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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:
Beer Mania // Beer shop
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
Wiels Contemporary Art Centre // Museum

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When flying through Dallas home for the holidays last year, I knew I had to make a pit stop in Dallas to see my doll and favorite Texan, Annie, with whom I went to Uni in Paris. Depsite the super duper early morning flight after a snow storm hit Denver that previous evening, I was perky as can be and so stoked to finally go outside of the DFW airport walls.

Annie was one of my main partners in crime in Paris, the girl is passionate about good food with quality ingredients and homegirl knows her history. It was damn exceptional to finally get to her hood and see her fav’ spots. Our day was a quick one: around 9am to 4pm when had to be back at the airport. We kicked off the morning right: with coffee and breakfast tacos in the Deep Ellum neighborhood. Super wide streets bordered by brick buildings and precious storefronts and colorful street art… damn, in my eyes Dallas is incredibly charming! Downtown we made a quick pit stop so I could buy some cowboy boots (when in Rome, right?) before heading up for pie and a stroll in the Bishop Arts District. I was rather intrigued by the deserted areas with bail bond shops and supersized billboards and Texan flags blowing in the wind… it was the perfect speedy tour of Dallas. The southern draw truly brought a smile to my face. Of course, the trip couldn’t wound off better, as we headed to chill a bit at one of Annie’s favorite places, the Katy Trail Icehouse in Uptown. This magical venue is an outdoor beer garden with fried jalepeños. We sipped Deep Ellum Brewery’s IPA and chatted away until I had to head back to the airport to get my bum back to frogland. Le sigh, next time for more than just a layover, Dirty D.

All Good Café – Deep Ellum – Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner Magic
Emporium Pies - Bishop Arts District – Pie Stop
Katy Trail Icehouse - Uptown – Beer Garden Hangout/Lunch/Dinner/Late night

istabul-turkey-de-quelle-planete-es-tu-21Istanbul had been on my bucket list for quite some time. The land where east meets west, in my mind it was a Mecca of sweets, coffee and other wonderful things. The Turkish pop music only made me want to go more, the culture that was always said to be so hospitable and full of life.

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My friend Olivia and her free spirit and craving for travel and the discovery of culture, moved to Istanbul late last year. Louis and I thus had been dreaming of stopping by, so we spontaneously booked some round trip tickets for a long weekend. A whopping 3 hour flight from Paris, we made it to the land of bling and baklava. We were welcomed by freshly folded Turkish towels in Olivia’s love shack, topped with soap sporting Louis’s last name, which we quickly learned is a soap brand and literally means “pure”. Cherry on top.

A few tips on these cliché but fantastic places: Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, beyond worth it. You could spend hours in both. Accept the tea they offer you in each stall and don’t be afraid to bargain your eye candy. Grab some freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on the street to boost your body. Buy some Turkish delights to bring back home for friends and family, nuts or olives do the trick as well. Wander around and find secret rooftop cafés where you can sit and chat with a local, enjoy a random pastry.

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On a side note, one of my favorite parts of the trip was strolling in the neighborhood market to make our own Turkish breakfast (did you see my video of the Turkish breakfast Olivia and Elif made in Paris? Well, there will be a version 2 coming up). If you whip out your best “merhaba” the vendors will give you a big smile.

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As for our Saturday night in Istanbul, we kicked off the evening at the lovely Akin Balik (in Beyoğlu, reservations recommended). If possible, bring a Turk with you to make sure what you order is spot on, but regardless, order heaps of mezze, some Raki and enjoy. The main fish we shared at our dreamy dinner were leverk and çupra… unfortunately I don’t have the translation (cough, Sedat). This restaurant has hanging lights, Turkish music, Efes and the works. It’s all outside on the seaside, and to allure despite the winter chills they heat the tables by burning coal at your feet — which is initially hot hot hot but then you realize it’s pretty fantastic. We then wandered to the Karaköy area, followed by taxying (why not) up to Taksim to check out a nameless mysterious and trendy cocktail bar ran by a American fellow off of Istiklal Street.

Our Sunday, and last day, was filled with sunshine and was perfect for our touristy excursions. We strolled around the breakthtaking Blue Mosque and  Hagia Sofia, visited the rainbow staircases and strolled through the trendy Galata neighborhood with coffee breaks at adorable cafés. We finished off the weekend with a stop by the Bosphorus Brewing Company, for some Turkish beer action. I’m not sure we could have had a better 3.5 days in Istanbul. There is still so much to see, and we certainly plan to go back.

Tips on playing tourist in the city: Don’t be afraid of the public transportation. The metro and trams in Istanbul are easy to navigate and can get you to and from major points of interest (you can buy individual tickets at all stations, so keep your lira coins!) Taxis are a good deal if you’re not going far, but try to know where you’re going, as can happen in any city, tourists can get taken on the long route. Wifi is everywhere, so don’t fret about being connected and looking up places to go while you’re out and about.

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Akin Balik – Traditional restaurant on the sea, perfect for a dinner out. Mezze/seafood. Reservations recommended.

Bosphorus Brewing Company - Brewery / Taproom / Restaurant

Café Galata - Café / Sweets

Constantinople – Hagia Sofia / Blue Mosque

Grand Bazaar - Turkish Marketplace

Karakoy Gulluoglu
– Baklava heaven

Kavalti Evi - Turkish Breakfast (Order menamen!)

Mavra - Café / Restaurant / Concept Store

Miss Pizza – Italian Restaurant / Pizzeria

Spice Market – Enough said

Unter – Restaurant / Bar (with music at night)

Velvet Café - Trendy Café / Snacks

 

Greece - De quelle planete es tu -4A few years ago, my best girlfriends from Uni and I went to Mykonos for Spring Break.

It was our last Spring Break all together before some of the girls moved across the oceans. For our last hurrah, we were off to the land of feta and mini churches. When I think about this trip I feel like it was yesterday. I miss these girls.

We were, and still are, adventurous souls, and wandered the pastures of the island and danced the night away in clubs that were close to empty. We wandered paths through the white Greek buildings and got lost between mindwills. Our season was slightly off, but having the island to ourselves made the trip even more exciting.

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Amsterdam - De quelle planete es tu : 1I was so lucky to get to spend a weekend in Amsterdam with some girlfriends not too long ago. Boy, do I love Amsterdam. The city is filled with so much charm and character.

Things there are clean, and cars don’t honk at bikers (cliché, everyone knows that) but it was refreshing. And did I mention that the cheese they put on everything is fantastic? I am in gouda heaven whenever I’m there.

I love the that the buildings are tilted slightly forward, and that they all have hooks at the top. I love that going out can easily consist of a night in a rock ‘n roll pub that is not lame, or sitting on the canal in good company. When I’m there I can feel that it’s a smaller community than Paris. And let’s face it, the Dutch are awesome. I can find all those random cooking ingredients and superfoods in Amsterdam. It’s just so refreshing.

This time up with the Dutch, I discovered some new extraordinary spots, and was lucky enough to spend a dry summer weekend…. and it all started with breakfast at De Bakkerswinkel, my favorite spot.

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Newly discovered favorite spots:

Brouwerij de Prael – Brewery

Two for Joy – Café

You can see my full Amsterdam guide here.