One year ago I moved to London knowing almost no one. It was daunting and overwhelming, but here I am a year later settled, happy and celebrating the Hen Do of a new friend!
Kristina had a relaxing weekend in mind for her Hen Weekend, so off we went to Paddington Station where we literally sprinted for our train track. All aboard, out of breath and sweaty, we refreshed ourselves with wine and treats brought over by Claire from France. It was as tasty as you imagine.
1 1/2 hours later, we arrived to the farm and scoped out our cottage. It felt more like walking onto a decor magazine magazine photo shoot than real life.
In addition to several cottages, the Daylesford property also includes a cafe, restaurant, bakery, shop and spa.
It was August, but the weather was even cooler than usual, so e tucked in for a quiet night of pizzas, made on property in the wood oven, a roasting fire and Bridget Jones Diary, which was ironically on TV that night. So corny and perfect at the same time.
Daylesford cottages are stocked with complimentary fresh goodies from the farm, like eggs, milk, bread, biscuits, butter and jam to whip up up a delicious breakfast.
There was a yoga class in an all white barn, which was more of relaxing stretching session than ‘feel the burn’.
Followed by massages, pedicures in a potted shed and naps in their glass serenity lounge.
The rest of the day was totally, utterly and completely lazy…in the best way possible.
When tea time came around (when in England…), we popped into the shop and picked up the most delicious lemon drizzle cake.
I don’t even like lemon, but it was so good that I went back the next day to grab one for my colleagues.
We made our way into ‘town’ that evening where we saw quintessentially English houses and dined at the Wild Rabbit.
Not only is the Wild Rabbit owned by the same woman as Daylesford (so you know it’s going to be incredible), but it also attracts the "Chipping Norton set" (a term I only just learned) and described as the "poshest pub in Britain".
After our dining experience, I completely agree. Compared to a typical gastropub, the Wild Rabbit was definitely cozier…and fancier.
The next day brought our first bit of sunshine, the perfect time to tour the farm and grounds.
Cows, sheep, meadows, berry bushes, rolling hills, babbling brooks….Daylesford has all this and more right on your doorstep.
Over lunch back at the cottage, we began plotting a return trip. It’s such an easy journey from London and everything from the scenery and the food to the staff and the cottages are a A+.
To say I loved Daylesford would be an understatement and I cannot wait to go back and experience even more of what the farm has to offer….particularly the cooking class!
While back home visiting family and friends in July, I spent a lot of time reflecting on the passed year.
What do I like most about life in the UK?
Do I feel like I’ve fit in?
Am I accustomed to British culture?
The answer is….
I’m still not used to unexpected mini rain storms,
Or the constant use of the word “sorry”.
When people ask, I now refer to Lady as a cross, not a mutt,
And I say a meal “tastes nice” instead of “tastes good”.
I mostly drink tea, but if I do have a coffee, I’ll order it as a “skinny latte” instead of “skim”.
Looking right when crossing the street has become automatic,
And I make sure to always keep to the left side of the path.
My vocal intonation changes from time to time depending on how often I’ve been around Brits. My work colleagues get excited and praise me when this happens. My husband calls me bluff.
Thanks to autocorrect (and fear of being pointed out from work associates), I now type with ‘ou’ instead of ‘o’ and ‘s’ instead of ‘z’.
Although I’ve certainly picked up some British habits, if I had to leave tomorrow, I would feel like I haven’t had enough time. It’s feels like I’ve just barely scratched the surface and am only now beginning to understand the English way of life.
For now…..here are some of my favorite bits :)
Favorite part of living in London...The neighborhoods. Not only are there endless pockets of the city to explore, but they’re so charming, so green, so pretty!
Least favorite part of living in London…grey skies. I had a physical reaction to lack of Vitamin D and dance with joy whenever the city is blessed with a sunny day.
I’m most grateful for…Facetime. There’s no replacement for a hug from a loved one, but with Facetime, I don’t miss a beat with my favorite people. In fact, I “see them” more than I used to in the States.
Things I miss most about New York (besides family and friends)…Sushi (it exists, but either Nobu level or fast-food level), affordable manicures,
Things I no longer have, but don’t miss….Air conditioner at home. It never gets hot enough to really miss it.
What’s on the horizon for year two? More travel and adventure. So far we’re planning the following: Indian, China, Burgundy, Portugal, Austria, Scotland, Barcelona, Monaco.
72 Hours in Cinque Terre (and the Italian Riviera)
Photos are the only way,
To hold on to what you knew,
Because the moments they show never change,
When the people in them do. - E.H.
<Note: My travel posts are a detailed account of my experiences. I’m tremendously grateful for every opportunity I have to visit somewhere new….in fact, I cherish it, which is why I write these for my friends and family, but also for myself, as I want to have a place to record these memories. Not in the mood for lots of photos or a play-by-play of my travels? Ciao!>
Two hours west of Florence is a seaside strip of villages, each seemingly in competition with the other to see which can be the most colorful and charming.
Welcome to Cinque Terre.
We arrived just in time for what would end up being one of the top three dining experiences of my life.
La Ruota sits on a cliff in Moneglia, a town just north of the Cinque Terre villages with panoramic views overlooking the Italian riviera. It doesn’t feel like a restaurant….it feels like your sitting in Eduardo’s house. In fact, it is his former home and he was actually born in the same room where we dined.
Eduardo inherited the restaurant from his father and now acts as owner, chef, waiter, bartender, driver (he picks you up and drops you off), and officially the most entertaining person I met in all of Italy.
There’s no menu. You simply pay a fixed price for seven courses and Eduardo works his magic, bringing out dish after dish of whatever was fresh that day from the water just a short walk down the hill. In fact, if he notices that you particularly like a certain dish, he’ll bring out a second helping just because.
There’s also a wine pairing, which typically means you drop a lot of money to taste a bit of wine. This is not the case at La Ruota. For €7 each, Eduardo presented us with a different local wine per course, leaving the bottle on the table to refresh as we wished. Following the meal, he rolled out a cart overflowing with liquors and suggested we taste some. And by ‘some’, he meant pouring us six different glasses.
Just as Joel and I decreed this one of, if not THE most memorable dining experiences of our lives, Eduardo showed us a little article…
Turns out the New York Times food critic agreed and hailed her meal at La Ruota as one of the best of her life, too. As she noted, “price and prestige have nothing to do with the meals I remember best.”
Four+ hours later, just after 1am, Eduardo drove us back down to our hotel and we said goodbye and until next time…
Our hotel was Abbadia San Giorgio, a former monastery inhabited by Franciscan monks in the 15th century. Today it still exudes the same historic and spiritual atmosphere.
We awoke at 6:30am to the sound of the first bell tower chimes. It is, after all, an abbey. After the fourth or fifth round (it rings every half hour), we made our way through the oasis to an elaborate breakfast spread prepared by two older women who we communicated with via our hands instead of words. I knocked out a couple hours of work and chowed down on meats, cheese and focaccia, the latter of which Eduardo had explained was the ‘local breakfast’ as it’s the perfect balance of sweet and salty.
Following another one of Eduardo’s recommendations, we made the scary venture to isolated Guvano Beach nearby the Cinque Terre town of Corneglia.
This blog shares the haphazard directions, but essentially, the trek to get there is just as exciting as the cove itself, including a 1/2 mile walk through a former train tunnel in pure darkness.
This is the entrance, but for the following 15 minute walk, a flashlight is necessary to make your way to the other end.
If the pitch black wasn’t enough to frighten you, just think about the noises….including the train sounds on the other side of the wall that can be mistaken for coming directly at you.
We made our way through and were greeted with this…
The Guvano Beach photos stop here because it’s a nude beach, a first time experience for both Joel and I.
You only live once and, as the saying goes, when in Rome….or anywhere in Italy, I suppose.
Village #1 - Vernazza
This was the busiest of the five towns, although it certainly wasn’t the biggest. I’m also inclined to say it felt the most touristy. One afternoon was plenty of time to dig into some seaside risotto, hike the narrow stairs and take in the view from the center point of the five villages.
Village #2 - Monterosso
Not only is this the biggest of the five villages, but it’s also the only village with a real beach vs the rocky terrain that occupies most of the coast.
We strolled along the boardwalk, another “only-in-Monterosso-ism” before settling in for dinner at Trattoria Ciak La Lampara, where they took the seaside theme very seriously.
Village #3 - Riomaggiore
If there was one village that I’d skip, this would be it. However, it is the most southern of the group and a good starting point for the full hike, which is exactly what we had in mind.
Village #4 - Manarola
Absolutely my favorite of all the Cinque Terre villages. We dove off the cliffs, sprawled out and baked on the slabs of rock and tasted the daily catch with views for days at Billy’s.
Village #5 - Corneglia
This is the sleepiest of the Cinque Terre villages and unlike the other four, it’s located at the top of the cliff, not down by the water. Once you reach Corneglia, it takes another 20+ minutes just to ascend to the top where you’re met with all the houses and only a handful of shops, restaurants, etc.
About 20 minutes north of Cinque Terre is Portofino, another colorful harbor village, but one that felt like it just had a brand new fancy coat of paint. It was definitely the snazziest, most “jet-set” spot on the coast.
While the Cinque Terre villages were filled with visitors from all over the world, Moneglia was full of Italian vacationers. We finally took advantage of a real sand beach and some of the best people watching of the trip, including one epic photo of beach vendors carrying their wares on their head, which has gone missing.
With one final pasta, we said ciao, ciao to Italy…and immediately began plotting a return visit.
"Tuscany, land of fierce hates and wild loves and of limitless passions." - Oscar Fay Adams
This post could also be titled “48 Hours of Eating and Drinking Through Tuscany”.
"Food and Scenery Porn, Italian Style".
Either way, sit back, put your feet up and get ready to virtually fall in love with Tuscany.
After 24 hours in Florence, we hopped into an itty bitty teeny weeny Fiat (Joel naturally had a complex about it) and began the two hour sunset drive to Buenconvento, a town in southern Tuscany.
Thinking about visiting Tuscany?
Do yourself a favor and arrive during sunset. Sure, you’ll have a delayed arrival thanks to the constant pulling over to take pictures, but I can’t imagine a more breathtaking welcome.
Our Tuscan home base was Villa Armena, a family run 16th century house that just opened it’s baroque doors last year. The location is excellent, right in the middle of all the key Tuscan southern towns, while the actual house sits an extra 10 minute drive from the main village through cyprus trees to the tippy top of a hill overlooking the two of the most beautiful parts of Tuscany…
Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site landscape often featured in Renaissance paintings.
Crete Senesi, which consists of a range of hills and woods with a distinctive grey soil color that gives the landscape a “lunar” appearance.
Close your eyes and envision driving to heaven. I imagine this is quite similar.
Villa Armena truly is a family affair. Dad is chef, Mom is the designer and concierge, Grandma is the sommelier, and doggy, Franco, is the welcome wagon. With only ten rooms, it felt more like we were staying at a family friend’s country-home, not a hotel.
A peak outside our window at the purple sky and a deep breath in and I finally felt yes, this is vacation.
We kept the first night low key, taking in the scenery with a simple dinner at the hotel restaurant, which you can watch being cooked from the dining room. This meal turned out the be the most inventive of our trip, including this passion fruit pasta.
Totally bizarre and brilliant at the same time.
Fast forward to the following morning…
When you start a day in Tuscany with a view like this, you know it’s going to be good.
We crammed back into our little baby car, made our way down Villa Armena’s long drive way and began our official Brunello wine day, considered the king of Italian wines.
Winery #1 was Ciacci and Piccolomini. Frankly, I was happy to sit down and call it a day in these vineyards. Postcard anyone?
But, of course, there was wine to taste… (so good. so very good.)
Olive oil to sample…
And property tours to enjoy, including meeting a pack of hungarian wolves that the owner raises on site. Almost the same as dogs, right? They didn’t really get the whole “come here, good boy” thing.
Brunello wine is actually called Brunello di Montalcino, named after the fortressed hilltop village called, you guessed it, Montalcino.
It has all the makings of a quintessential Italian village….
A bell tower…
Small enough to explore completely in less than two hours ….
Joel proclaimed their cappuccino the best he’s ever had, I proclaimed their chili pasta the best I’ve ever tasted, and we both proclaimed the view the best we’ve ever seen.
It was also our cheapest meal in Tuscany.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is a win, win, win, win.
Following Montalcino, we visited winery #2, Castiglion del Bosco. Although there’s a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding this wine label, our guide treated us more like a friend and made us feel right at home, pulling up a chair and joining us for the tasting.
They also have a super secret underground den where I imagine world leaders convene to discuss important secret matters and smoke cigars.
We returned to Villa Armena to drop off our wine goodies, take a snooze, and prepare for the night’s adventure.
On the itinerary? Siena, the main city in Tuscany, and a 30-minute drive north from our home base.
Siena puts on a bit of a front by making you drive through some very serious imposing stone walls…
But once you’re inside, there’s no doubt why this is considered the most famous medieval city. It felt just like a charming Tuscan village, just on a significantly larger scale.
Grander piazzas. Grander churches. Grander Italy.
Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of where we ate, but it another recommendation from Villa Armena and again, they hit a home run. Although Siena felt the most touristy of the Tuscan destinations we visited, we were definitely the only tourists in this restaurant….always a good sign.
Truffles were shaved in abundance…
And Pici, a thicker version of spaghetti created in Tuscany, quickly became my favourite pasta of the trip.
Following the daily dessert gelato (“daily’ might be an understatement), we made our way back up through the Tuscan countryside. In case you’re curious what that looks like at night, here you go.
Although the next day started off dreary, the grey clouds somehow reinforced the golden valleys. This sublime landscape setting was the perfect backdrop for our Tuscan village disco tour.
One day, five Tuscan villages, GO!
First up? Pienza. This village is famous for three things:
1) Pope Pius II built it as “the ideal Renaissance town” in the 1600’s.
2) It’s the birthplace of Pecorino cheese. The town literally reaks of cheese…in a good way.
3) There’s an abundance of flowers, a beautiful contrast to the tan stone architecture. Not a “famous” note, per se, but good to know.
As Pienza is the hometown of Pecorino cheese, we did what one does and sat down to devour a plate of cheese washed down with a glass of red wine.
La Taverna di Re Artu hit the nail on the head and served up the perfect cheese plate in the most charming setting in memory.
At this point, the whole town had me dancing for joy.
Alas, there were more towns to see.
With Pienza in our rear view mirror, we made our way to town #2…
Just as the sun started to poke our from behind the clouds.
Joel proclaimed the views too distracting and he was close to accidentally driving us off the road. These photos are evidence of that.
Town #2 was Monticchiello.
As with all the villages, we parked our car just outside of town, but unlike the other villages, we were in and out within 20 minutes. It’s certainly worth a quick visit, but it’s isolated beauty also means that there’s not much to see outside of a quick beautiful stroll.
We then set our sights on town #3, Montepulciano.
Although it was the most bustling of all the villages, Montepulciano was also the most touristy. I guess you could say it was somewhere between a Siena and a Pienza. As it’s also very well known for their food (are there any Tuscan villages that aren’t?), there was plenty to taste and sample, all gratis.
Down one particular tiny alley was a small wine tasting room full of visitors.
This charismatic man.
He begged everyone to join him for a taste of his wine, which he poured with liberal abundance.
He was also liberal with his hands….and lips…and used “being italian” as his excuse.
Village #4 is a mystery.
We had a time to kill before our dinner reservations, so we decided to just pull into whatever village we hit first.
Whatever village this was, it was absolutely the most authentic. There was not a tourist in sight, let alone anyone who spoke English.
Still, we managed to communicate in the best way we know how…through the language of dog love.
We stumbled upon one open cafe, came inside to dry off from the drizzling rain, pointed to a bottle of red wine, made a motion toward a glass, said grazie and pulled up a chair.
When it came time to order a second glass, the waiter asked the other guests if anyone spoke English. No one did, so between us we managed to get that he found it unusual that we were drinking just wine.
Flashback to a couple nights earlier when an Italian man told us how funny they find it that non-Italians drink by wine itself, that is to say, without food. In Italy, this seems to be a bit of a faux pas. If you want to drink alcohol, I guess you do that with beer? Or maybe even white wine? But a glass of red wine by itself is considered a bit odd.
Therefore, this sweet man voluntarily brought over a couple slices of thick bacon topped with pepper and and reminded us of “Italian protocol”.
The last visit of the day, village #5, was Montefollonico for dinner at 13 Gobbi, an excellent recommendation from another Tumblr.
We entered, saw this, and knew we were in for a treat.
We let the owner do the ordering, lent a helping hand cooking the pasta in a bowl of cheese, and said “yes, thank you” to the grappa and limoncello.
The next day was by far the most beautiful in Tuscany, but also our last.
Having explored the southern region, it was time to look toward the north and see what Chianti had to offer.
As this was Chianti, a wine tasting was naturally in order, so we coincided it with a village pit-stop to compare and contrast.
Fonterutoli Winery was located in, once again, an itty bitty village. According to our lovely wine pourer, there are ”40, maybe 50 people” living here. We barely saw another soul. Only horses.
When the time finally came to wrap up our Tuscan tour, we did it right with a farewell lunch at Badia a Coltibuono where the views continued to be the main attraction.
It may comes as a bit of the shock, but we had more pasta.
We’re nothing if not consistent.
I sit here now, three weeks later, still in complete awe of Tuscany. I read this quote just before arriving and I can safely say that this is 100% true. If you’re considering a trip, don’t just pull the trigger and do it…do it as soon as possible.
"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." - Anna Akhmatova
Up next in our Italian adventure….72 hours in the rainbow colored sea towns of Cinque Terre and the Italian Riviera.
"In Paris, you learn wit, in London, you learn to crush your social rivals, and in Florence you learn poise." - Virgil Thompson.
Although I visited Italy twice earlier this year, both trips were business related, lasted a matter of hours, and were mostly spent in office buildings.
As such, when I arrived in Italy earlier this month, it not only felt like the first time…..
It felt long, long overdue.
Joel and I landed early evening in Florence and with only an hour to spare before dinner, Joel and I did what we do best….
We got lost, but fortunately stumbled upon a beautiful arcade with live music, which ended up being quite the find.
It was quickly time for dinner at La Giostra, a restaurant that was recommended to me by five separate people for the food (their pear ravioli is infamous for a reason!), the ambience (twinkle lights EVERYWHERE), and the characters that run it.
We eased the wait by befriending the bartender and toasting our Italian adventure with aggressive pours of Kir Royal and prosecco (complimentary for all guests).
Inside we met character #1, the chef who kept a watchful eye over every detail the entire night.
And Character #2, the very eccentric co-owner Dimitri d’Asburgo Lorena, who just so happens to be a Habsburg prince.
Very, very interesting…
The complimentary items at La Giostra don’t stop with prosseco. They also serve up gratis crostini.
Then there was ooey gooey burrata…
And what became the first of 100 consecutive meals of pasta. (only half serious…)
La Giostra ties up the meal with a bow, errr, bottle of limoncello….again, gratis.
Feeling perfectly limoncello-y, we wandered around Il Duomo di Firenze. It was completely quiet, as if you could hear the drop of a pin. How strange and lucky to have this treasure all for ourselves…even if only for a couple moments.
Just a hop, skip, and jump away, we returned to our rented flat, where we called it a night.
The following morning was a wee bit rough (thank you very much, endless limoncello), especially as I had to wake up extra early to knock out a couple hours of work.
I was very grateful for our rented apartment, which not only boasted a phenomenally central location, but also was extra spacious and comfortable, particularly when working remotely. If you’re looking for a vacation apartment in Florence (sleeps up to four), I’d be happy to share the recommendation.
Mid-morning, we poked our head out of our apartment to be greeted by Il Duomo di Firenze, and begin our task to see as much as possible.
First up? The Arno River, which if you look closely across, you can see where Kim and Kanye recently got married. I’d add in Joel’s commentary here, but I like to keep this blog free from profanity :)
And then, the Ponte Vecchio bridge, filled with jewellery and art shops, although it was butchers that originally occupied the space.
Just north of Ponte Vecchio is ‘Ino, a teeny cheese, meat, and panini shop that several friends hailed as “the best sandwich ever”. While, I wouldn’t agree that it was “the best”, it was definitely great, but the meat and cheese plate was better. In fact, I brought home some of their chili sauce.
Following lunch, we wandered through piazza after piazza, just soaking in all in renaissance history.
Like a moth to the flame, Joel somehow spotted the random Gucci gift shop (not the regular Gucci store).
If you’re ever looking for super expensive, questionable gifts, this is the spot.
Oven mitts covered in the Gucci logo? Check.
Leather postcards covered in the Gucci logo? Check.
I had a very successful stroll through the San Lorenzo leather market and managed to haggle a beautiful brown cross-body purse down from €75 to €20.
Followed by a wander through the original Eataly, Central Market.
We only looked with our eyes though, as our next stop was very important..
This was my Mom’s favourite spot on her last visit and she hit the nail on the head. Although the gelato during the rest of our Italian trip was delicious, nothing could compare to the wonder that is Bar Vivolvi gelato.
Refuelled, it was time to tackle the walk up Il Duomo, which was no longer our own quiet retreat. It was now flooded with visitors as a dark, ominous storm moved in.
However, we instead climbed the Bell Tower, which is part of the same building and a similar height to the Duomo, but this way, the beautiful Duomo was part of the view.
The storm hit just as we ascended and threw in hail, thunder, and downpour rain just for good measure.
It made for an exhilarating climb with breathtaking views at each level.
We got properly soaked at the top, but it was worth it. Very worth it.
There was a much quicker, and wetter, walk down….
Where we then walked the one block back to the apartment, grabbed our bags, hopped in our car rental, and sped off through the tiny streets and crowded piazzas, with Joel’s anxiety growing around every turn.
Would I recommend spending only 24 hours in Florence? Probably not, but I’d say we ticked off a lot from our varied to-see list.
And most importantly, the city jaunt was the perfect kick off to our Italian country and sea adventure.
Up next? The golden valleys, mountaintop towns, and rolling vineyards of Tuscany.
Whenever I have a rare weekend in London, it’s hard to sit still.
I want to see everything. Explore everything. Even if I tried, I’d never experience it all.
And that’s only London.
What about all the fascinating towns just a quick train ride away?
It’s one of these “what new place will we see today?” conversations that led Joel and I to the university town of Cambridge.
Want a quick spoiler? It’s now one of my favourite UK places I’ve visited to date.
First things first: logistics.
Trains leave from King’s Cross to Cambridge at least every hour, but here’s a tip - order your National Rail ticket online ahead of time and you’ll save some £.
Then sit back and enjoy scenic English countryside journey for 50 minutes or so before arriving at your destination.
Once you’re off the train, it’s a 20 minute walk into the center of town, but you’ll be graced with beautiful architecture and pockets to scout out en route.
Although Cambridge is most well-known for its university (founded in 1209), it’s very much a thriving little city (or big town?) and has adapted the nickname, Silicon Fen - a play on Silicon Valley - because it’s at the heart of the UK’s high tech industry.
As a result, the town is a mix of small old-school shops and streets filled with every mainstream high street shop and restaurant imaginable. While Cambridge leaves you with a small and quaint feeling, it also offers lots of bigger city amenities. As a side note, here are some fun facts I learned during our visit:
Cambridge has the highest level of cycle use anywhere in the UK. 25% of residents travel to work by bike and 47% travel by bike at least once a week.
In 2010, Forbes listed Cambridge as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Over 40% of the workforce have a higher education qualification. Not surprising.
As you make your way through the town, the main street is lined with shops and cafes on one side and the “Colleges” on the other side.
To say it’s stunning would be an understatement.
Once you’ve explored the town and seen the front of the colleges, it’s time to see the backs….and there’s only one way to do that.
"The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks."
"Prague was a portal between the life of the good and … the other. A city of dark magic."
"If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls."
Besides a few literally references, historical events and the above imaginative quotes, I didn’t know much of what to expect from Prague circa 2014.
Here’s what I discovered in 48 hours….
I used to consider Paris the most beautiful city in the world (from what little I’ve seen). Prague now might possibly hold my vote.
Even with the unrelenting rain, I was immediately under Prague’s spell. There’s something fascinating and bewitching, and maybe even a little bit dark, that drew me in to the city’s pulse.
We took refuge from the storm under a canopy next to the extremely popular Charles Bridge. It’s here where I had my very first Budvar, the “original Budweiser” beer. (Read all about the lawsuits here.)
We also dug in to some very traditional fare…goulash (not pictured), dumplings, and cabbage - oh my!
I was a fan, but only for a meal. The heaviness of Czech cuisine is not something that agreed with any of us more than once or twice.
For the next couple hours, we took to the streets, battling our way through the mobs of tourists at each of the major points.
Side note: Prague is obviously a major destination, but I was extremely surprised by the number of tourists, particularly in the pouring rain. The number rivalled Paris, London and New York and made certain areas (i.e. the Charles Bridge and Old Town Square) slightly overwhelming.
At some point, our foursome managed to get lost, which was the best possible course of action as fate led us to quieter streets that ascended toward the Prague Castle.
As we began the climb, we turned around and my heart skipped a beat at Prague’s beauty.
And then we’d climb more and turn around again…
Prague’s beauty felt surreal.
The red roofs, the spires, the green domes, the history hanging in the mist…
We admired Prague Castle from the outside…
But quickly moved on to the next priority…
What the crepe is to Paris, trdelník is to Prague.
With roots in Czech Republic, Hungary, Transylvania, Slovakia and Austria, it’s a sweet pastry cake made from rolled dough that’s wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar, cinnamon or walnuts.
Joel found it a bit bla, but I loved it for it’s simplicity.
It’s important that you don’t get suckered into mediocre trdelník. Find a spot that’s making and serving it fresh, not letting it sit there and get stale. I had one that was like the latter later in the trip and was terribly disappointed.
The rest of the afternoon found us continuing to “get lost”, becoming totally transfixed by the city’s architecture, colors, and mystery on both sides of the Vltava River.
I was particularly excited to visit Josefov, the Jewish quarter, but was surprised that besides a couple synagogues, the area is now focused more on high end shopping. Considering the country’s history in WWII, I had expected more and was disappointed.
Following a disco nap, we made our way back over the Charles Bridge in search for dinner at Kampa Park, the lit up terrace on the river in the photo below.
The views couldn’t be beat and the food was phenomenal.
In keeping with the season, we noticed many restaurants were serving “Asparagus Menus”. I picked white asparagus, a poached egg and morels. The meal is still making waves in my culinary memory.
It was time to call it an early night, even though the view from our rental flat was trying to lure us back into the night.
But we awoke bright and early for our Czech countryside adventure.
First things first - we popped out of our flat. (if you’re visiting Prague and want a housing recommendation that’s unique and authentic, yet modern and updated, shoot me an email.)
We stayed right in the center of it all around the Old Town Square, which on Monday at 8am was still oh so quiet….for once.
Joel’s mom found the perfect cafe for breakfast, Bakeshop, located right in the middle of Josefov.
In keeping with the neighborhood’s Jewish history, I dove head first into my ancestry with an everything bagel and lox spread, similar to what I ate growing up almost every weekend. It was important to load up on carbs because….
The rest of the day was spent biking 21 miles around the Czech countryside through villages and along the river with Biko Adventures - the absolute highlight of our trip.
We began to see a whole different side of the country.
In some towns, the houses were grand.
In some, they were traditional.
In some, they were ultra modern.
We passed by a school trip of kiddies,
And tried to keep cool in the shade.
But the sun was hot and strong and there was only one way to hydrate…
Marek, our guide, took us for a Budvar break. This is why having a guide is key…there’s no way we would have found this remote little spot and seen what daily life was like for people in this village.
After one beer, I was perfectly hazy and ready to move onward. Within a couple more miles, we reached our reward….
One word: magnificent.
Marek had one more treat for us…
A meal at a middle of nowhere restaurant for what?
What else - dumplings!
Having completed the 21 mile bike ride, our group hopped on the local train and returned to Prague with weary legs, sore butts and full hearts.
We couldn’t be bothered to move much (see words above), so we showered, changed, and took our sore butts out for more Budvar a stone’s throw away from our flat (literally) in Old Town Square, which had done a 180 from that morning’s scene.
The cafes were packed…
And the street performers were aplenty.
The seasonal “Asparagus Menu” theme continued that night at Mlýnec, a restaurant that is trying it’s very best at modern Czech cuisine.
The Vltava River views continued as well.
It was that night, our last night, that the mysterious power of Prague took over. We spent the remainder of that evening at Hemingway Bar, the perfect hideaway to have some fun with a local delicacy…
Let’s just say the rest of the night was fun. Very, very, fun.
As we wandered Prague’s streets in the dark, it was impossible to ignore the history. The stories. Imagining what was hidden behind each mysterious door.
Or maybe it was the absinthe?
Until we finally found our own door and said goodnight.
With only a couple of hours before our flight, I chose to spend my last few moments in Prague alone.
I wanted to get lost.
Even more lost.
And so I did.
There was the market…
The cafes awaiting crowds…
The Jewish cemetery that required a second, prolonged visit.
The trdelnik shops that kept catching my eye…and tastebuds.
The Vltava River…and the views surrounding it.
48 hours later, it was all over and I left believing this quote with all my heart and soul.
"If European cities were a necklace, Prague would be a diamond among the pearls."
Before we knew it, we had gone 8 miles (give or take). Beautiful scenery will do that to you.
We returned to Killarney…
And popped into Bricin for dinner, which with the ambiance and exceptionally warm service felt more like being at a friend’s home. (Image below from their site.)
They’re famous for their “Killarney Boxty”, which is a Celtic pancake/meat dish and carries with it the local rhyme:
“Boxty on the griddle, boxty on the pan, if you can’t bake boxty sure you’ll never get a man.”
We had big plans for Friday.
It was time to explore the Dingle Peninsula, once cited as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ by the National Geographic and voted among the top 100 destinations in the world by Trip Advisor.
Not too shabby, eh?
The route to get there was pretty easy on the eyes, too.
Once we arrived in Dingle (an hour drive north west of Killarney), we picked up a couple of bikes and began the 40km adventure around the coast.
Just as the rain arrived, we stopped for lunch at Skippers, a quintessential cottage serving seafood plucked straight from the sea a couple steps away.
We loaded up on oysters (a local delicacy. I had no clue Ireland was such a hotspot for oysters, but makes total sense.)
Scallops with their roe still attached, a vision I’m unaccustomed to, but one that is salty and yummy and oh so good.
And mackerel with dijon sauce. One word - heaven on a plate.
Seeing at this was such a quaint little place, credit cards were a no no. We didn’t have enough Euros and with no sign of life for miles away, the owner suggested we simply “drop off” the money in town later.
My jaw hit the table and I looked at him only to mutter “That is too nice. How does a person like you even exist?” Such sweetness and trust is quite a lesson.
Fortunately, he also gladly welcomed an alternative, our melting pot of bills - dollars, pounds, and euros.
The rest of the Dingle Peninsula went a little something like this…
A Game of Thrones-esque cliff….
Making friends with the local sheep.
And photobombing rams.
And coastline as far as the eye could see.
We ran into a wee bit of a hiccup along the route and had to switch from bike to car, but I’m tremendously thankful we did as the uphill finish looked treacherous.
Europe Hotel was just the ticket to revive our weary legs and thirst for Irish whiskey.
The foggy mist remained over Lough Leane in Killarney (meaning “Lake of Learning”) as we tucked in for the night ahead.
Eager would be an understatement to describe my feeling about getting into their brown bread, an Irish staple I had to have at every single meal.
I was eager to follow the Irish saying: “Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A cold pint and another one” so we curled up in their library to enjoy some traditional Irish music (or “trad”, as they call it) and warm up by the fire with Jameson.
Saturday was all about the Ring of Kerry, the extremely popular driving route on the peninsula just south of Dingle.
Spoiler: I think Dingle is better, although Ring of Kerry does put up a strong second half.
Per usual, we befriended our fair share of livestock.
But it was windy.
As in, really, really windy.
In fact, staying in the car was the preferred course of action.
Lest your forget what Irish roads are like, here is example A.
Dontcha just love the one lane curves?
We went off the official “ring” to explore St. Finian’s Bay and Valentia Island, one of my favourite parts.
Remember what I wrote earlier about a “strong finish”?
But the wind remained in effect.
Lunch was fish and chips and cider in one of the only handful of town along the loop.
Six hours later, the ring was complete and there was only one way to round out our last night in Ireland.
48 hours later, I left the Celtic island with even more luck of the Irish.
Home to Britain’s only natural thermal spa, the Roman Baths….
A popular country retreat for the country’s elite during the Georgian era….
This is how most people know Bath, the small city just 100 miles west of London. I discovered this and so much more during my 48 hour visit.
I wrapped up Friday at work and hopped on the train at Paddington Station. Less than two hours later, I arrived in Bath with just enough time to grab a late dinner of pizza and chicken at Rotisserie Chicken, just off the main street.
At 9pm, the city was mostly dead, leaving only us to wander the streets.
Two hours later when we emerged from dinner, we were met with a completely different scene as the streets were flooded with young 20-somethings popping from pub to pub. I’m making my own conclusions that Bath must be the “going out” area for local towns.
We called it a night and woke up bright and early to a breakfast spread of soft-boiled eggs, croissants, jams and a full schedule ahead.
The self-guided tour took just under an hour and was very eye-opening….
The Baths were created around 60 AD during Roman occupation and were used for the follwing three centures as a full-on spa - hot baths, warm baths, cold baths, steam rooms.
Following the tour, I snuck into the Pump Room for a hot second to see it in all it’s glory.
They’re famous for regency-era afternoon tea, although known more-so for their ambiance than the actual tea and goodies.
It was just beautiful.
For lunch, we ventured through the Mendip Hills to the Somerset countryside…
To scope out The Pig, the recently opened country estate that’s part of the well-known Pig hotel series.
When we arrived, my inner Jane Austen fan girl was jumping for joy as it felt like walking into the pages of her book.
In reality, The Pig is nothing like the stuffiness of traditional English Estates. Although it’s a grand, stately home, modern updates contribute to their “home grown” theme and the whole place exudes a very welcoming, calm, relaxed vibe, as if you were spending the weekend with a family friend, not the Duke and Duchess.
The staff greeted us very warmly in their soft pink shirts and welcomed us passed the rows of Wellies…
Through to the library for drinks and Piggy Bits, bite-sized noshes influenced by pigs, of course.
While brainstorming future business ideas, Joel and I sipped on The Pigs’ Bloody Mary, which might very well be the best I’ve ever had thanks to the perfect balance of tomato and spicy, not too thick, not too thin consistency, and their rosemary-infused vodka, plucked straight from their garden.
We ventured down the hallway through to their dining room, a Victorian greenhouse.
Although The Pig is a hotel, they actually consider themselves “really a restaurant with rooms.”
As their website states, everything is driven by the gardener, forager and chef in the kitchen garden and their micro seasonal menu takes “local” to a hole other level, similar to Blue Hill in New York (read about my experience here and here.)
What can’t be grown in their gardens, such as fish, must come from within a 25 mile radius.
Simply put, everything we ate was perfect, but instead of posting hundreds of photos of our four course lunch, I’ll share the highlights…
A Scotch Egg elevated with quail eggs and tender pork.
Kentucky Fried Wild Rabbit - just like KFC, but better….much, much better.
Piping hot rice pudding with blackberry compote.
All washed down with a bottle of rose and views of Spring about to bloom.
Once our bellies were full, we were curious to learn more about the “local” aspects of our meal.
Tom gave us a tour (ask for him - he’s wonderful) of the gardens, greenhouse, smoke house, fruit cages, wild flower orchards, and the lovely animals.
As The Pig only opened in March and they began planting last summer, the produce are all at different levels of growth, a true demonstration and transparency of their efforts.
Tom encouraged us to not only explore with our eyes, but to use all our senses.
We tasted this baby cauliflower…
And I oh so elegantly stuffed herbs into my mouth.
Then it was time to meet the main crew at The Pig…..the pigs, Darcy and Truffle.
P.S. Only in Bath would a pig be named Darcy. So thoughtful.
These two are the estate pets, not food, a notion the duo fully understand as was evidence when trotted up to us, eager for pets and snuggles.
My desire for a pet piggy has now sky rocketed.
The chickens, just like Darcy and Truffles, believe they’re pets, and begged for attention, something I’ve never experienced previously with poultry.
Remember that Scotch Quail Egg from earlier? We saw them being laid in action right before our very eyes.
To describe the Pig’s deer park in one word would be…
Nature really captures this city girl’s heart.
Following our adventures, we retreated back into the library and cozied up on the velvet sofa for a late afternoon drink and cuddle, desperately not wanting to leave the Pig’s country oasis and already plotting a return stay.
But alas, it was time to venture back into town…
For an early evening exploration, scoping out the tiny street and sweet shops of Bath, this time with Lady in tow.
Still suffering from the best kind of food coma and country adventure, we called it a night. I was so tuckered out, I passed on dinner and was sound asleep by 8pm.
Sunday morning kicked off with croissants and pain au chocolat in bed.
I was simply making up for the previous night’s lack of dinner.
We moseyed toward the center of town for an al fresco caffeine pick me up at Society Cafe, which a local friend dubbed “the best coffee in Bath”.
The morning was all about seeing The Royal Crescent, a sweeping row of terraced houses and one of the most famous examples of Georgian architecture in the UK.
Lady fit right in, no?
She wasn’t in a “take in all the beauty” mood.
She preferred a good old-fashioned race.
Continuing west, we arrived at Royal Victoria Park, or “Vicky Park” as I overheard a couple people say, spending hours getting lost and making new four-legged friends in the botanical gardens.
We met our first long-haired basset hound - it was love at first sight.
We refuelled at Marlborough Tavern, a quintessential English pub with an outdoor patio made for spring days.
Lady befriended more locals, as she does.
As we sunk our teeth into a Sunday Roast with all the trimmings. The parsnips and cabbage were particularly tasty.
Fate found us that afternoon strolling by the Jane Austen museum. As much of a fan that I am, I didn’t feel the need to subject Joel to such torture.
The Gift Shop was a whole other story.
I left Joel and Lady outside and popped in for a quick peek.
As the sun began to set on this Georgian paradise, our 48 hours in Bath came to a close…
In true form, we hopped on the train back to London and spent the next two hours planning our next adventure.
Originally, 72 hours in Switzerland was meant to be filled with Spring skiing in Verbier.
But alas, it was not meant to be.
First there was a spike in temperature, followed by a customs mishap with our ski gear….
We took the hint and made it a Geneva weekend instead thanks to our thoughtful hosts, Ashley and Bo.
We arrived Thursday evening and filled up with pizzas at Luigia, my dream pizza come to life. It wasn’t too thick or too thin….it was just right.
The next morning, I knocked out as much work as possible from Bo + Ashley’s flat in the Eaux-Vives neighborhood.
The view didn’t hurt.
By lunch, it was time for an adventure.
We picked up a couple baguettes sandwiches to eat on top of Mont Salève, but once we arrived at the base, we weren’t allowed up.
Instead, we made our way to Lake Geneva to chow down by the water.
Followed by a walk up to the Old Town…
Where we could easily view The Alps’ bleak ski conditions.
We circled our way through the tiny streets, steep stairs, and hidden courtyards in Old Town, taking in all of the medieval beauty.
Although the hike never happened, we covered significant Geneva terrain that afternoon and rewarded ourselves with a little afternoon delight in the form of crepes and rose.
Some initial thoughts from that first day…
The Dr. Seuss looking trees with stubby branches are around every corner. They’re one part unique, one part creepy, and will end up looking beautifully manicured when they’re in full bloom.
One thing you must know before going to Switzerland is that the regions are very different depending on if they’re closer to the French, German, or Italian borders. Due to it’s proximity to France, Geneva is very much a French city in language, culture, and personality. Parfait!
Public transportation works on the honor code. This means that you don’t scan a ticket to ride the bus, but in the very off moment that the police come on board and check tickets (which they didn’t for any of the 5 or so times we rode the bus), you’ll need to show proof of purchase or pay a fine.
Ashley and Bo selected a phenomenal spot for Friday night’s dinner: La Crise. Although it’s an exceptionally lively and quirky restaurant, the food is classic French and dishes change frequently.
And the wine flows very freely. Something we learned the hard way and had me doing hand stands later in the evening.
I ended up losing all my photos. So there’s that.
Saturday we arose ready to see the Swiss countryside.
Montreux, situated an hour and change north at the tip of Lake Geneva at the foot of The Alps.
There was a bit of a Spring explosion along the water…
And the fog misted from the mountains.
Then it was castle time.
We spent a couple hours exploring Chateau de Chillon. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect setting, what with the lake and the mountains…
Felt a bit like the Little Mermaid castle.
It’s quite a deceptive castle. There were two or three times when I thought we had seen it all, only to be surprised by another secret passageway or back staircase that took us to more hidden rooms.
We made a quick stop in the town of Laussane for…McDonalds.
I can’t even believe I’m typing these words, but it was the nicest McDonalds experience of my life.
Sudden hunger hit us hard en route back to Geneva and we had heard such great stories about their McDonalds being so different, so good, so….je ne sais quoi.
So we went for it and ended up spending 5x the amount we would have in the states for what is apparently locally sourced, “high end” McDonalds.
I’m still shaking my head with guilt.
It must’ve hit our stomachs hard because we fell into a food coma on the train fairly quickly, missing out on all the beautiful sights.
Following some brief R&R in Geneva, it was time to hit the town.
As this was our first trip to Switzerland, Joel and I had one requirement: fondue.
Once again, our hosts hit the nail on the head with the very traditionally Swiss Restaurant Les Amures, one of the oldest in Geneva.
We didn’t stray from restaurant’s theme - it was a super Swiss evening.
Naturally, there was wine, but there was also cured meats and raclette, a Swiss dish based on heating cheese and scraping off the melted part onto potatoes.
Then it was on to the main event…
I could barely contain my excitement for all the cheese.
When the fondue is almost all gone, you’re greeted with “religieuse”, the crusty cheese that remains at the bottom of the pot. I learned that this is the real deal, the creme de la creme, the big cheese, if you will.
With our bellies full of cheese, we called it a night.
On Sunday, most of Geneva shuts down.
Sure, everyone is out and about at the lake, in the park, or at the market, but shops and restaurants take the day off.
We found one of the handful of cafes that is actually open, Le Coupe de Giraffe, and tucked in for the most simply perfect breakfast “assiette”, include a hardboiled egg, quiche, toast, orange juice, jam, butter, and brownie.
Sunday’s weather was the best of the trip, so we did what we do best….we walked.
And walked some more.
First up? Lake Geneva because, well, when in Geneva….
We spent time reading and people watching in the park (fun fact: did you know Geneva is called “the city of parks”?)
The park was filled with families..
And people who were minutes away from making families of their own.
Then we simply explored the neighborhoods.
It’s so funny how different all the buildings looked with the shining sun and blue sky….how vibrant they seemed.
We also went to the farmer’s market and stocked up for what was an epic dinner.
We made out pretty well.
Sunday night wound down in the best possible way with a beautifully prepared meal by Bo, some mindless TV, and a good night’s sleep before an early wake up call to return to London.
Sure, I didn’t get a chance to check off skiing in The Alps from my bucket list, but our first trip to Switzerland was a wonderful entree filled with new friends, new memories, and an excitement to return soon.
Five of the past eight weeks have been spent on the go. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind and to avoid crashing, I’ve tapped into my inner energizer bunny, pushed fatigue to the side, and tried to seize every opportunity.
When I’m not catching up on my Zzz’s, I…..
Attended March Book Club at Kelly’s gorgeous flat in South Kensington. I actually hosted February’s Book Club, but famously forgot to take photos.
Indulged my craving for Saturday morning dim sum at Jia.
The price and the taste were just right.
Explored Hampstead Heath, nicknamed “Country in the CIty” and it’s classic manor, Kenwood House, one of my favorite spots in London. Me thinks Lady agrees.
Speaking of Lady, she’s been coming to work with me almost every day.
It’s all about the work/paw balance.
Went for a run with Joel for the first time in…wait for it…five years. That last 1/4 mile was rough.
And finally, met baby girl Sienna. Just a couple weeks ago we were toasting her mummy and here she is….
The pressure was on to return the favor and ensure their first trip to the city of lights was filled with unlimited “joie de vivre”.
Here’s how we spent our 48 hours in Paris…
"But Paris was a very old city and we were young." - Hemingway
After a quick snooze on the Eurostar, we arrived in Paris ready to eat and drink our way through the city.
With not a minute to spare, we dropped off bags at our classically Parisian (albeit with a splash of modern art) Airbnb apartment in Saint Germain. The five flights of winding stairs made our thighs tremble, but the views (and the calories we burned) were worth it.
First agenda item? Lunch.
We took the Metro north to the Marais and wandered down the side streets away from the busier, central restaurants and opted instead for Chez Camille, an unpretentious cafe serving very classic fare. A plate of steak frites and a couple glasses of Bordeaux and rose later, it was time to explore.
The streets of the Marais were packed, as was Place des Vosges, and rightfully so - you couldn’t have ordered better weather.
After an hour or so of people watching and a quick trip around Bastille, we refueled on Nutella crepes…
Before making our way back west for a cafe crawl of sorts.
For every sight we saw, we rewarded ourselves with some vino.
Hotel de Ville?
Ile St. Louis?
Another cafe visit…
By the time we arrived at the Louvre, we picked up our own bottle of wine for some on-the-go refreshments.
Very American of us.
Just before sunset we took a stroll across Pont des Arts.
Where Dean and Sarah added a lock of their own.
Joel and I reminisced about the last time we were in the same exact spot almost three years ago.
I dug up the photo for memory’s sake :)
With throbbing feet and perhaps one too many glasses of wine, we bid adieu to the musicians and returned to the Left Bank for a much needed nap.
As night fell, we gussied up for dinner in the Latin Quarter at Le Coupe Chou.
This was everyone’s all around favorite meal of the weekend.
The restaurant is tucked away on a quiet street and is separated into several small, intimate stone rooms as if you were dining at someone’s house. The service was very warm, helpful, and attentive and the food was impeccable.
Boeuf Bourguignon, Marget de Canard, Lamb Chops - it was classic French to a T.
As if a grand-mere made it.
Typically, I’d finish a meal like that by immediately getting horizontal in bed.
But it was almost midnight in Paris….
So we took our dancing shoes to Hotel Costes to hear their renowned DJ.
I admittedly don’t know a thing about “cool DJs” and end up feeling like the lamest person in the room at sceney places, but I had so much fun on Saturday night jumping to my feet and dancing to the oldie remixes.
Oh, and the people watching itself was worth the trip.
Somehow we managed to make our way back up those winding stairs (without falling) and caught a couple hours of sleep before the alarm shocked us awake at 9am.
We kicked off the day the best way we knew how - with croissants, pain au chocolates, and multiple cafe cremes at the brasserie across the street from our apartment.
True story - as soon as we left, we swung by boulangerie to pick up another croissant each.
Thankfully, we had an active day ahead of us and spent the next five hours cruising by some of the biggest city sights.
With such limited time in Paris, we focused our experience on seeing as much as possible without actually standing in the lines and going inside. Naturally, a bike is the best way to do this.
And yes, I do feel like a spokesperson for city bike tours as this was my THIRD in a month. (see Madrid here and Copenhagen here).
We stopped for a quick lunch in Tuileries Gardens, which were bursting with color.
Curious what we ordered?
Let me give you a hint…
There was baguette. Cheese. And more wine.
After a full day of sightseeing, we patted ourselves on the back and rewarded each other for a job well done with…..more wine.
The laissez faire cafe lifestyle was high on our priority list, but this time we experienced it left bank-style in Saint Germain.
My mom has had Scandinavia on her bucket list for quite some time. Her admiration/enthusiasm for the region is so great that she talks about their politics, lifestyle, and design aesthetic as if she was a born and bred Dane.
She arrived in London last Friday for an extended visit and in less than 24 hours I did what any sweet daughter would do….
I (along with Joel) forced my sleep deprived, jet lagged mother onto a flight to the “happiest country in the world”: Denmark.
First things first - we scoped out our Danish digs, i.e. our Airbnb with these dizzying plank stairs, which I loved.
Even though we were staying in the city center, our spacious flat overlooked this quiet courtyard. It was pure serenity and a reminder that Airbnb is the way to go when traveling.
Our first activity was a late morning stroll through Torvehallerne, a glass/steel food market surrounded by more bicycles than I’ve ever seen (did you know 50% of the population commutes on bike?!) and brimming with all sorts of local delicacies…..
Including Smørrebrød (open faced sandwiches on rye bread)…..
Heaps of seafood (especially one of my favorites, herring)….
And, of course, danish pastries.
There was no doubt for my mama - it was love at first sight with her cinnamon + cardamon danish.
Her face literally froze when the flaky, doughy pastry hit her mouth.
We sat down to slowly enjoy our breakfast and people watch. A couple things we observed immediately:
- Copenhagen is super expensive. As in, I still can’t wrap my mind around it. I’d been warned about this, but I figured since I used to live in New York and now call London home that I’d be of numb to the sticker shock. I was wrong. $8 for a coffee? $5 for a pastry? $12 for a basic beer?
-I’ve never seen so many children in my life. I don’t know what the deal is, but there was 1 child for every 3 adults. This stroller is one of the 1,000 I saw in a couple hour period. I asked a local about this and he simply stated that it’s not that Danes have more children, it’s just that the recent generations are very ‘inclusive’. This extends through to their children, which they bring with them everywhere. He also noted that this is the reason for all the playgrounds around the city - there are a ton. But I’m still going to go with my impression that they must have a significantly higher birth rate :)
-Not only are there a lot of children, but they’re also tremendously well dressed in folksy outfits and full body puffer onesies with furry pointed hoods that make them look like gnomes. I wish I paparazzi’d the little kids for you to see….absolutely precious.
-Danish people are quiet (which, again, I had been ‘warned’ about). Torvehallerne is Copenhagen’s version of Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel, which I visited last month. Both food halls are extremely similar (lots of wine drinking, local food eating, socializing, etc), but the volume level at each couldn’t be more different. I guess it’s a good reflection of each country’s culture?
We then set out on foot to see as much as possible. Copenhagen is fairly spread out, so we had a ways to go.
Our first stop was Christiania, a commune of sorts that currently has around 850 residents. The neighborhood’s heyday has obviously come and gone and the result is weathered and run down. People stood in long lines to buy their marijuana and then sat outside at picnic benches to relax. I was expecting an oasis of sorts….I was wrong. Photos aren’t permitted, but you can get a sense of Christiana here.
While walking along the river, we passed one of the many playgrounds. This one was the best I’ve ever seen because it had…wait for it…..trampolines!
I tried to challenge this little girl to a jump off, but she was too adorable to be bothered with my shenanigans.
We stopped for lunch at Bodega, a cafe recommended by the head chef at Noma (the world’s #1 restaurant). I had a herring craving that needed to be filled and Bodega knocked it out of the park with their “Herrings 3 Ways” dish.
It has to be said that their $8 latte (still can’t get over that $) was the best of the weekend.
We wrapped up the afternoon in Nyhavn, the 17th century waterfront/what everyone expects all of Copenhagen to look like (myself included).
The colorful buildings really are straight off of a postcard. It’s easy to see why Hans Christian Anderson called this home….must’ve sparked so much fairytale creativity.
The wool blankets sitting on each cafe chair was a warm reminder that, brrrr, Denmark is chilly! But likely only for us. Most everyone else soaked up the sun and slightly above freezing temperature, the best weather they’ve seen for months.
Following a much needed nap (that 4:30am wake up call was not lovely), we had dinner at Madklubben, which I had found online in a comparison review to Noma since they have a multi-course, elevated gourmet dinner, for a severe fraction of the cost.
The place was PACKED (in a good way) and was buzzing, literally. Somehow we managed to score the one table with a window overlooking to chefs, who we watched like a hawk for the remainder of our evening.
I can’t recommend this spot more.
Sunday in the “City of Bikes”” started in an obvious way…..with a 3 1/2 hour city tour with this colorful guy, Bike Mike.
I had read that seeing the city through his eyes is “unique experience”, but nothing could have prepared me for his over-the-top personality, fascinating stories, and quirky insight into Danish life.
Did you know that Denmark leads the world in meat consumption?
Or that in the 1940’s, plumbing still wasn’t standard for the general public.
Or that the water quality is now SO good that many locals swim in their city harbor (can’t even imagine doing that in the Hudson or Thames River).
Or that their public bikes are free?
The palace was one of my favorite stops on the tour. The royal courtyard is surrounded by several mini palaces (maybe 3-5?) and each royal member has their own.
And even though Mike told us that it was the nicest/warmest/sunniest day of the year so far, I was still freezing and couldn’t comprehend all the convertibles we passed with their tops down.
It was also love at first (orange) sight for Mike and my mom.
Well, for him at least.
At the end of the tour he informed her that although he is married, he believes people fall in love instantaneously with several people in a lifetime and after having met my mom, he had met his life match. (Don’t worry, Michael - she brushed him off easily.)
P.S. Watching my mom get awkward when a man hits on her is one of the most amusing things I have experienced.
We certainly earned our lunch at Aamanns, a smørrebrød restaurant created by the former chef of, where else, Noma. (Side note, we didn’t know this beforehand. They’re simply really well known for their smørrebrød and actually recently opened a restaurant in Tribeca. If you live in NYC go and report back.)
A walk in the park and another nap later, it was time to eat again.
Seeing as it was Sunday night, the streets were pretty much empty. As were the wool covered cafe seats. To say this city shuts down on a Sunday would be an understatement. (Still can’t get over how empty the streets were in the morning, too.)
We dined on morels, boar, and profiteroles at Peder Oxe, a restaurant that instead of caving to modern Danish design pressure, celebrates the country’s, well, countryside and farm roots.
Even the waitresses sport the region’s folkish attire.
Did Copenhagen seem like the “happiest” place on earth? I’m not sure, but I do think it’s a city you have to live in vs visit to even begin to somewhat understand and appreciate. Plus, it’s really clean.
With adrenaline pulsing through our veins, clear air filling our lungs, and a true sense of quiet and calm, we enjoyed one last slumber in Copenhagen before saying “Farvel”.
Maybe I’m living under a rock, but why don’t people talk about Bruges more?!
Considering how infrequently I’ve heard anyone talk about the wonder that is Bruges, me thinks it’s under the radar, but really, it should’t be.
First, let me back up.
48 hours in Belgium kicked off with 16 hours in Brussels. I visited the city eight years ago, didn’t like it then, don’t like it much now (except the beautiful Grand Place).
Friday night’s dinner at Amadeus was a really nice surprise. Although a local friend of a friend had recommended it, the restaurant is technically an ‘all you can eat’ rib joint, so my expectations weren’t high. I was happy to be wrong and take pride in the fact that I was the last one still eating at the end of the meal.
Following dinner we taste tested the local beer and strolled around the Grand Place, the main square, which, when lit up at night, is simply stunning.
Saturday morning we explored a bit more, but kept finding ourselves back at the Grand Place.
Or taste testing waffles because, you know, when in Belgium…
At noon we hopped on the hour train north west to Bruges.
The town welcomed us with cloudy skies and rain, but I didn’t mind one bit because I was in storybook heaven.
When my friend Ashley recently visited Bruges, she raved about it, referring to it as the real life version of the Beauty and the Beast town.
I can’t think of a more accurate description (in fact, I kept singing this song as I wandered the streets.)
I’m assuming Brothers Grimm spent most their time here while brainstorming their fairytales.
Bruges now sits toward the top of my favorites list as one of the sweetest place have ever visited, a Flemish town completely suspended in time that preserves its early heritage tremendously well.
First things first - we loaded up on Belgian mussels, fries, and beer at a cavernous underground cafe De Bierbistrto.
And then spent the afternoon doing what we do best…
Exploring and taste testing more waffles.
After spending the entire day on our feet getting lost on side streets and canals, it was nice to curl up with loads of red wine in front of a fire place and taste even more local food (for me, meatballs in a pear sauce) at Maria van Bourgondie, a restaurant we found simply by passing by away from the center of town. I 100% highly recommend it.
Sunday thankfully brought with it blue skies and pure sunshine.
We found a picture perfect cafe, again out of a storybook, Patisserie Servaas Van Mullem, where I devoured the most decadent vanilla bean custard pastry.
Just take a moment and to observe this thing of beauty.
Then it was time to further explore the perfectly preserved medieval town, some of us by boat, some of us by bike. I became utterly lost in the city because it really feels as if nothing has changed since the 16th century.
At 6pm we jumped back on Eurostar and returned to London.
Total Flemish win.
Currently back in London trying to catch up on my zzz’s and prepare for this weekend’s voyage…..Denmark and Norway!
Last month I saw this Huffington Post article detailing the little differences between America and the rest of the world. I read through, nodding and laughing along, and decided to compile my own list.
Without further ado, here’s a list of things to know before moving from the US to the UK.
(*Side note: this is heavily NYC -> London focused as that is my experience.)
Apartment Hunting: Or should I say, flat hunting. If you previously lived in Manhattan, you’ll be fine as the letting costs (i.e. rental costs) and Estate Agent/Broker process are similar, minus the 15% annual rent fee (although Estate Agents have a reduced version). Unless you’re a bajillionare, rents will be high, flats will be small, and 95% of conditions will be “charming” (i.e. older and not in tip top condition). In case you don’t want to move your furniture across the Atlantic, you’ll be happy to know that many flats come more or less fully furnished (although the quality varies…tremendously).
Setting Up Your Flat: Sign up for internet and tv as soon as possible. It can take two weeks for providers (i.e. BT, Sky, Virgin) to hook you up.
Bank vs. Flat: Here’s a head scratcher for you: in London, you need a bank account before you can apply for a flat. You also need a permanent address in order to apply for a bank account. How’s that for a riddle?
999: This is the official emergency telephone number in the UK. I actually didn’t know this until recently and had a moment of “Wait, what do I do in case of emergency…..?”
Tube > Subway - The Tube is much cleaner and runs exceptionally more frequently, even during off peak hours (average wait time is 2-3 minutes). On the flip side, it closes around midnight and there aren’t as many stops so you often have to walk further to get to your destination.
NYC Taxis > London Taxis - Not only are London taxis exceptionally more expensive than their NYC counterparts, but outside of central central central London, they’re also not as prevalent. If you think you can just run out of your flat and hail a cab on the street, think again. (Unless you live on a major road). In addition, the vast majority of black taxis (the ones you hail on the street vs. ones your order via an app) don’t accept credit cards.
London Bus > NYC Bus - Even though it typically takes longer, I actually prefer the bus to the Tube. However, the only real reason London wins this is because of the double decker advantage.
Cell Phones: You’ll need to ensure your phone is “unlocked’ before arriving in the UK. Otherwise, your American phone wont work over here. Most companies don’t want to do this unless you’re near the end of contract. AT&T and Apple tried to pull this nonsense with Joel and me so I went into defense mode until they finally agreed.
You can order your UK sim card online and have it sent to a UK address for your arrival and then simply add your plan (online) once you’re settled. I use Giff Gaff for my personal phone (the absolute cheapest on the market - only £12/month for unlimited data, unlimited texts, and 250 minutes) and O2 for my work phone. I’ve heard some people experience not so great service with Giff Gaff, but mine is just fine 99% of the time and requires no contracts. Win Win.
Credit Cards: What’s a sure fire way to immediately show a stranger that you’re American? Whip out your credit card. The Brits (actually, I think it’s most of the non-USA world), use credit cards with a small silver chip and pin. I continued to use my non-foreign transaction fee US credit cards for the first couple months I lived here and every.single.time I used it, the cashier looked at me with a blank stare as if to say “What am I supposed to do with this magnetic strip, swipe, signature card?”
According to the above HuffPo article, the electronic identification chip/pin credit cards provide greater security and would have prevented the recent breach at Target that exposed 70 million customer records. The problem is, it’s a wee bit tricky to get a British credit card (i.e. some nonsense about having no proof of UK credit, yadda-yadda-yadda.) An easy work around is to ask for a British version of one of your existing credit cards. I did this with AMEX, demonstrated proof of residency, and received my very own chip/pin credit card within two weeks. You can of course use your new bank card, too.
Wine: When ordering a glass of vino at a bar in the States, I’d mentally pray for a “good pour”, i.e. heavy pour. The fact is, you never know if you’re in for a baby pour or generous pour. The Brits figured out a system for this. At the majority of pubs, you can either order a Small (125ml) or Large (250ml) glass. (Side note - 250ml can be as much as 1/3 of a bottle). It’s all part of the government crackdown on binge drinking, but I have a feeling that even though there’s an option for a smaller glass, most people still end up ordering the large version. Why? Because really…why wouldn’t you?
Time: This is a given, but they do 24 hour time here. And everywhere else in the world. BUT, it reverts back to 12 hours time when speaking. Rule of thumb - Writing: 24 hours. Speaking: 12 hours.
Bills: Electric and water bills are served up quarterly, not monthly. So just when you think “oh maybe they forgot to send us our bill since we just moved here?”, think again.
Eating In vs Take Away: When grabbing a sandwich at a UK cafe (i.e. Pret, Pod, etc), you’ll pay a higher price if you choose to eat in. I’m not sure how many restaurants/cafes this affects, but apparently, a court ruled that since the level of service is minimal when customers take their food to go, it should be exempt from extra VATs (i.e. tax.) The price different is typically around 50 pence.
Weather: The good news? I’d wager to say London’s reputation for constant rain isn’t entirely accurate. The bad news? London isn’t know for sunshine, either. In fact, a recent study revealed that the UK suffers from a “Vitamin D deficiency epidemic” with 2/3’s of people classified as severely lacking. Long story short, be prepared for days of grey, grey, and more grey.
Medical Insurance: One of the first things you will need to do is to register at your local surgery (doctor’s office). Find one here. You can simply walk in and register - you’ll need to bring proof of address (i.e. a copy of your rental agreement or bill) and your passport (including your Visa) with you to the GP’s.
You must have the right to work in the UK in order to get need a National Insurance Number and you must have a National Insurance Number in order to work. Request yours by clicking here.
Airport Transportation: Know your options when traveling between Heathrow and central London. I’ve listed the estimated times and costs, which each have pro’s and con’s depending on your luggage and timing situation. (Getting to Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and City Airports are a whole other story).
-Regular black taxi (not pre-ordered): £50-£80/30-90 minutes depending on traffic
-Pre-order taxi: £30-£40/30-90 minutes depending on traffic (I use Airport Executive)
-Heathrow Express: £20/15 minutes (The train arrives and departs from Paddington Train Station. It’s really modern and nice and makes the Newark Airport train look 200 years old.)
-Tube: £5.50/60-70 minutes…depending on where you’re going.
Chain Store Equivalents: Whether you’re trying to find the right supermarket, drugstore, or favorite department store alternative, here’s my take.
-Boots: Duane Reade, Walgreen’s, CVS
-Primark: An even cheaper version of Forever21 and H&M.
-Supermarkets: regional food stores in the UK are all different, but if you were to rank UK supermarkets from best (i.e. nicest produce and meat selection) to worst (i.e. best for quick last minute shopping), it’d be this order: Waitrose -> Sainsbury’s -> Tesco.
-John Lewis: Nordstrom or Bloomingdales
-Marks & Spencer: If Target and Macy’s had a love child. And sometimes sold food. Kind of.
Have any additions? Think I’ve gotten something completely wrong? I’d love to see any and all suggestions.
After two weeks of non-stop travelling, intense work changes, and an abnormally full social calendar, I’ve been given the best present in the world - two full days of “me” time.
Joel is in New York City (kind of perfect timing), so the vast majority of the past two days has been spent sleeping, reading, drinking wine, eating cheese, and cuddling my dog. I actually added “RELAX” to several hour long blocks on my Google Calendar so I wouldn’t get wrapped up in the ever growing to-do lists of real life.
After laying horizontal on my sofa for several house, this afternoon I decided to put on real clothes (i.e. pants without an elastic waist band) and geek out for several house at The Wallace Collection, a former family residence in Marylebone. Turns out, the family’s biggest hobby was collecting English and French 18th century paintings, furniture, and porcelain…..my favorite period.
If you’re also inclined toward the Georgian and Louis/Versailles era, I’ve got two words for you: TREASURE TROVE.
I understand that this wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, taking the time to slowly stroll from piece to piece and chat up the curators for background stories is my version of utopia.
Because it’s a former residence, the stunning works of art aren’t the only aspect to admire. The ballroom, bedrooms, boudoir, and even the grand staircase all have stories of their own. It’s easy to take a seat on the tufted chaise, look out passed the satin curtains, through the windows into the courtyard, shut your eyes for just a moment and get lost in it all.
And just when I thought the experience couldn’t get any better, I learned that it has the largest collection of Marie Antoinette’s furniture in the world.
As in more than Versailles. To say i’m intrigued by this era would be an understatement (I took a class a the Sorbonne devoted solely to Versailles creation and development. Nerd alert.) Apparently the family royally cleaned up during the French Revolution auctions…
If you love 18th century English and French art, lifestyle, etc, I can’t imagine a more perfect place to spend an afternoon. Since admission is free (as are many London museums), it’s even easier to return time and time again.
When we first moved to the UK, Joel and I daydreamed about sitting around on a Thursday night with no weekend plans and booking a last minute trip. We almost pulled the trigger a couple of times, but ultimately, it’s a bit too intense/anxiety ridden to take a trip that last minute.
While it wasn’t super last minute, we lived a bit spontaneously and scheduled a trip to Madrid with one week’s notice.
This was actually our first trip since we got married….just the two of us.
With all the changes in the last year, there was never a time for a honeymoon (it will happen…eventually) and even though there have been a handful of trips in the last six months, none were just….us.
And boy, did it feel good.
Friday night kicked off with 8pm drinks at Meson de la Guitarra. Considering Spain’s late night dinner lifestyle (as featured in the NYT earlier this week) mixed with the popularity of the bar (we received a ton of recommendations to go here), we figured drinks from 8-10pm would be normal.
We were wrong.
For two hours we had Meson de la Guitarra to ourselves, a pitcher of sangria, some tapas, and a couple of musicians.
At around 10pm, a couple people began trickling in and by 1030, the place was filling up.
You live, you learn.
At 11pm, we arrived for dinner at Bocaito, a quintessential Spanish restaurant (in terms of food and ambiance), which came recommended by a local colleague of mine.
It was here that we fully understood the late night Madrid culture…
At 11pm, the host was quoting 1 and 1/2 hour wait times and the rooms were packed with guests of all ages.
Saturday morning we woke up to rain, rain, and more rain. The timing was rather perfect since our goal for the day was to go on a culinary adventure at Mercado de San Miguel.
The indoor market is stall after stall of tapas, particularly seafood. And wine. And jamon….which is hanging everywhere.
Three hours later we emerged with grins from ear to ear…..partly from all the wine, partly from our full bellies.
We then went for a bit of a walk, cursing the rain along the way…
And decided it was time to soak up more culture, i.e. try more food.
This time we went with churros and chocolate.
Following a siesta, we emerged to explore the Salamanca neighborhood with stops at The Whitby and St. James.
But the best part of the weekend? Easily our bike tour with Bravo Bike.
Kaspar took us on a three hour ride throughout the city explaining the history, sharing local facts, etc. We cruised through parks, passed by palaces, stopped for a cafe con leche and pastry, curved around tiny alleys, and finished down a big boulevard that was empty of cars thanks to a protest. Kaspsar also doubled as a paparazzi, snapping our photo around every twist and turn.
My only regret is doing the ride toward the end of the trip since we gained such a better understanding of the city and the culture.
Although the thought of eating more croquettes or jamon makes me queasy…
24 Hours in Paris (and the "best restaurant" in Paris)
He leaned over from his barstool and whispered in my ear "This is the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Maybe even in all of Paris."
This week I landed in Paris for 24 hours - one hour for a work meeting, the remaining hours for exploring.
While I returned to some of my old favorite stomping grounds, the reality is that I haven’t lived in Paris for nine years (le sigh) and needed to scope out some new spots.
I took a French class this past Fall to brush up on my Francais and my teacher recommended Les Cocottes. She also suggested it to two of my friends who recently went and raved about it.
Tuesday afternoon I wrapped up my meeting, said “Au Revoir” to my colleagues, and ventured to the 7th Arrondissement. Although the area is home to some of Paris’ most famous landmarks (Eiffel Tower, Musee D’Orsay, Hotel des Invalides), it exudes a neighborhood/village vibe.
I made my way passed Champs de Mars, down Rue Saint Dominique, and found myself in front of Les Cocottes. I had heard rumors of the no reservations policy/long waits, but by my 1:15 arrival, I was seated right away at the bar, which actually seemed to be the prized restaurant real estate.
While some classic Parisian restaurants hold on to an infamously traditional look and feel, it was a pleasant surprise to see how a restaurant could segue into a modern era. Les Cocottes has created a comfortable, yet casual ambiance that feels like 2014, while still maintaing and serving classic, melt in your mouth, what-you-come-to-Paris-for French food.
I started with the Foie Gras (I think the salad dressing was made of crack because never in my life have I wanted to eat more plain lettuce).
Followed by Pavé de cabillaud demi-sel, ragout de pommes de terre et carottes (Cod, potatoes, and carrots).
I don’t even like carrots, but…..wow.
There are simply no words.
I only wish you could smell this photo.
As I paid for the meal and savored my last few sips of wine, an older gentleman entered the restaurant, was greeted by the staff as if he was everyone’s best friend, and sat next to me at the bar.
Monsieur obviously took pride in his appearance and the result was immaculate - tortoise shell glasses, a silk tie, and a silver napkin holder were sartorial perfection, reminiscent of another time.
He asked me if I was enjoying my wine. I replied “mais, bien sur” and that even though it was my first meal at Les Cocottes, it hoped it wouldn’t be my last.
Jean Servot proceeded to tell me that he dines here every week, always ordering something different. He confided that he’s lived in the arrondissement since the 1930’s and then he leans over on his barstool and whispers in my ear "This is the best restaurant in the neighborhood. Maybe even in all of Paris."
The next thirty minutes were spent discussing life, love, France, and the United States (his favorite state is Colorado). Although we spoke only in French, he asked me where I was from originally and was shocked to learn the answer was America. He assumed, based on my accent, that I hailed from Australia or Great Britain. This was no news to me since I was placed in the Aussie/UK group instead of the American group during my “Accent Class” at The Sorbonne. I’m still trying to figure out that riddle….
Finally, it was time for me to go. I told Jean that it was an absolute pleasure to meet him. His response was much more charming.
"Today, President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande will meet, but I consider myself to be infinitely more lucky to have had this meeting with you.”
Even the waitresses swooned.
We exchanged cards and said “Until next time”, not “goodbye”.
I arrived in Amsterdam last week for a quick work trip. Although I visited the city once before, it was seven years ago and I didn’t have the best experience.
This time I left feeling completely different and cannot wait to return. I’m thinking Spring time…tulips.
First and foremost - Pannekoek (i.e. Dutch pancakes) are a dream. The doughy, crispy, sweet dish soaked up every sin from the night before…and there was a lot of Amsterdam sin to soak up. I’m very thankful there are no photos from that part of the visit.
I asked the concierge at my hotel to point me in the direction of a non-touristy area to walk around. He absolutely delivered and I proceeded to spend hours getting lost from canal to canal (and that’s not just figurative…getting lost in Amsterdam is a bit tricky). Ironically, while I wandered aimlessly, I was asked for directions four separate times. Who knew I looked so Dutch?
As far as my walk was concerned, the bikes and facades kept me company…
As did this Lady lookalike statue.
The highlight of my trip? Walking passed a school during pick up. The Dutch have taken their love affair with bikes to a whole other level for carpooling….a true sight to be seen.
First and foremost, we had a low key celebration for Joel’s Birthday consisting of pain au chocolat (his favorite), sparklers, and a big ol’ Sunday Roast with friends. The real celebration (a trip) is on the horizon.
Lady started looking a bit too furry…
So we took her in for a little snip snip. With her new bob/page boy haircut, me think she passes for a puppy.
Lady also spent the past month sharing my real estate curiosity. On one of our neighborhood explorations, she sized up her favorite stoops.
She’s also been taking advantage of her frequent bus rides, treating them more like “meet and greets” with the locals.
Celebrated Australian Day with my favorite Aussies. Highlights included Tim Tams, summer clothes (they cranked the heat up to make it feel like down under), and a mechanical surf board ride (Tristan is the champion and lasted 100 seconds…..I lasted 16).
Finally enjoyed dinner at Locanda Locatelli, a wedding present from some friends. It was far and away the most indulgent, gourmet meal we’ve had since moving to London. A cheese plate with bespoke honey for every cheese selection? You better believe we enjoyed every second/taste of it.
Witnessed this intense, breathtaking rainbow while boarding a flight to Amsterdam.
Finally experienced Tayyabs, a BYOB Indian restaurant in East London infamous for great curry, dirt cheap prices, and a packed/mobbed scene. Most people line up to eat, but even with a reservation, it’s typical to wait 30 minutes or so.
Enjoyed a beautiful Sunday pub crawl through Notting Hill and North Kensington with some of my favorite people. I feel bad even typing this considering the weather in the US, but I’m really loving this mild winter we’re having.
The five of us met just six months ago (except Elysha and I who have known each other for 17 years) and now here we are celebrating Hannah…
Celebrating what, you may ask? Her baby girl who will be gracing us with an appearance in just a few more weeks.
We celebrated in the most logical way - with afternoon tea.
The Pelham is the opposite of London’s legendary tea houses. Instead of being in an ornate grand room at a massive hotel, The Pelham is a townhouse in South Kensington and the tea room is an intimate space as if you were getting cozy at a friend’s house.
Their afternoon tea included all the typical fix-ins, although it has to be noted that those peanut butter chocolate bites at the top were the winner and the fruit cake pops in the middle tray were the loser.
I’m of the opinion that you can’t go wrong with finger sandwiches. Realistically, they’re simple and boring, but there’s something about those light bites that I love….
Especially the cucumber sandwich one. It’s the most ridiculous of the bunch, but it’s my favorite.
They served several small scones person person, which helped to maintain the light fluffy texture (nothing worse that a big crumbly dry scone).
And the jam…..perhaps a haiku will do it justice.
Raspberry jam on my scone.
Drizzle from my spoon.
Taste buds dance.
Three hours later (no really, how did we drink tea for so long?) Hannah opened a couple presents for baby girl S.
And we discussed some very deep, meaningful life questions, most important of which is will Hannah deliver in the same room as Kate Middleton? Maybe yes. Maybe no.