What I Read: October 2019

Rachel Abbott: Shape of Lies (DCI Tom Douglas,#8)

Anna is a woman with a secret past that she has done her best to cover up, and keep from her husband and children.
She is the successful head of a primary school, and all seems well until she hears a radio program mentioning someone called Scott who wants to talk about his past relationship with a girl called Spike, and Nebraska. But Scott is dead, Anna is sure of it, or is he?
This sends her into a panic, and in a series of flashbacks we begin to understand what happened in her first year at university.

Alongside her story, Tom and Becky and the team are investigating the discovery of a body in a car park, while Tom is also facing personal problems.

This is the 8th book in the DCI Tom Douglas series, but provides sufficient background information that this novel can be read as a stand-alone. I usually love her books but I could’t really put my finger on this one. I found Anna’s story very far-fetched, how could anyone be so naïve to get into the situation she did, and not call it a day very early on rather than getting in deeper and deeper?! Also too much Anna in this book and not enough Tom Douglas. I feel in this book he wasn’t even needed because finding the killer was more by chance than real police work. It is well written, suspenseful and kept me wanting to know more more more of these old secrets but I ended up being disappointed in the end.

3/5

John Marrs: When You Disappear

Married for 10 years with 3 children it may seem that Cathrine and Simone have the perfect marriage. But when Simon disappears without a trace Catherine realises she never actually knew him. Fast forward 25 years and Simon is back, determinate to sort things out between them. The two share with one another what happened over the course of their time apart and the secrets start to emerge…

But as they share more and more, nothing really happens! For me things moved too slowly and all I wanted to know was why Simon left?!I bought this book just because of the amazing reviews and the fact that two previous Marrs’ books that I read were so good! For me, this one was not as good and I was struggling to read it so much that in some parts I ended up skim reading it. The ending had a great twist so my mark would be much lower otherwise.

3/5

Mark Edwards: Here To Stay

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for. The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are the scars on his wife’s body that she won’t talk about . . . As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in his home it becomes clear that they have no intention of moving out Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

There is something about Mark Edwards and his writing that I find intriguing, no matter the topic. I have read several of his books and I have to say they just get better and better. The story is claustrophobic, unsetteling and chilling. The houseguests from hell who at first are a nuisance but quickly turn into unstable and dangerous sent my stress levels through the roof. There are twists and turns, jump scares, and chapter cliffhangers culminating in a stunning, jaw-dropping conclusion, that I did predict, but made it no less impacting. Edwards will definitely remain the ‘auto-buy’ author for me.

5/5

Søren Sveistrup: The Chestnut Man

Set in Denmark, a psychotic serial killer is terrorising Copenhagen. His signature is the chestnut man- a doll made out of matchsticks and chestnuts- which he leaves next to the body. Examining the dolls, forensics make a shocking discovery- a fingerprint that belongs to a minister’s daughter kidnapped and murdered a year ago! An unlikely pair of detectives Thulin and Hess have to put aside their differences and piece together the gruesome clues left by the Chestnut man.

When I heard that the writer of the tv show ‘The Killing’ has published his first book I simply had to read it! Well, I can only say this debut will not have you dreaming of chestnuts roasting on the open fire anytime soon! Reading the book was like solving a puzzle, classic ‘Nordic Noir’ with a dark setting and complex characters. There are numerous twists, turns, cliffhangers and an unexpected ending! For me, that’s a sign of a good book.

Definitely not for the fainthearted but if you are fan of Scandinavian fiction or the TV show The Killing this one is for you!

5/5

What I Read: September 2019

Jojo Moyes: Still Me

In Still Me, Louisa keeps her promise to Will, her love from book one to say yes to new opportunities. This opportunity brings her from her home in England—and her hunky boyfriend the paramedic Sam—to New York City to be an assistant to a wealthy young wife of a wildly rich man. Louisa acts like something of an emotional bodyguard for Agnes against the society women who assumed she stole Leonard from his first wife because she was just after his money and citizenship (she’s from Poland). There are perks to her job, like going to charity balls in $3,000 dresses purchased by her employer, but it puts a huge strain on her relationship with Sam. Can they make the long-distance thing work, or is this going to be the end of them?

This is the 3rd book in the Me Before You series and I was pleasantly surprised. I am a huge fan of Louisa and her personality and I enjoyed the journey she took. First things first ‘Still Me’ is not ‘Me Before You’. Its not even close. There are a few situations that border on being cliches and the whole novel reads like a rom-com. But I did not care, not one bit. I can genuinely say I absolutely love this book. 

4/5

Alice Feeney: I Know Who You Are

Aimee is an up-and-coming movie starlet! Everything is falling into place for her…at least professionally. Her home life however, could use a little Hollywood magic. Her husband has grown distant as her star-power has risen, leaving him in the shadows. 

After a long day of shooting on the set, Aimee returns home to find her husband missing. His wallet, phone and shoes are still in the house the car is parked in the garage, and most disturbing of all, a bouquet of flowers on the table with a simple note that chillingly says, “Sorry”.

I read all of the comments about this book before starting it, and they were so bad that at one point I was just going to give up. But I managed to finish it and I have to say, most of the bad reviews are true. To be honest, the book is gripping, and I couldn’t stop reading it because I was curious as to what happened next but some things just didn’t make sense. I’m not going to say much so I don’t spoil the story but the fact Aimee kept going to work and acted like nothing was wrong while her husband was missing is just too stupid. Also the ending had the most ridiculous, unbelievable and revolting twist!

2.5/5

Greer Hendricks,Sarah Pekkanen: An Anonymous Girl

When Jessica signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money and leave. But as the questions grow more and more invasive, she begins to feel as though they know what she’s thinking . . . and what she’s hiding. As Jessica’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what is real in her life, and this is one of Dr Shields’s manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

I’ve enjoyed reading the authors’ breakout book The Wife Between Us (which is now being turned into a movie), so I was excited to read this one as well and in my opinion is even better than the first one. I wasn’t hooked from the beginning but once when I got into it I couldn’t stop reading. Until the very end I didn’t know who was good and who was bad and what their motives are. Chapters are short and alternate between Jessica’s and Dr Shields’ point of view, the story is very fast paced, full of twists and turns and it kept me glued for hours.

4/5

Shari Lapena: Someone We Know

Neighbourhood gossip and hidden secrets makes this an addictively gripping and thrilling story that was impossible to put down. 

In a quiet suburb where everyone knows everyone, there has been a string of break-ins. A teenager has been sneaking into houses and hacking into personal computers. Secrets are uncovered. Then a neighbour is found dead in the trunk of her car. Could the exposed secrets uncover who is responsible for the murder? Whose secrets will be revealed and whose will be kept hidden? Is anyone in the neighbourhood safe?

I have read and loved all of Shari Lapena’s, books. There is something about her writing that keeps me on the edge of my seat. A classic whodunit book where literally everyone is suspicious at one point and until the very last end, when you are absolutely sure the case is solved, you will be wrong. Well, at least I was!

4.5/5

Michelle Frances: The Daughter

Katie had her daughter Becky when she was a teenager and bought her up as a single mother. She has sacrificed a lot to give her the best start in life. Although life as a single mother is hard, the 2 of them are very close and Katie couldn’t be prouder of her daughter getting a position as a trainee journalist.

Without giving this amazing plot away, there is a terrible accident involving Becky, Katie’s life is changed forever and when she discovers what Becky’s undercover story is she carries on investigating even though she is going against dangerous people who do not want this becoming public.

The narrative moves between the present and the days leading up to Becky’s accident with the occasional flashback to Kate’s earlier life with Becky.While I don’t want to mention anything about Becky’s secret investigation in order to avoid spoilers, it does focus on an important subject. In the author’s end notes she outlines the real life issues that inspired this story.

I loved Michelle’s previous book The Girlfriend but this one wasn’t as amazing. I found the flashbacks a bit boring so I just skim-read it. I would probably give it a 4 otherwise because it was an intersting subject.

3.5/5


What I read: August 2019

So, as I am a big reader and don’t have anyone to share my opinions with about the books I read most of the time, i’ve decided to write a blog post on a monthly basis and give my honest opinion about each one.

The Silent Patient

Painter Alicia Berenson lives a seemingly a happy life with her photographer husband in a big house overlooking Hampstead Heath, until one night Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivation.

The book is narrated through Alicia’s diary before the murder and through Theo’s point of view. I don’t want to talk too much because I might spoil the big twist at end- and I mean it’s so big that I stopped and re-read the page. Nothing is as it seems in this novel. This story is complex and multi-layered with a labyrinth of characters, each playing their part in the development of the plot.

4.5/5

The Family Upstairs

25 years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old in her crib. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a suicide note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

There are three stories entwined in this book. First storyline is about Libby, she’s twenty five. She had been adopted and has now inherited a large family home from her birth parents. She’s about to learn some terrible events that led to her being adopted. Story two is about Lucy. She’s a single mother of two children who is trying to get back to Britain from France. She has no money and they are living on the streets. Story three is about Henry. It’s told twenty years ago. It tells what happened to his family when people started moving into his Chelsea Mansion.

There are 432 pages in this book and I finished it within two days. I read Lisa’s previous books and I have to say this one is my favourite. At the beginning the story line might seem confusing because there are different characters and timelines but once when you get going the story flows. This isn’t your average domestic thriller, or classic family drama… this is twisted, dark, emotionally disturbing, Netflix documentary level crazy! I can’t recommend it enough.

5/5

The Perfect Wife

Abbie wakes up without a memory of who she is, the man next to her claims to be her husband. He’s the owner of one of the biggest and innovative tech companies in Sillicon Valley. He says she had a terrible accident 5 years ago and he brought her back. She’s a miricle of science. But of course when her memories start to return, she starts to question his motives and his version of events.

Some of you probably remember The Girl Before success a few years ago. Everyone was reading it. That was the first book by J.P. Deleney so I naivly expected The Perfect Wife would be just as good. I got hooked and I read it very quickly because I expected something good to happen with some amazing twist…it was the biggest let down! The book is actually in my opinion complete science fiction where the main character is a robot (this is not a spoiler as it’s revealed in the first few pages) so it’s very hard to connect with her.

3/5

Everything is Lies

The lead character Sophia discovers her mother is dead and her father critically injured in what appears to be a murder, suicide. Sophia does not believe this to be the case and searches for the answers when she discovers her mother has finally written a book of her life. The story switches between present day and excerpts from Sophia’s mothers book which really adds to the suspense.

Despite some plot flaws the book was a real page turner with lots of twists. I’m not going to say much more, except that this book did take me by surprise and I felt everything from being annoyed, to feeling sad, and that kind of fear where you know something bad is going to happen but you can’t take your eyes off of what is going on.

4/5

The One

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for. That’s the promise made by ‘Match Your DNA’ a decade ago. Millions took the test but it has its downsides – breakups, divorces, and changed views on romance and dating.

The book switches from 5 different characters stories and the individual journeys they embark upon when they discover who they are gentically destined to be with – their so called perfect ‘one’. What could possibly go wrong…? Well, it turns out absolutely everything.

If you are a fan of the Black Mirror series this book is for you. I thought at the beginning I was going to find it confusing to retain 5 stories, with subplots, and many characters that literally don’t intertwine but the author did such an amazing job at keeping me invested it was clear which story I was reading. You have to know, this is not a love story…far from it.

Also the big news came last Spring that ‘The One’, will be turned into a 10-part series on Netflix, with filming beginning this summer and ready for its debut in January. How exciting is that?!

Mini Guide to Positano

Getting There

The quickest way to get to Positano is to rent a car in Naples and drive. The car gives you freedom and the drive takes around 90 minutes. The downside of this is that you will have to drive in Naples. There is no simple way to put this…driving in Naples is nothing like driving in a typical city. You’ll encounter intersections without traffic signals or stop signs, dogs and babies on Vespas, and drivers who break every traffic law. Also parking in Positano is hard to find and it costs around 30€/day.

Another way to get to Positano is by train. There is no direct train to Positano so if you want to take a train, you can only travel from Napoli Centrale to Sorrento, and then you need to travel from Sorrento to Positano by SITA bus. The Circumvesuviana train heads to Sorrento every half hour from 6 AM to 11 PM in the high season, and a bit less frequently in off seasons. A one way trip takes an hour and ten minutes; you can purchase your ticket at the station for 4€. Keep in mind that these tickets can’t be purchased in advance, so trains tend to be overcrowded or sold out. It’s worth spending the extra 4€ for the Campania Express, which makes the trip from Naples to Sorrento in under an hour and is generally considered more comfortable.

As we wanted to get to Positano as early as possible we took the Circumvesuviana train. We read so many bad expirences online that we honestly expected this train would be full of criminals and mugging would be the best case scenario. In our experience there is nothing wrong with this train. Of course, you have to be vigiliant and use common sense but for anyone who’s ever been on the public transport there shouldn’t be a problem.

Once you reach Sorrento, you’re halfway done with your trip! Now you’re just a short bus or ferry ride away! The Sita bus company runs from Sorrento Railway Station along the coast, all the way to Amalfi with stops in Positano. The bus runs daily, in the peak season leaving every 30 minutes from 6:30 AM until 7:30 PM and takes about 45 minutes. Tickets cost between 10€ and 12€ and can be purchased at local cigarette shops, newspaper stands, or the Circumvesuviana station. However, a ticket doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a seat as these busses are often oversold. Get there as early as possible to secure your seat.

Where to Eat

Tagliata

Settled in the hills above Positano, this charming restaurant is something you can’t miss. This family run restaurant doesn’t have a menu but instead you are offered a set meal of antipasti, first course (selection of pasta), second course (selection of barbequed meats), dessert and a bottle of wine for a fixed price of 45€ per person. The view makes the dining experience so enjoyable, but the food was truly the highlight. With many of their ingredients grown right on the property, even the simple vegetable dishes had an amazing flavor. After lunch we had a walk around their vegetable and lemon gardenwhere they also keep chickens, rabbits and donkeys.

Bar Buca di Bacco

 Casual spot right on the main beach! In the morning you can get your coffee & croissant fix, and during lunch a pizza and a glass of wine! A more affordable option amongst the other sit-down restaurants on the main beach.

Where to take pictures

Spaggia Grande

What is a visit to Positano without a visit to its famous beach? We didn’t have a chance to swim because it was very windy but did manage to wander around the beach until it got too busy. The Spaggia Grande is actually a private beach. To rent a beach chair you are looking at 22€ per chair, while the front row chairs are 25€. If that’s not your jam, you can bring your own towel and lay in a small section just next to the chairs for free.

Shops in Positano

Head to the Church in Positano and you will find the perfect little shop selling ceramics. They don’t allow photos inside but the outside is just perfect.

Chez Black and Beach Promenade

Chez Black is a restaurant right on the main beach in Positano. I loved the charm it had, and it felt like a perfect photo opportunity! If you keep walking along the beach promenade you’ll find pretty spots to shoot like this beach entrance!

The Deli

At the crossroad between two main walking streets Piazza dei Mulini and Via Cristoforo Colombo lies The Delicatessen and the stairs that lead to the street where famous La Sirenus Hotel is located. It’s a bit hard to get a good picture here during the day for the obvious reasons so try mornings.

Hotel Poseidon

Well not the actual hotel but actually down the road from it. The hotel is amazing for photos as well but I acidentally found this spot which turned out to be my favourite view of Positano. And guess what, it’s not busy so you can have it to yourself.

Le Sirenuse Hotel

Most of the photos you find online while searching for Positano are probably taken from this hotel. Some lucky people have the opportunity to stay there but for those less lucky you can book a lunch or a dinner or go for a drink at Franco’s bar. Franco’s don’t take bookings so make sure you arrive as soon it opens, at 5pm. In case you were wondering, this famous balcony is located at the hotel’s lobby.

What to do

Unlike Rome where there’s a plenty of historical sights to see, the Amalfi coast is reserved for relaxation (except the many stairs that you have to walk everyday).

Spend your days at the beach. There are two beaches in Positano. Spaggia Grande is the main beach that acts as the center of town! If you are looking for something quieter head to Fornillo, just a 5-10 minute walk along the coastal pathway.

Take a ride around the Amalfi Coast on a private boat.

Enjoy fresh Italian food and have more than one Aperol during aperitivo.

Take a day trip to Capri.

Capture the views from every angle.

How to spend 4 days in Rome

You know what they say : “All Roads Lead to Rome” and that’s why you just have to visit it at least once in your life. I don’t know why it took me so long to visit but I have to say it’s now one of the top 5 places i’ve ever been to. Here are my top tips about what to do and how to get around.

How to get around Rome

The best way to get from place to place in Rome is on your own two feet. Rome is a highly walkable city, assuming you’re not trying to walk all the way from Vatican City to the Colosseum in one go. We were staying very close to the Colosseum so we were two metro stops (5minutes) from the main Roma Termini station and around 17 minutes walk from Trevi Fountain.

If you’re not up for walking or simply can’t, the local bus system in Rome is easy to use and cheap. Buses are frequent, but not necessarily always on time or reliable. I suggest using an app like Citymapper to plan your route. One-way bus tickets or all-day passes can be bought at most newspaper kiosks,convenience shops or metro stations in Rome, just be careful though, most shopkeepers we spoke to wanted cash and wouldn’t let us pay for tickets with our debit cards.

What to eat & drink in Rome

Grazia & Graziella

Grazia & Graziella

This vintage-style restaurant, located in Trastevere relies on tradition and creativity, with their 60s and 70s inspired decor . The name comes from Grazia, the name of the owner’s grandmother (who is also to thank for the unique recipes) and from Graziella, the traditional Italian bicycle.

Largo M.D. Fumasoni Biondi, 5,Rome

Tonarello

Just across the street from Grazia & Graziella is this very popular and very busy restaurant so come early or be prepared to wait in a queue. It’s a classic italian restaurant but with very tasty food and amazing service.

Via della Paglia, 1,Rome

Mr. 100 Tiramisu/Two Sizes

These two tiramisu places couldn’t be more different but hey are both delicious.

As the name says, Mr. 100 Tiramisu is the place where you can choose from 100 different types of tiramisu. Unexpectedly, the place is very small and serves tiramisu at the bar because the tables are reserved for food and wine (you can have tiramisu for dessert), the food mainly consisted of chacuterie (cheese and dried meat). Because it’s a bit off the tourist track, it doesn’t get overly busy. After a long debate and looking at the menu, we chose banana, dulce de leche and cinnamon and dark chocolate with orange, it was great watching them create our tiramisu for us right in front of our eyes whist we sat at the bar!

Via dei Sediari 11/12,Rome

Two sizes is a much more touristy and straightforward tiramisu place, classic tiramisu in mini and normal size. It’s ideal if you want to grab something quick and not hang about.

Via del Governo Vecchio 88, Rome

Salotto42

Known as one of the coolest bars in Rome (and one of the most instagrammable because of pink flowers on the facade) with its cool rotating art on the walls, magazines and vinyls scattered around,plush chairs and beautifluly made cocktails. The €10-12 cocktails always come with a simple side of olives and chips and mini sendwiches at end so make sure to pop by and sample one of the signature Spritzes. Yes,that’s right Spritzes. The trendy bar has a cocktail menu dedicated entirely to the spritz!

Piazza di Pietra, 42, Rome

Bar del Cinque

Another gem in the Trastavere neighborhood. With a beautiful facade often seen on Instagram. I felt this was the most authentic place we visited as we were the only tourists inside.

Vicolo de’ Cinque, 5, Roma

Les Etoiles

This is the hotel which I chose only because of the amazing view of the Rome. Coffee or anything else is a bit pricey so we paid €5 for coffee, €5 for water and 5€ for selection of biscuits but it was worth it, don’t you think?

What to see in Rome

The ancient city of Rome is literally an open air museum, and tracks back to 753 BC. There are certain sights everyone will see but here are my top picks and advice how to beat the crowd, take the best pictures and generally enjoy stress free sightseeing!

Colosseum and Roman Forum

It’s not surprising that the Colosseum hosts 4 million tourists a year being one of the 7 Wonders of the World. That means you can expect the queues to be very long any day of the week. Add the hot sun and humidity to the mix and you are asking for a recipe for disaster.

When you google tickets, you will get dozens of different websites and tours, many of them very expensive. Also we didn’t want to take a guided tour, they take too long and we wanted to go and see things at our own pace, so I was very happy when I discovered the perfect ticket for us on the tickets website Headout. Our ticket was a skip-the-line with escorted entry which included the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and cost only €28. So how does this work? We (and lots of other people) meet the guide down the street from Colosseum at an agreed meeting spot and he accompanies us through a special tour groups entrance where we jumped the queue and got inside within minutes without needing to queue. The only thing you can’t skip is the security bit (same as the airport) but that was quick as well because we took the earliest ticket we could find which was 8:30am and there weren’t as many groups.

If you want to capture a good picture of Colosseum or Roman Forum you actually have to be outside of it. The street Via Nicola Salvi, just above the metro station Colosseum is the perfect spot to capture an iconic Colosseum photo. You won’t be alone there but it’s doable as people move fast.

We got to spend around 2 hours in the Coloseum, which was more than enough to see the entire thing and read all of the information about the building and it’s history, and we then went back to the meeting point to meet our guide and be escorted to the Forum.

To get great a Roman Forum picture head behind Museu Capitolina to Via di S.Pietro in Carcere.

Trevi Fountain & Spanish Steps

Trevi fountain is the fountain of all fountains, one of the most iconic spots in Rome and literally the most crowded spot of all time. One of the reasons is the legend about throwing coins into it. The legend claims that you should throw three coins into the fountain. The first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance, and the third will ensure marriage. It’s no surprise that around €3,000 is collected from the fountain every evening! That money is donated to a non-profit organisation providing food to the homeless in Rome.

This fountain is a real masterpiece but in order to see it you have to get up early. And by early I mean 5am. We got there at 6am thinking we had the jump on the other visitors and dozens of people were already there! It was mainly bloggers and newly weds trying to get that perfect photo but there were also regular tourists. From my experience, in the afternoon you can’t even see the fountain,it’s that crowded and sections of it are closed off by the police so you can’t even access them.

The Spanish Steps are another place which you have to visit early. We got there at 7:30am and it was okay but I think that’s due to the fact you are not allowed to sit (or eat or write) on the stairs any more. In fact, you can be fined €200 or even €400 if you damage the stairs in any way.

Trastevere neighborhood

Trastevere, my favorite neighborhood in Rome, and from the looks of it- it’s everyone else’s favorite too! This neighborhood has such a local vibe and tons of character! I’d walk around the narrow cobblestone streets and find place for an aperitivo and soak in the energy! (I included my favourite spots in the Eat & Drink section)

Also this area has some of the best and the most popular restaurants so don’t think it’s any less busy than central Rome.

Because we stayed near the Colosseum, we took a bus there which took us around 20 minutes but we walked on the way back.

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved building of ancient Rome. The former temple now converted into a church has a massive dome on top with an opening that allows natural light to light the entire building. The beam of sunlight creates a magical feeling inside the dome. How about rain? A draining system makes sure the Pantheon doesn’t flood. Outside the Pantheon at Piazza Della Rotonda there are lots of terraces where you can sit for breakfast or cappuccino.

Altare Della Patria

In front of Piazza Venezia is a gigantic pure-white marble moment that has a panoramic view of the entire city. To honor the first king of Italy, the Italians built the Altare Della Patria (also known as Vittorio Emanuele II Monument).

The first part is free to visit but to visit the top,an entrance ticket is required. Sitting on the monument or stair steps is not allowed.

Borghese Gardens & Piazza del Poppolo

The Borghese Gardens are Rome’s version of Central Park and stretch for 226 acres from Piazza del Poppolo to the top of Via Veneto. The lush, green Borghese Gardens have it all: bust-lined paths, statues, a carousel for the kids, an artificial lake that you can rent a row boat on, and even a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.

We spent one whole afternoon wandering around and enjoying gelato and much needed shade.

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

The famous spiral staircase, the papal throne, the Gallery of Maps, the Sistine Chapel. If the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, possibly the most famous work of art ever doesn’t convince you to visit the Vatican Museums (or Rome for that matter), nothing will!

There are 54 different galleries and several courtyards within the Vatican Museums, featuring chosen paintings and sculptures collected over the centuries. Like the Louvre in Paris, the Vatican Museums contain more works of art than can be seen in a day, but if you give yourself around three hours, you’ll still be able to see the museums’ most famous bits.

Once again we chose Escorted skip-the-line ticket on Headout and explored the museum at our own pace.

We spent a while looking for the new Bramante spiral staircase. We’ve were even told that it wasn’t open to the public! But this is the big disadvantage of taking a guided tour, if you are part of a guided tour, you won’t pass the staircase because you will end up going straight to the St Peter’s Basilica but if you’re not part of a tour, it’s most likely you will exit the museum and pass the staircase. It is located in the main entrance hall of the Museum.

Unfortunately, we missed the chance to visit St Peter’s Basilica and to see the iconic view of St Peter’s Square but the queues were just too long and it was far too hot. I suggest going there as soon it opens in the morning, or look into buying a ticket which lets you jump the queues. Tickets for St Peter’s Basilica are available on Headout and start from around €19.50 (at the time of writing).

Top things to do in Marrakech

Marrakech is a place that you either love or hate but it’s also a place like no other and before you go you need to prepare so that you don’t get dissapointed. The first thing that everyone asked me was is Marrakech safe?

Before I went I heard lots of bad experiences mainly from women, how they were hassled or scammed by random people. Personally, I didn’t have any bad experience but you need to be alert and keep in mind that people will try to scam you, starting from the taxi drivers. Any drive within Marrakech by taxi shouldn’t be cost more than 50 dirhams (€5). You need to be prapered to bargain. If they don’t want to lower the fare, you should leave or pretend to leave because they will probably accept your offer or in the worse case you will find another taxi driver.

Also, don’t accept help from random people on the street who want to give you directions, or people who come up to you to sell you something. Always make sure you look like you know where you are going, even if you don’t.

I would advise getting a Moroccan SIM card at the airport so that you can use it for Google Maps. Before you leave the terminal building at Marrakech airport you will see many different vendors selling SIM cards with data plans included, we got a plan with Orange which cost €10 and included 4GB of data. We also found that Google Maps in Marrakech was pretty accurate unlike Venice or Seattle where it didn’t work for us, and we ended up walking in circles.

Stay

We stayed at a new boutique riad called Ksar Kasbah & Spa, it’s located in the old town just a short walk from the main attractions like Sadian Tombs and Bahia Palace or if you prefer, a 20 minute walk to the souks. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the most friendly staff. They offered us mint tea and some Moroccan pastries to enjoy by the pool. The turquoise pool is in the heart of the riad, covered in pretty mosaic tiles, luscious green plants and ornate furniture, it’s like your personal Eden! Ksar Kasbah is so peaceful and calm that you will wish you could stay here all day. This riad has a total of eleven rooms all built around the pool and furnished in a pure bohemian style (price range: from €100 to €150 per night).

I really loved the rooftop, with its sun loungers, and cacti it was especially magical during the sunset.

The breakfast, which was included in the price was a delight: tasty Moroccan crepes, fluffy lemon/poppy seeds, fresh fruits, eggs and dairy products. You can choose to eat on the rooftop or by the pool. We also opted for dinner one night, which we had under the stars. Their chicken and lemon tajine was devine and the couscous Royal was amazing!

Another feature of Ksar Kasbah is its spa, located on the rooftop. With a traditional hammam and 2 cabins for treatments and massage, the spa is open every day from 8 am to 9 pm. All the treatments are performed with natural local products.

Hotel Mamounia

Whether you’re staying there or not, you’ll probably want to make a trip to the breathtaking Mamounia, a luxury 5-star hotel set in a former royal palace. I can’t comment on the experience of staying there because, sadly, it was outside of my budget, but we did manage to go for a drink and stroll around the grounds and I have to say it felt like a glimpse of a different world. Plus if you’re looking for gram-worthy spots, you’ll find plenty of #InstaGold. Those Insta -famous monochrome pillars are now closed to the general public and only for guests so I didn’t get the snap there but the rest of the hotel is just as beautiful.

Eat

Le Jardin

Le Jardin is located in the middle of the souks and the athmosphere lives up to its name- it’s a beautiful, calm green oasis. When you walk in you will forget that you are just few steps away from the hustle and bustle of the souks. Le Jardin is owned by the same group as Nomad so you can expect delicious food, amazing interiors and even a few turtles wandering around.

Nomad

Probably the most famous food place in Marrakech, this lively restaurant serves simple “Modern Moroccan” cuisine: traditional local cuisine and international dishes with a Moroccan twist. It is spread over four floors with two levels of terraces that offer amazing views of the surrounding Medina and the Atlas mountain range. Nomad is perfect for both lunch and dinner or drinks at the bar to rest from the craziness of the souks. We went for dinner and even though I’m not a big lamb fan, I had one of the best ever (lamb)burgers.

Il Limoni

Another serene restaurant right in the middle of the chaos of Medina. It might be hard to spot at first because all that separates the alley from the restaurant is a set of tiny wooden doors. But when you pass through them you will step into an unexpected world – tiled courtyard shaded with lemon trees, calm music and the scent of delicious Italian and Moroccan food. We spent two hours there, just relaxing, people watching and listening to the birds.

No matter where you are going for food, make sure to try famous Moroccan dish tajine. Moroccan tajine dishes are slow-cooked savory stews, typically made with sliced meat, poultry or fish together with vegetables or fruit. Spices, nuts, and dried fruits are also used.

More Food: Café Des Épices,Le Salama, Atay Cafe

See

Le Jardin Majorelle & Yves Saint Laurent Museum

One of the few sights in the New Town is the Jardin Majorelle, a beautiful botanical garden previously owned by Yves Saint Laurent and housing the Museum of the late French fashion designer. It’s pretty small, but well worth visiting for the striking design, colours and beautiful range of foliage where you can wander around and hide from the heat. I don’t have any pictures from inside the musuem because it is not permitted to take photos, but believe me, you will be amazed with the garments exibited inside.

Bahia Palace

The Bahia Palace is a striking example of Moroccan architecture consisting of several grand rooms and courtyards. The gardens are particulary beautiful with their orange trees and fountains. This palace was never a home of the royal family but it was a home of Si Moussa, the man who managed sultan’s household. After his son died, the servents ransacked the palace so today the palace stands completely empty and without any furniture, so when you visit you can only admire the woodwork and the tiles and try to imagine how it once looked.

Souks

You can’t really miss the souks, the main markets of Marrakech. There’s a central covered area made up of a maze of alleyways twisting through stalls selling traditional crafts, Moroccan lamps, designer fakes, and lots of beautiful crockery and it’s really hard to resist. You can easily spend hours browsing the stalls, but make sure to haggle. We found out that before going to the main market the best thing to do is to visit the smaller, local market where the prices are fixed and there is no negotiation. That will give you an insight into what is an acceptable price for the items you want to buy. Also keep in mind shopkeepers can be quite agressive if you try taking pictures, there were a few times we were told we couldn’t take photos unless we bought something so I ended up buying a tea pot, two plates and a wooden camel.

On your wander around markets, you will probably end up at Jemaa el-Fnaa, the main square and market place. Personally, I didn’t like it. It was too chaotic, there were live snakes (which are my biggest phobia) I also found the people there very pushy.

Le Jardin Secret

The garden is located in the middle of Medina and from the outside is advertised as an open air museum. You enter the complex into a tiled courtyard with running water, and foliage. It’s almost unbelievable peaceful, especially because there is not many tourists inside. Originally built in 16th century these gardens were previously ruined and left decay for years until 2008 when they started renovation and finally opened it for the public in 2016. There is not much you can do inside except enjoy the serenity and Islamic architecture so if you want you can sit in one of the two cafes.Entrance fee is 50 dirhams.

Koutoubia Mosque

Other places: Marrakech Museum, Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Mosque, El Badi Palace, Ben Youseff Madrasa(currently closed for renovation-2019)

Do

There are so many things you can do while staying in Marrakech from day trip to Ait Benhaddou and Ouarzazate, to a night at luxury desert camps in Agafay desert or 3 day tour to Merzouga (proper sand) desert. Because we were only there for 3 days, we needed to choose the most convenient one. We booked a private camel ride in Agafay desert through the Dunes & Desert tour agency. We had a private driver and a guide who picked us up at 9am from near our Riad and took us to the Berber village in Agafay desert. For those who don’t know, Berbers are people ethnicly indigenous to North Africa. Their rich cultural history dates back to prehistoric times, over 4000 years ago. Although, the Berber people today don’t live exclusively in rural areas, these communities offer an interesting insight into the Berber tradition and history. All the camels there are owned by a local family and they appeared to be very well looked after. After our camel ride, (which was overwhelming experience for me because I simply adore camels) we were served freshly made Moroccan pancakes with condiments and mint tea.

I have to say, this was one of the best experiences that I ever had. We had a chance to see communities that live in the middle of nowhere, leading a life that was so different from ours.

If you want to ride a camel, you can also do that in Marrakech, at the Palm Grove, but I would recommend a more unique and authentic experience.

London’s Best Brunch Spots

Brunch is definiately my favourite meal of the day, everything about it is amazing from the fresh coffee, avocado’s and eggs to the surroundings at some of the best places you can go for brunch.

When you live in London finding a great place for brunch can be a very daunting task, but here I’ve done all of the hard work for you and written about five of my favourite brunch places so you don’t have to guess where to go!

Eggbreak

There aren’t many places where I really want to go back for breakfast because eggs are eggs, no matter where you go, right?

Well Eggbreak is in a different league. Settled in a quiet street just 2 minutes from Notting Hill Gate station, this small but absolutly charming place will make you come back for more. They serve meals all day, from breakfast to dinner so you can also order granola and a burger toghether. But when it comes to brunch forget about ordering avocado with eggs on toast and expect something totally different like Shashuka, Turkish or Levantine eggs or their cornflake french toast which will blow your mind. My favourite combination is definitely the sweet potato rosti with goat’s cheese, honey, kale, pinenuts and dill yoghurt.

The only downside of this place is that they don’t accept bookings so the queue can be pretty big. However to get around this they recently introduced a text service with queue numbers. You register your name and give your phone number to them and they will then text you when your table is available. Waiting won’t be too hard as you are close to the colourful and instagramable streets of Notting Hill that you can explore while you wait.

30 Uxbridge St, Kensington, London W8 7TA

Avobar

London’s first all-avo dining concept started as a pop-up but now has a permanent site in Covent Garden.  Avobar does pretty much what it says – it’s a restaurant where everything on the menu has avocado in it, on it or blended into it. Aside from all the food, you’ll also be able to ‘gram the lush interiors – imagine a California cool vibe plus a load of avocado-based skincare products from the cutesy little in-house shop. There are plants and green tiles everywhere and the wooden seats are lined with colourful and tropical-looking cushions to create a cosy atmosphere.

If that is not enough to get you there ASAP, Avobar sources their avocados ethically and sustainably working with growers and farmers all over the world.

Avobar, 23-24 Henrietta Street, London, WC2

Dayrooms Cafe

Dayrooms Cafe is a tiny venue on Kensington Park Road. Aussie inspired, it’s a stylish and relaxed cafe, offering fresh and healthy brunch dishes that are interesting and full of flavour. Every dish is beautifully presented, making this one of the most instagrammable brunches in London. The interior is well-lit with plants, a turquoise tiled floor and wicker light shades. On a sunny day, the two tables outside are the perfect spot for people watching.  No matter what you choose from the menu you won’t be dissapointed but I would recommend their sticky sesame chicken roll for brunch after 12pm and for something lighter – smoked salmon royal croissaint.

Dayrooms Cafe,212 Kensington Park Road, London, W111NR

Granger & CO

Granger & Co is a global Australia cafe from Bill Granger with branches in places like Honolulu, Sydney and Tokyo. In London, we are lucky enough to have four located in Clarkenwell, Chelsea,Kings Cross and Notting Hill. I had heard great things about Granger & Co, with their fluffy ricotta pancakes and scrambled eggs making people swoon but I put off visiting this place for so long mainly because the long queues are start from the early morning.  One weekend we got up really early and got there at (what we thought is early), 9:30. There was no queue but also no tables. I can say we were lucky enough to get a bar seat because as soon as we sat down there was 10+ people already waiting. We opted for the famous pancakes (of course) and simple scrambled eggs on sourdough toast.

I now understand why people queue.

The pancakes were definitely the best pancakes I’ve ever tried and eggs were so rich and buttery. Delicious! I can’t recommend Granger & Co. enough. Get there early if you don’t want to queue but know that it’s worth the wait.

Granger & Co, 175 Westbourne Grove,Notting Hill London W11 

Ivy Chelsea Garden

As you might know, Ivy is a chain of restaurants around London. I could easily write about any other location but I chose the one in Chelsea because of its interior. Colourfully decorated with a beautiful garden terrace area, it’s a lovely spot to fuel up with their extensive breakfast menu till 11:30, or weekend brunch. I would recommend pancakes (surprise) but no matter what you choose you won’t be disapointed.

However, the real highlight is the exterior that displays a different seasonal floral instalation reguraly seen on many London influencer’s snaps.

195 -197 King’s Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 5EQ

 Skinny Kitchen

Ibiza-originated restaurant group, owned by former personal trainer Joel Belchemand his wife Louise, is bringing its brand of hip clean eating and Ibiza mantra of “Eat Clean, Rave Dirty” to London with its first opened location in Islington.

With an all-day dining menu of fresh juices and organic coffee in the morning to superfood cocktails in the evening, the restaurant’s food menu caters to everyone no matter their dietary needs – from gluten-free, vegans, vegetarians, bodybuilders or just people that love eating healthy.

It was really hard to choose from an extensive menu but we opted for pancakes – eggs and bacon and peanut butter, banana and strawberries which were to die for.

When it comes to Insta-worthy spots, Skinny Kitchen won’t disappoint you. A big heated outdoor terrace brings island vibes, while the interior boosts sleek pink tiles, vibrant teal velvet booth seating with vibrant plants and green foliage dangling from the ceiling.

 52 Upper St, London N1 0QH

 

The New York City Guide

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And here it is – the second part of my New York City guide. Before you start, tip number one is: wear comfortable shoes! We wandered around so much that step counter on my phone went nuts. We walked between 15km and 20 km every day! Considering we used public transport a lot, this is shocking. But I loved every minute of it and hope to come back soon.

Get Around

Even though yellow cabs, Uber and Lyft (which works same as Uber and may even be better!) are everywhere to been seen, the fastest way to get around the city is the Metro. The weekly Metro card which gives you unlimited travel for 7 days, and costs only $30. A bargain, compared to London.  The other positive thing is that Metro runs 24/7.

Where To Shop

What Goes Around Comes Around

Experience both old and new at this  SoHo boutique, popular with stylists and celebrities. Whether you look to the past for inspiration or are decidedly fashion-forward, What Goes Around Comes Around will provide clothing, shoes and accessories that are stylish and timeless, even if the prices are very contemporary. The shop also produces and markets its own vintage-inspired collection.

351 W Broadway, New York, NY 10013

Glossier

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Even though they ship to UK now, there is something in actually seeing and trying products before buying so I decided to go to the physical Glossier shop while in New York. They have a showroom on top of their offices on Lafayette Street down in Soho and it’s pretty cool. It’s always busy so you might end up in a queue outside but it moves pretty fast.  All the products are out for you to have a play with, plus the place is Instagram gold.

123 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10013

If you are into beauty products make sure you also visit Sephora on Union Square which is massive and Barney’s if you’re after some luxe and harder to find brands.

Reformation

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With a couple of stores across Manhattan (one on the Lower East Side, and one in Soho), Reformation is without a doubt one of my favourite shops in the city. With their infamous mini (and maxi) dresses, rad denim, accessories and cute t-shirts in store, I’d dedicate a good bit of shopping (or browsing) time in here…

39 Bond St, New York, NY 10012

Sézane

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Like all of the Sézane locations, the NYC store is designed to look like the apartment of that stylish girl, and between the chic little cafe in front, the gorgeously styled built-ins, and the herringbone floors, well, I wouldn’t mind moving right on in! I don’t know about you, but I do 90% of my clothes shopping online these days because most stores just aren’t fun or well-designed, so it’s really nice to see a shop that makes you actually want to come in and browse.

254 Elizabeth St, New York, NY 10012

What to See

If you’ve never visited before then there is a long list of tourist spots to tick off : Central Park (it’s huge, take a half day for this), Times Square, Empire State and Flat Iron Buildings, Grand Central Station and The Met Museum, to name a few. Here are some of my favourite spots:

Liberty Island

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To be honest, we didn’t want to visit the Liberty Island and famous statue because of the crowd and a feeling you can see it better from the land. But we had an afternoon free so we decided to give it a go. Seeing Ms. Libery in person was pretty cool indeed. Also, Ellis Island Museum is super interesting but if you are not into that I suggest taking the ferry to Staten Island. It’s free and on your way there you will have a great view of the Statue of Liberty even without stopping on the islands. If you want to visit both of the islands you will pay $18 and spend at least an hour in queues.

The Views

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No matter what, avoid going up the Empire State Building for the view. There are so many more better views than that. The first one is Top of The Rock. We paid around $50 each for Sun&Stars ticket, allowing us to come in the morning and then again for sunset. I have to say, the morning session was nice, not to busy. We arrived around 8:30 and there were no queues at all. In the evening it became a bit hectic and it was very hard to even see the sunset or the lights turning on.

The other option is to visit One World Trade Centar Observation Deck, 6th tallest building in the world. Entrance is $34 and you get a complimentary drink with it (beer, wine or prosecco)

DUMBO & Brooklyn Bridge

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Situated a little across from the Brooklyn Bridge, and just across from the Manhattan Bridge (DUMBO = Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), Dumbo is a neighborhood boasting pretty beautiful views of the Manhattan Bridge as well as some cute places to eat (Grimaldi’s and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory) and shop. Tip: you can get here from Greenpoint by taking the boat which was the best decision we made. You will get the best views of Manhattan and Brooklyn but also their bridges.

While you are there, make sure to walk the famous Brooklyn Bridge. The best times to walk are early mornings or evenings after sunset. During the day it can become a little bit crowded. It’s worth it though as the views are stunning.

High Mile

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You will have a pretty hard time finding a park as unique as this anywhere else in the world. The High Line is a one and a half mile long suspended green space that allows visitors and residents alike to enjoy plants and car-free space deep within the city. It was built on the raised platform of a former railroad, and the old architecture mixed with the fantastically maintained gardens makes for a memorable experience. There are several great passages and overlooks throughout the park that provide for interesting city views and, if you’ve worked up an appetite, there are even a few food vendors!

Chelsea Market

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There is nothing quite like exploring a great food market in a new city and though New York has several, Chelsea Market reigns supreme. You can get everything from wine, spices, and popsicles here as you roam through the stalls. If you really want to experience the ins and outs of the market, you can even take a food tour to learn (and sample) more.

75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011

The Village

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This place is so chilled you will forget you are even in New York. We had a long stroll from High Line all the way to Washinton Square. On the way we passed the famous Magnolia bakery, as well as Carrie Bradshaw’s and Friends apartment.

Washington Square Park is a people watcher’s paradise. Musicians, sunbathers, skateboarders, dog owners, chess players and NYU students all hang out around the historic fountain in the shadow of the arch, often used as a location in films and televisions shows.

Nolita

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NoLIta (for North of Little Italy) might have many of the same features as nearby neighborhoods SoHo and Little Italy, but has a distinctly charming vibe all its own. The area’s cozy cafés, stylish boutiques and bar scene make it a destination. Visit to browse the independent designer shops and sit streetside at cute restaurants, lounges and coffee shops.

Williamsburg

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We were staying in Williamsburg but if you are not, make sure you come and explore. Williamsburg sits across the East River from Manhattan’s Lower East Side and it’s one of Brooklyn’s most popular and exciting neighborhoods where you can explore the lively arts, music, and boutique scene here. The mile-long stretch of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg is lined with art galleries, bars, and secondhand boutiques that have made the area popular with the hipster set.

The New York City Food Guide


I started writing this blog post a week ago. Originally it was supposed to be one big post, covering everything in New York from eating, shopping to sightseeing but it was way too big. New York has so much to offer and it simply can’t fit into one post. So I decided to split it in two. This post will be about my favourite places to eat and drink while in NYC and in a week I will be posting part 2 – where to shop and what to see including the best ways to move around and where to stay.

So let’s start.

Brunch

Butcher’s Daughter

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Even though the word ‘butcher’ is in the name, this place couldn’t be further from meat. Butcher’s Daughter is a plant-based restaurant, cafe, juice bar and as they say on their website: “vegetable slaughterhouse”. The interior is more LA-like, with lots of white and yellow, plants, pillows and rattan chairs. You can find them in five locations around the city and we liked it so much we visited it on two occasions in one week.  Even though they serve breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner, we only tried their brunch menu. Usually, I would recommend the best thing from the menu but they tend to change their menus quite often so it would be pointless. But, whatever you choose you can’t go wrong. Everything is so delicious. Bare in mind that it can get very busy so try to come earlier.

Various locations

http://www.thebutchersdaughter.com

Egg Shop

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As the name says, this place is devoted to serving all types of eggs all day and night (well until midnight). The local, organic eggs get prepared in a variety of ways: poached atop avocado toast, mixed to make a mayo-free egg salad, or scrambled with seasonal vegetables. There’s also a nice balance of hangover cures – you can even get sides of excellent fried chicken and buttermilk biscuits! but if you are looking for something quick and healthy it’s an even nicer place. I visited the one in Nolita but they have another location in Williamsburg.

The space itself is bright and airy, and feels more like a cool California café—neon teal chairs, a chalkboard menu and big window. I got ahead of myself and ordered a spicy chicken and egg burger which was absolutely massive for a 10am breakfast but so good.

151 Elizabeth St,New York, NY 10012

http://www.eggshopnyc.com

Bakeri

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This Scandinavian style bakery is located in the residential area of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. It’s their second branch(the first is in Williamsburg) opened as they needed larger baking space due to the increasing demand for their high-quality freshly baked goods.  Both, the interior and exterior, are wonderful. From the tall decorative wooden doors to the over-scale botanical wallpaper.  The space is decorated with handmade crafts fitting perfectly with the vintage-rustic vibe and the exposed brick walls.  Stepping in, you will get the feeling you’ve arrived into a different decade. Everyone wears boiler suits (or a variation of it) and a headscarf – the same as working women during WWII. Everything feels intentional. And everything adds up to the warmth and coziness of the café. Order at the counter and grab a seat at the large rustic communal table or at the breakfast bar overlooking the kitchen. It was so hard to choose what to have, the delicious pastries on show were tempting but we opted for biscuits and eggs.

105 Freeman St, Brooklyn, NY 11222, USA

http://www.bakeribrooklyn.com

Other brunch places: Citizens of Chelsea, Jack’s Wife Freda,Pietro Nolita, Banter NYC, Maman,While We Were Young

Lunch

Tacombi

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This place was our lunch stop on days when we were feeling a bit peckish around 2pm. It’s a chain and it can be found around NYC. We found it accidentally because I couldn’t stop talking about tacos for days. I certainly can have tacos in London but these ones were the best I tried. Their chorizo with potatoes or chicken tacos are so delicious you will come back for more. If you are not into tacos they serve quesadillas and Campechanos. They also make everything from scratch with sustainably sourced ingredients, including their corn and flour tortillas which are rolled daily.  We had been to several locations but my favourite one is the one at the Empire State Building because of its interior and natural light which comes through the windows.

Various locations

http://tacombi.com

Dinner

El Almacen

This Williamsburg located, Argentinian restaurant came as the biggest discovery of our New York trip. We walked past it every day on our way to the place where we stayed and it never occurred to me that something so cool lays behind lace curtains.  What’s behind them is a red-brick covered space that feels like the sort of cozy spot you’d stumble into on a random side street in Buenos Aires. Or at least, what I imagine that would be like.

The only light inside is from the candles on the tables and at the back there is a small garden with a fairy light so the whole atmosphere is relaxing and cozy which made us very sleepy after dinner. We got very excited on seeing the menu and ended up ordering too much, starting with actual avocado fries, $24 steak and probably the most heavenly dessert of them all: dulce de leche filled crepe with caramelized bananas.

557 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA

http://www.elalmacennyc.com

Caracas Arepa Bar

Before coming to New York, I had never been to a Venezuelan restaurant and I certainly hadn’t tried their famous arepas. Arepa is a bread made of white cornmeal, water and salt. The dough is formed into a patty, grilled, baked, split open and stuffed with a variety of ingredients like a sandwich.  We visited their Brooklyn branch and simply loved it. It’s a small, cozy place, with the garden at the back filled with Latin music. They serve happy hour margaritas and the most delicious arepas. Even though they look small at first they are quite filling so I would advise starting with one and then ordering more if you like.

Sorry that there are no pictures of dinner places. It was way too dark.

291 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA

http://www.caracasarepabar.com

Other Places for Dinner: Souvlaki GR,NoMo Kitchen,Pizza Beach, Freemans,Mexicue,1830.

Coffee & Cake

Urban Backyard

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According to their website, Urban Backyard “is a coffee shop that is committed to being environmentally and socially responsible.” Alongside the classic caffeinated beverages — Americano, macchiato, mocha, to name a few — look for the specialty drinks like lavender peony iced tea and masala chai. They serve different sweet bits but I would recommend the cutest cacti cupcakes and a wide range of macarons flavours which you can get as part of their ‘Afternoon tea’ offer. Also, this place has the cutest interior and exterior which will look great on your Instagram.

180 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012, USA

https://www.urbanbackyardnyc.com

Woops

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I know we are not in Paris but here is another macaron shop. This one stays open until late (12pm) and it serves over 20 flavours of macarons which taste heavenly. They even offer workshops so you can learn how to make them yourself. You can find them in various locations around New York but we visited one in Williamsburg which had an interior to die for and it wasn’t as busy.

Various locations

Drinks

For this one I suggest you cross the river and have the best views of Manhattan from one of the many rooftop bars.

We’ve been to two and instead of describing them I will just compare both of them as they are equally amazing.

First one we went to was rooftop bar at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. Because we are not the guests of the hotel we had to pay $20 to get in. As the name says, the hotel is located just next to Brooklyn Bridge and offers amazing views of both the bridge and  Manhattan. On the down side, you will be restricted to a small space and you won’t have access to the whole rooftop and the amazing swimming pool as it’s guests only.

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1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

The second place we visited was Westlight rooftop bar, located on the 22nd floor of William Vale Hotel. We got there pretty late on our last day, too tired and in desperate need of sleep but the view we saw was simply breathtaking. Because the hotel is located on the east of Manhattan, you can imagine how amazing the view is, right? Not only can you see Manhattan but also Brooklyn and Queens – basically the whole city skyline. For me, this view was on the same level as the Top of the Rock and the One World Trade Center Observatory. The rooftop is covered with fake grass and beanbags and rattan chairs with comfy cushions are scattered around. I was tempted to lay down, have a nap and miss my flight in the morning.

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Westlight

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: 60 Furman St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Westlight: 111 North 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Copenhagen Guide​

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Regularly voted as one of the happiest cities in the world for the last 40 years, Copenhagen, with its 1.2 million people offers miles of harbor promenades, green spaces, and a mix of modern and historic architecture.  The Danish capital has always attracted people with its New Nordic cuisine – full of local, natural and seasonal food, and an increasing fashion and design scene. However, the thing that put Copenhagen and the top of everyone’s bucket list for certain is hygge, the Danish concept of living a happy life.

Also, according to a new report published this year, Copenhagen was named the best city for women to live in. The government promotes gender and income equality, safety, progress and human rights so there is no surprise that they can focus on things that really matter.

By visiting Copenhagen you will notice that the people there just enjoy the simple things in life, every day, every minute, without overthinking it. Starting from coffee shops and restaurants which have candles lit up all day to meeting their friends after work for a coffee on the rooftop restaurants, eating dinners early and heading home on their bikes to relax before an early bedtime. The fact that there are more than 500 000 bikes in the city shows that Danes love biking and a healthy lifestyle, and many families with children don’t even own a car.  So what is their secret? To understand and experience this for myself, I visited Copenhagen for a long weekend and found the things that are usually missed by tourists but capture the real spirit of the city.

Eat

Møller Kaffe & Køkken

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To experience the real, traditional Danish breakfast I visited  Møller Kaffe & Køkken. It’s a cosy cafe situated in Nørrebro, with recognisable Danish interior. The best time to go and avoid the queues is 9 am, as soon as they open because here going out for breakfast is a big thing and Danes usually get up early. Møller is awarded best brunch spot in Copenhagen and they are serving breakfast all day without dinner or lunch menu available. As seated they will give you a menu and a pencil, asking you to tick everything you want and take it to the counter. Maybe easy to order but hard to choose because menu consists of nearly 20 dishes, from traditional bacon, eggs and øllebrød(Danish porridge) to homemade chicken nuggets and apple with lime and sea salt.  The one thing I would recommend a selection of fresh made breads and fried eggs with kale.

Møller Kaffe & Køkken, Nørrebrogade 160, 2200 Copenhagen N

Mad & Kaffe

Located in one of Vesterbro’s hotspot locations, you can combine your own tasty breakfast plate by ticking the list of various breakfast possibilities. The café is known for being an Instagram-darling with an aesthetic and colourful morning plate perfectly shareable – with a friend or on social media. Avocado with chili oil and baked almonds, cinnamon bun with organic chocolate on the top, yogurt with muesli, matcha tea and basil are just some of the small dishes you find on the menu. Mad & Kaffe also offer lunch and bigger meals. You can order burger, salad or famous open sandwiches.

Bæst

This pizzeria is as close to Italy as you will come in Denmark, and yet very few of the ingredients they use are actually imported. Only the highest quality meat is chosen from the organic free-range Hindsholm pork. The restaurant even makes its own fresh cheeses like mozzarella, burrata, and ricotta. Bæst is the third restaurant of chef Christian Puglisi – the famous Noma alumni and owner of acclaimed restaurants Relæ and Manfreds.

 

Shop

Hay

It’s pretty likely you’ve already heard of Hay before. It could be their beautiful sofas, Instagrammable trays or even stationary – but if you haven’t let me introduce you to this gorgeous Danish design company. With their city centre store laid out like an apartment; this place is home to beautiful furniture, small accessories and more colour co-ordinated stationary than you could wish for.

Østergade 61, 1100 København K, Denmark

Jægersborggade

As mentioned by locals, this is the most important street you need to see if you are staying in Copenhagen for a short time. Jægersborggade is home of more than 40 different shops including the art gallery CMYK which exhibits and sells Danish graphics and illustrations, gågrøn! sustainable interior boutique, Resecond the world’s first dress-swapping shop, Panache which sells vintage clothes from the 60s and 70s, Lady Fingers handmade jewellery designer, handmade Ro chocolate, wine bars and the highlight of the street, Michelin starred restaurant Relæ – creative and free of cultural heritage, this restaurant serves food from all over the world.  Further down this street, you will also find Copenhagen’s most famous coffee shop, The Coffee Collective, which is a coffee consulting company and specialist micro roastery,  owned by Klaus Thomsen, who is the World Barista Champion and a two-time national champion.

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Vanishing Point
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Kaktus Kobenhavn

See

Nyhavn

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Originally a busy commercial port where ships from all over the world would dock, Nyhavn is a must while visiting Copenhagen. Aside from colorful buildings and beautiful boats, this area is filled with people enjoying the relaxed atmosphere by the canal, jazz music and great food.

The word København means “merchants’ harbor,” so many of the city’s most impressive buildings, are visible from the water. You can take sever. We opted to explore on bikes like the locals instead- although we did park them to walk along the harbor and have a drink.

Christianshavn

One of my favourite neighborhoods I discovered in Copenhagen. It’s an area of small islands known for its hip coffee culture and canals with colourful boats. One of the main attractions set in Christianshavn that’s worth visiting is Our Savior’s Church —which is famous for its helix spire with an external winding staircase and you can climb to the top for impressive views of Copenhagen if it’s not too windy that day.

Tivoli Park and Gardens

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This amusement park and pleasure garden opened in August of 1843 and is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world. You won’t find many other city centers where more than 80,000 square meters have been set aside for a magical amusement park like this! Whether you visit during Christmas or in the warm summer months, this attraction has seasonal activities and celebrations year-round that are worth visiting.A

Arken Museum of Modern Art

If you are an art lover make sure you visit Arken Museum of Moder Arts in Ishøj, 25 minutes from Copenhagen. This museum is truly spectacular and worth the visit. If you go on a nice day, you will surely appreciate the surrounding as the museum is close to the beach.