Sisters in San Diego

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I feel incredibly blessed because my sister was able to visit me in San Diego twice: in early November for her birthday, and again in early February. My sister is my best friend and there is nothing like a C&K sister adventure!

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What better way to start trip #1 than with San Diego’s number one breakfast. God bless American-sized portions…

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Guac & margs with a view at Coasterra

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Onto K’s birthday lunch at none other than Las Brisas in Laguna Beach – what a treat! Chorizo torta and carne asada tacos. Such a beautiful, relaxing dining experience from start to finish.

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My kind of marg

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Birthday girl with a gorgeous tres leches cake

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Not a bad view of Laguna Beach from Las Brisas’s patio

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Heaven in taco form @ City Tacos

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We watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs both times K visited – unbeatable.

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Balboa Park

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Heaven in taco form @ Taco Stand

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The only face to make when about to eat/eating tacos (especially in SD)

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K bonding with a hippo at San Diego Zoo

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There is nothing in the world like laughing with my sister. We love the open air set up of Better Buzz in La Jolla!

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La Jolla

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Our sleep inspirations

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City Tacos all day every day!!!

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Little Italy

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Coronado Island (with a view of downtown SD)

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On K’s second trip, we decided to cross the border to Mexico just because!

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Beautiful Mexican brunch @ Mission

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We love wandering North Park (and I’m happy to call this my neighbourhood!) 🙂 

I’m happiest when my sister is here – all we do is laugh and eat (pretty much only tacos) and somehow find ourselves in ridiculous situations. I am so grateful to have these memories with my best friend.

On a personal note: my only New Year’s resolution for 2020 is to eat more tacos (and yes, I am serious).

Food, Friends & New Adventures

Part 4 of my “photo diary of the best summer of my life” series (Summer 2018) … featuring food, friends and new adventures in Dublin. This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a photo diary and memory record for me. This is the final post of this Summer 2018 series.

As you know, I went on a spontaneous trip to Italy (Roma and Verona) in June. I decided on this trip for three reasons: 1) to see a very good friend I hadn’t seen in years, 2) to explore a region of Italy I’ve never been to (Verona) and 3) to eat.

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Eight years of friendship! I first met A on my very first trip to Italy in April 2011.

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Amorino opened in Dublin in early summer

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I enjoyed numerous dinner picnics in Stephen’s Green (and yes, I often bring my own hot sauce!)

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The picture of summer in Dublin! Can’t beat the Dublin light. St. Stephen’s Green

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Greystones in April

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I had the pleasure of seeing my best friend / life wife graduate with her PhD! An incredibly perfect day for us, and a memory I will always treasure.

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Teddy’s 99!

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I ate a record amount of ice cream in summer 2018.

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Pure happiness at the Happy Pear

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We went all out for breakfast at the Happy Pear

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One of my favourite brunches in Dublin… peanut butter avocado toast at Two Pups Coffee! Trust me, it’s delicious.

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An incredible newcomer as of last summer… my beloved Nutbutter!! I had the pleasure of catching up with a friend I met on the train to Aguas Calientes, Peru at Nutbutter.

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I’m a Bunsen fanatic and it will always be my #1, but BuJo is a close second!!!

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Vietnom @ The Glimmer Man Pub – fabulous!

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Yet another Happy Pear breakfast

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One of the best flat whites I’ve had in my life @ Noshington. 

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My second to last night in Dublin – celebrating the best way I know how: with “I” at Cirillo’s, my greatest pizza addiction! (the best Neapolitan pizza I’ve had outside of Napoli)

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Countless walks (at least once every day) through Stephen’s Green

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Making new friends

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I started boxing in May… went a little bit crazy on this day and had to casually ice my knuckles while walking through Grand Canal (this was the smallest bin bag the bar could find, ha)

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I got to appreciate so many sunsets in summer 2018.

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I treated myself to Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre for the second time – this time alone!

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I happened to be walking by the Taoiseach’s house when Meghan Markle and Prince Harry were getting ready to leave

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St. Patrick’s Cathedral

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An average sight in Dublin

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Beautiful Victorian Dublin

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Appreciation for Dublin’s architecture

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Can’t beat a Dublin summer sky! This was taken from my flat window

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… so was this!

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Dublin street art

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Fascinating tour of the Freemasons’ Hall

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The sight of these stairs instantly relaxed me every single time!

The single greatest decision I made in summer 2018 was to sign up for one month of unlimited yoga classes at Yoga Hub on Camden Street. I took my first yoga class in college and hated it, because I had the unfortunate experience of having an odd, over-the-top instructor. I unfortunately carried this hate with me for 10+ years. In July, I decided I wanted to force myself to like yoga, which is why I signed up for an unlimited month of classes. Luckily, Yoga Hub was only a 5 minute walk from where I lived and it became my haven, my escape, my happy place. I completely fell in love with yoga during this month and my discovery of my love for yoga was the greatest blessing, especially at that particular time in my life. This just shows you sometimes need to give things (and people) a second chance in life. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for yoga.

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Combining my two greatest music loves: orchestra and traditional Irish music at the National Concert Hall

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“I” showered me with mermaid gifts for my 30th… to my absolute delight!

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30th Birthday Celebrations in Copenhagen

Part 3 of “the best summer of my life” blog posts … featuring my 30th birthday trip to Copenhagen!

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I chose to celebrate my 30th with one of my closest friends, H. We’ve travelled together before: we visited her hometown together in Germany to visit the Christmas markets in December 2016 and we knew we were/are the perfect travel companions. We have exactly the same travel style and the same tastes and similar personalities. Befriending her and getting to know her is, to date, one of my greatest accomplishments in Dublin, so I knew I wanted to celebrate with her. She’s also an extraordinarily loyal friend, so she didn’t hesitate to say yes when I asked. I chose Copenhagen for a few reasons: 1) I’ve wanted to visit for many years 2) I’m the world’s greatest fan of “The Little Mermaid” and Hans Christian Andersen, so… enough said. I had to visit the little mermaid statue and my 30th seemed like the perfect occasion to do so. 3) My birthday is at the end of August, meaning it is quite hot across most of Europe… and, well, I hate the heat. Copenhagen’s weather turned out to be absolutely perfect when we were there (apart from the fact that it lashed rain pretty much non-stop on my actual birthday, but I am grateful that we had the most perfect weather imaginable the day before and we really made the most of it!).

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We stayed in this amazing Airbnb in central Copenhagen. It was perfect for us: it was spacious, modern, decorated beautifully, comfortable, in the perfect location (we were able to walk everywhere easily) and we were able to enjoy coffee and drinks on the adorable balcony in the mornings and evenings.

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Days 1 & 2

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Day 1 didn’t consist of much apart from a late lunch/early dinner at RizRaz (their salad bar is AMAZING!!!! and will forever be remembered as one of the happiest experiences H & I shared together); the weather wasn’t great and we were fairly tired from travelling. We took the time to get our bearings and plan the rest of our time in Copenhagen. On Day 2, we decided to stop for breakfast on our way to Nyhavn – Cafe Norden caught our eye and it really did not disappoint! Breakfast was as delicious as it was aesthetically pleasing. Their homemade rye bread was some of the tastiest bread I’ve ever had!

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Nyhavn did not disappoint – yes, it is touristy, but for a reason. It is incredibly charming and is a wonderful place to wander around.

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I’ve read a ton of reviews by people saying that they were disappointed in the little mermaid statue. I was NOT one of these people. Yes, it was overly crowded around the statue, but I still managed to feel like I had my “moment” with her… and it was worth it!

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Next, we walked through Freetown Christiania.

Christiania is a former military base that sat abandoned for many years before becoming the neighborhood we know today. In 1971, a group of hippies broke down the barricades and began squatting there. Nowadays, approximately 900 people live in the area, comprising a community that has its own rules and regulations completely independent of the Danish government. Source

I simply cannot describe the feeling of walking through bohemian Christiania other than… it is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. We saw some very interesting sights, people and houses. If you visit Copenhagen, I would absolutely recommend visiting Christiania. It’s an experience unlike any other.

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We then visited Tivoli Gardens, but we only paid for entrance, not the rides. It was absolutely worth it – it’s an incredibly beautiful park with so much to see and do. We watched a ballet, played a couple arcade games, had lunch and watched a dog show. Tivoli is what inspired Walt Disney to create Disney World and, being from Florida, this was a pretty cool experience for me. If I lived in Copenhagen, I think it would be worth it to get an annual pass as they host so many different events year round. We noticed lots of locals hanging out, spending their Sunday with friends and family at Tivoli.

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Ice cream in Copenhagen is an absolute MUST!!! Iceland is also known for their ice cream, which I thought was good, but this is quite possibly the best I’ve ever had. Again, I don’t know how to describe it – it was unique in every way!

Day 3

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We began my birthday by eating one of the most incredible breakfasts I’ve ever had in my life – in one of the most beautiful cafes I’ve ever been to. Paludan Bogcafe… a stunning bookstore and cafe, all in one. The staff was very friendly, the space was so cozy and inspiring and their menu offered high quality food and drink for great value. I’m pretty sure breakfast took us over three hours to consume – it was the perfect way to begin my 30th year… a leisurely breakfast in a beautiful space with a dear friend. What more could I ask for?

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This is the “vegetarian brunch”: scrambled eggs with chives, hummus, yogurt with fresh berries and muesli, pancake with maple syrup, cheese and fresh fruit, served with either fresh orange juice or a small smoothie… all for only 109 kr (approximately $16 USD)!! INCREDIBLE value for money. Copenhagen is notoriously expensive, but I would consider this cafe to be so well priced. This meal literally kept me FULL until we had dinner at 8:30pm (and I am usually the type of person who requires more than three meals per day).

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Unfortunately, it rained all day on my actual birthday. However, the rain did not deter us. H surprised me by treating us to a “couple’s” (friends!) full body massage followed by champagne and relaxation in the spa, which was so appreciated. We didn’t book a couple’s massage, so that was a bit of a surprise; however, it ended up being that much more fun and enjoyable, because it was an experience we were able to share together. We also visited the Rosenborg Castle between rain showers.

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I chose Llama for my birthday dinner: a Latin American restaurant inspired by Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Mexico – AKA my dream come true. It was pricey, but worth it for a special experience. Not an obvious choice of food while in Denmark, but I have no regrets. We shared a variety of unique (seemingly my favourite word to describe our trip to Copenhagen!) dishes and enjoyed a smokey margarita to toast to our friendship.

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Llama’s bathroom floor

Day 4

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I had to visit Brødflov, mostly because of the name (bread love), but also because their cafes are beautiful and I read about their delicious pastries. We had so much to fit in on our last (half) day, so this was breakfast #1 for us.

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Breakfast #2 was enjoyed at Cafe Dyrehaven – a super cool spot with extra friendly staff. We went for the open-faced sandwiches, but unfortunately, due to our flight time, we were too early and chose a breakfast item instead. Avocado toast with beetroot cured salmon – absolutely amazing!

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HOT DOGS, glorious hot dogs – OMG. Shortly after breakfast #2, we had to fit in one last hot dog. Just like ice cream, Iceland is also known for their hot dogs… and they were truly amazing; however, I’ll go out on a limb and say the two hot dogs I had in Copenhagen were even better. For our last meal before heading to the airport, we opted for a spicy hot dog from a street vendor and it was, quite possibly, my favourite thing I ate all summer. Yep, I said it.

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Our trip to Copenhagen was perfect in every way and was everything I could have asked for my birthday. I wanted to be able to look back on my 30th birthday with a fond memory, despite going through a difficult time, and thanks to H, I will forever be able to do just that. Thank you to Copenhagen for being everything I needed at that time. H and I both agreed we could happily live there – it’s everything we love in a city: so friendly, clean and beautiful.

Insider’s Guide: Dublin

My dear friend Gigi kindly featured me on her blog, The Global Organizer, here. I am posting my featured post below, but I highly recommend checking it out on her blog – because the format is much better (and there are more photos!).

FROM CHELSEA

I’m Chelsea; my passport says I’m American but my heart will tell you I’m Irish. I grew up in Florida, but have known my entire life that I’m meant to live in Ireland. I moved to Ireland in September 2010 (Cork for 6 months, then Dublin) and I genuinely fall more in love with Dublin every single day. It is by far my favourite place in the world and even though my favourite hobby is travelling, I am always happy to come back to Dublin. Dublin has everything: the sea, mountains, beautiful parks and is a city that can either feel like a bustling capital city or a tranquil town, depending on where you are. I even like the Irish weather, which is especially funny coming from someone who is from Florida.

EAT

When people think of Ireland, they usually don’t think of food. Or if they do, they think of meat and potatoes and maybe Lucky Charms. This is changing hugely! When I first moved here in 2010, the foodie scene was non-existent. I am now convinced Dublin has one of the most amazing foodie scenes in the world: I actually think it’s even better than London’s, though I’m a bit biased. We have some incredible restaurants here and you can have top-notch cuisine from just about everywhere around the world. Dublin really knows how to do brunch! P.S. Lucky Charms do not exist here. Well, they do… you can buy a box for 10 euro from one specialityshop! I’d say Ireland produces the best beef, butter, milk and strawberries in the world.

  • Bunsen– Nothing compares to Irish beef. You must try a Bunsen burger: melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Bunsen has a cult following and luckily, there are four locations.
  • Full Irish breakfast – Surprise, potatoes are not generally part of a full Irish! A full Irish usually consists of eggs (usually fried, but you can request otherwise), rashers (bacon), sausages, baked beans, black and white pudding, fried tomato and toast. Make sure you try some incredible Irish butter on your toast… even better, if you have an option of having brown bread / brown soda bread, choose that!!
  • Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse or most pubs (it’s debatable who has the best Guinness!) My vote would be for a pint at the Cobblestone because of the atmosphere – you can listen to live traditional Irish music if you’re there in the evening.
  • Brunch is a way of life in Dublin. I have many favourite brunch places – one of them is Two Pups Coffee, in a great old neighborhood called The Liberties. They have great coffee, unique food (avocado toast with peanut butter!! Trust me, it’s fantastic) and the staff is super friendly.
  • Modern Irish (Whitefriar Grill and The Winding Stair) – Irish pub food (L. Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter / O’Neills / The Hairy Lemon) –Fish & Chips (Beshoff Bros or Leo Burdock) – Neapolitan pizza (Cirillo’s) – Sushi (Musashi and Kokoro) – Indian (Pickle) – TexMex (Boojum) – Ice cream (Murphy’s or a 99 cone from Teddy’s in Dun Laoghaire) – Vegan (The Happy Pear and Cornucopia) – Salads (Sprout) – Lebanese (The Cedar Tree or Damascus Gate) – Vietnamese(Pho Ta and Aobaba) – Michelin Star (Chapter One) – Tapas (Las Tapas de Lola or PortHouse) – Pasta (DaMimmo and Rosa Madre) – Unique fine dining experience(Taste at Rustic – Peruvian and Japanese fusion) – Best Egg’s Benedict (Wuff) – Best scones (Emer’s Kitchen and Brother Hubbard) – Favourite newcomer(Nutbutter – healthy food) – Sandwich (Green Bench CafĂ©) – Amazing views (Sophie’s at The Dean) – Dessert (Nutella Cheesecake at either Taco Taco or San Lorenzo’s; though unfortunately, you cannot go only for dessert) – Donuts (Rolling Donut) – Coffee (Proper Order, Clement and Pekoe, Il Valentino, Butler’s)

PLAY

  • Cliff walk: Either Bray to Greystones and lunch at The Happy Pear if you feel like eating healthy or Howth cliff walk followed by fish and chips
  • Guinness Storehouse
  • On your way to Trinity College to see the Old Library and the Book of Kells, wander through St. Stephen’s Green park and then down Grafton Street, stopping to listen to various buskers.

STAY

This is something I can’t really comment on, seeing as I’ve only ever lived in Dublin. I’ve never been here as a tourist. However, I know if money were no object and I could stay anywhere in Dublin, I would choose either the Merrion or the Shelbourne. For someone on a major budget, I know the Generator hostel in Smithfield is great as far as hostels go.

The best areas in Dublin to stay in are: Dublin 2 (safest and nicest part of the city centre), Dublin 4 (just a bit outside the city centre and very posh), Dublin 6 (very local neighbourhood), Smithfield/Stoneybatter in Dublin 7, Dublin 8 if you want to be near the Guinness Storehouse and Phoenix Park. Stay away from Temple Bar in Dublin 2 if you want any peace and quiet.

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Ireland is the land of a hundred thousand welcomes (Céad Míle Fáilte) and is, in my humble opinion, the most magical place on earth.

“It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what that love is for; for some it’s the friendliness Irish people are famous for, or the beautiful landscapes or the incredible produce we are becoming renowned for. Or perhaps it’s something a little less tangible. Perhaps that love of Ireland is more an emotion, a moment, an elusive feeling that we know intimately well but might find hard to describe. It’s what makes us love this country no matter the weather, it’s how we feel landing in Dublin Airport after a stint away. It’s the taste of a proper strong cuppa, it’s the craic, the kindness and the bold humour. It’s the thought of holing up in a cosy pub with a creamy pint of Guinness and the deep conviction that when the sun shines there’s nowhere else you’d rather be. It’s the sight of the Phoenix Park in the autumn when the trees are molten amber and the deep, burgeoning pride when our county takes home the Sam Maguire cup.” ~Author Unknown

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FAVORITE TRAVEL HACK

  • Charles Schwab bank is my best discovery – they are my American bank of choice and I adore my Schwab debit card because they refund ALL ATM fees – local or international! Bonus: they have fabulous customer service.

Mangiare in Italia

I received bad, life-changing news on the 30th of May. Late on Thursday night (31st May), I made a spontaneous decision to book a last-minute flight to Italy. On Saturday, 2nd June, I flew to Rome to see a friend, whom I hadn’t seen since April 2015. I decided to book this trip because I knew the food would heal me. I needed to be elsewhere mentally and physically, and Italy is always the answer.

I stayed in Rome for two nights (my 5th time in Rome!) and then I took a train to Verona, where I stayed two nights. I chose Verona because I hadn’t yet visited. In three and a half days, I consumed seven plates of pasta, one massive calzone, two orders of carciofo (artichokes), four cones of gelato and countless espressos. Through the exquisite cuisine, I was able to “reset” myself and return to Dublin with a clearer head.

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Carciofo alla Romana at Trattoria al Tettarello, Roma

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Tonnarello cacio e pepe at Trattoria al Tettarello, Roma

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Giolitti – a must-visit every time I’m in Rome

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Beautiful views from my table at Tonnarello in Trastevere

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Carciofo alla Giudia at Tonnarello

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Tonnarello cacio e pepe at Tonnarello

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Via Sottoriva in Verona

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The beautiful Via Sottoriva during the day

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The beautiful Osteria Casa Vino

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Ricotta stuffed courgette flowers – truly one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life! at Osteria Casa Vino in Verona

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Gnocchi at Osteria Casa Vino

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Bigoli with duck sauce at Trattoria al Pompiere in Verona

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By far my favourite place I went to on this trip – La Bottega della Gina

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Fresh tortellini and gnocchi

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La Bottega della Gina is a tiny place with only a few seats and it truly was my favourite dining experience of this trip (in addition to the ricotta stuffed courgette at Osteria Casa Vino – MELT IN YOUR MOUTH). Everything was so delicious, I dared to order both a mixed plate of tortellini AND gnocchi bolognese. Let me tell you, I can eat, but after this, I could hardly breathe. If you only order one plate, the mixed tortellini is a MUST. Simply exquisite. IMG_6907IMG_6910

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By far the best gelato I had in Verona – from Gelateria Ponte Pietra

Life lesson reconfirmed: booking a spontaneous, last-minute flight is always a good idea… especially when Italy is your destination.

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Lovable Lisbon

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I just returned from the most wonderful four days in Lisbon. When I was booking my flights, I was thinking to myself “yes, I’d like to go, but I’d rather go to Italy!” (a constant thought of mine). But, just like my trip to Barcelona, I was absolutely blessed with the weather (I had the luck of the Irish for once, usually the bad weather follows me!) and completely fell in love with the city. It exceeded my expectations.

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View of my B&B – MiCasaEnLisboa

I stayed in the most gorgeous B&B imaginable – MiCasaEnLisboa which is located in the neighbourhood of Graça. It is a quiet neighbourhood surrounded by many beautiful miradouros (viewpoints) and the lovely, green park Jardim da Cerca da Graça. It is also well located to explore all of Lisbon. If you are looking for a peaceful, beautiful place to stay, I couldn’t possibly recommend this B&B enough. The staff is so kind and the breakfast is really something special.

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View from MiCasaEnLisboa

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Near to MiCasaEnLisboa

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View from my room in MiCasaEnLisboa

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Part of my breakfast on day one (it is always slightly different each day). Bowl of fresh fruit, juice, coffee, homemade cake, homemade breads and jams, etc.

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These photos were taken from MiCasaEnLisboa’s TripAdvisor, as my photos do not do it justice! It is absolutely stunning. This is the common room and where breakfast is served. It really is this bright and beautiful.

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Breakfast table

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My room (the single room)

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The walk from MiCasaEnLisboa to São Jorge Castle

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Portas do Sol – beautiful miradouro

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Portas do Sol

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Lunch at Le Petit Cafe: Queijo de AzeitĂŁo (the most delicious cheese!) served with bread and a beautiful tomato soup with feta

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Miradouro de Santa Luzia – my second favourite miradouro in Lisbon

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Miradouro de Santa Luzia

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Dinner at A Cevicheria

I would highly recommend A Cevicheria for fabulous ceviche; however, expect to wait a long time. It is a small place and they do not take reservations. I waited a solid 1h15m+. It was worth it, though!

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Ceviche Puro – seasonal white fish, mashed sweet potato (a special kind only found in Portugal, it isn’t orange!! I was amazed), onions, seaweed and tiger milk

The Ceviche Puro was the surprise of the night. I thought I was going to love the Tuna Ceviche the most but the Puro was recommended by one of the waiters and it blew me away!!

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Tuna Ceviche – tuna, foie gras, lychees, hazelnuts and tiger milk with beetroot

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Rua Nova do Carvalho – the pink street

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I am missing pastel de nata from Manteigaria! Portuguese custard tarts, mmm. I got two on Sunday, one on Monday and two on Tuesday!

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Praça do ComĂ©rcio – beautiful square near the Tagus River

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I spent a couple hours perched here in a lounge chair on both Sunday and again on Tuesday.

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RosĂ© sangria – it was 24 degrees C on this day!!

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I was really impressed with the Time Out Market! So many amazing looking stalls. 

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I chose the Miguel Castro e Silva stall based on a recommendation and I ordered the Arroz de Polvo Provençal – rice with octopus! Absolutely fabulous.

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Ice cream from Santini – I chose their flavours of the day: mango, green apple and coconut

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Miradouro da Senhora do Monte – personally my favourite miradouro! Bonus: it’s right around the corner from MiCasaEnLisboa

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View from SĂŁo Jorge Castle

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SĂŁo Jorge Castle

Personally, I do not think it is worth visiting the castle. It’s a new castle (not much to look at) and I think you can get equally beautiful views from the various free miradouros vs. paying 8.50 for entrance to the castle!

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Carmo Convent – the roof was destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1755

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Elevador de Santa Justa

“The Elevador de Santa Justa stands 147 Ft (45m) tall and the structure is built in the same style as the renowned French architect, Eiffel. The similarity between his designs and this Elevator is not accidental, as it was built by Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard, who was an admirer of Gustave Eiffel and applied the same techniques used in some of the funiculars in France of the time.” source

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The beautiful tiles of Lisbon

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Ginja is a liqueur infused with sour cherries. It had to be tried, but honestly I thought it tasted like cherry cough medicine! xP

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Açorda de camarĂŁo @ Alfaia – Açorda is a typical Portuguese dish composed of thinly sliced bread with garlic, finely chopped coriander, olive oil, vinegar, water, salt and poached eggs. Served with shrimp. Absolutely delicious! I recommend having green wine with this dish – it’s a lovely antidote to the slight saltiness of the dish. 

 

Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon and is one of the only areas that was not destroyed by the earthquake/tsunami of 1755. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful area of Lisbon and one of my favourite activities was wandering the lanes.

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Pictures of locals are featured on the walls of Alfama – this was one of my favourite things to look at. 

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Fado (traditional Portuguese music said to be born in Alfama) at Mesa de Frades

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Sunset from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte

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Lisbon is full of friendly people, beautiful food and gorgeous sights. It is a walkable city, but is extremely hilly. I walked the entire time, but my legs were definitely sore at the end of my trip. I spent 4 full days and 4 nights in Lisbon and I would recommend not spending any less time than that. Not pictured: definitely try bacalhau (dried, salted cod) when you’re in Lisbon!

Next up: a post on my day trip to Sintra, Portugal!

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Paris Food Diary (in photos) Part 2

I joined my life wife in Paris for 4 nights to once again, do nothing but eat. If you have yet to see part one of my “Paris Food Diary” from 2015… Here is the link to Part 1

This post is going to focus on the food we ate, sights from our wanders to come in another post.

You could say we ate a few macarons. All Pierre HermĂ© (#pierrehermĂ©everyday), with the exception of the heart-shaped raspberry macarons, from Bostani. We wanted to get these for Valentine’s Day. My two favourite macarons this time around: Jardin De Lima (lucuma and candied ginger) and Montebello (pistachio and raspberry).

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We loved all of the Valentine’s displays around the city!

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As always, we drank all the noisettes.

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Stohrer — a must do when in Paris, every. single. time. Salted Caramel and Coffee eclairs.

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God bless Eric Kayser for making the most gorgeous almond croissants!

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When we were in Bostani, we only bought two heart-shaped macarons. The shop keeper loved us and gave us these DELICIOUS white chocolate, passion fruit filled chocolates and two chocolate truffles on the house and said “I like to see people get fat” and thanked us for our smiles.

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Spotted under the stairs of a wine bar in Le Marais… words to live by. “You don’t get fat if you eat good.”

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Falafel from L’as du Fallafel round one! Easily one of my favourite meals IN THE WORLD. I am convinced I could eat it endlessly.

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Bonus:  our Airbnb was less than a 5 minute walk from Rue des Rosiers, meaning we could bring the falafel back to eat in peace (aka privately make a mess of our faces) every day!!

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Falafel round 2 (extra ‘sexy sauce’ on this one): with pickles from Sacha Finkelsztajn (all 5 pickles for me, God bless)

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Falafel round 3!

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CANDELARIA – our favourite place! When we went in 2015, we thought it was so ridiculous that the two of us managed to spend €65 on tacos and margaritas. Well, we upped that this time… we spent €73.20!!! We had the best night. Three margaritas each, a bowl of their fabulous bean dip, two orders of chips and salsa, two tacos each, and a shot of THE most gorgeous, ‘soft’, smooth, high quality tequila we’ve ever had (Altos), on the house! We drank with the kind woman next to us (Carol, if you’re reading this… hi!!) and our waitress. She said it was a pleasure to have us… probably because we exuded joy with every bite and sip we took!

Please note the difference between the above and the below photos: the two of us finished the entire bottle of the homemade “super hot” habanero sauce!!

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We also revisited Christian Constant’s Les Cocottes because we loved it so much the first time. We ordered the special starter of the day: poached egg with asparagus cooked in the most magical butter sauce we’ve ever tasted!

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Sirloin

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We had to get the caramelised potatoes stuffed with pig’s feet again!

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The Fabulous Christian Constant Chocolate Tart… OMG. Notice how we ordered two this time. We still stand by the fact that this is one of our top two desserts we have EVER had around the world (#2 being Taco Taco/San Lorenzo’s nutella cheesecake in Dublin). This chocolate tart is EVERYTHING. It’s so shiny, we were singing “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake to it. We are that much in love with it.

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February is a wonderful time to enjoy French onion soup in Paris, served with red wine at lunch, of course! This time, we went to Les Philosophes and had a fabulous experience.

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The fact that we had crĂŞpes and galettes on Pancake Tuesday was a complete coincidence. We didn’t realise it was Pancake Tuesday when we made our reservation at Breizh Cafe in advance! Artichoke galette and apple crĂŞpe with ice cream.

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On Valentine’s Day, we decided to stay in and enjoy a wine and cheese night. We were absolutely stuffed with cheese!

Paris never disappoints. I am pretty sure I can never eat sugar again.

Siena and Florence

We ventured to Siena in our rental car on the Sunday of a bank holiday weekend (the crowds! the traffic!) and it took us a solid hour and a half to find parking. We were still based in our middle-of-nowhere home in the Chianti region not too far from Siena.

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The incredible Duomo di Siena – the striped marble is a sight to behold!

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I was so disappointed to not have the opportunity to climb the Torre del Mangia tower in Piazza del Campo, because it was sold out when we got there, even though we were there in very early afternoon. This was #1 on my to-do list in Siena, but we still enjoyed wandering around the sun-drenched piazza.

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Very relaxing lunch in Siena

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Even though Siena got increasingly (and absurdly) crowded as the day went on, we really enjoyed leisurely wandering the beautiful lanes of this unique city and enjoying some down time and gorgeous food. We ended the day by buying a box of Bar Pasticceria Nannini’s gorgeous ricciarelli… unbeatable!!

The following morning, we returned our rental car (which took forever, plus they charged us out the wazoo for not having a completely full tank (even though it was nearly full) – we used up what cash we had to purchase petrol, we couldn’t find a station that was open to accept a credit card!) and took a taxi to the bus stop and waited for the return bus to Florence. We stupidly purchased our tickets in advance. I say stupidly because, as it was a bank holiday Monday (1st May), the bus was only running a couple times that day (this information was nowhere to be found online, I did check in advance!) and we had just missed a bus by two minutes. The next one was not for another four or five hours. So, we had to buy a local bus ticket to take us to the train station and had to buy train tickets. Such a waste of money and time, but we finally arrived in Florence… of course it was lashing rain! We dropped off our luggage at our Airbnb apartment and went for some lunch.

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Il Duomo di Firenze

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The lane our apartment was on

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Part of my lunch: Pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan tomato and bread soup)

For dinner, we went to my life wife/bestie’s favourite restaurant in Florence, Il Brincello. It was exquisite and we had the most enjoyable dining experience.

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Bruschetta never gets old!

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My love for pici knows no bounds

On our last morning in Florence, I went for a nice long walk while my parents relaxed and packed up their bags.

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Early morning – no crowds!

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View from Piazzale Michelangelo

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Pear and pecorino ravioli with balsamic vinegar

We enjoyed one last Tuscan lunch together before we made our way to the train station. I took the train to Bologna to fly back to Dublin and my parents made their way to Venice. It is never enough time, but I am so thankful for this beautiful long weekend with my parents in Tuscany.

What have I been up to lately? I went to London with my life wife to see Adele in June (blog post coming soon!). We spent our summer ditching work to do numerous cliff walks while simultaneously belting out Queen and treating ourselves to lunch, treats and drinks in the sun afterwards. I celebrated my birthday at the end of August – my last year in my twenties! I went through a major life change in early September when my life wife moved 5,200 miles away to Los Angeles (though she is visiting for a few days in two weeks!). I moved in to my dream apartment, a bright, cosy studio in a beautiful, quiet but central area of Dublin. I’ve thrown myself into my career and am really enjoying my work. I returned to Napoli, Italy over my October mid-term break, so more on that later! I am counting down the days until I head home to Florida for Christmas.

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Under the Tuscan Sun

In April of this year, my parents and my sister flew to Dublin for my Master’s graduation.  From previous blog posts, you already know my sister and I travelled to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled before I graduated. My parents arrived the morning after we returned to Dublin, I graduated the following day, and then my parents went off to Italy, on a trip that I planned for them. I was lucky enough to be able to join them for 4.5 days (3 nights in Quercegrossa [in the Chianti region], Tuscany and 1 night in Florence). We spent most of our time relaxing in the countryside surrounding our beautiful Tuscan home and then one day in Siena and one day in Florence.

I had to wake up at 3:15am on the Friday in order to make my flight to Rome at 6:20am. I then jumped on a train at Fiumicino airport to Florence, where I met my parents at the train station. We took the bus to Siena and then took a taxi to the car rental place (I’m exhausted just typing this), where we hired our Audi for the long weekend. I then attempted to drive us to our Tuscan home (an Airbnb), but Google Maps did not recognise the address, since it is in the middle of nowhere, not close to any major towns.

At this stage, I hadn’t eaten in hours and was purely exhausted from being awake since 3:15. I developed a bad migraine and we were stressed about finding our place before dark, which was fast approaching. We stopped and asked numerous people for directions, but they either had no idea how to help us or did not want to help us. We finally knocked on a random person’s door and they were so kind and knew exactly where to direct us. We arrived hours after we were supposed to, and were so relieved to finally be home.

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View from our Tuscan home

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The only restaurant nearby, where we had three meals (Il Mulino di Quercegrossa)

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The local grocery shop

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Quercegrossa town

After checking in, we immediately drove to the only restaurant in town, Il Mulino di Quercegrossa, and finally sat down to eat at 10pm. I hadn’t eaten anything since that morning, and I am the type of person who needs to eat every couple of hours, so you can imagine how I was feeling. My parents were just as bad. We couldn’t even talk, we were desperate for food and water. Luckily, the meal was divine.

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Our first (and in my opinion, best) meal – pici with black pepper and pecorino cheese

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We ate our breakfast and drank our coffee on our lovely terrace under the Tuscan sun and it was our favourite activity of the trip.

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San Quirico d’Orcia

We drove around the Val d’Orcia region on our first full day in Tuscany. We unfortunately got lost trying to find a certain restaurant, and ended up arriving just after they closed between lunch and dinner. Needless to say, we spent a silly amount of time being hungry on our trip, which is something I never thought could or would happen in Italy!

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San Quirico d’Orcia

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Val d’Orcia

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My favourite trees

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Views from our Tuscan home

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Views from our Tuscan home

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The beautiful Il Mulino di Quercegrossa restaurant

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I love the gorgeous light in these photos – the Tuscan sun beginning to set

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On one of our evenings in Quercegrossa, we heard a distant sound of bells. I ran outside to see what was happening and saw that a heard of sheep was coming up towards our home. I screamed for my Mum to come out and see what was occurring. We realised the sheep had bells around their necks and it was the most magical thing to witness. The sound was absolutely beautiful, not to mention the scenery of the sunset in the background of the rolling Tuscan hills.

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I am so grateful for the beautiful time spent with my parents in Italy. Tuscany is magical, and I cannot wait to go back and explore more. In my next post, I’ll talk about our time in Siena and Florence.

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Peaceful Prague

There is no one in the world who is a more compatible travel companion for me than my sister. My sister, rather spontaneously, decided to book a trip to come visit me and attend my Master’s graduation, but also to spend just over a week of my Easter break travelling with me to Prague, Ljubljana and Bled. It was an absolutely fabulous trip and just what we needed, since we hadn’t really had much one-on-one sister time in a couple years. The trip was not without its bumps and was far from perfect (e.g., we found ourselves trying to translate items in a Czech pharmacy and sadly went to bed hungry our first night in Prague), but I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except for we would have liked to sleep in Bled, more on that later).

First up – highlights of Prague!

We stayed in a lovely, spacious Airbnb apartment right on the riverbank near Anděl for 3 nights.

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Dancing House

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Lennon Wall

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We enjoyed a wonderful lunch on the terrace of the Lobkowicz Palace cafe at Prague Castle and this was the view. While it is rather touristy, I would highly recommend eating here. The service was friendly and fast, they didn’t rush us and the food was really nice.

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TrdelnĂ­k

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I still dream of trdelnĂ­k! This is a Czech pastry made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with a sugar and almond mix, with optional chocolate on the inside. If you don’t have an extremely high tolerance for sweets, you may want to split one of these with someone – they are huge! So so delicious. Eat as many as possible.

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St. Vitus Cathedral

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Malá Strana

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nakládaný hermelín (pickled cheese) @ U Fleků

While the pickled cheese was gorgeously delicious, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend U FlekĹŻ. I loved this restaurant when we walked in, but as soon as we sat down, we were put off quickly. They serve you alcohol without even asking if you want it and while I understand it’s a smart sales tactic, it’s pretty unfair when you don’t want to drink. The staff got extremely annoyed when we said we didn’t want the drinks, so that really ruined the experience for us. Having said that, if I had to do it all again, I’d still go back for this dish!

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Old Town Square – Easter market

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Church of Our Lady Before Týn

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PernĂ­ÄŤkĹŻv sen

We were on our way to this precious bakery (cutest one I’ve ever seen in my life!) when we realised they closed in 15 minutes. We trekked across Prague to make it in time and to try a couple of their gorgeous cookies.

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Malá Strana

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Kampa Park

I had zero interest in seeing Kampa Park because these statues really creep me out. We had a good laugh when we accidentally passed through Kampa Park on our way back to our apartment.

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JindĹ™išská věž – Zvonice

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Sauerkraut soup

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Zvonice

If you go to Prague, ensure you go to Restaurant ZVONICE. This was by far our favourite experience of our whole trip, and we still talk about it on a regular basis. Zvonice is located on the top two floors of a Gothic bell tower and is an absolutely stunning restaurant, with wonderful views of the city. It is one of the most unique places I have ever eaten. The staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming.

We went for the sauerkraut soup and oh my dear Lord. To this day, it is one of my favourite dishes I have EVER eaten. Ever. Description: traditional South-Bohemian fine sauerkraut soup with roasted chanterelas, baked mashed potatoes and sour cream. Neither one of us likes mushrooms, but if you’re like us, don’t let that put you off. I’ve also read reviews of those who don’t even like sauerkraut and they still love this soup – I can see this being possible. I cannot describe this soup but I’ll tell you it’s an experience we will never forget.

When we were leaving Prague, we were squashed like bugs against the windshield of the airport bus literally next to the bus driver for 40 minutes because the bus was that full. We had to remain standing like that the whole time but funny enough, we found the whole experience quite amusing and the bus driver kept laughing at us.

Prague is a magnificently beautiful city and we really fell in love with the people and the Czech culture. We adore the city’s rule of no noise after 10pm in apartment buildings and really noticed Czech people are pretty much always quiet. You can barely hear any talking in restaurants! I loved this.

Next up: Ljubljana and Bled, Slovenia!