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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The view from our hotel room

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plaza de la Constitucion

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Playa de la Concha

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Atlantic swells

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My feet in the aquarium

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photographing strangers in the aquarium

IMG_8046

Lunch at Narru (instagram filtered)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our massive bed

IMG_8047

IMG_4908IMG_4844

pintxos on pintxos on pintxos

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking back at the beautiful Hotel Maria Cristina

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So long San Sebastian

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Copenhagen

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is it too early for spring? Probably.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of Torvehallerne’s produce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Botanisk Have

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

K in Botanisk Have

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rosenborg Slot

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kongens Have

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kastellet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Den lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The atrium at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

K wandering through the Glyptotek

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A snowy corner in Christianshavn

IMG_7830

 

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brandenburg Gate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reichstag

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Holocaust Memorial

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Berlin Wall

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Currywurst at Curry 66

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Postdamer Platz

24 Hours in Boston

Boston

September 2014

Me and J

By British Airways

Stayed at The Langham

What I read:

Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton

The gist of it:

J and I flew to the states for a week for some New England time with my family and my cousin’s wedding (!). We decided to spend 24 hours in Boston on the way up to New Hampshire, so J could see the sites and so I could see a few old friends.

I haven’t spent much time in Boston as an adult. It’s a beautiful city, filled with Irish bars as J noted. When we arrived we went to Bostonia for drinks and appetizers. The food was only ok, considering how expensive it was, but the live music was really fun.

The next day we wondered through Boston common down to Newbury street then back to the waterfront and we went to Legal Seafood for lunch. It’s the same as I remember! We then stopped by Cambridge to see Harvard and the bride and groom to be for a coffee before driving to NH.

Pictures:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Boston Public GardenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The local hawk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Puritans did not mess around when it came to gravestones

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh America.

Norfolk August Weekend

Norfolk, England

August 2014

Me, J and J’s Family

1 weekend away

By Train

Stayed with J’s family

What I read:

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (highly recommend)

The gist of it:

We have spent many weekends in Norfolk with James’ dad and step mom. The house and the area around are beautiful in every season. Here are a few photos of Norfolk in August.

Pictures:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prague

Prague, Czech Republic

May 2014

Four days away

Me and J

By British Airways

Stayed at Art Deco Imperial Hotel (art deco is an understatement)

What I read:

A Girl is Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride (not an easy read, but kind of worth it)

The gist of it:

It’s not all cheap beer and stag parties in Prague. But there is a lot of that too. J and I booked this trip in January, again through the BA sale, for the May bank holiday weekend. Although it rained a little the first two days, the end of the weekend was glorious.

We stayed in the Old Town and spent our first afternoon wondering. Prague is beautiful. The cobblestones streets are lined with buildings that look like candy boxes with everything from designer shops, to gothic monuments, to many, many beer bars.  We had a great time checking out some of Prague’s contemporary art galleries on our first afternoon and I had to restrain myself from buying something I couldn’t afford at praguekabinet. We also stumbled upon an installation of books in a library just off the Old Town Square, which was very cool (pictures below).

On our first  day we had a great Italian lunch at Aldente (highly recommend).  On the whole, we had a lot of great food in Prague, although none of it was traditional Czech fair. The bread dumplings just never did it for me and we tried! We really tried.  J and I also had a good meal at School and I loved Bake Shop. On Saturday night we went big with the six course tasting menu at La Degustation, which was unsurprisingly excellent.

There are many sights to see in Prague. We wondered around the castle, but only made it inside St Vitus Cathedral. The Sternberg palace has a wonderful little collection of old Masters and for some reason it was not nearly as busy as the tourist attractions around it. The Jewish Museum was very busy, but we managed to squeeze in with the crowds.

On Sunday, we went for a long walk up around the castle and past the Petrin Lookout tower than back down to the river and home. This was probably my favorite day. There are two big parks on the Northwest side of the vltava, which are beautiful. It was almost warm enough to just lay in the grass, but not quite. Although a little off the beaten track, Pivovarksy Klub, where we went Sunday evening, has an excellent beer selection. Of the tankovna pubs we went to, my favorite was U Pinkasu, around the corner from Wenceslas square, but if you go, definitely sit in the smoking section. Despite the smell, it has a much better atmosphere.

On our last morning, we wondered over to Zizkov’s Tower to see David Cerny’s space age babies. When it was almost time to go, I of course dragged J back to Hard Decore to buy some earrings.  The store is a mix of jewelry and clothes, all Czech designed and made – definitely worth checking out.

Tourists traps:

After walking by the ham roasting over coals in Old Town Square once, J and I were convinced that this was street food worth savoring. Unfortunately, the food is charged by weight and so the headline prices are completely misleading. We paid more to stand up eating that ham than for any other lunch we ate. The ham ended up just tasting expensive.

Top recommendations:

American Black Ale (ABA) at the Pivovarsky Klub. This is probably one of those really annoying recommendations that is impossible to find. BUT, if you go to the to Pivovarksy Klub and they have ABA on draft, order it!

Next time:

Try to get tickets to the ballet or the opera.

Photos:

Kind of a mix of pictures, but I admit there are a lot from the book installation and Zizkov’s tower. I took all of them except for the picture in Le Degustation and the picture of me below the tower.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bubbles in the Old Town Square

P5020742

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Book tower installations in a library just off the Old Town Square

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most expensive street food of all time in the Old Town Square

P5030763

We never made it to the museum, but I love this poster.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

St Vitus Cathedral

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Me and Hans Holbein’s Hohenburg Altar at the Sternberg Palace

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Streets of Prague

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The view from J’s seat in La Degustation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A view of the Vltava and some of Prague’s bridges

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Zizkov Tower and around

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prague train station

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That hair.

 

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.

Image

 

Jardin du luxembourg

Image

Image

Musée Rodin

Image

Pont Alexandre III

Image

Notre Dame (obligatory)

Image

Marché Bastille

Image ImageImage

Palais Royal