London

St._Pancras_station_in_London

St. Pancras station in London – in my head it’s “pancreas”

I’m going to squish this all in one post because we squished this all in one weekend!

I fell in LOVE with London. Maybe it was the sunshine that weekend, or the fact that I was with my best friend, or the fact that it’s been on my travel wish list for so long, but I was instantly smitten! Everywhere we went was charming, different, and interesting. The buses were crazy! The people were so nice! There was good coffee with or without ice cubes everywhere! Clotted cream in the train station! The SHOPPING!

Westminster_Abbey?

Tried to capture what I think is Westminster Abbey in the background?

OMG I just can’t even handle it. Paris has so many amazing things, but none of the above. And I don’t realize until I get out how much it sucks sometimes. ;) I definitely have a love-hate relationship with Paris after three years here. The housing situation, things being randomly closed, shitty weather…I will now mention some things I love about Paris to make myself feel better, since I won’t be going back to California until Christmas. The fig tart I had recently…champagne for the smallest of occasions…tiny windy streets…my friends…French, the language…cigarette smoke…duck…the buildings…the museums I love…dogs…ok I feel better now.

Back to London!

Here are some of our discoveries:

Indian_Vegetarian_Buffet

GAH!

Diwana | Not only is every cuisine represented in London, but odd sub-categories like Indian Vegetarian buffet exist in the restaurant scene. YES. I didn’t love every dish but it being a buffet who cares. Plus it was only £6.95! It was packed with businesspeople on their lunch break – always a good sign.

Diwana Restaurant – 121 Drummond Street / London NW1 2HL / Euston

Pizza_Pilgrims

Yes.

Pizza Pilgrims | This would go number 4 on my list of best pizzas (1. Una Pizza Napolitana in SF 2. any homemade pizza 3. Zachary’s in Oakland) – it was just a solid, wood-fired oven pizza with great sauce and cheese. Mmm I’m drooling just remembering and I think it’s been almost two months. Long wait, but they’ll serve you cocktails while you wait outside – brilliant! We went to the Soho location but there is another one in Carnaby.

Pizza Pilgrims – 11 Dean Street / Soho W1D 3RP

Drink_Shop_&_Do-London

cake_at_Drink-Shop-&-Do

Drink Shop & Do | I love doing ridiculous things like going somewhere for cake and coffee for breakfast and then going somewhere for tea after. Ottilia does too. This is why we are friends. This was yet another amazing little treasure that Ot spotted from the bus – not only do they serve brunch and lunch and good coffee, they have a whole counter full of homemade, beautiful cakes (frosting is considered optional in Paris – not cool), all the furniture and decorations are vintage and for sale, and they have art classes. When we were there, a bride and her bridesmaids were having tea and making crafts. !!!

Drink Shop & Do – 9 Caledonian Road / King’s Cross, London / N1 9DX
020 7278 4335

Tea-time

Tea Rooms | I was obsessed with having a true English-style tea and though Ottilia’s mom is from London so she grew up having tea all the time she was down. We found this place online and it was lovely. We were served copious amounts of little sandwiches, scones, and cakes, and we got TWO full pots of tea! And I learned the hard way that a thin layer of clotted cream is best. (And my friend Amelia has since told me that she puts the jam on first, then puts the cream and lets it sort of melt down, which sounds amazing.) This neighborhood was also full of lovely stores full of high-quality things I didn’t even know I wanted, like really nice gold scissors, and cute cheeky greeting cards.

Tea Rooms – 155 Stoke Newington Church St / London N16 0UH

Cocktails-in-a-can _M&S

<3

Marks & Spencer | We do have this in Paris, but they don't carry everything that they do in the London ones. We discovered CANNED VODKA AND GIN AND TONICS. Genius, practical, and delicious.

The Tate Modern | I only had time for one museum, but I quite enjoyed this one. I was interested in the paying exhibit but decided to spend my leftover pounds on a Topshop dress instead – priorities. :) The free parts were great! I happened upon a photography series in California and I recognized a photo of an AC Transit bus. Funny to stumble across that in London. I also loved this sculpture – not just because of the glitter and bright color (but mostly). I especially like it because the glitter is composed of crystals that formed naturally from an application of copper sulfate powder. As the description reads, the artist “uses chemical or mineral processes to explore ideas of growth and change and the tensions between the industrial and the organic.” While I sometimes don’t appreciate when you need an explanation to understand art, this time it helped me understand the piece and enjoy it more!

Sculpture-by-Roger-Hiorns-at-Tate-Modern

by Roger Hiorns

General awesome-ness and happiness | Ok so I might have unrealistic tourist take on London, but there was so much cool stuff everywhere! Like Paris (and of course many other cities) there are beautiful parks integrated into the city that we kept stumbling upon. The flowers and plants were just as stunning as in the Jardin de Luxembourg or Versailles. There was free tight-rope walking in a grassy area with a very nice guy offering to help you mount and dismount. We also enjoyed Queen Mary’s Rose Garden as a way to walk off the Indian food on our first day. Walking through Soho, we happened upon a Birchbox event – I paid £3 for several samples and discovered a new favorite lip balm, and the money went to charity. All of the people we encountered were so nice, apologizing if we had to wait at restaurants. I just LOVED it and I’m so so so stoked to go back!

A bientôt

A bientôt

Grotesque shoes

I mentioned that during the rainstorm in Barcelona, Ottilia and I stopped into a Grotesque boutique and after trying on a few pairs I fell upon these. They were instantly super comfortable and totally fit my style. We all agreed that I had to have them – they seemed to be made just for me! In short, I fell in love. :) I love me some shoes.

Grotesque_booties

My new booties!

I love wearing heels, but not when they hurt – who does?  I admit that comfort level and high prices are not necessarily correlated, as I’ve had some heels from Payless and Target that were super comfy.  Sometimes though, it’s worth it to splurge.  I just do that whole cost-per-wear calculation and I feel much better about spending a lot.

If a heel has a good, sturdy sole and a real leather or suede upper, it’s more likely to be comfortable and last longer. I took a gamble on this brand since I had never heard of them or owned a pair before, but after a month or so of testing, I can assure you that Grotesque shoes are worth the investment!

Grotesque_shoes_Longchamp

Shoes w/outfit

The soles are very stiff and sturdy so my feet were a little bit tender the first few times I wore them. But with the help of rough Paris streets and kilometers of metro tunnels I’ve been slowly molding them to my feet. The other slight ding I’m giving them is the suede laces – they become unlaced so easily, and it’s something I hated about my Sperry’s when I had them. Tying a knot before tying a bow has worked to keep them from coming untied, so it’s not the end of the world.

It looks like you can order online, although the prices are much higher and the options fewer than in-store in Barcelona. But, if you live in Barcelona, Munich, or Oporto, I highly recommend you pop in! Or, as it says on the website, you can write in for other “salespoints” – cute word! Happy shopping!

Grotesque Shoes
C/Elisabets 20 local 1
08001 Barcelona
Spain

La REcyclerie

Iiiiii am so happy that this unique place exists! I have some of my classes as well as my stage (=internship) at Porte de Clignancourt, a mention of which usually doesn’t elicit sighs of jealousy from my friends. Ok, so it’s not Saint Germain. However, real people live and work in this area, and there are some hidden treasures next to the Macdo, KFC and un-classy stores selling imitation shoes and suitcases – beautiful music performed by conservatory/Sorbonne students for affordable prices at one of the campuses of Paris-Sorbonne University (this is where I study and work, shameless marketing plug alert), an antique market every weekend, stores like this with cheap vintage clothes just waiting to be dug up, and now, La REcyclerie!

entrance_of_La_REcyclerie-Paris_18-Porte-de-Clignancourt

Upon entry of La REcyclerie

Where to begin? There are so many great things happening in this place. It is located right inside the old, abandoned train station that was part of la petite ceinture (basically the pre-Métro – great photos here). It is a restaurant, bar, cafe, event space, all with a no-waste, green ethos. And yes, I see the irony in my writing a blog post on my Macbook Air about an association whose philosophy is centered around low-tech things, but hey…the new generation gets their information online, so I’m providing it. They have frequent workshops – DIY eco-beauty products, and events where you can use their tools for free to give new life to broken furniture and things. I love the spirit behind that.

Lamb-brochettes-La-REcyclerie_Paris-18_Porte-de-Clignancourt

Lamb brochettes

The inside is spacious and light-filled with plenty of seating options. The canteen-style food is based on regional themes that change weekly. The week I ate there was Moroccan week, and it was good! It’s definitely the best option for lunch in the quartier – I must say that I’ve had my fill of CROUS food.

I’ve also popped in just to study and write – the espresso is good and I love that they have sirop à l’eau for just 1€. And because the space is so big, there are no glares from the servers, and did I mention there is free wifi?

La-terrasse_La-REcyclerie_Paris-18_Porte-de-Clignancourt

La terrasse

Ok so I saved the best for last: you can also go outside to a long, narrow terrasse right next to the old tracks, which faces a community garden and is right under the chicken coop! It’s so nice to be in a space like this instead of directly on the street like most cafes.

La-terrasse_La-REcyclerie_Paris-18_Porte-de-Clignancourt

Looking back at the cafe from the terrasse

A friend had her birthday here a few weeks ago.  Though there were many people there that night, it didn’t feel packed like every other bar here.  There is so much space for everyone to spread out!  No sweating and shouting to be heard on a Friday night?!

La REcyclerie
2 rue Belliard
75018 Paris

Barcelona / The dog is hot

Ottilia found this place online while searching for vegetarian places to eat. It was a great find!

menu_thedogishot

The menu – I got Piñadog

They offer several hot dog topping combinations, as well as either a vegetarian or a meat dog. I think there were gluten-free buns as well. I loved the topping choices – they were really crazy and delicious flavor combinations – but the best part was the ten or so bottles of sauce on the counter so you could add even more elements to create a flavor explosion! ☺

hot-dog-thedogishot

Yup, those are fried potatoes

After I finished mine, I really, really wanted another, but somehow managed to resist. This was a good choice, since a few minutes later my stomach registered what I’d eaten and was definitely full.

The neighborhood was nice to visit, and as you might have read in my first post about Barcelona, we tried to go back the next day because we loved it so much, but it was closed. Cheap and delicious, as is apparently my motto. ;)

The dog is hot
Raval
C/ Joaquin Costa n°47

Barcelona / Gaudi House Museum – Cafe Bonbon

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Cloudy but nice view from Park Güell

After Lisbon, we only had two full days in Barcelona. Both days, the weather report said it would be stormy and rainy, but the first day it was just a bit overcast. We spent that day checking out Park Güell – there is a nice uphill walks, views of the city, weird musicians, and the Gaudi House Museum. Gaudi lived there from 1906-1925, a prolific work period for him. I appreciate that he (or his family I suppose) left the house to the city of Barcelona after his death so that the public could have a view into one of his living spaces, especially since there is a public park surrounding it.

cafe_bonbon

Cafe bonbon!

On the way to this park, we randomly stopped off at a cute little cafe, where we discovered a new coffee drink – cafe bonbon! It’s an easy recipe: in a small glass, make a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk, add an espresso shot and pour steamed milk to the brim, finishing with a dollop of foam. One day I will have an espresso machine chez moi; until then, I make it using normal drip coffee and it’s still delicious. Based on some random coffee definition pages on the internet, it seems like cafe bonbon is traditionally just the condensed milk and espresso, so I guess Maigot Cafe embellished the recipe a little bit, a good thing in my opinion!

Because of the false alarm regarding the storm on our first day, we decided to go out dancing that night and recuperate on the beach the next day. Only half of that plan worked – I’ll write about the dancing in another post. However, the beach plan was FOILED the next day by a torrential downpour. Wearing our shorts and sandals, beach bags in tow, we were headed back to the hot dog place we’d eaten at the day before (post to come), and of course it started to pour rain right when we reached a wide open plaza with nothing to run under. Eventually we got to a little street with overhangs, and when we made it to the hot dog place it was closed.

So instead of going to the beach, we wandered around the area near the hot dog place and did some shopping. I discovered a new line of shoes that I loved and I ended up buying a pair. When I was young I used to love buying random things like shot glasses and spoons from places I traveled to, but now I like to buy clothes and shoes. Then I actually get use out of the items and think of my trips every time I wear them!

It was a total bummer that we couldn’t get to the beach, as we had only gone there one time in Lisbon. But we made the best of it and still had a lovely trip.

Gaudi House Museum
in Park Guëll

Maigot Cafe
Calle Mare De Deu Del Coll, 71
08023 Barcelona, Spain

Food + Drink in Lisbon

Note to self: never listen to French people when discussing the cuisines of other countries. Everyone I spoke to before going to Portugal told me the food was bland, that it was a meat-centric cuisine and that they were incapable of cooking it nicely. This made me worried for Ottilia (vegetarian). But we were surprised and delighted by the number of vegetarian restaurants we saw while strolling around. Sometimes it felt like we were in San Francisco, not Portugal! Many places seemed to be very French-influenced or otherwise global.

While exploring one day, we took note of one place, Planeta Bio, that looked nicer, and returned there on our last night in Lisbon. At 8pm, we were the only diners! (Later on, we walked by and noticed that it was packed and there was now a wait. It’s such a late-night city!) There were only 4 options on the menu, and you chose small or big and 2 or 3 dishes. That’s it.

Planeta Bio

Planeta Bio

Between the two of us we tried everything! There was moussaka, leek lasagna, leek gratin, and seitan korma. It came with a delicious, fresh salad and a choice of couscous or brown rice. Our only complaint was that it was not spicy enough. I suppose we could have asked for some sauce or something…anyways, it’s so nice to get healthy food like this while on vacation!

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One day we did a walking tour to learn a little bit about Lisbon, and afterwards we strolled around the winding cobblestone streets in the older part of town. I saw a sign for 1€ wine so of course I had to stop. We ended up stopping for a small glass of the green wine typical of Portugal and fell in love with the charming, cave-like bar. The woman who worked there was so nice, and there were plenty of lovely local liqueurs, sardines, honey, etc. that would make great gifts.

food and drink in lisbon

Yummy things to buy

ceiling of Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho

The ceiling

Another unique experience was checking out Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho, a nice little wine bar in a converted well-head/fountain space. It was a calm and romantic space, with sort of slow service but very nice people working. I have so much respect for waiters who have to walk up and down stairs, especially with tall bottles and delicate glasses! Anyways, I just really wanted to try some porto and they had several different types. We also got a chocolate mousse to share – it was more of a pot de crème or pudding than a mousse, but whatever the name it was chocolate-y and rich. Come here for very nice wine and a relaxing, chill ambiance – if I went back I would love to do the tasting menu!

wine bar in Lisbon

Looking down from the upper level

Switching gears to a more simple dining experience – we went to the modern area near the airport on the recommendation of someone from our hostel. This area was updated for the Expo ’98 and it looks quite different from all the cobblestone streets and tiled buildings found elsewhere in Lisbon. We rode the Telecabine and had a fun time checking out the view of the water, and when we got hungry we found an unassuming little restaurant that ended up being a great find!

Good views in Lisbon

View of the modern side of Lisbon from the skycrawler

roast chicken at waterfront Lisbon restaurant

Rice, fries, and a little salad were included with more than one meal we had – a strange but oddly satisfying trend in Lisbon

Unlike most other places we’d been to, not much English was spoken but we got by with hand gestures and saying a mix of Spanish and French words. Ottilia’s omelette was 4€ and my roast chicken was fabulous. Nearby diners were eating lots of different fish dishes that looked good for someone who loves seafood. I would 100% eat there again! I can’t find the name of the restaurant, but from some sleuthing on Google maps I believe the address is 103 on the street parallel to Rua Bojador and the waterfront, right around the corner from the north entrance of the Telecabine.

yummy portuguese restaurant

Planeta Bio
R. Francisco Sanches 39,
1170-141 Lisboa, Portugal

O Cantinho da Rute
R. Sao Miguel, 79
Lisboa, Portugal

Enoteca Chafariz do Vinho
Praça da Alegria
1250-000 Lisboa, Portugal

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Cheese shop

Lisb’on Hostel

This is the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. There was lots of common space, comfortable and clean rooms, and it was well-located being close to the water and lots of bars and restaurants and the metro.

The building was very old, redone but with the original spirit preserved. It was charming but functioning. The computers and printing abilities were also handy.

The common room

The common room

The garden in back was fabulous – hammocks, beanbags, chill music, and cheap drinks available at the hostel bar (1,20€ sangria, 1,50€ wine). Sometimes we didn’t even want to venture out!

View of garden from above

View of garden from above

The roof terrace had a great view – and some really cute, built-in chairs – but no food or drinks allowed was lame (to respect the neighbors).

Terrace

Terrace

Big drawer storage under each bed, with a lock, was much appreciated.

Stunning views from certain rooms, complete with window seats, were breathtaking.

There are pub crawls every night – we did one once and it was fun! Our guide was from Lisbon. Some of his friends stopped by the bars, so it was interesting to meet some locals that way. There were lots of people on the street that would try to sell pot, sunglasses, and other things – unexpected, and a bit sad.

photo 3

Some things were not so great…

Generally, the hostel employees were very helpful, but a few times we were ignored, which was irritating.

They require guests to wear paper bracelets to be allowed to exit and enter, and it felt like we were at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for four days. It got itchy, sweaty, and annoying after awhile!

The plumbing caused gross smells to happen in the bathroom/shower rooms. (When discussing it with some people we met, one of them mentioned that because of the old plumbing in Portugal toilet paper is not flushed but thrown into a bin next to the toilet. If this is the case, the hostel should put signs up so that all the foreign people staying there don’t ruin the pipes!)

Lisb’on Hostel
Rua do Ataide, 7A
Lisbon, Portugal 1200-034

Other Lisbon posts:

Cheese shop
Food and drink

Lisbon – Queijaria (cheese shop)

I went to Lisbon and Barcelona with my bff Ottilia this month! I’ll post some of the highlights. Here’s the first – a lovely cheese shop right near our hostel.

Ottilia is such a cheese-lover that she is part of a cheese club, and I will never say no to some great cheese. Since we were eating so many meals out, two of our nights we decided to stop into this shop for a wedge of cheese to eat with wine for dinner. Could there be anything better?

Ottilia in front of the store

Ottilia in front of the store

I’ve never had such good service in a cheese shop! They gave such a warm welcome, and were able to speak English with us to answer all of our questions. The shop has a few rooms – the back tasting room is the place you want to be! We tasted tons of cheese – they have a selection of the best from Portugal, as well as some from Spain, France, and England. They had never heard of Vermont or Wisconsin but we suggested that they look into our favorite sharp American cheddars. They were so generous, even cutting new wheels open to let us taste.

Samples galore

Samples galore

The shop also carries different crackers, jams, and wine to go with the cheese. There was even a little section with boards, slicers, and books. They had a basket of these weird-looking things, and the man could not remember the translation in English. We were all very curious, so eventually we looked it up and it was carob – being familiar with vegetarian cooking, we knew it well. Funny to find it in Portugal!

Lovely selection

Lovely selection

I don’t think they have a website – but here is their address:

Queijaria
Rua das Flores, 64
1200-195 Lisboa
Phone: 21 346 04 74
Email: queijaria at quijaria.pt

Other Lisbon posts:

Hostel
Food and drink

WWOOFing in Jumilhac-le-Grand, France

IMG_0991

Yup, I’m that weird girl who felt the need to go back to a goat farm in a very small town in France.

My first wwoofing experience was so unexpectedly eye-opening that instead of taking the risk and trying a new farm, I went back to the same one. I made a connection with the people and animals at this farm so I wanted to return. It was cool to come back and see what had and hadn’t changed since about a year and a half ago, and to increase my knowledge of the organic lifestyle. If one of the main goals of wwoofing is to inspire people to incorporate organic and sustainable activities into their daily lives, then they have succeeded. I am planning to try to grow some tomatoes and herbs on my terrasse next spring/summer, and I want to make an effort to eat more seasonally.

That's me leading Olek the horse and Génoise and Éra the cows

That’s me leading Olek the horse and Génoise and Éra the cows

As a non-vegetarian and a non-pet owner (although I want my own cat so bad), I am not the most animal-obsessed person in my life. I really enjoy being around animals though – being more familiar with the farm this time around allowed me to pay attention and form little bonds with individuals goats and other animals. There was a 2-month old baby boy goat who was allowed to stay with the 100 or so lady goats. We quickly became “friends” during la traite, since he would come up to me and want to be pet, and try to eat my clothes. So adorable! I had to be reminded several times that he would grow up to be a huge goat and no, I could not take him back to Paris with me. Sadface.

He has no name yet but it's the year of J names

He has no name yet but it’s the year of J names

As part of the work team of the farm for the week, I witnessed the highs and lows of life on the farm. One day, most of the goats escaped from a field with normal grass to a neighboring one that held a different type of grain, not to be consumed at this time of year by the goats. The following day, they had horrible diarrhea – it was pretty disgusting. Gundula, Louise, and Maëva handled most of the dirty work, but I did help a bit with la traite and was terrified that they would poop on me (one of them did on Gundula!). The daily cleaning of la chèvrerie took much longer that day since we needed to put a ton more hay and straw down to absorb it all. More importantly, the reaction to the grains that caused them to get sick is potentially fatal, and can also have effects on the goats’ milk production. Luckily, they healed the next day, but it was a smelly reminder of the perils of farming. Just like that, all the “tools” needed to produce one’s product could perish.

bio

bio

On to less stinky subjects…it was a good choice to come in the height of summer. I ate fresh, organic, local tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onions in some form every single day. The mirabelle plum trees were perfectly ripe, and Maëva taught me to shake the branches to make the ripest fruit fall. She hadn’t even been tending super well to her garden since she has been so busy, but there were still mint leaves to be plucked up as an all-natural breath freshener, and other herbs and veggies that we could “harvest” and use at our whim. Over at the farm, I made a salad one day using a big head of lettuce that I picked out of the garden. We went blackberry picking and managed to grab a whole kilo, enough to make 5 small jars of jam. I’ve already finished one! I could go on and on, but basically, gardens are awesome and I’m wondering why the hell I live in Paris?! Hopefully I can live somewhere with garden space at some point in my life.

Organic vegetables at the Sunday market in Jumilhac-le-Grand

Organic vegetables at the small but mighty Sunday market in Jumilhac-le-Grand

I loved getting to know some of the people in this town, inhabited by 1200 people (according to Wikipedia). Maëva is friends with the coolest people – the other organic farmers (we had apéro at the produce guy’s house, that he rebuilt himself with his wife), people who make homemade pizza in wood-fire ovens located in a squat, the guy who delivers homemade organic bread for €2. I got the gossip about everyone we saw, down to the bitchy butcher’s wife.

A trio of organic purveyors at the market

A trio of organic purveyors at the market

I’m so happy I went back to the farm. Not only was it great to see everyone again, but if I randomly was forced to drop everything and run a goat farm, I feel like I would be well-equipped to do so. And I’m no longer under the delusion that living in a small town is as boring as we make it out to be. There are plenty of advantages to a lifestyle outside of a big city, things that I forget about when I’m in my hectic Paris rhythm. It’s just nice to remember that there are other ways to live in the world, in case I ever tire of big-city life.

CHEESE

CHEESE

Chez Paul

No, I’m not talking about this place (although I’ve totally eaten there before – ça passe!) – Chez Paul is a lovely, classic French restaurant not far from my current apartment.

I was lucky enough to have a week-long visit from my parents last week. I can’t believe how many things we managed to do – Seine dinner cruise (do it), the Louvre (never again), Giverny (amazing), OpenTour bus ride (surprisingly awesome), Musée Carnavalet (my new favorite museum), plus shopping, eating, and café-ing.

Based on the décor, which looked to be 60s-era (with some fun neon tube lighting added on in the 80s), and some of the staff who joked around and seemed to know everyone, the restaurant seems to have been around forever. We ordered classic dishes (steak with sauce Béarnaise for my mom and I and poulet for my dad) and desserts (tarte tatin and fruit salad with crème anglaise), and wine of course. It was the exact type of meal we love to eat when they are in Paris. High-quality, perfectly cooked meat with my ultimate vice, fried potatoes.

Dad awaits his chicken

Dad awaits his chicken

This place is no-fuss, charming, and reasonably priced. They have tables out front and the area has tons of bars and restaurants. We profité-d by going to Atelier Charonne right down the street after dinner to hear some jazz. It was a super soirée!

Chez Paul
13 rue de Charonne
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 47 00 34 57
Métro : Ledru-Rollin (8), Bastille (1, 5, 8), Charonne (9)

Atelier Charonne
21 rue de Charonne
75011 Paris
Tel : 01 40 21 83 35
same métros as Chez Paul