Travel

A weekend away in Valencia – part II

So yes, we did spend the long weekend of May 1st in Valencia, a great place for some down time if you want to enjoy some sun and sea. The day we arrived was not 100% sunny so we thought to leave our “exploration activities” for day II. And when I say exploration activities I really mean two things: the City of Arts and Sciences and THE BEACH.

The City of Arts and Sciences is really an amazing place to visit especially on a sunny day. I really did not know what to expect as all the pictures I could find online made the place look a little bit secluded and very much “out of the way”. Actually, not at all. It’s really easy to reach by bus, it’s full of people of all ages (of course there are many families with young children which is really unavoidable I guess on a Sunday…), and it’s also on your way to the Malvarossa beach, therefore the combo of City of Arts and Sciences & beach really makes sense.

The first tip for those of you who want to visit the City: take your time. We really though a couple of hours would be enough, but NO, you really need at least 3-4 hours to feel confident you’ve seen everything. We went for the combo ticket that gives access to all three main attractions: the Planetarium (Hemisfèric), the Museum of Sciences and the Aquarium (Oceanogràfic). From all three places, I would 100% recommend the Oceanogràfic, as it’s one of the most fun and at the same time serene places I’ve ever visited. There are so many cool species of aquatic (and not only) life to see, it’s a lovely walk through the different facilities and, of course, you get the chance to see a live show with dolphins which was my first time ever and had me cheering on my chair like a kid.

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I really felt equally excited and relaxed when we left the City. I also found a profound joy in taking some time to look at animals, especially sea life. I’m currently going through one of my most stressful times in life, but something about nature made me feel very relaxed (I’ve never really been a nature person and still don’t consider myself one!!)

The beach was another great experience in Valencia. Although I’m not a huge fan of the long sandy beaches like Malvarossa (I much prefer the smaller rocky ones, they always feel more “raw” and more clean for some reason!), it was so great being close to the water and sun…I really love Belgium and Brussels in particular but I don’t think I will ever stop missing the feeling of pure bliss you can get from the sun, the sea and blue skies on a warm afternoon (you can take the girl out of Greece, good luck trying to get Greece out of the girl.. *feeling sentimental about homeland*)


We were already fed but had great ice cream. Malvarossa has a lot of nice places to sit for a bite or a drink (or an ice cream or horchata!), but if you go in the morning/early afternoon do try and have paella and Pepica. Unfortunately we only made it to the beach in the late afternoon, when Pepica is closed, however this place comes highly recommended from so many people – locals included. Of course, as everything else on the beach, it feels really touristic, however there is a lot of great food and views to take in, so give it a try!!!

Travel

A weekend away in Valencia – Part I

I’ve said many many times before that money spent on traveling is money well spent. You buy a ticket to a place you’ve never been to before, you also buy wisdom, fun, new experiences and future memories you’ll keep close to your heart.

At least that’s always my goal when I click Skyscanner’s “everywhere” options for cheap plane tickets!!

That’s how the boy and I picked Valencia for the long weekend of May 1st. It was close, it was cool, it was (relatively) cheap. Did we enjoy? WE ABSOLUTELY DID and I can recommend Valencia to anyone looking for a sunny destination not too far from most places in Western Europe.

Valencia is a really pretty city with great buildings and big wide avenidas with palm trees that made me feel like we are in Havana, Cuba.

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The place is sunny (obviously) and has a beach (duh), but these are not the only highlights. It’s also a place with welcoming people, great places to eat and drink and an overall vibe that’s very close to that of Athens or Rome (if you’ve ever been to any of these places). I really felt like home from the moment we stepped out of the metro (which is really the easiest way to get from the airport to the city. Once you land, follow the signs to the airport’s metro station where you will also find a tourist office. Just ask them to sell you a card topped up with the exact fair from and to the airport and you’ll be set. I would not recommend buying tickets for transportation within the city if you’re only staying for 2 days. The bus ticket costs 1.5 euros and we really only used it the day we wanted to go to the City of Arts and Sciences and to the beach.

We stayed at Colón, a very central area that I would totally recommend. It might not be as dreamy as leaving in Ciutat Vella (the Old City), but it’s definitely a great neighbourhood as it’s close to so many interesting areas full of life, bars and restaurants!

Speaking about Ciutat Vella, this is where our exploration started visiting all the touristy attractions – including the Mercat Central, Valencia’s Central Market. In general, I love food markets and I make sure to visit them every single time I travel somewhere. I love watching food, watching people buying and selling food, watching people enjoy food, everything really. The Market is a really great place to spend a couple of hours – trying different juices for 1 Euro a glass (definitely go for the orange juice – Valencian oranges are uber-famous), buying chocolate treats and photographing sea food.

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Do look out for the sea food section, not only delish, but totally Instagram-able as well 🙂
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Have you ever seen a more impressive bacalao???
Outside the Market there is also plenty of things to do. Eat street food, buy souvenirs, wander the narrow streets of the Old City or make a pit stop at a tapas place for a bite and a glass of Rioja (after which we literally took a 3-hour nap as we had woken up at 5am to catch our flight!)

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In the evening, we went for a stroll at the Russafa neighbourhood, which is full of little bars and tapas restaurants – just pick anything with a terasse and cold beer, the rest will follow pretty easily.

That was our first day in Valencia. A pretty great Saturday if you ask me. Part II of our trip coming up soon 😍

Valencia mini-guide:

Where to eat: After your visit to Mercat Central, try the street food that you will find parked right outside the main entrance of the market – think Mediterranean cuisine, lots of vegetables, olive oil, but also fried croquetas and rice dishes that are just heavenly. If you fancy sitting at a proper table, then pay a visit to La Rentaora Bodega. 

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Being in Valencia, you should also definitely try horchata, especially on a warm sunny day (even if you’re not a milk lover – I definitely am not – you should give it a try!!!)

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Where to drink: Russafa has really a huge number of low-key bars where you can enjoy a cold beer on a warm Valencian evening. I was a little bit too tipsy that night to take pictures (regretting this now, but hey, that’s life!!), but you can find cool recommendations here.

Where to shop: You should totally pay a visit to El Corte Inglés, Valencia’s biggest and most renown department store. It’s really convenient that they are open also on a Sunday, so do not hurry if you feel like there is not enough time to do everything on Saturday. Most shops on Calle Colón – one of Valencia’s main shopping streets – are also open on Sunday. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Zara and Mango as the Spanish brands are usually cheaper in Spain! (Not too much cheaper though, something in the range of 5-10 euros – so no stress there either!!)

Life · Miscellaneous and interesting

Checking in

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Source: unsplash.com

A month passed between my last blog post and today – a full month, 31 days, maybe 32, I’m not sure any more to be honest. I was so busy at work that I didn’t have time to think, let alone travel, eat at fancy restaurants, go to cute cafés or take pictures. And the few fun things I did, I rarely thought to capture on camera.

But I’m back!!! Not that work is less or that I have more time, but I do have a reinvigorated will to do more things. I’ve started volunteering! I’m looking for new fun stuff to learn on Coursera. I’m flying to Venice this weekend! I’m planning the concerts I’m seeing at Werchter this summer! There are a million exciting things happening and although time going by is the thing that stresses me the most in this life, I just can’t wait!!!

Leaving you with a tune today – I hope you are all happy and healthy, preparing for a great long May 1st weekend (or not-it really does not matter as long as you are happy and healthy!!)

Travel

Things to do before boarding a plane to the other side of the world

Tomorrow sees the start of a new week and myself on a plane to my adopted city of choice – San Francisco. I’ve ended up having to travel to SF almost twice per year since I got my job in August 2015 with this amazing company that has its HQ there. I had been to the US twice before then, so I did know a thing or two about getting ready for long-haul trips (and waiting time in airports) however I really feel now that I’m starting mastering the art of getting ready -both physically and emotionally- for the huge shock that is translatlantic travel.

Union Square, here I come (again!)

 

So here we go in no particular order, I’m just writing down these things as I’m actually doing them today:

  1. Take your time : My flight is on Monday, so I’ve spent the better part of my weekend doing the things on this list. Taking your time is important when preparing for such a long trip, there is no way getting away with waking up an hour in advance and throwing stuff in your hang luggage hoping you haven’t forgotten everything! Even if you are the most well-prepared person on earth, I would strongly advise packing the night before so in the morning the only thing you have to throw in your carry-on is your toothbrush. Otherwise let me assure you that you will reach your destination sans underwear (no, no, it’s never happened to me).
  2. Make sure all your tickets, visas, check-in’s, etc. are in order: If you require a visa for the country of your destination I’m sure that you’ll have already gone through quite a procedure in order to get it, so I’m not too worried that you’ll forget. However, if you only have ESTA to worry about (like Greeks do for the US), it is pretty easy that you forget that you need it (or that it has expired without you noticing – almost happened to me the last time). The best strategy is to check right after you book your tickets, this way you will have plenty of time to organize yourselves and follow any procedural steps in case your papers are not valid any more.
  3. Do laundry: It’s kind of a super mundane task but to me is equally important is bringing all my chargers and adapters with me!! I spent my Saturday and Sunday doing laundry and ironing because going off to a work trip means that I want to have as much of my “work wardrobe” available to me as possible. There is nothing worse when packing for a week full of work meetings and realising that your go-to white button down has this tomato sauce stain still on!
  4. Think hard of what you need with you on the plane and pack smart: I’m thinking books/magazines, snacks and bottle of water here, as well as a few cosmetics you need with you on the plane. I have to admit I looooove flying long-haul. It’s the only time I really get 10 hours to myself, no email, no phone, no way for anyone to reach you or annoy you. It’s the best time to catch up on reading, and that’s very much what I intend to do in the plane tomorrow 🙂 I am also going to prepare a sandwich with healthy stuff I have at home as well as get my Hidrate Spark bottle with me to make sure that I don’t feel hungry or thirsty at the airport or on the plane. Remember: it will be a long day, you need to treat yourself a little bit!
  5. Download the Netflix app: It often happens to me that I’m traveling in planes without individual screens for every passenger, meaning I have to put up with two hours of StarWars, two hours of the Mupper Show, and another 6 hourse of American reality television. I’ve nothing against these entertainment choices, however the one after the other can drive me to an overdose of boredom and anxiety, that’s why I was so doped when Netflix announced we can now download stuff on our phones and tablets. I still haven’t watched The Get Down and I’m totally planning on doing so at this trip!!
  6. Choose your outfit for the plane: Again, this is something I never leave to the last minute. I’ve made too many mistakes in the past and ended up wearing too tight jeans, too short skirts or extremely uncomfortable shoes for 15 hours. This time I’m going with an oversized pair of jeans, my trusted black sweater and my beloved over sized scarf to keep me warm. Wearing a pair of VANS trainers to keep my shoe game comfortable as well. #win
  7. Have your documents ready: Needless to say you can go nowhere without your passport, so make sure it is the first thing you put in your purse. I also always have with me foreign currency and a public transport card/ticket. I usually keep these items in a separate bag so I can always find them quick and neat.

    Little pink wallet from Narciso Rodriguez, purse from YNot?

So, wish me luck for my big trip tomorrow. And let me know what tips you have for before boarding long-haul flights!!! xx

City life · Life · Travel

How to make traveling for work glamorous 

I’ve been so absent from this blog, I’m close to not calling it a blog any more, it’s more of a collection of random articles on not any specific issue 🤔

I’m gonna make it easy for myself and blame it all on my job which has been particularly busy lately. And I have also been traveling a lot for work which got me thinking how I can make the – mostly stressful and tiring experiences – a little more glamorous.

So here are my tips!

1.Arrive earlier or leave later than your first or last appointment – meaning leave at least an hour for yourself and the city you’re visiting. Go visit a gallery that features an amazing piece of art that you’ve always wanted to see, go shopping to the big fancy mall that carries your favourite brand in half price, have coffee at this famous cronut place, get your hair cut at this famous salon, swing by Big Ben, the Louvre or Golden Gate Bridge, book an evening at a kick-ass musical. Do something you would not be able to do back home. There is nothing that will make you feel more grateful for your job than the amazing experiences you can collect in every new city you visit.

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Here’s a sight I try to never miss when in Paris – do you recognise it???? 🙂

2.Carefully choose the location of your hotel: this does not mean you need to choose the fanciest 5-star hotel in the hood. You are only seeing your bed at night anyway. But it does make all the difference in the world picking a nice neighbourhood, with lovely surroundings, nice cafes and restaurants, because these are going to make all the difference in the world. For example, in London I always stay at a low key super corporate hotel that has nothing more to offer than a clean bed and friendly staff. BUT it’s in Covent Garden. Which means amazing early morning walks or great window shopping when coming back from work. Which helps me start or finish the day on a very happy note.

3. Take advantage of the local colour: I’m in London a lot and I always try to squeeze in a meal at the pub. When in Paris, I’ll try to find the smallest cutest bistrot with the most ridiculously cliche chairs and instagram the hell out of it. In Amsterdam I’ll go up and down the canals with a sandwich at hand. Every time I’m in a different place I try to feel as much a tourist as a professional. I know time is very limited when traveling for work, that’s why I tend to have my meals in local establishments – as busy as the day is, there’s always time for dinner!!!

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Happen to be in San Francisco? Go watch a Warrior’s game!!!

4. Don’t forget your points!!! If you’re lucky enough to travel for work, it means you can start collecting points for your personal travels as well. I go twice a year to the US for my team’s offsite and I never fly British Airways. Why? Because as much as they are a good airline, they are not Star Alliance members, which means I cannot claim my miles points when I want to fly to Greece using Aegean (and as you may or may not know Aegean is f&&%^ing expensive, so I DO NEED these points).

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Travel

The perfect weekend in London 

It’s been so long since I last wrote on the blog, but it’s really been busy as hell…I’ve been traveling non-stop mostly for work, but I did manage to squeeze in a weekend in London with my boyfriend. It’s funny ’cause I spent a year of my life living and falling in love with this city, and I still go very often for work, whereas my boyfriend had only been once  almost 15 years ago. And that was it. Which I found super weird, so I booked us two Eurostar tickets and a cosy little room in East London and off we went. 

We woke up really early on Saturday morning to catch the train to London. And first things first we grabbed some quick breakfast and headed off to Notting Hill and the Portobello Road market. It was extremely busy as always and I didn’t really find anything I liked, but there was an international food market going on which meant paella with a side a bratwurst – and what is better than that. 

We left the market and headed off towards Regent Street and Carnaby Street for some light shopping. Walking past Piccadilly square and then all the way to Covent Garden where we stayed for about 3(!) hours because my boyfriend is a sucker for street artists and he simply HAD to watch all the shows that were going on. At the end it was him and 50 kids running to fill the artist’s hat with coins, but I adore this in a way – his big child heart 😍

Our hotel was situated in Shoreditch, a fine choice if you ask me as the best nightlife and Sunday morning activities are accessible on foot! We stayed at The Z Hotel, which had a lovely staff team that helped us through some crazy requests (ordering pizza at midnight for example). It’s extremely easy to access as the Old Street station is like a minute away.


Plus it’s situated next to one of my favourite coffee and breakfast spots in the city: the Shoreditch Grind (“we filter coffee not people” #hellyeah)

That’s where we started our Sunday morning with avocado toast and a cappuccino (#breakfastgoals).

We then walked to the flower market of Columbia Road which was lovely as always but sooooo busy that we could hardly walk. Which was not that bad really as we had a lot of time to appreciate the beautiful flowers and plants. 

That’s also where one of my favourite quirky boutique is: Jump like Alice. The nicest weirdest funkiest jewellery in town. But great garments as well. 


After the Columbia Str flower market, we jumped in a bus and headed off to the place I was eagerly waiting for since we arrived in London: Tate Modern. I remember from my days in London how amazing I found the fact that you can visit some of the best museums in the world for free (see Tate Modern, Tate Britain etc). I really believe that there is no better place to visit on a Sunday afternoon – the lively crowd, the amazing views of the Thames, the perfect stroll down to London Eye….everything about Tate Modern is so London!!!


The last stop before jumping back on the train: The White Hart. The perfect British pub, with such lovely and helpful staff, great local crowd and the perfect Sunday roast. I was too hungry to take pictures of the food, but do believe me that it was DELICIOUS and please pay a visit next time you’re in London. 

All in all, an amazing weekend. Bye London, we’ll be back soon!!!

Miscellaneous and interesting · Travel

A weekend away in Lille 

As you probably understood if you’re following me on Instagram, we spent last weekend in Lille. The French city is a lovely destination for a quick city trip, especially from Brussels, as the train ride is only 36 minutes long and tickets can be as cheap as 38 euros both ways (this is a special price for traveling in the weekend).

We really made the effort to wake up at 6am on a Saturday morning (good for me, I actually advised my readers to do so when leaving for a weekend away, I would be a total loser if I didn’t follow my own instructions!) and hopped on a train at 8.15. We were at Lille before shops were open, which I found marvelous, because it gave us the chance to really take some pictures of the most visited sights without anyone around. I can easily say that early morning is my favourite time of the day. Everything is still fresh and quiet, you have the time and space to enjoy your surroundings, drink your coffee, eat your breakfast, listen to your favourite show on the radio (what people used to do B.P. – before podcasts).

The very impressive facade of the Crowne Plaza Lille Hotel, the first thing one sees coming out of the Lille Europe train station.

We headed to Be Yourself! for some breakfast. This place came highly recommended on Yelp, I found it adequate but nothing great really, plus everything seemed a little on the expensive side. Once we were full with bagel, we started exploring the little streets of Vielle Lille, which is probably the most charming part of the city. I could easily see myself coming back in the summer over the next sales period to just spend an afternoon shopping, as there are many great shops to visit, and the charming surroundings make the whole experience so cuuuuuuuteeee!

Streets were buzzing with shoppers enjoying the last days of sales, but we luckily found a spot at one of the coziest and cutest cafes I’ve ever been to – Elizabeth’s. This place really stole my heart, if I ever opened a coffee place myself, it would be exactly like it (maybe with better brownies though, hihihi). I would definitely recommend stopping by for a coffee or tea and some dessert – it probably won’t be the most delicious cake of your life, but the cuteness of the space makes up for it 🙂

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Everything was so cute at Elizabeth’s, one of the coziest places I’ve ever been to!

On Sunday, we picked a different destination, away from the touristic attractions of the city centre – the Wazemmes market. Although it’s not anything spectacular to see, especially if you’re coming from Brussels where great open air fruit and food markets are taking place every weekend at Midi and Clemenceau, it gives however a very good idea of the different background of the Lillois as well as plenty of local delices to bring back home. I tried the Maroilles, the incredibly smelly cheese from Lille that I absolutely LOVED (the smelliest the better – the boyfriend wanted to kill me, it was a totally no-kiss hour the 60 minutes after trying the Maroilles…) and I also brought back with me some duck liver pathe. In terms of food, if I wasn’t Greek I would be Italian – if I wasn’t Italian, I would only have French cheese, bread, foie gras and wine.


All in all, Lille is a lovely destination. I really look forward to going back. I also felt so nice at the end of the trip, we spend our weekend doing something out of the ordinary for as little as 100 euros per person (train tickets and accommodation). I intend very much to keep my resolution to travel a bit more in 2017, and I’ve already booked my tickets for the next destination. LONDON HERE WE COME!

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