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72 Hours in Geneva

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. 

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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.

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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.

Le sigh.

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Instead, we made our way to Lake Geneva to chow down by the water.

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Followed by a walk up to the Old Town…

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Where we could easily view The Alps’ bleak ski conditions.

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We circled our way through the tiny streets, steep stairs, and hidden courtyards in Old Town, taking in all of the medieval beauty. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Saturday we arose ready to see the Swiss countryside. 

First stop?

Montreux, situated an hour and change north at the tip of Lake Geneva at the foot of The Alps. 

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There was a bit of a Spring explosion along the water…

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And the fog misted from the mountains.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Following some brief R&R in Geneva, it was time to hit the town.

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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. 

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We didn’t stray from restaurant’s theme - it was a super Swiss evening.

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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.

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Then it was on to the main event…

I could barely contain my excitement for all the cheese.

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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.

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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. 

Superb.

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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….

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We spent time reading and people watching in the park (fun fact: did you know Geneva is called “the city of parks”?)

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The park was filled with families..

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And people who were minutes away from making families of their own.

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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.

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We also went to the farmer’s market and stocked up for what was an epic dinner.

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We made out pretty well.

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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.

Plus, the Alps will still be there next winter!

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48 Hours in Paris

"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.

You can read about that here, here, and here.

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

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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. 

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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.

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The streets of the Marais were packed, as was Place des Vosges, and rightfully so - you couldn’t have ordered better weather. 

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After an hour or so of people watching and a quick trip around Bastille, we refueled on Nutella crepes…

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Before making our way back west for a cafe crawl of sorts. 

For every sight we saw, we rewarded ourselves with some vino.  

Logical, no?

Hotel de Ville?

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 Cafe visit….

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Ile St. Louis?

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Another cafe visit…

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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.

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Just before sunset we took a stroll across Pont des Arts.

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Where Dean and Sarah added a lock of their own.

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Joel and I reminisced about the last time we were in the same exact spot almost three years ago. 

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I dug up the photo for memory’s sake :)

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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. 

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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.

Why?

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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True story - as soon as we left, we swung by boulangerie to pick up another croissant each.

Oops.

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).

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We stopped for a quick lunch in Tuileries Gardens, which were bursting with color.  

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Curious what we ordered?

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Let me give you a hint… 

There was baguette. Cheese. And more wine.

Mais oui!

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After a full day of sightseeing, we patted ourselves on the back and rewarded each other for a job well done with…..more wine.

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The laissez faire cafe lifestyle was high on our priority list, but this time we experienced it left bank-style in Saint Germain.

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Clearly, the wine went down very smoothly.

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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). 

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No matter - we didn’t let it affect our evening. 

Escargots, filet, cote du rhone….it was all so good. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Tags: Travel Paris
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36 Hours in Norway
We had big plans for Norway, but when the country threw us lemons, we couldn’t even make lemonade. Everything that went wrong did and I’m disappointed to say that the trip was not a success, nor anything even close to resembling one. 
Instead of boring you with the details of the fjord tour that wasn’t mean to be or every of unfortunate twist, I’ll share this photo of the very traditional meal we had in Oslo, Norwegian Meatballs, the bigger sister of Swedish Meatball.
Lesson learned - don’t visit Norway in winter (i.e. October-May). 
Keeping my fingers crossed that any future trips to Norway take a different course and that I’m proven wrong.

36 Hours in Norway

We had big plans for Norway, but when the country threw us lemons, we couldn’t even make lemonade. Everything that went wrong did and I’m disappointed to say that the trip was not a success, nor anything even close to resembling one. 

Instead of boring you with the details of the fjord tour that wasn’t mean to be or every of unfortunate twist, I’ll share this photo of the very traditional meal we had in Oslo, Norwegian Meatballs, the bigger sister of Swedish Meatball.

Lesson learned - don’t visit Norway in winter (i.e. October-May). 

Keeping my fingers crossed that any future trips to Norway take a different course and that I’m proven wrong.

Tags: Travel Norway
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48 Hours in Copenhagen, Denmark

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.  

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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. 

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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…..

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Including Smørrebrød  (open faced sandwiches on rye bread)…..image

Heaps of seafood (especially one of my favorites, herring)….

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And, of course, danish pastries. 

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There was no doubt for my mama - it was love at first sight with her cinnamon + cardamon danish. 

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Her face literally froze when the flaky, doughy pastry hit her mouth. 

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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 :)

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-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?

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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!

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I tried to challenge this little girl to a jump off, but she was too adorable to be bothered with my shenanigans. image

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

How quaint.

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. 

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It was also love at first (orange) sight for Mike and my mom.  

Well, for him at least.

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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.)

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A walk in the park and another nap later, it was time to eat again.

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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.)

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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.

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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”. 

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48 Hours in Belgium

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. 

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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. 

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Saturday morning we explored a bit more, but kept finding ourselves back at the Grand Place.

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Or taste testing waffles because, you know, when in Belgium…

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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.

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First things first - we loaded up on Belgian mussels, fries, and beer at a cavernous underground cafe De Bierbistrto.

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And then spent the afternoon doing what we do best…

Exploring and taste testing more waffles. image

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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.

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Sunday thankfully brought with it blue skies and pure sunshine. image

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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.

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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.

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At 6pm we jumped back on Eurostar and returned to London.

Tired feet.

Full bellies.

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!

Tags: Travel
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48 Hours in Madrid

Living spontaneously…

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.  

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OLE!

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. 

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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.

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We then went for a bit of a walk, cursing the rain along the way…

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And decided it was time to soak up more culture, i.e. try more food. 

This time we went with churros and chocolate. 

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Following a siesta, we emerged to explore the Salamanca neighborhood with stops at The Whitby and St. James. 

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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. 

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Although the thought of eating more croquettes or jamon makes me queasy…

Here’s to living (a smidge) spontaneously! 

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10 days, 5 countries, 1 inspired (albeit sleepy) Casey.

I want to write this here and put pen to paper (figuratively) to remember this feeling….

Some adventures are coming to a close. Some are just about to begin.  

The past year has without a doubt been a roller coaster and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

"Tell mewhat is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” - Mary Oliver.

Tags: Travel Paris
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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. 

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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). 

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Followed by Pavé de cabillaud demi-sel, ragout de pommes de terre et carottes (Cod, potatoes, and carrots).

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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….

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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”. 

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Breakfast in London, lunch in Milan, dinner in Paris. Monday - you set the bar high. 

A latte doesn’t really count as breakfast, but between the spaghetti carbonara, foie gras, and steak and potatoes cooked in goose fat….I can’t pick a favorite.

Tuesday, I’m ready for you. More wine please.

Breakfast in London, lunch in Milan, dinner in Paris. Monday - you set the bar high.

A latte doesn’t really count as breakfast, but between the spaghetti carbonara, foie gras, and steak and potatoes cooked in goose fat….I can’t pick a favorite.

Tuesday, I’m ready for you. More wine please.

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36 Hours in Amsterdam

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. 

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Travel is shifting into high gear in February and March.  Below are some of the places I’ll be hitting, all of which I’ve either never visited or haven’t been to in several years.  I’ll have 48 hours or less in each spot - any and all recommendations are very welcome.

Either leave a note below or send them to CaseyCulture@gmail.com.

Thank you!

Spain: If you had never been to Spain and only had 48 hours in Madrid, Barcelona, or Seville, which city would you choose and what would you do?

Norway: I’d like nature to be the main focus of this trip. Mountains, fjords, rivers, towns - any recommendations?  

Copenhagen: I want to eat all the fish and bike all the narrow streets. Where should I do this and what else should I add to the itinerary? 

Brussels: I wasn’t a big fan of this city when I visited back in 2005, but I’m eager keep an open mind. What recommendations do you have to ensure this visit succeeds the previous one?

Bruges: I hear nothing but amazing stories about this storybook looking town (city?) What should I do, eat, see, etc, to ensure it lives up to the hype?

Paris: I’ve got two “city of lights” trips lined up in the coming weeks.  And while Paris is the European city I know the best, I’d love to fill these visits with new experiences, tastes, sights, etc. Suggestions?

Amsterdam: I’ve done most of the main tourist attractions during a previous trip (albeit it was eight years ago). This time I only have a couple hours of free time - what should I check off the list? 

Tags: Travel
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Six months ago, if you were to tell me that my new life in the UK would include day trips to Italy, I would’ve laughed in your face and then promptly said “Si! Grazzi!” 

Turns out, that crazy notion is now true.

A week ago I stepped onto Italy soil for the first time (Turin to be exact) and was in and out in less than 24 hours. 

One meeting, a couple new Italian phrases, and countless plates of pasta later (they really do love their long, multi-course lunches), one thing is for sure - I need to book another (LONGER) trip back.

Ciao!

Tags: Travel Italy
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Cabo San Lucas New Year Trip

Some beach vacations are relax, lay around, snooze, repeat.

My recent trip to Cabo San Lucas was nothing of the sort. (Side note: I’m writing this at the same time I’m writing copy at work and man, that line sounds so British, doesn’t it?!) 

Joel and I joined his extended family (27 of us in total!) for a jam packed schedule of fun in the Mexican sun. Thankfully, London’s winter weather to date has been fairly mild (knock on….), but that doesn’t mean the blue skies and 82 degree weather wasn’t everything I had dreamed of and more.

In case you’re curious, here’s how we stayed busy…

Activity #1: Deep Sea Fishing - I may have played the role of observer during this excursion….

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But I was a very active participant in the eating of Joel’s Mahi Mahi. 

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The seagulls weren’t as lucky as they begged for our catch scraps. 

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Activity #2: Dancing - I assume I inherited it from my mama, but as soon as the Mariachi band arrived at the house, I grabbed Joel quicker than you can say “my hips don’t lie.”

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Activity #3: Paddleboarding - I’m the idiot who previously watched paddleboarders and assumed “oh, that must be soooo easy.” One hour and nineteen falls later (that may or may not be an exaggeration), I finally got the hang of it and my core thanked me for the killer workout.

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Activity #3: Smores - why? why not?

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Activity #4: Ziplining and Rappelling - the Costa Azul canyon is beautiful, but heights continue to terrify me.

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Activity #5: Whale Watching - With margaritas, cervezas, and cameras in hand, we hit the Sea of Cortez in search of some extra large flipper friends.

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It must’ve been peak time because Willy and his friends were putting on one hell of a show.

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However, my attention kept getting diverted to the other boat whale watching along with us.  A certain female celeb crush of mine was on board (with her celeb friends) and I couldn’t help but gawk. 

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Activity #6: Snorkeling - Hard to think of a better way to enjoy sunset than a swim with the fishies followed by a cruise to shore. 

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Activity #7: Exploring - Art galleries, old cobbestone streets, local breweries, winding mountain roads.

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Activity #8: Napkin Design -  Ok, not really an activity, but I learned how to turn a regular paper napkin into this fancy rose.  Slow clap!

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Activity #9: Lounging - because…..well, yea.
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Activity #10: Eating and Drinking all the Food - whether it was tasting the local cervezas, toasting the New Year with champagne, or setting records for most margaritas consumed in a day, it’s fair to say that I’m going to be reducing my alcohol intake this month. And thank goodness London isn’t known for their Mexican food.  If I see another taco or scoop or guacamole… 

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Activity #11: Mexican Boom Boom - thank you (I think?) to the man who will go unnamed for introducing us to this local tradition. It’s one part shot, one part kidnapping scare. You can see Joel and Michael enjoying theirs by clicking on their names.

Cheers to Ed and Irene for a trip of a lifetime!

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Tags: travel Mexico
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Jameson Distillery 

A trip to Ireland wouldn’t be complete without tasting (and learning about) their heritage Irish Whiskey.

And on a classic rainy day, it’s the best way to warm up.

Tags: Travel
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Castlemartyr, Ireland

Once we had experienced Cork’s city, fishing towns, and rocky coasts, there was one final area on our list….

The country.

25 miles east of Cork is the village of Castlemartyr.

Guess how many people live there?

Only 500!

With another 2,000 in the immediate vicinity.

Our large group took over a converted 17th century country manor that can only be described as out of a Jane Austen dream…..if Jane Austen book’s took place in Ireland. 

The resort was incredible and, fortunately/unfortunately due to Ireland’s not so great economy, is a very affordable luxury. I only wish we could have stayed longer!

The resort’s extensive grounds include a farm, woods, rolling hills, even a castle, and I was eager to explore them.  

But just when I think life couldn’t get any better…..it did.

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Earl and Countess, sibling irish Setters, are residents at the manor.  

But their responsibilities don’t just include welcoming guests….

This beautiful pair are also tour guides.

So while the 60 other people in our group slept in recovering from the previous night’s village pub shenanigans, I pulled Joel out of bed (literally) to have Earl and Countess take US for a walk.

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At first, I was completely confused by the idea.

Me: So how do I know where to take them?

Concierge: They’ll take you.

Me: I’m sorry, what?

Concierge: They know exactly where to go and when to turn around.

Me: But, how, why, that’s so cool!

Concierge: Yes…..

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So off we went….

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And it was astounding - they knew exactly where they were going and didn’t allow anything that deterred them from their training (i.e. stopping for photos…turning around for a photo once they had returned the manor…as is evidence above.)

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I don’t even care that this is cliche, but….

Castle and manor aside, the whole experience was a dream and only reinforced my feeling that I’m so much happier in the country and wouldn’t mind leaving city living sooner rather than later.

Lady would obviously be on board with the idea, too.

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Tags: Travel