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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24 Hours in Roma

On the way home, we had 24 hours in Rome. My parents stayed for another day and W two more, but E, J and I had to get back to London.

We walked through Rome. All over Rome. W is pretty sure he saw almost every corner of Rome on foot. But I only made it to the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon and the Piazza Navona.  We also ate very well and I would recommend all of the restaurants and bars we sampled.

For dinner on Saturday night we went to Roscioli and then for drinks we went to a wine bar called Il Vinaietto and a beer bar called Open Baladin. Il Vinaiettio was very relaxed and inexpensive but Open Baladin took itself quite seriously.

The next day we walked through the Forum and down to the Pyramid of Cestius and went to Eatily. I had already been to the Eatily in New York, but Rome’s has a very different energy. It’s kind of like an upscale, Italian food, mega mall – in a good way. We had lunch there and then bought loads of goodies.  Then said goodbye to each other and to Italy…

Pictures:

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Trevi Fountain

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The Pantheon

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A weird picture of Fiumi Fountain

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Open Baladin – those are all bottles of beer

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Even gladiators need a rest.
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Ciao Roma (instagram filtered…)

Umbria (III): Assisi and Todi

Assisi

We headed to Assisi on Wednesday and planned to ‘meet at the Basilica’ which was only slightly confusing given the large number of  churches in this small hill-top town. In the end though we all found our way to the Basilica di San Francisco d’Assisi. Truly the main event.

The Basilica was easily one of my favorite places that we visited in Italy. My dad didn’t feel like we gave him enough time to see all of the art inside the upper and lower churches and I definitely would have gone back, but mostly to take pictures of the facade. After the Basilica we had a quick lunch then wondered through the town and up to the castle to see the views back over the Basilica and into the valleys below.

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 Meet you at the Basilica…

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Basilica of San Francesco

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Silly pictures with J

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A view from the castle looking down on the Basilica

Todi

I went to Todi on our last day in Umbria only with my bro and J. It was a really lovely little town. But we were mostly there for lunch. Unfortunately, we learned in Italy that you can have a bad meal. Even an expensive bad meal. So, with trip advisors as our guide we went to Todi to Antica Hosteria de la Valle. It was delicious and worth the trip. But the food was very very rich.

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The boys and someone’s Nonni #notmynonni

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 That’s not meat, it’s truffle.

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W, overexposed.

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W’s feet

 

Easter Monday by the Sea

West Sussex, England

April 2014

One afternoon away

Me, E and J

By Train

What I read:

Love in Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford

The gist of it:

On Easter Monday we got a train from London to the coast. We got off at Goring-by-Sea and walked down the stony beach (aprox. 6 miles) to East Beach Cafe in Littlehampton. The day was overcast, but still warm for April and there were  a few kids and a lot of dogs brave enough to get their feet wet.

The walk is not long, but walking on sand and stones is tiring, so we were very hungry for lunch. The food was delicious, fishy, fair and I would definitely go back for the calamari alone. We got back on the train at Littlehampton in the afternoon and were home before dinner time.

Photos:

I was pretty lazy about taking pictures, but I got a few I am pleased with from our walk.

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Istanbul

Istanbul
March 2014
Four days away
Me and J
By British Airways
Stayed at Pera Palace Hotel

What I read:
The Istanbul Lonely Planet Guide Book (this is not a lie or a shameless plug for Lonely Planet, but Istanbul and its history are fascinating. This, along with the fact that my knowledge was so lacking, meant I actually did read the guide book cover to cover)
The Economist magazine

The gist of it:
J and I booked this weekend in January via the BA sale and got a great deal on flights and accommodation for this weekend. We knew the weather in March would not be hot, but we did not anticipate quite how much rain we would see in Istanbul. It rained for the entire the trip. But, that did not (really) get in the way and I loved Turkey so much, I am trying to convince J we should got back this summer.

Our hotel was beautiful and historic, which we had no idea about until we arrived and were treated to a ride in Istanbul’s first elevator. The Pera Palace hotel was built to house travelers visiting Istanbul on the Orient Express. It is beautiful and the service was excellent and the sauna was much needed to dry off after our days in the rain.

We arrived in Istanbul on Saturday around mid-day and spent the afternoon exploring Beyoglu. Over the course of the weekend we saw many of the city’s landmarks including Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, the Spice Bazaar and the Grand Bazaar. We also saw dervishes whirl in a traditional ceremony at the Galata Mevlevii Museum (see photos below). Everything we saw was incredible, in particular Hagia Sofia, which is definitely not to be missed despite the flocks of tourists. 
 
Eating was also a central feature to our trip and did not disappoint. Not one of our meals was less than great and I was nowhere near being sick of meze and grilled meats by the time we left. My top food recommendations are Sehzade Cag Kebabi  and Meze by Lemon Tree, but we also had great meals at Sofyali 9 and the House Cafe (which we later found out is a chain). We also had some very tasty pides (kind of like Turkish pizzas) at Hocapasa Pidecisi, which is on the same street as Cag Kebabi. Despite Hocapasa Pidecisi humble exterior the food was excellent and we were told by our kind waiter, who also took the photo of me and J below, that it had been run by the same family for three generations.
 
There was loads to buy in the bazaars, but J and I were restrained. For any girls who are fans of Anthropology’s jewelry, the Grand Bazaar has a wealth of jems to pine after at very reasonable prices. I bought one pair of earrings and we also picked up a few hand-painted bowls and loads of spices and teas. We may have gotten a little carried away at the spice bazaar, seeing as are now not quite sure what we bought in our unmarked bags!
Top food recommendations:
Neither of these places can be called hidden gems, as they were recommended by friends, guide books and a variety of reputable publications, but that does not mean they are not worth visiting.

Sehzade Cag Kebabi (delicious kebabs close to the Spice Bazaar)
Meze by Lemon Tree (up-market Meze in Beyoglu)

Next time:

Too much to list here.

Pictures:

The weather and the byzantine architecture worked against my cause on the photo front, but here are a few of the best ones from the places we visited.

The patisserie in the Pera Palace Hotel. This photo does not do all of the pink justice.
The view from the Galata Tower
Hagia Sofia
That awkward moment when the person serving your table catches you taking a picture of your tea and coffee (above) and then insists on taking a photo of you drinking said tea and coffee.
The Spice Market
Whirling Dervishes at Galata Mevlevii Museum
Topkapi Palace
Sehzade Cag Kebap (so delicious)
The Grand Bazaar

28 in Paris

Paris

February 2014

Three days away

Me and J

By Eurostar

Stayed at La Villa Saint Germain

What I read:

Dear Life by Alice Munro, PORTER magazine (highly recommend both)

The gist of it:

I didn’t know that I was going to Paris until the day before we left. The trip was a surprise for my 28th birthday from my boyfriend (!!!). I have been to Paris a few times before, so did not feel any pressure to see all of the sights.

Paris is a city that proceeds itself in my opinion. But Paris does not disappoint. We spent our three days wondering and sitting in cafes. We also went to the Musée Rodin and the Centre Pompidou, both of which I had never visited. I have spent an afternoon sitting outside the Centre Pompidou in the sunshine, which I also highly recommend, but the gallery itself was wonderful. Living in London, I am spoiled by having the Tate Modern so close, but the Centre Pompidou has a very different energy. We also had a wonderful lazy lunch of big French salads at La Fonde just around the corner.

My favorite meal of our trip was at Bar du Central, not least because it was my birthday lunch. I should mention I am also easily pleased with a standard French menu including big salads and a few steak options. For dinner I would also recommend Peres et Filles and Los Cocettes, which has a more adventurous menu.  Los Cocottes does not take reservation, however, so get there with plenty of time.

Although I do love shopping in Paris, I saved J the stress of my taking hours trying on a million dresses only to decide I want the first one. I did, however, buy some lovely napkins from Simrane, a store I would highly recommend, and finally tracked down Dior Glow lip stick/gloss (?) that I now love.

Next Time:

I want to try Le Pantruche restaurant.

Photos:

Just a few of my favorites from a mix of the places we wondered. I took most of them, except for the last few of me in the Palais Royal, which J took on my birthday.

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Jardin du luxembourg

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Musée Rodin

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Pont Alexandre III

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Notre Dame (obligatory)

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Marché Bastille

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Palais Royal