Tuesday, 30 July 2013

{Eat, Drink, Do San Francisco}

San Francisco was the last stop on my little North American tour, by which time I was kind of ready to head home to my beloved England. The city was going to have to knock my socks off to make it worth the extra flying & alone time. Flying out of the States less 48 hours later, I declared San Fran one of my favourite cities in the world. Definitely worth the flying visit.

Eat: Chinatown

First things first, it's time to hit those famous steep hills. If you really want to work up a lunchtime appetite, you can attempt to scale them on foot. The cable cars, though, are decidedly more thrilling. I deigned to be that tourist and buy an all day travel card so I could ride up and down the famous streets & trust me, it doesn't get old.

The conductors always have great chat and never seem bored of their somewhat repetitive days spent riding the hills. Make sure you catch a cable car at the end of its line, when the conductors jump out and swing the whole car around on a turn table.

After my umpteenth trip up & down California St, I glanced sideways and was hit by a barrage of colour & noise. San Francisco's Chinatown is deemed by many to be the best in the world, and it definitely lived up to this prestigious title in my eyes. I jumped off my beloved cable car, waved goodbye to the conductor & found myself in the Far East.

I recommend a walk up & down the main streets of Grant & Stockton Street before you make a gastronomical decision. Just take in all the shop windows & signs in the oldest Chinatown in North America - and the largest outside of China! What a great claim to fame.

I don't even remember where I stopped off for food, but that's not really the point. Immerse yourself in the culture & let your waiter pick out some goodies for you - I heartily recommend char siu bao. Let the sights & smells of Chinatown wash over you and when you step out, it'll be like you just left a whole other world.

Drink: Vesuvio, 255 Columbus Ave

Next stop on my whirlwind tour of SF was North Beach, a famously arty neighbourhood. Vesuvio was the hangout for the likes of Jack Kerouac & others from the Beat Generation. It opened in 1948, and has barely changed in an attempt to honour its early visitors. Neal Cassidy, who was the real life version of Kerouac's Dean Moriarty in Beat bible On The Road, visited the bar in 1955, opening the floodgates for the other Beat kids. 

I grabbed a drink downstairs and headed up for a bit of first floor tranquility. Nowadays Vesuvio attracts all kinds of people including those thirsty types on weary Beat pilgrimages to SF. As I sipped my drink I admired the laid back, unpretentious personality of the bar - it is not the kind to be wearied by relative fame.

Jack Kerouac once stopped in for a drink on the way to meet with the famous author Henry Miller. He ended up being drawn into the bar and never made it to the writer's house. Such is the lure of Vesuvio!

Do: City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave

When the Beats weren't drinking at Vesuvio, they were hanging out at City Lights. Founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights fast become known as the most daring American publishers - most notably for its publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. Nowadays, the bookstore still publishes, and retains much of that beatnik magic among its shelves & shelves of books. 

Jack Kerouac Alley is all that separates the bar and the bookshop.

I found that while Shakespeare & Co in Paris can be a little intimidating & overrun, City Lights was perfectly tranquil and quiet - ideal reading conditions. Like Vesuvio, it seems unaffected by its worldwide reputation. Instead, you are invited to sit and read a while. I ventured upstairs to check out the Poetry room, where evening readings are often held, and found myself completely alone. I grabbed a copy of Patti Smith's autobiography Just Kids and had a little read. I later bought it and devoured it on the plane ride home.

Featuring a quotation from my favourite bookshop in Europe cemented my new love for City Lights.

Til next time, America!
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Saturday, 27 July 2013

{A Grecian Getaway}

Last month, on an evening weighed down by essays & revision, we decided to throw caution to the wind & book a trip to Greece in a few weeks time. That's what French conjugations and referencing will drive you to. I had fond memories of summers in Agia Efimia (on the island of Kefalonia) as a child, and was excited to explore the island further by car. On arrival and after a long (we got lost) but very scenic drive round windy island roads, it was pitch black. All we had to go on were the sound of cicadas and that irreplaceable Greek island air.


We awoke to this view from our balcony, which was everything I'd dreamed of during miserable essay writing evenings. Huge mountains rolled out as far as the eye could see, perfectly framing the azure blue sea. Without further ado we got to exploring our hotel!

This is the view of our hotel. It's called the Kefalonia Bay Palace, and we got a great deal at onthebeach.co.uk - I recommend checking them out. It's 5* and the pictures on the website looked incredible, but scrolling through reviews on Trip Advisor left me slightly doubtful. Well, I needn't have worried. The hotel was perfect; the staff were friendly and helpful, it was before school holidays so we had the run of the place, and the views were out of this world. I'll definitely be saving my pennies to go again next year! 

The town of Agia Efimia is famous only for the fact that the cast of Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Nicholas Cage & Penelope Cruz) stayed here during filming. Other than that it is a perfectly tranquil and petite village. One day we packed a picnic (and plenty of suncream), rented a little motor boat and puttered between the bays near the village, which can only be reached by sea. Lying on the bow with a good book & only the sound of waves lapping at the boat to contend with, this was my idea of heaven!

Other highlights include Myrtos Beach, ten minutes drive from our hotel. At first, as you descend, you can't see the beach itself - only the bright blue waters. And then suddenly, it comes into spectacular view. I'm surprised there aren't more car crashes given the amount of cars stopping for that perfect photo opportunity! 

I saw this 'house' on one of our many long drives, and decided it would suit me just perfectly. Better start saving up then!

One morning we found a little hidden bay called Dafnoudi beach. If you aren't concentrating you'll miss the turnoff, and then you have to walk for ten minutes or so through some woods until you arrive at the beach. But boy is it worth it! 

We spent a whole day there swimming out as far as we could, splashing about in the clear, shallow waters, and doing handstands in the secret little cove. 

Another recommended town is Fiskardo, which is right in the north of the island. It's a sailing town, and we wiled away long hours watching the magnificent boats drift in and out the bay. A great place for pottering around in.

Til next year, Kefalonia!

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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

{Under The Sea}

A little bikini inspiration before I jet off to the beaches of Italia next week.. all images & their links can be found on my Pinterest Board called Glamour Inspiration.

Ps. Be sure to follow my blog over on Bloglovin'! Xx

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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

{Eat, Drink, Do New York}

Last month, on the way to a family reunion in Oregon (think Parent Trap + red wine), I stopped by NYC for a few days at my Uncle's. While he was hard at work in the sweltering urban jungle, I spent my days pottering around the city. Eight hours of walking each day punctuated only by refreshment breaks left me a broken (but very happy) girl. The problem with New York is that for every place recommended to you, there are ten others that you stumble upon on the way. Or rather, I'd say, that is the beauty of the city that never sleeps..

Eat: The Standard Grill, 848 Washington St  

My first day in New York, I was rudely awakened by jet lag at 5 in the morning. Not one to miss an opportunity to explore the city before it was hit with heat & tourists alike, I jumped straight on a ferry (I was staying in Weehawken, NJ) & sailed across the Hudson to Manhattan. The best commute I've ever experienced! To work up an appetite I took a walk along the High Line. I won't lecture you with its history because just about everyone now knows that the Highline is a disused train track turned park/walkway. You can jump on at various different points at street level and walk up and down the 3 mile length, taking in various art installations and beautiful flowers along the way.

My insomnia paid off because the High Line had just opened for the day so I avoided the many tourists who visit this now must-see destination (yes I know I am one myself). Instead, I shared this little serene gem with commuters looking for a change of pace & a little peace. Off to the sides, on wooden decking, were early morning stretchers and sun worshippers. I can imagine it would be the ideal setting for a little AM yoga - very zen.

Eventually I made it to one end of the High Line, in the trendy Meatpacking district (be sure to check it out). My expensive taste & I serendipitously wandered into The Standard Grill, not knowing that it's part of one of the trendiest (and probably most expensive) hotels in the areas, complete with a beer garden and exclusive rooftop club called Le Bain.

I got out of the heat and settled into a table for one inside the stylish conservatory restaurant. First day of a holiday in NY, I had to order the pancakes or else bring shame upon my country! Of course, I went for a little extra Nutella on top, as if the maple syrup wasn't already sweet enough. Representing England, I ordered a pot of English breakfast, sat back & took in my surroundings! An absolutely perfect order if I say so myself), it hit the spot and was the perfect accompaniment to people watching. I definitely rated my breakfast better than the SALAD that a business man opposite me ordered - at 9 in the morning! Oh, New Yorkers.

The waiters are closet hipsters dressed up in eccentric uniforms, whilst the hostesses look like they have stepped straight off the runway. No Nutella pancakes for them! The XX played out the speakers whilst tattooed beards charmed their breakfast dates. Do go there if you're in the area (and even if you aren't)!

Drink: The Frying Pan, Pier 66 Maritime, W. 26th St

Everyone I met in NY was buzzing about The Frying Pan. It's a historic boat which, rumour has it, was salvaged from the ocean floor after 3 years 'under da sea.' It's rough and ready exterior combined with cheerful (but not cheap) burger & beer menu means there's a whole mix of people there - from preppy city boys to older boat-lovers and tourists alike. I met an old friend (a drinking partner from Zanzibar) & we dove straight in and ordered a bucket of coronas. The perfect way to wile away a sunny NY afternoon if you ask me!


One issue: seating. Everyone has cottoned on to this waterfront gem with great views of New Jersey, so it is PACKED! The swelteringly heat and it being a weekend certainly didn't help. We parked up in over-sized flower planters which was fine, but i'm sure if you time it correctly you can nab a table before the locals arrive. If you're extra lucky, you'll get a seat on the observatory deck upstairs.

Ps. One bucket of beers later, we escaped the crowd and headed (wobbled) to the Meatpacking district for this little rooftop sanctuary. The Gansevoort (above) even has its own pool, a rarity in NY. Come evening, though, it opens up to the public (or those who will pay for the crazy expensive drinks) with a pool-side DJ party. I'd recommend it for one drink with a killer view, but any longer and you'll be sleeping on the sidewalk & eating out of trashcans! 

Do: The Circle Line, Pier 83, W. 42nd St

I'll let the photos do the talking on this one, suffice it to say that The Circle Line boat tour is a must for any visitor to NY. Saying that, my native uncle takes everyone who stays with him and he's still not bored! Tips? 1. Get there early to avoid queues 2. Go in the early evening so the sun sets as you go past The Statue of Liberty (plus her flame is all lit up) 3. Grab a spot on the deck upstairs on the right side so you have the best views on the boat's return 4. Make sure you order (copious) hotdogs & coronas in true NY style! Without further ado...

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