Why Porto should be on your next European itinerary!
Portugal is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe yet we rarely hear much about it. I was lucky enough to be able to travel there earlier this month to find out more about this history-rich destination. One of my favorite cities during the trip was Porto, which is jaw-dropping city. Today, I share the 5 things you must do while in Porto.
1) Visit the Sandeman Port cellars. Founded by the Scotsman George Sandeman in 1790, Sandeman Port is to this day, one of the most renown brands of Port wine around. You can visit their cellars on one of the many multi-language tours they offer. Furthermore, you can also learn about Sandeman via their little museum, go for a tasting or just simply enjoy a drink and snack on their outdoor patio bar.
2) Take a tour of the Livraria Lello bookshop. If you’re a Harry Potter fan than you’ll definitely want to add this stop to your Porto itinerary. The Livraria Lello is the infamous bookshop that author JK Rowling frequented in the 1990s, when she taught English in Porto and that eventually inspired her series of novels. The architecture and design of this bookshop is unlike any other!
3) Eat at Taberna D’avo. This restaurant located in the basement of a traditional Porto house offers rustic meals in a classic Portuguese setting. They serve some of the best local products in homemade recipes made from scratch. Yet, a table of 4 can eat a 4-course meal with wine for $60 Euros total!
4) Take a walk on the Ponte de Dom Luís I. The Ponte Dom Luís I bears a lot of ressemblance to the Eiffel tower. The bridge’s top and lower deck allow for fantastic views of the Douro river as well as its two shores – downtown Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. It’s a great sightseeing spot as well as great way to get to and from the central area of the city. Finally, there is also a tram line that crosses the top portion of the bridge for those not wanting to walk.
5) Cruise down the Douro River. Another great way to see some of Porto’s most beautiful architecture and sights is simply by hopping onto a “Rabela barcos”, one of their traditional boats, while enjoying some local Porto wine and learning about local traditions, history and so one. Most noteworthy is the fact that the cruises are available all day long and in several languages.
This small surf town is located in the northern part of the Côte Basque region of France. One of the things that makes the city so beautiful is its pine forest that makes up 10% of the city’s territory. The coast of Anglet contains 11 beautiful beaches that stretch 4.5 kms. The beaches are a top spot for local surfers and even members of the international surfing community. This summer, the first ever #ProAnglet surf competition was held Sables d’or beach, an WSL Qualification event. On the Anglet beachfront, you will find a variety of cute little shops, cafés and restaurants.
Downtown Anglet is also incredibly cute. You can feel the small-town relaxed vibe in this city but you’ll find everything you need. Anglet is where you’ll find the headquarters of local surf brand Oxbow, who are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. This rad brand once sponsored surfing greats like Laird Hamilton and now work with local groms.
If you like biking, you’ll be able to take their multipurpose path up and down the coast and the entire Basque region of France.
This little city is definitely a surfer’s paradise!
This city located just north and east of Anglet and is a cultural and historical haven. You may have heard of this place before due to its annual Fêtes de Bayonne, a 5-day celebration that starts on the first Wednesday of August and attracts people from all over Europe. People flock to the city to watch parades, dance, music, eat food and drink.
Bayonne is also where the famous “Bayonne Ham” originated from. The city also has a famous rugby team.
What makes the city so special, is its 17th century fortification and historic buildings. Some of the sights you’ll find in the city date back to the 12th century, such as their castle and their church. You’ll also see traditional Basque homes, with half-timbering and shutters in either red or green.
If you’re looking to learn about the local history, this will be your go-to spot!
This is probably the most famous and internationally recognized town of the Côte Basque. It’s renown for its surf and also its luxury. Many people compare this city to the Cannes of the southwest.
There is plenty to see and do in Biarritz. They’ve got a beautiful Museum of the Sea, they have two large casinos on the waterfront by the Grande Plage, the annual Biarritz Surf Festival, great shops and also fantastic restaurants like Le Clos Basque, that offers local Basque specialties.
There is also a real sense of community and youthfulness in Biarritz. There are many great up and coming local designer shops and businesses that can be found throughout the city.
This is a small fishing village that has been around since the 12th century. The arrival of the train in 1884 brought a lot of families and tourists area, looking to build secondary homes along the coast. A lot of these homes remain visible to this day. The village is now a destination for French surfers and also a great spot for longboarding. The marina still remains to this day and so does a lot of the local agriculture.
The village of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is located just a few minutes away from the Spanish border. The city’s wealth originated from its port but it also became well-known as a result of the wedding of Louix XIV and Maria Theresa, the Infanta of Spain in 1660 in the city’s church.
Today, it is a great spot to visit for those looking for great cuisine, sandy beach and traditional architecture. The Spanish influence can definitely be felt in this town, it’s a great place to get eat tapas. That said, it is also a great place to grab a traditional Gâteau Basque, which can be found in all the bakeries around town.
Well… after a lengthy day, 2 days of traveling, we finally made it to Europe. The 9 hours of jet lag definitely has me feeling a little funky but I knew that going to the ocean today would be the best thing to get me feeling energized again.
No surfing for today, just enjoying the lovely waves, the sun and the beautiful Côte Basque scenery. Some days, it’s nice to be a beach bum, I rarely get the chance to just lay by the beach so I’m making the most of it!
Excited to be heading to the #ProAnglet surf competition later this week. Got any recommendations for the Côte Basque? Send them my way!
1) Grab a coffee at Springsioux – One of the hottest concept stores in Paris is now serving coffee daily. Grab an espresso, latte or they’re own Sprinsioux special coffee while you browse through their beautiful shop, people watch or walk around Le Marais. Ste. Croix de la Bretonnerie is booming right now, with tons of new shops and restaurants in the area. You never know who you’ll bump into in that area.
2) Visit the National Museum of Natural History– If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, head over to the beautiful National Museum of Natural History, located across La Seine and from the 4th arrondissement. This 17th-century palace houses plants, animals and a HUGE collection of skeletons, fossils and more particularly dinosaur skeletons. It’s such a magical place because it’s nothing like current museums. The building itself is so unique and has such an old vibe. There’s also beautiful gardens and outdoor exhibits that are worth looking at. TheGreat Gallery Of Evolution was by far my favorite, see the incredible photos below!
3) Drink a Monaco at Les Philosphes – Les Philosophes is one of the most sought after bars in the Le Marais area for a post-work drink or appetizer on their terrace. It’s the best spot for people watching on the bustling Rue Vieille du Temple. They’ve got the best salads and appetizers. Be sure to grab a Monaco (a French drink composed of beer and grenadine syrup) or even a Picon bière while you’re there.
4) Jardin des Tuileries – This beautiful garden may be well-known by tourists but is still totally worth checking out. The gardens are located in the 1st arrondissement and is also in proximity to the Louvre Museum. The public garden was originally created by Catherine de Medicis in 1564 and was opened to the public in 1667. It’s beautiful all-year-round is a great spot for a picnic, a walk or just to sit down and enjoy the sights. It’s also great spot to observe the beautiful Parisian architecture.
5) Carnavalet Museum – Located in the 4th arrondissement otherwise known as Le Marais, since 2013 this lovely mansion is dedicated to the history of the city. The museum is located in the former Hôtel Carnavalet and Hôtel Le Peletier. You will find different collections spanning from the 13th century onwards past the French Revolution and up until the 20th century. I loved the mix of paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs that were present along with furniture, ceramics and decorations from the different eras. My favorite room was this golden room below, which was just stunning! Also, as an added bonus, the museum is FREE!
What are some of the things you love doing in Paris? Let me know 😀
Knee high socks are perfect for the beginning of fall. I love combining a comfy oversized shirt with a cute dress. Had the pleasure of checking out the amazing new The Kooples store while I was in Los Angeles last month. The Kooples is a badass rock n’ roll brand from France that I had the pleasure of discovering in Paris two years ago thanks to Offner. I love absolutely every piece the brand puts out. It’s the perfect combination of rock and dainty. I just couldn’t resist the amazing boots that I saw on display!
A lot of us have travel bucket lists, I certainly do and the following blog is dedicated to a destination that’s been in my top 5 travel destinations wish list for years. I was recently able to make that travel wish come true, when @offner (my faithful travel companion!) took me to Santorini for my big 3-0! NBD.
Santorini is as dreamy as it looks, sounds and as you’ve ever imagined it to be! The whole time I was there, I kept pinching myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming or looking at some fake backdrop. It’s really that breathtaking.
If you’re planning a trip to this enchanted place, may I recommend going between April and October? The rest of the year is considered the “off season” like many other destinations and a lot of the local hotels, shops and attractions are closed.
Also, if you’re flying in, consider flying with flyNiki, a division of Air Berlin that offers daily roundtrips to and from Santorini. They’re a super laid back decently priced Austrian airline. Their flight attendants all look like models and are dressed in jeans and a pink blouse and offer a variety of sandwiches and tasty drinks on your quick flight from pretty much anywhere in Europe.
Speaking of flying to Santorini, you’ll want to spend time on the rooftop patio at the Santorini airport. You get to pass security check and then they let you have some drinks and homemade food outdoors on a patio that overlooks the airport runway. You get to see up close the planes land and takeoff. Pretty special!
That said, here are my top 5 things to do when traveling to Santorini:
1) Rent a car. The best thing to do while you’re in Santorini is to rent a car and explore the entire island. Santorini is small enough that within a couple of hours, you’ll have been able to see the entire thing. Renting a car is > renting a scooter or 4×4 because it allows you to go everywhere and a lot quicker. Also, renting a car for the day is ridiculously cheap. A renter’s tip: the rental companies will try to charge you more for renting a Smart car (the most expensive car they rent!), a more powerful car, a convertible… but honestly all you really need is a basic standard car. A standard car is preferable because it’ll help you go up and down all the winding roads on the island. Also, take pics of the car you rent – any scratches, problems, etc. The car rental companies are really anal on car damage. You wouldn’t want to be charged for something you didn’t do yourself.
If you rent a car, go to Fira, Oia, Kamari and all the other beautiful and unique little villages on the island. Make sure you check out the Red Beach, White Beach and Black Beach, all beautiful and so different. The island also contains more than 250 churches, which are all uniquely decorated. Go up to the ruins that overlook the entire island! The lighthouse on the southern and most western tip of the island gives you a beautiful view of all Santorini.
By having a car, you’ll also be able to do all of this discovery at your convenience and spend as much time as you want in every place you go.
2) Eat the fresh local food. Seems obvious but Santorini has so much delicious local food. Most of the island is covered by wineries (who would have thought!) and their wine is pretty delicious and super cheap, like 3 Euros for a more than decent bottle. Most restaurants will offer you fresh fish of the day, that they will cook on an outdoor grill with locally grown fresh vegetables. If you drive around to the island, you’ll see that local residents have stands or small shops off the side of the road, where they sell you homemade products – jams, sauces, wine, as well as anything they’ve grown on their property. The spanakopitas and freshly made baked goods are HUGE and stuffed with flavour. Oh yea, and how could I forget the feta!! It’s everywhere and oh so yummy! We brought back some fresh olive oil and spices, which we’ve been using on salads since our trip. Nothing compares to fresh Greek olive oil!
A restaurant you absolutely need to check out: La Maison for unique and modern Greek cuisine with a French twist!
An insider’s tip when eating at a restaurant in Santorini: make sure you check the menu before sitting down because a lot of items tend to not be priced, don’t feel pressured to try everything they throw at you and don’t be surprised to pay for water and bread & butter, even if they make you feel it’s on them… You will have to pay for it!
3) Get a boutique hotel in Imerovigli. Though all of Santorini is absolutely magical, there are some areas where you’ll be less bothered by the 3000+ people coming off cruise ships every day to explore Santorini on their cruise day trip. Yes, that’s the one thing you can’t avoid in Santorini: Cruise ships!! And big ones too! Some days, you’ll wake up to 2 or 3 ships anchored down close to Fira. The advantage of being in Imerovigli is that a) you still get the dreamy view of the island b) you’re far enough that lot’s of these cruise ship passengers don’t walk all the way up to your hotel c) you’re far enough from the road so no you won’t hear any car traffic and noise.
A lot of these boutique type hotels have infinity pools, though tiny, they’re quite refreshing on a hot day on the island. All of these hotels are beautifully decorated, most of them also have private patios and serve yummy breakfast that you can eat while overlooking the island. Though Oia is also a popular spot, too many buses and organized tours bring people to that area all day long, and you would always be bombarded by others looking through your windows, taking pictures and getting in your business.
4) Go Surfing. Little did I know that you can go surfing in Santorini. I found a local surf spot totally by chance while exploring the island with our car (again, the advantage of renting a car!). We had seen a surf shop in Fira and had laughed thinking no one would be surfing in the area because the water is so calm but low and behold, they can get some pretty great swell in the Aegean Sea! What was amazing about this surf spot, was that it wasn’t crowded. It’s a black sand beach, with 10 or so locals catching waves and hanging out. You’ll find people surfing around Vourvoulos and Pori, not too far away from the island’s airport.
5) Catch a sunset! Duh! The best place to catch a sunset on the island would have to be in Oia hands down. Some people reserve their seats on restaurant patios as early as lunch time, and stick around all afternoon to make sure they don’t miss out on the sunset. If you don’t want to sit on a patio all afternoon, you can always try calling a restaurant if you want to make sure you get a table. Another option, is to go down to the water in Oia. Lot’s of people drive to the tip just to catch the sunset each night.
If you can’t make it to Oia, another option is to take a boat cruise. A lot of locals offer private or semi-cruises afternoon and sunset trips that include visiting the different beaches, swimming in the hot springs right beside the volcano and going to catch the sunset in Oia followed by a homemade dinner on the boat.
If that’s also not your jam, and you want to take it easy, I recommend any patio from Fira to Imerovigli or even using your hotel’s patio to enjoy the sunset. You might not get the same view as Oia but regardless, it’ll be one of the most magical moments of your life!
You may or may not have heard of the 1965 French hit song “Capri c’est fini” by Hervé Villard… Before going to Capri, @Offner kept singing it to me over and over again. It seemed like the song you absolutely had to know if you were going to visit this beautiful island in the south of Italy. I was lucky enough to be invited to a wedding in Capri at the beginning of June (hands down the most beautiful & romantic wedding I’ve ever been to, woah!) and here are some of the things I learned while I was there…
1) If you’re going to Capri, you want to take the Hydrofoil. What is the Hydrofoil you ask? It’s the quickest ferry boat you can take to get to the island from Napoli. They have three different types of ferries, ranging in cost from 12 Euros to 19 Euros for the Hydrofoil, for a 1-way ticket. The extra 7 Euros reduces the time of your trip by almost half. It’ll take you 45-50mins to get there on this high-speed boat. Plus on the way, you get to enjoy a beautiful view of Pompei that you’ll get to see from up close!
2) Capri vs. Anacapri. The island is divided into two major “villages” if you can call them that. Capri and Anacapri. You have a lot of locals and tourists staying in both of these areas. Anacapri allows you to be more on the west side, see the sunset and be closer to the beach whereas Capri allows you to overlook a lot of the island. Both areas have shops, mini hotels and good restaurants to eat at. We opted to rent an airbnb villa in Capri, yes… a villa! It was dirt cheap and belonged to an elderly couple that was so kind as to rent us their entire place that came with an outdoor wood oven, huge patio, beautiful gardens, etc. It was way cheaper than any of the little hotels on the island and definitely made you feel like you were a local. Both places will require you to walk a lot, there’s lot’s of walking up and down but with such pretty views everywhere on the island, fun shops and beautiful flowers & trees, your walks will be thoroughly enjoyable (just don’t wear heels!)
3) You’re going to want to rent a boat. Forget all the guided boat tours around the island that end up costing you an arm and a leg, instead round up a few people (max 10) and rent a boat for 100 Euros located just at the bottom of the Funicular. Renting a boat is without a doubt the best thing we did while we were there. Not only did it come equipped with towels and water bottles, it also had a sunshade and allowed us to be completely independent for an entire afternoon. We got to go explore caves, swim, sunbathe, relax, eat and just enjoy the beautiful sights. You can drive around the island in about 2 hours.
4) Capri cabs are better than any other cabs in the world. Here’s why – they’re all convertibles with sunshades, they fit up to six passengers and some of them even come equipped with a flatscreen, a disco ball and strobe light for nighttime dance parties in the cab… This is for real!
5) Bring your bathing suit. Yea it’s an obvious one but you HAVE to swim in the Mediterranean sea while you’re in Capri. There are so many different beaches. A lot of them are rocky, so watch out for urchins or little jelly fish here and there, but the water is SUPER clear and so refreshing. It tends to get really hot in Capri and it’s honestly the best way to relax. Plus, lot’s of incredible restaurants that serve fresh seafood and homemade dishes are located right on the waterfront!
6) Before you go, watching the sunset from Faro is a must. The last night we were in Capri, we were invited to join friends at an amazing beachside bar right beside the lighthouse. You can either just have a drink at the bar or go down a few steps and enjoy delicious traditional cuisine outdoors at Lido Del Faro. They serve delicious homemade pasta dishes, seafood, have a wonderful selection of wines and a super laid-back atmosphere.
I had the privilege of traveling to Rome with American Airlines for the first time earlier this month. It was my first time in Italy and I was beyond stoked to learn about the culture and visit all of the different monuments. Here are a few travel tips and recommendations if ever you’re thinking of going to Rome soon!
Planning & Preparation:
Download an Italian language app for your smartphone. What’s great about these is that you can use them without data/wifi, so if ever you’re stuck somewhere and you don’t know how to communicate, it’s easy to just pick up your phone and look up a few words. Here are two app recommendations: Italian, Italian LT. To have the extended app version, you have to pay a fee, but I realized that I did just fine with the free version. Plus you end up just picking up words by being there.
Book your TGV tickets in advance. If you’re going to be taking the Trenitalia, which is a TGV (fast-speed train) that goes to just about every big city in Italy, I recommend booking your tickets in advance just because you’ll save a lot of money if you do so. The Trenitalia website is in both English and Italian, so no worries if you haven’t brushed up on your Italian before leaving. I booked my train tickets 1-2 months in advance, and I got a really good rate to get from Rome to Naples. It was 19 Euros a person per way. The train is a really good traveling option if you don’t want to pay too much and also have some bigger distances to do. I went from Rome to Naples, which is approx 230 km apart in an hour with the TGV. Plus they also have free wifi onboard and at the train station. If you already have your ticket purchased in advance, just bring it with you on the train, and a controller will scan it once you’re onboard. You don’t need to arrive more than 30 minutes in advance because sometimes you won’t even get your track number until 10 minutes before departure.
Think of using Airbnb. Airbnb is pretty much the only way we travel now. It’s most often cheaper than renting a hotel room plus you’ll end up getting either a full apartment with kitchenette, balcony, etc. or just more space for yourself and the people you’re travelling with. Also, it’ll help you get away from the tourist areas and stay more where locals live, which is to me, the best way to do it. That way, you get a much better sense of the every day life in the city you’re traveling to.
Tips for while you’re there:
Don’t tip. Tax & tip is included in everything you pay so you don’t need to leave tip to a cab driver, at the restaurant, bar, etc. Italians love tourists because most of them don’t know that and they always end up leaving tip. You can obviously leave a bit extra if you’ve received outstanding service, but that might be few and far between.
Watch out for cab drivers. Cab drivers are renown for screwing over tourists in Rome. A trip from the airport to downtown Rome should cost you 49 Euros, not more! It’s a flat rate. Also, make sure you show them the exact address you’re going to, or they may drop you off at the wrong place and leave you stranded there (it happened to us!). Make sure they also don’t hide their meter if you’re going to take a cab while you’re going from place to place in the city. They tend to try anything they can to add more fees to the meter (luggage fees, random extra fees… anything really!). The taxicab should have its rate written on the side of their door outside or inside the cab. Also make sure they take you to your final destination… like all the way. Some of the streets in Rome are really tiny but most cars can still pass through. We had one of our drivers, just drop us off and tell us she couldn’t go further, when we first got to Rome with our suitcases. It turned out to be complete bs!
Keep an eye out for your belongings. Though I found Rome to be a lot safer than most places in France, if you’re going to be spending time in train stations or going to tourist attractions, just make sure you always keep an eye on your wallet, purse, phone, etc. Being aloof might result in you losing some of your personal belongings. That said, no need to get paranoid. Just be more vigilant than at home.
Don’t ask for bread. They’ll charge you for it! If you’re from France, Canada or the US, usually when you go to a restaurant, if they bring a bread basket to the table, without you asking they won’t charge you for it. Even if you ask for it, they usually don’t charge you for it (unless you’re at some of those new ultra hipster restaurants in Toronto – lame!). In Rome, whether you ask for bread or not, if the server brings you some to the table, you will most likely end up paying for it, and sometimes up to 4 Euros, which is insane because that’s $6 CAN. They’ll also charge you for your water, since tap water isn’t recommended, you’ll end up paying for water bottles in restaurants.
Ask for wifi. Pretty much every restaurant or bar in Rome have what they call “wifi zones”, which basically mean they have wifi in their restaurant for tourists. So just make sure you ask them for the network and password when you sit down. They may want to type it in themselves so that you don’t know the password and don’t share it with the rest of your friends or family you’re traveling with.
Things to do & where to eat/drink:
The Pantheon, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum & Piazza di Navona – are just some of the amazing landmarks located in Rome and that are all worth visiting. What’s great is that you can see most of these attractions without paying a dime. You’ll also get a lovely view of the city if you go up to the forum. What baffled me was just how many historic buildings are in Rome, each corner you turn more appear. Most of these buildings are also accompanied with description plates so that you can know what era they’re from and the history behind it.
Espresso – The famous $1 can definitely be found in Rome and it’s strong! The best way to accompany it with is with one of their nutella or custard filled croissants. Absolutely the best way to start the day.
Piazza Della Pacce – a great little area located close to Piazza Navona, but a lot less touristy and that has a lot of great restaurants to choose from.
Frigidarium Gelato – hands down the best place for gelato in the city. There is always a big line up around the corner for this place. It’s located not to far from Piazza Della Pacce. You can get a HUGE cone with two different types of freshly homemade gelato and free white or milk chocolate dipping for a whopping 3 Euros. The owner will even suggest flavor combinations. Just make sure you don’t order Baccio and Limon together, it’s apparently frowned upon hah!
Tapas – between 5 and 7 pm, a lot of bars in the city serve free tapas to their customers. They serve anything from olives to pizzas, potato dishes, etc. Most of them are really yummy. If you’re looking for a cheap way to eat dinner, this could definitely be an option.
Cul De Sac – located close to Piazza Navona, hands down the best local restaurant in Rome. It’s been around forever and serves tapas style shareable plates, have a great selection of wine and cheese and a really cute atmosphere. The restaurant is relatively cheap but make sure you either reserve in advance or show up pretty early or it’ll be packed and you will have to wait for a while before getting a table.
Madonna Dei Monti – the upcoming hipster area of the city. This area isn’t too big but it’s filled with lot’s of cool shops, small boutique hotels, arts markets and bars.
Hope you enjoyed this blog! Stay tuned for my next travel post on – Capri!
Hope you’re enjoying your long weekend! Stayed in Toronto this weekend to start preparing my big trip to Europe and the US, which is coming up in less than two weeks. Beyond stoked!
Since I was home, I did lot’s of running, relaxing and ate lot’s of delicious food this weekend. How was your weekend?
Have you checked out The Gladstone recently? They have a brand new food menu and I must say that not only is it decently priced, all the options are pretty healthy and super fresh. I was pleasantly surprised! It’s worth the visit if you’re in the West Queen West area.
I finished my much needed spring cleaning today and brought back out these super comfy Oxford shoes from Topshop. Absolutely love these.