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….
"What if we moved to London and could spend the weekends in Paris….?"
I uttered these words around this time last year. How surreal it is when dreams become reality….
And even more surreal when you can share this reality with loved ones.
After visiting us in London for a couple days, Sarah and Dean (friends from New York) joined us for a weekend in Paris.
They set the bar exceptionally high two years ago when they hosted us for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Crete, Greece.
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.
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.
Clearly, the wine went down very smoothly.
Sunday night dinner was at Le Comptoir du Relais.
While the food and atmosphere was on par with the previous evening’s meal, our waiter hated us (or simply acted like it).
No matter - we didn’t let it affect our evening.
Escargots, filet, cote du rhone….it was all so good.
The cafe crawl didn’t stop there.
We wrapped things up at Cafe Bonaparte, where our waiter (pictured above) more than made up for the previous waiter’s antics and even challenged Dean to a coaster throw.
It was midnight in Paris and it was perfect….
Only to be topped by a swift walk back to the Seine for a final view of the illuminated Eiffel Tower.
I woke up Monday morning and knocked out a couple hours of work on our terrace before jumping back on the train.
Two hours+ later, I was back in London, happy to be home.
Happy to be reunited with Lady.
And happy to finally feel like London is home.
There is not much more I love than a night in with friends…
Sharing food and memories….
Laughter to the point of tears….
And lots of Heads Up.
On her last night in London, I asked my Mom what she enjoyed the most about her visit in London.
She rallied off a list of things that impressed and surprised her…
-The Tube system is so much cleaner, more efficient, and easier to navigate than the NYC Subway
-People are so warm, friendly, and helpful
-It’s just so beautiful! So much history!
-“I can easily see why you’d want to stay here.”
But her hands down favorite part of London was….
Nothing brings my Mom more joy than the experience of food, so I was in no way surprised that Borough Market, a gourmet sensory overload, was her favorite.
She literally tasted her way from end to end.
Beginning with coffee…
Followed by a tour of the veggies.
With a special meet and greet with her favorite, rhubarb.
There was many a cheese tasting (this was cheese stand one of 1,000).
Washed down with freshly squeezed apple and strawberry juice.
We had to stop and smell the truffles because, as you do…
And savor every sample we came across.
In case you were wondering, this is the face of food euphoria.
A crispy pork sandwich was devoured…
As was mama’s first raclette.
And we capped off the food tour with a walk across Tower Bridge, because, when in London…
But Mom - guess what? London is brimming with so many more amazing food markets, so we’ll have to simply visit them all on your next visit. We’ll start with Maltby Market.
Borough Market. (Read about my first experience at Borough Market here.)
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 they have a significantly high number of smokers (even by Europe’s standards) and they’re the cancer capital of the world?
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!