A Grand English Vacation: How to Spend a Perfect Week in Cornwall

Wild, rugged, windswept, and heart achingly beautiful, the Cornish coast located on England’s south western tip is a magical place.

Highlights of our time in Cornwall:

  • Taking in the sweeping panoramic vistas, and pretending to be characters from Poldark gazing wistfully and passionately at the sea (Brad was such a sport)
  • Hiking the coastal paths and countryside lanes
  • Cream teas! Freshly made warm scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream
  • Exploring the beaches, coves and tiny thatched roof villages of the Lizard Coast
  • Strolling the enchanting St. Ives town and and visiting 13th century pubs
  • Eating fish & chips with gravy and pies while dangling our feet over the harbor
  • Delicious breakfast at our B&B, drinking tea and eating shortbread while listening to the waves crash outside our room
Porthgwarra Meadow
Dreamy Porthgwarra cove (Also known as the place where Demelza spies Poldark skinny dipping :D)
As I mentioned in a previous post, Cornwall is my heart song. As a huge fan of Masterpiece Theatre’s Poldark, the Cornish Coast has been a destination I have been dreaming about for years, the haunting landscapes and English countryside calling to me to explore. This summer we were lucky enough to visit for an entire week, as part of our  6 week travels and I cannot stop day dreaming about this glorious place. If you have not been, and are a fan of the UK, put this on yo’ bucket list. It is one of my favorite places in the world.
St Ives Harbour
St. Ives harbor
Coastal Hike To Zennor
The coastal path to the village of Zennor – sweeping views about 10 minutes into the walk!

The Itinerary

As a huge Poldark fan, there were several must sees for me:

Kynance Cove: where they shot Poldark’s beloved ancestral home Nampara

The Lizard Coast and Land’s End: breathtaking panoramic views where the lands meets the sea. Boasts Polpeor a fantastic clifftop cafe

Porthgwarra: a dreamy, golden cove

Porthcurno: a gorgeous beach with sparkling azure waters in Penzance

Cadgwith: a tiny fishing village along the Lizard Coast

Gazing out to sea Poldark Styles
Porthgwarra Cove – gazing out to sea, Demelza styles
Nampara, Lands End Cornwall
Of course we had to brave the weather to hike to Nampara! Felt like we were at the end of the world.
Porthgwarra Poldark Territory
Porthgwarra Cove – Straight up Poldark country. This is the cove where Demelza spies Ross going for a swim, and also the pilchard scene where all the townspeople rush into the sea!
The hikes in Cornwall are outstanding and varied – filled with sweeping cliff top vistas, crashing waves, rolling mist, turquoise waters, flower filled meadows and winding country paths.
Cornish Country Lane at Land's Inn
Cornish country lane at Land’s End
Nampara, Cornwall
Yes, the Lizard Coast was every bit as windswept and rugged as it looks. 
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Porthcurno Beach – Look at the color of that water!
Cadgwith: We hiked a windy little path to get to this tiny fishing village with its thatched roof cottages and cascading wildflowers. Cadgwith felt like every British novel I have ever loved come to life. We stopped at the local pub, The Cadgwith Cove Inn, and sat by the fireplace for a hearty lunch.
Porthgwidden Cornwall.jpg
Am…am I in a Dicken’s novel?!
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Idyllic Cadgwith. I mean….look at this place! My Jane Austin, Elizabeth Gaskell, Agatha Christie and Dickens loving soul is in heaven.
The holiday seaside town of St. Ives, filled with pirate lore and full to bursting with English charm was the perfect home base. We took a train from London to St. Ives, and the view was outstanding. The trip lasted about 5 hours. We then rented a car for two days so we could explore a few must see sights in Cornwall. I suggest booking online for the best offers.
Well, Hello St. Ives!
Hello St. Ives – I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you!
Brad and I had a fabulous time eating seafood take away on the harbor, playing in the kitschy arcade (I am weirdly good at guitar hero, Brad is excellent at skeeball), watching the gulls, nibbling scones and tea and sipping Prosecco at beach cafes while watching the sun emerge from behind the clouds to light the Atlantic glittering turquoise.

Where to Eat

Olives for Cream Tea: An absolute MUST when visiting Cornwall, Olive’s Cream tea is comprised of freshly baked blueberry scones served with jam and Cornish clotted cream. Also served with a steaming pot of Early Grey tea.  Note: You are encouraged to pile your jam and cream as high as possible. I feel like I really nailed this tradition. 
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Cream tea – a must have while in Cornwall! I dream about these daily.
Sloop Inn: Built in the 1300s, this is a straight up pirate bar and I absolutely adored it. I just KNOW pirates smuggled items here. They also have live music.
Where to eat: There is no end to fabulous places to eat in St. Ives. Our favorites were The Balancing Eel for takeaway fish and chips, gravy and pies. We visited this place at least twice and had a wonderful time dangling our feet over the harbor, eating fish & chips and listening to the gulls hoot and shuffle shiftily around us. 

We also really enjoyed The Rum Shack, Porthminster Beach Cafe for drinks and churros,  and Hub for excellent fried chicken sandwiches perfect for splitting.

Coastal Hike to Zennor 2
Hiking the coastal path to Zennor – Glorious views about 10 minutes into the walk!
Cornwall Coastal Hike.jpg
The coastal path to the ancient town of Zennor. *Note: we made it about 1/3 of the way there, before turning back for a cream tea break.* But, if you hike the full route you end up at The Tinner’s Arms. We just drove there.
We stayed at Tregony Guesthouse, and this B&B was a dream come true. Before visiting Cornwall I knew exactly the type of place I wanted to stay at – scrumptious breakfasts and huge picture windows with sweeping views of the ocean.  An adorable British couple ran the B&B, and made the most delicious made to order breakfasts. When visiting Cornwall, I suggest staying at a B&B if at all possible to heighten the English seaside experience.

 

I plan to return to Cornwall again and again. Something about this part of the world speaks to me, calls to me from across the oceans to come visit, come explore.
Porthgwarra Phone Booth
Yeah, we found the phone booth at Porthgwarra. Shenanigans Cornish coast styles

 

Cornwall St Ives Town.jpg
St. Ives harbor panorama

Upcoming blog post – 1 week in Australia!

 

Ubud Travel Guide: Jungle Villas, A Sacred Monkey Forest & Rice Terraces Galore

How do I begin to describe my all-encompassing love for Bali?! Ubud, particularly stole my heart. Gorgeous, lush, spiritual and enchanting, Ubud was a fabulous introduction to Southeast Asia.

Highlights of our Ubud Adventure:

  • Strolling the rice terraces and taking in the glorious, expansive views
  • Hanging out with monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest
  • Exploring the temples and learning about Balinese Hinduism
  • Luxurious massages and jungle flower baths
  • Swimming in the infinity Pools
  • Scootering around the rice terraces, town center and surrounding villages
  • Drinking fresh fruit juices, smoothies and cocktails! (I’m looking at you pineapple & coconut)

As our time in Germany came to an end, we wanted to make a last hurrah, and take the long way around to San Francisco. We decided to spend a month in Bali, Australia and New Zealand. In the midst of preparing for an international move, saying goodbye to friends and celebrating Brad’s graduation, I was frantically planning this month trip to the Southern Hemisphere, and I loved every minute of it! I planned a week in Bali, a week in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand. I easily could have spent a month in each of these jaw droppingly wonderful places, and fully intend to return as soon as humanly possible.

Alright back to topic – beautiful, beautiful Bali!

How to Spend a Week in Beautiful, Breathtaking, Bali

Bail Rice Terraces.jpg
Tegalalang Rice Terraces

We began our Bali adventure in Ubud, a small village in the middle of the rain forest, filled with expansive rice paddies, a sacred monkey forest, temples, a deep spirituality,   fresh fruit & juices at every turn and one of the most beautiful cultures I have experienced. I was completely enthralled. I would return to Ubud in a heartbeat.

We found our jungle villa on AirBnb for 50 bucks, I know. We were served a tropical breakfast on our deck each morning, including dragon fruit, mango, pineapple, an array of Indonesian options and strong coffee by the most welcoming staff. We arrived in the evening around twilight, and when the owner walked us down the winding steps to our rain forest property I gasped!

 

We rented a scooter for a very minimal expense – seriously, less then 5 bucks a day, which I highly recommend to get around Ubud. I have heard that some Eastern Asian countries can be a very intense experience navigating on a scooter, (looking at you Thailand) but Ubud by scooter was low key and the perfect way to explore the island.

Strolling The Tegalalang Rice Terraces – Views for Days

Our first full day in Ubud, we headed right for the famed rice terraces. Coming straight from Germany in February, Ubud was so ridiculously balmy, exotic and tropical it felt like a practical joke!

Ubud Bali Tegallang Rice Paddies.jpg
This is happening!

After our stroll through the rice paddies, we headed to one of the open air restaurants surrounding the paddies for an expansive, mind boggling view and a drink.  We listened to the soft pop music playing, sipped our juices and felt the light breeze through the palm trees. This was the Ubud of my dreams.

 

Ubud Bali Rice Paddies Drink Break!
Drink break with a view! * After TWO German winters my soul needed this you guys*

*I had intended for this to be a hike through the rice paddies, but Ubud in March is sultry AF, so I would highly suggest you plan on a stroll, as this is the best way to experience the lushness.

Oh, the fruit in Ubud. I am a huge sucker for tropical fruit and Bali ranks up there with some of my favorite countries. (Why is fruit in the Southern Hemisphere so much better?!) Bali boasts dragon fruit, and massive mangos and fruit I have never heard of including the crinkly, scaly, snake skin fruit – shown below.

Ubud Bali Fruit
Tropical fruiiiit stand – Tegalalang!

Exploring the Sacred Monkey Forest – Ancient Temples and Monkey Fun!

Oh you guys – I was so excited to visit this forest. This has been a fantastic monkey sighting year for me. First we played with squirrel monkeys (my most favorite of all!) in Cape Town, then we saw baboons and vervet monkeys at Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Game Reserve in South Africa and now the forest. WIN!

The Sacred Monkey Forest is filled with ancient Balinese Hindu temples and Balinese long tailed monkeys scampering about the place, enjoying their monkey lives. Picture this: mother’s cuddling their babies while flipping from tree to tree, monkeys rolling about and playing with their toesies, monkeys lounging on top of ancient elephant sculptures. They were mischievous and delightful and hilarious. These monkeys were well cared for, well fed, safe and healthy.

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Monkeys and ancient elephant sculptures – does it get any better?
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Monkeys are so expressive! Look at this little guy. He is just so EAGER.
Ubud Bali Brie in Monkey Forest
Just looking for monkeys in the 700 year old scared forest full of temples.
Ubud Bali Monkey with Monkey Friends Sacred Friend.jpg
Do you think this little guy sits here thinking… I come here to visit every day and they never EVER talk to me!
Ubud Bali Beautiful Monkey Sacred Forest
The macaques are revered and cared for as part of the spiritual life of the temples.
Ubud Bali Monkey Forest Catepillar Goddess
Balinese Hindu Sculpture. I love this. She is so joyful.

Exploring Temples and Falling Love with Balinese Hinduism

Balinese Hinduism was one of the most beautiful and soul nourishing religions I have experienced. The connection Balinese people have to the natural world around them is inspiring. I was completely enchanted by this compassionate culture.

Ubud Bali Brie on Stairs Gazing at Temple
In awe of Saraswati Temple in Ubud – Balinese Hinduism is pure magic
Ubud Bali Hindi Elephant Goddess Sculpture.jpg
Stumbled upon this beauty at an art galley – notice the jungle creeping through the windows in the background. Ganesh, the elephant God, is covered in marigolds – flower offerings to the Gods is part of everyday life in Ubud.

The daily flower offerings to their Gods was one of my most favorite parts of Ubud town. Bamboo tray offerings full of delicate frangipanis, marigolds and other flowers along with an array of sweets and incense were placed around the village – in villas, on the steps of homes or storefronts. Our AirBnb Owner told us the Balinese people often make these offerings up to three times a day. The temples were filled with worshipers, and sculptures were robed in colorful materials and flowers. In Ubud, you can feel the way the Hindu faith permeates day to day life.

Ubud Bali Temple

 Massages, Aromatic Scrubs and Jungle Flower Baths

The massage we received at Bali Botanica was one of the best of my life. We booked a 90 minute massage, followed by an aromatic scrub, and a flower bath. When Brad and I walked into the spa and glimpsed our flower bath already prepared for us, set against the jungle backdrop we both gasped. IS THAT FOR US?!

Allow me to attempt to set this scene for you. The bath was filled with delicately scented silky flower petals, that filled the room with their soft aroma. We were given fresh ginger tea hinted with lemon and cinnamon, and we could hear jungle sounds from our bath. We even spotted giant blue butterflies and a jungle lizard while lounging, as I am the Queen of animal sightings: a tiny tortoise swimming amidst a herd of water buffalo in a watering hole in South Africa – I SEE YOU!

FUbud Bali Flower Bath Jungle View Close Up.jpg

Ubud Bali Brie Flower Bath.jpg

Jungle Infinity Pool

Ubud Jungle Infinity Pool
Jungle infinity pool – Padma Hotel

This beauty is the infinity pool at The Padma Resort. Bali is known for having some truly incredibly infinity pools, and while trip planning I found that the Padma Resort offered a pretty epic day pass to their infinity pool. For less than $20  Brad and I were given day access to the pool, 2 fresh fruit cocktails, and a voucher to enjoy afternoon tea which included all manner of yummies such as Balinese appetizers, scones, coffee, decadent caramel/chocolate deserts and fruit all with a brilliant view.

Ubud Bali Infinity Pool Cocktail Time!
Fresh pineapple coconut cocktail, OF COURSE

Ubud Bali Padma Infinity Pool

There was a rather intense tropical storm while we were lounging at the pool, so we opted to sit in the Jacuzzi, and check out the afternoon tea during the storm.

Balinese food – Fresh fruit, juices, and coconuts!

On our last day in Ubud, we spent our time lounging by our jungle pool, reading books, and leisurely exploring the village on our scooter. We discovered the most gorgeous little cafe called Dicarik Warung. with a panoramic view of the verdant rice paddies. We sat sipping our fresh coconut water, and pineapple juice, while watching Balinese cranes stroll softly through the rice paddies. It was so peaceful – we felt like we had discovered our own little private paradise in Ubud.

Ubud Bali Rice Plantation Warung Coconut!
Who me? No, I don’t like fresh coconut at all.
Ubud Bali Rice Plantation Warung Pineapple Juice and Coconut!
Fresh pineapple, lime and ginger juice (my new fav), and fresh coconut at the most gorgeous Warung overlooking a rice paddie 🙂 This place was pure bliss.

Bali offers a fantastic array of vegetarian meals and fresh fruit juices and smoothies. My very favorite were the pineapple, lime, ginger fruit juices, or the pineapple and mango smoothies. We could not get enough of them! I also loved all of the coconut water and fresh coconuts everywhere you looked. I found this delicious little place Abe-Do Warung, as a recommendation from the wonderful travel blog Bruised Passports. You sit on fluffy pillows lining the floors near your table, and the cafe is devoted to health and wellness. Warung’s can be found all over Bali and they are small family owned cafes and restaurants. They are typically budget friendly and a great option while dining in Bali.

Ubud Bali Veggie Heaven
Chicken with peanut sauce and rice. Salad with avo and carrots and beats and a citrus dressing.  After 18 months in southern Germany, I was so stoked for salad!

After our super healthy lunch, we spent time relaxing by our pool and then headed into town for happy hour! We sat in the courtyard of Oops restaurant, sipping our frozen mojitos, enjoying the breeze, and lazy Balinese evening.

Ubud Bali Frozen Mojitos
Frozen mojitos two-for-one happy hour! Easiest choice I’ve ever made.
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Town center Ubud

Nightlife:

Ubud has a pretty laid back night life scene. There are some great happy hour places on the main road Jalan Raya – we loved the 2/1 deals on frozen mojitos. We also had a lot of fun hanging out at the open air bars listening to live music.

Laughing Buddah Bar: Near the Monkey Forest. Great live music, yummy Balinese apps. Go later for dinner/drinks.

L.O.L Bar & Restaurant – Next door there is a fun open air café with live music is well. Caribbean and reggae music is the order of the day. Tasty, cheap chicken sate for dinner.

Ubud will live on in my dreams as the most magical and spiritual of places. I cannot wait to return! Next blog post – to die for sunsets and dreamy beach bars in Semniyak!

 

 

How to Enjoy Saint Petersburg in Winter – A Four Day Itinerary

Catherine's Winter Palace St Petersburg Russia

Our time in Saint Petersburg was a bit of a recovery period for us.  We outdid ourselves exploring gorgeous Moscow and the constant snow coupled with the frigid 12 degree weather took its toll. I’m not ashamed to admit it, Russia kicked our asses. Well, it kicked my ass I should say. Brad as always, was fine. We rallied during our exceptional train ride from Moscow to Saint Petersburg however, and managed to get ourselves up and moving for an evening of sight seeing and a wonderful birthday dinner celebration.

Savior on Spilled Blood
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood

Savior on Spilled Blood

After running around the snow covered bridges/canals, and hitting a few major sights, we went for a fabulous birthday dinner at Katyusha, a traditional Russian restaurant off Nevsky Prospect.

Birthday Dinner Katyusha Russia
Birthday dinner Russian styles!

Designed to look like a 19th century cossack house, dining at Katyusha felt like being welcomed into the home of a Russian babushka in the mountains surrounding Saint Petersburg. Think – lace dollies, chintz , floral motif, and waitresses dressed in traditional garb. I am enamoured with Russian folklore and history, and felt transported. I ordered rosemary chicken with potato pancakes, mushroom cream sauce and sour cream. Note – everything is served with sour cream in Russia and I 100% support this practice. Afterwards, we sampled homemade Russian liqueurs  – cherry, cranberry and black currant, that were so surprisingly tasty we ordered two rounds!

Traditional Russian Birthday Dinner at Katyusha
Birthday meal!
Sampling homemade liqueurs at Katyusha, a traditional Russian restaurant in St Petersburg
Nostrovia!

Over the next few days, we spent a fair amount of time relaxing in our luxurious hotel room, reading books, watching movies, drinking fruit tea and eating Milka chocolate. We also managed to fit in some beautiful sights and wonderful bakeries.

Favorites Places And Must See Sights:

Palace Square

The location of bloody Sunday, which some historians say was a key event that led to the Russian revolution, Palace Square is a sight to behold. Stroll the grounds and let your imagination run wild with thoughts of  Andrei courting Natasha in the grand palaces, a fur clad Anna Karenina on a troika ride or Seyit & Sura strolling through the endlessly falling snow.

Catherine's Winter Palace St Petersburg Russia
Palace Square
Catherine's Winter Palace St Petersburg Russia
Catherine’s Winter Palace

Winter at Palace Square St Petersburg RussiaChristmastime Palace Square, St Petersburg Russia

Catherine’s Winter Palace & The Hermitage:

The Hermitage is fantastic – what an unexpected gem of art and splendor. Catherine’s Winter Palace houses the second largest art museum in the world featuring Da Vinci’s, Monets, Vermeers, Van Goghs, Renoirs, the list goes on and on. Also – Catherine’s rule and rise to Empress was legit fascinating. Coups! Betrayal! Murder!

Catherine's Winter Palace - Heading to the Hermitage
Catherine’s Winter Palace – Heading to the Hermitage
The Hermitage
The Hermitage Foyer
Hermitage sculptures, St Petersburg Russia
Sculptures lining the walkways in the Hermitage

Russian Cathedrals:

Saint Isaac and Kazan

Saint Isaac's Cathedral, St Petersburg Russia
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg Russia
Kazan Cathedral

Russian bakeries:

I am deeply obsessed with b;day cake eg: I dream about my birthday cake year around.  As this was my birthday week, and I knew I would not be able to find my favorite chocolate and buttercream frosting cake, we made it our personal mission to find delicious cakes around Saint Petersburg. We had so much luck with bakeries in Moscow, that I was super gung ho to try them in Saint Petersburg. I was not disappointed.

Russian bakery pastries, St. Petersburg
Hello, I would like to try all of your treats please.
Mouthwatering treats in St. Petersburg bakery
Bushe Bakery

 

Our fav: Bushe Bakery

After the bakeries, we decided to head out for some birthday drinks.  Our waitress from Katyusha had suggested a cozy cocktail bar. Filled with Russian professionals, one of whom helped us order, it felt very local. The bar served innovative drinks w/ fresh ingredients.  Brad ordered one of the best basil martini’s I have had in my life, second only to Lupe’s martinis, from St. Orres. You could smell the tangy scent of basil on the air, as the waiter carried us our cocktails.

Saint Petesrburg Cocktails - Basil martini and blood orange mimosa
Basil martini and blood orange mimosa (and vodkas, of course)

Train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg:

Russian trains are insanely, next level excellent. They offer complimentary food and drinks, plenty of leg room, coat racks, and announcements in Russian and English. Our train also included a very jovial (albeit intimidating looking) conductor who at one point offered to hold Brad’s coffee for him, showed us how to adjust our seats and even wished me happy birthday! The train was warm, spotless and offered gorgeous winter wonderland scenery – snow encrusted forests, and tiny Russian villages blanketed with snow. Top sights: we passed a frozen lake with a lone child sledding (pretty sobering experience) until we spied his dogs frolicking joyfully and wildly around him. Brad even spotted a fox!

Train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg bound

Where to stay:

The Domina Hotel. Luxurious canal side hotel.

How to pack for Russia:

ALL YOUR WARM CLOTHES. Seriously.  REI is my favorite store for cold weather clothes, and I bought the coat at a North Face in Germany. Merino wool base layer, Smart Wool socks, Uggs or other winter boots. Snow gloves. Fleece lined hat with a pom because they are the cutest, Arctic parka. There are times in your trip when you will still not be warm enough, but the experience is worth it. Trust me. And this is coming from a woman who was chilly in South Africa. In summer.

Next blog post – Road Tripping through the Scottish Highlands!

 

Best Moscow Eats: Cakes, Ukranian Food and Sour Cream on Everything!

I Love Cake:
This snug and cozy bakery was a total delight. Strung with wall-to-wall Xmas ornaments and twinkly lights, the pastel cafe serves gourmet hot chocolate adorned with fresh sugar cookies, homemade cakes and breakfast. And oh, the cakes – cinnamon and ginger bread and cream cheese and wild berry. While we sat perusing the massive menu, and watching the snow fall softly outside, Russian murmurings filled the cafe, as the scent of hot chocolate wafted through the air. I was in birthday heaven. The cafe features a variety of about twenty ornate cakes daily, and the baker’s descriptions were so luscious and detailed.  I literally stood in front of this display for five minutes while the baker described the ingredients in each cake – and what’s in THAT one?!?

Happy b'day to me! I Love Cakes in Moscow
Oh, this is happening. Happy b’day to me!
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Chocolate ganache, with layers of cream cheese and chocolate cinnamon frosting covered in berries
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Could this be any more cozy?!

Taras Bulba – Ukranian restaurant. Bustling, boisterous, full of warmth and good cheer.  Great, rich, comfort food – dumplings, chicken kiev, etc. * Note, they serve sour cream with everything!*  Features dancing and folk singing. The type of homey, heart-warming experience you are always hoping for when traveling. We had our Xmas dinner here, and this will live on in our memories as one of our most exotic and exuberant Christmas meals.

Bjorn – Decorated with pine needles and pine cones and reindeer antlers, this Nordic restaurant has a rustic yet modern charm. Ordered the mushroom cream soup, served with potatoes and crispy onions and a sparkling rosé Russian wine. (I didn’t even know Russia produced wine!) Served with a basket full of hearty brown bread topped with large flakes of sea salt, and home churned butter. Made me want to visit the Nordic countries. Located across the bridge from the Kremlin.


Mitzva Bar: Underground Jewish bar in Moscow – right next to Bjorn. Taking the winding staircase down to the bar feels like descending into the lair of a changeling. Massive crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling. Tell the bartender what flavors you like and he will create a cocktail for you. My specialized drink was lemon with Prosecco and a hint of something sweet – citrusy and fresh. Brad’s was…weird. He ended up ordering one of mine. We also ordered a Mediterranean plate with hummus and other dips served in an ornate silver platter. The hummus and olive tapenade were very tasty. There were several other dips that can only be described as overwhelming fishy – just straight fish slime and salt really.  Oh well, risk you must take when the entire menu is in Russian!

The Metropol: Iconic hotel, next to the Bolshoi. Order a stranger in Moscow and enjoy it in the grand lobby, while imagining Russian dignitaries, artisocrats and artists swanning about the place. Filled with twinkling xmas lights and gold gilded everything, a piano player adds to the ambiance. This mother of all cocktails is encrusted with ice, served with sugared blackberries, and a mini silver goblet filled with chocolates. The waitress will also bring snacks including some of the best giant olives I have tasted since since our trip to Greece.

Brooklyn Burger: I have to include this place, because the staff was so ridiculously friendly.  We arrived from a 20 minute walk down Arbat street absolutely freezing. Upon realizing that we did not speak a word of Russian, the waiter apologized that he had no English menus but would be happy to help us find something we would like, went though the entire menu with us and brought us two tasty burgers (chicken for me), and a pot of fresh brewed fruit tea. The first thing the waiter asked in a thick Russian accent – “Where are you from? I knew immediately you were not from around here, as you look like you are dressed for the Arctic, and it is not that cold.” Brad and I burst out laughing. (It’s 12 degrees outside! We are covered in snow. It’s COLD man! In what world is this not cold?) Then he proceeded to tell us about how, to celebrate his last birthday, he went to a cabin in the forest with friends, and when they tried to drive home, they discovered the oil had frozen in the car. “That was cold, he said, even for me.  Negative 40 degrees is cold.”

Next blog post: Four Days In Saint Petersburg!

Germany’s Most Gorgeous Xmas Market

The magical, gorgeous, Ludwigsburg Baroque Xmas Market, located in southwestern Germany is the stuff of which Christmas dreams are made.  I absolutely adore the holidays. I am the type of woman who will purchase her Xmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, so as to prolong the holiday season as long as humanely possible. This year, I did a tour of the German Christmas markets with friends, and I think the Ludwigsburg market was my absolute favorite. Glittering, towering angels with wings in flight literally greet you as you enter this fairy tale of a market. It took my breath away.

To make things even more magical, the first day I visited the market it snowed! Huge, silent, flakes gently swirled around us, dusting our shoulders as we sipped our gluwein and listened to the soft strains of German Christmas music. Situated between two illuminated baroque churches, and surrounded by ornate, pastel colored buildings, the setting is glorious. And as a bonus, the food was fantastic! Typically Xmas market food is not really for me as I don’t eat much sausage or sauerkraut or cream based dishes, but this place had some truly tasty choices.

Pretty much as soon as we arrived, I made a beeline for the langos. I discovered this delicious treat on a trip to Budapest last year, and I have not looked back since. Langos are the fast food of your dreams! This Hungarian street food consists of puffy, fried, steaming hot flat bread, topped with your choice of fillings. I chose garlic butter with cheese – because garlic butter and cheese. Other popular flavors include sour cream, cheese and paprika, or sweet toppings such as Nutella, etc. I fully intend to sample these babies when we head to Budapest for New Years!

During my first trip to Ludwigsburg with my friend Sarah, we also popped (read: ran full tilt) over to the Ludwigsburg Palace, also known as the “Versailles of Swabia.” It’s about a five minute walk from the Xmas market, but the day checked in at about 25 degrees, so we spent a super brief amount of time exploring the grounds. I will say the frigid temperatures and snow meant there was virtually no one out and about, so the palace was atmospheric AF, and really quite glorious. For a moment, it felt like we were in Paris!

I enjoyed the market so much, I returned with Brad yesterday evening. I really wanted to show him the breathtaking angels and the general splendor of the baroque market. (Also  – langos. Obvi. ) Today is the last day of the Xmas markets in our area of Germany, which makes me a little blue, as this is such a gorgeous, festive, truly special time in Germany. But we are headed to Russia and Hungary tomorrow, and I think that will be an incredibly different, exotic, winter wonderland vibe. I am wildly excited, and will post about the markets and our travels as soon as I return.

Nostrovia!

 

Have you been to any Christmas markets? If not, which countries would you like to visit?

 

 

 

 

The Great British Holiday: A Perfect Week in Cornwall

Cornish country lane Cornwall UK
Cornish country lane
Land's End Cornwall UK AKA Poldark's Nampara
Poldark’s Nampara – Land’s End
Coastal road to Zennor St Ives
Coastal road to Zennor
Nampara, Lands End Cornwall
Kynance Cove on the Lizard Coast

 

Wild, rugged, windswept, and heart achingly beautiful, the Cornish coast located on England’s south western tip is a magical place. Filled with sweeping cliff top vistas, crashing waves, rolling mist, turquoise waters, flower filled meadows, tiny fishing villages, and to-die-for cream teas, visiting Cornwall felt like being a part of every British novel I have ever loved. The holiday seaside town of St. Ives, filled with pirate lore and full to bursting with English charm was the perfect home base. I would visit every year if I could, and will most likely never get over longing for it. Some places have a way of working themselves into your soul, calling to you through the distances, in your dreams.  Cornwall is one of these places.

 

 

Brad Loves This Guy

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Cornish Hikes
Porthgwarra Meadow
Dreamy Porthgwarra
Cream Teas, St Ives
Cream Tea – homemade blueberry scones served with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream, served with a steaming pot of Earl Grey tea. Courtesy of Olive’s Tea Shop.
Path to Zennor, St. Ives
The coastal path to the medieval town of Zennor. *Note: we made it about 1/3 of the way there, before turning back for a prosecco, beer and/or cream tea break. Glorious views about 10 minutes into the walk!
St. Ives Day 1
Hello St. Ives! I’ve been waiting to meet you!
Coming up in my next post – our one week itinerary.

 

Tübingen Chocolate Festival: Sampling our Way Through Germany’s Largest Chocolate Market

Chocolate hedgehogs! Creamy, thick, hot chocolate served with Amaretto! Row upon row of Belgian Chocolates! This weekend, I went to the Chocolate Festival in Tübingen with friends, Germany’s largest chocolate festival, and it was pretty damn wonderful.

Founded in the 1100s, Tübingen is one of Germany’s most idyllic towns. Filled with cobblestone streets, half timbered pastel houses and glittering pine trees during this time of year, Tübingen is a magical place.

Checking in at about 35 degrees, it was definitely a brisk day in Tübingen, which served to enhance the Christmasy vibe. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this festival, but let me tell you, this was some of the most delicious chocolate I have had in my life. The chocolate hedgehogs from a Belgian stall were my absolute whimsical favorite, and I feel could have been perfectly at home in Harry Potter. Every chocolate we tried including the salted caramel truffles and chocolate mousse truffles were divine. The hot chocolate was much creamier  then in the U.S, think the hot chocolate from Chocolat (you know, Johnny Depp’s favorite drink), and served with Amaretto. They also had a stall with a deli display window full of breads, pizzas, salamis, eggs and other deli goods all made from chocolate!

We strolled the town sampling chocolates, and enjoying the buzz of the city. The festival is quite large, set in the main Marketplatz square, and filtering out to other side streets. We explored the castle and took in the beautiful views.

I am going to make this post short and sweet, as a friend of mine from college is visiting and I am desperately trying to get over a hideous cold, so that I can show her a great time in Germany!

The 2019 Festival will be held Dec 3 through Dec 8th.  If at all possible, I recommend visiting this during the week, as it is a very popular festival 🙂 It is an easy hour and a half train ride from Stuttgart.

How to Enjoy Dublin In Two Days

Ah, Dublin! During our five day trip to Galway, we spent the first and last days in Dublin, and let me tell you we managed to pack it all in. We arrived late the first evening, and after picking up our rental car, then stopping quickly at our hotel to drop of our baggage we headed to the temple bar area just before 10pm, and picked a cute pub for dinner called Quays. An extremely friendly waiter greeted us with a “hey lads, the pub is closing soon, but I can fit in your order quickly. Fish & chips sound good?” Brad and I didn’t even have to look at each other. “Yes please,” we said happily sitting down. Within ten minutes we had our piping hot fish & chips, cider and Guinness.

We heard some music playing downstairs, and decided to spend the evening sipping our drinks, people watching and enjoying the live music. We had an earlyish wake up call the next morning for our drive to Galway, and wanted to wake up fresh.

The Temple Bar area can get very packed,  by the end of the night it’s thronged with revelers – but the iconic area filled with brightly lit restaurants, pubs and bars should still be included on your itinerary.  Bonus – Temple Bar was ready for the holidays by the first of November!

Temple Bar
Temple Bar ready for Xmas!

After three days in wonderful Galway, we headed back to Dublin and hit the ground running. First we visited Trinity College’s The Book of Kells. The long room at the old library  is an absolute must for book lovers. Filled with high domed ceilings, spiral staircases and wall-to-books, I 100% spent my time there pretending I was in the library scene from Beauty & The Beast.

Next, we headed to the Molly Malone statue, an iconic Dublin statue based on the song of the same name. Dublin is an extremely walkable city, and about 10 degrees warmer than Galway, which I considered a big win.

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“In Dublin’s fair city where the girls are so pretty I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone”

After this, the wind began to pick up so we decided it was time for a drink. We stopped at The Long Hall, one of Dublin’s oldest pubs built in the 1800s, boasting wood paneling and plush red carpeting. We grabbed the only open seat, and promptly sat down to enjoy our drinks.

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Next, I have a confession to make guys. We had dinner at Five Guys. If you aren’t familiar, Five Guys is a California based burger joint, that serves the most delicious fast food. I usually eat about one burger a year, and try to eat the local cuisine while traveling, (one notable failure, looking at you Basque country), but if you’ve ever been into a Five Guys, once the scent of those perfectly salted fries hits your nose buds and overwhelms your senses, you are a goner. Anyway, we decided to relax and enjoy ourselves. Sometimes the most memorable parts of a trip can be something unexpected, like giggling in a diner while gobbling burgers in Dublin. During our trip to Cornwall this summer, after a day of hiking, we came back to our B&B early, opened the windows so that we could hear the crashing of the waves and read books in bed eating Scottish shortbread and sipping coffee.

Tom Hardy & Five Guys
Tom Hardy ad displayed at Five Guys. I mean, come on  😀

After our meal, the rest of our day was devoted to strolling, taking in a few sights,  trying out different pubs and just generally enjoying the city at our leisure.

We stopped at The Stag’s Head, a Victorian pub on the outskirts of Temple Bar with a local vibe and while waiting for our drinks were treated to a group of older gentleman speaking Gaelic! I was really hoping to hear some Gaelic while we were in Ireland, so this was a perfect end to the trip. I heard the jovial group erupt into laughter, and when I realized they were speaking Gaelic, I literally gasped. Pretty sure I clapped a little to myself as well. If you haven’t heard it before, Gaelic is guttural, throaty and extremely foreign. It sounds like a language Tolkien would have created and I was completely thrilled.

Are you planning a trip to Ireland? Where would you like to visit most?

The Cliffs of Moher – Day Trip From Galway

I visited Ireland for the first time about ten years ago, and have been dying to show it to Brad for some time.  I knew the warmth of the people, the welcoming Irish spirit, the dramatic landscapes and the stirring live music would steal his heart. And, I really wanted to show him the Cliffs of Moher. Sometimes, a must-see sight ends up being a bit of a let down (I’m talking to you Sintra), but the Cliffs are an absolute showstopper. We stayed in Galway, which is a completely doable 1.5 hour drive from the Cliffs. The drive is gorgeous, full of castle ruins, rushing rivers, tiny fishing villages, and pubs along the way. In short, it has everything you could hope for from an Irish road trip.

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Dunvegan castle

Doolin – Pub stop time!

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Cliffs of Moher
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We arrived to the Cliffs of Moher during a fairly intense wind, and that light sideways rain you expect from coastal cities. I’m going to be honest, tt was looking pretty frigid. But, we came to see the Cliffs and that was exactly what we planned to do. We took a deep breath, jumped out of the car, buttoned our jackets, pulled on our hats, wrapped our scarfs tight around our faces, and just went for it. Let me begin by saying, the view is incredible. The green, verdant cliffs, windswept plains and ruined castles, all make for a breathtakingly dramatic scene. This is why people fall in love with Ireland. I think we actually lucked out with the rain, because the weather meant far less people in all of our shots, and it wasn’t too terribly misty, so we still had some great views of the cliffs.

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Spent a fair amount of time gazing out to sea, pretending to be in a scene from Harry Potter – in the 6th film, The Half Blood Prince, Harry and Dumbledore apparate to a rock in front of the Cliffs
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Windswept but happy!

After running about the Cliffs, exploring the ruined castle, and chatting to the grazing cows, we decided to pop into a pub for a bite and a drink. Typically I look up several options for meal/pubs while planning a trip, but the neighboring town of Doolin, filled with brightly colored thatched roof pubs and shops is tiny, so I thought it might be fun just to pop into a place that looked enticing. (Spoiler alert: they all did). Situated across from a rushing river, Gus O’Connors Pub fit the bill completely.  We grabbed a perfect seat right in front of the fireplace, ordered a couple coffees, plus two plates of fish and chips, with mushy peas. I have not yet hopped on the mushy pea bandwagon, but I continue to try it in hopes that I may develop a taste for it. The piping hot food was served almost immediately, and hit the spot after our windswept time on the cliffs. We relaxed in front of the fire, enjoying the warmth of the flames and listening to locals chatting about their day in their thick Irish brogues.

The Cliffs are so spectacular, I could have spent hours hiking the area, stopping for a picnic, breathing in the views. If the weather had been warmer, we could easily have spent the day.

Have you visited the Cliffs of Moher? Did you love it as much as I did? What other parts of Ireland would you like to see?

Cheers!

Hello friends! I am so happy that you are here. I am a California girl at heart, currently living in Germany, while my hubby Brad studies for his MBA, and writes his thesis in the company headquarters.  I have the wanderlust and I have it bad, so when the opportunity arose to live abroad, we took it. My little vegetarian, tropics-loving heart is struggling a bit in this world of beer halls and meat and winters and lederhosen. But, I have learned to embrace the culture of this beautiful country and attempted to find my niche (spoiler alert – so far it has been found in bakeries and hiking vineyards and at the Xmas markets). Follow my search for the best donuts, (not often successful), the most delicious pastries, the most beautiful hiking trails, and the best glass of bubbly. Join me on my adventures as I travel Europe, and the rest of the world, with my husband and best friend in search of the whimsical and wild.

Cheers! Na Zdorovie! Egészségére! Salud! Twoje zdrowie! I try to learn a bit of each language every place I go. Mainly, my takeaways have been the word for cheers. So, cheers to you and away we go!