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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City life · Life · Miscellaneous and interesting

How I get organised for a weekend away 

On Saturday i will be hopping on a train to Lille with the boyfriend. I’m so excited about this trip, it’ll be the perfect ending to the dullest month of all — January. Coming back from the Christmas break is giving me a hard time, so a weekend away is the perfect solution to the long cold days ahead of us.

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Long cold days in Northern Europe are not too bad though…

Last year we went to Ghent around the same period and had such a lovely time that this year I decided I should repeat the quick get away to another favourite destination – Lille.

1. Book a cheap and nicely located hotel.

It’s just one night and it’s a city trip. Meaning no luxury is necessary, no need for a fancy spa either, as we’re gonna be spending most of our time outside the room. My plan is to stick to 3-4 star hotels, you cannot go too wrong especially in small cities like Lille that are much more budget-friendly than Paris or London.

2. Get out the earliest possible. Come back early too.

This is my golden rule for short trips in winter. Since days are shorter, I prefer catching a really early train/plane/ride to make sure I can most of the day light. I’m sacrificing my Saturday morning sleep for this, but I’m making it up on Sunday! And I also leave early enough on Sunday afternoon to have enough time to go back, and prepare for the coming Monday. This of course all changes in the summer when I really take my time traveling as daylight in Northern Europe last for as long as 10pm!!!! (Ah those summer nights….)

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Ghent when-the-lights-go-out is definitely a must-see.

3. Find two brunch spots, two fancy restaurants and two street food spots.

You won’t need more. And if their wine list is good, you won’t event need a bar. And you might as well book them already as this will take some considerable pressure off. I remember last year we ended up in Ghent without a dinner reservation and I was stressed and then cranky and then super angry-hungry when we could not find a decent place to eat. If you’re nothing like me, meaning if your mood depends totally on whether you’re fed or not, and you HATE make bookings at the same time, try to anticipate a bit and it’ll all be fine. I hope. Arghhhh (yes, I’m slightly hungry right now).

3. Pack black and white.

Keep. It. Simple. Black pair of jeans, black  leather skirt with black tights, black and white striped shirt and cream white cashmere jumper is all I’m packing for this trip. Oh yes, a pair of black ankle boots as well. I know I don’t need anything more, experience has taught me well. Plus I need the extra space in my suitcase for shopping!!! (Duh!!)

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Jean Patchett by Irving Penn, Vogue UK cover, June 1950

4. Get excited for the trip!!!!

A couple of days before departing I check pictures of my destination on Pinterest. And this gets me really excited. The colours, the places, the food, the promise of new sights and people fill my heart with song. Traveling is really the best thing we can with our money, sometimes I think it’s the only thing I work for!!!

City life · Life

How I plan to make time to see my friends 

    I find friends to be the most important thing in life after family – sometimes even replacing family. Living abroad is hard in many ways, missing my friends first and foremost. 

    After several years in Brussels, I can confidently say that I’ve made friends that make this city #worthlivinit. But between short winter days (seriously, the sun is not up until 9am and it’s already dark at 5pm!!!), the cold and the long working hours I often find myself longing more for Netflix than for my friends. BUT NO MORE! 

    I’m determined to see more of my friends in 2017, it’s probably the one resolution that will make my heart feel calm and happy. Not pottery classes, not singing in a band, not learning how to cook, but FRIENDS. 

    But how do I make time to see them more? I don’t go out much, let alone in this cold weather. So I do need to figure out a plan to stick to and make the most of my free time with my friends. Here we go: 

    1. Make more spontaneous plans: 

    In Brussels people tend to make long-term plans to meet up: let’s meet up the weekend after the next!, I’m organising a dinner in February!, are things people often say. Of course busy work schedules and demanding family responsibilities (i.e. children) take priority (and rightfully so), but this should not stop me from picking up the phone at 6pm whenever I feel like seeing a friend and just call them. Let’s grab a coffee in an hour! There’s a good movie on in a couple of hours, let’s hit the theatre! Come by my place, I’ll cook something quick! It’s that simple — try it 3 times per week, it works wonders.

    2. Plan ahead as well

    As cool as spontaneous plans are, try to also plan head a little. This will help you manage work hours better. Pick a couple of days in the week that seem quiet and put your date with friends firm in your calendar. This way your colleagues will know not to schedule calls on that time (useful for people like me working with the US a lot and thus working many times late in the afternoon) and you will also remember not too take up too many tasks that day. Chances are you will probably need to reschedule at least a couple of times, but at least you have something fun to look forward to besides the weekend!!!!

    3. In case of doubt – dinner and a movie!!! 

    The rules of dating apply very well to friendships too I find. You have to live, respect, and enjoy the person you are going out with. Plus, the best date ever is dinner and a movie! This is an easy choice that gives you the chance to talk, drink, eat, laugh/cry/wonder together with your friends. It can also be for a big group (Rogue One) or a more intimate one (Paterson). 

    This is what we actually did last a couple of days ago, after work with two of my best buddies here in Brussels. We went to see Paterson at the Cinema Galeries in Brussels (what an amazing movie theatre!!) I reeeeeaaaallly liked the movie (I found it so calm and beautiful, and the poems recited were so touching and I’m a huge Jim Jarmusch fan anyways) my friend V. found it so and so, and my other friend V. didn’t like it too much. But we had a super discussion about it afterwards over fish and chips at the great Bia Mara – a great choice for late eaters like ourselves. Cool interior design, amazing music choices (Rolling Stones, the Kinks, Clash!) and of course DELICIOUS FOOD. Not only for fish lovers though, chicken and veggie (like my fish) options are available as well. 

    The amazing veggie cheeseballs!
    My new favourite theatre in town.

    City life · Travel

    Christmas in Athens

    I left Brussels early this year to start my Christmas holidays in Greece (as always-try tell my mom otherwise!)

    Before going to my hometown to spend a few days with my family and my closest friends, I spent a few days in Athens. And I really had the chance to remember why Athens is one of the greatest cities in the world to visit even in the winter, despite the crisis and the difficult times the country is going through. 

    Before leaving to our respective hometowns, the boyfriend and I decided to spend a few days in Athens – a tradition we started last year and I think we will keep up for many more years to come. We started off our first day with a walk in downtown Athens, around Monastiraki Square – one of the most beautiful areas in Athens. If you’re ever there, you should definitely go for a coffee/drink/light snack at the rooftop of A for Athens. This is a great hotel with a lovely rooftop that offers one of the best views in the city. 

    Great view from the rooftop of he A for Athens Hotel at Monastiraki square. Oh the view, oh the Greek sun!!
    We continued our walk towards Petralona to visit the amazing cafe that goes by the name “Kyrios Hou” which in Greek means “Mr Who”. I’ve seen so many pictures of this place online that left me with no choice than paying it a visit. It really is one of the most interesting cafe bars I’ve seen, the inside decoration is A-MA-ZING and the home made lemonade as delicious as it gets. The DJ’s music choices are a very welcome addition to complete the picture of the perfect place to have a drink. 

    Have you ever seen anything cuter than this space? Everything well looked after down to the last detail (hello marble tiles floor!)

    To finish off a great day, what’s better than a cocktail at one of the most lively and colourful covered alleys in Athens. If you now nothing more about this amazing city other than the Parthenon, you should definitely reconsider because Athens’ nightlife is UNPARALLELED!!!! The bars, the energy, the smiles, the pretty crowd is always there, even now, during these very hard times because of the financial crisis. 

    Around the historic center of Athens, we can find many little bars hidden behind old shops or covered alleys – one of them being Rehab. A great bar, with great amazing, and a great range of cocktails. I tried the “thirty one”, because once I see tequila and orange in the same sentence, I’m instantly sold, but I’m sure there is  something for everyone!

    The bar at Rehab is exactly like I would build my ideal bar wall at home 🙂
    I hope you all get to spend these days with people you love, doing things you love, making memories you’ll cherish forever, eating amazing food, taking amazing pictures, laughing, dancing, singing, doing whatever makes your heart feel full. 

    Happy holidays!!

    City life · Travel

    A walk by the sea

    Taking a walk by the sea is totally #worthlivinit. I’m lucky enough to come from a city that sits by the sea, I grew up seeing a bit of blue every day and this is probably the one thing I miss the most now that I’m living in Brussels. It’s no wonder we’re all drawn to water, we all want to take a walk by the sea, river, or lake wherever we can find them.

    I was home this past weekend for a few days, my first days off actually after Christmas. It was a lovely break, so happy to see my family, my beloved friends that I can’t bear living away from, taste my mom’s food, have some cold espresso and see the SEA.

    I think it’s magical that one can just take a moment off work and go for a walk there at lunch time. See these colours or even go for a swim just in the middle of the day. And then go back to whatever your job is. You know how Greece is going through such hard times financially and even socially. And I’m not saying that it is completely unfair what my fellow Greeks are going through now (of course I’m Greek, I just don’t want to be pretending I’m suffering the same, I don’t live in Greece and I cannot even start imagining what it’s like to have this everyday uncertainty), but I just can’t get sometimes how such a beautiful country is going through such major s^&*it.

    Whatever troubles you, try to find your sea. Take a few moments, take a big breath, and everything will seem instantly easier. More manageable and brighter.

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    Ladies and gentlemen, behold the luckiest people on earth on a casual Monday afternoon.
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    Nothing better than the sea and some art.
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    Yes I want this apartment facing the people mentioned above!
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    City life

    Green power 

    Ahhh Spring is the best time of the year…it’s the change from cold to warm, from dark to bright, from in to out. 

    We have this amazing thing in Brussels that I hadn’t seen in any of the other cities I’ve lived in: amazing backyards even in the middle of the city centre. I live very close to Place Flagey, which for Brussels connoisseurs, is like one of the most central areas, full of concrete and with no trace of green.

    Yet, this is what I see from my balcony every morning….it’s the image that makes me calm down, keep away any bad thoughts or stress I have for the day ahead, kind of my own meditation app right outside my window. 

    I love having my coffee here in the morning, this morning actually for the first time with my summer night dress!!! I know it won’t last, but oh Brussels your good weather makes you so much more #worthlivinit.

    City life · Travel

    A sunny day in London

    Strawberries, cherries and an angel’s kissing spring is all I could think of this past weekend. I had to be in London for work during the week and I thought it was a great idea to stay over the weekend as well and spend some time with my friends (the absolute #worthlivinit material!)

    With this view from my office, the weekend can actually wait….

    What I wasn’t counting on was the glorious weather – sun and high temperatures made these past few days unfrorgettable. I’ve told you again how weather can influence my mood (this is no news really, it works like that on everyone). What I hadn’t shared with you is another observation of mine: that good weather in northern countries such as Belgium or the UK is a f@&3:ÂŁing big deal. Everyone and their aunties are out at a park/hosting a barbecue/attending a barbecue. And that’s it. People are talking about it for days and days, building up anticipation, then the weekend with the good weather is here and you need to go out and enjoy the sun otherwise you’re the BIGGEST sucker.

     

    Coming from a country where sunshine is the norm, I always thought people exaggerated with the good weather. Until I became one of those people.

    So what did we do this perfect sunny Saturday in London?

    We visited a museum.

     

    Art piece at the entrance of the V&A.

    We went shopping.

     

    We had drinks at a rooftop.

    We ate the cheapest bagels in town (OMG, this place is like a bagel heaven, which kind of my preferred heaven of all).

    We were happy as hell.