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

A long weekend on Mount Pelion

When it comes to holiday destinations in Greece, I’m sure you all know Athens, Mykonos and Santorini, but what about the rest of the amazingly beautiful places my country has to offer? Like the mountains? Like the sea? Like mountains by the sea???

Yes, that’s a thing in Greece and I happen to have the perfect place in mind to suggest to you in case you are looking for a summer holiday in Greece away from the crowds but immersed in beauty and the blue of the Greeks sea and sky.

Mount Pelion. 

We were there recently for the wedding of two very good friends of ours from Brussels. The wedding took place at the village Pinakates, one of the less known villages of Mount Pelion but a truly beautiful and picturesque one. The wedding was just lovely, the couple really respected the colour and the vibe of the village, keeping it simple and completely traditional (which was a very refreshing change from all the glitter and fireworks going on at weddings these days).


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The day was warm but not too hot, and in the evening especially we definitely made use of our light cover ups as sitting underneath this 800-year old sycamore tree really gave us the chills (both figuratively and literally!)

We stayed at Hotel Stoikos, a traditional guest house with extremely friendly staff and a whole lotta unpretentious-ness. Our room had the most breathtaking view I’ve ever had in a hotel room and I was so happy to wake up there every morning. Life can be good in so many easy ways.


The day before the wedding our lovely hosts had organised a beach party for us at Mediterraneo, a great beach bar at the Ampovos beach of Afissos, one of the most beautiful villages next to the sea. We danced and drank our way through the afternoon and by 10pm we were completely starving.

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Sunset at the Ampovos Beach

Enter the Giorgaros tavern at the central square of Vizitsa, another cute village to explore if you’re in the neighbourhood (unfortunately, there is no website to link to this amazing restaurant, but it’s the only one at the square you can’t miss it, I promise!!!)

How to reach Mount Pelion:

  • The nearest town with an airport is Volos, however there are not so many airlines flying directly there. Next best thing is Thessaloniki’s airport SKG. You can then rent a car from the airport and drive for a bit less than 3 hours and…..voila! You’re in paradise 🙂

 

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!!)

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 · 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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Travel

3 San Francisco restaurants

Remember how I told you my job takes me to places?

Last week, it was San Francisco. This was my third time in this beautiful city. I was there from Monday to Friday for work, but made the mistake and did not stay for the weekend as well…the result? HUUUUGE bummer that I had to leave on a rainy morning to come back to Brussels without having gotten even a glimpse of the Golden Gate bridge!!!

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Sunrise in San Francisco – view from my room in the Hyatt Regency.

What I did do however was to try three amazing restaurants that I really could not recommend more:

  1. Liholiho Yacht Club – Ok this is one of those places I would never try on my own if it wasn’t for someone to make me go in! Not because the place does not look good enough (actually it’s really pretty, with plenty of light and great buzz), but because the cuisine was described to me as “modern Hawaiian” – and I was like “what the hell, I don’t think I’ve ever even tried traditional Hawaiian!!! Liholiho is a great place to try: super friendly stuff, food that tastes fresh and real, very pleasant crowd to look at. You can either go for a date or book the Ohana table and get there with your friends. In which case, GET EVERYTHING!!!! You won’t be disappointed. The only minus? There’s not a chocolate option in desserts – unacceptable!!!
  2. Foreign cinema – Whoever thought of this concept was purely genious. Checking the menu AND the films on show? Hell yeah! This was a real gem in one of my favourite neighbourhoods, the Mission. I come from a country where open air cinemas are a big thing, and I really miss the experience of watching a classic favourite while nibbling and drinking wine. Foreign Cinema gives you this pleasure. Unfortunately, we were quite a big group and did not manage to get seated outside. I promise next time I’m in SF and the weather is good, I’m totally going – even to watch a Chuck Norris movie!!!! The only minus? It can easily get too loud if you’re sitting inside. Not necessarily the restaurant’s fault, but still….
  3. Wayfare Tavern – I don’t know why, but this restaurant made me feel a little bit like I was in New York (I’m serious when I say I don’t know why, I’ve never been in New York!) Dark wood deco, super smart people and waiters as friendly as they can be, this is definitely a place to go back to, as it is also so closely located to the hotel I usually stay in. I tried the burger, which was quite good and really decently priced (!!!) and for the first time in my life devil’s eggs. And since then I’m crying that I’ve lost so many years not having tried devil’s eggs. Me, who I love eggs. Like really love them. The restaurant comes with a private room as well that you can hire for events. I also noticed that everyone in my group was also enjoying their drinks – another plus! The only minus? We hadn’t booked a table, but were lucky ’cause we showed up at 6.30pm for an early dinner. By 8pm we had to clear our spot, which is always a bummer…

Have you ever been to any of these restaurants? Would you be tempted to go now that you read this exquisite blog post??? 🙂

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Outside Foreign Cinema – take me back to Mission, PLEAAAASE
Life · Travel

Daytrippin’

I changed jobs last summer and my new position requires taking trips around Europe a few times per year. London, Paris and Amsterdam are the most frequent destinations, but it can be that I need to also be in Madrid or Poland, depending on where the fire drill is 🙂

I know that traveling is something like the holy grail of job requirements. Everyone is looking for a job that will take  them away from everyday routine – I was too. I also know that too much of this can become tiresome quickly, let alone burdensome when family and especially children come into the picture. But I’m new to this and I’m trying to enjoy every bit of it!!!!

I’m actually a sucker for traveling. Unlike most people I know, I actually enjoy every bit of it-even the hassle of getting to the airport, waiting in line for hours, over priced Starbucks coffee and delays that can ruin your schedule. I always thought of traveling as a moment to pamper myself. I’d buy the latest French or British Vogue, this travel set by Essie that is only on offer in airports, moisturizers by Clinique for my mom, the latest Best Seller to take me through the train ride/flight and every single gadget I thought I really needed (global adapter-check). (I’m not going to elaborate here on how luxurious I make my boat trips – hopefully I can do a summer post on this one.)

Now that I’ve started traveling for work, which means I have a little less time in my hands as the trip can really last for less than 24 hours, I get a bit less pleasure out of Vogue and a little more out of a fellow passenger before who knows how security checks work and does not become a bottleneck 🙂 Lame, I know, but I guess this is what happens to travel lovers that do not travel by choice but they’re asked to (what happens to lovers of all sorts I believe when they’re forced to love…)

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So for this two one-day trips, I packed light (always do….*) and boarded a plane on Thursday morning (very eaaaaarrrly morning :-/) from Brussels to London. What? A plane? What about Eurostar? As much as I love the train (always gives me a very romantic idea about myself and the world as a whole), the airfare was cheaper than the train (!!!), plus I had to be close to Heathrow for work.

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What every single person hopes happens to them when boarding a train.

I spent the day in lovely Twickenham becoming wiser on the future of cloud computing (!!! – this is my day job actually), got myself a nice burger for dinner and left to train station the very next morning to Paris for a few meetings there, before coming back to Brussels on Friday evening.

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Arriving to London on a cold, rainy day (really???great surprise, London is never cold and rainy…)
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Twickenham Stadium at night – go rugby fans!!!
Even when things are hectic like that, there’s no reason not to take a few moments and appreciate beauty wherever we are, whatever we do. I think it is super important to never lose sight of the nice things in life, the things that make us appreciate what we have a little more, all these bits and pieces that make life #worthlivinit.

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Your next destination to beauty…..
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Yep, Paris is always a good idea, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
*You know how some people hate traffic? I hate having to carry a bag. When it’s less than 48 hours I have to spend to a place, I don’t even have a carry-on with me, I limit myself to a weekender. The craziest thing I’ve done is traveling to the US with only hand luggage for a week. Which meant I had to wear my male friends’ jackets because it was colder than I though. That’s why in all pictures from that trip I look like Eminem circa 2000.

P.S. I was reading a great article on air travel the other day, give it a look here.