Tag Archives: city trip

An “expat” weekend in Yangon, Myanmar

buddha at the shwedagon pagoda
Brightly illuminated Buddha at the Shwedagon pagoda
Street food in Yangon
Street food in Yangon

Yangon was Burma’s capital during the British occupation, and remains one of its main business centres. The city is booming so fast that it feels a bit like a teenager that’s quickly outgrowing its clothes. We had a little taste of the “expat life” for a weekend, guided by Mr & Mrs J. He’s actually becoming so local he’s now rocking the longyi style! Next thing you know, he’ll be chewing on betel… https://instagram.com/p/xMUPV0SnTo/ I’m not sure why but the French must love Myanmar, as the authorities count as many as 600 foreign nationals living in the Country (growing up to 90% per year). The same goes for tourists apparently, as French tourists are the most numerous to visit. Generally speaking the growing number of European and other western expats living in Yangon reflects the fact that the Country is at a turning point: the “big question mark” as Professor Robert H. Lieberman describes it. Indeed, daily conversation topics range from “what will the 2015 election mean for the Country and its legal framework” to “when is the next visa run to Bangkok?”, and of course to “where can I find some baking chocolate?”.

The Chaukhtatgyi Temple, hosting the giant reclining Buddha

IMG_8789 Many expats, all with different stories but common complaints: difficulties to find a suitable accommodation in a growing city where housing is actually not that cheap; impossibility to get a long-term visa (for now at least); lack of places to find fresh salads and western healthy food…so many obstacles that could turn into great business ideas? Yes, but not always. Foreigners are officially allowed to own no more than 49% of properties & companies, making Myanmar investors open to partnership a hot commodity! I’m glad I saw Mr & Mrs J (loving that new nickname) well settled in a cosy apartment and with a few business ideas up their sleeves!! As for us, for a weekend only, we marvelled at British car models with their steering wheels on the left driving on the right side of the road while stuck in traffic; bought Myanmar-baked croissants; crossed streets featuring a Buddhist temple, a Christian church and a mosque; had cocktails the colonial way; marvelled at the giant reclining Buddha. In term of tourism we very much enjoyed the free walking tour run by Gino. Thanks again, we had a great time listening your tales of Yangon, but also exchanging views with the group and …playing chilone!!

Chinlone Yangon
Playing Chilone in the streets of Yangon, note how the police officer (on the very left) rolled up his longiy to male some sort of shorts!

Playing Chinlone in the streets o yangonAnd obviously, we had to go and see the Shwedagon Pagoda, featuring one of the biggest stupa in the world and containing relics of the four Buddhas. It’s a puzzling sight at first, very crowded with tourists, prayers and monks; or sometimes all in one really, as we were welcomed by monks taking selfies on their ipads (really!?)…the temple is overlooking the city and stretches over a large area, with dozens of shrines and stupas. Legends and stories are, in my opinion, the most exciting part of such a site. I found the legend of the Pagoda on this page, I found it very interesting but poorly translated, so if anyone has a better version of it please let me know!

Rangoon Hail, Mother! Do they call me rich in trade? Little care I, but hear the shorn priest drone, And watch my silk-clad lovers, man by maid, Laugh ‘neath my Shwe Dagon.

The Song of the Cities – Rudyard Kipling

Shwedagon Pagoda  woman lighting incense at the shwedadon pagoda A few articles and points of views on the topic: Expats in Myanmar The expat burden in Myanmar – on the The Myanmar Times A make or break year for Myanmar – on The Diplomat In Orwell’s footsteps – a photo album published on the NYT 36 hours in Yangon – by the NYT, with restaurants and good eats lists The Economist Intelligence Unit country report, always a good go-to page

Yangon city Hall, from the Maha Bandoola Gardens
Yangon city Hall, from the Maha Bandoola Gardens
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Milan, Italy, a love and hate story

The first time I travelled to Milan, I was in for a huge disappointment, and it was partly my fault: no, going mid-August is not a good idea, as for ferragosto the Milanese just shoot off to the lakes or the sea, leaving a drained, hot and dusty city behind them. Also I had in mind a great romantic impressive city….if that’s what you want go to Rome, to Florence, to Venice…you name it. But not to Milan.

So this year I decided I was going to start our relationship from scratch again, and spend a full week there, with the right kind of expectations.

Milan is a social, fashionable city.

With a total GDP of €114,784m, Milan produces 7.3% of the whole country wealth. Easily the wealthiest city in the country (€36,000 per capita), but far behind on tourists go-to lists. I think it is a great city to experience when one has “something to do” there. It is also a city that’s better appreciated with a few friends; it’s a busy social place.

Some of the MUST do things, pick and choose to make your dream combination:

Sightseeing: it doesn’t take that long but you will at least want to see the magnificent Duomo and get to the rooftop if you can. Don’t forget there’s a strict no bare knee or shoulder policy in place.
Culture, museums and exhibitions: plenty of choice there, the Museo del NovecentoPinacoteca Brera (website is only in Italian: closed Mondays, open 8.30 to 19.15, longer on Fridays) and the Triennale, focused on Italian design. Booking to see the Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci, is a bit of an achievement in itself. It takes lots of advance planning, but I eventually made it, and it’s worth it.
* Take on some activitylearn Italian, take a cooking course, a fashion design course….they’re good way to meet people and experience the city rather than visit it.
Shopping and wandering around: this seem to be the most praised activity in Milan. I was hugely frustrated as I went a week before the sales period would start and missed all the bargains!! For your records, Winter Sales Season in Milan usually starts the first Saturday of January until mid-February; and Summer Sales Season usually starts the first Saturday of July until August. In term of good neighbourhoods, try Brera and Porta Ticcinese, both lovely areas with lots of cafés and a good mix of chains and independent shops. For a more thorough list, check Alexi’s blog there
* have an Aperol Spritz aperitivo on the navigli and panzerotti (deep fried mozzarella) at Luinni’s (via Santa Radegonda).
* Indulge on a bigger-than-life ice-cream at Cioccolati Italiani. Their cones are outright impossible to eat without smudging your make up, but who cares?  eat like no one’s looking. The other delicious alternative is Grom.
* going to the Scalla Opera to enjoy an opera or a ballet
* going out clubbing al fresco: Just Cavalli (Saturday night recommended) or the Byblos are good options. Or party like Bob Sinclar and Andy Warhol, wear your most glamorous outfit, be ready to wait and go to Plastic.
* having pizza for breakfast at Princi on your way back when the sun rises, and in clubbing outfit.

However I would avoid…:
* going in August, it’s empty, suffocating and full of mosquitoes
* I’m a huge fan of going jogging to discover an area but really Milan isn’t the greatest place. I took part in the Milan half marathon this year and…disappointing, it doesn’t go through the centre as much as I would have liked it (starts from the Castillo and ends in the arena, via the peripheral ring road; nothing to fret about). And the jogging track is a mere 3.5k in the Parco Sempione, dogging tourists and old ladies’ dogs, not ideal.
– taking the overground tramway if you don’t have a “Man vs. Wild” type of sense of direction. It’s pretty and looks vintage, but you’ll need a local to get around – or at least I did. On the other hand, the tube is AC’ed and the easiest thing in the world!!

A Rich history and present

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A recently sprayed graffiti depicting Milan’s rich history caught my attention. Not only because it’s a beautiful way to illustrate it, but also it was made on request of the parish of the very central Basilica St Lorenzo Maggiore. How unusual!? The piece is also highly interesting because the symbols it represents, understanding those few figures pretty much already gives the main keys to understand the city. The open-air story board starts at the time of the Romans, when Milan was called Mediolanum, for it was located in the middle of the plains. If the Roman heritage is great all over Italy, Milan has few obvious visible traces. I carries on with Sant’Ambrogio who worked for the city to become an episcopate; followed by the Attila the Hun and the barbarian invasions in the 5th century, the fall of the Black King in the  15th century, Ludovico Sforza or The Moor, youngest son of Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan; Napoleon, Verdi, Alessandro Manzoni, Visconti and Sforza with the Snake and the Eagle….and many more, keep the history book at hand!

To read in the plane:

Milan is great scene of crime it seems, or at least that is what the litterary scene suggests!? Mani gialli or “yellow books” (crime novels) are set in Milan, I was particularly recommended this one:

Un delitto molto milanese giallo

Un Delitto Molto Milanese by Antonio Steffenoni. Beyond the criminal story, what I was really after was the description of the city, and the atmosphere … a catching thriller but not exactly a kind & warm description of the working environment in Milan!!

Other resources to prepare your trip:

I was given for my birthday a really handy guide: 101 things to do in Milan (101 cose da fare a Milano). It’s full of charming places and urban legends  and describes another way to approach a city that doesnt have a fame for being especially welcoming. Marco translated most of them on his blog.

cose-da-fare-a-milano-almeno-una-volta-nella-vita

Select Italy blog and website

Vivi Milano on the Corriere

Venice, the magic marathon

One marathon a year has been my target for the past few years; and last weekend was Venice marathon turn. The scenic run easily makes it to the most beautiful in my ranking. A memorable way to see Venice, a unique experience, however not one for great times, mostly due to the 14 bridges at the end, and if you are anything like me, the “OMG this is unreal” moment on Piazza San Marco will make you loose another few seconds, just gazing in disbelief!!! Continue reading Venice, the magic marathon

Stuff you should never take on a trip

Adult travelers and holiday-goers (i.e. not backpackers), and I’m sure just most female young or old travelers in the world just find it difficult to cut-down on packing.

Leif Pettersen at The Lonely Planet has just published this article and it did crack me up; at a time where I’m scratching my head and wondering how to pack for Myanmar (the very exciting countdown until November has started!!), I thought it was a good idea to bring up the topic. Continue reading Stuff you should never take on a trip

Chillin’ in Oslo, the place to be?

Oooh Norwegians… they’re lovely, blond, tall, spend their free-time running uphill and their holidays in wood cabins, they don’t drink, don’t smoke, they have the best-managed oil fund in the world, split kids nursing between father and mother in a more balanced way than anywhere else in the world, and to sum it all…they’re even one of the happiest people in the world…right, let’s stop, this is getting frustrating.

Continue reading Chillin’ in Oslo, the place to be?

[Souvenirs and tokens of Travels from…] Helsinki…in a global world

I love travelling of course, collecting experiences, memories, but also organising those memories in the form of this blog, photos, and other small tokens of travels.

Bringing back home small objects (and lots of food) is a way for me to extend the travel experience: last week we had fresh mozzarella for dinner, and it felt like we still had one little toe over there in Amalfi. And the rose water I use to soothe my eyes every morning is truly a piece of Morocco in a bottle.

I often forget though, that we live in a global world where (pretty much) anything can be bought in London. So last night when coming back home from Helsinki, Finland, after a fabulous sunny weekend, and proudly parading a lovely Marimekko wodden bangle, I felt pretty dumb to realise a Marimekko shop opened at the box park…literally a minute away from home!

ahhh cherished souvenirs, and shallow aspirations to have a unique collections of accessories…boooh silly me!!!

marimekko bangle helsinki phaidon city guide
Instagram photo taken from the Kiasma museum where the “Together” exhibition is currently taking place, organised jointly by Kiasma and Marimekko. Coffee in the sun, checking the Wallpaper and enjoying my colour-block bangle, one to add to the collection…

 

Fêtes de Genève, fireworks and Gruyere cheese, Switzerland

Les Fêtes de Genève

For almost a month during the summer, the placid Geneva turns into a mix of public amusement fair and chic beach bars, becoming the scene to one of the world’s grandest fireworks display. This year’s cost chf 700,000 and was no exception (that’s £460k).. No wonder why Les Fetes de Geneve attracts up to 2m visitors each year.

A friend of ours threw a roof party on Saturday where the average guest could speak 4 languages and was holding 2 passports…I wondered if it was an extraordinary sample or …?

From the  Council of Europe website I learned that “Geneva is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland (after Zurich) and is the largest in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Whilst the municipality itself (Ville de Genève) has a population of 191,415, the canton of Geneva (République et Canton de Genève, which includes the city) has 463,919 residents. (…)

The majority ethnic group, Swiss, makes up 60.83% of the canton’s inhabitants and 39.2% of Geneva’s population are non-nationals (and  up to 48% in 2013 according to the Office Cantonal de la Statistique). The most significant ethnic groups are: Portuguese-7.40%;
French-5.5%; Italians-4.85% and Spanish-2.95%. Of non-EU/EFTA migrants, the largest groups are, in this order, from the USA, Russia, Brazil, Kosovo,Turkey, former Yugoslavia, India and Morocco. 44.6% of the canton’s working age population are non-nationals and 54% hold at least one foreign passport. At the end of 2010, the unemployment rate was 6% in Geneva, or twice the Swiss level”

As a reference, London’s non-UK born population was around 37%  in 2011 according to the Oxford Observatory at the last census, and a large share of those actually hold a UK passport…

The pristine canton of Gruyere

And Switzerland would not be a human size chocolate-box without villages like this one: the medieval town of Gruyere, home if the infamous cheese, where we hopped by to reload the batteries.

Puzzling Tokyo in the Sakura season

Even just a few days in Tokyo were enough to be dazzled

the 3 reasons why Tokyo is an easy city break destination and a quick wedding etiquette guide!

  • For the outstanding service: ease of transport, wifi freely accessible, clean and easily accessible convenience….The city seems designed for working busy people, it’s expensive but convenient.
  •  it’s exotic, or at least different for Westerners. As high-tech’ and developed as Japan can be, it’s still surprising and gives you that exciting feeling of adventure – even if it just means asking your way and manage to take the tube in that big underground jungle of theirs.
Tokyo loo flush
When going to the loo is an adventure!!!

 

  • it’s varied, and visually beautiful. Each neighbourhood is different, from the neon lit busiest in the world cross road of Shibuya, to the refreshing quiet of temples and the maze of narrow streets in the old neighbourhoods of Yanaka. There’s culture, fun and crazy things for all.

When to go?

April is probably the single best period to head of to Japan, we caught the beginning of the Sakura, and more than just a beautiful tourist attraction it really marks the change of season; it’s a time of renewal and Tokyoites visibly appreciate it. I loved how Ueno park was so busy with workers organising picnics after work.

Catching the coming of age ceremony in the winter (2nd Monday of January), and maybe coupling it with a trip to the mountain would probably be my next choice.

Avoid going in June / July as you would hit the rainy season.

And as Tokyo is not exactly cheap nor next door, a simple city short break doesn’t really make sense. I really wish I’d had more time to go to the Mt Fuji, to Kyoto, to the mountains…

The reason why I skipped quite a bit of the main tourist attractions is that we were mainly there to attend our friends’ wedding. Other friends who could stay longer and had time to tick more of the “to-do” boxes and voted the the sumo fighting as their main highlight…I guess I’ll just have to go back!

Japanese weddings

If you thought getting married, anywhere in the world, was a complicated matter – let alone finding the right partner in the first place – then try Japan. The hair-splitting etiquette steps this game by a few extra notches! The beautiful and emotional ceremony that ensues makes it all worth it though.

a few fun facts that seriously surprised us Europeans…

– I’m a guest, what present do I bring? fresh money, i.e. brand-new, crisp, unused bank notes in a nice envelope that you will hand out to the hostess when signing the register.

japanese wedding

– When is the wedding happening? on a lucky day of course. How is the lucky day determined I still haven’t fully grasped it but it seems to be a full time job description…

– I’m a non-Japanese guest, what do I wear?  locals and relatives will wear the traditional kimono but really most just wear classy European-style outfits.

– Am I going to share a table with the old aunties? unlikely, as the seating plan is a rather serious affair:

The bride and groom’s respective bosses should be seated at a prime table opposite the couple and be in charge of the opening speech…not the best man or the parents!? Or at least not in the first place: following the opening speech, everyone gets the opportunity to say a kind word.

The seating plan then continues in layers, the friends first and finally the family, placed in a sort of umbrella literally and figuratively stepping back and overlooking their (grown-up) little ones starting their new life from the distance…which is surprising at first, however, the more I think about it, the more I think this is a healthy approach to family relationship.

Sake casks – “Kagami-biraki” or Breaking-open the sake cask. In an utterly ethnocentric way, I compared this to the European cake-cutting tradition (yes, shame on me). The couple breaks open the lid of the Sake barrel and cheers with their guests, a way to bring good fortune and fertility we were told. And we got the most thoughtful tie-me-down present: our own name-engraved sake cups, in Japanese characters of course. Isn’t that the coolest Hikidemono ?

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To Read and Watch before you go

*1Q84 by  Haruki Murakami is the book I got recommended most and it was certainly a fair piece of advise! I had thus far postponed the reading of the best-seller by laziness and other petty excuses but didn’t regret plunging into the 3 volume heavy story.Japanese writer Murakami attends ceremony in Jerusalem

Not only Murakami hooks you in like no other Japanese author, but also it’s fantastic to travel in the city via the 2 main characters. A fan even created the corresponding map!! Thanks

*Lost in Translation

bill murray lost in translation 1536x960 wallpaper_www.wallpaperno.com_55

*Tokyobling’s Blog 
a well made journalistic blog I still keep reading since I came back, always full of very interesting, detailed and almost daily cultural snippets

Where People run?!

tokyo running map

When visiting a city, I always try and include a long run in my planning. It’s a great way to have a good overview of an area, mingle with the locals, and capture the atmosphere: nothing like running in Manhattan along the Hudson river to capture the empowering NY vibe…

Planning a run in a new city may take a little bit of prep, and one doesn’t always have a local friend to guide them. Where do people run? how cool would it be to use the tracking apps at an aggregated level to actually visualise the answer to that question?

Those 2 blogs have done it for us, using data from Edmondo – I’m all excited and planning my next run in Tokyo now 🙂 happy geeking and running!!

http://barsukov.net/endomondo.html

http://flowingdata.com/2014/02/05/where-people-run/

My all-purpose packing check-list

at school they used to call me little miss scatterbrain … for a reason! (as well as little miss chatterbox…) So after numerous last minute panics, and a few missed planes and trains I acquired many different plug adaptors and developed a little fool-proof check list that works pretty much for all types of trips.

  • Must have

– passport / ID / driving license – personally I memorized my passport number, ok it doesnt help crossing the border but it’s good to check-in online the day before for example
– credit card + minimum cash in euro or usd
– boarding pass or train ticket + ticket of the connexion train if needed (express train)
– phone number of taxi company city of departure and arrival
– paper written address of landing – or at least a made up one, for border control; also think about getting it in the calligraphy of your destination country if different from English (Japanese, Russian…)
– bank assistance + health insurance phone number
– phone charger(s) and whatever other chargers your need (camera, ebook reader etc)
– international adaptor or relevant ones (requires to have a few but normally they do work better)
– topped up and charged phone

  • Handbag: my travelling handbag is always ready to go, it’s the only one in my wardrobe that has a proper zip + button closing and can fold into another bag (yes, it’s a Longchamp pliage); it has to be small enough to avoid back pain but big enough to carry my SLR and “handbag kit”

– Refreshing gel
– Wipes /disinfectant gel
– Moleskine notebook
– Phone charger(s) + adapter
– Sunglasses – wherever I go
– Sleep mask / fly stocking / earplugs
– Pill and other medicines
– Mini mascara / mini gloss / toothbrush + mini toothpaste / moisturising cream / make up wipes
– A book (or call it an iPad, a kindle)
– a scarf that can do pillow and blancket
– Business cards
– my house keys – back to basics

my photo gear normally also makes it to the  hand luggage too as I don’t feel it would be handled securely enough.

Also carrying a small padlock can be a good idea (cloak rooms and other luggage drop places aren’t safe everywhere)

Inevitably when travelling, your luggage will be lost one day or another, your flight will be delayed overnight etc…I tend to have at least one change of underwear in my handbag and a toothpaste and the minimum make up kit in addition to money and documents.

  • Suitcase: I try to have a “minimum survival kit” in term of clothing, stuff that I can wear in any circumstances and match easily, such as a black cardigans and a pair of black repetto flats

– Different colour underwear
– Shoes polish / sewing set
– A pair of jeans
– A pair of black flats
– A black cardigan
– 2 pairs of black and transparent tights
– Night dress
– Mini towel
– neutral colour heels / flip flops
– A bikini – it doesn’t take much space and you never know

  • Beauty case : this kit is always ready as well, I never unpack it, it’s made of “large samples” (such as the Clarins or Clinique ones, boots also has a large shelf)

– Nail polish / remover wipes
– Make up wipes and Toothbrush (unless it’s already in your hand bag)
– Make up
– Moisturiser
– Shampoo / shower gel
– Sample perfume or refill spray with your own

The US government has a rather helpful page full of common sense travelling tips, and I can’t recommend highly enough glancing at the country-specific recommendation page.

 

Romantic Escape to …London, UK [summertime]

London can be quite romantic. Those of us who have the privilege to live here sometimes forget…. a foreign friend of mine recently asked me for help organizing a romantic weekend for two…a few ideas below

My top 5 things to do on a summery weekend in London with your special someone:

Did you know,  the original Pimm's was invented by Mr James Pimm in 1840 on Poultry Street (next to Bank)....speaking of which, the Coq D'argent on 1 Poultry Street has a very nice outdoor rooftop, but I wouldonly recommend it during the week, the city tends to be quite dead during the weekends
Did you know, the original Pimm’s was invented by Mr James Pimm in 1840 on Poultry Street (next to Bank)….speaking of which, the Coq D’argent on 1 Poultry Street has a very nice outdoor rooftop, but I would only recommend it during the week, the city tends to be quite dead during the weekends

# 1: Brunch, Pimm’s o’clock and al-fresco dinners – beware, British food included!

On a sunny Sunday afternoon for a jug of Pimm’s, The Dicken’s inn on St Katherine’s docks is my favourite place. It’s got a nice terrace and you could include a stopover in your stroll along the marina and the Thames hand in hand…West side of London, the Ship Inn is also a good alternative place to sip along the river, but less easy to reach by common transport.

Columbia Road Flower Market

Feeling trendier? Put on your hipster shirt and over-sized shades, go have a lunch at the boundary rooftop. Don’t be afraid, there is a little bit of queuing on sunny days to do but it’s worth it. On Sundays only, the nearby Flower Market is open until about 4pm; then carry on to Brick Lane (ladies -if you have something for vintage items, this is paradise land) you could keep on partying until late.

Afternoon tea awesomeness

Another sunny afternoon “so British” option is to throw a little garden party and high tea at the castle, as you do… The Orangerie of Kensington Palace opens in the summer for a flurry of scones and clotted cream in the park. Princess Diana enjoyed it, you will too!

#2: Culture, Music and other things to do

Summer days bring plenty of music festivals, sport and cultural event with them : Wimbledon in July, British Summer Music Festival, LoveBox, Shoreditch Festivals, BBC Proms…I would recommend checking the Time Out website for the list of current event, it’s the easiest to navigate through.

The Somerset house is a spectacular 18th century building on the Thames bank, it host 51 fountains in the summer, outdoor cinema session, a gorgeous art gallery with a large impressionism private collection (The Courtauld Gallerie)

Another nice outdoor cinema session would be the rooftop at the Queen of Hoxton

Shakespeare’s Globe theatre , stand up tickets are cheap and even the seated one are not quite comfortable but you will get a top quality performance in the exact replica of the original theatre which is frankly unique. You can bring your own nibbles or finish with diner at the Swan next door with a stunning view on the Millenium bridge and St Paul’s (ask for a window table)

#3: markets and parks

London has more green space than any other capital, let’s enjoy it!

The Kew Gardens are the Royal Botanic Gardens; no, England is not only the home of perfectly mown green lawn!

tip from a reader (thanks!): go to the Kew garden by ferry boat,starting from Westminster peer, it takes about 1h -ish, depending on the tide. A must on a sunny day

Camden Beach @the Round House
Camden Beach @the Round House

Explore the summer roundhouse beach in Camden. It’s the closest thing to a city beach. You could also hop on a train and go kite surfing in Camber Sands or strolling on the Brigton peer but that’s off topic.

#4: do stuff together will bring you closer…they say

Go doing things together, go running and enjoy London – proven that it’ll make your couple last longer. Why not try?

The Regents Canal, from the Olympic Park to Little Venice, via Regents Park and Camden (interrupted in Angel)

Go jogging: any park is good, try and finish with the run by Parliament hill or Primrose (easier) for a nice view, cross Waterloo bridge; or my absolute favourite, finish your run with a coffee at the Towpath or at the Pavilion café.

For non runners, you could also take Barclays bikes or get on a boat on the canal and finish with a walk in Camden.

Swimming outdoor in lidos: London fields lido has the advantage of being in a park where barbecues are authorised and next to the lovely Broadway market. Tooting bec is a second lovely option but a bit further.

More ideas? why don’t you discover London’s monuments or night life through a lens and participate in a photo walking course? there are plenty on sales on Groupon or Time Out generally. For sports fan, London is a great place to enjoy cricket, rugby and football matches

#5: the WOW factor

We had a discussion with friends about good first date places for Londoners, and those places definitely don’t make it to our top-first-date list; but if you’re a tourist, are planning to propose, or for a splash it out factor, you could book a capsule in the London Eye (This advice shouldn’t apply to Londoners in any circumstance, please), or a table at the vertigo, or sushi samba if you’ve been planning your trip for a good 3 month in advance (or you could just show up at the bar without booking, just avoid Friday / Saturday night crowds).

For other good views of the city you could check out the recently open Oblix at the Shard, I haven’t tasted it yet but was told the food is decent.

Finally? Go party! put those sky-high heels and mini skirt to use and head out to the Kensington Roof Garden; don’t be surprised, clubs in London close at 3am but I would recommend going a bit earlier that what you may be used to (aim for 1030pm / 11pm). Enjoy.

royal wedding sick bag
what souvenir do I bring back to granny? The baby of British royal couple the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge could result in a huge 243 million pounds spending spree on souvenirs and branded baby products… be careful you could get sick of it

something to (re-)read before leaving? Harry Potter, yes it’s modern pop culture, and it really puts me in the mood for exploring the “secret” London (I’m still looking for Diagon alley, I’ll let you know when I get there)

a film to watch before leaving? yes, in the context of that post, it has to be Notting Hill, but no, that doesn’t give you a free pass to make silly pictures at my tube stop in the evening (just joking…or maybe not)

in your headphones? it’s a romantic post so I’m going to say Adele, but also The Beatles and Ed Sheeran (cauz he’s got cute freckles). Britain’s pop music is the best, not to be confused with Britain’s cuisine.

all of the above on a map:

More resources: with those 3, you should have it covered

http://www.tiredoflondontiredoflife.com/

http://www.greatlittleplace.com/

http://www.timeout.com/london

Snowed under in NYC

magnoliacarrie The weekend schedule has been a bit reviewed due to the Nemo-snow storm; but it does make some room for a girly nail painting afternoon, sipping coffee and eating magnolia bakery peanut butter cookies indoor and lamenting on Carrie B’s conundrum (dateable men in NYC are either taken or gay for those who’re not familiar).

On Friday, no cab were running, except for the snow ploughs, shame as I really wanted to go to Brooklyn and check out on the surf bar…but it will be for next time!

spotted-pig-outside1 The alternative plan wasn’t actually bad at all as we sought comfort at the Spotted Pig, the most adorable snow shelter one can think of, and chatted around a cocktail and a burger. I know it’s not a hidden gem, it’s #24 on the zagat, but yet, I loved the gastro-pub ambiance, the snowed christmas trees outside and the decorative little pig-lamps!

Two other gems worth mentioning, still in the same area as we stayed in the West village most of the time:

please don’t look at the website of the Piccola cuccina restaurant before you go as it’s kindda ruining it all: it’s great authentic food (very rare in NYC), and above all the owner has a cracking Sicilian accent; don’t expect a stylish place, go with Italian friends who talk loudly, it’s more fun.

in a typical NY style, café Cluny is a nice little place, but French by name only. That being said the “French” toast with maple syrup makes a great brunch!

until next time,
XoXo

I love new york, even though it isn’t mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because i belong to it.- Holly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote

 

The Big Kettle

The Big Kettle

just back from – very snowy – NYC  (photos to come!). While strolling in the streets, my friend resolved 2 of my questions about NY; I thought I’d share that, in case it keeps you off sleep too. Always carry an architect in your back pocket when travelling!

why is NYC so steamy? when sleeping on the couch in my friend’s living room, I got awaken by a boiling pressure noise coming from the radiators and pipes; also when walking around the city one can notice smoky steam coming out of manholes…ok it makes nice atmospheric pics…but why?
that’s the “steam operation”; a quite clever system that reuses the steam from power plants in the north of the island and recycles it for heating and cooling in Manhattan.

– why are there big wooden barrels on top of buildings?
the answer is easier: no, office employees haven’t all found a way to get a permanent straw-access into a gigantic Budweiser barrel (they wish!). Simply, water sprinkles are a lot more common overseas.

so what’s your perfect weekend in NY like?

I’d like to launch a series of posts in the format of an “email from a friend”: collecting feedback  from everyone, great little places, tricks and tips… and actually test

and I’m off to the big Apple with my best friend for a long weekend early Feb. I can’t wait!!! great occasion to launch that series.

So what are your best reco’s?