAT lunch at Coso San Francisco in case you ever find your self in this lovely white town of Andalucia.

Ronda was beautiful and felt posher than everywhere else that we visited. It’s not a big place and we quickly found our way around the cobblestone streets. A friend of mine, who is a teacher, takes her Spanish class there every year and gave us a great recommendation for dinner – Tragatapas. We also had a tasty lunch at Camelot, which was full of Spanish people.

On the way to the airport we stopped by Montellano, which was a little random, but no one got hit by lightning, so we called it a success.

Pictures:

My camera battery died in Ronda, so a couple of these are from the trusty iPhone.

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The white towns of Andalucia – A view of Antequera

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J on our patio at Finca Naranja

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Me and an orange tree

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Ronda

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Ronda

 

Andalucia – Granada

Granada, Spain

4 Days

Stayed at the lovely Cortijo del Marques

By our trusty car rental

The gist of it:

Through countless rows of olive trees, we arrived at the Cortijo del Marques, our B&B outside of Grenada. The Cortijo was a beautiful spot and very relaxed. I would have spent every day there, but I am glad J got me to get off my sunbed and into town.

Our first day in Granada, we had one of our best meals of the trip at Iberico & Alhambra. It is a tiny shop with only a few tables that served mostly cured meats and salads. I highly recommend it. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Granada and figuring out how to get to tickets to the Alhambra. I really stressed out about that before arriving but once we were there, getting tickets from the Alhambra official shop in town was very easy.

The Alhambra is incredible. But there is a lot of hype. The tickets, parking lots, signs and manicured hedgerows make it feel a little like Disney Land. That may sound cynical. But J and I were both struck by how that changed our experience of exploring the Alhambra. I am not going to try and describe its beauty or its character. The pictures below will scratch the surface for you. But, suffice to say, the Moors knew how to design a palace.

Photos:

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Blue skies and a fall moon over the Alhambra

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Palacio de Comares

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Patio de Arrayanes

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Looking up in Patio de los Leones

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Jardines del Partal

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J and Granada from the Alhambra

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A lone photographer in the Palacio de Carlos V

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Generalife

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View from the Cortijo

 

Andalucia – The Drive to Granada

This is a weird story. On the drive from Cordoba to Granada, we wanted to stop off at small towns in between. It was a great idea in theory, but in practice, was always going to be a little random.

We saw a castle/church on top of a hill that looked easy to get to, so we decided to check it out. As we pulled off the highway it started to rain. It was not raining hard but as we drove towards the castle we saw some lightning.

We decided to go up anyways, and started our hike up and up towards the castle. When we got to the top, there was a little more thunder and lightning. We decided to hang out in a turret before heading over to the church. From there James, suddenly exclaimed ‘I just saw the turret next to us get hit by lightning‘. So I am like crap. This was really stupid,why are we up here, alone, on top of hill, with an umbrella.

It still isn’t raining that hard, so we wait for 15 minutes or so then decide to run over to the church. J is holding the umbrella and I am holding his arm. When we are about half away between the two structures, there is a flash, J yells and drops the umbrella. In a flurry of rain, yelling and general chaso, we run towards the church.

I didn’t feel anything, but J’s hand that was holding the umbrella is in pain. He says it felt like someone pitching his skin really really hard and he felt a shock up his arm… His right hand is swollen. I didn’t feel anything, but definitely saw a flash. J describes the flash as a spark on/around the umbrella.

SO, it is CRAZY to say to that J was hit by lightning. Right?! But equally, what happened? It was so quick and so scary. And I feel like an idiot for insisting we head up there. I definitely insisted we head up there.

Having done some research, we found that lightning can jump. So we think maybe lightning hit the church then wasn’t diverted to the ground properly and jumped to our umbrella?

I honestly don’t know. But it was terrifying.

That night, when we got to our hotel outside Granada, we were greeted by a full rainbow. It was a day of man versus the elements. And I am still not sure how I feel about it.

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The panorama photo is from J’s iphone. This photo is from my camera.

 

 

Andalucia – Cordoba

Cordoba, Spain

1 Day

Stayed at Hotel Las Casas de la Juderia

The gist of it:

We picked up our rent-a-car on Sunday and drove from Seville to Cordoba. We arrived late and went for a quick wonder and some tapas. Cordoba was very quiet on Sunday and Monday. Also, some of the sites were closed on Monday. I would recommend going at a different time of the week, if you are staying longer, but it was fine for us because we were there primarily for the Mezquita.

I learned about the Mezquita in my AP art history class. There is a lot of focus on sacred space in art history and even in that context, the Mezquita stands out. It clearly made an impression on me because I made the journey to see the real thing! It is incredible. A room designed for meditation and peace. It has the scars of changing hands -most notably the nave trust into the middle. In some ways that adds to its intrigue, like the layers of history within Hagia Sofia. But the hypostyle hall is where the power of the building remains.

Pictures:

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Roman Temple of Cordoba

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The Mezquita

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Me in the Patio de los Naranjos

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Inside the Mezquita – not an easy place to take photos!

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Looking back on Cordoba

 

 

Andalucia – Seville

Seville, Spain

September 2015

9 days away

Me and J

By Ryan Air

Stayed all over the place

The gist of it:

J and I spent forever deciding where to go last autumn but we finally settled on the South of Spain, Andalucia. We rented a car and cruised from Seville to Cordoba to Granada to Ronda and back to Seville. It was a great trip and really inexpensive.

We were in Seville for three days, which felt like the right amount of time. The first night we arrived we went to Alameda de Hercules to find a bar that served Mahou and tinto de verano. There were loads of tables outside and people coming and going. We then headed back towards our hotel for dinner at Bar Las Teresas. Bar Las Teresas had a great atmosphere and fun interior. We thought the food was ok but great value for money. Our favorite tapas spot was Bodega Santa Cruz, which was constantly packed. I also really liked our lunch at Mama Bistro, not a tapas place, which had a unique menu. J was less enthusiastic.

My favorite part of Seville was the Alcazar gardens. There is something magical about walled gardens. The Alcazar also reminded me very much of Dorne… Or I should say Dorne (the made-up land in Game of Thrones) takes inspiration from the Alcazar. The pictures below should give you a feel for it. A lot of green and orange. I couldn’t get enough!

We walked a lot and saw a lot of corners of the city. The Plaza de Espana was impressive. Triana was buzzing. We almost went to a bullfight! But J was not so keen. Maybe next time.

Top Seville Recs:

Bodega Santa Cruz for the tapas and the atmosphere! The Alcazar gardens because I never wanted to leave.

What I Read:

I finished the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante – I cannot recommend highly enough. I also read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Next Time:

The beach! And maybe a bull fight.

Photos from Seville:

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Our first night in Seville

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Puente de Triana

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Outside the Cathedral

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Me and the gardens of the Alcazar

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J’s feet

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Alcazar Gardens (or Dorne?)

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More gardens

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I don’t remember the name of this square!

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Plaza de Espana

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Museo Arqueologico

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Bodega Santa Cruz

 

 

Berlin

Berlin

May 2015

4 Days away

Me and J

By British Airways

Stayed at the Westin Grand – This hotel was fine, but I definitely would not stay there again. Central location but nothing going on near by and a very corporate interior.

The gist of it:

We went to Berlin months ago, but I made the mistake of not finishing this post for ages and not taking notes at the time. So it’s going to be a short one.

I feel like we spent our four days in Berlin walking. The city is huge and not very crowded, in a nice way. J and I also like to walk, so walk we did! Berlin feels very different to any other European city I have visited. The 20th century was not kind to Berlin and as a result a lot of it is very modern. I enjoyed that. Berlin even at times reminded me of America.

Berlin’s history also feels very contemporary. The marks of the World Wars and Cold War are there to be seen. I would highly recommend the Holocaust memorial (pictures below). Unfortunately we did not make it see a lot of the Cold War monuments/museums I wanted to visit because they are somewhat outside of the city. One piece of advice we got was to be careful planning our days. Many of the monuments/museums can leave you very sad and too much sadness can weigh on a tourist.

We also had a great time exploring Berlin’s neighborhoods, shops and restaurants. We had great meals at Katz Orange and Monsieur Vuong. I would recommend both. East Berlin has a lot of great Vietnamese restaurants, unsurprisingly. I also did a lot of shopping and bought Birkenstocks (so cheap in Germany!), a dress from APC (French I know but I love it), and some jewelry from TomShot (great for inexpensive unique jewelry).

Unbeknownst to us we booked to go to Berlin on a weekend where galleries all across the city were open. We had a great time exploring and pretending to shop for art. If you are going and you like modern art, definitely book tickets for Sammlung Boros.

What I read and watched:

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (highly recommend)

The Lives of Others – I re-watched this movie before going to Berlin and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Next Time:

I would definitely stay in Alexanderplatz or Friedrichshain. I also really wanted to go to Das Lokal but did not book a table far enough in advance. The Reichstag tour was highly recommended (by everyone) but we did not give ourselves enough time to book tickets. We also did not really explore Berlin’s infamous nightlife…. So lots of reasons to come back.

Pictures

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Brandenburg Gate

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Reichstag

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The Holocaust Memorial

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The Berlin Wall

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Currywurst at Curry 66

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Postdamer Platz