Posts from the TRAVEL Category

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Firstly, when Googling Rio de Janeiro, I seriously had NO IDEA that the literal translation was River of January. Wow. I think that’s pretty adorable.

For as long as I can remember as an adult, Rio has always pretty high on my “places to go” list, since two of my dear friends grew up there. There’s something special about visiting a city where close friends grew up, right? It makes my heart warm and fuzzy. It’s also where my boyfriend’s little sister is studying abroad for a year, so basically it’s city that will be a topic of conversation for the years to come, I’m sure. Needless to say, I was so anxious to finally discover it. It’s a big city with big avenues and big beaches (and little swimsuits), well known by its three mountains: Corcovado, Sugarloaf and Two Brothers. One thing I noticed is that pretty much any direction you look in Rio de Janeiro you’ve got some breathtaking view in the distance. The city’s distinguishable neighborhoods are easily recognizable after even only a couple of days there: Urca, Ipanema, Botafogo, Jardim Bótanico, Copacabana, Gavéa, Santa Teresa, Lapa, Centro… Each of them with their own charm and rad things to see. And holy smokes is this city colorful!

Our taste of Rio was guided by one of my best pals, we stayed in the house she grew up in (already a really great experience as a friend). We were spoiled every morning with a typical Brazilian breakfast by her precious mother who has a humongous heart, and let me tell you, the Brazilians have some delicious cheese and they eat it for breakfast. I realized then and there that Brazilians probably start their day better than any of the rest of us. Our 3 days were jam-packed with sight-seeing and strolling with blue skies and hilly views. We went downtown in Centro with Ana Clara’s mom, popping in and out of fabric stores on the ground floors of pastel-colored buildings with colonial architecture. We ate a traditional dish, moqueca, with cocktails and craft beer in a bungalow that we had all to ourselves at the Santa Teresa neighborhood’s epic Aprazível, an evening that ended with 4 of us in the back seat of a cab and 2 up front while the driver was literally WhatsApping while driving. We spent hours strolling through the botanical gardens after downing a bowl of açaí. We people watched at the Praia Ipanema and watched the humongous waves crash against swimmers of all ages there. We danced to live Brazilian music at Rio Scenarium with our families without counting how many caipirinhas we had (and I realized that I look like a dancing chicken next to Ana Clara doing the samba). We went to a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. We took the cable cars up to the top of the Sugarloaf with thousands of other tourists. We sipped coconut water out of a freshly pierced coconut while Ana Clara told us stories of her growing up in the Urca neighborhood. Our days in Rio were magical, and honestly Louis and I are already stoked to go back.

Oh, and as humans that could never be mistaken for cariocas, the most practical and stress-free mode of transportation was taxis, which was much easier with locals because they have a rad smartphone application (usually around R$20-30, or 5-7€ to get from one neighborhood to another). Final note, the portions of food are all humongous in Brazil. Keep that in mind when you order food.

For more pictures of our trip to Rio de Janeiro and Ilha Grande, check out #megxrj on Instagram.

MY FAVORITE RIO PLACES:
Aprazível* – Modern flip on traditional Brazilian restaurant in Santa Teresa
Confeitaria Colombo – Lavish setting for a coffee and cake
Feira Hippie – Artisan and everything market on Sundays in Ipanema
Felice Caffè Bar et Gelateria  – Insanely delicious homemade ice cream
Garota de Ipanema – Brazilian barbecue joint in Ipanema
Devassa – Unpretencious restaurant and microbrewery in Ipanema or Copacabana
Jardim Bôtanico – Botanical Garden and Portuguese palm tree paradise
Pão de Açúcar / Sugarloaf – Iconic mountaintops accessible by cablecar in Urca
Parque Lage – Former residence of industrialist Enrique Lage, now art school and brunch venue
Rio Scenarium* – Live music venue and restaurant in Centro
*reservation required

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It’s been a tough few days here in Paris, but I wanted to squeeze out this little post that has been ready for quite some time, documenting a weekend away to visit dear friends.

I made it to London weekend before last to visit a close friend for a very special crafty couple of days. She is an avid sewer and is getting married next summer in her homeland of Sweden, and one of the cutest details to date is that she’s having all of us bridesmaids sew our own dresses! Basically she chose the fabric of her dreams and we all chose a pattern to whip up when in Londontown.

Obviously, being the beer obsessed lady that I am, the weekend started out with dinner at a newish brew pub called The Temple Brew House, where I indulged in a big fried fish with heaps of chips (you know, fries, ehhem) and of course… BRITISH CRAFT BEER. The trip was short really only having Friday night to Monday afternoon, but since I don’t really know London at all – aside from the touristy stuff I did when I was a preteen – I was happy as a clam with some strolling.

We attempted the super popular Breakfast Club restaurant and failed (the line was twice as long as the meal would have lasted), so we continued on to have eggs elsewhere at one of London’s infinite trendy-open-all-the-time-with-gluten-free-options-and-fresh-juice places. When you’ve got good company, any spot will do. Brick Lane was packed with both the young and the old, punks and preps, feasting on grub at what used to be the Truman Brewery, now turned street food Oz. The vintage shops were underground and vinyls were everywhere. I could definitely get used to this type of daily life, on the condition that the currency I earned was pounds (fudge, so expensive…). Before heading back on Sunday evening for a dinner in, we popped by BrewDog, where I basically consumed a full meal in beer: Pumpkin King followed by Siren’s Caribbean Chocolate Cake. Pure magic.

Something about London made me very happy. A certain je ne sais quoi. I’m not quite sure if it was the savory breakfast everywhere, the unpretentious pub culture or the brick buildings and markets… I guess I’ll have to go back, hehe.

LONDON PLACES:
Brewdog // Tap room
Brick Lane // Vintage clothing & vinyls hotspot
Canteen // Grub spot
Kew Royal Botanical Gardens // Big lovely park
The Temple Brew House // Microbrewery, pub & restaurant

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3 and a half hours from Paris’s Gare de Lyon. I had seen so many pictures of Provence on fellow expat’s Instagram’s accounts, visits to see the lavender fields. It seemed like the “to do” thing this spring and summer. We didn’t make it to the Provence lavender fields given the autumnal season that had arrived every so justly, BUT we did get to discover Aix-en-Provence for a weekend away with my lovely aunt who was in town. The tones of the city are different from Paris, a different kind of magic. I could literally feel how much more relaxing the lifestyle there must be as soon as I took in a breath of the mediterranean air.

Provence is known globally also for their food. I remember even the French restaurant I worked at in Denver when I was 16, the sadly no longer Le Central, it was a “Provencal French Restaurant”. Even then I didn’t really realize where Provence was, or what its specialities was, anything French seemed exotic for a Denverite! Ratatouille, stuffed vegetables, aioli, pesto soup, fig tarts, calissons… it’s all just so good an world renowned.

The city itself deserves a good old fashion stroll, mainly because it is just so adorable: pastel colors, little balconies, tiny pedestrian streets and warn down old advertisements on the sides of buildings…

If you’re in Aix for a quick trip like we were, I suggest giving lunch a try up at the Place des Cardeurs, then stroll down through the adorably tiny and pastel streets to pop in for a caffeine recharge at Mana Espresso (ex-baristas from Paris’s Loustic!). After more wandering and buying things like herbs and soap, sit on a terrace and try a glass of Pastis, the local apéritif, paired with some people watching. I obviously wanted to make the mini detour to see that big Petit Prince book statue that has been all over social media, and I found out it’s actually the entrance to a library called La Cité du Livre, how cute is that? You’ll have to try to local sweet confection, le calisson (pssst Pâtisserie Béchard makes a darn good one!) Dinner is a must at Les Deux Garçons, the staple brasserie du coin that sits on the main drag, if the weather permits, reserve a table on the terrace. Paradise.

Quick side note—- if you take the TGV you’ll arrive at a train station about 20 minutes from the center of Aix. We didn’t know that until AFTERWARDS. There are busses that go to the city center, and also taxis which run for about 20-30 euros. Bref, to keep in mind more precisely for your departure!

AIX EN PROVENCE PLACES:
Cité du Livre // Library, Oversized Book Statues
Chez Féraud // French Restaurant
La Compagnie des Savons // Soap Shop
La Route des Bières // Beer Shop
Les Deux Garçons // French Restaurant
Mana Espresso // Coffee Shop
Pâtisserie Béchard // Candy Shop, Calisson masterminds
Place des Cardeurs // Place with heaps of restaurants
Santons Girault // Santons Boutique

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So, Brussels. A city I’ve always had my eyes on. I had some weird interest in Belgium as a teenager. Maybe something about smaller cities or Flemmish men, uh hem…. But really. Even after meeting Louis we had one shared interest if we had to leave Paris: go to Brussels. Why, you ask? I don’t really know. Good beer, a smaller more spread out, less pretentious city. I find that it has a more simple charm I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s the pastel couple story buildings, the residential pockets, or the good beer everywhere. OH, and the fact that there is flea market every single day. Looking at these pictures I’m already so anxious to go back and discover more about the city and more about Belgian beer culture.

Anne and I made it out there for one weekend, I just ended up liking it even more. A short train ride from Paris, we went from city center to city center, and were immediately ready for fries and beer. Thanks to many recommendations from various travel bugs, we kicked off our 2 day trip with soft boiled eggs and tea at a fairytale café situated in the Ixelles neighborhood. Roaming the streets seemed so calm compared to Paris, with the hills and wider sidewalks with long stretches of beautiful doors before pockets of cute shops or cafés. The flea market and vintage shops were obviously up on our list, so under the blazing Spring sun we headed to the city center where I succeeded in buying too many random trinkets. Needless to say had we come by car I would have gone bonkers at the flea market. We made our way to LLB’s reco for lunch, Les Brassins, which was just amazing with the local Brasserie de la Senne on tap (Don’t forget, you pay for water in Belgium!).

Seriously, this was the longest but one of the greatest days of all time in my eyes. We were staying at the Pantone Hotel – which by the way was a great deal and location – so we relaxed a bit before hitting up the renowned Delirium Bar. It was super crowded and pub-like, as suspected for the biggest beer bar ever on a Saturday night, but a must do. I recommend the tap bar, give draft a try before opening some bottles. Marissa and her Brussels-encyclopedia-of-a-boyfriend recommended what ended up being my favorite place in Brussels (aside from the flea market): Monk. A spaghetti bar in the back of the place with an epic beer list? Yes please. So simple and so spot on. Our dishes were paired with a bottle of the delicious Avec Les Bons Voeux.

Our second and last day started with breakfast out in another suburb. The trams were so adorable, and often the old-fashioned cars, just one more thing I really enjoyed about this city, gah. We made our way to the Wiels Contemporary Art Centre (the industrial and stunning space is actually a former 1930s brewery) to check out their current exhibitions — one actually involved a moving-slowly-with-grace-quartet. It was quite impressive. Anne had knew the folks behind an awesome place called Living Room on the other side of town, so we trammed and trekked to another suburb out East. The Living Room, though. Holy moly. Located near the Parc Cinquantenaire, it’s a tasteful design and furniture store with cakes, teas a healthy and colorful lunch menu. The cherry on top, turns out we were right by the reputable Friterie Maison Antoine. I still don’t understand some of the sauces.

The end of our trip was spent at Beer Mania, a beer shop I had been eyeing, amongst the millions there probably are in that city. The guy at the shop was just the best, and told us the story about the Westvleteren beers. We indulged in a perfectly chilled Westvleteren 12. I was a happy girl. To rub it in, read more about how epic that beer is.

BRUSSELS PLACES:
A La Mort Subite // Brasserie and Kriek Haven
Beer Mania // Beer shop
Brasserie Cantillon // Gueuze Brewery
Delirium Café // Nighttime beer spot
La Mercerie // Salon de thé
Gaudron // Eatery
Les Brassins // Belgian Restaurant
Living Room // Eatery + Design and Furniture shop
Maison Dandoy // Sweetshop and Waffle Haven
Monk Bar // Restaurant, spaghetti bar + cocktails
Nüetingenough // Belgian Beer-Infused Restaurant
Wiels Contemporary Art Centre // Museum