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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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!!

Life · Travel

The importance of getting away of it all

Ahhh, last couple of weeks have been really tricky, on a personal and a more global level as well… (yes I am talking about the U.S. elections, yes I was surprised that he is the President-elect, yes I would have voted for her if I was American, yes I’m worried about election results in Europe next year, yes I don’t know what the future will bring, everything seems so uncertain right now).

In times like these, when I feel like I’m challenged like never before, I turn to beauty for some consolation. And beauty is something I find in music, books, films and Paris. I was there for work, just for one evening, and was rushing to the train station to catch my train back to Brussels when I lifted my head and saw this:


Yes, we will always have Paris. And we will always have beauty to fight off the ugliness of this world. Whether it’s the political situation, the uncertainty of our world, the fear of the unknown, or simply thoughts twirling in your mind making you sad, you can beat it. By choosing beauty. And happiness.

Travel

A weekend away in Rome

Ahhh traveling – it really makes all the difference in the world. For me, there are two kinds of trips: those that are memorable because of the place you visit and those that are memorable because of the people you visit them with. But they have to be memorable!!

Rome falls in the first category. I was there last February (it was also the very first post on this blog – remember???) and had a magical time, so a few weeks back we decided to go back – this time with another group of friends but following the same concept: take a weekend away from good ol’ Brussels, to one of the best European destinations in my view. And with cheap AND convenient Ryanair flights (how rare is that…), there was no hesitation for another moment: Rome it is.

We really had a great time again. Visited some super cool restaurants, ate tons of gelato, got lost in the swarms of tourists and fell in love again with the eternal city. We even managed to fit it some artsy stuff, so as not to feel too much like tourists.

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Tourists or no tourists noone can actually resist this view. 

I love quick city trips like that, they always make me feel I did something great, fun, relaxing, different than my typical weekend in Brussels (which usually consists of visits to the market for groceries, a bit of (window) shopping around my house, and maybe a couple of coffee meetings with friends at the same places – yes, I might look 31 but I’m really 78 at heart!) My weekend in Rome was exactly as I would dream my every weekend to be – or to put it better as any blogger’s that respect themselves should be 🙂

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People watching at the Spanish steps is probably my favorite passtime.

This time around I got the chance to discover a bit more of the Monti area. COMPLETELY BEAUTIFUL in case you were wondering. The restaurants, the cobble-stone streets, the yellow lights at night, the smell of jasmine all around, the people having drinks on the street, the feeling that you’re living in a film ALL THE TIME. I couldn’t recommend it more. So close to all the touristy stuff, well-connected by means of public transport AND a completely charming neighborhood, seriously, what’s not to like?

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What I haven’t yet done in Rome and I really want to try is SHOPPING. Even looking at the Gucci window made me feel happy, I’m also thinking stalking Alessandro Michele outside the Palazzo Alberini-Cicciaproci (ie Gucci’s design HQ) at some point, snap a picture of him (or two.or a selfie with me.or just me pretending I just saw him.) (Please read this amazing article on him if you don’t feel you know the new Gucci magician very well.) I admire him for the amazing creative push he has given to the house, but then again, I was always a huge fan of Italian fashion, yes truly, I know in our day and age everyone is trying to be the cool, nonchalant french girl with the red lip and the messy hair, but I’ve always longed to be the strong, voluptuous Italian woman (yes Sophia Loren, I’m looking at you), wearing prints (Roberto Cavalli!), embroidery (Gucci!) and glitter (Versace!) I realize just now I’ve never really talked to you about my crazy love for fashion…hmm..I should definitely do some more of that.

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Most of all (and first of all), such cool trips always are the best opportunity to catch up with friends. We had the most amazing time with my two girlfriends – one traveling with me, one hosting me there. Life is great like that you know, when the only things you need are a good chat and ice cream. And Brazilian sushi which I didn’t even know existed until this trip. To the next one 🙂

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Where we ate:

  1. Gelato at La Romana: Ok, maybe people that have even read a traveler’s guide to Rome are laughing at me right now, because La Romana is supposed to be like the best gelateria in town anyway (and very famous), but it’s true I hadn’t tried it before. Don’t let the super long queue dishearten you (remember, catching up with friends is amazing, do so while waiting!) Once you’re in, you’ll feel the happiest people on earth. I have my go-to combination when it comes to ice cream – chocolate/pistachio, and I’m picky about the pistachio, and this time believe it was like I was eating an actual frozen pistachio!!! Such rich flavor, so fresh, so true….nothing like I’ve tasted in “gelaterias” outside Rome EVER.
  2. Dinner at Da Bucatino: I was so happy and full when I left this place, I thought I could roll back home like a big ball of gelato. It looks warm, traditional, delicious, busy, happy, like heaven on earth basically. Every single thing we tasted that night left us drooling for more (although we couldn’t have more because we would have a heart attack right then and there). I had the pici pasta with artichoke and bacon, a traditional roman dish, that left me so satisfied that I think I could have it every day. It looks fairly easy to make, I think I’ll give a try once at home hoping I can recreate the experience!
  3. Brazilian sushi at Temakinho: OH MY LORD. Did you even know the concept of brazilian sushi. BECAUSE I DIDN’T. I’m not a huge fan of sushi, I like it a lot of course, but it always leaves me hungry, plus I can’t have like 40 rolls because people stare. But when my friend and host suggested to try it, I was quick to accept the challenge, as I found the Japano-brazilian fusion just brilliant. And I was so glad I did. The food is amazing, the decoration of the place is worth every Instagram post (it has pineapple wallpaper for peete’s sake!), the staff is super friendly and the caipirinha normal was one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’m sure in a city like Brussels where sushi is really popular this place would make huge money…
  4. Brunch on Sunday at Queen Makeda: this was one of the richest buffes I’ve ever seen for brunch in my whole life and it comes at the price of 19 euros (with coffee and juices included – and I mean as much as you want!) True, the quality of food is top notch and the crowd so happy and vivid, let alone the restaurant itself that it’s a feast for any hipster and their Instagram account. And again people – SO.MUCH.FOOD.ARGH. (I’m actually tired of the latest trend in Brussels where brunch means scrumbled eggs with 2 slices of salmon, one cup of coffee and a glass of juice, and this is at 25 euros just because it’s brunch.) Best to book a table especially if you are a big group, however the place is rather big and could fit 2-4 people easily if you show up early enough.

What we did:

Walk around the Monti area. As our last trip was all about Testaccio, this time we thought to stay close to home (my friend who was playing host to us for the weekend leaves right next to the Colosseum, it’s pretty ridiculous and totally gorgeous!!) Walk around, pretend you’re a tourist, take millions of pictures and at night just start wandering in the little streets, it feels so romantic, so authentic, so “European” in a way…the first night we arrived we took a walk around and all we could say was “it’s so lovely” over and over again, it’s really a place that warms the heart.

What we saw:

If you happen to be in Rome until November 27, go visit Rome’s museum of modern art (MACRO), where you can live the experience of DIGITALIFE 2016. It’s a great exhibition that plays with the concepts of fluidity, rain, water, fog, but also data, 3D and algorithms. Again, we were treated greatly by the stuff who were very polite and eager to explain and even gave us a short discount when they realized the queue for one of the spectacles was too long to allows us to get in.