5 places to visit in Northern Italy

Ok. I get it now. Italy is as magical as they say! Few countries pack so much beauty and romance in every meter of land, and I’ve only seen 5 places in northern Italy. It’s not just the food, landscape or the beautiful people – but the ‘dolce far niente’ vibe. This doesn’t mean that people aren’t working hard; they just do it right, they live right. That’s the closest I can form a definition of what Italy felt like to me.

It was my first visit there. I landed in Milan on a Saturday evening, totally ignoring my flight anxiety and taking photos like a mad woman of the beautiful lakes and mountains I could see so perfectly from above. I knew straight away I was going to love this country. All I could hear in my head over and over again was: ‘Feliciataaaa! La felicitaaa! (a popular 70s song by Albano and Romina Power. Those from Easter Europe will be very familiar with these names.)

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Milan, but we did, of course, see the famous Cathedral – Duomo di Milano. It was busy and taking a photo of it without a sea of people with cameras and phones was impossible.

We decided to take the train to Lake Como the next day – I’m much more into nature, water views and pretty landscapes than big cities, these days. Living in London takes its toll on people.

What a great decision that was! You can take a ferry from Como San Giovanni, all the way to Bellagio – it takes two hours and stops at every little port, showcasing different parts of the lake. It was amazing, I took at least 200 photos and it was still hard to capture the true colours of that overwhelming beauty! Here’s a selection – took me an hour to narrow it down to these, and they have not been modified at all!

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Lake Como

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Lake Como
Bellagio Port
Bellagio Port
Bellagio Port
Bellagio Port

We took the fast train to Verona the next day, enjoying the comfort of the Frecciarosa and individual sockets – so badly needed when you’re trying to Instagram every second in Italy.

Verona is small, incredibly pretty and very romantic! It’s perfect for long strolls, loving promises, whispers on the bridge and sunsets…beautiful sunsets.

It was my favourite, probably because I’m a romantic at heart…but also because it was the ideal combination of old and new, nature and urban, not too busy, and you can walk everywhere…

VERONA

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Porta dei Borsari
Porta dei Borsari
Piazza Erbe
Piazza Erbe

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Piazzale Castel San Pietro
View from Piazzale Castel San Pietro
Piazzale Castel San Pietro
View from Piazzale Castel San Pietro
Piazzale Castel San Pietro
Sunset from Piazzale Castel San Pietro
Piazzale Castel San Pietro
Sunset from Piazzale Castel San Pietro
rooftop terrace Piazzale Caster San Pietro
Snack from rooftop terrace Piazzale Caster San Pietro

Fifteen minutes by train from Verona is the stunning Lago di Garda – the highlight of my trip, as I got to take my first swim of 2016! The word of the day was: WOW. And you’ll soon understand why…

LAGO DI GARDA

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Lago di Garda
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Lago di Garda

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Finally, we packed our bags again and headed over to our last destination – Bologna. A bigger, busier city – with lots of trams and no underground, like most of the country, obviously. (it’s because of the excavations and ruins) But with a very specific charm, lots of crammed houses, on different levels and of lots of beautiful, warm colours. There are two tours guarding Bologna and we climbed 498 stairs to the top of the highest ones. I had to confront my fear of heights and I feel rather proud to say I made it, even after I nearly went back when I looked down once while climbing those many wooden! stairs.

The view though… worth every drop of sweat, butterfly in the stomach and vertigo sensation! See for yourselves.

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View from Asinelli Tower
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View from Asinelli Tower

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Now, to sum it all up, here’s a list of top 5 things I enjoyed and would recommend:
  1. Lake Como – 50 min regional train journey from Milan Central Station – only 6 Euros (one way). Take the ferry from Como San Giovanni to Bellagio. Then take another ferry at the end of the day from Bellagio to Varena, and take the train back from there to Milan. That way, you don’t need to go all the way back to San Giovanni.
  2. Ponte Pietra and Ponte Scaligero in Verona
  3. Piazzale Castel San Pietrothe most beautiful spot for a panoramic view of the city – you can access it via the stairs very near the Roman Theater Museum. At the top, the view is breathtaking, and there is a terrace and restaurant there with the most delicious Aperol Spritz and food.
  4.  Lago di Garda – Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. 15 min train journey from Verona Central Station – you can sunbathe and swim in the lake, while looking at the mountains and blue skies. Priceless!
  5. Asinelli Tower in Bologna – the tall tower where you then get to admire the whole city

Don’t buy a bus pass for Verona, unless you’re travelling from the train station to the city center, that’s probably the longest journey you’ll take. There’s a Verona Card – which gives you access to all attractions and is also a bus pass for 24 hours. Here are a few places to tick from your list:

Castelvecchio and Ponte Scaligero (Stone castle and stone bridge, dating from the 14th century)

Piazza delle Erbe – restaurants, a beautiful fountain and murals.

– Piazza Bra and the Roman amphitheater

Chiesa di Sant’Anastasia

– Torre dei Lamberti

Teatro Romano 

Porta dei Borsari (ancient Roman gate, dating from the 1st Centura AD!)

All in all, go visit Italy, again and again. Drink espresso, eat lots of past and drink Aperol spritz responsibly! (hmmmm) I’m already planning my next trip – to the Amalfi Coast.

Ciao, darlings!

 

Norway – A story of sea-kissed mountains and ridiculous excitement levels – Part 2

Ok, let’s get down to business, here’s what you should do if you decide to visit this part of Norway – and you should! This is just what I discovered so far, but there is much more.

  1. Preikestolen hike (to the Pulpit Rock)
  2. Kayaking/Sailing or other water sports (when it’s not too windy!)
  3. Kjerag bolten hike (that boulder stuck between the mountains)
  4. Troll’s tongue (further up north – didn’t get there yet, but it’s on my list for next time)
  5. Stavager city
  6. Walks on the coast

Preikestolen

I’m going to copy-paste this short description from Google and then I’ll give you my take on it.

Preikestolen or Prekestolen (English: Preacher’s Pulpit or Pulpit Rock) is a famous tourist attraction in the municipality of Forsand in Rogaland county, Norway. Preikestolen is a steep cliff which rises 604 metres (1,982 ft) above the Lysefjorden. Atop the cliff, there is an almost flat top of approximately 25 by 25 meters (82 ft × 82 ft).

Now, let me tell you something… THIS ROCK ROCKSSSS!! When I reached it, after a 2-hour hike, my breath literally stopped when I peaked towards the bottom, where that beautiful turquoise sea was cutting through the mountain. I think I said ‘Wow’ and ‘Oh my God’ at least 50 times… hahaha.

I was actually on my own when I got there, so it was a bit weird talking to myself, but hey, who cares??

The view is like a glimpse into heaven. It takes all your worries away, and the tiny world you create in your mind to survive your petty daily routine is wiped out by a feeling of awe and overwhelming joy.

I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the hike! I had to excuse my excitement a few times towards tourists looking at me taking photos with all devices and shouting at Ricky and Ian ‘Guys, take a photo here! and here! Come on. Oh my God, look at this!’ Someone said to me at one point ‘If you get so excited here, what are you going to do when you reach the top?’. I don’t know?! Faint? Silly tourists… 😛

The hike is challenging but pleasant, dramatic at points, filling your lungs with fresh air, cooling you with waterfalls and quick rain showers, surprising you with the sunshine when those warm rays start peaking from behind the clouds… It’s absolutely stunning all the way through and anyone can do it!

Once you get to the top, this big plateau hanging above the sea looks scary, but step by step you get closer, take in the views, become braver and then you capture some of the most palm-sweating photos.

I admit I wasn’t brave enough to sit on the very edge, but I got close enough! Still battling some anxiety and fear of heights, but I will conquer these fears next time!

We spent about an hour or so at the top, having a quick picnic and fooling around. But I will let the photos do the talking now.

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Below is the view from the bottom, when we took the boat through the fjord to get to the Kjerag Bolten. That poking platform you see at the top is where the earlier photos were taken. Yep. Crazy!

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Norway – A story of sea-kissed mountains and ridiculous excitement levels – Part 1

FINALLY! A reason to blog – inspired be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life.

When my good friends Ricky and Ian suggested we take this trip, I heard ‘Norway’ and thought of a city break. Little did I know that they planned a whole array of adventures and activities. Yes, they did warn me to pack gym clothes and comfortable shoes – but I imagined just a little walk here and there and then wasting time in the old city center, sipping wine and enjoying fresh sea food.

Let’s just say I had to buy hiking shoes and woolly socks on the way to our first adventure to the Preikestolen, due to my disbelief of this being an active escape, instead of a city break. For the first time, I didn’t organise the trip or any of the details and gave up control…for a short while 🙂

To get to our destination, we flew from London to Stavanger, then took the ferry to Tau, and we drove from there to Idse (in the Joperland district). Idse is a beautiful island village with dramatic views towards the sea-kissed mountains, scattered cute houses and fields of green barley.

When I caught a first glimpse of our cute wooden cabin, I couldn’t believe how pretty it was! And then I realised  we were going to spend five blissful days on that porch, relaxing in the rustic lounge, sipping tea, making fires and looking at the unspoiled scenery. ‘Perfection’, I thought to myself!

As it was Sunday afternoon when we got to the island, the supermarkets were closed and there were no restaurants in the area. We had brought just snacks and sweets. When I say ‘we’ I mean Ian and his parents, as you probably know I like my healthy food. The house owner left us some essentials which included: rice, sausages, butter, eggs, cheese, bread and marmalade. So we had to make dinner out of that! Here’s a snap shot of ‘Rice sausages a la Ricky with a fried egg’. Mmmmmmmm

Oh, I forgot to tell you that, when travelling with an English family, MILK for tea is a vital necessity. Luckily, Norway is known for its many farms and milk production…so we went on a mission to find milk. And we did – on a farm near by, where we also found this football-loving dog and the nicest neighbours who gave us the milk for free. I also had a go at ushering the cows inside the barn.

This video pretty much sums up the first day on the island and my ridiculous excitement!

The interesting thing about Norway in the summer is that it doesn’t get dark, until after midnight. The temperature varies between 10-20 degrees Celsius throughout the day, and for me, that is ideal 🙂 You can hike, run, walk without sweating like a … cow? We took full advantage of the long summer hours and made barbecues, sunbathed and enjoyed the simple island life.

TO BE CONTINUED

Oxford on a rainy day – Foodies Festival

Despite a rather rainy day this Sunday, we went to Oxford for the Foodies Festival and regretted nothing.

From spiraled potatoes on a skew, to the biggest Persian wrap I ever had, Prosecco bars and coconut water, there was a lot to stuff your face with.

I started with olives – big, juicy, marinated olives.

Then moved on to the Persian wrap, packed full with fresh vegetables, hummus, more olives and beautifully cooked lemon chicken. It went down a treat with a glass of Rioja rose wine.

To my surprise, there weren’t many sweets and bakery goodies around. I was slightly disappointed, but pleased there weren’t more temptations to influence my waist line.

The best thing I took away from the festival was in fact a leaflet from this amazing company that delivers fresh organic produce to your door. You would think it’s super expensive and that they charge for delivery. The answer is ‘no’ to both questions.

Check out Riverford Organic Farms.  I can’t wait to order my first box of veg and fruit! (this isn’t a sponsored post or anything. I just get super excited about organic produce)

Once we were all fed up (pun intended) we went for a walk through beautiful Oxford. I made a quick stop at LUSH and got myself a deliciously smelling body scrub and a naturally hydrating face mask.

And we ended our day on a city rooftop, with cocktails and cupcakes. By this point I stopped taking photos, it was time to enjoy the view.

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A summer day in Brighton

Sit back, relax and enjoy! And that is what I just did this Saturday, after a particularly stressful week in London.

Brighton was superb, like a true British seaside town.  It’s my second time visiting, but this time the sun and incredibly high temperatures made everything feel even more special!

We sunbathed, stuffed our faces with ice cream and fish and chips, then tried to burn some calories by walking along the beach, up and down the beachfront, and across the Brighton Pier.

A good day was had by all!

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Brussels with a touch of Bruges

I took a trip to Brussels in May and loved every second of it. As you might have guessed by now, I am a foodie. In fact, my favourite part about travelling is getting to eat in lots of new places and experience new dishes.

That is how I discovered the most delicious beef stew, Carbonnade a la Flamande, which my boyfriend and I savoured in the coziest, most low-key restaurant in Bruges (Nieuw Walnutje). I remember it being particularly cold that day, and this comforting dish was all I needed to feel warm and happy again.

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Carbonade a la Flamande, Bruges
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Nieuw Walnutje restaurant in Bruges

While we’re talking about food, I need to recommend one of the best breakfast places in Bruxelles: Peck 47, Rue Marche Aux Poulets 47, Brussels, Belgium. This place has all my ideal breakfast/brunch meals accompanied by the yummiest and healthies smoothies and juices. Do not miss a chance to go check it out!

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Below are some highlights of Brussels, through my eyes lens.

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You must not miss the Maison Antoine frites, as they are the best in town!

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Maison Antoine, 1, place Jourdan, 1040 Bruxelles (Etterbeek)

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Delirium is one of the most famous places in Brussels. Apart from the fact it sells over 400 types of beer, it has a cool vibe that suddenly makes you feel alive and ready to party. And I am definitely not a fan of clubbing or partying. But there was something special about this place!

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You cannot go visit Brussels without trying some local mussels and sea food paella. However, you will be overwhelmed with choice. I can’t recommend a particular place, but do bear in mind some of them offer rather mediocre dishes.

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Day trip to fairy tale Bruges

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World famous Belgian waffles! Word of caution: don’t pick the cheap 1 Euro waffles they sell on the streets, do some research into proper, authentic waffle houses in Brussels. We had the most amazing fresh waffles in Bruges, at Missault.

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