City life · Life · Travel

Last trip of 2017…first post of 2018

So, new year, new me? Possibly, but what I’d definitely like to do is dedicate a bit more time to this little corner of the Internet that I can claim “mine”. And since I’m keeping this space for things that are worth living for, I’d better do more and more of them!

2017 was a challenging and somewhat weird year. I won’t remember it for anything good or bad, I won’t remember it at all I believe. I mostly got lost into work, missed my family and friends and Greece a lot, complained a lot, fell more in love with my boyfriend, stressed more than I should over work, got praised for it, and vowed never to do it again. I cried more than I have in year, but then again, nothing worth crying for happened in my life. So I’m keeping my hoped high for 2018. There must be something more shiny and beautiful waiting for me this year. I have my set goals that I won’t reveal here in fear of jinxing them. Or sounding completely stupid 🙂

For what it’s worth, 2017 went away the best way possible: with a great short trip to Thessaloniki, the great city in the north of Greece that is a real gem if you’re looking for a quick city trip. Since we spent last Christmas in Athens, we thought to try Greece’s so-called “co-capital” this year. If you fly to Thessaloniki from Belgium off-season, you can find extremely cheap tickets with Ryanair from Charleroi. And it’s really worth taking the trip for three very simple reasons: the sights, the food and the nightlife.

What to see

Everything! Walk across the sea, marvel at the great sunsets at the port, visit one of the great museums in the city (the Jewish Museum, the Cinema Museum, or the Biennale). Go grab a coffee at the top floor of the Olympion cinema in the heart of the Aristotelous Square or make your way to Ano Poli to marvel at the city views. Just wander and take pictures along the way 🙂

Where to eat (note: the following choices are mostly for meat lovers, although you can find plenty of vegetarian options, the Greek cuisine has something for everyone)

Everywhere! The best street food you can find is at Laikon (address: Politechniou 24) – go for the meatball in bread – the best I’ve ever tried.

Two amazing dinner places are Nea Folia and ExtravaganzaThe first if a no-nonsense traditional Greek tavern with the most delicious and reasonably priced food I’ve ever had. Do not miss the kavourma burger, which is made from Greek buffalo meat. Extravaganza comes with a selection of great and very reasonably priced cocktails. You should definitely try the french fries with bolognese sauce and fried egg. Sounds weird? I thought so too. Until I tried it. After that, I felt weird I had not had it sooner. Both places are very popular, so make sure to book in advance (or go early!)

Where to stay

We stayed at Gatto Perso, an amazing apartments hotel situated in the city center that I could not recommend more. The rooms are decorated in the English country style, which makes for a great clash with the more urban surroundings of the building. The staff is super friendly and helpful, there was really nothing I did not like about our stay there. If you’re a smoker, ask for the room with the little balcony 🙂

Other great hotels for all tastes! (but always right in the heart of the city :)):

Travel

My week at Corfu

I was reading Leandra Medine’s account of how she managed to go on holidays with nothing more than a carry-on and I was captivated by her writing of how she “watched the sunset steal [her] vacation” at the end of her trip. And this was my exact feeling when I was leaving Corfu, although in my case it was a bus stealing away one of the best weeks of my life.

This year we did not make fancy plans for our summer holidays so we ended up saying “let’s just go home”. Corfu is actually home for my boyfriend, he was born and raised there and his family still lives there, so we thought to keep it simple. I was happy to go, but totally freaked out as well as this would be the first time I would meet his parents (or anyone’s parents for that matter — I mean parents of a sexual partner, I’ve met parents before of friends, classmates, random parents on the street). Two years after starting dating and one year after living together, it was probably about time.

And yes, I was totally freaked out, because I’ve no idea how to behave in these situations. I want to be my best possible self so that my boyfriend can proudly show me around to his family and friends. At the same time, I get mad at myself for wanting this very thing, like I have to leave my true self on the side….but to cut a long (and dramatic) story short, things went really smoothly. I should probably know by now that lovely children (my boyfriend) come from lovely people, and his parent were no exception. Would probably be good sometimes to write an article dissecting why I get so stressed whenever the “meet the parents” discussion comes up!!

So, Corfu. To put it plainly, I fell in love. And I will go again next year. And I would recommend to anyone I know to go. Again and again. It is such a big island and so full of things to do and see, it can really cater to many different types of tourists: families, teenagers, young couples, older couples, groups of singles, girls’ groups, boys’ groups, anything really, foreigners, Greeks. Maybe mountain lovers will be disappointed, but for the rest, I’m sure there is something for everyone.

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Behold my dream house at Rovania beach.
I catch myself thinking several times per week: what am I doing in Brussels? Why don’t I go back to Greece, things are difficult and people are struggling but all this beauty will heal our hearts. I know of course it’s not that simple, but that week at Corfu made me really relax, take my mind off anything that was bothering, I managed to leave my stressed and anxious self behind and enjoy summer at its fullest.

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The restaurant at Yaliskari beach is definitely worth trying.
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Beaches at Corfu are stunning. You can find the very crowded and touristy ones (like Paleokastritsa), the quiet and still-virgin ones (like Rovania) or the friendly and unpretentious ones (like Yaliskari – if you go there try the restaurant on the beach, it’s a lovely spot and the food is pretty spectacular). You can do some kitesurfing at Halikounas or have a completely cosmopolitan swim at the Mon Repo (which is actually IN the city of Corfu – please take me back now!).

The most Instagram-able beaches? Some of the small bays at Paleokastritsa and Canal d’Amour of course. Also, the ground at Canal d’ Amour is very rich in clay so you’ll find plenty of people walking around covered in mud essentially. Which gives you the feeling of this amazing natural spa right on the sea. Gosh, the beauty!

Corfu also has spectacular spots to enjoy the sunset. Cape Drasti and Logkas at Peroulades are great although potentially too crowded. If you manage to snatch a spot at the 7th Heaven Bar at Logkas a couple of hours before the sunset, just stay there and wait for the moment to come. The moment is almost magical – the bar starts blasting dreamy lounge music and everyone goes quiet for the last seconds before the sun is lost behind the hill. The funniest thing is that people actually start clapping once it’s over!! Yeah sun, good job!!

Do you want to enjoy the sunset while comfortably sitting at a restaurant enjoying some of the best food on the island? No problem at all, the Mouragia area is full of restaurants with great views of the sunset. My personal favourite was Andranik — we went twice there to try moth sofrito and pastitsada – two of the most traditional dishes on Corfu (I’m officially hooked on sofrito, it’s probably the best thing about dating a local…!)

The city of Corfu is magical in the evening. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live your day to day life in a place like this. Do you get the constant feeling that you’re living in a movie? Or do you ever get enough of all this beauty and just get used to it? I suspect the latter – like with everything in life – but still, strolling around these little streets, holding the hand of a loved one, can transform you in a way. Thinking back to that moment in the middle of a rainy, stressful day at work, can have an even bigger impact.

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Go visit the Paleo Frourio, aka the Old Fortress, that was keeping Corfu safe from pirates. The views are great in the day time, but at night it turns into a magical place (don’t be afraid to go late at night, there are a great number of tourists and locals visiting event until midnight and there’s also a great bar in the Tower).

Another great spot to visit is the Kanoni, where the views of Pontikonisi and the church of Panagia Vlaherna are one of the most soothing sights you can enjoy on the island. We went for a late coffee around 20.00 and we were lucky to see many planes come and go from the airport that’s just next to the Kanoni. ​

​And then there is of course the music. Corfu has a huge tradition in music, there are hundreds of marching bands in every town and village and it seems that most locals play at least one instruments. They also make for a great sight with all their different costumes, so make sure to try and catch a live performance when you’re there, which won’t be too difficult anyway.


I was a happier version of myself at Corfu. I’ll be looking at these photos and try to preserve the feeling for as long as possible. Until next time.

Life

My birthday present (and a few thoughts on the art of gifting)

On July 21st we celebrated the Belgian national holiday which was the perfect excuse to take out the gift my boyfriend got me for my birthday:

The VonShef 4 person picnic backpack.

My boyfriend giving me presents is always a very funny process (for me at least). He’s really bad at gifting, he always gets panicked whenever he has to get someone a present, he can never think of what a person would like or want and he ends up scrolling the internet like a madman until a few hours before he needs to get to a party or a birthday celebration.

Of course I think this is lots of fun, because I’m the exact opposite: I’m a great gift giver. And through the years I’ve realised that the way to do so is to PAY ATTENTION. Pay attention people! To what your friends say they’d like, they’d need or they’d enjoy doing but never have the time or the company. And then offer it to them. It doesn’t have to be expensive (that’s what vouchers are made for! you can just buy a part of the product or the experience, ), but you can always put a smile on the faces of your loved ones if you just pay attention to the things they like and then you make an effort to offer them.

And that’s what my boyfriend did, which made his stressed face and hesitance to offer me my gift this year even more adorable. He knows I love picnics, he knows I want to do more of them (not that we can do so many given the Belgian weather, but still, a girl can dream), and he knows that I love doing them with friends….so voila! The perfect gift!

The VonShef backpack is truly amazing. It is so practical and works really well – our bottles of rose and still water remained chilled for more than 3 hours despite the heat, which was something I really appreciated (it’s a huge bummer having to run to the store for fresh wine in the middle of a picnic!). And it really has everything you will need for the picnic (the only additional thing I had to bring with me was a few toothpicks, everything else is already in the bag!!!).

We had such a great time that day and it really felt like a perfect way to celebrate my birthday and my boyfriend for implementing so well the first rule of the art of gifting: pay attention 🙂

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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!!)

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 · 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!!!

Life

How I detox’d after the holidays 

2017 started off with….a lot of food. As should be expected during the Christmas break, even more so from a Greek mom, the turkey was not the only feeling stuffed at the table. Going back home (or on holidays in general) has always been challenging for me, because it’s not really easy to resist my mom’s cooking or other local delicacies. And here we are with 2 kg (or 5 pounds) more and not-so-happy about it…

I’ve always been neither thin nor overweight. I’ve always had this extra 5 kg (or 10 pounds) that prevents me from wearing tight clothes, and have always fantasized about how if I lost 10kg (or 20 pounds) people on the street would mistaken me for Gisele Bündchen. I’m lucky because I’m tall so I can justify a little more eating as I have more space to fill (is this even a real thing?), but then again I can feel bulky and huge the moment I get a couple of kg more.

I’ve only managed to stay on a diet for a few months back in university, when everything is easier in terms of scheduling, social obligations etc. I’ve been using this diet now and again whenever I want to drop a couple of kg/pounds. But that’s about it for me in terms of dieting. The more you enter the adult life though, the more difficult it gets to stick to a program: you have to see your friends — you eat. You have to talk with your boss — you eat. You have to attend a super interesting conference — you eat. You go on a trip — you eat. You visit your family — you eat. You start dating a guy — you eat. That’s how important eating has become for our social life. And don’t get me wrong. I’m all for eating, I love eating, I love good food and I love sharing it with people. But unfortunately, I don’t love equally exercising and burning calories by doing sports. TBH I don’t love it AT ALL. I can’t find even the tiniest piece of motivation that will make me go to they gym, go for a run, play tennis with my friends, do a few laps in the swimming pool. I know that there are millions of people out there rolling their eyes right now (not that I have millions of readers, but if I had, they would be rolling their eyes!!!), but I’ve really tried pretty much everything out there and nothing gets me motivated. The only thing I’ve found I enjoy is walking. And that’s about it.

So coming back from my Christmas break and getting on the scale was really NOT a good idea. I saw a number I could not believe. I was 3 kg heavier than before the break – how was that even possible? I knew it could not be real weight, I knew it was probably the aftermath of a two-week period full of sweets and alcohol, but still – how was this possible??? And I panicked and really felt bad and angry with myself for letting go. And then of course I started nagging to my boyfriend for it (whom I blame the most for my eating habits since he is the perfect cook and we now live together, so…)

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My life’s motto

What I did not expect was such wise words coming out of his mouth. As I was going over all possible ways to feel less bloated, from eating 2 apples per day (and nothing else) to have him force me to the gym so I would actually start exercising a little, he simply said: “Why panic? There’s a very simple way – cut your portions in half and stop eating bread. Just for a while.” And OMG. Like really OMG. It sounded so simple and easy and I was totally on board, I still don’t know why. But let me tell you, it did work.

So I started the next day the very fun (#not) process of cutting my portions in half. The way to go about it? Just use smaller lunch boxes than usual (I bring lunch with me at work most of time, if I’m not traveling) and have dinner in  small plates or bowls. Like really small. Like a step bigger than saucers (just kiddin’)(#not). Other than that, there are no real rules. I had spaghetti bolognese, risotto Milanese, even mousaka, everything I really craved. But I kept it small and simple. I even had a small slice of cake every day right after work to get my blood sugar levels in order (otherwise I could actually eat a small animal on my way to home).

The other thing I managed to do (and I say managed) is stay away from bread. I’m sure everyone of us has this (at least) one thing they can say no to. For me that is bread (and movies by French auteurs). I could give every other food up, as long as I had a Greek salad with feta cheese and LOTS of bread to go with (yes, I’m that cliché). But I know that bread makes me feel bloated in a matter of seconds and I’ve really gotten weary of that. I know that to stay super fit and thin I should ideally say goodbye to bread for ever. But I’m not ready (or willing) to do that. What I manage to do though, stay away for 5 days, made me feel really good. My belly was a bit flatter, my confidence was not flat at all, and I also had the pleasure of saying to myself “yes, you did it”.

And that’s it my friends. 5 days later, 1.6 kg (or 3 pounds) less. It doesn’t mean I suddenly look that much better. But I do feel a thousand times better, I’m back at my normal weight and can stop feeling guilty about all these delicious meals I had during Christmas. And that’s my tip for you: eat what your heart wants, be happy, just do it with moderation. Cut your portions down a bit, or try to have smaller dinners. Play a bit around with your habits, see what works better for your body and your digestion 🙂 And find that one thing you love, but is also makes your body feel weird, and stay away from it. Just for a while. So you can actually go back to it guilty-free just a few days later.

Here’s to a weekend full of friends, fun and good food!!