Life

Blue Monday (and how to not let it bring you down)

It’s Monday, it’s January, it’s probably cold and wet (unless you’re in Australia in which case what do you even know about this sorry excuse of a day???) and you’re like “why are holidays over?”, “when will I see my family again?”, “how will I get back into exercising and dieting when all I want to do is watch everything on Netflix accompanied by equal amounts of junk food?”, “is it too soon to already ask my boss for my next days off?” (the answer is no to this last one, go for it, definitely NOW!)

They call it Blue Monday, I call it pretty much every Monday, especially those so close to some of the best times I’ve had in ages (see Christmas holiday with family and my closest friends) and then again so far away from any kind of exciting adventure. And on top everything, work, work, work, so much of it that I sometimes can’t think of anything else during the day…

So, what is there to do to get out of this state of mind? (Because at the end of the day it is a state of mind, if you’re healthy and your loves ones are healthy as well and you have a half decent job, most sorrows are not real – they’re just a state of mind).

If you have a large budget: go travel. Book now. A quick city getaway or the vacation of your dreams in Thailand, go and do it. Check dates with the person you want to take with (or not), and go book. NOW. Did you do it? Ok, that’s great.

If you have a small budget: go for dinner and a movie. Sweet and cosy, will really lift your spirits. Also, because on Mondays restaurants and cinemas tend not to be super crowded. What is the movie you should go watch? Good question as in Belgium (at least at the moment), the offer is kind of crappy. Murder on the Orient Express or Molly’s Game might do the trick — they’re good movies AND entertaining as well.

If you have no budget: go Tinder. I actually have never done it (does this make me cool or unreal), but don’t tell me there is no fun checking out strangers online just to see what the offer is out there (and potentially finding someone you know -oops!- or potentially finding someone you don’t know but you kinda of really fancy – double oops).

Whatever you do, have fun. And remember: tomorrow might be another blue day. But it’s closer to Friday šŸ™‚

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” optionsĀ 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 ColĆ³n, 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 šŸ™‚
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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 šŸ˜

Valencia mini-guide:

Where to eat:Ā 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.Ā 

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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.Ā 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:Ā You should totally pay a visit to El Corte InglĆ©s, 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 ColĆ³n – 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!!)

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 yearĀ 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 destinationĀ sansĀ 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 šŸ™‚ I am also going to prepare a sandwich with healthy stuff I have at home as well as get my Hidrate SparkĀ 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.

    LittleĀ 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 glamorousĀ 

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 šŸ¤”

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???? šŸ™‚

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 LondonĀ 

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 šŸ˜

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!!!

Travel

Short road trip at the south of PeloponneseĀ 

If you ever find yourself in the south of the Peloponnese region in Greece you will know everything about the essence of #worthlivinit.

In my opinion, this is the most beautiful place on earth and the most “Greek” of all the regions in the country.

I have an amazing recommendation for a short roadtrip should you ever find yourselves in the south of Peloponnese: Elafonisos and Monemvasia – two places made out of heaven.

You can reach Elafonisos by boarding a ferry from the port of Pounta. This is one of the smallest ferries you’ll ever see, it’s also one of the shortest rides (approx. 10 minutes), so no need to worry about that.

The ride is also darn beautiful:



The cost of the travel is also pretty cheap: 12 Euros one way for two passengers plus their car (no matter how big or small your car is). There are ferries leaving the port of Punta every half hour from early in the morning to 10pm (or even later the busiest months of the year). You can find more info here.

Once you reach Elafinisos, follow the signs to Simos beach. It’s 4 kilometres from the port, and you’ll start squeaking like a baby mouse once you see from afar the see getting closer to you. It’s the most green sea I’ve ever seen, the most beautiful colour, like an emerald waiting to be conquered. The amazing thing about these beaches in Greece is that they might look like you’re at the Carribean, the water is however much more “swimable” – serene like a pool, with little boats floating here and there and no sharks šŸ™‚

Simos is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, you should definitely plan a visit if you’re in the neighbourhood! There is also a cafe nearby to cater to your need for water and a snack – nothing too exceptional though so make sure to have your own provisions.

We took the boat back and drove to Monemvasia to enjoy the sunset. The drive is not too long, so if you leave Elafonisos around 5-5.30pm you can reach Monemvasia around 7pm. You should go visit the castle which hides a beautiful two inside its walls full of little resto’s and coffee places where you can enjoy a drink and the amazing view.


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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